As the good things of day begin to droop and drowse,
Night’s black agents to their preys did rouse.
It’s the season of the spooky; when the internet slowly fills up with people sharing art of skeletons, and not just the ones they want to have sex with. In the United States and Canada, the days are growing colder, the leaves are turning, and people are staying in to watch horror movies or TV shows. The Satanists are up to something, I think, and there are probably some variety of ghoul or witch about under the doorsteps, which is where I guess they hang out.
Here on Press, October is dread month. The Story and Game Piles are about horror media, games and media that gets to delve into things like slashers and guts and serial killers and hauntings and all that.
I also like to do what I call dread readings this month. There are a lot of classic horror stories; short stories that just happen to be public domain. Most people I know just haven’t read them, and I haven’t read them in some time. There’s a performance to horror stories that I like a great deal, as well, and for many of these stories I think there’s something to be said about just sharing them. You’re not going to go and read August Derelith, let’s be honest. But maybe, if you pay attention to this blog, you might click a link and listen to me as I share with you some of those classic horror stories I heard as a child.
Dread is a potent, heady mixture. Horror is playful; horror is about taking the unnatural and the bizarre and ramping them up through layers of reality. Oh, sure, zombies are a metaphor for a thing, but zombies, themselves, aren’t a thing. In horror, you settle into the deliberate play with your imagination, with your identity. Slasher movies represent spree killers that even now are funhouse mirror versions of things that we do have in our lives and our reality. A real life spree killer with a knife is often panicky and hasty, killing people with knives creates mess and sound and they tend to be panicky and stupid. In a lot of ways, these stories are, again, a twisted mirror. Hell, they’re often basically a sort of superhero story – where the superhero is going around killing off a bunch of people ‘who deserve it.’
But Dread, dread is not playful. Dread is not funny or cute or jokey. Dread is the nagging feeling in the back of the mind that says something about this is true. It’s the growing, blossoming darkness in the breast, it’s drawing lines between terrible things and everyday things, and getting used to the way they’re connected. It’s about knowing cursed things, and being able to withstand the curse.
And so I do Dread month. A month where yes, we play around with the horrible and the nasty and the dark and the macabre, but where there is always going to be some of that element of dread. Some of the awareness that these dangerous ideas have some connection to real people. About how dark comedy has to admit to its own darkness, about what a smile hides. Dread month can be spooky and goofy, yeah — but dancing in the shadows means admitting what the shadows are. It means recognising that we are pushed to the edges, that we live on the outside, because our borders are patrolled, and not from the inside.
Don’t worry, it won’t be all grim.
I’m going to dunk on HP Lovecraft more, it’ll be fun.