Sunday 4 October 2015

GUEST POST: Confessions of my Past, Present and Future #12 - Evans Light

Confessions of my Past, Present and Future


Evans Light

The Past

I was fortunate to be surrounded with books from a young age, to have a family that valued the written word. If I go way, way back to my earliest childhood memories, my favorite books were Jack in the Sack by Ken Wagner, and The Fourteen Bears in Summer and Winter by Evelyn Scott. The former was my first exposure to a tale with a twist ending (spoiler alert for Jack in the Sack: the child space explorer was on Earth the whole time!) and The Fourteen Bears created a whole cozy world within its lavish illustrations.

During my childhood there was a fairly long stretch of time – nearly a decade - when television sets weren’t permitted in my home. Fortunately, there was a small branch library across the street from my elementary school; in my free time during the years between first and eleventh grade I read a large chunk of that library, anything and everything that struck my fancy, fiction and nonfiction alike. This was during the 80’s and the books in that library weren’t exactly kept up to date, so much of what I read during that time was classics and older works.

Charles Schultz’ Peanuts was my go-to for humor as a child, and the fact that I read favorites C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and T.S. White’s The Once and Future King (which to this day I consider to have the most magical prose I’ve ever seen) dozens of times might make one think that I would grow up to become a fan of fantasy literature; but beyond those specific examples I never cared much for the genre. My father loved Tolkien and constantly encouraged me to give it yet another try, but it literally bored me to sleep.

Science fiction was another matter altogether. I devoured the works of Jules Verne as though they were hot off the presses. When I discovered there was a sequel to From the Earth to the Moon I relentlessly pestered the local librarian to track down a copy for me.

Jules Verne led me to the works of H.G. Wells, which was a step closer to horror. Wells led to Asimov, which brought me to Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicle’s. Bradbury’s story Usher II in TMC either led to or coincided with my discovery of Edgar Allan Poe - the memories are hazy now, but my love of horror was born. Once I got my hands on the collected works of Poe, there was no turning back. I moved on to Hawthorne and Shirley Jackson.

My attempts to possess and read modern popular horror by authors like Stephen King were thwarted by parental controls during the early eighties, so I sought it out in other forms, such far-out religious literature that was self-proclaimed as “Recommended Reading for Adults and Teens”.

The Christian comics of Jack T. Chick never failed to excite. While the parents thought maybe I’d get some “Old-Time Religion” while reading them, I was thrilled by garish artwork and gruesome storylines on par with anything published in genuine horror fiction during the eighties. Works by sensationalistic doomsday prophecy “experts” such as Salem Kirban were also allowed, so I had to make do with what I had available to me at the time. I’ve always disagreed with the hateful and paranoid philosophies espoused by these propagandists of the extreme religious right, but their fervent commitment to their worldview only served to heighten the entertainment value for me.

Once I’d moved along to a less restricted reading environment during my later teen years, the discovery of a hardcover full-color collection of classic Tales from the Crypt comics at the library was nothing short of a revelation. During this time The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy and the short stories of Ray Bradbury influenced me greatly, along with the early works of King (Salem’s Lot and It being particular favorites), Koontz and numerous other pulp paperback horror writers.

Unfortunately, having become used to returning volumes to the library after reading them, I seldom kept books I read, instead passing them along for others to enjoy. As a result, I have a fairly sketchy recollection of the books I read by lesser-known authors during the 80’s. I do know for a fact that The Feeding by Leigh Clark passed through my hands during this time - though I don’t recall enjoying the story nearly as much as the cover.

I’ve dug deeper and deeper into horror fiction as the years have gone by, always searching for that elusive combination of thrilling adventure, fresh imagination, shocking surprise, and a sense of humor to match the horror.

I continued to read outside the genre as well, however. A few of the non-horror works that impressed me during my younger years were Peter Matthiessen’s At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Jane Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs, and the America 2040 sci-fi series for its deft ability to pack so much movement into so few words (a series which I later was surprised to learn was written by none other than Hugh Zachary, of Gwen in Green fame).

The Present

Most recently, the stack of books on my nightstand has been a pleasant mix of new fiction and horror classics I’ve missed the first time around. Recent standouts for me include Michael Talbot’s Night Things (which initially put me off with its horrible hardcover art), the excellent brand-new horror anthology Eulogies III from HW Press, Rick Hautala’s short fiction collection Bedbugs, John Everson’s fun The Family Tree and Cage of Bones, Bill Pronzini’s Night Freight collection, a re-read of Kealan Patrick Burke’s wonderful novel Kin, Gregor Xane’s fiercely original and madness-inducing The Hanover Block, and Fine Frights, a stellar (and somewhat hard-to-find) collection edited by Ramsey Campbell.

Even though it’s been a little longer since I read it, Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 (NOS4R2 to my British friends) was a masterpiece of horror and dark fantasy that no one should miss.

In the near future, I’m looking forward to finishing Edward Lorn’s serial novel Cruelty, reading Wurm by Matthew J. Costello, The Kill by Alan Ryan, and checking out Jason Parent’s new novel, Seeing Evil. I’m also still working my way through Joe R. Lansdale’s massive Bleeding Shadows collection, and might start on Michael McDowell’s Blackwater Chronicles after that. There’s certainly no shortage of stellar fiction in my foreseeable future.

The Future

I’ll be seventy-three in 2045, should I manage to make it that long. I’d like to think that I’ll still have what it takes to give readers their money’s worth at that point, that I’ll have become a much more accomplished and skilled writer than I am today.

I can’t imagine horror not being part of whatever genre in which I may work. To me, horror is simply part of life, a manner of confronting our darkest fears and taking comfort that despite how bad life can get, it’s not that bad - at least not yet. It’s going to end badly. It’s just a matter of how and when. Keeping that in mind makes the present seem a little better, somehow.

If I’m still around in 2045, I’ll be grateful regardless of whether I’m still writing or not – though I can’t imagine not writing as long as I’m up and around, whether people still care to read it or not. I’ve got a list of story ideas and outlines that goes on and on, enough to keep me busy for decades to come. Knowing that I’ve got enough books to read and enough stories to write to last a lifetime makes me one happy man indeed.

You can read my review of Screamscapes here.

You can buy Screamscapes here:

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EVANS LIGHT has been in love with the written word from an early age, and works in a variety of genres, but stories of the "Weird Tales" variety remain his favorite.

Frequently drawn to uncommon experiences, Evans has thrown himself headfirst into a wide range of unusual situations, from testing low-level-entry parachutes with British Army Airborne units to travelling the vast reaches of inner space using sensory deprivation tanks.

Evans has lived here and there across the United States, from the mountains to the beaches to the desert, and currently chooses to reside in a southern state where the weather is warm and living is easy. He is the proud father of fine sons and the lucky husband of a beautiful wife.

His brother, Adam Light, is also a bestselling horror writer, and the two frequently collaborate as "THE LIGHT BROTHERS".

And for more about Evans, visit his site or find him on social media:

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