The doctor (of horror) is in

Dr. Erin Harrington is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Canterbury. Her area of expertise? Monsters, murderers and all things sinister and unsettling – or more specifically, the horror genre.

Dr Erin Harrington, University of Canterbury. Image supplied.

Harrington is giving a free talk at the university next week on just this topic. Being something of a horror enthusiast myself I was keen to pick her brains (not literally), about why people are drawn to movies and stories that, superficially at least, should make us run a mile.

What is it about horror that appeals to you particularly, as opposed to other genres?

I ask myself this every day! I have always liked horror – I have fond memories of going to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland when I was 6 years old – so there’s something fundamental about the way that scary stories are able to communicate with us that really appeals to me, just as other people might respond to fantasy or westerns. I think I always liked how evocative and transgressive horror can be. It’s a place where boundaries can be pushed, and where we can think through big or challenging ideas, or explore frightening things in a secure space, much in the way that slumber party ghost stories can be both thrilling and safe. There’s a visceral pleasure to horror, as it can range from the horrifying or thrilling to the hilarious or gross. I also think I just like monsters a lot.

Does studying horror academically make it more difficult to enjoy as pure entertainment?

It can do. It’s harder to switch off, as you become really aware of the cinematic language that they are using, and a lot of films are quite derivative, but the best films will draw you in no matter what. Sometimes watching films can feel a bit like homework, which is frustrating. Weirdly, it has made me appreciate average or even quite bad films a bit more, as I can kinda see what they are trying to do, or how they connect to other films within the genre and subgenres, even if they fail spectacularly. Perhaps it’s like being an expert cheese taster – you eat enough of the stuff that you come away with an affection for even the stinkiest gloop.

I love horror but my partner does not. Which one of us is right? Or rather, why is it that some people love to be scared but others loathe it?

You are both right (sorry). We all have different tastes in terms of the sorts of stories we respond to, and this will include how those stories are told – their imagery, the way they sound, their pace and so on. Not all horror films are graphic, but people definitely have varying levels of tolerance for images of fictional violence. Additionally, all film plays with our emotions, but some make us have a more physical reaction than others – comedies make us laugh (hopefully), emotional films might make us feel sentimental or sad, and so on. The emotions and sensations that come up with horror can be quite complex, and some people are just more comfortable with uncertainty or ambiguous feelings. Fear, dread, terror and horror all play with a shift between tension and release that some people find more interesting and stimulating than others. For example, I get really frustrated with films that have a lot of jump scares, as I don’t like being startled, but I find films that are unsettling or disturbing, or that have provocative imagery, or that retell familiar stories in new ways both rewarding and challenging. Some of us just like stories about monsters.

What should horror-fans (or the horror-curious) expect from your free talk at University of Canterbury?

I’m going to talk about some of the reasons people get pleasure or satisfaction from horror, but I’ll also look at the unique ways that horror can tell stories. I hope this helps the horror-phobic better understand why they may not respond to these films well, and prompts horror lovers to think about their own reactions to films. Whether people are horror newbies or experts, I want them to come away with an appreciation for how broad and diverse the genre is, but also but also how entertaining it can be. A lot of horror is really funny, and I reckon there’s a horror film for everyone.

Which movies or books would you recommend for those wanting to indulge in some horror research of their own?

How to Survive a Horror Movie is a really fun guide to horror tropes, and it looks at a lot of the most notable horror films from the last few decades. It can be really helpful to understand how horror films have changed over time, how they’ve reflected their own era’s fears and anxieties, and how they have influenced later films. Horror Films of the 1990s and Shock Value both do a good job of exploring context while highlighting significant films and shifts in tastes and subgenres.

Oscar-nominated film Get Out is one of the best horror movies in years, and easily one of the best films of 2017 full stop. It’s a great gateway film for the horror-phobic. If you’re after some international horror, then moody Iranian supernatural horror Under the Shadow, Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow and action-packed South Korean zombie film Train to Busan are all pretty nifty.

It’s not in the library catalogue, but Stephen King’s 1981 non-fiction book Danse Macabre is still one of the best books out on the history of literary horror, even though it’s close to 40 years old.

