I love a scary story. I never used to be like this; I didn’t read horror novels or watch horror films, mainly because I’m not the toughest person on the planet and I thought it would scare me too much. When I was little, I watched Day of the Triffids on TV and it used to give me such chills that afterwards I’d have to run up the stairs to bed (so nothing could “get” me) then I’d get under the covers and lie awake listening for that eerie clicking noise they made. So, given that it scared me and probably I was a bit too young to be watching it, why did I? The answer is that my Dad loved it, and I loved watching things with my Dad the same way I loved sharing books with him. I never told him how much it scared me because I didn’t want to stop watching it.
We associate this time of year with darker narratives; from Halloween to Christmas ghost stories, as the nights draw in we seem to be drawn to more darkness. I went to a lecture about Halloween recently that said this impulse carries on throughout time and within different cultures. Spooky stories allow us to face the darkness, to contain it within a fiction. As Christmas draws closer, I’m currently enjoying the audible production of Mark Gatiss reading EF Benson’s classic stories and soon I’ll be moving on to the excellent Neil Gaiman reading of A Christmas Carol.
I was very excited to read about The Eden Book Society project from Dead Ink Books because it’s exciting and so relevant to now. Even when winter gives way to spring, we’re currently living in dark and sometimes frightening times and I think horror stories can teach us a lot about living through them. Horror stories are metaphors writ large. Stephen King’s The Shining is about alcoholism, IT is about fear itself. One of the novellas in Joe Hill’s latest book Strange Weather - Snapshot, 1988 - is about memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Two of my favourite recent horror novels, Hex and Nod, are both about the dark power of mob rule. Horror stories can hold up a mirror to society – one that is distorted and grotesque, but somehow understandable and, in most cases, surmountable.
Dead Ink Books is currently running a kickstarter campaign to get The Eden Book Society off the ground and I implore you to support it and tell everyone you know. They’re planning to release six books throughout the year and backing it now will get you all six, delivered the day they’re released. They’re an independent publisher supporting new writers and looking to push boundaries. If you think you’ve seen and read it all when it comes to horror, supporting an independent publisher means you’ll get a chance to read some of those stories that are less mainstream, and quite possibly more likely to give you a fright.
You could also pledge to give the subscription as a gift. I love subscription gifts because people get a regular reminder that you care, it’s not all loaded into Christmas. If you know a horror fan who waits impatiently for a new release from a favourite author, or a cynical teenager that could benefit from a broader horizon, or a bookworm hungry for new voices then this could be the perfect gift. Or maybe, if you want it for yourself, you can forego the usual socks and smellies and ask for this instead. It will give you joy throughout a year that promises more darkness and uncertainty, you get to be there are the start supporting independent artists and best of all, it’s really, really easy to wrap. Just remember to get yourself securely under the covers before you start reading.