***Mild Spoilers for The Vegetarian***
A core component of any good horror story is the characters’ apprehension of harm. Most of the time, the dread manifests as physical pain or violent death. Other times there are more abstract, existential ways of experiencing harm—a terrifying realization of past sins, slowly slipping into insanity, or losing one’s soul to a demonic entity. While physical pain will always be a powerful part of any scary story, an existential threat grabs me in a way most other types of horror don’t, probably because I have more to lose from an existential threat.
A realization that shakes a person to his core is, well, horrifying. It’s terrifying. Take the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus, who realized he had unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Or The Orphanage, where protagonist Laura realized she was the one responsible for the slow death of her adopted son. Bodily harm is awful and painful, but an earth-shattering existential realization can destroy the very idea of who a person thinks she is.
It can be extremely psychologically tortuous to deal with something like that, to be confronted with our mistakes and the lies we tell ourselves. People go to great lengths to preserve the reality they wish to see, even at the expense of themselves and others.
It’s destructive on a profound level, even more so if I am responsible for the obliteration of my sense of self.
The idea of self-destruction, of an unsettling, dark urge to protect oneself, of refusal, of stubborn persistence, is what fascinated me about The Vegetarian. It’s a novel about confrontation, about purposeful “self-destruction.”
**Very Mild Spoilers for The Boy on the Bridge. Full discloser, I was given an advance copy of the novel by M.R. Carey’s publicist.**
In a horror subgenre that often feels like it’s overflowing with the same old stories, M.R. Carey has a knack for the original and inventive.
With his 2014 novel The Girl with All the Gifts, he explored how what’s left of humanity persists 20 years after a cataclysmic pathogen transforms the majority of the population into mindless, vicious zombies known as “hungries.” It was a novel heavy on scientific research and crafted tension, delivering a nightmarish and realistic vision of how an actual zombie pathogen might behave, how the world would evolve, and how fearful and selfish human beings would struggle in the aftermath. I found it a fascinating approach to the zombie apocalypse, a survival tale with all the expected strained group dynamics coupled with fascinating science and difficult ethical questions.
Continuing his mission of smart, well-researched, compelling zombie novels, Carey has just published his latest novel The Boy on the Bridge with Orbit. And let me tell you, if you liked The Girl with All the Gifts, you’ll really like The Boy on the Bridge.
As a self-proclaimed literature nerd with a demanding job, I am torn between my desire to be well-read and getting enough sleep. I wish I had more time to devote to reading, especially as it concerns horror novels and short stories. It’s an exciting genre, and if you can wade through the not-so-great books and find the provocative, imaginative, and truly disturbing reads, it’s a rewarding endeavor.
I am sick of not reading enough horror.
Consequently, I decided that one of my New Year’s Resolutions would be, you guessed it, to read more horror. And so I did a little research and compiled a list of 13 highly anticipated 2017 horror novels to share with you! The list includes some tried-and-true horror veterans, like Caitlin R. Kiernan and Josh Malerman, but it also includes some shiny new debuts.
So if you want to read more horror as well, or if you just want an interesting book to read, check out my list!
Halloween isn’t solely about horror movies–Halloween is also great for disturbing short story or two. Or ten.
Personally, I don’t always have time to read the latest horror novel or unearth a classic gothic ghost story. So I settle for a shorter but no less unnerving story. For me, a good creepy short story is like a deliciously morbid morsel. For others, a short horror story is an easy way to step out of one’s comfort zone.
There are countless horror short stories, and I sure haven’t read them all. However, I did compile a list of ten of my absolute favorites, along with links for you to read them right now!
September marks the 30th anniversary of IT, Stephen King’s infamous 1986 novel. IT sold a million copies in its first run and spent weeks on the bestseller lists. Like so many of King’s horrific tales, IT has broken past the confines of the own story, spreading chills and scares through our nation’s pop culture and terrorizing children and adults alike. People who have never read the book or seen the movie still know who Pennywise the Clown is.
Case in point: when I was a child, all the kids at school knew about the killer clown from the sewer who murdered children. We’d all seen that black book with the blood red letters sitting on a parent’s bookshelf, just out of reach. Some of us had even seen parts of the movie. Many of us had no idea what the actual story was; it didn’t stop us. We whispered and teased each other about Pennywise, and no one really wanted a clown at their birthday party. Such was the strength of that symbol.
***Spoiler Alert: mild spoilers for The Girl With All the Gifts***
Stagnation is one of the unfortunate things avid horror fans deal with. For such a rich, dynamic, and prolific genre, horror often trades in the same old stories. Sometimes I feel like I’m experiencing the same serial killer thriller, haunted house short story, or post-apocalyptic zombie movie again and again. I’ve noticed a cycle to subgenres’ popularity, where one well-made novel or movie captures hearts, minds, and nerves only to inspire a lot of not-as-good imitations. Knock-offs are churned out in record time, and in the rush to get the product out, creators sacrifice quality and imagination.
This isn’t always a “bad” choice, since there is a lot of money in producing cheap and gory horror movies. It happened with zombies, possessions, and found-footage horror movies. It happens with vampire novels. These works have entertainment value, but they aren’t groundbreaking and become uninteresting.
As a fan, this vicious cycle frustrates and bores me. Horror is such a flexible genre, with great potential for constant reinvention. I always enjoy horror that offers something different.
Thus, whenever a movie or novel comes along that breathes new life into a worn-out subgenre, I can’t help but take notice.
Enter The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey’s innovative 2014 zombie novel. In a subgenre rife with the same old survivor story, Carey wrote a compelling zombie narrative reexamining many of the assumptions of the genre. The result is a novel that offers a fresh perspective on many of the tried-and-true themes of the zombie genre, including survival at all costs, us vs. them mentalities, and what it would take to rebuild a shattered world.
I’ve only hinted at it before, but you should know that I’m a Texas Girl, through and through. While I may not agree with everything my state has done, I love living here.
I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, having been born and raised in San Antonio before moving on to attend college in Austin and eventually settling in Houston. To me, “barbecue” means brisket and a “cookout” means the event where you eat barbecue. I say “y’all” and I don’t care if you think it’s cute or not. I’ll take Whataburger over any other fast food joint any day of the week. I think winter is two or three weeks in January where the temperature may dip below 40 degrees. There’s nothing I love more than a Texas thunderstorm. I love to go camping under the Texas night sky with plenty of food, beer, and ghost stories.
But of course you already know how much I love ghost stories. Especially Texas ghost stories.
I didn’t realize until fairly recently, but February is Women in Horror Month! February 2016 marks the 7th annual Women in Horror Month, or WiHM, which aims to “encourage supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries.” Women in all parts of the horror genre are represented—female horror directors, female horror writers, female horror artists, and many more.
I love that this initiative exists! Why should boys have all the fun? Everyone can contribute to horror. It’s refreshing to see women who love horror come together to support each other. There are many talented individuals sharing in this genre, be it through fiction, film, comics, or art.
Ah, February. In keeping with the human need for tradition and ritual, this is the time of year where everyone becomes temporarily obsessed with their and others’ relationship statuses. If you’re in a relationship, you’re bombarded with messages to spend hours planning the perfect candlelit Valentine’s Day date and spend a chunk of change for flowers, candy, stuffed animals, jewelry, perfume, and lingerie. If you’re not in a relationship, then you’re bombarded with messages about how you either need to find a Valentine or become recluse for those weeks that the grocery store explodes into a red and pink mess of cheap cards, candy, and other cheesy knick-knacks.
Why do we go to all this trouble? We tell ourselves its because if you love someone, you buy them “romantic” stuff, right? And if you don’t have a Valentine, then you should be constantly reminded of it, right?
But in all the bustle to buy and surprise and spoil, no one really stops to think about love itself, which is odd. After centuries, love is still an enigma, a cypher. Countless hearts and minds have attempted to elucidate the twists and turns of love, but no one has ever been able to truly plumb those murky depths. Everyone knows about love and its paradoxes, how it can make you feel happy and sad, grounded and insane. Love can introduce you to your soulmate and in the same moment cause you to feel a chilling loneliness.
Love is immense and pervasive. It touches everyone, sneaking unexpectedly into unsuspecting lives and wrecking the best-laid plans, for better or for worse.
Love is scary.
“Who are you?” I asked myself this question as I perused my bookshelves for this January’s Scary Reading List. It’s a loaded question, one that is asked again and again during this time of the year. Once the New Year arrives, many people (myself included) are overwhelmed by this question. Out with the Old You, in with the New You, right?