Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Monday, October 29, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 48: bete noire (j)

Today's word is...

A bete noire (noun, meaning "black beast" in French) is a person or thing strongly disliked or feared.  It could be the candidate you don't want for President.  It could be the cat lurking around the corner, ready to pounce (in our house, we call this special kind of bete noire the "furtive beast").  It could be a thing of deeper nightmares. It is anything and everything that could possibly be out to get you, hold you down, giggling as you struggle.  Perhaps in that cornfield with the eyeshine.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 38: chimera (jillian)

Today's word is...



A chimera (noun and sometimes capitalized) is a fire-breathing she-monster from Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail.  Chimera has come to describe any imaginary hybrid monster.  Chimera is also one of my favorite metaphors describing a illusion, vision or an unfathomable, soul-shaking nightmare.  In biology and genetics, the term refers to an individual made of unmatching genetic material; in theory what might happen if an embryo sometime in the early stages of division absorbs another "sibling" embryo. One also thinks of chimeras in regards to conjoined human twins or a cat born with two heads - phenomena stranger than fiction.  If that's not an image for Halloween, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Whimsical Wednesday (Jillian)

There have been quite a few little news tidbits in the writing world-at-large in the last week, and I thought I'd compile them here for a Whimsical Wednesday.  Ready? 

  • Today, Stephen King announced that he is penning a sequel to The Shining, his third novel, to be published next year, entitled Doctor Sleep.  It follows Danny Torrance, who was a young boy in The Shining, and whose father succumbed to evil spirits that inhabited a winter hotel.  This was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson, generally thought to be one of the scariest films ever.  I've seen parts.  I was properly freaked out.  I am just amazed at Mr. King's work ethic, this drive to create.  If you're a King fan and want to know more, here is his website:
  • Last week, we heard from Mandy Patinkin (read article here) about why he left the violent television show Criminal Minds several years ago.  He says his role as a criminal profiler was "very destructive to my soul and personality," and Criminal Minds was not the show he thought it would be.  He has made a very good point about the sort of destruction that we take for granted on television these days. 
  • For history buffs, you may be following the news that the grave of Richard III was found in Leicester, Great Britain, at a site underneath a car park (parking lot) where the Grey Friars church was believed to have stood.  Richard III had a short, tempestuous reign and was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.  His body was paraded through the town by the victorious Tudors and buried at the church, which was later lost in obscurity.  The skeleton in question appears to have signs of scoliosis - perhaps resembling the hunchback of Shakespeare's play (though not quite), and an arrowhead through the neck.  DNA testing will commence to see if he is in fact the lost king.  If he is, he may be entitled to a state funeral, five-hundred twenty-seven years after his death.  The Telegraph as all the intrigue
  • The trailer for The Hobbit was released today.  The Telegraph has the trailer embedded here.  I am excited to see these beloved stories come to life once again, and see Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch among familiar faces... although the latter, also known as Sherlock Holmes (Freeman being Watson), may not be particularly recognizable.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stories That Still Haunt Me (Jillian)

Walking by my favorite local used-and-rare-books shop this week, I noticed a chillingly familiar title on display in the window. Timely, as All Hallows fast approacheth, the book is Scary Stories To Read In The Dark, one of three in a series by Alvin Schwartz, that I devoured as a fourth grader. These stories were read aloud in class around Halloween , and then my curiosity lead me to read them all. Though why, I can't hardly tell you... except that mine was the generation of Bonechillers (also gave me nightmares), Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps. Scary Stories was by far the most frightening. And yet I did read them. And remember them. And can't forget them. Yes, I am haunted.

Among my chilling recollections of these stories are a creeping thing that rises out of the local graveyard (visible only by its glowing green eyes) to devour other bodies and attack a girl in the town, a man who eats his neighbor's liver, a ghost family, baby spiders emerging en masse from a girl's face, dead people in a church...

I'm pretty sure I had nightmares about these stories, especially the thing-with-the-green-eyes story because I lived two blocks away from a cemetery, and could see it from my bedroom window. What amazes me, especially looking on the particularly grotesque artwork (see above... althought believe me, the original image I included here was worse), is that I kept reading them. And that years later, I would get a chill down my spine when I catch a glimpse of those books in a shop window.

