I do this both for the here and now, to help you during this busy month of horror requests, but I also subject myself to this marathon to remind you that horror doesn’t have to only be promoted and read in October. This blog is always here to help you. In fact, the past 31 Days of Horror posts are easily accessible on my permanent page entitled “Features Archive:”
31 Days of Horror: A post a day each October
As I go through the month, I will be highlighting new resources, reviews, and other items of note. As usual I have also asked a number of fans, library workers, and authors to submit posts about why they love horror. These posts are meant to both illustrate the different appeal factors that make horror the genre of choice for a variety of patrons and to give you another perspective on possible titles and authors to try. You can pull up just these “Why I Love Horror Posts” by clicking here or using the tag in the right gutter of every page of this blog.
This year I am starting off right away with one of those “Why I Love Horror Posts” with one of my new library friends who I met at StokerCon this past April, Daryl Maxwell from the Los Angeles Public Library Daryl is a huge honor fan and he works tireless to promote the genre to his patrons. Click here to see some samples of the interviews he has done with horror authors for LAPL’s blog. And click here for dozens of reviews of horror tiles Daryl has also contributed to LAPL’s staff recommendations site.
See I wasn’t exaggerating, he’s a tireless supporter of the genre. Which is why I asked him to have the honor of opening the month. You guys hear from me all of the time. It’s time to let someone else take the floor first.
Below is Daryl’s essay on why he loves horror. It is a personal story, but Daryl also never stops librarianing and he gives all of you plenty of suggestions and tips on how to identify titles for yourself and your patrons.
So here we go. Let the blog-a-thon begin. Take it away Daryl.....
When Becky first asked me to contribute to her blog and write about why I enjoy reading Horror, it took me a minute (OK, a few minutes) to even begin to come up with an answer. I had never actually considered why I like reading horror stories (long or short form) or enjoyed watching horror movies. It feels like I always have.
I was a reader from a very young age and almost from the beginning gravitated to Fantasy and Science Fiction – or, as I now like to refer to it, Speculative Fiction. That led to an early interest in the Sci-Fi films of the 50s that were somewhat regularly shown on television at the time, and the relatively recent re-runs of Star Trek being shown every evening in syndication. These led to discovering the Creature Feature programs – the ones on Saturday nights with a “Horror Host” that regularly featured Universal Studios’ classic horror films of the 1930s-1950s.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, I begged to be able to stay up WAY past my bedtime to watch George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead on the “Late, Late Show.” I had read about it in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and had to see it. This was not a great idea. About 2/3 of the way through the film I was so freaked out that I turned off the TV and went to bed before the film was over (and, given the images in my head, and the accompanying dreams that evening, this was clearly not a wise choice). I would be in my early 20s before I finally sat down and watched the entire film, including the horrifying twist at the end!
Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror movies, of course, led to me seeking out genre books at the library. And genre books led me to look for additional movies and TV shows. It was a wonderful vicious circle, with one media feeding the other and vice-versa.
After seeing The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man by Charlton Heston, I sought out the novella upon which both movies are (VERY loosely) based: Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend. This novella forever altered how I would look at those “things that go bump in the night,” and I still hope that someday, someone will make a film that is faithful to Matheson’s vision. I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker and what I often think of as Stephen King’s best novel, Salem’s Lot. That, of course, led to me waiting anxiously for the TV movie of the same name (which was terribly disappointing).
While in High School I worked as a Page in my local library. After seeing how popular it was, I decided to check out another King title, which was brand new at the time, The Stand. There is really nothing like reading a story about an artificially created disease that is 99.9% communicable and 99.9% fatal. If you are near someone who has it, you will get it. If you have it, you will die. Every time someone at school or in the Library sneezed or coughed I had stop myself from running somewhere, anywhere else. Decades after reading that book, I still remember The Stand. The right book at the right time will leave a mark! Now, as an adult and a Librarian who regularly recommends strong horror titles when asked for reading suggestions, I have a few guesses as to why we seek out these stories.
As I said before, I was drawn to Speculative Fiction early in my reading life. Speculative Fiction stories ask “what if?” questions. They ponder how things would, or could be. If we had the technology to do this, how would our lives be better? What would it be like to have magical powers? Or a dragon? Or a dragon with magical powers? And while a great many Speculative Fiction stories may have dark elements, I believe that it is Horror that attempts to answer the dark side of those “what if?” questions. What if science is used for evil instead of good? What if technology breaks free of our control? What if that magical dragon decides it wants to eat us? What if there really IS a monster in the closet or under the bed? We’re fascinated when authors pose these “what if?” scenarios. And many of us can’t be satisfied by only reading about situations that end in a positive manner. We want, and sometimes need, to see how and why things go wrong. And their attraction can go deeper and fulfill a much deeper need that I believe we all share.
Telling frightening or creepy stories around a campfire is something that has been done as long as humans have gathered communally. There is something about sitting in a pool of light, surrounded by the encroaching darkness that lends itself to telling stories about what may be “out there.” I believe that modern Horror novels fulfill those almost primal urges to wonder what is “out there” in the dark that we cannot see.
I also believe that Horror novels and movies are variations on the experience of riding a roller coaster or other theme park thrill rides/attractions. When you are riding one of these rides, you are able to experience the thrill of an experience that you would NEVER want to have in an uncontrolled way, all while always knowing that you are safe. While the attraction may have “perceived” dangers, any actual risk has almost always been identified and removed before the ride is opened to the public. As a result, riders are allowed that safe thrill. Reading a Horror novel is a very similar experience. It allows readers the chance to feel the thrills and chills of a story about a supernatural creature, or science running amok, without having to deal with the actual peril or consequences. Horror novels can get your pulse racing and, as I mentioned earlier, make you slightly paranoid of your surroundings, all with no “real” threat.
Also, like roller coasters and thrill rides, all Horror novels are not the same. Some are milder, with fewer shocks and less violence but with a great sense of ambiance or mood. Others are full-blown excursions into the depths of unrelenting terror. If you are just starting to read Horror titles, you may want to start with titles that are heavier on tone and mood, like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the works of Edgar Allen Poe or Shirley Jackson. Other recent possibilities could be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova or Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty (both of which have fascinating takes on the Dracula myth), rather than diving into the deep end with something like Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (which may very well give a reader nightmares).
Another great place to start is with short stories or novellas. It never ceases to amaze me how much unease a gifted writer can put into a short story. Try looking for any of Horror editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow’s anthologies. Of particular note are her annual “Best of” collections, which gather notable Horror short stories of the year since 2009, or her themed collections, like The Doll Collection, Black Feathers (avian-themed stories), Lovecraft Unbound (stories set in or inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft) or The Cutting Room (motion picture themed stories – there are two stories in this collection that literally gave me nightmares!! Not for the faint of heart!). Novellas – stories too long to be considered short stories yet not long enough to be considered novels – are also a marvelous source for Horror. A MUST read is Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, where LaValle takes one of Lovecraft’s most racially insensitive stories, “The Horror at Red Hook,” and gives it a sharp twist. The result is something terrifying, disturbing and magnificent!
Your local librarian, friends and/or family members who read Speculative Fiction or Horror will also help you find a good place to start. And once you start, you may find yourself being drawn, more and more often, into those dark places only Horror books can take you, to read about the things that live, and die, there. Before you know it, you’ll be half way through a book you may find it terrifying, but will be simply unable to put it down!