Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Robin McKinley, Deerskin, Fairy Tales, and Horror


On her blog this week, Robin McKinley has written about her book, Deerskin, and some perceptions of it as a horror genre book. Her thoughts are interesting and I am on her side. I don't consider Deerskin a horror novel as horrific as a few elements are. Here is an excerpt with her thoughts on fairy tales in the midst of the discussion:

The line between fairy tales and horror for me—and for a number of you who have posted or commented or tweeted to this effect—is that fairy tales tend to be about working through your traumas, your horrors, your fears, your great big insurmountable obstacles. Horror tends to plonk them down and say yup, there they are. Trauma, horror, fear and insurmountable obstacles. Have fun. People die in fairy tales and the happy endings may be a little crinkly around the edges but generally some kind of something worth having is won through to. In horror . . . at best you learn coping mechanisms, you build your enclaves. The zombies and the vampires don’t go away. I believe that Lissar is going to be okay. She’s won. She’ll always have the scars—but she’s won.
I read Deerskin when it was first released years ago and was young and not expecting what dwelt between the covers. I shy away from the horror genre, too, with very few exceptions. Deerskin is not for the faint of heart but it is a powerful, wonderful book and has had a lasting impact on fairy tale novelizations. I know that many of my horror adoring friends would shy away from this book because it is all too real, not fantastical or horrific enough. Yes, perception is personal. Too bad we need genre to help us narrow down the thousands of choices at times. I read more and more across genres so I value them but also agonize over them and the prejudices inherent against them. And I am not anti-horror any more than I am anti other genres. It just isn't my personal taste.

But McKinley in the paragraph above summarized one of the reasons I love fairy tales and cringe whenever they are dismissed by those who don't understand them.


  1. I completely agree with you and Robin McKinley. When I picked it up I was expecting a light fairytale like some of her other stories and was shocked when it wasn't, but I would never have even thought to call it horror. There are some truly awful things in it, but the story is somehow beautiful. Because she rose above and was not conquered. I think it is perhaps Robin McKinley's best novel.

  2. Whenever I get complaints about a story I run through the writers' workgroup, that it should have been classified horror and not fantasy -- it's a retold fairy tale.