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Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Discussion: What Scares You?

I know, I know, Halloween was yesterday, but last Monday was too early for this discussion.  Also, I am totally preoccupied with finishing the second edition of the horror book that I don't have much else on my mind these days.

One of the reasons people read horror books is that they like to feel scared.  But what frightens a specific reader is a completely personal thing. And, what is terror inducing to a reader one day, may not frighten them in the least the next.

Let's take me as an example. I am fine with zombies, vampires, mummies, monsters, ghosts, etc... You name a traditional horror character and I will love reading the book it is in, but I will not be terrified. The most fear I have ever felt reading a novel came 5 years ago when I read The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks for the second time.

I realize this is a strange statement, since The Year of Wonders is a historical fiction book about a town that was infected with the plague and closed itself off to stop it from spreading. So, let me elaborate. I read this book the first time and enjoyed it. When I first read it, I had no children.  The second time I read it, it was for a book discussion, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

The book revolves around a female narrator, who tells you from the start that she was the only surviving member of her family.  As she goes back to the beginning of the story, I read along as her 3 year old and 3 month old children catch the plague and die from it. At that moment, as I read the book for the second time, I happened to be the mother of a 3 year old and a 3 month old. I was terrified. I was constantly checking my kids for fever. I couldn't sleep. It was horrible.  Now that my kids are 8 and 5, I am sure that this book would not affect me in the same way.

Right now, I am avoiding books about writers not finishing their books because that is my current nightmare.

So for today's post-Halloween Monday discussion, what terrifies you when you read?

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Alex said...

great discussion topic (well, maybe "great" isn't the best word....)

reading about loneliness / aloneness / misunderstandings generally terrifies me.

The interpreter of maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri, plunged me into a period of insomnia, for instance.

But, as with you, that could have been bad timing: I read it when I was living alone for the first time. The stories of missed connections and love found and then lost just made me feel like no one could ever really know someone else.

John BPL RA said...

I've been jaded from years of horror consumption but one thing that still scares me is horror with a high probability of actually happening. Ghosts, vampires, aliens etc... are great but we all know it's never gonna happen and it is little more than a joke if you are a veteran of horror reading. Stories about insane people still scare me. Sometimes disease stories do IF they are realistic enough (most are not). Serial killers are still scary only if they are really authentic and brutal. We've all seen REAL serial killers in the media and the midwest has had more than any area on Earth. Can you, as an author, come up with a character more scary than John Wayne Gacy? How about Dahmer? If not, don't waste my time. I've seen worse on the news. One thing I still find scary that is almost never used anymore is mob or gang violence. I don't mean mafia stories - those are a dime a dozen. Remember tales of biker gangs terrorizing whole towns after killing the sheriff? Remember drug lords taking over urban areas a la The Crow? Whatever happened to them? They were so great. Sometimes they would beat people to death. NOBODY in horror uses beating as a method of killing anymore. They had cool clothes too. Leather vests and chains and boots with spikes and Marlon Brando. I miss them. I truly do.

MMD -PA said...

Your entry reminded me of the one book I had to STOP reading because it was just too disturbing. "The Deep End of the Ocean", because at that time I too had young children. The first passage about where she first noticed the child gone gave me such a stomach ache I could not continue!

Anonymous said...

I agree! I think I love horror films and literature because there is an aura of safety in being afraid of unseen things, demons, ghosts and those who do not really exist. Evil in the form of the supernatural does not exist-therefore safe. Evil in the form of what people chose to do does exist, or in Becky's example of the plague, something real that we have no control over. That's what scares me too!

Books about the zodiac killer, or the plague, or 911 are infinitely more horrifying than ghost stories!