Anything else you want to say about anything horror-related?

Monsters can be your friends too!

Find out more (if you dare!)

Strange weather: Four great reads in one

Previously, short stories have always been studiously avoided by me and I admit now, I might be guilty of misjudging them. Given that I always feel quite time poor you would think that short stories would rate quite highly with me, but this has never been the case. Until now. Joe Hill’s Strange Weather is an excellent collection of four short stories.

This is what you can look forward to:

Rain – America descends into chaos with sharp glass icicles raining from the sky with lethal results to those unfortunate enough to be caught outside. Of course it doesn’t take long for the vagaries of human nature to emerge and for polar changes to happen in people that used to coexist quietly together.

Strange Weather

Loaded –   Extra marital affairs, mental health issues and guns are never a good combination. America has a rather large gun problem and Loaded quite neatly flips between the pros and cons of easy access to guns while dealing with these issues. Like me; you may find yourself wishing that the good guy had a gun to hand by the end.

Snapshot – The story of a teenager that finds himself being threatened by the owner of a futuristic device that can steal aspects of a person’s memory with the click of a button. He has seen the loss and heartache that it causes to his old housekeeper and finds a way to prevent this from happening to other people.

Aloft – Imagine going skydiving for the first time. In addition to the terrifying thought of throwing yourself out of a perfectly good plane; you crash into a solid ‘cloud’ that can anticipate your needs and wants to keep you. And your only way off is to jump.

I had to stop myself wanting to know too much about why and how these things happened. That’s not what these stories are about. They are about ordinary people being thrust into extraordinary circumstances that change their lives forever. And they are really well written.

The best part about discovering an author that you really like is finding out that they have written plenty of other books for you to get your teeth into. Joe Hill is the author and co-author of several novels, graphic novels and short stories so why not try some of these other titles by him?

image_proxy[8]Cover of Road RageCover of The FiremanCover of Locke & Key: Heaven and EarthCover of NOS-4R2

And what about some short stories by other authors…

Cover of Everything's eventualCover of Match upCover f Legoland

Strange Weather
by Joe Hill
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781473221178

A novella idea…

Well the new year is underway and it’s another year of excellent reading ahead!

But if you’re struggling to get back into the rhythm of reading, or if the idea of a thick tome after weeks of recreation has you daunted, then I’ve got an idea for you; why not try a novella or two!?

A novella is a mid-length story that fits somewhere between a short story and a full blown novel. Many great authors have produced great works through this medium (some of them feature in this list!) and it’s a format worth celebrating, so here’s a list of stories in…

The Mid-Length Form

List created by DevilStateDan

Not quite a novel but longer than a short story; here’s a list of great reads in the shorter form of a novella and ranging from all over the world, across many genres and eras. There’s some big names (authors) in this list and a great way to read some classics without committing to a hefty tome! From Voltaire and Kafka, to Jack London and John Gardner – there’s something here for all tastes and all easily knocked over in one or two sessions.

Cover of The daylight gateThe Daylight Gate – A dark and violent story of witchcraft, witch-hunting, and human frailty. A stunning read by a great writer! It’s 165 pages will transport you back to the brutal times in 1600’s Lancashire

The Forensic Records Society – A group of men decide to create a society for the forensic appreciation of 7″ vinyl records, each taking turns to share their chosen song in silence. That is until a newcomer has different ideas as to how the society should work – are the originals open to change!?! Very humourous and insightful book by one of my new favourite authors. 182 pages.

Cover of McGlueMcGlue – A sailor with the mother of all hangovers tries to reassemble the happenings of the previous night. He’s now locked up and on a murder charge so things must’ve gotten out of hand. Amazingly dark and vivid descriptive writing from a Man Booker Prize shortlisted author. Just over 100 pages for this character to grasp some metaphoric life-raft of decency.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – A dreamlike discussion between an elderly man and his grandson outlines the confusing and heartrending circumstances of dementia. 76 pages of introspection and warmth.

