I’m currently enjoying The Lord Came At Twilight, the hugely esteemed collection by horror and dark fiction writer Daniel Mills (photo) – review to follow, folks. But one gem in the volume appears even before the fiction itself. That’s the excellent introduction, “Twilight’s True Lord,” by fellow horror magus Simon Strantzas. And in the course of this, Strantzas explains just what new technology, ebooks, and the wide availability of public domain literature has done, not just for Daniel Mills, but for the entire horror genre.
Unfortunately, because of technical limitations – a.k.a. the copy limit that Dark Renaissance Books has set on the Kindle edition of the book – I can’t copy Strantzas’s text, in full, as text. So, below is a screenshot of what he wrote, courtesy of Amazon’s Look Inside feature.
Now I really hope that Dark Renaissance Books aren’t too offended at me pushing the limits of DRM with that screen grab, but you should be able to read what Strantzas and I are talking about. And yes, I’m doing it this way to underline the irony and the pointlessness of such heavy-handed DRM implementation. But in any event, note the emphasis on the heritage of the past – and how much easier it is now for modern writers to draw on and delve into it.
Some of those great old writers have been resurrected by small presses, as Strantzas describes. Almost all of them are available for free online, for anyone who wants to discover “the true power of the past – as a tool to describe and illuminate the present.” And as Strantzas interprets it, newer writers have drilled through the landfill of more recent mass-market horror to tap into that reservoir and power the revitalization of their entire genre.
Call it the New Weird, post-Lovecraftian horror, cosmic horror, or whatever, the whole field seems to be one of the most intellectually and creatively alive and topical genres in modern fiction. And I can’t think of a better and more compelling argument for the value of public domain literature – or against those who want to extend copyright limits even further and lock up the treasures of the past. Because usually, when you do lock them up, they simply are locked away, neglected by publishers, and unavailable to readers and writers. If you want good, vital, popular, lucrative, modern literature, then free up the literature of the past.