The New Wave of Shock Fiction

In A Landscape with Dragons, Michael O’Brien makes a key distinction between the horrors found in classical tales and the horrors that saturate so much contemporary fiction:

These shocks are presented as ends to themselves, raw violence as entertainment. In sharp contrast, the momentary horrors that occur in classical tales always have a higher purpose; they are intended to underline the necessity of courage, ingenuity, and character; the tales are about brave young people struggling through adversity to moments of illumination, truth, and maturity; they emphatically demonstrate that good is far more powerful than evil. Not so with the new wave of shock fiction… This nasty little world offers a thrill per minute, but it is like a sealed room from which the oxygen is slowly removed, replaced by an atmosphere of nightmare and a sense that the forces of evil are nearly omnipotent.

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