If you’re a fan of reading horror, you’re already familiar with the qualities of a great horror novel: surprise, suspense, shock, maybe even a little disgust here and there for some “ick” factor. It definitely needs to be scary. But one of the keys to truly horrifying horror (at least, in my opinion) is that the story make some sort of comment on the larger culture or society: horror should not only be a reader’s greatest fears realized, but a society’s greatest fears (or failings) realized as well. Classics like and Dracula and Frankenstein all stand to represent some of the darkest and most base elements of humanity: violence, consumption, the primal battle between our animal instincts and our human selves.
And then there’s the horror that’s not actually so fictional after all. True crime, science writing, even some especially dark memoirs can all read like horror novels — except their horrors have come to life. From murder and mayhem to disease and destruction, there are plenty of true stories that take their cues from the horror genre… or maybe, it’s always been the other way around.