I can’t say I read many books about the writing process these days. To be sure, I have no vendetta against them – especially not when they’re written by accomplished authors. I remember, years ago, reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, in which she talks about taking life, and taking writing, step by step, the way her brother had to take a science project “bird by bird” when he stayed up to do it at the last minute. And in my early 20’s, I was obsessed with Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World. Pipher is the author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, and along with formulating the renowned theory that our society is taking something away from its girls during the transition from childhood to adulthood, she also sought to give people advice on how to write – especially on how to write in a way that would change things, that would make a difference. That was a fair undertaking, because Reviving Ophelia had made waves, and its theory still has resonance today, years later. Continue reading “Reading About Writing: Stephen King’s “On Writing””
If it’s not obvious from the different analysis I publish on this site, I’m a huge fan of The Shining. In fact, I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing right now, and I’m a bit torn, because I know he hates Kubrick’s version of his story, but I happen to love it. Still no matter what version of the classic tale you favor, we can all agree that the idea of being snowed into a haunted hotel with a mentally unstable, alcoholic, misogynist, self-interested writer and schoolteacher (how Kubrick, though not King, presents Jack) is a precarious situation, especially when you have son with exceptional capabilities but a penchant for blacking out and losing his sentience. Well, since I live in the freezing Erie, PA, a city that repeatedly makes winter headlines for its record amounts of Lake Effect snow, I’ve gotten, over the past few days, to get a sense of what it feels like to be completely snowed in. As such, I thought I’d write a post about the experience of being “snowed in” for three days, and the cabin fever that ensues from such an experience – you know, in the service of exploring different territory for my blog. Continue reading “Snowed-In: A Cabin Fever Story”
The title of this post comes from the Dave Matthews Band Song, “Two Step,” an old favorite I found on a dusty, battered but still half-working mixed CD I made in college over a decade ago. In the song, Dave sings “Celebrate we will, ‘cause life is short but sweet for certain.” Well, Dave, I agree with you, life is short, and (often, but not always) sweet, but I’m not celebrating because life is short and sweet. I’m celebrating because my little blog recently had her first birthday (yes, in case you didn’t know, Just Dread-full is a girl), and I’m gushing and bragging like any proud parent. Unlike the proud parent who thinks her baby is the best, I in no way contend that my blog is the best blog on the interweb (I’m not delusional, and there’s tons of good stuff out there) but it is a creation uniquely mine that I can share with anyone who’s remotely interested. If I’m Victor Frankenstein, this blog is my glistening, verbose, sometimes pedantic monster – only, it’s not going to skulk around my perimeter, threatening to kill me if I don’t create a mate for it (which I tried to do when I started another blog that I never post on, 1000 in a Decade).
Well, it’s official. I’ve written an uneven 73 posts on Just Dread-Full since the blog’s inception in late October of 2015. Now, before I continue, I had a different introduction written in this piece, but the ghost of Miss Jessel is apparently bitter about how I depicted her in my piece on The Innocents, because she’s crawled out of the movie and consumed my laptop. Really. Michael and I lost my laptop in the transition from his parents’ house to his house (one of us was carrying the bag). We, and his parents, have searched every conceivable place, and it’s simply disappeared. As such, I’m typing from his laptop, and I have to start this piece over again.
This may alarm you (in fact, you might want to sit down to hear it), but I wasn’t always an intrepid pioneer who sojourned through the world of horror with ease, grace, and relative peace of mind. I know: you thought I was born unflinchingly brave and are now trying to deal with the shock of finding out that even I, your humble Just Dread-Full writer, used to scare easily. But when I say “easily,” you might not understand just how easily I scared. To paint you a vivid picture of how far I’ve come in my (almost) 32 years of existence, how much bolder and more brazen I am, I’ve decided to tell you about one of my first scares (I’ll probably tell you about the other in a second part of this segment). Long before I sought the adrenaline of a tasty jump-scare, I used to quiver, quake, and cry at sudden upsets to my calm surroundings. I was, to be truthful, kind of a baby. You may gather that this is true when I tell you my earliest scary memory.
In his poem, “Roses,” William Carlos Williams writes, “The imagination, across the sorry facts, lifts us to make roses.” The poem can be uplifting or cynical, depending on its interpretation. When I sat down to write this piece, I was going to say that the poem was needlessly negative. Are the “facts” really that “sorry”? And can’t the mind work in an opposite way, so that everything around us is really rather nice but appears abysmal? Conversely, writers, for years, have been fascinated with the concept of disillusionment. Our minds build castles in the sky, and when those castles collapse, we see a depressing reality – or so the story goes sometimes. This was clearly Charles Beaumont’s interest in “The Magic Man,” a short story in his Perchance to Dream anthology – a story that isn’t scary, per se, but that subtly leads us to the darker crevices of the human psyche. (There will be some spoilers in this review). Continue reading “The Sting of Disillusionment”
I’ve heard the argument that there’s no need for horror movies because there’s enough horror in this world already. Perhaps, but perhaps not. What is horror? Bing’s search engine defines it as an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. Okay, that doesn’t really help. What is horror as a genre? To cheapen a genre I love, we could say that horror is fiction-stuff marketed to manufacture fear, shock, or disgust. But horror movies do this by departing from reality, by placing us in far-flung scenarios that aren’t emotionally troubling – at least not in the long run – because they’re so blatantly fictional. The horror we see in movies really has nothing at all to do with the horror we see in real life. There are very few witches, vampires, and monsters traipsing about North America, and while there are murderers, there aren’t many methodical, superhuman, Michael Meyers-esque serial killers like the ones we see in slasher movies. People will say that we’re an apathetic nation, desensitized by horror and violence. But often times, entertainment violence is grounded in pure fancy; it bears no semblance to the problematic, and often violent scenarios we find in the real world. If I were concerned with avoiding real world horror, I would be more likely to cut myself off from action movies or any movie involving any kind of war – whether it be The Force Awakens, The Hunger Games, or Saving Private Ryan. Continue reading “In Defense of Horror”