Cover of The old man and the seaThe Old Man and the Sea – The classic and one of my all time favourite books. If you haven’t read this yet then do so now, it’s beautifully written and explores ideas of humanity, life, death, and more – all in under 130 pages!

Hunger – Published in the 1890s, this is about the abject poverty and desperation in he life of a young writer struggling to stay alive in the freezing streets of Oslo. Absolutely stunning writing and descriptive writing and a hidden classic that should be held in much higher regard than it is! This one’s a bit bigger at 232 pages, but well worth the extra time.

Cover of The subterraneansThe Subterraneans – A group of young wasters in NYC drift about doing not much else except try to find themselves and discover who they are. He’s a good writer and this is one of his best imho. Only 110 pages but crammed with quality.

Fifteen Dogs – The Greek Gods are a troublesome lot and two of their order have a bet about the nature of “intelligence”, so they bestow self-realisation upon fifteen dogs due to be destroyed. What happens after is shocking, funny, violent, heart-wrenching, and amazing. Great book at 170 or so pages.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – Classic horror right here with a young man drawn to the dark arts of witchcraft in Rhode Island. His dabbles with Hell become increasingly dangerous and with he himself becoming more deranged by the day. What’s going on behind his closed door at night and what are those strange lights…?!?! 127 pages will leave you freaked by the evil that men do!

Cover of GrendelGrendel – The Beowulf Tale but told from the perpective of the monster… but what if you had a deeper understanding of Grendel, about his feelings, his motivations – is he still so monstrous or are the monsters elsewhere!?!? This is an outstanding book beautifully written. So much in it for only 123 pages!

The Peculiar Life of A Lonely Postman – A curious tale of a postman who develops a love of haiku, and starts a poetic dialogue with a stranger that gets deeper and deeper. Maybe a case of mail fraud and stalking but delivered in such a light hearted and charming approach and only 119 pages.

Cover of Call of the wildThe Call of the Wild – A classic novella with the hardy Buck as our hero. A timeless and ageless adventure and survival story. It’s about love, loss, power and control, and the will to endure hardship through sheer inner strength. An amazing 79 page story for all ages.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – A harrowing yet beautiful look at 24hrs of life in a Stalinist Russian prison and labour camp. Our central character strives hard to maintain dignity in the face of inhumanity. Seemingly ordinary objects take on great significance in the quest for one’s own survival. A bleak and hard hitting read and a cult classic. 142 pages of grim determination.

Cover of Animal farmAnimal Farm – Another book that everyone should read. It’s very famous story of farm animals in revolt against their perceived oppressors is nowadays part of our very culture. If you’ve not read these 104 pages then do so now!

Metamorphosis and Other Stories – A man awakes to find himself transformed…. into a bug, and his (and his family’s) attempt to adjust to his new form. It’s about identity, social isolation, alienation, and loads of other heavy allegory that you don’t need to be aware of when getting into the 64 pages of weirdness and exposure!

Cover of The death of Ivan Ilyich & confessionThe Death of Ivan Ilyich – Explore the stages of grief with Ivan Ilych, who has just been diagnosed with an incurable illness that will soon see the end of him. He and his family travel the rocky roads of denial, anger, and finally acceptance over the course of the 114 pages. A great work by a great writer.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells is a giant in the world of fantastical sci-fi, and The Time Machine is arguably his greatest work. An eccentric inventor loses his beloved and seeks to travel through time to save her, but what he finds throughout the depth and breadth of human history is shocking, disturbing and thoroughtly inhuman. A brilliant piece of work in 118 pages.

Cover of the Third man & The fallen idolThe Third Man – Rollo is a writer. He writes cheap paperbacks. When his friend, Mr Lime, invites him to Vienna he jumps at the chance for an interesting journey. But Mr Lime has been killed before Rollo arrives and Rollo finds himself embroiled in a post-war Vienna noir thriller. A good suspenseful novella of 195 pages.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Other Stories – Another classic horror story that is so familiar to us nowadays, but if you’ve never read the book then you only know half the story! With lines like; ““I slept after the prostration of the day, with a stringent and profound slumber which not even the nightmares that wrung me could avail to break.” – how could you not love every word in its 110 pages…!?

