Horror & Dark Fantasy

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The H Word

Nonfiction

The H Word: Formative Frights

I like to ask people about their childhood fears because I was a fearful child. At five, I avoided the TV room for a week after glimpsing something with a face like gobs of wet clay groping its way up a staircase. Only years and nightmares later did I learn this was Martin Landau’s entirely sympathetic mutant in the Outer Limits episode “The Man Who Was Never Born.” When I was nine, I was freaked out by faces more awful than Landau’s lumpy one.

Nonfiction

The H Word: The Horror of Solitude

Is it worse to be lonely in a crowded room or lonely in an empty one? Perhaps you have an immediate response to this, one you’ve pondered before now. It’s certainly not a new question, but the truth is that most of us have never had much of a chance to really know for sure. Even those who pride themselves on being introverted are often forced to spend a tremendous amount of time with other people. The average life, in fact, tends to be arranged around interaction.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Mental Health, Ableism, and the Horror Genre

Our genre isn’t known for its warm and compassionate embrace of disability. From physical disfigurement to mental illness, those with disabilities are an all-too-convenient Other to demonize. The current battle for greater inclusion in the genres continues to shed light on those stories and voices that have been excluded. As we look beyond race, gender, and sexuality for inclusion and representation, ability is vital for us to reexamine.

Nonfiction

The H Word: The Melancholy Beauty of Terror

For the longest time, I’d searched for a proper definition of horror. That whole, “defined by emotional response” never sat well for me, and felt lacking as a descriptor. Mostly because people think that emotion should be fear or fright, but at the same time the word horror doesn’t automatically mean fear, does it? Something can be horrible, and yet not scary. Add to the fact that some of the best horror digs in under the skin and does something else, something far more disturbing than simple fear.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Scary Stories to Relive in the Dark

I’ve been jobless for two and a half months now, which has caused a spike in mostly-forgotten anxieties. I hate being broke, hate watching my savings dwindle, and hate knowing I’m one bad fall or car accident away from poverty. So like most anxious, broke people, I comfort myself by bingeing crap television. Luckily, Netflix’s algorithms got something right for once, and presented me with HauntedHaunted is a 2018 Netflix original series, featuring non-actors telling true (or truth-y) stories about being haunted.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Picture a House

Picture a house. It’s an old house. Stately, with two quarter-moon windows perched above a balcony, or a rundown farmhouse far out in the countryside, overlooking a bent, ancient tree. It’s something with history to it, history that’s not your own, but that doesn’t matter: the keys are in your hand. You own it. You are going to build a life there. You bring your family inside, and fill it with what is yours, and claim every room, every hallway. Except the attic

Nonfiction

The H Word: On Cruelty

Growing up, I was a shy, tenderhearted kid. School was not a good place for me, and I remember being astonished by my classmates’ naked viciousness. When a girl’s skirt rode up from the friction of her backpack, people pointed, nudged their friends, grinned at her without saying anything. Someone was sent home once for lice, and that would come to define her for years, a stain that she and every one of her sisters had to carry.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Dark Constellations

When John Carpenter and Debra Hill began to sketch out their ideas for Halloween, they dreamed up a list of scares. The creepiest images, the most unsettling scenes they could imagine. A clown with a knife. A gravestone in a bedroom. A pale face emerging slowly from the shadows. A person pinned to a wall by a blade. Or—how about this one?—a woman gets into a car and finds the windshield fogged up. The wipers kick on with no effect.

Nonfiction

The H Word: You Really Don’t Want to Do This

Summertown, Tennessee, seems like a nice place to live. Located about an hour southwest of Nashville, it’s a town of less than 1,000 people. Rural two-lane blacktops wind past corn fields and wooded glens. New houses—each on its own acre of green land—can be had for under $250,000. The town has a Buddhist commune (Turtle Hill Sangha), and Wheelin in the Country, an off-road park. Summertown is, in other words, the kind of place that horror writers love to use in their works.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Proof of Afterlife

We’ve been fascinated by ghost photography since the 1860s, when Victorian-era photographers began to find evidence (of spirits or of double-exposure) in their work. At the time there was also a fascination with death photography, those utterly heart-breaking and deeply disturbing photographs of dead loved ones propped up for one last picture. Were the bereaved hoping to catch a glimpse of the soul in those photographs? Then, as now, people were looking for proof that ghosts exist. Because if ghosts exist, then the soul does.

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