Matthew Warner

Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word

Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre

Out of Print

“Horror isn’t just a genre of stories but an outlook on life,” Matthew Warner writes in his foreword to Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre. In this collection of articles published between 2002 and 2007, the author of The Organ Donor, Death Sentences, and Eyes Everywhere challenges us to look beyond the stereotypes associated with a much-maligned type of fiction. Horror empowers us to cope with our fears by teaching us about them, he says, either overtly or through symbolism. It’s not just about blood and guts.

This collection consists mostly of editorials written for the Horror World website, plus selected articles from venues such as Hellnotes Newsletter. Warner runs the gamut in subject matter—everything from ghost hunting, to gory holiday decorations, to effective writing techniques—in his meditations about horrific things, whether they be fictional or real.

Contents include some of his most controversial columns: “My Summer with a Book Doctor: An internship at Edit Ink, a notorious scam operation,” “Message Versus Medium: The Agenda of Left Behind,” “Addictive Plotting as Taught by Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Obscenity v. The First Amendment: Why the prosecution of X-rated films affects books.”



  • Foreword: Into the Asylum

Author’s Notes

  • I’ll Have One Large Blood Shake and a Side-Order of Stereotypes, Please (Nov. 2004)
  • Now for the Moral of This Story: Don’t Swim in the Company’s Pool With Your Manuscript (Dec. 2004)
  • Tips on Good (Collaboration) Parenting (Jan. 2005)
  • A Monologue about Dialogue: Part 1 (Feb. 2005)
  • A Monologue about Dialogue: Part 2 (March 2005)
  • Addictive Plotting as Taught by Buffy the Vampire Slayer (April 2005)
  • With the Eyes of God (short story, May 2005)
  • With the Eyes of a Writer (May 2005)
  • Conquering America’s Greatest Fear (June 2005)
  • A Website Design Manifesto (July 2005)
  • Setting Horror Close to Home (Aug. 2005)
  • Hit the Books to Write a Hit (Sept. 2005)
  • 10 Fun Things I’ve Done as a Horror Geek (Oct. 2005)
  • To Be or Not To Be a Reader (Nov. 2005)
  • Message Versus Medium: The Agenda of Left Behind (Dec. 2005)
  • My Summer with a Book Doctor: An internship at Edit Ink, a notorious scam operation (March 2006)
  • Once Upon a Gory Fairy Tale (June 2006)
  • The Horror of Schizophrenia (Sept. 2006)
  • How Not to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays (Dec. 2006)
  • The Audition (March 2007)
  • Things Learned at the Citizen’s Police Academy (June 2007)
  • Do Horror Movies Make Us Violent Killers? (Sept. 2007)
  • Obscenity v. The First Amendment: Why the prosecution of X-rated films affects books (Dec. 2007)

Other Articles

  • Plebes Graduate From First Borderlands Boot Camp (Feb. 2005)
  • China’s Organ Trade and Horror Novels: How I Brought In an Unusual Pro Bono Client (Winter 2002)


“Warner’s prose style is clear and humorous … It’s always a pleasure to read a well-written book on the subject of how fiction works … Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word is a fine introduction to writing even for those who may not be fans of horror specifically.”
— Green Man Review

“Kudos to the author and Guide Dog Books for assembling a collection of horror-related articles that are just as accessible to the horror reader as to those who want to write in the genre — and is far more readable than others of its ilk.”
Somebody Dies

“I have to admit that Matthew is, at least in my mind, an undiscovered gem. His prose pulls you willingly and curiously through his books to the end. … That’s a pretty sharp way for any writer to create fiction, but amazingly it carries over into his non-fiction.”
Feo Amante

“There are few published books that provide this kind of content and approach in the horror genre, so this book is a welcome addition. … Highly recommended for large public libraries.”
Monster Librarian

“No matter what the subject … Warner is quite the amiable host. I have no aspirations to write a horror novel, but I found myself reading the book cover to cover anyway.”

“This is a very welcome addition to any writer’s shelf.”
— Horror World

“Warner’s short but sweet ponderings are a real pleasure to read. … His love for the horror genre shines throughout the book, and I’m betting you’ll finish this in one sitting.”
— Horror Fiction Review

“Warner covers a variety of topics that will interest not only genre writers but also fans and those who may be curious about the inner workings of the publishing industry.”
Dark Scribe Magazine

“Warner does a great job throughout the book of tackling articles of interest to everyone with original topics and surprising angles that make you look at Horror and the field of writing in a different way.”

“Witty, edgy, and on-the-mark, Matthew Warner shares an insider’s view of the Wide World of Horror, from writing horror fiction to the misconceptions of outsiders to finding the ‘fun in morbidity’ right in one’s own backyard.”
Elizabeth Massie, Bram Stoker winning author of Sineater, Homeplace, Wire Mesh Mothers


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Horror Isn't a 4-Letter Word