A Need for Horror

Lately, I’ve been craving a good horror novel. This is unusual for me as, when it comes to genre, I’m typically a sci-fi/fantasy gal and I haven’t really read strict horror since……it’s been a while.

In an odd way, I suspect my horror craving is connected to strange or unpleasant weather — a suspicion built on the realization that two of the moments in my life when I have felt the most frightened were linked to both narrative and unusual environmental circumstances.

salems lotThe first of these occurred while I was reading Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. About twenty at the time, I was staying with my parents during university holidays and, that evening, was home alone with Mr. King on a stereotypically dark and stormy night. And when we have thunderstorms in the midwestern US, we have thunderstorms — wind whips tree branches, lightening streaks the sky, rain batters the roof and thunder, well, thunders. Curled under my duvet, I read well into the night, nearly convinced that if a vampire came to my window whilst I dreamt, I might sleep-invite-him-in. It didn’t help that King’s vampires are old school. Written well before the sparkly Cullens or the voluptuous and muscled vamps of Ms. Harris’ canon, King’s vampires are demons and they are terrifying in the best and worst possible ways.

28 days laterThe second incident coincided with the Northeast blackout of 2003, when most of the east coast and midwestern US had no electricity. At that time of my life I was living alone in a tiny apartment near my university campus and I had just seen 28 Days Later for the first time. I spent the night surrounded by a city shrouded in total darkness, huddled by the light of a votive candle, trying not to obsess over the idea of crazy rage-zombies.

While it may be hard to see the connection between these events and the present, some gut instinct tells me that it’s a combination of the severe Wellington weather of the past few days and the earthquake Wednesday night that has brought on this need for tales of horror. As a worrier, I suspect the appeal of frightening tales lies in allowing a story to raise my anxiety in a way that’s controlled. If I can go on with life shortly after dealing with the idea of real, tangible monsters, then maybe the worry caused by a new stack of bills, a leak in the house, or even another earthquake, will feel smaller, easier to handle.

Or maybe I’d just rather face rage-zombies. I am, after all, good with a bat.

Liz Gillett

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