The year was 1988. I had been a serious horror reader for years and things were really starting to get interesting. We had it all then. Big names, legends, were still publishing: Robert Bloch, Ray Russell, Manly Wade Wellman, Hugh B. Cave, and others. Newer writers like Dennis Etchison, Richard Christian Matheson, Ramsey Campbell, and Michael McDowell were getting into high gear. Writers were migrating from the SF field. And there was a new, streetwise style of horror breaking barriers, from writers like John Skipp, Craig Spector, David J. Schow, Ray Garton. It was a heyday, and it seemed like every new author on the scene I heard about was well worth my time and money.
So when I read a triple review by the great Stanley Wiater in Fangoria magazine about a writer named Joe R. Lansdale, I took notice. The reviewed works in question were Act of Love, The Nightrunners, and Dead in the West.Continue Reading
I can’t tell you how many speculative fiction writers I’ve interacted with over the years who have expressed a deep respect for, if not a rabid obsession with, The Twilight Zone. It’s basically reached “sacred cow” status amongst genre writers, whether or not it’s had a direct influence on their writing (I know a few authors who pitch their books at cons as being “like The Twilight Zone,” myself included). In fact, the only author I can think of who I’ve ever seen express a somewhat-negative view of the show was Stephen King in his 1981 nonfiction book Danse Macabre. We’ll let this one pass, Mr. King.Continue Reading
The aim of this column is to spotlight authors who have been instrumental in my development as a writer. Some of the writers I’ve covered have been legends in the field who are no longer with us; others more contemporary writers who are still very active and influential. I’m revealing them along a semi-chronological path of when I discovered them, not necessarily their publication dates. Today’s installment features a contemporary writer whose first novel had a huge impact on me, as does her continuing work: Mary SanGiovanni.Continue Reading
It’s easy to see why Stephen King’s Firestarter was nearly the novel we never read.
Abandoning his manuscript on several occasions, King felt the book was too much like Carrie and feared he would be copying himself. While Carrie White had telekinesis (the ability to move objects with her mind), Charlie McGee’s gift (or curse) in Firestarter is pyrokinesis — the ability to start fires with her mind. Both Carrie and Charlie are adolescents. Both have unnaturally co-dependent relationships with a parental figure. And, both are going through a painful process of learning how to control their extraordinary powers.Continue Reading
I grew up obsessed with robots. How I haven’t run off with a replicant is a mystery to me.
When I was a wee lad, there was a particular show I watched with my mother every single day that sparked my infatuation with, as the show’s evil/comedic doctor would call them, “ferrous Frankenstein fiends in tin clothing.” That show was Lost In Space — the original from the ’60s, not the okay reboot on Netflix. Continue Reading
I grew up with two younger sisters who probably owned five million dolls between the two of them. They had plenty of mass-market stuff like Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids, but also a few “lifelike” porcelain dolls. I wouldn’t say that these dolls “scared” me, but there always was something more mysterious and unsettling about them, with their stiff, white bodies and old-timey dresses.
From Child’s Play to Annabelle to the Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll,” dolls have been mined for their horror potential for a long time. What is it about dolls that makes them so freaky? Author Ania Ahlborn has some thoughts. She saw a doll-centric horror movie early on in life that left such a impression on her, she went on to write scary stories of her own.Continue Reading
It was the early years of my decades-long love affair with horror fiction. I blazed through the Stephen King books that had been published at the time, with Pet Semetery being the most current. It was 1983 — a very good year for the genre, with even better things were on the immediate horizon. I eagerly devoured the Peter Straub books that were available, and they were among the finest pieces of fiction I had ever read. I enjoyed books by James Herbert, Whitley Strieber, Ramsey Campbell, John Farris. I read landmark novels by brilliant talents such as F. Paul Wilson and T.E.D. Klein. There were numerous markets for short fiction, and I was blown away by pieces from Karl Edward Wagner, Richard Christian Matheson, and Dennis Etchison. And of course I marveled at the works of Charles L. Grant. The field was on fire, and it was an incredible time to be a fan.Continue Reading
In 1987, the gods of creativity were looking favorably upon Stephen King, who blessed Constant Readers with three books in a ten-month period — a new record for the already highly prolific author. Among the three novels published that year was Misery, an instant bestseller that would become hailed as one of King’s classics. At the time of its release, however, it might not have seemed very King-like at all. Continue Reading
In 2018, Castle Rock, the town Stephen King introduced in The Dead Zone and returned to numerous times in subsequent works, isn’t on the map any more. A few years ago, the town voted to disincorporate itself. The historic downtown is mostly home to boarded-up businesses. Nan’s Luncheonette burned under mysterious circumstances a while back. The nearest Wal-Mart is some sixty miles distant. The town’s main employer is Shawshank Prison, twenty miles away. A considerable percentage of the people behind bars in that establishment are from Castle Rock.Continue Reading
Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of everything that’s going on in the Stephen King Universe. There are so many projects underway or about to get underway or that could possibly some day get underway that it boggles the mind. This is a new Golden Age for King, especially when it comes to the various adaptations of his work to screens large and small, silver and otherwise. I’m here to help you keep track! Continue Reading
I lived a good chunk of my childhood on a small, rural road. All of the homes had families and were fairly well-kempt, so my siblings and my best buddy who lived next door didn’t really have a typical “haunted house” to be afraid of; but that didn’t keep us from concocting weird stories about the surrounding property. That creepy orchard up the hill? A kid my mom used to babysit for convinced us that he had seen a severed hand from World War II hanging from a tree up there (yep, from that famous WWII battle fought in Upstate New York, of course). Then there was the turnaround where I swear I saw a UFO land one night (okay, maybe that was just a dream). When you’re a kid, your imagination runs wild, and seemingly innocuous places can transform into terrifying locales. Jonathan Janz can relate—he read a story back in seventh grade that touched on just that idea, a story that stuck with him and put him on a path to creating strange stories of his own. Continue Reading
I first read F. Paul Wilson’s The Touch way back in 1986. I was a twenty-five year old boy, rabidly in love with horror. And after The Keep, The Tomb, and some short pieces I had read, F. Paul Wilson was one of my favorite writers.
There’s a section near the beginning of The Touch. It’s describing a seafaring historical area of a small town…
The Illusion almost worked. He could almost imagine Ishmael, harpoon on shoulder, walking down the harbor toward the Pequod…passing the new Video Shack.
Well, nothing was perfect.
I loved that. I was a modern young man and I was head over heels for the home video explosion. It was a perfect time for me. A perfect time to be a horror fan.Continue Reading
Stephen King’s first novel Carrie debuted on April 5th, 1974 with little to no fanfare. One might say that, like the novel’s title character, Carrie was always destined to be a late bloomer. Shy to the spotlight, you might find Carrie hanging out at your local library or bookstore, sitting there all but invisible upon the shelf. All the while, of course, Carrie held a great secret. A special power. Quiet and patient, Carrie was waiting to make her mark on the world, to have her revenge on those who had underestimated her, and to make Stephen King a household name. Continue Reading
One of the themes of Stephen King’s 1986 novel It was the notion that adults lose the ability to believe in the kinds of things they embraced as children. Mike Hanlon contemplates this issue when he’s planning to summon his childhood friends back to Derry to confront the monster they defeated but did not destroy nearly three decades earlier. He wonders if they’re up to the task because their former ability to believe in the power of certain talismans gave them the strength to hurt Pennywise.