Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Too Much Coincidence?

If you’re on Pinterest, squiders, you know that it will notify you when someone re-pins one of the pins from your boards. I recently got a notification about this pin, which I had honestly forgotten about.

crrreeepppyyy

Picture seen here

This is one of my own photos that I’ve pinned. It may be the only photo of my own that I’ve pinned. In Sept of 2013, we went on a New England/Canada cruise, and at some point ended up in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. I don’t quite remember how we got there–it was part of some shore excursion, maybe something having to do with maple syrup–but we were given an hour or so in which to wander the town.

I found myself drawn to a neat old white and red building on the top of a hill that just screamed that it was haunted. And when we got there, we discovered the cemetery. AND THEN we discovered that said building was a school, and that the hill was called…wait for it…Gallow’s Hill.

Playground/cemetery proximity

I mean, what are the odds? Who looks at a building next to a cemetery on a place called Gallow’s Hill and says, “Ah, yes, here is where I will put my school”? An elementary school, even.

This is a horror story waiting to happen, and I’m so pleased that that person re-pinned this pin because now I remember it, and I remember the pure glee of finding this place, and I remember the potential of this location.

But, seriously, squiders, what are the odds?

(I really love cemeteries and I am aware that’s weird, but gleeeeeeeeee.)

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Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero and Related Scooby Doo Thoughts

Have you seen Meddling Kids, squiders? The cover on my copy is neon pink and green, with tentacles, so it’s rather striking. I picked up the book because I enjoyed Cantero’s first novel The Supernatural Enhancements (2014, which I probably picked up because it was a novel told in letters and interviews, and I seem drawn to those even though the quality seems to vary wildly) and also because the premise seemed relevant to my interests: what if, one time, it wasn’t just a guy in a mask?

(Also, Cantero is from Barcelona, so English is not his first language, but you’d never know it.)

Meddling Kids explores the aftermath of the Blyton Summer Detective Club’s last case. While they caught a guy in a monster suit, there were other things on that isolated island, things that have haunted the kids over the past 13 years. NPR had a story about the novel a week or so ago, and all the comments were essentially that it sounded like a rip-off of Stephen King’s IT, which, first of all, heaven forbid that you read a book that has a similar concept to another that you’ve read, and second of all, having read Stephen King (though not IT specifically) I can’t imagine the books are AT ALL similar, but eh, whatever.

Meddling Kids does a good job of bridging between the obvious inspiration and darker themes of Lovecraftian horror. The book never gets too dark or too horror-y, and manages to wrap in your classic monster chase scenes and ridiculous traps in a way that makes sense and feels realistic. And while the Blyton Summer Detective Club is constructed of four kids and a dog, each are their own characters created for this story rather than being direct analogies to Mystery, Inc. (Kerri, for example, is both the beauty and the brains.)

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, so if it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend picking it up.

And speaking of Mystery, Inc. and Scooby Doo, I know I’ve talked previously about how, despite the many incarnations of the show, the characters tend to remain stereotypes, though the stereotypes vary from version to version. However, at long last, I have found some exceptions to this rule, and that’s the modern Scooby Doo movies.

These are direct-to-video episodes, about 75 minutes in length, that stick to the original versions of the characters (rather than some of the newer television shows such as Mystery Incorporated). Not sure why, whether it’s because they’ve got fifty years of character familiarity behind them or because there’s less riding on them and so they’ve got more creative freedom, but each one tends to work on an actual character arc for at least one character (though of course, whatever progress has been made doesn’t carry over to anything else).

Cartoon Network shows these episodes periodically, and a handful are available on streaming at any point in time. The offspring were big into Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur for a bit (ghost dinosaurs, who can blame them?) which is where I noticed this, because they give Shaggy the opportunity to be brave throughout. The offspring are onto Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo now, which again focuses on giving Shaggy a reason to be brave, as well as Daphne working on not always being the damsel in distress.

I’m not saying that they’re all amazing or that they’re great at the characterizations across the board, but it’s like someone finally realized that if they added an internal character arc it made the story more interesting.

(The first of these movies is Scooby Doo on Zombie Island which came out when I was a kid, and has always been one of my favorite versions, because it shows the kids post-Mystery Inc. and also features a mystery where it’s not just a guy in a mask. The offspring won’t watch it with me when it comes up on rotation because it’s “too scary.” Alas.)

Anyway! Read Meddling Kids or The Supernatural Enhancements, squiders? Let’s talk about them! Or let’s talk about Scooby Doo, because apparently I’m always up for that too.