Cover of The outsiderThe Outsider – A story in two parts; the first follows a young man on the fringes of identity with no aims or plans, when an incident occurs. The second part is the resulting consequences of that incident. French author Albert Camus is the king of the novella and this one is a beaut place to start if you’re new to his writing. 126 pages of thought provoking text.

Candide, Or, The Optimist – Candide is a well balanced young man who has been raised to see the best in the world, until he becomes embroiled with a local girl and is ousted from his wealthy family home. What happens next is a road trip like no other with adventurous deeds and arduous ordeals. A brilliant story in 135 pages.

Cover of Slaughterhouse 5Slaughterhouse-five – Butchery in the service of authority is the theme of this classic novella. It’s post-war absurdity, humour, and tragedy, and quite brutal – a great read in 185 pages!

View Full List

You’ll get through those in no time! So you might also want to check out Joyce’s list of tiny books.

Joyce Carol Oates: The Word Master

The Doll Master is the latest offering from Joyce Carol Oates (aged 79!).  And she’s as fresh as ever.

Highly recommended by Gillian Flynn, The Doll Master is a riveting collection of thrillingly sinister stories from the dark side of life.

All is not as it appears. Each protagonist has a secret. Each story has a twist.

In the title story, a boy collects dolls after the death of his cousin. But as he collects more, it becomes apparent that his obsession is unhealthy. What does it have to do with a series of child abductions? And who is the ‘friend’ that urges him on?

Oates uses the medium of mystery to cleverly and eloquently reflect very current social issues, from very different walks of life.

‘Soldier’ plays with our sympathies while looking at the sides taken after a mixed race (accidental?) shooting. Receiving death threats from some, yet heralded for bravery by others, Brendan Shrank maintains his innocence. But why did he pick up his Uncle’s gun that day?

‘Gun Accident’ takes a fine-toothed comb to a shocking home invasion, in which a young man is shot. But what secret does Hanna hold? Why has she never spoken about what really happened that night? Why is she paralysed with anxiety when she revisits the scene, twenty years later?

‘Equatorial’ had me thinking of Vonnegut‘s Galapagos. I just couldn’t get him out of my head. But it fits, in this whacky story of a woman convinced that her husband is trying to kill her. Is it all in her (pounding) head? Oates draws parallels between the lengths will they be driven to and the fight for ultimate survival. Only the fittest will prevail…

‘Big Momma’ addresses the problems of working single parents, poverty, runaways, body image and abduction (but boy with a twist!). Where is the Clovis’ mother? And who or what is Big Momma?

I love the fluent and easy way Joyce Carol Oates writes, the (conspiratorial) asides she whispers in brackets to the voyeuristic reader. Oates wields a lovely turn of phrase;

A single high window overlooks, at a little distance, the rough waters of the Atlantic that appear in the moonlight like shaken foil.

She avoids bad language, (barring ‘Gun Accident’) and is not wordy, except in the more literary Edgar Allen Poe influenced ‘Mystery Inc.’ In this Who’s Who of mystery writers, invoking The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, Oates narration becomes more classically sinister; her protagonist a predatory bookseller, intent on adding to his empire by foul means.But again, a twist: “Charles” entertains the idea of being partners with his mark, Aaron Neuhaus. Will he change his murderous mind? Or has Neuhaus become suspicious?

The six stories in The Doll Master are a good length, almost novellas. Although I’m not a mystery reader, I was riveted to each twisted little tale, and couldn’t put this book down.

I had to find out what would happen… Did he, or didn’t he? Will she or won’t she? Is it HIM?

Read on if you DARE!

Find out more

The Doll-master and other tales of terror
by Joyce Carol Oates
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN:  9781784971038

220th birthday anniversary of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein

In June 1816 a young woman awoke from a terrifying nightmare. Later, she would recount the vision which had left her so unsettled.

“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, at the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.”

What was the source of this night terror?

In the days prior, she, and a group of other English expatriates had spent their evenings gathered around the fireplace of Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Climatic changes, brought about by the eruption of Mount Tambora in Sumbawa, Indonesia, on April 10-11 1815, had left the world experiencing what later came to be termed ‘The Year Without Summer’. Temperatures plummeted and terrifying lightning storms raged across Europe. Forced to stay indoors, they read Das Gespensterbuch (German ghost stories which had been published in French in 1812 under the title Fantasmagoriana). Naturally, this gloomy atmosphere soon led to further discussions about ghosts, vampires, and the theories of reanimating the dead.

Frontispiece to Frankenstein, 1831. Wikimedia Commons.

Such was the impression that the nightmare had on the young woman, that she soon took pen to paper, turning it into a tale of her own. In doing so she was joining a Gothic literature tradition started by earlier novelists, including Eliza Parsons (1739-1811), Regina Maria Roche (1764-1845) and Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823).

When it was published in 1818, under the title Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, its author remained anonymous. Only later would the reading public learn that it had in fact been written by a woman.

Her name was Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.

An unconventional life

Born 30 August 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was the daughter of two intellectuals. Her father, William Godwin (1756-1836) was a writer and philosopher. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) also a writer and philosopher, was a proponent of women’s rights who, in 1792, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. Unfortunately, Mary Wollstonecraft died soon after giving birth, but her ideas would be inherited by her daughter who would often read her works during visits to her grave. From her father, Mary learned of the latest scientific endeavours. These included the experiments of Italian physician Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) who exposed the limbs of dead frogs to electricity in order to observe the movements, and his nephew, Giovanni Aldini (1762-1834) who built upon his uncle’s work by running electrical currents through the heads and bodies of executed criminals, causing their limbs to twitch and their mouths to open.

In 1814 Mary met the Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), at her father’s house. Although he was already married, the two formed a relationship and in July of that year they eloped to Europe. Accompanied by Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, they roamed through France before eventually arriving in Switzerland. Unable to survive on Shelley’s meagre savings, they eventually decided to return to England, via the Rhine River. In doing so they passed through a landscape of castles set atop prominent cliffs and hilltops, some of them in a ruined state. One such ruin they may have learned of, during a brief stopover in Mannheim, was the nearby Burg Frankenstein which was associated with alchemist and theologian, Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734) whose mysterious experiments had earned him a sinister reputation.

Burg Frankenstein, 2004. Wikimedia Commons.

Upon returning to England, the couple continued to live together. Mary later gave birth to a daughter on February 22 1815. Unfortunately the child died, leaving Mary to confess in her journal that she wished for a way to restore life to the deceased. In January 1816, she gave birth again, this time to a son.

The creation of the monster

By 1816 Percy Shelley’s health was deteriorating and his unpaid debts were increasing. In May they left England returning to Switzerland, where they joined another Romantic poet, Lord George Byron (1788-1824) and his physician companion, John William Polidori (1795-1821) on the shores of Lake Geneva.

On June 15, as a storm continued to rage outside Villa Diodati, the group decided to hold a ghost story competition. A few days later, Mary would soon find inspiration for her own story in the nightmare of a scientist reanimating a lifeless corpse. Although Frankenstein contained elements traditionally found in Gothic novels (ruined castles, dark forests, storms), it departed from the standard Gothic novel of the time in that, rather than dealing with the supernatural, its horrific features had their origins in science.

The success of Frankenstein allowed Mary Shelley to embark on a career as a novelist at a time when writing was still considered a masculine domain. She would proceed to write further titles, including the post-Apocalypitc novel, The Last Man (1826), before her death in 1851.

Interested in Gothic literature?

Rebecca Vaughan. Image by Ben Guest. Image supplied.

WORD Christchurch presents Madwomen in the Attic: where speakers Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, Moata Tamaira and Rachael King discuss the appeal of the gothic woman in literature.

Madwomen in the Attic. Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Wednesday 6 September, 8.30pm.

