Autumn Is Coming


Just got word from Mike Davis that my story "Cul Du-Sac Virus" is going to be included in his Autumn Cthulhu anthology. As an avowed lover of Autumn (there really is no better season) I'm both honored and excited to have one of my stories among the leaves.

 

 

 

 

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Monday
Jul012019

Can We Just All Agree the Stories in "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" Aren't Scary?

Okay, so now I've gotten your attention, before you write me an angry e-mail just hear me out. I grew up loving Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and its two sequels. They were the fodder for many a campfire tales, and were formative in my understanding of what horror is, why it is, and what it is meant to do. One of the first things I did upon learning I was about to become a father was to head out an pick up a copy of the original trilogy.

Paging through the books, I quickly realized that the stories were not quite what I remembered. Granted, they were all there--spiders coming out of faces, pet rats, wendigos, and repetitious ghosts, all speckled with the occasional exhortation to grab your audience and shout the final line. I get it, the books are intended for a third-grade audience, it's ridiculous to expect them to terrify a thirty-something reader with decades of horror tales in his metaphorical belt. I'm not knocking the stories for what they are, only what they're up against. Which is, to say, their illustrations.

Stephen Gammel's terrifying art turns what would have otherwise been a relatively unremarkable entry in the kid-horror genre into a work of transcendent nightmare. Yes, yes, we all remember Scary Stories, but it's not the literary content that got the book banned from elementary school libraries.

When ranged against the absolute pants-shitting dread of Gammel's artistry, Alvin Schwartz' bare-bones arrangements of folklore and urban legends come a distant second. If you don't believe me, check out a copy of the new(ish) edition with Brett Helquist's illustrations. Granted, Helquist is a damn fine illustrator, but do you think the franchise would've made such a big, bloody splash if that had been the version stalking the shelves of so many book fairs throughout the 80's and 90's? It think it was Gammel's willingness to terrify that truly made the book both famous and infamous.  

I hear you muttering into your monitors: "So, if Scary Stories stories didn't scare you as a kid, what did?"

 

 

 I submit for the approval of the Midnight Society the anthology: Monsters You Never Heard of, by Raymond Van Over.

To be fair, my memories of this book are clouded by my abject fear of the first story: "The Burr Woman". The rest of the anthology could be utter trash, but I swear that story haunts me to this day, to the point I always watch my back when I am in the woods.

There are other stories that spooked me as a kid, the sort of tales that would show up in a Helen Hoke anthology like Creepies, Creepies, Creepies or Horrors, Horrors, Horrors, which somehow made it onto the shelves of elementary school libraries throughout the country despite being very much not for elementary school kids. This was before the internet came into its own, before you could log onto a Creepypasta site and skim stories until one of them scares the skin off you.

I'm not jumping up onto my old man soapbox, yelling about how: "Back in my day, kid horror was kid horror." It wasn't. It isn't. It never will be. The true horror, both then and now, is when you happen upon a spooky story that somehow slipped through the cracks, something that wasn't quite sanitized for kids but ended up in the children's section nonetheless. It doesn't need blood, or gore, or even violence, but it can still chill, still haunt a kid for a lifetime.

I know I've got my story. What's yours?