We’ve explored how the supernatural informed much of humankind’s early written works, from the various texts of the world’s religions to cultural folklore and myths to fiction. Eventually, one religion began to influence them all. Around the same time that anonymous writer was penning Beowulf, the Roman Catholic church’s first official accusation of real-life Satanism took place in the French city of Toulouse.
As we’ve already established, supernatural elements informed much of mankind’s early written works, from the various texts of the world’s religions to cultural folklore and myths to one of humanity’s first pieces of fiction—The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Let’s examine some other early works of horror fiction from the dawn of civilization, starting in 1500 B.C. with the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur—a tale of bestiality, royal intrigue, and man-eating monsters. Continue Reading
In last month’s chapter, we examined one of the world’s first examples of horror fiction—The Epic of Gilgamesh. This month, that was supposed to lead into a chapter on Beowulf, Theseus and the Minotaur, The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Oresteia, Dante’s Inferno, Lucian Samosata’s True History, and more.
I’ve decided we will get to those next month.
Instead, I’d like to use this month’s space to remember a mentor and dear friend of mine. I knew him as Dallas Mayr, but I first met him as Jack Ketchum (which is probably the name you know him by). Continue Reading
Before we talk about The Epic of Gilgamesh, I want to touch on folklore, myths, and religion. As stated previously, my goal with this column is to present a history of horror fiction from primitive man up to today’s Kindle revolution. In doing that, I will undoubtedly anger some people. (Indeed, judging by the recent histrionics of the addled S.T. Joshi, I already have.) But while I’m happy to piss people off by claiming there’s common ground between quiet horror and splatterpunk, or discussing the possibility that America’s oldest mass market paperback publisher was partially funded by organized crime, it is not my intent to anger or offend anyone by disparaging their personal religious beliefs.Continue Reading
In the opening sentence of his seminal 1927 essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, H.P. Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”
Decades later, in the Introduction to 1982’s Prime Evil anthology, Douglas E. Winter wrote, “Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.”
In his posthumously released 1993 song “Thug Life,” 2Pac (Tupac Shakur) rapped, “Thinkin’ of dead niggas that I knew that died young. Is there a heaven for a nigga up to no good, or is it another fuckin’ hood?”
Three seemingly disparate quotes, connected only tenuously, and yet all speaking to one universal truth that is as old as humankind itself. Three quotes that serve to interpolate the work of the Upper Paleolithic era’s version of Stephen King—an artist known as Thurg.Continue Reading
Hi. My name is Brian Keene. You might remember me from my previous Cemetery Dance column, End of the Road. Or perhaps you know me from the many novels and comic books and short stories I’ve written—too many, if you ask some critics. Or maybe you know me from my popular podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene. Or, it’s possible you don’t know me at all—or know me only by reputation (and if it’s the latter, then don’t believe everything you read online). Regardless of how you ended up here, welcome to History of Horror Fiction, a new monthly column brought to you by Cemetery Dance.Continue Reading
Brian and his oldest son have spent a week in Seattle. His oldest son, now twenty-five, is a social worker by day, and a budding rock guitarist by night. He is a fan of Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Mother Love Bone, and the rest of the grunge-era music (which is now considered classic rock—something that makes Brian feel that full weight of fifty that he knows will be drawing down on him next year). Given this, Seattle makes sense for what will be their first father and son vacation since the now-young-man was ten years old.Continue Reading
The second to last weekend of October, I made my way up north again, this time for the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival in Haverhill, Massachusetts—a mass-signing event organized by Christopher Golden and involving about twenty or thirty horror authors. Podcast co-host Dave Thomas accompanied me for this part of the tour, and we stayed at the home of author James A. Moore.Continue Reading
Mary SanGiovanni and I have a ritual when we curl up on the couch at nine o’clock in the evening and watch television together. I always pick the first movie, and she always picks the second. We do this because I am always ready for bed by eleven at night, and Mary often stays up until one or two in the morning—and also because she likes to pick the worst horror movies you’ve ever seen. Continue Reading
In early October, Mary and I climbed into the Jeep and drove from Pennsylvania to Louisville, Kentucky, where we were both guests at a fairly new convention called Imaginarium. The organizers put on an excellent event. It is geared primarily towards writers, and it encompasses all genres. I highly recommend investing the money and traveling to the next Imaginarium, particularly if you are a beginning author. There were some fantastic, informative panels, and some wonderful networking opportunities.Continue Reading
“It’s a fun job, but it’s still a job. Save your money, man. A hit single don’t last very long. There’s gonna be another cat coming out, looking like me, sounding like me, next year. I know this.” – Cypress Hill, ‘Rock Superstar’
“Right when you get good, they replace you. Best thing that ever happened to me.” – Marc MaronContinue Reading
The third leg of the Farewell (But Not Really) Tour started off locally, at The Comic Store—an independently-owned comic book store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (where I was joined by Mary SanGiovanni). From there, it moved on to a pop-up signing in New Jersey, independently-owned bookstores in Rhode Island (where scholar Jack Haringa led a Q&A), and Vermont (where I was joined by Asher Ellis), before eventually circling back home again for a signing at a corporate-owned Books-a-Million chain store in Harrisburg.Continue Reading
“No,” I replied, suddenly feeling very foolish. “I mean, Mary experienced it, too.”
“I felt something in the bookstore that day,” she confirmed, “but I don’t know what I think about the rest of this.”
“Oh, I’ve no doubt you guys experienced something,” Dave said. “I’ve had my own encounters with the paranormal over the years. And who knows? Maybe you did make brief contact with Jesus. It’s possible.”
I frowned. “Then why do you think I’m insane?”
“Because you’re not talking about seeing his ghost. You’re talking about stealing his corpse!”Continue Reading