Recently I’ve been working on some stories that blur the line between horror and fantasy. One story I just started yesterday is a zombie story, but it’s set in a fantasy world with wizards and swordsmen. It made me think about how compartmentalized so many stories become. Look at Alien – it’s a haunted house story in space. It’s a perfect blurring of the lines between horror and sci-fi, a line which today is nearly erased. But horror and fantasy? They still have a near iron wall between them.
I blame this partially on the nature of fantasy. In a world where people routinely toss balls of fire around or kill giant flying lizards, it’s not easy to be afraid of anything. I call this the Conan Conundrum. Conan was one of the very first characters to blend fantasy and horror, and from Robert E. Howard’s barbarian we got our mindset that in fantasy, monsters are little more than another foe for the heroes to conquer. Never mind that in his stories, even the great Conan was humbled by some of the horrors he faced, and other than Conan himself, few in the stories stood any chance against the evil creatures of the night.
It’s very uncommon to see any fantasy literature where the heroes truly are frightened, or are facing truly terrifying creatures. This is why I’ve started writing my little zombie story. How would a world with wizards and muscle-bound barbarians deal with the hordes of the undead? It’s not something I’ve seen dealt with nearly enough, so I shall try my hand at it.