The Fluidity of Genre

We’ve been going through genre conventions at my storycraft meetings, Squiders. We were supposed to do all three speculative fiction genres at a single meeting–horror, science fiction, and fantasy–but we started with horror and two hours later were still happily on horror, so we’ve broken it up. We did horror, and last night we did science fiction, and in two weeks we’ll do fantasy, and I had a request from one member to do a discussion on cross-genre, specifically spec fic romance, so we might as well just roll right into that one too.

The meetings have a very loose structure. We spend the first hour trying to agree on genre conventions, then we read through the Wikipedia article on said genre and fight with it (and also read the history part, and so last night I learned that “scifi” was originally–and potentially still?–a term for low brow, low quality pulpy sort of media, and “science fiction” is/was for serious, worthwhile media. Which seems on level with the Trekker/Trekkie semantics, but hey, whatever, we all like to feel superior somehow). And then we go through various lists of subgenres and fight with those too.

A subgenre, for those who may not be familiar with the term, is essentially a further breaking down of a genre. If you know you’re specifically looking for dragons and elves, it helps to know what subgenre you’re looking for, especially with the dawn of online retailers like Amazon who get a bit ridiculous in their breakdown. Several years ago I did a science fiction/fantasy breakdown of several subgenres, which you can see here (though I realize that I never did do a final update to the master list. One more thing to do).

For horror, we had a decent list of conventions (and I should point out that this is specifically for speculative horror):

  • Often no final resolution, leaves the reader in a state of unease
  • Protagonist is often shaken to core
  • Plays on fear
  • Incorporates elements of the unknown
  • Tends to twist common things into something terrifying
  • Often includes a betrayal of safety
  • Often includes themes of isolation

For science fiction, we all agreed on exactly one convention:

  • Has a connection to modern humanity

We couldn’t even agree that science fiction had to be about technology, especially since a lot of recent fantasy has become very technological in scope. So the best we ended up with, especially to separate science fiction from fantasy, is that there had to be a connection to now. Some thread of “us,” no matter how far in the future or jumping through the dimensions. Some way that “we” directly become “them.” In a fantasy world, you can have humans without having those humans have any connection to the real world or history or anything of that ilk.

That’s not to say that fantasy can’t have a connection to modern humanity, just that that was the one thread we could agree upon that defined science fiction. And even that is probably too limiting, because there are probably science fiction stories out there without a human being in sight.

At least we’re not the only ones confused. Wikipedia included one author repeating the general definition of pornography, i.e., I know it when I see it.

Even the lists of subgenres seem a bit confused. You have things like “cyberpunk,” which has clear themes and tones that are fairly universal throughout the subgenre, but also things like “time travel,” which sticks something like Doctor Who or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court into the same category as The Time Traveler’s Wife, Outlander, The Time Machine, or Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear. With a cyberpunk book, you generally know what you’re getting; a time travel book could fall anywhere in the fiction spectrum.

We’ve got a going challenge to try and organize the scifi books we own into seven subgenres, and then we’re going to share our subgenres at the next meeting and see what we come up with.

I almost feel like subgenres exist so we can try and get a handle on what a story is, but it may all be a lost cause.

What do you think, Squiders? Agree with the conventions we came up with? What conventions do you use to separate the major specfic genres? Do you agree with my cohort’s postulation that the speculative fiction genres are converging again into a single genre ala the 1800s, or is it more of a convergent evolution sort of thing?

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Oh, Squiders, how I love ghost stories. And I love horror ala Poe or Lovecraft. But this love comes with a price. You see, my husband and I normally read in bed right before we go to sleep.

You see where I’m going with this.

Night is rarely silent. There’s animals outside, cars going past, houses settling. My cat likes to open and close the hallway cabinet doors which, at first, sounds like someone is in your house opening and closing doors until you realize what it is. That cat is going to drive me crazy someday.

And yet, despite my overactive imagination, I read these things right before bed anyway.

I tell myself it all isn’t real, but I’ll notice movements out of the corner of my eye (which is invariably a car passing outside or, once, my own reflection in a mirror, yay). We’ve had a recent addition to the family that means I’m up at odd hours, and while I’m dealing with that, my cat will come in and stare intently at one corner of the ceiling, and the new addition will talk to himself when he’s alone.

Everything is creepier at 3 am.

I tell myself that I need to stop reading horror right before bed. Or at night at all, actually. Sometimes, if it’s late enough and dark enough, I can’t even watch my beloved ghost hunting shows without freaking myself out. And, sometimes, after enough false starts, I will put that book down and wait until sunlight.

Until the next book, at least. And then the pattern starts all over…

(In case you’re wondering, I’m currently reading Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood.)