Why We Read (and write) Horror

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”  by Stephen King

The Joker from the Dark Knight
The Joker from the Dark Knight

Those Terrifying Flying Monkeys

I have a confession to make…….I could not watch The Wizard of Oz all the way through until I was 14 years old. It was always the flying monkeys that would send me running away from the TV set and into another room, where I would bide my time reading a book or some such activity until the movie ended. Even my younger brothers were able to sit through the whole movie before I was able to. Why I was so terrified of these fictional animals I do not know, I just know that there was something very primal in them that frightened the Dickens out of me.

In fact, we all seem to have a few basic fears that storytellers from past ages to the present have tried to exploit. And as Stephen King expressed in the opening quote, their motive may not always be financial, for there is also the innate need to develop an effective way to prepare ourselves for any misfortune or disaster, which are bound to come our way from time to time.

Living In the City Where Stephen King Was Born

For over ten years I lived in the city where Stephen King was born, Portland, Maine. And to be honest, the place is a beautiful city on a series of hills that overlooks a saltwater bay. The port has picturesque lighthouses, ocean-going freighters and popular seafood restaurants that specialize in boiled lobsters. Not by any stretch of the imagination can Portland be considered a dark-spirited place. So where did King get his stories. They must have been internalized.

King’s Memoir Almost Comes Home To Haunt Him

Stephen King’s book On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, started out just like any other book on writing. Put rear end in chair and type. But then a demon showed up, a middle-aged man in a SUV. Accident or not, he ran Mr. King over and near killed the famed author. As a result, On Writing differs from other treatises on the same subject, because the details of Mr. King’s horrendous accident and miraculous recovery become part of the story. Even Mr. King could not escape his own stories.

Quotes On Horror

“There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of hell.”  by Edgar Allan Poe

“[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” by Clive Barker

“Most of the laugh tracks on television were recorded in the early 1950s. These days, most of the people you hear laughing are dead.”  by Chuck Palahniuk

“It’s a dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?”  by Stephen King

“Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called.”  by Remy de Gourmont

“I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times.” Robert Bloch, Psycho

“The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.”  by  Frederic Brown

“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them within our range.”  H.P. Lovecraft,  The Thing On the Doorstep

“It’s not the books of Stephen King that I read,

I need protection from the things in my head….”  by Jimmy Buffett

“Imagination, of course, can open any door – turn the key and let terror walk right in.”  by Truman Capote from In Cold Blood

A scene from The Wizard of Oz, where a winged monkey takes an order from one of the witches
A scene from The Wizard of Oz, where a winged monkey takes an order from one of the witches
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More On Stieg Larsson and the UK Release of Girl With The Golden Tattoo

Red-Eyed-Tree-Frog
Red-Eyed-Tree-Frog from Australia by Liquid Ghoul courtesy of Wikipedia

The BBC Magazine just ran another article on Stieg Larsson, this time with quotes and comments by a Anders Hellberg, who believes that Stieg Larsson was not capable of writing the Millennium series. Another colleague of Larsson’s, Kurdo Baksi, has just published a book questioning his journalism reputation. I guess all this is expected for someone, who has sold 26 million copies of a trilogy and who is not around to depend himself. Maybe the fact that Stieg Larsson began in the publishing business as a graphic designer has something to do with this.

Even so things are going well for Mr. Larsson in the film department for the film, Girl With The Golden Tattoo, is about to be released in Britian (complete with American voice-overs), but you can see the You Tube version here. You’ll have to link over to You Tube to watch it. Maybe one of these days  I’ll upgrade with wordpress and start embedding videos, but not today. The American adaption is due out later this year.

The first book (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is now available here in the states as a paperback, so American audiences are getting a good read on the author and will continue to do so as the other two books are released. Crime fiction always a popular read here in the states is now getting taken a bit more seriously, as are some of its related fields such as horror. Stephen King, who had his own close encounter with death not too long ago courtesy of a hit and run driver is gradually finding acceptance in more and more places. I think just last year he was invited to edit a popular short story collection by American Editions. This popular book can be found under the heading of Literary Fiction (whatever that is), all over America – a definite improvement for Mr. King.

So long for now,

E. Autumn

jacket montage
jacket montage for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy

When Writers Write About Writing

When Writers Write About Writing
When Writers Write About Writing

OK, this post is about writing. More specifically it is about the books writers put out concerning the craft. It seems that sooner or later every writer puts out a little book about writing. This dates at least as far back as 1935 when the excellent writer, E.B. White teamed up with his old college English professor, William Strunk, to produce the elements of style. This book has become a standard on the mechanics on how to write. Every writer should have a copy to refer to from time to time and while your at it you might as well pick up a copy of the witty “Spunk and Bite”, a contemporary and irreverent offshoot written by the clever Arthur Plotnick.

Since The Elements of Style came out ( and probably before 1935 as well) writers have been putting out their own guides to creativity and writing skills. For some it seems like a mandatory mid-career move and some of the results have been quite enjoyable to read. I have very much enjoyed The Zen of Writing by Ray Bradbury, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. And don’t forget the very popular “Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Whoever thought that a book about punctuation would be so fun to read. (Fortunately, I have millions of people who bought the book to back me up on this claim)

Then there is the bizarre “On Writing” by Stephen King, who after creating over half his manuscript gets run over by a van, while walking near his summer home in western Maine. So, here we have a book about writing that takes a strange and gruesome twist during the creation process and all the unfortunate details of Mr. King’s near death experience become part of the literary endeavor. Maybe fact is stranger than fiction after all.

Cover for creative writing book
Cover for creative writing book

Recently, while strolling through Borders, I came across a book in the discount bin about “Inspired Creative Writing”, ( a cover shot is provided without permission, I hope the author doesn’t mind)by Alexander Gordon Smith, who is for me an unknown English writer. Nonetheless, he must be popular in the British Isles, for he has several novels and many short-stories to his credit. He is also the author of a first-rate book about writing. If you come across a copy, check it out, for it is very well organized and thought out. In this 230 page treatise about writing, Alexander covers the gamut from writing fiction to poetry and he even discusses screen writing, a serious endeavor that any writer with at least half a brain should avoid like the plague. All in all, it is my favorite writing book and you should check it out if you have a chance. It even has nifty little pictures at the beginning of each chapter to add insight and humor to the subject.