With summer drawing to a close, I find myself contemplating how the
meaning of “summer” has evolved throughout my life. As an adult, summer means vacation,
renewed gratitude for Texas-proof air conditioning, and drinking copious
amounts of rosé poolside. As a teenager, summer was consumed with plans to drop
the ten pounds that held me back from being irresistible, scrape together spending
money, and secure a sensitive-but-jocky boyfriend. As a kid, summer was
dominated by summer sports camps, vacation bible schools (blergh), and babysitting
gigs. Whatever my plans, summer means watching tons of TV shows and movies,
which prevent me from getting too bored and getting into too much trouble.
As a kid, I watched so many movies. Everything from old black and white
classics to mediocre romcoms to trashy teen slashers. I especially adored those
adventure movies of the 80s, the iconic films where a group of scrappy latchkey
kids, preteens like I used to be, face a fantastic and dangerous challenge.
Just like with the enticing and taboo slashers where teenagers talked and acted
like adults, so too did those 80s movies suck me into dream worlds where kids
answered the frightening and tempting call of adventure. The threat of injury
and death were always very real. The threat lingered constantly, and the
vicarious possibility of being the casualty, of never making it back home, of becoming
stuck in the nightmare world, was all too compelling.
Those stories have always spoken to me as well as an untold number of my contemporaries. This is the reason why Stranger Things, fueled by what critics merely assume to be nostalgia, enjoys immense popularity.
When I saw the trailer for Pet Sematary (2019), with John Lithgow as Jud Crandall, I felt excited. I’m usually skeptical of remakes, but since I liked the remake of IT (2017) with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown, I’m kind of hopeful for upcoming horror remakes. And then it occurred to me: I hadn’t read the book. I’d seen the 1989 film more than 20 times – sometimes just playing it in the background at home while I did chores. I really like the movie, but I didn’t know what I was missing until I soaked up the novel.
In case you don’t know, Pet Sematary is a story about the Creed family, who moves to Ludlow, Maine, and into a house beside the town’s pet cemetery (misspelled “Sematary” by local children who made the sign). Strange things occur as Louis Creed discovers what lies beyond the Pet Sematary – breaking his grip on sanity and morality.
I had some traveling ahead of me, and I wanted to make sure I read the book before the remake hit theaters. So the night before I headed off to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, I kicked off the Pet Sematary audiobook on my way. As soon as I began the audiobook, I was hooked. I listened during my drive. When I stopped for gas, I didn’t linger so I could finish the next chapter. After a few hours, when I rolled into Austin, I could already tell there were differences between the novel and the 1989 film. But I turned off the audiobook and began live-music-binging.
*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
A new year means a whole new year of fresh and creepy horror novels!
As a horror fan, it’s for me easy to focus on horror movies. Horror movies are relatively quick to consume instead of a horror novel, just as a movie is sometimes more immediately entertaining than a novel.
But there is a great deal of original, well-made horror fiction out there, crafted by authors from diverse backgrounds, points of view, and traditions. Stephen King may still rule horror fiction, but there’s plenty of room for all of the unique and unsettling tales offered by authors like Ania Ahlborn, Alma Katsu, Josh Malerman, and Paul Tremblay (King has a book out this year too, don’t worry!).
So, in keeping with my goals to raise awareness of exciting new horror fiction, I’ve put together a list of fifteen horror novels to be published in 2018. I can’t wait to read them, which is good for my New Year’s resolution to read more, but really bad for my book buying addiction. (If you’re interested in last year’s list of horror, check that out here.
*Mild Spoilers for It**
I’ve known about It for as long as I can remember. It was that massive brick of book that sat on the shelf at the public library, daring me to secretly check it out and sneak it home, where I could read it under the covers at night. It was also that early 90s TV movie starring Tim Curry that my parents wouldn’t let me see, and that I didn’t see until I watched it during a slumber party. Growing up, It was the epitome of horror, not only because of the scary clown, but because children were the target of his evil, and It was not afraid to depict child murder.
It really went there, and many 90s kids won’t forget it. Many of us flocked to movie theaters last weekend and forked over cash to see the latest adaptation of It. I, for one, was almost giddy with excitement. I wanted to be scared sh*tless. I wanted to recapture some of the terror I felt reading the novel. I’ve grown up, but I still remember the exquisite and sickening pain of growing up, of realizing the evil in the world.
But this adaptation didn’t make me feel that.
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.
The premiere of Season 10 of The X-Files has come and gone, and so far, I’ve been pleased.
While the first episode may not have been the strongest episode ever, it gave us a solid dose of those mythological in scope, all-encompassing conspiracy theories we’ve come to know and love. Episode 2 was way more solid, truth be told, and pulled no punches when it came to violence and gore, which was a pleasant surprise.
It is good to have the old X-Files back. Conspiracy theories are all well and good, yes, but I have to say that I prefer the monster-of-the-week episodes with lots of scares and gore. They affect me more, they arrest my imagination and my heart and genuinely terrify. Those episodes make me question so much as they confront me with truly horrifying stories.
It’s why I keep coming back to The X-Files. I love how The X-Files forces me to think even as it entertains me, even as it scares me.
So, to continue from this post, here is Part 2 of my list of X-Files episodes that continue to scare me. Again, these episodes are presented in the order they aired.
(Also, spoiler alert, though, for real, these episodes aired at least ten years ago, if not longer. At this point, it’s your fault if you haven’t seen them. But at any rate, if you haven’t seen The X-Files, watch the whole show and then come back.)
Don’t you just hate it when you buy a well-reviewed novel with an intriguing plot description, only to slog through the whole thing and realize it’s not very good? It’s not a great feeling to realize around page 220 of 400 that you might have wasted your time. But because you read such good reviews, you persist through dragging plot development, characters you don’t care about, and a whole lot of extra detail that lacks emotional depth and makes you want to start editing the book as you read it.
I have to admit I felt this way about Stephen King’s recent novel Revival.
I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas time! I love the songs, the holiday parties, the food, and spending more time with family and friends. As much as I love my family, however, sometimes it’s nice to wander off to a quiet corner with a cup of hot cocoa and curl up with a good book.
And given that Christmas occurs around the winter solstice, when the days shrink at the onslaught of frigid nights, this is the perfect time to branch out into some scary wintery tales.
I’ve done some research and compiled a list* of horror novels related to Christmas or wintertime. So, in no particular order: