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The Bram Stoker Awards

By Caitlin Evans, Paridhi Badgotri, Ellie Brady and Thomas Caldow

While themes and motifs of horror can be found in culture and folklore throughout time, a pivotal turning point was in 1765 when Horace Walpole published what is considered to be the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. The genre of horror only grew from there, and has continued to develop alongside societal trends and other forms of entertainment. Now, horror is a niche genre; you love it or you hate it. You either pore through page-turning novels, desperate for hair-raising goosebumps and shock-inducing thrills, or you shudder in fright at the very thought.

Indeed, this love is reflected in the prizes industry, with an apt number of horror-writing awards to celebrate the range of popular horror literature. While the results of these prizes may turn out some interesting facts (de facto King of Horror, Stephen King has simultaneously the highest number of wins and losses in the awards), one thing remains true – the people want horror praised and they want it praised now.

The Bram Stoker Awards address these demands through and through. With one of the largest lists of categories each year and lengthy longlists within each, they leave no stone unturned in reading the whole scope of the horror scene and honouring every author.

The awards are named after the Irish horror writer Bram Stoker, author of one of horror’s foundational texts, Dracula, and were first awarded in 1988 by the newly formed Horror Writers Association. Founded by various eminent writers including Joe R. Lansdale, Robert McCammon, and Dean Koontz, the organisation aims to foster the genre of dark fantasy and horror by shining a spotlight on these oftentimes dark and shadowy books.

The trophies, taken home by the winners of each of the twelve categories, have been beautifully designed by sculptor Steven Kirk. Modelled on a Gothic haunted house, these trophies may seem normal enough at first, however the house's front door opens to reveal a brass plaque with the name of the author and the winning work inscribed on it. The Haunted House’s first year celebrated the winning works of writers like Stephen King and George R.R. Martin in various categories.

The Bram Stoker Award this year has stuck to its simple but firm stance on who can be nominated, in order to keep their prize as genuine and true to the horror genre as possible, in an era where the authenticity of cultural award giving is constantly under scrutiny for exhibiting prejudice, biases and vapid gestures. To keep it fair and exciting, the Bram Stoker Award looks for enthusiastically published and promoted books that have a wide appeal for readers, critics and literary organisations – without the author or publisher soliciting or pandering to the panel.

They promote engagement through the Horror Writers Association and turn to them for sound reviews, trusting that their newsletter will have consistently featured horror books of note. The award also allows writers to submit as many works as they like in any category, meaning authors are afforded the opportunity to be rewarded on a scale balanced with their literary outgoings. These metrics for structuring their submissions process clearly pays off, as it is the foundation that generates the most impressively extensive list of categories and final number ballots within them. Their final ballot resultantly champions diversity across various categories – from gender, age and ethnicity, to form and publisher.

Alongside the yearly categories, The Horror Writers Association will occasionally award a lifetime achievement award in recognition of a significant impact within the culture of the horror genre. While this if most often awarded to an author (Stephen King, R.L Stine and Ray Bradbury have been recipients throughout the years) the award has also celebrated auteurs of the cinematic horror tradition such as George Romero, writer and director of Night of the Living Dead, and John Carpenter of The Thing and Halloween fame. The readiness of the Bram Stoker Awards to move beyond the literary and to embrace different forms of media speaks to the influence of horror throughout society, as well as the enthusiasm and creativity all horror fans share.

This year’s nominations feature titles as varied as V. Castro’s Queen of Filth, Jessica McHugh’s poetry collection Strange Nests, as well as the screenplay for Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta’s remake of Candyman.

If you are interested in diving further into the truly expansive list of nominations, and maybe find the next story to make your hairs stand on end, be sure to check out the Bram Stoker Award’s website. For truly dedicated acolytes of horror however, tickets are still available for the 2022 awards ceremony. The event will be held duirng a special banquet at this year’s StokerCon held in Denver, Colorado and will undoubtedly be a highlight of the horror-lover’s calendar.



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