the lure of horror

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I’ve felt the lure of horror stories since I was seven and wrote about a shark biting me in the neck.  I believe that was the same year my cousin Stacey and I made a sheet tent over the television in her basement while our mothers (who were sisters) spent a few hours talking upstairs at my aunt’s kitchen table.  

We promised we wouldn’t watch a scary movie, but my uncle’s collection of VCR tapes had too many enticing titles.  We chose “Return of the Living Dead: 2.”  

returnofthelivingdead2box

As soon as it was finished, we ran upstairs to confess—not out of shame or guilt—but out of pride for having watched a real horror movie and lived to see the end credits, lived to pull aside the sheet tent, crawl back out into the light of day, and know that there would be no zombies.

My first long piece or prose, written in 8th grade, was called The People in the Lake.  It was a hundred hand-written pages with illustrations, about a town in New Hampshire plagued by lake zombies who basically pull you down into the lake if you swim after dark.  One girl has the power to release the spirits of the people in the lake, but there’s a good guy and an evil guy…and you know the rest of a story like this.  I was thirteen.  I loved the idea of zombies, I loved my vacation cabin on a lake in New Hampshire, and I loved the idea of a good boy that seems bad and a bad boy that seems good.  

I also used to write short plays that my cousin Stacey and her little sister Allison and I would act out with my aunt’s old dresses, costumes, and cabbage patch dolls.  

I’m not sure what happened to me in High School to make me switch from writing horror to writing nearly all poetry or high fantasy.  I got into witchcraft and I fell in love with The Princess Bride and Neverending Story (the book, though the film was great, too), and nature.  

I suppose those were nice diversions from the darkness in the corners of the room and under the bed—darkness that I still filled with monsters, reaching hands, or evil fairies.  

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I’m still in love with horror, still reading Steven King, Anne Rice, and other, less known horror writers like Poppy Z. Brite, from time to time, though I mostly feed my craving through movies.  Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite horror movies.  I love everything Joss Whedon does, though.  Older horrors I still watch are Jaws and the Halloween movies.  I love The Walking Dead and Dexter, too.  

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There’s a part of me that’s sad I am not writing horror now, and I can see myself gravitating back that way in the future.  What has prompted some new thoughts about horror as a genre has been Kristen Lamb’s blog.  

Horror author Kevin Lucia has been guest blogging on her website, and his words have been truly awesome for me to ponder.  They’ve brought me back to that little girl I was under the sheet tents watching zombies, the teenager who surrounded herself with stuffed animals every night so that the monsters under the bed and the evil fairies in the corners of her room wouldn’t get her while she slept, and the adult who still can’t sleep on the edge of the bed, and who still prefers to swim in any water with a companion (a companion who somehow makes Jaws or the people in the lake or the people in the pool—not get her).

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Read Kevin’s wise words here:

Why is Horror Important—Part One

An excerpt:

“…we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones...”

Why is Horror So Important—Part Two

“Good horror takes characters of depth and exposes them to their worst fears, watching closely how they either rise or fall…which speaks (no, SHOUTS) volumes about us as humans.”

Why Writing Horror Is—SHOULD BE—Hard Part 1

“In the right hands, horror can hold up a very unflattering mirror and show us what we really are: broken, scared creatures flawed and cracked, a species tragically ruled by fear, prejudice, insecurity, pride, anger, selfishness and cruelty.

And in the right hands horror also shows our better selves rising above our flaws.”

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There’s probably going to be a part two for that last post, but I’m too excited about this to wait!

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In conclusion, I resonated with Kevin Lucia’s theories and I was reminded of reading King’s novel Cujo in 7th grade, and spending the last hour of reading in tears.  

Horror isn’t scary because of the monsters, it’s scary because all of these monsters are inside of us already.  

We’re the monsters.  

We’re the heroes, too.  

As humans, we literally can be anything, and sometimes it takes horror to show us the depths that despair or pain can lead us, or the heights we can reach when we are tested.

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