Tis the Season to Give Horror

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jack Skellington-O-Lantern
Happy Friday, friends!  Halloween is almost here.  Are you ready?  Have your costume picked out?  Candy bought for all those goblin beggars that will be banging down your door this Sunday eve?  And did you know, by the way, that there are places that have banned Halloween on Sundays?  Yes, it's true.  I don't make this stuff up.  Look here, at this Huffington Post link.

See?  I'm just very, very glad not to live in such a sacrilegious place.

In other news, have you heard about Neil Gaiman's All Hallows Read?  Mr. Gaiman, in all of his wisdom, decided that there aren't enough holidays for which we give books.  So, he proposed that we do so for Hallowe'en (his more proper spelling, I'll assume).  The idea is to give a scary book to someone, anyone, for this most spooky of holidays.  His idea, my friends, has caught on like wild fire.  People have been tweeting and facebooking.  Even the venerable Stephen King has endorsed the idea on his own site  .  (Sigh... I do love that man... but I digress.)  And now, out of this spark of an idea presented by Neil Gaiman on his blog six days ago, allhallowsread.com is born!  News of this just went out today.  Per Mr. Gaiman's current blog entry:

It's very skeletal right now. I suggested it, the webgoblin and the former webelf collaborated, I wrote some FAQs based on things people had asked on Twitter, Facebook or here, and we threw it up, figuring it was more important to get something up (two days before Hallowe'en) than to get it right.

So, in the spirit of All Hallows Read, go to your local used book store and pick up some dusty tomes.  Hand them out to people you love.  Even if you just give one, and even if it's a dog-eared, cover-torn paperback, the Spirit of Halloween will surely smile upon you... and probably cackle.  

Not sure what to get and/or give?  Haven't really been that into horror and ghost stories, but think you might pick up the habit, just, you know, to be a follower?  I happen to have a few suggestion.  (Bet you didn't see that coming.)

If you're looking for something for kids, or just don't want too much R rated material, try these:
Scary Stories Treasury; Three Books to Chill Your Bones: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark/ More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark/ Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  The image/link to the left is actually for the whole Scary Stories Treasury.  The title I mention here is simply the first of three books.  I read these when I was a kid, they're sold as "children's books," but they are, to this day, some of the creepiest books I've ever laid my hands or eyes on.  The illustrations alone (brilliant work done by Stephen Gammell) will imprint upon your brain, never to be forgotten for as long as you live.  At least, that's my belief, as I've been carrying their haunting visages around in my head since childhood.  The stories themselves are urban legends and bits of folklore adapted by Schwartz, which, I think, is what makes them have such staying power.  Some of these stories you may have actually heard before, over a campfire late at night, or from your best friend's big brother that one time you stayed over.  And here they are, illustrated with pictures out of your worst nightmares.  
As an aside, I read on Wiki that:  This series is listed as being the most challenged series of books from 1990–1999[2] and seventh most challenged from 2000-2009 [3] by the American Library Association for its religious viewpoint and violence as well as for being occultist, satanic, or inappropriate.


Moving right along, you could also get your hands on a copy of 
The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  I have a confession to make.  I haven't actually read this one yet.  But I hear it's fantastic, and that it's about a boy who's raised in a graveyard by ghosts.  Who's not intrigued now?  

Also, in case you don't already know, you can watch/listen to Neil Gaiman read The Graveyard Book in its entirety here:  http://www.mousecircus.com/videotour.aspx

But, if you're looking for something for more mature readers, I have to suggest some of my old favorites.
The Shining 
The Shining by Stephen King.  Of course.  This is one of King's most frightening tales, and here it is with its new pulp-fiction-styled cover.  This one never gets old.  It will scare the bejeezus out of you.  Best read late at night, in the house all alone.  Preferably with snow falling rapidly outside your window... but this is Halloween, so we can just skip that part.  But, if you're chicken, it's okay to read it in broad daylight, perhaps sitting outside a cafe with lots of people milling around you.  I'll leave that part up to you.

 If you'd like something a little more classic there's always:

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan PoeYou cannot go wrong with Poe.  It's the law.  If you've never read any of his works... well... I'll first ask you what planet you've been living on your whole life or have you possibly been raised by wolves in the frozen tundra?  In that case, you're forgiven.  And I will also say that you just need to read one, maybe two of his stories in order to be hooked. (This, too, is The Law.)  What are my favorites, you ask?  I'm very attached to "The Tell-Tale Heart". And "The Masque of the Red Death" is honestly stunning.  Or "The Fall of the House of Usher" - a perfect tale for a dark and stormy night.  

