Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
I, like many horror writers my age, was weaned on Goosebumps. I devoured those things as I would a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies, and that’s saying something. What got me initially were the covers. We’re talking illustrations of evil dogs, skeletons, possessed Halloween masks—everything a future horror buff could ever want. The plots were often cheesy (especially Say Cheese and Die…sorry, I’ll leave now if you’d like) and straight forward but they were aimed at kids after all. R. L. Stine should take great pride—and I’m sure he does—in knowing that he inspired an entire generation of boys and girls to take up reading.
Goosebumps were cool. If you weren’t reading them, you were, dare I say, a loser. In third grade, I made the obvious and lucrative decision to try my hand at the series. I wrote a manuscript of thirty or so pages entitled The Curse of the Scorpion. I still have it somewhere. It’s horrible, even for my age, but I remember how writing that thing consumed me. The entire outside world, any childhood fears or anxiety, vanished while I was putting pen to paper. I’d always had a vivid imagination but now I had a way to harness it, to sculpt it like Play-Doh and make it do my evil bidding.
I didn’t take to writing more frequently until about a decade later but the influence of Goosebumps on my creativity cannot be denied. They were gateway books. Stine led to King led to Ketchum led to Laymon and so forth. Without those cheesy/awesome covers, it’s possible I wouldn’t have written the now infamous (not) Curse of the Scorpion, which means I wouldn’t have become a writer at all. That’s truly some scary stuff.
I love my horror, especially longer form, with a side of pulp. In fact the pulpier, the better, and I ain’t talking juice here. I’m talking straight up, balls to the wall, unadulterated horror goodness. Bring on the guts and gore and sex and so forth.
I think the term “pulp” sometimes carries a negative connotation, as if it means the material’s not “literary,” another term I’ve always had trouble understanding. I’m terrible with categorizing things so I’ll leave that to someone else.
I recently read Witch Island by David Bernstein and loved the hell out of it. This guy writes pulp like you wouldn’t believe. This thing’s got witches, possession, gore, teens doing questionable things—it’s like an eighties slasher flick come to life. It’s everything I needed it to be and so much more, the kind of story that literally sucks you in, chews at your synapses until you’re a junkie, and spits you out when it’s finally over, making you beg for more.
I recently met David at AnthoCon, a speculative fiction convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He’s as nice as can be and freely offered up writing and publishing tips for hours upon hours. He writes like a maniac in terms of quantity, too. In the time it took you to read this paragraph, he’s finished a book and has already started another one. How’s he do it, you ask? I’m firmly convinced he made a pact with some demon and thankfully so.
I’m about to read an advanced copy of his forthcoming novel Goblins and I can’t wait. Bring on the pulp and make it bloody.
Here’s an interesting question: will I still be reading and/or writing horror in the year 2045? Look, I’m no psychic, though I am, in my own humble opinion, fairly intuitive. Sometimes I get hunches and said hunches turn out to be eerily close to reality. But I don’t need any hunches or psychic abilities to answer this question. Because the answer is painfully obvious: a resounding YES.
I’ve been obsessed with this stuff since I was in diapers. My parents let me see Nightmare on Elm Street before I was even in kindergarten. No, that’s not hyperbole. They came of age in the sixties, both former hippies, and they didn’t put a lot of boundaries on what I watched as a kid. I consumed every horror movie I could and an addiction was born, one that I’ve proudly fed more and more as the years have gone by, especially now that I’ve taken up writing. It’s a disease, really. One that I don’t wish to cure anytime soon. Just take a look at all the good horror writers out there right now, let alone those of yesteryear. There’s more awesomeness than I’ll ever be able to comprehend.
I’ve had my fair share of naysayers, telling me that horror isn’t a “real” genre, or that it’s not respectable. Well, it’s pretty damned real to me and I didn’t want their respect to begin with. I’m 28 now and my addiction shows no signs of slowing down. I’ll be reading and writing this stuff well into my golden years, when my skin will be just as saggy and wrinkly as Mr. Krueger himself. How’s that for full circle?
You can read my review of A Debt To Be Paid here.
If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer then please consider using the links below to buy any of the books mentioned in this feature or indeed anything at all from Amazon. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.
Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He currently spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable.
He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, his Pomeranian, his cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him.