As the first anniversary of the publication of Night Shadows approaches (February 16), I want to present two blogs regarding fear.
I once read an article stating how fear is an acronym for False Evidence Against Reality. The article went on to discuss how most fears aren’t as devastating when the reality of the situation is revealed.
For instance, I fear change. Change in my residence or employment usually produces a queasy feeling in my stomach. However, in the face of reality, the new apartment or job isn’t as bad as expected.
Many of us experience fear in one form or another and at different intensities. Anything from a mild anxiety about an upcoming dinner date to a long suffered phobia of spiders or heights. Tony Shalhoub portrayed a man with the ultimate in fears in the television series Monk.
Fear, however, is a bit different from being scared. Fears can be faced and, in many cases, overcome. The phobias some people have can be dealt with through counseling or outright confrontation with the fearful situation. Scared is heightened and lingering fear. Scared is knowing potential danger is imminent. The teenage camper, having seen her mutilated friends strewn about the woods is truly scared of what’s behind the door of the lonely old cabin she’s discovered. She knows the killer stalks her and is watching, waiting.
For me, scared was driving seven miles on a curvy, hilly, ice covered road with steep ditches on either side and no way to turn around. As a child, scared was being stranded on the other side of a large lake with no way to return except for trekking another hour back, knowing the trouble I’d be facing.
Horror movies rarely scare me. Sure there are moments that give my heart and stomach a short-lived jolt, but they’re rare. The twist at the end of The Sixth Sense didn’t really scare me, per se, but left me feeling very weird since, for me, Bruce Willis being dead was completely unexpected. Most horror films, though, are various versions of the same theme: the serial killer or mutated monster slaughtering the wayward young or ghosts, vampires, or other supernatural entities doing the same.
Radio and literature hold more potential to scare because they force you to use your imagination. One of the most famous radio incidents creating a mass scare was Orson Welles narrating the alien invasion of War of the Worlds in 1938.
I’ve collected hundreds of horror novels throughout the years and have been scared by only a few. Not very many have left a lingering sense of dread or maintained the imagination after the last chapter. There have been rarities leaving me wondering, “What if…” or “What would the next scene be?” because there was no real resolution in the story.
H.P. Lovecraft was a master at creating those lasting feelings for me. He wrote some truly scary material and years passed with several re-readings of a few of his stories for me to understand the attraction to his stories. Rarely did he show you the monster. One of his best stories, in my opinion, At the Mountains of Madness, draws you in so well with so much detail and description, you feel that you are right there with the travelers discovering an ancient vanished civilization in the Antarctic depths. When they flee the scene, you are desperately wanting to know what the main character saw when he looked back over his shoulder, what awful, nameless thing destroyed the mind of his partner…but Lovecraft doesn’t tell you. You are left wondering…wondering what could it be? For me, I loved that scared feeling imagining there really were super tall mountains at the South Pole hiding all sorts of unknown creatures.
I hope I’ve created some scary moments in my book, Night Shadows. I waited until later in the book before the monsters were ‘seen’ and known. Several readers have shared the fact they really didn’t want to turn out the lights the night after reading the story. I hope I have also left people with a lingering imagination, a sense of ‘what if?’
What scares me scares many people. The unknown, the possibilities in the unknown. Also the experience you have when–
Oh, crap! Don’t you dare sneak up on me and tap my shoulder. You nearly scared me to death.