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  1. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    Children's/YA Cosmic Horror?

    Discussion in 'Young Adult' started by Adam Bolander, May 22, 2020.

    I'm a huge fan of HP Lovecraft and I've always wanted to write cosmic horror stories like his. Stuff that's filled with indescribable and unexplainable terrors that prey on the fear of the unknown. But my natural writing style is best suited for kids and teens. Do you think that there's a market for kid-oriented cosmic horror? Do you know of any books like that? The closest I can think of is Coraline by Neil Gaiman, but I'm not sure if that really fits the definition.
     
  2. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    What age range are you thinking?
    Im pretty sure there are books out there in this genre, especially for teens!
    I have not read YA in a while but i know as a kid, i read some pretty dark things (not cosmic horrors, but general horrors like ghosts and possessed dolls, and murders).

    I can check with coworkers in the morning (they work and children/teen services and have a better idea of whats out there, since they are the ones that curate the collections)
     
  3. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

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    I could see there being an audience for MG/YA cosmic horror. I know for my part, the only books I recall reading during middle school were horror. Not cosmic horror, mind you, I wasn't introduced to most of Lovecraft's work until I was an adult. But I probably would have read those if I had, though there might not have been enough werewolves for my preteen self.

    Point being, if this is something you want to write, then write it. There's an audience for horror in that age range. The only challenge I could see is keeping your book's content targeted for that range, but if that's naturally how your writing plays out, it shouldn't be a problem. (It'd be a problem for me, for some reason my stories all want to go darker and more mature than I actually want them to be.)
     
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I remember reading book of Lovecraft in grade school, not sure what age. I definitely liked it. Would you be planning to go all intense/horrifying with it, or keeping it more light?

    Never mind—"indescribable and unexplainable terrors that prey on the fear of the unknown". Got my answer right there.
     
  5. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    If you've ever read Coraline, that's kinda what I'm imagining. Maybe a little bit darker. I always found that book creepy because the Other Mother didn't fit into any other category of monster that I'd ever read before, and the book didn't offer any explanation as to what she really was. She just was and Coraline (and the reader) just had to accept that fact and run with it.

    Plus, the monster in the corridor was always the scariest part for me. The one that Gaiman doesn't describe at all, just says that "it was something very old and very slow, and it was aware of Coraline's presence."

    Again, not sure if that really counts as "cosmic horror," but I feel like its about as close as anyones ever gotten to it in the juvenile fiction market.
     
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  6. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    I was told that Rick Yancy's Monstrumologist series is in the vein of YA creature horror.
    And Scott Westerfield dabbles in that as well.
    Coraline seems more supernatural to me. Actually, they all kinda do. Would you be looking for or wanting to write supernatural horror? Because thats huge!
     
  7. Laughing Rabbit

    Laughing Rabbit Active Member

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    .....
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
  8. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Never read it but I really enjoyed the movie (I have it in 3D, which is really fun!)
     
  9. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    Supernatural horror isn't quite what I'm talking about. In supernatural horror, even if the monster isn't human it's still relatively easy to define. A ghost, a witch, a zombie, etc. If you understand something, it loses some of its intimidation factor. The rule of cosmic or Lovecraftian horror is that the less the reader understands, the scarier it is. Lovecraft did that by making his villains hulking godlike monstrosities from the bowels of space that could drive you insane just by looking at them. Hence the name "cosmic" horror. My monsters wouldn't be that big (literally and figuratively) but I hope they'd be scary because I don't attach a name or anything to them, which makes it harder for the reader to get a grip on, hopefully making it scarier.
     
  10. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Just a quick Lovecraft rundown in hopes it might inspire something you can grab onto (without copying of course). His horror emerged from either the depths of space, the distant past, underground or the deep sea. They're all really metaphors for the unconscious, and the distance (in space or time) is analogous to how far they are from the normal, familiar or human. Because if you go farther back in time, our ancestors become less recognizably human and the Victorian mind quailed at the thought they they were descended from animal forms. The all-too prevalent instances of brute monstrosity showing up in their behavior defied their concept of themselves as highly civilized gentlemen and women of breeding. Essentially they were in deep denial, so any glimpse of the reality they feared brought on horror.

    Going underground is another metaphor for going back through time, because if you dig down you find older and older fossils of less evolved life forms.

    And of course the sea is an alien world where we can't live without protection, and where strange twitching life forms abound that are completely unlike us. A great metaphor for the scarier and more alien parts of the unconscious, where things aren't warm and fuzzy like in the mammal world.

    Space simply represented the complete unknown and the vastness and uncaring nature of nature, which once had seemed so comforting (when it was God's work) but thanks to modern science had become cold and alien. No comfort brought by the telescope or the microscope, in fact the world microscopes revealed was like a seething hell.

    The most frightening one of all for Lovecraft was the descent into the deep hereditary past. The ancient past, which leaves its traces inside us and connects us irrevocably with our brute animal instincts. You can avoid all the others, but you can't escape from what lives deep inside you and can well up and take over. But again, I believe the hereditary past was just another metaphor for the unconscious. That's where everything scary really comes from.

    I'm not saying use the same ideas, but maybe think about them and see if you can insert some such patterns of analogy or metaphor into your own concepts.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
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  11. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    ok, my coworker says that she has not come across any books in this genre for YA and upper elementary kids, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there. It means that it's written rarely. She also says that themes of "existential dread" like what we interpreted from your previous response, is not common in children's books. Children's horror almost always has an explanation in the end. Kind of like Scooby Doo. You go through the ride of fear and dread, before the final reveal in the end, when you realize that what you were afraid of all along was something easily explained. She says that yes, there are darker themes, but they do almost always wrap up in a very "scooby doo-esque" way.

    Thats just our two-cents.

    You may just want to write it anyway, tbh. We get A LOT of adults looking to read YA. If it doesnt fit amongst the teens, the adults that read YA may just be your audience.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
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  12. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    One of the rules that Lovecraft wrote by was that for a story to be scary, the root of it has to be something you find scary. Take something you're afraid of, attach it to something horrible and sentient, and you've got yourself a terrifying story. Lovecraft was ridiculously racist, even for the time, so a lot of his stories involve things like interracial breeding, foreigners with cultures you can't understand, and the threat of being dragged down into these "inferior" cultures. Hence stories like Shadow Over Innsmouth and Dunwich Horror, which both involve humans breeding with horrifying monsters to produce evil semi human offspring.

    If I were to take that route, one of the things that frightens me most is the idea of self destruction. Such as, I love to eat, but I'm terrified that someday that will turn me into a disgustingly obese blob who can't stop eating even for his own good. That inspired a story idea where some kind of restaurant gets built in a backwater town that's so good that everyone becomes hooelessly addicted to it. Fast forward to the end, and people are eating so much of it that their bodies are melting into puddles of goop. Add in a twist that the restaurant owner is trying to free an imprisoned eldritch god by turning people into the slime substance that it's made of, and I think it could turn into a pretty good cosmic horror story.
     
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  13. Le Panda Du Mal

    Le Panda Du Mal Senior Member

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    The House With A Clock in Its Walls approaches cosmic horror, IMO, though the writer took some missteps in the characterization of the villains.
     
  14. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I like it.
     

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