Edgar Allan Poe Audio CollectionAlthough, I have heard that it's best to hear Poe read aloud, and I am not at all about to disagree.  There is this audio collection, read by Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone.  I wouldn't mind having this collection myself... look how beautiful!  If anyone wanted to send it to me... ;) 

(Also, I will tell you that I plan on posting my favorite Poe poem on Halloween day, if you want to check back to read it.)

Now, let's say you're tired of vampire romances, sick of your vampires sparkling (I'm sorry, but you know how I feel about the Twilight series, and if you don't, well... there it is.  Cat's out of the bag, I can't take it back now.), wishing there was something you could read (or give to overthrow an unhealthy vampire-romance addiction in another) that was a bit darker, a touch truer-to-legend, about our immortal blood-sucking brethren. Have you perchance read

Interview with the Vampire
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice?  No?  Get thee to a bookstore at once!  (Or, of course, you can order it through the Amazon link on the image to your left, but it's slutty of me to say so, so let's just pretend that didn't happen, okay?)  This is the first of a very, very good series where all the mortals are either prey or turned into vampires themselves.  As it should be.  Carry on.

 And now, I would be remiss if I didn't suggest some short story collections. (Apart from Mr. Poe's, that is, since he wrote primarily short stories and poetry, so that doesn't really count, does it?) 
Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark TalesEverything's Eventual is a more recent collection of short stories by Sai King, and it contains that most deeply disturbing encounter in room "1408".  Did you see the movie?  The short story is less elaborate than the movie, but somehow scarier for all of that.  This book also contains "Riding the Bullet", which was also turned into a movie that yours truly never even knew existed until my husband found it in the bargain bin at one of our local media stores.  This is now one of my favorite King movie adaptations.  You'll have to see it to understand why.  And, one last bit of enticement, for any of my readers that happen to be Dark Tower fans, I'll tell you a secret - there's a Tower story in here.  (Can you see the carrot dangling between my fingers?)

The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New HorrorAnd finally, if you just can't decide, and need some variety in your life, hot of the presses April this year is The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror, featuring "Two decades of dark fiction" at your fingertips.  Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and a whole bunch more.... there's got to be something worth giving in here.

I could go on and on (no, really I could - don't tempt me), suggesting books out of my very most favorite genre (though fantasy would be a very close second), but I'll stop here for now.  

I hope you have a wonderfully spooky weekend and manage to give away at least one scary book for All Hallows Read.  I should see you 'round this way on Halloween, but if we miss each other, have a happy, happy haunting!

Fall Cleaning and A Little More Light in the World

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hello again, friends.  I've been bopping around Blogger lately, seeing new things, and doing some fall cleaning.  There have been a few interesting Blogs of Note in the past month or two, and I've made a few new acquaintances (and followers!  Hello, new followers!).  This notwithstanding, Blogger has been shifting and changing and, although probably improving, still annoying me with all its construction weirdness. 

There for awhile I couldn't post an image to save my life.  And then, yesterday, I logged on and found my Reading List empty with a message (sitting there, simple and wicked, like a ransom note) that read, "You are not currently following any blogs."


You wouldn't think this would cause so much mental anguish, but apparently I have become irrevocably dependent on you all.  I think an actual chill ran down my spine.  I panicked and started tracking down my favorite blogs, making sure I was showing up as a follower (something I swore back in high school I'd never be ;) on each one.  With a heavy sigh of relief, I found that I was still there, my little black and white tree icon waving back at me from the sea of followers that each of you have procured with your wit or brilliance or soul-touching insight and courage.  By the time I got back to my Dashboard, my Reading List was back in business with headlines from all your recent posts.  Whew! 

So, here I am, no longer seeing the past year-and-a-quarter of my blogging life flash before my eyes, no longer worried that I'll have to track you all down again and reassure everyone that yes, I am still here, and still following.

And now I want to tell you about something that was shown to me, which relates to my previous post.  There exists a woman (and I'm convinced she may actually be an angel, or some kind of demi-god, or at least a very, very old soul that could have gone on, but chose to still grace this existence, mostly for our benefit) named Amy Oscar who has a site on which she discusses the human experience and how to get the most out of what we've been given (namely time - even if it's just a little - and life).  She is amazing, and a million times more enlightened than yours truly, I don't mind admitting.  Here is a link to her post, We are all bullies.  I was humbled after reading this, hoping my own post on the subject wasn't too harsh, too unforgiving, and being forced to admit that I have so much to learn... so much further to go.  Please visit her world.  She's human, like us, for all of my awe - she curses and gets tired and gets scared and grows disillusioned at times (proof of this here, one of my favorite Amy Oscar posts)... but she speaks from her heart and from the greatest truth that she knows. Some things just make me happy to know they exist.  Amy Oscar is one of them. 

And last, as I mentioned, some fall cleaning.  You may have noticed that I've added some new Other Worlds to my wall - more places that I frequent and which I find particularly intriguing for one reason or another.  Please, go visit a few.  You might find something new there that you never realized you were missing. 

