The Future of Horror and the Next 'Steven' KingBy Scott Nicholsonwww.hauntedcomputer.com(Scott Nicholson is the author of nine novels, including DRUMMER BOY, THE REDCHURCH, and THE SKULL RING. Other articles and excerpts can be found atwww.hauntedcomputer.com)Several years ago, on one of the horror genre message boards, a new writer thunderedin like a rhinoceros in an ossuary and proclaimed himself “the future of horror.”He was met with incredulity, then amusement, but the tone quickly changed when Mr.Future refused to back down. He was finally driven away by other posters on the boardwhen taunts turned hostile. Chickens in a roost will sometimes peck the head of a newlyintroduced chicken until it learns its place in the pecking order. If the chicken is arrogantor just plain too dumb to learn a lesson, it might literally be hen-pecked to death. In thiscase, the new writer left the board not with a sense of introspection and humility, butwith resentment because his genius had not been immediately worshiped.I don’t believe this writer has ever published anything of note. He certainly hasn’tbecome the future of horror, because, as far as I can see, the future hasn’t arrived yet.It’s telling that I can’t even remember his name. For those who believe that gettingpeople to talk about you is the key to publicity, here’s evidence to the contrary.In stolen moments at work when I browse the Internet, I’ve stumbled across writers whocall themselves “the next Steven King.” And, yes, more than once I’ve seen King’s firstname misspelled, which is all the proof I need that the aspiring writer in question has notseen the name enough to memorize it. It’s hard enough to be taken seriously whenyou’re working hard, submitting stories, and slowly building a reputation. There arethose who just want to be a “personality” and not a writer, and they dress to somebizarre funereal ideal and wander the halls at conventions. One or two idiots muddy thewaters for everyone, because the genre pool is small and shallow. Outsiders might onlyglance at the pool once in a while. Just as people really do judge a book by its cover,they might judge the entire horror genre by their first encounter with one of itspractitioners.Stephen King, an extraordinary average guy, is linked with scary stuff in the public’smind. Most horror writers love being compared to King, and invariably a great number ofthem are, particularly at the beginning of their careers. The sane ones know the praiseis merely the kind words of friends and well-meaning reviewers. Others perhaps takethe praise to heart and begin to believe their own press releases and message-boardproclamations. They suffer visions of King-like popularity and pout when they don’tshow up on the bestseller lists.