Two questions were posed on the internet this week about books that have really gotten to me.
The first was whether books should have trigger warnings – warnings about the themes the books might contain, similar to warnings or classifications for film.
Currently some websites and blogs contain trigger warnings, but now some colleges in the US are proposing to put them on required reading texts and course workbooks. How long I wonder before they’re proposed for fiction?
Putting trigger warnings on books would be the first step toward book restriction. Think about it – if trigger warnings were imposed, accepted by the public and industry and imposed by some authority, then couldn’t they also restrict which books are published?
Here in Queensland, Australia where I live, the novel American Psycho was banned when it was first released because the content was deemed too extreme and that children might be exposed to it. So what, there was a possibility that American Psycho might have been placed next to Green Eggs and Ham by mistake? Banning that book was done out of fear and these ideas about trigger warnings is once again a product of the same fear, but only a softer, more under-handed approach. Surely a lecturer can simply give a verbal warning to their students – why deface a book to appease an overly politically correct society or sensitive individual?
The horror genre is easily defined against all other genres, because of its themes and usually violent content. But good horror stories always put the gore and blood in context with the overall story. Horror books should never be judged by the violence within alone and these trigger warnings would act as an unfair prejudice on a book.
Ultimately potential readers make up their minds about a book when they look at the front and back covers. Usually, a horror book cover will literally scream horror and the reader will get the gist of the content within by reading the back cover blurb. If it seems like it will be too much for them they’ll put it down and move on to something else, right? They don’t need a book cover to be stained with trigger warnings!
Maybe I’m getting worked up over nothing, because such an idea would never be supported, but these days their seems to be so many assaults on our freedom of speech. As an author I don’t want anyone to prejudice my work because they might find horror offensive. If you don’t like horror, don’t read it!
Of course, Glen’s right, horror has always been literature since ghost stories were first told in caves. It’s in our nature to need to be frightened – it’s part of our survival. The Gothic Novel brought horror into the literary mainstream with works like The Monk by Matthew Lewis and it will continue to play a part in storytelling for as long as we have need to point out the good and evil in this world.
Check out my Horror – the Best Thing You’ve Never Read post if you need more convincing.