Non-Fiction / Horror

Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word:
Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre

Written By: Matthew Warner

Published By: Guide Dog Books

Reviewed by
Justine Manzano

            The people who know me, or at least read my articles, probably know three things about me.  One – I am a writer, which you probably know because you are reading an article by…well, me.  Two – I love genre fiction.  Well, I love all fiction, but any tale about something even a tad out of the ordinary instantly has a place in my heart – as long as it is well-written.  And three – after a few reviews of his work, I have become a fan of one particular horror writer.  This writer is Matthew Warner.  You see, he has the very distinguished position of being the only horror writer to practically cause this tough Bronx chick to pee her pants.  And why?  Cuz he’s that damn good.  However, when I was approached to read his newest publication, Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre, for review, I was still a bit skeptical.  Sure, Warner can write, but I was left wondering if he could write about writing.  Could he write non-fiction?  170 pages later and a couple of dozen articles later, I have an answer. 

            Warner’s collection of articles is a hodge-podge of information.  His topics vary and touch on many mostly untouched portions of what it is to work as a writer and to be a horror enthusiast.  The majority of those articles have been taken from his column, “Author’s Notes”, which can be found at  Warner discusses many topics that are specifically tailored to those working as writers in the Horror genre, as well as those who just read it.  He discusses horror stereotypes in an article cleverly titled, “I’ll Have One Large Blood Shake and an Order of Stereotypes, Please.”  This is a mild mannered, but truthful indictment against the stereotypes involved in being a genre writer (or reader, for that matter).  This was one of my favorites, as I truly understand this issue.  Try taking one college writing workshop as a genre writer in which the professor is not a fan and watch the wackiness ensue.  In “Setting Horror Close to Home,” we find tips on finding the spookiness in your own hometown.  “10 Fun Things I’ve Done as a Horror Geek” is a journey through tips to haunted houses and other strange activities Warner has participated in while bonding with his inner horror writer.  “Once Upon a Gory Fairy Tale” teaches us the more horror related fairy tale roots and “Do Horror Movies Make Us Violent Killers” postulates an opinion that our very own Melissa Minners may not exactly agree with (see “Rated I For Irresponsible” to get her view on things). 

            Warner also discusses issues that simply effect writers as a whole.  In essays like “Don’t Swim in the Company’s Pool With Your Manuscript,” Warner discusses the pitfalls of being a writer with a day job, and what crossing those two can mean.  “Tips on Good (Collaboration) Parenting” teaches us how to choose a partner for a collaboration as well as the best way to participate in one.  “A Monologue About Dialogue” contains Matt’s beliefs on the do’s and don’t of dialogue. “Addictive Plotting As Told By Buffy the Vampire Slayer” contains hints on how Buffy (my second favorite show ever) can teach you about plot and how the first season of Angel (my favorite show ever) can teach you how not to plot.  Sorry Matt – if all you watched was the first season of Angel, you missed out on 4 years of the most addictive plotting ever.  Your loss, not mine.  But I’ll lend you my DVDs if you want proof. “Hit the Books to Write a Hit” discusses how reading can inform your writing.   

            A bonus short story, “With the Eyes of God” is included as well, a fantastic horror treat with a controversial ending, along with “With the Eyes of a Writer,” which discusses Warner’s process in writing the piece and coming to the controversial ending.  A very interesting look into a writer’s mind throughout his process. 

            Warner also discusses some topics that would appeal to the general public.  “Conquering America’s Greatest Fear” discusses the intense fear of public speaking while also linking it to the needs of a writer.  “A Website Design Manifesto” discusses how best to design your website to best market your product (or yourself). “To Be Or Not To Be A Reader” discusses why you should even bother reading in this electronic age.  

And those are just some of the articles.  Warner does a great job, throughout the book of tackling articles of interest to everyone with original topics and surprising angles that make you look at Horror and the field of writing in a different way.  He covers aspects of what it is to be a writer as well as the things you don’t really think about dealing with when you become a writer, like doing public readings and marketing yourself as a writer.  Each topic Warner tackles, he tackles with intelligence and a self-deprecating wit that kept me wanting to read on and on.  As a matter of fact, I feel like Warner would fit in quite well here at G-POP with our self-deprecating wit – but we can’t afford to pay him. 

So, whether you are a horror fan, a writer, a potential writer or a reader that wants to know the process behind what you are reading, this is definitely the collection for you.  And don’t hesitate to pick up Warner’s other work too.  This is definitely a writer with some talent.  What do you make these days Matt?  Cause we might be able to give you a t-shirt after a month or so.  What do you say?

Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word by Matthew Warner 

To read more about Matthew Warner, visit the following links:

Eyes Everywhere

Death Sentences: Tales of Punishment and Revenge

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