Master horror director Wes Craven, who died last week of brain cancer, once said that horror entertainment provides “an inoculation against a deeper and darker and more frightening reality.”
…Like the reality of fighting brain cancer, or losing a child: realities much more horrifying than Freddy Krueger or Pennywise the Clown. Those boogeymen dress up the “deeper and darker” horrors in fright masks and scare us in a way that leaves no scars. Freddy has access to your brain that you can’t control. Pennywise steals away little children. But it’s all just a story. When you close the book or walk out of the movie theater, all is well. As long as you aren’t harboring nascent cancer cells, or about to get a telephone call from the police.
Our friends over at Every Day Fiction recently published a flash-fiction story that directly touches on this theme of horror story as inoculation. I offer “What Greater Fear” by J.C. Towler as my first recommended reading for the SeptOberFright 2015 season. It provides as good an introduction as any to the perennial question of why we enjoy telling and hearing horrible tales of murderous monsters like the Mothman and the Wendigo and the Jersey Devil (all of whom are name-dropped in the first paragraph of Towler’s tale: another reason I’m recommending it. That’s a roll-call of three of my favorite fortean monsters). Being flash, it isn’t longer than 1,000 words — a quick read to get you in the mood for spooky tales by a fireplace or around a campfire.
And while you’re over at EDF, I recommend checking out some other recent pieces. They have run a number of stories with sci-fi, fantasy, and horror themes of late. Three I would single out are “I, Robert” by Chris Ovenden; “At Apocalypse’s Edge” by Rebecca Birch; and “Better Than 1000 Monkeys With Typewriters” by K.R. Horton. The former two provide some apocalyptic and dystopian horror, but if you read “1000 Monkeys” last you’ll wrap it up on a more upbeat note with special pertinence to writers and artists. Pair that one with a piece from last month called “The Call of the Void” by Anna Zumbro. It’s not speculative fiction per se, but perhaps shows a face of the ultimate horror behind all the masks: mortality, emptiness, nothingness — and how our creative endeavors are our defiant little “middle finger” to that gaping black maw of…The End.
BONUS PIECE OF CANDY
As long as you’re surfing the Web, let me point your browser over to Dinosaur Dracula. I discovered this site a few months ago and have become hooked. So much so that I am now a regular subscriber to the Dino Drac Funpacks (which my kids get as much of a hoot out of as their Daddy does). Matt, the Purplesaurus-Rex-Kool-Aid-addled brains behind Dinosaur Dracula, revels in all sorts of childhood nostalgia, but I’ll quote him directly from the “About” page on his site:
Dinosaur Dracula is a series of tributes to things that thrill and excite me, or at least, things that used to thrill and excite me. I very much enjoyed being a kid; in fact, I enjoyed it so much that I never stopped being one. As such, you’re not likely to find anything on Dinosaur Dracula that a ten-year-old couldn’t comprehend. I like toys, goofy food, horror movies, and roadside attractions with guest appearances by bootleg Power Rangers.
This site celebrates the sheer joy of trivial things, from Halloween decorations, to Ninja Turtles, to the pewter dolphin pendants sold in every aquarium’s gift shop. Dinosaur Dracula is, if nothing else, my perpetual excuse to enjoy things I’m no longer “supposed” to enjoy.
I came across Dinosaur Dracula while working on a post for Black Gate: I discovered that someone else out there besides myself had written a review of a vintage vending-machine-prize teaser card. Indeed, he had done a whole series of reviews of these displays, and this was just one ongoing series among such others as “Classic Creepy Commercials,” “Random Action Figures,” “Flea Market Finds,” and “Vintage Comic Book Ads.”
The sort of delving into pop-nostalgia that I occasionally scratch at here in my “World of Oz” and “Collector the Barbarian” posts was dwarfed by the sheer volume that Matt has been producing under the Dino Drac banner. Clever writing; great pics and video; awesome original graphics — a lot of what I’d been cobbling together suddenly felt redundant. I’ll just point readers over there who share a fondness for revisiting childhood toys and accouterments (for instance, people who feel a twinge of giddy, innocent, unadulterated joy at the mere mention of Underoos).
Matt launched his Halloween Countdown 2015 two weeks ago — that vampiric thunder-lizard got a one-week jump on me! He’ll have new Halloween-related posts just about every day for the next couple months. But do please come back and check out a new SeptOberFright post here at Black Gate every Monday!
HALLOWE’EN TRIVIA: From whence did the following lines originate?
“Trick or treat, trick or treat / Trick or treat for Halloween! / When ghosts and goblins by the score / Come a-knockin’ on your front door / You’d better not be stingy or / Your nightmares will come true!”