Read our Quick Questions interview with Rebecca Vaughan

Find out more

The Dark Tower: A Constant Reader worries

Last week’s release of the trailer for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower movie just about broke the internet, with fevered and passionate discussion about just how right or wrong the director had got things. Widely recognised as the most important of King’s works, The Dark Tower series is a ridiculously huge tale, with nearly 4300 words in eight novels, written over the course of 30 years. Simply put, it’s the story of Roland, the last gunslinger, who is working his way to the Dark Tower to take down the Crimson King. He is pursued by the man in black.

As a longtime Constant Reader, I have spent much of my grown-up life reading and rereading Stephen King novels.  My bookshelves are full of scary clowns, weird alien invasions, alcoholic hotel caretakers and needful things. I own all the books, have seen all the movies, and have definite thoughts on best and worst novels. I’ve downloaded the reading maps, sought out the editorials, and even fallen in love with the works of his son Joe.

Every reader who has a favourite author can feel nervous when books are turned into movies.  And it must be said that King’s movie adaptations can vary wildly in success, from the heady heights of The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, through the disturbing Misery, to the adorable but kind of dorky 1408, and the downright embarrassing Langoliers.

So you will understand when I say that I am not alone right now in feeling VERY nervous about the upcoming release of two of King’s most well-loved works. The trailer for It was released a few weeks ago, and in less than 3 minutes managed to scare the pants off most of the western world.  I have yet to watch it without covering my eyes every few seconds. And the Dark Tower trailer is mesmerising for different reasons. How can one movie even begin to show us a world that is described not only in the eight Tower books, but also appears in countless other of his tales, from The Talisman, to Insomnia, to Black House, The Stand and The Shining and more.

Cover of Black house Cover of The Stand Cover of The Talisman Cover of The Shining

There’s totally no time to go back and reread the whole series before the movie is out, and King has already told us that this particular story is not one of the original ones from the novels, but another of Roland’s journeys. So all I have to do now is sit, and wait, and like countless other Constant Readers, hope that this movie is at least good, and hopefully great, that Roland Deschain is a true gunslinger and that the man in black is every bit as dreadful and mesmerising as he is in the books.

And try to figure out if I will EVER be brave enough to watch IT.

Further reading

Spooky stuff for Halloween

All Hallow’s Eve is coming up and if you’re in the mood for some ghostly good times, have we got the books, movies and info for you!

For Kids

We’ve got some great Halloween-themed books for kids. You might want to try –

We’ve also got this handy Halloween guide with a little bit of history, Halloween crafts and costumes, and safety tips, like this video from New Zealand Police.

For Adults and Teens

If you prefer things a little darker, we’ve got that covered too.

Movies

  • Frightening Flicks – My choice of the best horror movies from our library catalogue. With gore rating, so you can pick the level of fake blood you’re comfortable with.

Award-winning horror

Maybe try some horrific winners?

  • Cover of A head full of ghostsBram Stoker Awards – Named after the author of Dracula, and run by the Horror Writers Association.
  • Sir Julius Vogel Awards – Named after a former New Zealand Prime Minister/science fiction novelist, the awards “recognise excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents”.

Halloween events in Christchurch

Halloween Party preparation

Cover of The Hummingbird Bakery Halloween and bonfire night bakesOr if you’re planning your own shindig, you’re going to need –

So that’s plenty of Halloween-y stuff to consume, just make sure you return it on time (or we’ll own your immortal soul, as per our library membership conditions*).

Not a library member yet? Join uuuuussssss

*Not really.

Loathly ladies: Women writing horror

Women writing wickedness: salute our sinister sisters by horrifying yourself this Halloween with some monstrous madams.

Horror can appear in different forms, and means many different things to many different people. It’s in whispers from an empty attic, it’s in jerky movements beyond the edge of the campfire, it’s in vast and unstoppable forces of evil or, scariest of all, in the things people do to each other. Like any emotion, it’s hard to perfectly pin down and describe, but these are books that may send a frisson of fiction down your spine…

Cover of 'Frankenstein' by Mary ShelleyIf you want to dig deep into the roots of the genre, one of the first horror writers of all was the fantastic Mary Shelley with her Frankenstein (also, basically the first science fiction writer ever, go Mary!)

