ASK! about Fiction
This question was received as a comment on our Horror genre guide post:
Little Hysterical Girl asked:
Er.. if a book is horrible.. can i call it a horror book? what’s the difference between thriller and horror? and if the book is about scary people – like the japanese during the world war – (my history text!) is it also under horror? and what sub-category will it be under? gracios!
Both horror and thriller are genres (or classifications) usually used for Fiction titles. In Horror fiction, the aim is the incite feelings of fear and/or revulsion and there is usually some element of the supernatural. In Thrillers, the aim is to excite the reader with suspense and action (usually dangerous action, eg crime, espionage), usually with a climatic ending. If you are referring to a horrible (as in badly written or boring etc) book, those can occur in any genre or subject!
For your history text, it’ll probably be in the General 900s section, which is the section for History and Geography. This is because the material in your history text is not fictional (or “made up”). For example the book, The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang (Call No.: 951.042 CHA), which describes the atrocities committed by the Japanese army when they invaded Nanking, has horrifying bits, but as it is a true account of historical events, it is classified under the 900s. However, this doesn’t mean that everything in Fiction is totally made up and factually inaccurate. Many fiction authors go through great pains to research the subjects or settings of their works.
More information about the Fiction genres, Horror & thriller:
Thriller and horror are two genres by which books can be classified. In order to classify something, a definition must be followed.
According to the Dictionary of Library and Information Science (2004), the definitions of genre, horror, and thriller are as follows:
Genre: ‘type, class, or style of music, film, or art … Today, literary works are classified by form (novel, short story etc.), by theme (adventure, fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, western etc) …In modern genre fiction, plot is the driving force’ (309)
Horror: ‘subgenre of gothic fiction in which supernatural events, macabre effects, and obsessive introspection are combined with chilling suspense to produce visceral sensations of fear and revulsion in the reader. Ghosts, hallucinations, monsters, mummies, nightmares witches, werewolves, vampires, demons, and black magic are common themes,’ (340)
Thriller: ‘novel, play, or motion picture that produces feelings of intense excitement in the reader or audience by depicting dangerous action (crime, espionage, etc), usually culminating in a narrow escape in which a high level of suspense is maintained up to the final denouncement.’ (718)
In Fonseca (2002) a guide to horror fiction, books categorised under horror often has monsters in the plot, or they may evoke emotions like fear (3-5).
Hence, we can infer that the difference between thriller and horror is depends on the theme and plot. Monsters are often featured in horror themes. Horror stories also often have gruesome plots and evokes feelings of fear in the reader. Thriller stories evoke feelings of suspense. Examples of thrillers are stories related to crime.
- Reitz, J. M., Dictionary of Library and Information Science, London, Libraries Unlimited, 2004
- Fonseca A. J. and Pulliam J. M., Hooked on Horror: a guide to reading horror fiction (2nd ed), Englewood, Libraries Unlimited, 2002
Answered by Jillian Lim and Ang Mei Jun, Librarians, Public Library Services
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