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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I'm reading old spooky stories from The Horror Hall of Fame, Edited by Robert Silverberg and Martin H. Greenberg.

Green Tea by Sheridan Le Fanu is as refreshing as its titular beverage because it forces this MTV Generation reader to downshift his kinetic forward-thrusting narrative expectations. The basic plot could be squeezed into a story half its length with room left over for The Cask of Amontillado, but Le Fanu wants to ground his story in the real world or something, so we get, for example, a step-by-step account of how a servant looked in on his master every hour on the hour. Some narrative compression could have whittled such sequences down, but that ain't Le Fanu's way. Check out Kevin Huizenga's witty but faithful comic book retelling in his collection Curses.

The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce is the evident inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft's semi-famous story The Dunwich Horror. Both involve huge invisible monsters; Bierce never reveals what it is, where it came from, or what ultimately comes of it, while Lovecraft gives us an origin story, a monster-slaying, all that. I am fond of Dunwich, but I have to give The Damned Thing the edge. For one thing Bierce is a better writer. Plus, the ultimate message of Damned Thing as I read it is "There is something that's going to kill you, and you can't see it coming." That's true, so that's scary. While Lovecraft tells us "There's something that's going to kill you, and it is the spawn of occult miscegenation." Are you scared of occult race-mixing? Cuz I'm not.

The Yellow Sign by Robert W. Chambers was an influence on Lovecraft (The book-within-a-book The King in Yellow is a precursor of The Necronomicon, as well as the videotape in The Ring) but I find Chambers more fun to read. He's actually interested in people, and he understood one thing better than silly old Poe: a creepy story doesn't have to be creepy every step of the way. A story with charming, witty and likable characters can be all the creepier since the reader is more likely to take a rooting interest in their not getting overtaken by horrid occult forces.

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