Monday musings: Why do we love to read horror?

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Photo: Capture Queen (Creative Commons)

Pandemic. Totalitarianism. Climate change. Terrorism. Jihad. Illegal immigration. Socialism. Job loss.

Judging from hyperbole in social media, we are out-and-out terrified of these things. As evidence: people advocate shooting refugees to keep them from crossing their border.

As (occasionally) the author of horror, my job is to reflect my audience’s fears back to them in symbolic way. This can be a way to help deal with them, but mostly, through fantasy, we can take some joy from our fears. It’s like riding a roller-coaster: it’s fun because it scares us, but we’re really safe.

A long, grisly, nasty yet honourable tradition

This is what fantasy and horror writers have always done: create stories that give us another way to look at what’s really bothering us. It has a long history in a technological era:

Godzilla, the monster awakened by atomic radiation and that could breathe out “atomic fire,” reflected our fears of nuclear war and radiation.

Zombies, like those in The Walking Dead series and World War Z, reflect our fear of incurable, virulent and especially contagious pandemics, made even more horrifying and destructive by their ability to instantly render their victims as vessels of further transmission.

Hereditary is the fear of what you don’t know about yourself, which you may have inherited from your parents.

Horror movies like Predator and Venom play on the most primeval fear of all: getting killed and eaten by a predator. Other horror movies play on more modern fears of surveillance, mortgage foreclosure, and of course, the old standby, the Other—people not of our tribe, and therefore a threat. Don’t forget the 2001 horror movie actually called “The Others,” with Nicole Kidman.

Have you not noticed how terrified some people are of people from other cultures?

Fear of sex

Dracula, the Un-Dead, the progenitor of nearly all the vampire books since, plays on several fears. First is the fear of contagion—Bram Stoker’s heroes thought Lucy’s affliction was a blood disease, after all – but also the fear of being infected with something that will change your nature (becoming a vampire). There is also the fear of the Other, the foreigner, the intruder who by his very nature is dangerous. But mostly, Dracula was a sublimation of the greatest fear of the Victorian era: sex.

Yes, I am saying that sucking up blood was the only way that a Victorian era writer would portray sexual lust without getting banned or arrested. Don’t believe me? The vampire was ultimately defeated by a woman’s sexual attractiveness. Oh, sure, Dracula said he was only interested in her blood. But he was lured to his doom by a beautiful young woman, who invited the vampire into her bedroom and made him stay all night long. Now tell me Stoker was not writing about sex.

Image: Vancouver Sun

Still holding onto that argument? Watch Francis Ford Coppola’s film based on the book and try to sustain it.

Today, there’s a lot of fear about crowds of refugees or migrants getting past the border. I don’t understand the fear, myself. Which means there is already a really bad book or movie, or both, based on exactly that idea in development right now.

The biggest fear, though, that I can see is the fear of change. Any new idea still evokes howls from predictable corners. How could writers deal with that?

What about readers? What fears would you like your favourite authors to write about?

Leave your suggestions in the Comments.

Scott Bury

just can’t stay in one genre.

After a 30-year career as a journalist and editor, Scott Bury published a children’s story, and a story that bridged the genres of paranormal occult fiction and espionage thriller. Since then, he has published 12 novels and novellas without regard to staying in any one genre: fantasy, satire, mysteries, thrillers and biography.

In 2012, he published his first novel, the historical magic realism bestseller The Bones of the Earth. His next book, One Shade of Red, was a satire of a bestseller with a similar title.

From 2014 to 2017, he published the Eastern Front Trilogy, the true story of a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in 1941, and how he survived the Second World War.

He wrote four Hawaii mystery titles for Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World; Jet: Stealth for Russell Blake’s Jet Kindle World, and two for Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye Kindle World. Since the cancellation of the Kindle World program, he has revised and published the first title, Torn Roots, as the first volume in a stand-alone series, Hawaiian Storm.

He has also launched a new mystery series with Wildfire, featuring the smart and passionate Tara Rezeck.

Find out more about Scott and his writing:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

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Thursday teaser: The Dark

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To get readers ready for Hallowe’en, BestSelling Reads presents a Hallowe’en teaser from the bestselling novel, The Dark

By David C. Cassidy

3 ~ December 25

Kelan woke with a start. His heart raced as quickly as his mind. A part of him was still dreaming. Still soaring. The rush of the water, the beckoning moon . . . it was all so real.

And in his next breath: gone. All of it, gone.

His dreams . . . stolen by the dawn.

