On horror, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction “experts”

by Gary A. Braunbeck

My pet peeve for the day is people who claim to be an “expert” on horror, or science fiction, or mysteries, or any other literary genre because they’ve read absolutely everything by just a single famous author in that genre … and smugly refuse to read anything else.

Odds are, you’ve met someone who’s this type of “expert”. You’ve probably had to endure their homilizing endlessly about their extensive knowledge of the field based on having read only Stephen King or Clive Barker or Robert Heinlein or Robert Jordan or Agatha Christie or Or OR … (not slamming these writers, get it? Got it? Good.)

And you have undoubtedly heard these “experts” dismiss out of hand any writer who isn’t King or Rice or Barker or Or OR… because these “experts” don’t want to expand their understanding and appreciation of the rich diversity of fiction offered elsewhere because to do so would be to admit (to themselves and others) that they don’t really have the slightest goddamn idea what they’re talking about.

For someone to claim they’re an “expert” on horror or fantasy or mysteries or science fiction based solely on having read everything written by a single author is tantamount to my claiming to be an “expert” on automobile mechanics because I’ve read the owner’s manual that’s stuffed in the glove compartment of my wife’s Toyota.

Try this little experiment: the next time you find yourself confronted by one of these “experts”, politely interrupt them and ask them how they feel about, say, the influence M.R. James’ or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work might have had on King or Rice or Barker or Or OR … and see how quickly that stops their lecture mid-sentence.

And if they can’t answer because it’s obvious they’ve never read (or, in most cases, even heard of) James or Hawthorne or Matheson or Blackwood Or Or OR… tell them to shut the fuck up, then go have an intelligent conversation with someone who has the brains to admit they don’t know everything.

In the meantime: read, people. Read lots. And for God’s sake, read outside your genre.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: