***Warning, mild spoilers for The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires***
Vampires are my favorite monsters. I love how they represent a dangerous, alluring mixture of lust, power, sin, and death. I cannot get enough of how they are compelled by their desperate thirst even as they leverage human weaknesses to seduce victims.
Likewise, I’ve always appreciated author Grady Hendrix’s nuanced understanding of monsters and horror tropes. He possesses an uncanny ability to tap into pop horror elements, investigate how they work, and map them onto our lives. He did it in Horrorstör and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, both of which I loved. So, when I heard that Grady Hendrix, author of some of my favorite horror novels of the past few years, I was stoked.
I wasn’t disappointed—not only was The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires worth the wait but it is now my favorite Grady Hendrix work. As a longtime fan, I find it his most mature, compelling, and satisfying work. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires represents a new level of his craft, where he has successfully dissected the vampire archetype, crafted compelling and realistic characters, and breathing new life into an old story. And he didn’t sacrifice any of his trademark dark humor or his love for gross-out scenes.
The majestic peak of Alto del Perdón, also known as the Mount of Forgiveness, overlooks one of the most idyllic and picturesque countrysides in all of Spain. Located on the storied Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, between Pamplona and the town of Puente la Reina, Alto del Perdón basks in brilliant sunshine. An eye-catching metal sculpture, erected to honor past, present, and future pilgrims, sits at the top of the mount. The pilgrimage route itself leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where Catholic lore states that remains of the Apostle Saint James the Great lie. The Camino is always filled with pilgrims determined to complete the 500-mile journey to on foot. It appears to be no more than a chalky and rocky dirt trail. But the trail itself is revered as a spiritual journey, one that will open the pilgrim’s heart and mind to some long-awaited truth.
Alto del Perdón does not, at first glance, seem like the kind of setting in which to open a traditional ghost story. But C.S. O’Cinneide did not set out the write a traditional ghost story with her debut novel, Petra’s Ghost, out now from Dundurn Press. Though O’Cinneide draws upon both travel tales and ghost stories for her debut, Petra’s Ghost is a refreshing spin on both of these classic narratives. (You can learn more about O’Cinneide’s inspiration for her novel by checking out the interview I conducted with her.) The result is an engrossing, creepy tale of the people who run away from the dark secrets haunting them and seek forgiveness on the Camino.
Petra’s Ghost, written by C.S. O’Cinneide, has a U.S. release date of August 13, 2019. It will be published by Dundurn.
Petra’s Ghost starts off with a young widower standing on a windswept hill. He holds a plastic baggie. It is filled with the ashes of his deceased wife, Petra. He has carried her all the way to Spain, to the sun-baked and arduous Camino de Santiago, so he can complete the pilgrimage and scatter her ashes. To say goodbye. It should be easy—find a picturesque spot, open the baggie, and let his wife fall from his fingers.
But it’s not that simple. He feels guilty; he’s the only one who knows how Petra really died, the only one who knows he’s responsible for her death. Now, he keeps seeing strange things. A shadowy figure out of the corner of his eye. The apparition of Petra in broad daylight. She seems to be following him. She seems to be getting closer. The widower knows that, sooner or later, he will have to make peace with Petra. And he’s not the only pilgrim who is haunted by the ghosts of the past.
Gosh, can you believe it’s December, and we’ve got nearly a year’s worth of horror movies behind us? From A Quiet Place to Hereditary to Halloween, we’ve seen horror movies make waves. We’ve also heard from quite a few quieter horror movies, like Unsane, Mandy, and Annihilation. All in all, it’s been a compelling year for horror with a lot of very creative and innovative films, but also a good amount of the same kind of mediocrity we’ve seen before.
And December 2018 is no exception. This month serves up a short but punchy list of horror movies. The recent trend of Christmas horror anthologies (love) continues with All the Creatures Was Stirring. We’re subjected to an ill-timed holiday horror film in Leprechaun Returns. Lars von Trier does his sexual and violent is-he-a-misogynist-and-if-he-is-does-does-he-at-least-feel-bad-about-it act with The House that Jack Built. And Netflix, as dependable as ever, gives us an early Christmas gift in the form of the film adaptation of Josh Malerman’s frightening, taut horror-thriller Bird Box.
Not a bad month all around, considering.
When I first heard about Grady Hendrix’s novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism, marketed as a cross between Heathers and The Exorcist, I just knew I had to read it. I love 80s nostalgia as much as the next person (since I am just barely a child of the 80s). I also love making fun of the 80s, what with the awful clothes and hair, the rampant and self-conscious conservatism, and the general tackiness.
And sure enough, My Best Friend’s Exorcism pays homage to this decade as much as it pokes fun at it. More than that though this novel is heartfelt and creepy, treading into the well-worn territory of fraught adolescent relationships. The result is a book whose nostalgia runs deeper than the pop culture references it deploys throughout.
*Mild spoilers for The Outsider*
Like any horror fan (and latchkey kid raised by TV), I love Stephen King. The prolific master of horror has done so much to entertain and terrify readers for over forty years. I’ll never forget what it was like to read Carrie for the first time or to tackle It, and his books have influenced much of my own storytelling. While not every King novel is a success, I learn something new from everyone I read. Accordingly, when I heard about his latest novel, The Outsider, I didn’t think twice about including it on my list of most anticipated horror novels of 2018 to eagerly await its publication. Continue reading
***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.”
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!
I have this really bad habit where, when I’m home by myself, I hop on the internet and venture into dark corners to find scary stories. Sometimes I go to Wikipedia and fall into a black hole of unsolved mystery pages, emerging hours later. Sometimes I go to true crime sites and then I have to get up and double check to make sure all the doors and windows in my house are locked. If there’s a spooky story on the internet, I’ll probably read it and freak myself out. But, my favorite internet scary stories, hands down, are Creepypastas.
I don’t know why I do it–maybe I get bored, maybe I have an overwhelming case of morbid curiosity. I don’t know why, but I love Creepypastas.
Part ghost story, part urban legend, part cursed email chain, these tales thrive for the same reasons folklore thrives. We love to hear outlandish, frightening, gruesome stories, and even the tiniest kernel of truth puts us under a spell. Creepypastas (so named for its original term of “copypasta” which refers to copy-and-pasted text that has gone viral) are user generated, meaning any random person on the internet has the power to contribute a creepy story.
The internet can be a nasty place, but Creepypastas are one of the nice (albeit weird and terrifying) parts about the internet. People from anywhere in the world can read a person’s strange story and have an immediate reaction. Indeed, Creepypastas are shared everywhere. People who have nothing else in common might bond over the chills they felt after reading a particularly good Creepypasta. Authors have gone on to write whole novels out of their Creepypastas, and Creepypastas have been adapted into short films on Youtube. There are whole communities devoted them writing and sharing them. They spread and grow and develop their own gravitas, their own lore.
In a way, Creepypastas are the 21st century equivalent of ghost stories told around campfire.
So come, gather round and let me share with you some of my absolute favorite awesome Creepypastas. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments!