Eh, might was well write off another entire genre.....

I haven't read much Stephen King--I read a couple of short stories in college, wasn't impressed, and never went back. I was feeling a little guilty about that (his novels tend to be very long, which always makes it less likely I'll risk a read if I'm not sure I'll enjoy it), so I recently read The Green Mile.

And you know, it was pretty good--definitely good prose--but I feel like it would have been better if it hadn't been written by someone whose name is pretty much synonymous with horror fiction.

I've mentioned that I'm not a huge fan of romance, and I have a similar ambivalence about horror. Some horror is good, but a lot of it is very formulaic.

For example, I had heard that Clive Barker is a top-notch horror writer, so I picked up one of his short story collections. And he is a fantastic prose stylist, but the plots of his stories could pretty much all be summarized thusly:

Story #1: Farmer John Works in the Field
I. Farmer John is working in the field.
III. Everybody dies.

Story #2: Dick and Jane Go to School
I. Dick and Jane go to school.
III. Everybody dies.

Story #3: Joe and Moe Go on Vacation
I. Joe and Moe go on vacation.
III. Everybody dies.

In other words, there was a certain the degree that when I came across the occasional story where everybody did not die, it was very exciting. I don't think this is because I am squeamish--I loved Hyperion, and pretty horrible things happen in that book--so much as that I do get bored fairly easily, especially if I know exactly how something is going to end.

Also, if you look at those story summaries, you have two kinds of characters: The HORRIBLE MONSTER, and the cannon fodder. Is there going to be much character development there? Any kind of arc? No--HORRIBLE MONSTERS don't change, and cannon fodder doesn't matter. (Predictability and a lack of character development are also why I don't particularly enjoy plays like Into the Woods or movies like Reservoir Dogs where you just sit and watch the characters get picked off. Add a twist, like Keyser Söze, and things get interesting again.)

Of course, sometimes a noted horror writer like Stephen King produces a book like The Green Mile where everybody doesn't die. What to do then? Well, apparently the answer is to make everybody wish they were dead, because even though this isn't a horror book, for some reason we are still in the horror universe where nothing good can possibly ever happen. So you have a bunch of people murder someone, but it's OK, because the world is such a horrible place that he's better off dead, and then you have someone miraculously given near-perfect health and a long life, but that just makes him miserable, because the world is such a horrible place that he's better off dead. Where's a HORRIBLE MONSTER when you need one?

Seriously? Near-perfect health and he's complaining? What a whiner! Someone is in desperate need of a gratitude journal.....