This is a topic I've been musing on for quite some time now, and I think this is the place to have a convo about it with like-minded people.

What, exactly, is "scary?" That is, what makes horror, horror?

I've been thinking about this in terms of why horror as a genre (or subgenre of SFF) doesn't seem to be taken seriously, and also why I don't seem to get scared that much by what I read and what I watch. I remember going to see the first "Resident Evil" movie when it came out and thinking, "That wasn't horror, that was action." I rarely watch "horror" movies because they're either too schlocky or just not scary. Haunted houses don't scare me. Movies about Satan, the Devil, or demonic possession don't scare me. The first time I watched "Silence of the Lambs," I was 16 and alone in my parents' house at night; I slept fine. Yet, "The Ring" (both versions) scared the living crap out of me, and over the weekend my husband and I watched "Room," which disturbed me enough to keep me from falling asleep that night.

I think that one of the reasons why horror so often gets overlooked, or not taken seriously, is because it's very premise is to scare people - and what scares one person might not scare another. Purely anecdotally, everyone I know who was raised Catholic (whether they still believe or not) is scared of movies like "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby," but I'm not (I was raised Jewish). Is it because that fear of the Devil was not part of my upbringing? Maybe. Zombies don't scare me and neither do vampires, but the idea of a little girl wreaking deathly revenge from beyond the grave ("The Ring") terrifies me. "The Shining" only scared me when the ghost opened the freezer door for Jack. "Room" was so disturbing because I *am* a mother, with two sons age 4 and 7 1/2, and I related very strongly to that sense of being trapped with them and having to dig into all my patience and creative resources for them and I still feel like I get punished - by society, by my own body - just for having kids. To that point, I think "The Babbadook" was probably my most favorite horror movie to date because it was like watching my own struggles with post-partum depression played out on screen, and it was absolutely horrifying to me to watch some of my own fears and internal battles get personified so on-point.

And yet, my brother, who is child-free, didn't like "The Babbadook" or find it scary *at all*.

I recently read H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" for the first time; I've never read Lovecraft before and thought it time I dove in there. I didn't like it. I found it 99% boring and 1% "Well, duh, I knew that was going to happen." Maybe I'm missing something? I do have a collection of Lovecraft's short stories on my e-reader, including "The Call of Cthulu," which I'll get around to at some point. Maybe I just started with the wrong story.

So, what do you think, fellow horror writers? Is "scary" really that subjective? Or are there things that are sort of universally scary? If the latter, is that why we have things like urban legends? And finally, as horror writers, do you only write what's scary to you, or do you try to write what you think will scare other people?

I'll leave this post with the famous Stephen King quote. When I write I *try* to go for terror first, and horror second; I try to avoid gross-out, not because I'm against it (and I'm fully not judging anyone who uses it; my favorite TV show of all time is "The Walking Dead") but because I'm just not good at writing it.

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there...”