Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, generally acknowledged to be the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century and the most important American writer of this genre since Edgar Allan Poe, maintained that "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tales as a literary form."
Lovecraft distinguishes horror literature from fiction based entirely on physical fear and the merely gruesome. "The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible concept of the human braina malign and particular suspension or defeat of the fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguards against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space."
It is that atmosphere—the creation of a particular sensation or emotional levelthat, according to Lovecraft, is the most important element in the creation of horror literature.
The earliest predecessor of the modern horror genre was the gothic romance novel of the eighteenth century. The nineteenth century produced classic works of horror fiction such as Robert Louis Stevenson''s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Guy de Maupassant''s The Horla.
The nineteenth century also marked the emergence of Edgar Allan Poe, whose work set a new standard of realism in the history of literary horror and had a profound impact on the mainstream of macabre writing.
Early twentieth-century writers of note include Lovecraft, Arthur Machen (The Great God Pan), and Algernon Blackwood (The Willows). Contemporary writers enjoying considerable success in the horror fiction genre include Stephen King (Rose Madder, Four Past Midnight, Needful Things), Robert Bloch (Psycho, Night of the Ripper), Peter Straub (Houses Without Doors, Julia, The Throat), and Charles L. Grant (The Black Carousel, In a Dark Dream, In the Fog) and Dean Koontz (The Bad Place, The Door to December, Dragon Tears).
Markets for short horror fiction include dedicated magazines and book publishers. Many of which are listed in Novel & Short Writer''s Market.