He curled up, tugged and torn of worlds fancy and fact. Things were not as they should be, and he reached for Bear with an uncertain hand.

Bear. When the spiders clicked and the demons snickered, when the mind turned shadows into ghosts, there was Bear. Hugging Bear was the best, promoting him to Brave Soldier with but a squeeze. When things troubled him—like now—he would hold Bear close, kneading his well‑worn ears in a slow, deliberate rhythm.

He could still sense that horrible mask in the moon. Perhaps it hunkered behind his toy box, or played its waiting game under the bed.

He closed his eyes. Wished it gone.

Were it always that easy. The thing fled, for now at least, and he opened his eyes, one first then the other, freeing himself to ponder more pressing concerns. It was Christmas morning, presents calling, but they would have to wait.

What happened last night?

A dream . . . so many dreams.

He sighed. Convincing a single soul—Kelan Lisk included—that he had jumped Potter’s Creek would be impossible. Even if his tracks remained in the snow, what proof were they his? Still, what of the thrill he had had, soaring above the creek? Wasn’t that real? Why couldn’t he believe in something he so badly wanted to?

Because he didn’t really remember, did he? Most of the night was spent reliving the events in his mind, but it had all been so dreamlike, so incredibly fantastic. And when he got down to it, the experience had seemed more like a sweet feeling than a wonderful memory.

And yet, he had a nagging sense he was missing a piece of the puzzle. Something he could touch. Something he could believe in.

He bolted upright. There was something.

His hand. The small wound there.

But wait. There was more.

He took his glasses from the bookshelf at the head of his bunk and slipped them on. His brother stirred, and he slid quietly out of bed and tip-toed from the room. Mom’s bedroom door was still closed. He made his way downstairs and stopped at the closet in the foyer.

The proof was in there. He couldn’t explain it, but somehow, he knew that it was.

He opened the door and checked the left pocket of his snowsuit. Checked the right. There it was, barely poking out.

Mom hadn’t seen it. If she had, she would have tossed it out with the trash or burned it in the fireplace, telling him all the while how he’d put out his eye with it.

Had he put it there?

He could recall nearly everything. The kid. The Run. The moon. But after that, everything went gray.

He drew the branch from the pocket. Dried blood—his blood—stained the tip.

Proof?

Maybe. All he really knew was that he would keep it. That he should.

He returned to his room. He knelt at his dresser and drew the bottom drawer as quietly as he could. As he cleared a place for the branch, he almost cried out. It took a cupping of hand over mouth to silence his disbelief.

I can give you what you want.

The thing spoke. Inside his head, unmistakably Bobby.

Eric snorted and he held his breath. It would be just like his brother to wake up now and take it away. Or worse, tell Mom.

He could not let that happen. He wouldn’t.

Hurriedly, he buried it behind an old sweater and slid the drawer shut. He climbed into bed, and as he did, Eric snorted again, reassuring him his secret lay safely tucked away.

He opened his hand. Gently, he rubbed the wound in his palm. It tingled.

He listened for the branch . . . it spoke.

I can give you what you need.

This was crazy, a cool kind of crazy, but it wasn’t a dream. The kid was inside the branch and inside his head.

He had done the Run. He had.

And the best part?

Bobby was real.

Did you like this Hallowe’en teaser? Get The Dark from

About The Dark

  • 2015 National IPBA Award Winner in Horror Fiction
  • 2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner in Horror Fiction
  • 4-time Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Selection

“Move over Stephen King and Dean Koontz … The Dark is everything that horror fiction fans want—scary, unsettling, relentless and so creepy that you will not want to read it at night.” — Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“You can’t read this in the dark because the author has made it too real … this is horror at some of its finest.” — Samantha Colville for Readers’ Favorite

“The Dark compares with works of King and Koontz and is tremendously difficult to put down.” — Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite

“I haven’t enjoyed a horror novel this much since the early days of Stephen King’s work.” — Miss Lyn, Amazon Reviewer

Pure Heart meets Pure Evil.

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy draws you into a realm of terror, a world unlike any other. With the inspired flair of Clive Barker and the pulse-pounding beat of Stephen King, The Dark will leave you breathless, reminding us all that for all we desire there is always a price, the currency in suffering and sacrifice. Brimming with insidious evil and a nerve-wracking pace that never lets up, this story will grab hold of your most primitive fears and crank them up to Warp 10—and won’t let go.

IT KNOWS WHAT YOU WANT.

IT KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent little boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark.

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

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