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Horror fiction also Horror fantasy is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. The genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the eighteenth century as Gothic horror, with publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole.
Supernatural horror has its roots in folklore and religious traditions, focusing on death, the afterlife, evil, the demonic and the principle of evil embodied in the Devil. These were manifested in stories of witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demonic pacts such as that of Faust.
Eighteenth century Gothic horror drew on these sources in such works as Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1796) by Ann Radcliffe and The Monk (1797) by Matthew Lewis. A lot of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed at a female audience, a typical scenario being a resourceful female protagonist menaced in a gloomy castle.
The Gothic tradition continued in the 19th century, in such works as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Enduring icons of horror derived from these stories include Victor Frankenstein and Frankenstein's Monster, Count Dracula, and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde.
The trait of the genre of horror is that it provokes a response, emotional, psychological or physical within each individual that causes someone to react with fear.
One of the best-known contemporary horror writers is Stephen King who is best known for writing Carrie, The Shining, It, Misery and many more. Beginning in the 1970s, King's stories have managed to attract a large audience, for which he was prized by the U.S. National Book Foundation in 2003.
Scholarship on horror fiction is almost as old as horror fiction itself. In 1826, the gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe published an essay distinguishing two elements of horror fiction, "terror" and "horror." Whereas terror is a feeling of dread that takes place before an event happens, horror is a feeling of revulsion or disgust after an event has happened. Radcliffe describes terror as that which "expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life," whereas horror is described as that which "freezes and nearly annihilates them."
Modern scholarship on horror fiction draws upon a range of different sources. In their historical studies of the gothic novel, both Devandra Varma and S.L. Varnado make reference to the theologian Rudolf Otto, whose concept of the "numinous" was originally used to describe religious experience.
Achievements in horror fiction are recognized by numerous awards. The Horror Writer's Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor ofBram Stoker, author of the seminal horror novel Dracula. The International Horror Guild presents its own annual awards, as do organisations such as the Australian Horror Writers Association with its annual Australian Shadows Award. Other important awards for horror literature are as subcategories included within general awards for fantasy and science fiction in such awards as the Aurealis Award.
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