Cover of 'The Lottery and other stories' by Shirley Jackson

Or prove to yourself that the classics still have the power to freak you out with Shirley Jackson. She’s inspired greats like Stephen King with her short stories, and her novels have a splendid atmosphere of terror. Her legacy is so great that the Shirley Jackson awards, given for outstanding physiological suspense, horror and dark fantastic fiction, commemorate her annually.

Cover of 'The Summer That Melted Everything' by Tiffany McDanielWant to know the best fictional name I have come across this year? In Tiffany McDaniel’s ‘The Summer that Melted Everything‘ one of our heroes – if you can call a man who publishes an invitation for the devil to come visit his sleepy backwater town a ‘hero’ – carries the incredible name of Autopsy Bliss. Strange accidents, deadly fevers, personal demons, and scariest of all, it’s set in the 80s…

For thirteen creepy, bloody, chilling tales, look beyond the more publicised male authors into the sinister hearts of these ghoulish gals:

Loathly ladies: Women writing horror – A Christchurch City Libraries list

Cover of 'Rise' by Mira Grant Cover of 'The Grownup' by Gillian Flynn Cover of 'Mayhem' by Sarah Pinborough  Cover of 'The Hidden People' by Alison Littlewood

Want even more? Head to Novelist Plus with your library card and pin, and try this list of horror titles by female authors.

Happy haunting… and keep the lights on.

Give your family Goosebumps

Cover of Classic Goosebumps CollectionI was a big fan of the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine when I was a kid. There weren’t a lot of scary, horror stories for kids around at that stage so Goosebumps were the go-to books if you wanted to scare yourself a little. There were always plenty to choose from and they were pretty quick reads. A search of the library catalogue tells me that we have 97 Goosebumps items in our libraries, which includes paper books, eBooks, and DVDs. That’s enough Goosebumps to keep you going for quite some time!

Earlier this year there was a Goosebumps movie released in cinemas which looked really good. My family and I didn’t get a chance to see it then but I hoped that we might get it in the library eventually. While perusing the catalogue last week I discovered we did have it on order and promptly reserved it. In our house, every Saturday night is Family Movie Night, where we choose a movie that we can all enjoy. Last week it was the Goosebumps movie and it was excellent!

Cover of Revenge of the Lawn GnomesThe movie follows a kid called Zach who moves to a small town and moves in next door to R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps books, and his daughter Hannah. When Zach hears screaming coming from next door one night he thinks that something horrible has happened to Hannah. He breaks in to try and rescue her but unwittingly unleashes the creatures from the Goosebumps books. The monsters that R.L. Stine made famous are real, and he protects his readers by keeping them locked in their manuscripts. One of R.L. Stine’s most evil creations, Slappy, releases the monsters one by one, and now it’s up to Zach and his friends to trap them back in their books where they belong. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine which is a perfect role for him as he’s a mix of manic and slightly crazy. The movie is the perfect mixture of funny and creepy so it’s ideal for both young and old Goosebumps fans.

Reserve the Goosebumps movie at the library now for your own family movie night. You can also check out all the other Goosebumps books and the Goosebumps TV series too.

Books to scare you silly this Halloween

Some of my favourite stories are ones that creep me out and send a chill down my spine. When I was a kid there weren’t many authors who wrote horror stories or ghost stories. R.L. Stine’s books were about the creepiest I could find and he’s still writing them today. If you look up R.L. Stine in the library catalogue, you’ll find we have 182 of his books (in paper book, eBook and audiobook format) in the library!

Cover of Maleficent Seven Cover of Spooks Cover of The beast

If you like horror stories, ghost stories or stories about the supernatural there are now lots of authors who write these stories. Some of my favourite seriously scary authors are:

You could also try these searches in the library catalogue:

Grab a book by one of these authors and scare yourself silly!

More Halloween stuff

Check out our page on Halloween crafts, costumes, and trick-or-treating.

Come and join in the Halloween fun at South Library from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 31 October.  Free activities including Story time with a Halloween theme, craft, treasure hunt and more. Suitable for families with children aged from 2 to 10.

Halloween