The power of scary words is long-lasting - it lies dormant until something awakens it, that fear of the unknown, or what should never be... or a current obsession with the X-Files. Whatever it is, I am easily ensnared by the power of words. I am the cat Curiosity didn't kill but definitely did tease.

I won't be reliving the horror of the Scary Stories, anytime soon, mind - though I wonder if they are actually as malign as I remember. I'm not willing to resurrect the bad dreams of yesteryear. Instead, I will listen to my Autumn Playlist, write about an English autumn, and become Dana Scully for one night of mayhem.


I heard JS Bach's Toccata in Fugue in D Minor this afternoon (the Stokowski arrangement for full orchestra), and had chills. It is such a masterpiece. It is odd how it's opening notes, duh-uh-uh-DUH-uh-nuh-nuh-uhhh, have become synonymous with Halloween, haunted houses, and a vampire playing an organ. The entirety of the piece is so transcendent and hardly sepulchral.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's at Stake (Michelle)

Pardon the pun; but everyone's talking about vampires these days. Good ol' Twilight and that.

Here Neil Gaiman very thoughtfully and respectfully points out that our friendly bloodsucking fiends may be suffering from overexposure, recommending that if they "go back into the coffin" for another 25 years, they might reemerge as something new and interesting. I don't get the sense he's attacking any particular story (except maybe Anne Rice which he finds "mopey"), just that he's suggesting that it might be okay to stop now. Of course, everyone freaks out.

Here one blogger at the Guardian's books blog agrees, and scores of commentators weigh in. (Gaiman himself seems highly bemused that his little remark has become news --- see his blog.)

But here is a great commentary, very much worth reading, from Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan's Labyrinth and the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, exploring where our fascination with fangs comes from and what folkloric, primeval, and philosophical strains it speaks to.

I'm going to keep my two cents on the subject, since I'm saving up to buy a collector's edition of the Twilight saga. Ho ho.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Monsters (Michelle)

Nothing deep today, I'm afraid, just a collection of whimsies.

First of all, a big thank you to Yahoo for continuing to keep us informed of which automotive vehicles, specifically, would be endangered by various prehistoric creatures. This time we've got a pliosaur from Svalbard called Predator X. I'm not making this up. What a marvelous beginning to a short story this would make: "On the snowy plains of Svalbard, the men are restless. They fear the predator..."

For those of you less into EXTREME dinosaurs, Yahoo has also been kind enough to supply us with information on the iddlest biddlest wittle dinosaur that would nevertheless bite your ankles off here.

I'm a bit frustrated with my own writing at the moment and am somewhat convinced that David Bowie's "Heroes," if written by me, would begin: "I...I wish I could swim. Like a person, who's learned how to swim." I'm sure I'll be posting whatever wisdom I manage to grub out of these difficult days in the near future, but meanwhile, pliosaurs from Svalbard will have to keep us happy.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Damsels in Distress (Michelle)

I’ve been musing on damsels in distress lately. Let me give you fair warning that this post will go on for a bit, but I've got a lot of ideas about said damsels to work out. As a writer of fantastical and perilous situations, it seems sometimes like I can’t live with ‘em and I can’t live without ‘em.

Damsels in distress are deep in the bones of Western literature at this point—maybe Virgil didn’t feel he needed a blonde woman going “Save me!” but by the time we get to the 13th century, they’re pretty firm fixtures. Your hero has a woman he fights for—a lady fair. Oh, there are variants: sometimes she’s really ugly. Sometimes she’s treacherous. Sometimes he needs her more than she needs him. But she’s always there, getting into scrapes and thereby allowing him to demonstrate his masculine prowess.

And there are reasons it works—reasons far too deep and lengthy and controversial and hard to express to get into here—but let’s all admit that it is so satisfying when Edward saves Bella from the potential rapists in Port Angeles; or when the Doctor shouts, “Now there is no power on this earth that can stop me!”; or when Mr. Darcy pays for Lydia’s wedding so that Elizabeth’s life won’t be ruined…on and on and on, all the incarnations. At its best, the tradition of the damsel-in-distress can do some very nice things to develop a character or a relationship. What jump-starts a confession of love better, for example, or proves its sincerity, than a perilous rescue?

