Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen, Bone Meal Broth, and Video Night wrote a great post last week about the what gets most people into horror and the split of the horror fiction fans and the horror movie fans. Here is a sample of what he has to say:
Horror fans are a diverse bunch, but every one that I’ve ever talked to has a single commonality: their obsession started when they were young.
We may keep our eyes glued to the news sites, downloading the newest trailers and demanding up-to-the minute word on our favorite creators, but our interests always loop back around to what hooked us as kids. In this way, we’re a nostalgic bunch and I hope you’ll indulge me I wax nostalgic for a minute in this post.
Notice that I didn’t say horror movie fans. I just said horror fans, which I feel is an important distinction. Well, actually I think it should be the most unimportant distinction of all, a non-existent distinction, but sadly it is one.
Confused yet? Sorry, let me try again.
It was the movies that hooked me. Browsing the video store, I was both attracted to and terrified of the horror section. I wanted so badly to enjoy these films that I begged and bartered with my parents.They were pretty permissive and let me have what I wanted. The thing was, when I was that young, I could only take about five minutes of Halloween, and the closest I got to Freddy was errant glances at his videotape covers. So I started slow, stuck with the classic monsters. Great as they are, the films of the 1930s,’40s and ’50s didn’t quite hit the same “instant terror” nerve for me as their color counterparts.
This was how I became a monster kid, which is a term that outdates me by a few decades, but still one that’s applicable to a select group of young people today. Some would claim that it’s only applicable to those who were around for the ’50s-’70s, but to hell with that. The few, the proud: the monster kids.
It was those gruesome videos that started the itch, those old timey monsters that first help me scratch it, but it was reading that taught me how in love I was with being scared.
The same way I feared/loved the slashers, I feared and loved the small bookshelf in my father’s study. My dad’s not a huge reader, and he’s certainly not the world’s biggest horror fan, but he had one book on this shelf that interested me. Tucked between a copy of Congo and Eye of the Needle, was a hardcover copy of Stephen King’s It.
I knew It from the video store. That was the one in the fat case with the scary clown on the cover (it was two tapes long, intimidating!). Something about this book cover was even creepier.
A few green lizard-like fingers reaching out from a storm drain, towards a paper boat. It’s an image that doesn’t give you a whole lot of idea what the story is about, but it lets you know that something bad is going to go down, and that it’s probably going to involve kids. Kids like me.
So even before I read a single word of his prose, I was a King fan. My father read me some of King’s short stories, they’re complex and mature for a kid, and I’m sure that 99% went over my head. It was just something I wanted to be a part of, like a child putting on a plastic helmet and pretending to be a fireman. Luckily I’m young enough that once I was starting to read by myself, there were books there to meet me. In the early 1990s I devoured R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, feeling myself getting stronger with every word, working towards the day when I was ready to tackle It by myself. I’m not ashamed of Stine’s gateway drug series, nor should I be. Everything’s a piece in the tapestry.
At the same time all this reading was going on, my interest in film kept growing. I’d watch everything I could. Tried to learn how movies were made, I forced myself to watch everything, even if it terrified me, got in trouble during grade school for bringing in copies of Fangoria and making girls look at the gory pictures during lunch.
Flash forward to today and I’m a horror writer with a film degree. There couldn’t be a more literal case of childhood interests manifesting themselves into an adult’s life.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I was lucky to run into that book cover. This same dual interest, this love of horror in all its forms, is my wish for every single one of today’s monster kids.