While you wait, impatiently, to learn exactly which horror titles we are recommending for the coming year, our 2020 Author Spokesperson, Stephen Graham Jones, is here to prime us all for another wave of Summer Scares.
However, before I hand over the reigns to Jones, I wanted to remind you all that he has a new book coming out in May, The Only Good Indians. I gave this book a star in the January issue of Library Journal. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this book will not only be on every single best list of 2020, but it will also go down as a modern classic. It is that good. Those of you who follow my reviews know that I do not take saying this lightly, and you also know I have a VERY good track record on calling these things.
So while you wait for Summer Scares to begin in earnest tomorrow, go preorder The Only Good Indians and read this short essay by Jones himself below.
Someone’s always ringing the death knell for horror. It’s not a chainsaw like you might think, either, and it’s not the Wilhelm Scream like would make sense, and it’s not even John Carpenter’s 5/4 theme for Halloween. What I want this death knell to be is that Peterbilt from Duel, of course, shifting up into maximum overdrive, or Jack Torrance calling Wendy’s name in that vast lonely space, but this sound I’m looking for, that I keep hearing, it’s a lot more insidious, a lot more sinister, and, finally, it’s got bigger jaws.
What I’m talking about is what I heard real distant-like about . . . was it four years ago already? But then it really came on strong with the success of Get Out, followed shortly by Stephen King having a heyday that’s been more like a tidal wave we’re all riding: everybody’s talking about how horror’s booming again, everybody’s trying to be first to convince everybody else that horror rises in times of unrest, that it reflects our anxieties back to us, that horror is the perfect mirror for now, just like it was in the last golden age, long about the eighties.
That’s not wrong, either. Horror can and does serve society just in that way—not on purpose, necessarily, but just because it’s a genre built on dread and terror, and it’s natural for writers to write the dread and terror they’re caught in onto the page, either as exorcism (you vomit up what’s ailing you) or because the way you kill the flies is to smush them onto the table you’re already sitting at.
Horror is the perfect vehicle for our current set of concerns, horror is most definitely booming.
But built into every boom is a bust, right?
That’s the death knell I keep hearing. That’s the evil snicker that follows all those claims that horror is right for right now: horror’s current domination will end like it did last time, staggering under the weight of its own excess. Without a hard reset, an escalation this persistent will just become a steady shriek, won’t it? The kind you learn to tune out? Or, to say it cleaner: all love affairs cool down.
By definition, and going along with what history would teach us, yeah, this might be the case. But there’s another way, too. There’s all of us writing the horror so well and so permanent that, once this bubble of ‘now’ has passed, the audience’s taste for horror will linger. The love affair doesn’t have to end, does it? Sometimes a love affair becomes a marriage, and goes until death do us part, and, since this is horror, death isn’t really even that much of a barrier, is it?
Michael Myers is back, I mean. Danny Torrance just bellied up to that bar to shoot the important bull with Lloyd. And the shelves, man, they are on fire. No, no—this is horror. Those shelves are running red, and they’re not scabbing over anytime soon. And now, with Summer Scares we’ve managed to pull a few necessary books from that gorefest, and respectfully submit them for your reading, um, pleasure.
---Stephen Graham Jones
February 13, 2020