The weaker-vessel-female thing also has some very lovely manifestions, in ballet or figure skating or fairy tales. There’s also a fun strain of irony in those manifestations, as we all know (or should know!) the strength and physical prowess it takes to be a ballerina, or the hardiness of heart required to survive a fairy tale. So the illusion of weightlessness in such stories is always just that—she only appears to be a creature of glass. If we don’t forget that it’s an illusion, it can be a fun game to play among ourselves.

“If we don’t forget.” But oh, how we forget. And the damsel in distress becomes so very problematic.

The first problem you probably saw coming a mile away. In many of the traditions, the damsel has no character. She becomes nothing more than an object to be won, a cipher for the hero to project himself onto. In actual fact, medieval romance perpetrates this kind of bland commodification much less often than 1930s heroic films or Walt Disney movies, but that’s neither here nor there. Remember the ridiculous women of Errol Flynn films, or to take a more elevated example, Lucy Manette in A Tale of Two Cities. I love A Tale of Two Cities, please don’t mistake me, but does that woman have any characteristics besides golden beauty and undiscriminating goodness?

And you’d be surprised how quickly the cipher damsel can take on darker characteristics. Take all the collective fantasies about sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise immobile women—Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Pygmalion—who must be restored to life. In a lot of the original versions of these stories, it’s not a nice little kiss that awakens these women, either, but fully fledged sexual conquest. I’m not of the camp that says these stories should be utterly jettisoned, as I think there are many interesting things going on in them besides a necrophilic impulse, but the pathological passivity of these women in many of their cultural incarnations—particularly the Disney ones!—shouldn’t be overlooked.

Or look at this Fuseli painting again: It’s not hard to see that while the source of the horror is supposed to come from the dark powers encroaching on the pure woman, there’s quite a voyeuristic sexual charge coming out of the threat to her as well. Why save her, when you could watch what happens next?

Then there are the scores and scores of Victorian poems involving ladies fair who die, the countless pre-Raphaelite paintings of dead or dying women, the images of Leda all painted from a masculine perspective in which the woman who is raped by a swan gazes lasciviously out of the canvas while it happens. Sorry to disturb you, but this is the heritage of anybody who writes in the Western tradition. Granddad left us more stuff up in the attic than the Mona Lisa.

So where does that leave a writer?

Contemporary adventure films always have to confront the damsel-in-distress tradition. Often, I think, they do it extremely unsatisfyingly, even when writers are clearly trying to be PC. Indiana Jones gets plucky companions, but the scriptwriters seem to mistake shrill shrewishness for feminine strength. As far as I’m concerned, this is just another form of misogyny. Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates franchise is also clearly a direct attempt to circumvent the damsel-in-distress tradition (“You like pain? Try wearing a corset!”), but to me and almost everyone else I know, she registers only as irritating. And as for the tough-and-rough women of sci-fi (Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider? Charlize Theron’s assassin in Aeon Flux? River Song in Doctor Who?), with their lycra costumes and dominatrix overtones, they’re fantasies just as disturbing as all the sleeping princesses in all the towers you could imagine.

Where's the good news, Michelle? Well, despite all appearances, I do actually think that this isn't a hopelessly screwed up motif. There are some examples of fiction, ancient and new, that offer some possibilities for hope.
The best and most broadly applicable answer is probably just to write rich characters. As I said earlier, if the damsel tradition is used judiciously in a relationship that is developed sufficiently in other ways, it can be very moving. If the damsel motif is so deeply ingrained in the Western tradition, then it stands to reason that it’s pretty deeply ingrained in the Western man, and that this is one way that a character born and raised anytime after the 13th century would communicate love. So, yeah, Edward wants to save Bella, and as long as he’s not objectifying her, we can and should accept it as an expression of love. Similarly, it doesn’t bother me that the Doctor is always trying to save his companions in NuWho (that’s kind of his thing, anyway); that Darcy gets all protective of Elizabeth; that Tristan comes swooping in to keep Yvaine’s heart from being cut out…etc, etc, etc. I’d sure appreciate that if my heart was going to get cut out, after all, and all the women saved in these stories have sufficient personhood that we experience these moments as expressions of feeling rather than defense of possessions.

Another contemporary film that has effectively dealt with the damsel issue is, bizarrely, The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weiscz. The filmmakers let the man demonstrate his physical prowess as he’s always done, but provide the woman with a definite character and unique contribution to the situation. So, Brendan Fraser got to swoop in and save a woman who’s as hopeless in a crisis situation as I certainly would be, but she’s the one who is able to figure out what was going on by virtue of her archaeological expertise. (Again, though, this requires script development: it’s not enough just to put Jessica Alba in glasses and a lab coat and say, “See? She’s a scientist!")

There are also older stories that complicate the issues very satisfyingly. Jane Eyre springs to mind, with its constant fluctuation of power between the two protagonists, ultimately leading them beyond questions of power into love. In The Lord of the Rings, too, I love the character of Eowyn, who clearly can save herself with a sword but also suffers from a deeper spiritual distress (totally lost in the movie). Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale also portrays a woman who triumphs by the strength of her own character even as we wait for her to be reunited with her warlike husband. If memory serves, Chretien de Troyes’ Eric and Enide is also interesting on this score, as is Book III of the Faerie Queene, featuring Britomart, the female knight who is questing for her beloved.
Possibly it just says more about my personality than anything else that I prefer stories that work within the tradition to enrich and subvert it rather than stories that declare open war on it. Still, as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White prove, the good and the bad in culture can be inextricably tangled.

That is certainly the case for all those poor damsels in distress. Let’s save em, shall we?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twilight: On Ice? (Michelle)

A friend sent me this link --- suggesting that Twilight would work best as a figure skating pairs routine --- to make me laugh. Which I did. I hope you do too.

BUT. Maybe it's just all the Nutcracker I've been watching lately (my niece and nephew not being satisfied to watch it just once or even 300 times) but I'm starting to think this is a good idea. It would make a good skating routine or even ballet.

Ballet and ice skating, after all, rely heavily on the fiction that the woman weighs nothing more than a feather, while the man is stronger than a thousand would be fun to have that be an actual tenet of the plot of a ballet. And look at this picture: he looks like he's about to bite her neck anyway, and this ballet has nothing to do with vampires at all.

There's also something about Twilight that belongs firmly in the age of Tchaikovsky, Victoriana, and the damsel in distress. Vampires, after all, do feel most at home in the 19th-century Gothic novel. Doubtful? Check out this horribly disturbing Fuseli painting.

But all those weird Gothic accoutrements in very poor taste aside: there's something profoundly non-verbal about Meyer's novels. The strength of them, as has been observed a hundred times, isn't in the writing style so much as the story. They addict because they tell a good, classic beauty-and-the-beast tale, really. So, why not cut out the words altogether and embrace the theatrical, quasi-operatic proportions of the whole thing? (The dark side of all this is that we're much more likely to end up with Twilight: The Musical a la The Phantom of the Opera in a couple of years than we are to end up with a decent ballet...shudder.)

I wasn't going to post on this, because I'm not sure exactly how it relates to writing per se (should I really be recommending the excision of words on a blog devoted to writing???)...but I keep thinking about it, for some reason, and I think it's feeding some thoughts about the problematic "damsels in distress" in our culture that I may blog on in the future.

As long as we're talking Victoriana: only 4 more days until the Doctor Who Christmas special, when Cybermen meet A Christmas Carol!!! Cannot wait. (Couldn't resist, either, apparently.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monsters Under the Bed (Michelle)

Interesting reflections from Robert Owen Hood at Road to Faerie on the subject of monsters.

Monsters are very flexible symbols. That is all I really have to say at the moment. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Horror? How Grimm! (Michelle)

So, my horror-reading jag continues, sort of - I don't exactly get a lot of time to read these days.

But it's got me thinking about other reading jags of mine. I spent almost two months last year reading nothing but fairy tales, retellings of fairy tales, and critical essays on fairy tales. And it occurred to me that perhaps these two reading jags are not unrelated. It's fairly common knowledge, at this point, that Disney pretty much eviscerated the raw power of the original tales collected by people like the Brothers Grimm and Straparola -- if you spend time with the original tales, there's plenty of horror to go around, and yet it doesn't quite qualify as horror fiction. There are important differences that I'm exploring imaginatively at the moment.

