Spooks, Shivers, and Shrieks: Horror Panel at New York Comic-Con 2022 offered fans of all things grotesque and scary a deep dive into the horror genre today and what some top writers are doing to creep out their fanbase. 

Moderated by Princess Weekes (The MarySue), the panel consisted of Rachel Harrison (Such Sharp Teeth), Eric LaRocca (Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke), Clay McLeod Chapman (Ghost Eaters), Katrina Monroe (They Drown our Daughters), and Vincent Tirado (Burn Down, Rise Up).

The spotlighted authors shared not only a glimpse into their most celebrated works of horror but also what influenced them to choose this genre in the first place. Weekes asked them to name the first movie that scared them and while most offered up the usual suspects such as The Exorcist, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and It, Harrison shared that Who Framed Roger Rabbit left her unsettled as a youngster. Whatever the choice, it is that fear and adrenaline that feeds the attraction to horror and scary things. 

So how do we get there? The panel discussed how they approached building tension and how it can be tricky on the page as opposed to the screen. Finding the balance between too much and not enough is precarious and often leads to numerous rewrites. 

Monroe shared how her editor always seems to have notes in the margins that she needs more tension in certain scenes even though the writer feels like she’s put in a ton. 

“I’m like, okay, she just got dragged into the water by a ghost,” Monroe laughed. “I don’t know what more you want from me as far as scary. So I’m still learning how to intensify those things because it’s not a film. You don’t know how much to describe or how much you can trust the reader to extrapolate what you want based on how much you put on the page.”

The writers were asked how they decide what disturbing tale to tell every time they sit down to create, and the answers varied just as much as their horror styles. Where Tirado loves to figure out which monster they want to feature, Monroe begins with a setting and finding a protagonist who is “the kind of person that would have the worst possible time there.”

horror panel

The panel also touched on how the horror genre, while diverse in style (demons, ghosts, gore), is often filled with tropes that need to be broken. Many of the featured writers have strong women protagonists, queer characters, and people of color leading the books and in vital relationships that are not stereotypes or plot devices. Monroe pointed out that she is trying to make books where queer characters are no longer “expendable” but where these “characters get to be heroes.” 

Another important point noted in the panel is that while some of the books feature graphic gore and unsettling imagery, the stories go much deeper than jumpscares and creepy situations. Horror as an allegory is not new, of course, but what these writers are doing in their exploration is timely. Relationships, toxicity, generational issues, internet communication, and social issues are all explored, but with monsters, demons, and werewolves in the forefront. 

An audience member posed an interesting question regarding the uptick in the true crime obsession and the glamorizing of serial killers, like in a series such as Dahmer on Netflix. The general consensus was there is nothing wrong with true crime if you are watching to understand and learn. And there are plenty of stories based on real people that honor the victims while showing the real-life monster. It’s when the murderer is glorified that we are walking a fine line and that’s not why we like horror. We want that adrenaline rush in a safe space. We don’t want to actually side with the monster.

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