Why do we check under the bed for monsters or dread swimming in the ocean or sleep with the lights on? Most likely it’s because of a horror movie or novel. Maybe you watched or read it as a kid or even as an adult; maybe it was temporary or continues to this day. Nonetheless, the horror genre is responsible for many of our fears. And with that in mind we asked our esteemed panel the following question…
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- Gertrude Barrows Bennett (writing as Francis Stevens) – She wrote a number of uncanny stories in the early 20th century and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy.” Indeed, it has been said that her fiction was a huge influence on H.P. Lovecraft. Although not all of Stevens’ work has dated well, she was the first American woman to have her weird fiction widely published and acclaimed.
- C.L. Moore – Catherine L. Moore was an American science fiction and fantasy writer, most often known as C.L. Moore. She was one of the first women to write in either genre, and paved the way for many other female speculative fiction writers. Her earliest stories appeared in Weird Tales and a lot of her work was very dark, hence I add her to this list.
- Daphne du Maurier – Although her work was incredibly dark, she was still a very popular writer during her lifetime. Many of her most prominent works have been adapted into movies. My favorite is “The Birds” from Alfred Hitchcock. Although her background could be considered more from the gothic side of fiction, I find her work very dark and disturbing.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
We asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
Zombies are a useful monster. In creative terms, they serve a few different purposes. First, they are the well-known metaphor generator that allows every writer to explore a different moral, social, societal, philosophical or psychological issue via an entertaining vehicle. This has a long, long tradition in storytelling. Ask Homer. Ask Aesop.
Second, zombies represent a single, massive, shared threat that impacts the lives of every single character in the story. Their impact is so overwhelming that each character’s life is shaken up, which means that the affected elements of their personalities fall away to reveal a truer inner self. In times of great crisis we see personality qualities emerge (or disintegrate) in fascinating and revelatory ways. A corporate CEO who is used to being a lion in the boardroom may be a useless coward when it comes to surviving a crisis; while a kid working a minimum-wage dead-end job at a convenience store might discover qualities of heroism that might otherwise never have emerged. Don’t forget, all real drama is about ordinary people in some kind of crisis. We don’t tell stories about a bunch of nice people having a pleasant day –there’s no drama (and therefore no insight) in that.
And also, the general public has, of late, had their perceptions of what ‘zombie stories’ are. For decades the perceptual standard has been that zombie stories are about death, dying, and visceral slaughter; that these stories were self-indulgent gorefests with nothing redeeming about them. But now that there are so many zombie stories out there, and in so many formats: novels, TV, comics, movies, short stories, video games, toys and more, it’s forced Joe Public to take a closer look. What they’re finding is that the zombie genre has drawn some of today’s top storytellers –writers who understand that the best zombie stories aren’t actually about the zombies. The best zombie stories are about the people. Real people. After all, the title of ‘The Walking Dead’ does not refer to the zombies. The dead men walking are the people whose lives and preconceptions and expectations have died. They are walking from the world that was into an uncertain future, and the name of the landscape through which they walk is ‘drama’.
As long as good writers bring quality storytelling to the genre, zombies will be around for a long, long time. Deservedly so.
Redrum Horror has sent us the table of contents for Joe McKinney’s collection The Red Empire and Other Stories:
Joe McKinney’s debut collection, The Red Empire & Other Stories, brings together eight tales of haunted policemen and cosmic horrors…
A chance encounter with a homeless man one hot summer night opens the doors of perception for a Houston beat cop…
Genetically engineered fire ants threaten to devour a small Texas border town, and the only thing in their way is a grief-stricken county man…
An ex-detective can no longer run from the ghost of his greatest failure…
A rare piece of non-fiction chronicles the author’s fifteen year investigation into a century old cold case…
- “The Red Empire”
- “Cold Case”
- “The Old Man Under the Sea”
- “The Millstone”
- “Empty Room”
- “Burning Finger Man”
- “Eyes Open”
Each year when autumn arrives, I’m drawn by a kind of inner gravity to revisit the work of Ray Bradbury, and to recharge his fictional vision within me. This is always inextricably intertwined with the transcendent longing that I mentioned in my previous (just-published) column, Fantasy, Horror, and Infinite Longing.
There I talked about the sense of transcendent yearning that I’ve experienced intermittently since childhood, and that often comes to me as a companion to the autumn season. I speculated about its profound significance for both human consciousness and the fantasy and horror genres, and I talked about some of the authors — C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, Colin Wilson — who have known it and focused directly on it in their work.
Here I focus on the fact that Bradbury is a master at both arousing and confirming this experience of heightened inner intensity. My first readings of The October Country, The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes as an early adolescent left a permanent mark on me, both intellectually and emotionally. More than just the sum of their parts, his books and stories conveyed to me then, and convey to me now, an entire vision of the world in which darkness and light both intensify to new heights and depths of vividness, and all the daily details of life assume a kind of mythic numinosity. Which is to say that his work exemplified then, and still exemplifies now, what I take to be the deep raison d’être of fantasy and horror.