The Splatterpunk Files

What was "splatterpunk" anyway? Its very definition -- even its existence -- was always mutable. Its influence on modern/postmodern horror is a certainty, but interpretation of that influence is still a matter of debate among horror critics. Nowadays literary dissection of splatterpunk is even slinking into the groves of academe.

Horror Writers, 1986
Some of those once labeled as splatterpunks: Craig Spector, Joe Lansdale. Richard Christian Matheson, David J. Schow, Ray Garton, Robert McCammon, John Skipp: 1986 (photo by Beth Gwinn)

David J. Schow invented the term in 1986 during the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention at the Biltmore Hotel, Providence, Rhode Island. "I made up the term to describe hyperintensive horror -- the Clive Barker 'there are no limits' variety -- [back] when it mattered. If Stephen King is comparable to McDonald's, then splatterpunk -- in its day -- was akin to certain varieties of gnarly mushroom, the kind that could open new doors of perception, or, in noncompatible metabolisms, just make you puke."

A thoughtful response was elicted from Schow in a 1999 interview conducted by Oliver Roll for the the German magazine Doom:

Basically every story ever told, assuming a competent storyteller, can swerve into the territory of the unknown, and thus become unsettling, or scary, or full of dread, or unnerving, and I like to take that offramp. As for splatterpunk, you'd have to ask an academician. I was recently cornered at a booksigning by a person who wanted to know the whole holistic history and timeline of splatterpunk. I was asked, "when did you write your first splatterpunk story?" and I can't answer that for the same reason Monet probably could not pinpoint exactly when he "did" his first Impressionist painting. I'm not comparing myself to Monet, but I would like to remind everyone that the reason the Impressionists are so called is the result of a bad review of their first show, written by a now-forgotten art critic who attempted to spin a derisive joke on the title of Monet's painting, "Impression: Sunrise." When the Pre-Raphaelities came along and named themselves, they did so to outfox, with humor, those critics who might label them. Splatterpunk, similarly, is more an era than a school of thought or writing. I am perversely proud of the fact that as a word it has been listed in the Random House / Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language since 1996.
Stealth Press -- founded by one of the chief perpetrators of splatterpunk, Craig Spector, and re-publisher of many "classics" of the era -- is compiling The Splatterpunk Files in order to provide some views (past and present) and "original" critical documents of the era as well.