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20th century ghost stories

July 26, 2008

Horror used to be (is, maybe?) my favorite genre of reading. I devoured all Stephen King books and found joy in Richard Matheson, Ira Levin’s frantic worlds. Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy appealed like nothing else–and hey, it is a bit tragic, thinking back, how few authors actually conquered that category and did it well. Oh yes, there are endless numbers of insipid horror writers out there, clinging on to descriptions of gore and expected surprises and shock factors and monsters, imaginary or the very real. And endless horror short stories following the same general path with the same general plot and the same general feel. And once upon a time (or perhaps even now) I was most certainly one of them. How I longed to win a Bram Stoker award, invited to a prestigeous dinner banquet celebration dressed in a stunning black gown, shaking the hands of the legends as I happily accepted awards upon awards…

So for a long time, I wrote a lot of short stories and flash fiction. I joined horror writers groups and submitted to obscure horror ezines. Once upon a time, I was even published on one or two, and it gave me a delight and great hope in one day securing that great Bram Stoker…

Now I read these short stories and I cringe inside, and perhaps outside too. They are cliched and rather uninspired, formulaic and lackluster in emotion and life. But that is besides the point, for the point is, I just finished reading 20th Century Ghost Stories by Joe Hill, a collection of short stories–horror stories, to be precise. And I realized that I am still as much in love with all things creepy, dark, unusual and macabre as before. And few things get me hooked on reading as satisfying, dark tales that hints at the supernatural or just psychologically disturbed sides of any normal being.

Which makes me really really happy. For a while I had lost track of what I wanted and what I loved, and in the realms of the meaningless books filled with literary merit and “poignancy” (I’ve come to the conclusion that if a book’s selling point is its poignancy, I’m in for an unsatisfactory, pretentious and irritatingly trying to be deep and emotional read. No, no thank you, please.) I thought that perhaps what I needed was more complex deep relationships and poignant mundane family drama turned into heartbreaking emotional adventures or something of the nature–it is not so. Not all is lost. There is beauty in fear and the things that do not occur in these every day life but which we always have in the depths of our minds, a worry for.

And I suppose, what I am trying to say is: I highly highly recommend and adored this book. I miss reading good horror, and possibly writing it too. I’m finally working on a short story I think I might like and connect to and have a direction for. And if you have good books to recommend, horror or not, please always do share.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2008 3:50 pm

    I love Stephen King books but I’ve been put off buying Joe Hill’s books because I suppose I don’t want him to be better than his father! (As if!).
    Just looked at some reviews and it sounds good, it’s now on my ‘to buy list’. Ta for the recommendation.

    Nice blog by the way. I’ll be back 🙂

  2. July 27, 2008 12:24 pm

    Interestingly enough, I just saw a reference to this book earlier today! I’m going to take this as a sign I should look it up. But I have to let you know about another book I think you’ll enjoy: Their Way Home. The author is an accomplish psychic and empath. She regularly speeks to reporters and audiences on such topics as removing ghosts and negative energy from your home or workplace. She helps spirits who have lost their way. You’ll love this.

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