The following is typed pretty much verbatim from a free-write I did, and in it I'm working out the delicate balance between dark and light in my own aesthetic. I imagine that balance is different for everybody, but at the moment I feel like a tuning fork, striking some clear, precise note between horror and happy endings:

Horror is always lurking in the darker corners of fairy tale -- cutting out a young princess' heart, cooking children for dinner, killing wives and keeping them in a bloody chamber...ugh. But what I like about fairy tales is that those dark corners are offset by brighter shades, by the glittering gold of happiness and beauty.

Horror, true horror, is in actual fact a bit too dark for my aesthetic. Though I read Swamp Thing to the end of Alan Moore's run and feel that I got a lot out of it, it was too grim for me. I like a hint of the macabre, but too often in horror it takes over and the darkness is unrelieved.

I like the way fairy tales gesture at horror, at chaos, at darkness, without dwelling there for too long. It does seem rather as though, if you chase the horror too much, if you deliberately linger in the bloody chamber, you can just keep going into ever-deepening dark corners that just grow narrower and narrower but never actually end, as though the actual corner were some kind of asymptote or event horizon which you never reach. From the horror of the threat of incest in "Donkeyskin," you find yourself with the actual presence of a dead uncle reanimating the dead body of your husband in Swamp Thing...and the images are horrible, crawling bugs and rotting can always, always get darker. You never actually reach the heart of darkness, but really, do you want to? Aren't you more interested, really, in the light that escapes from it?

Being focused on bottoms, on the roots and limits of evil, leaves you like Gollum, like Matt Cable with his disgusting fantasies. It turns you into Kurtz from The Heart of Darkness; master of your own horrible empire of death. A little bit of the macabre is great, is a good reminder of the speckled, spare, and strange that is truth, but it's too easy to be like some Gothic heroine, edging towards darkness with perverse fascination.

Better by far to explore the mysteries of the light, as though we were all versions of Stephanie Meyer's vampires, who glitter with a thousand colors in sunlight, with so much to see.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Terrors of the Bookstore (Michelle)

I went to a talk on Tuesday night at the library. An author was talking about "where inspiration comes from." It mostly amounted to her talking about her poems, but I liked her poems, so that was OK. :)

But alarmingly, she said that she feels very pressed all the time, afraid that someone else is going to write her book before she does. She's working on a cycle of poems about a topic that has suddenly become trendy, and she's afraid someone will beat her to the punch.

This was distressing as I thought I was the only one who got anxious at the bookstore. I used to be excited when I saw a book that looked like it might speak to my interests; now I get really afraid that it's my book, already written! Apparently, being an experienced and published author does not rid one of these jitters. Darn.

There was some division amongst the company during the Q&A session about whether these jitters are justified or not.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Swamp Thing (Michelle)

Continuing me on my horror-reading jag, my brother-in-law has recommended the comic books of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing to me. It's been a mind-expanding experience in a lot of ways, especially since I've never been a comic book reader before, outside of Calvin and Hobbes, and it's opened a whole new genre of art to me.

The jury is still out for me on what I think of the medium, and sometimes I definitely find Swamp Thing too overwhelmingly horrible for my sensibilities - the story with the Monkey King (if you're familiar) terrified me, and some of the images are viscerally terrible, disgusting beyond my ability to assimilate.

Yet I keep returning to the stories, because I feel like I'm learning something, about the fate of medieval romance in modern culture (how can you resist a comic book that makes use of the medieval folk motif of the Green Man?!), about the interplay between text and words, about how to write compelling stories and characters...anyway, watch this space. I'm sure I'll have more to say.

I have also been very impressed with Alan Moore's prose. It's dramatic and reminiscent of Lovecraft's excesses, perfectly pitched for comic books, but it has a strong poetic sense as well that really makes the stories as much about words as images. I am impressed.

A sampling, from "Down Amongst the Dead Men":

There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth. Stories shape the world. They exist independently of people, and in places quite devoid of man, there may yet be mythologies. The glaciers have their legends. The ocean bed entertains its own romances. Even here. Even here, within these chill and perished thickets that know no witness save the sleeping toads, each curled like a gorgeous alien fetus beneath its stone. There are stories even here. Stories that grow, as blighted trees, into a tormented puzzle. Frictions that become over-ripe and fester on the vine. The stories here have blossomed into deformities, nurtured by a curious soil. There are heroes, there are wicked uncles and princesses, but the drama is askew, the fairy tales contorts into a tragedy…The hero, slow and massive, comes too late…the wicked uncle’s passing achieves nothing…and the princess finds no cliché in the fate that’s worse than death.

