Monday, October 24, 2011

There is no delight the equal of dread

Now I'm onto part 2 of Horrorscapes called The Horror We Do. Sometimes horror is caused by the supernatural and sometimes it's just people who suck. I guess that's the simplified way of describing it but I am here to simplify.  The horror that we do  is, in general, my preferred type of horror fiction. I may get freaked out watching the supernatural stuff* as well, but it's the horrors coming from the mundane, the realistic stuff,  that keeps me awake at night.

So I figured I do 2 quick mini-reviews of the stories in this part because I can't pick just one to talk about. So here we go:

The Horror We Do
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Dread by Clive Barker
Something About Camilla by Juleen Brantingham

First up, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. Have you read this one yet? If not, just stop reading this and go read it. *This is absolutely going to contain spoilers. Really the fact that I'm writing about it as a horror story is already kind of a spoiler so I apologize for that. If you had just read it already, we wouldn't be in this mess*
This is a messed up story that makes me repeat "WTF people?" when I finish it. Seriously, every time I have that reaction, even when I know what's coming. According to the intro before the story, when this was first published in The New Yorker many people were "disturbed to the point of cancelling their subscriptions," which is awesome. I want to get that powerful of a reaction out of people. Granted I just picture people with monocles and top hats reading this and then crying "Good heavens!" or "What the devil?!" when they get to the end, so it may not be the most difficult group to shock, but still. It starts out so innocently, with a small town and everyone taking part in this lottery that at first sounds kind of like a game. Then slowly you get these feeling that something is off but you can't figure out what. And then it ends with a lady being stoned to death by her friends and family and how can you finish this and not be like WTF? and have your monocle go flying off? It's so scary because these seem like normal people. There's nothing sinister about them or the town; they're just doing what they've always done. And that is the scary part. They're doing it because they've always done it and how many things can you think of people do just because it's always been done that way?
*Spoilers are contained, but seriously, just read the story.*

Now I need to mention Clive Barker's "Dread" because it also makes you go WTF people, but you don't have the same innocence that is part of "The Lottery". It's also much more violent, much more graphic, than anything else in the book so far. The character Quaid is looking to study and understand dread. And isn't that, on some level, what anyone reading horror fiction is doing? You want to be scared from a safe distance. Goshgarian says in the intro to Horrorscapes
What horror fiction does is allow us to partake in horror and terror at a distance. It's a safe way of giving into primitive pleasure, of speculating about unseen powers, impossible creatures, and a dark nature. It's a way of getting scared without being scared.
Quaid doesn't want to be scared, but he wants to experience and understand other people's dread. Which means the other people must be scared. He argues the concept as a philosophical notion and he can riddle prettily, but he's interested in more than just the academic side of things. I suppose it's the difference between reading something in a book and learning about it first hand. It's just messed up when other people's dread is what you're most interested in.

I'm trying to keep this one spoiler free, so you don't have to actually read all of these stories in order to read the post. So again I'll just repeat how my professor described Barker: "[The] stories are powerful and raw. The violence is extreme, the sex explicit, and the horror exquisite." Enjoy.

"Something About Camilla" is a good story and if it wasn't up against these other two I would definitely enjoy it more. But these are two powerful stories and it's hard to compete with them.

Title quote from page 55, from the story "Dread" by Clive Barker.

Goshgarian, Gary ed. Horrorscape. Kendall Press, 1993.

*Seriously, don't watch The Walking Dead with me. I am normally a very passive TV/movie viewer but that show seems to require me to spend half the time screaming and the other half yelling instructions to the characters. Like "in the brain, you moron!" when characters seem to spend time hacking at other parts and that is a total waste of time and quit using your gun, you know the noise only draws more of them to you!