Zombies: Kids! Did you know you can use Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to make zombies? By Wil McCarthy, who wrote two novels I liked and many others I've not gotten around to. (Via /dev/null, who reproduces a tribute to the Little Prince.) "And I say to any flesh-eating zombies who might be listening to the Factor this evening: Bill O'Reilly is looking out for you." (For more zombies, see Destroy All Bookmarks!.)
Vampires: Carmilla is free online, along with many other good stories by J. Sheridan LeFanu. (The Oxford collection of LeFanu's stories is nice, too.) I've always thought this was a much better-written book than Dracula. It's worth noting, though, that the traditional eastern European vampire was not a pale, skinny, strangely seductive aristocrat, but a fat, red-faced peasant whose carnal designs on the living are limited to their blood, such as drips from his (fangless) mouth, and in many ways corresponded pretty well to what peasants would find if they opened up Uncle Ivan's grave after a few weeks. The whole sexual aspect of vampirism — now, apparently, its main selling point — appears to have been invented by 19th century writers in western Europe (paging Dr. Praz, paging Dr. Mario Praz, to the locked stacks please). — It would be a shame to pass up this opportunity to plug, again, Suzy McKee Charnas's The Vampire Tapestry, unquestionably the most intelligent interpretation of the modern vampire.
"I can't get that monster out of my mind": If you want to know why we're fascinated by stories of being preyed upon by monsters, Barbara Ehrenreich's observations on the effects of several million years of predation on the hominid psyche is a good place to start. (Here's chapter 1.)
All too definable horrors: Ultimately, as Bradbury's readers know, Halloween is about death; and we turn to magic because grief and loss are intolerable. For a wrenching reminder of just how intolerable, read Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking — here is a long, moving excerpt, and here is a review by John Leonard, in the New York Review of Each Others' Books. (How good a writer is Didion? Well, while she was going crazy with grief, she was able to write like this.)
Posted at October 31, 2005 21:14 | permanent link