Then, of course, I've changed up the song list, which I know only plays a part of each song, and this irks me, too... but it's the only way I know of to have some appropriate tunes, and even if you never listen, it makes me feel satisfied and complete to know it's there.  I just can't operate properly without music.  Currently, these are Songs for the Transition, by which I mean they're songs that remind me of starting a new school year, of autumn, of changing.  This list will morph and change as time goes on, even if the title stays the same.  Check back from time to time... you'll see. 

The rest of the changes you may not notice at all.  Just a little sprucing up here and there.  It's good to dust off the cobwebs before shutting the house against the winter cold.

Lessons in Irreparable Damage

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I know I'm about a week behind on this, but I never promised breaking news on this blog. It took me a few days to process, to feel myself get all mixed up between angry and horribly sad, to calm down, and to get angry all over again.  I know this has been all over the news, the internet, everywhere... the suicide of Tyler Clementi.  If this is old hat to you or too boring or painful or meaningless to you to listen to right now,  that's okay.  You can go and need not read further.  But as long as you're here, I'll have my say, if it's all the same.  And even if it isn't.

If you're one of the few people who haven't heard about this, I'll give you a very brief summary.  Tyler Clementi, a 19 year old college student in his freshman year at Rutgers University, was made the brunt of a very cruel joke in which a couple of other students (his roommate and his roommate's friend)  managed to record him having sex with a man on two different occasions.   Tyler Clementi  wasn't yet "out".  These two students then posted these encounters on the internet, for the world to see.  Tyler, who obviously did not have the strongest sense of self at the time, killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.  You can read all the news stories online... there are tons.  Here's a link to get you started, if you so desire.  

Now, as I said, obviously this kid didn't have a lot of self esteem and may have even been dealing with identity issues, since he hadn't come out to his friends and family yet.  I've read the arguments (and could've made them all myself in my sleep), and yes, I'm sure those two students didn't intend for Clementi to kill himself.  And yes, of course he would've had to have been nursing a pretty fragile mental state in order to take that final step.  But does that excuse the complete and total disregard for another person's sense of self worth and privacy that these two people exhibited?  Aren't we, as supposedly sentient creatures, responsible for our actions?  Responsible for thinking through the potential consequences before we act?  They didn't just tease him, friends.  This was no mild razzing, all in good fun.  Let me repeat... THEY POSTED VIDEO ON THE INTERNET OF HIM HAVING SEX WITH ANOTHER MAN .  

Excuse me, but what about that does not scream sick and cruel?  What the holy hell is wrong with people?  Just because we have the internet, does that mean we have to use it to humiliate each other mercilessly?  Of course, I shouldn't be shocked.  It's what humans do; some humans, anyway.  We use whatever means necessary to destroy each other.  

Which brings me to my point... that I'll try to get out succinctly, even though all I want to do right now is scream and cuss and throw things.  

We have a responsibility to each other and to the world around us.  I know not everyone is taught that, but here in America, at least, there is very little excuse.  They cover bullying in public school in, what, kindergarten?  First grade?  Then again in middle school?  And again in high school in some places (although by then they call it "hazing")?  So effing STOP IT already!  Get over yourselves!  Stop thinking the only way to have fun and feel good about yourself is to make someone else feel like crap!  So what if you "didn't know" he would commit suicide?  SO WHAT?  You have no idea what another person is going through when you're slinging around your evil words and well-planned modes of degradation.  You won't know how such a psychological attack is going to be received - how your target is going to deal with it, whether or not they're going to break.  But you know it's going to hurt.  Because, well, isn't that the point?

So, congratulations, bullies and jerks and ignorant, hateful people of the world!  You broke another one!  Are you proud?  Can't you just feel the power?  This one is broken beyond repair... indeed, beyond anyone's reach now.  And yes, even if you didn't "mean to" -- you. are. responsible.  Chew that up and swallow it and let this one final ultimate consequence teach you a lesson for once in your life.  Because, just as I'm sure that the ones who do break, the ones who snap under the pressure and fall apart for good (because we all know we can't take it back now!), are short on self esteem and all out of strength, I am also certain that the hecklers and instigators have been building up their senses of self at the expense of others for a very long time. It takes practice and ingenuity and a whole lot of spite to pull off this kind of grand humiliation.  This wasn't the first for these tormentors, I'm sure.  This was only the biggest. 

I can't talk about this much more.  I am literally sick over the whole thing, and over the depths of cruelty to which humans will stoop to make themselves feel big.  Here's the Ellen video.  It's on Youtube, but in case you haven't seen it yet...

The last final question - the one we always ask in the end... our plea to all that is good and holy... why?  Why.

There are a million answers, and none of them satisfy.