There are also some wonderfully imaginative stories. I loved the dream sequence "Abandoned Houses," in which Abby Arcane visits the collective unconscious, which turns out to be two decrepit houses, the House of Mysteries and the House of Secrets, where all the stories in the world are guarded by Cain and Abel respectively. Cain is being punished for being the first killer, Abel for being the first victim, and every night the crime is repeated. This fusion of Jung and medieval allegory is just bursting with poetic energy and possibilities. Love it.

Likewise, another story includes a journey through the afterlife a la Orpheus, Odysseus, Aeneas, Dante, or, most recently, Philip Pullman's Lyra. I was a little disappointed with the execution, but any modern story that attempts to assimilate those ancient, primal themes of Western literature gets my stamp of approval! I still remember how excited I felt, reading The Amber Spyglass, when I realized I was getting a reworking of the Inferno. Nevermind that I completely disagreed with the worldview fuelling it; it was so exciting to read another modern author engaging the ideas that fuel my own imagination.

So...Swamp Thing. Scary and stimulating. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I have a feeling it's the cup of chai that helps me understand why I like Earl Grey...if I may extend the metaphor to the point of absurdity.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Showing the Monster: Cthulhu and Frankenstein (from Michelle)

I appear to be on a bit of horror-reading jag, which is surprising from the girl who got nightmares from Bunnicula as a child. Nevertheless.

I've been thinking about the issue of Whether or Not to Show the Reader the Monster. The story that I'm currently working on has a bit of a monster in it - or a strange creature, at least - so it has some personal weight. In any case, I am undecided about whether it's effective to describe a frightening sight when you're trying to scare a reader.

Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft, two acknowledged giants of the genre, seem to take somewhat different approaches. In Frankenstein, Shelley does some initial description of Frankenstein's monster (black lips, yellow skin, etc.) but mostly she relies on the horror he inspires in others to convey his supernatural ugliness. She says: "No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived" (Signet edition, p. 43). In other words, there's a lot of it's-too-horrible-for-words going on here.

In contrast to Shelley, Lovecraft (prone as he is to heaping abstract nouns on top of each other) is actually pretty specific about what Cthulhu looks like in "The Call of Cthulhu": squid head, dragon-body, yet somehow humanoid. He's also very specific about the slimy trail he leaves behind. It's all very Ghostbusters.

The problem is that I found neither Frankenstein's monster nor Cthulhu terribly frightening - at least not in visual terms. If I had to choose, I think I would come down on Shelley's side, because the horror you don't see is always more terrifying. In fact, the most chilling part of "The Call of Cthulhu" for me wasn't the actual emergence of the monster but the weird rituals of his cult and the vaguely referenced "strange disfigurements" of the people they stole for their practices. Yikes.

The tricky thing about horror, I think, is that it so quickly can become dated. "The Call of Cthulhu," for instance, reminded me strongly of Ghostbusters, but of course Ghostbusters only exists as it is because of Lovecraft. (Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, as the Doctor would say.) To scare people, you must constantly be finding something new or surprising. In actual fact, a book hasn't scared me properly since Bunnicula gave me nightmares. The closest I've come to being scared has come from particularly shadowy psychological moments in Harry Potter (like the explanation of the Unforgivable Curses; or the conjuring of the Dark Mark; or the exploration of Voldy's early life). Then there are, of course, some of the lovely creepy characters on Doctor Who, particularly Steven Moffatt's creations. Unfortunately, I don't think the chills Moffatt creates are available to me as a writer, because they rely on the visual shock of, say, a gas mask or a twisted clockwork harlequin.

What gives me chills now are brutalities such as you see in the proliferating crime shows like Law and Order, films about serial killers, and even the latest BBC adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. And frankly, I'm not at all interested in emulating those chills in my fiction. They are not the fun and thought-provoking chills of classic horror: as far as I'm concerned, the degree to which they rely on the victimization of women is incredibly disturbing and says something about the sadomasochistic impulses of our current culture. But that's another story.


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