Something Wicked This Way Comes–Free ARC Giveaway

These days it seems the world is full of scary things, the most recent being the super-storm that just slammed the East Coast.  I have relatives who can remember when the Hurricane of 1938 hit New York. Back then meteorologists had no idea what they were dealing with. And while technology and weather science has advanced greatly since then, the experience of living through a hurricane–and the “living through” part is the best case scenario–is as traumatic as ever. When it comes to instilling shock, awe, and abject terror, Nature pretty much trumps anything man-made.

Talking of which, today is Halloween. Under present circumstances, it might seem a bit . . . quaint to be scared of things like bats, witches, ghosts, and vampires. On the other hand, maybe a little make-believe scary is just what we need at times, to distract us from the all too real scary confronting us on television, the internet, or in newspaper headlines.

I loved Halloween as a child–dressing up as someone or something else, going trick or treating (and when you’re a little kid, yeah, it’s all about the candy), and the deliciously eerie experience of being out at night, often way past my bedtime, and seeing the neighborhood houses decorated for the occasion. Jack o’ lanterns, glowing skulls, tombstones on the lawns, cardboard cut-outs of witches, bats, and black cats in windows, ghostly shapes of white crepe paper hanging from the branches of trees. There was always at least one house on the block that went full out and got itself up as a haunted house, complete with flashing lights, spooky music, and recordings of thunder.

As an adult, I have a slightly different perspective on Halloween, especially after several years of dealing with kids hyped up on excitement and way too much sugar. Namely, I’m openly glad that they get to enjoy themselves for the night–and secretly relieved that Halloween doesn’t last longer. All the same, I retain a nostalgic fondness for the holiday–and for a touch of make-believe scary.

Personally, I prefer my scary laced with humor or whimsy. Straight-up horror just isn’t for me–if you ever managed to persuade me to see a horror film, I’d be the one peeking through my hands or getting up to use the bathroom or buy popcorn during the goriest parts. I don’t read Stephen King, who’s much too accomplished at what he does. The movie tie-in edition of Carrie, featuring a blood-drenched Sissy Spacek on the cover, was responsible for at least one nightmare when I was young and impressionable. Ditto for the cover of Frank DeFelitta’s reincarnation horror novel, Audrey Rose (it was the girl’s crazy eyes that creeped me out, seriously).

So when I want a taste of make-believe scary, I go for things like The Addams Family movies (Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia are Morticia and Gomez for me, and Christina Ricci is a pitch-perfect Wednesday). Or even Charles Addams’ original cartoons of the family. And for years It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was a viewing staple in our house. And the Chuck Jones adaptations of Kipling’s Jungle Book stories, while not seasonal, were wonderfully dark, atmospheric, and–in the case of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi–spine-tingling. Nag, Nagaina, and Krait were as frightening as any human villain–possibly more so. More recently, The Nightmare Before Christmas has become an occasional favorite, though one could argue indefinitely as to whether it should be considered a Halloween or a Christmas film.

When it comes to scary stories with humorous undertones, it’s hard to beat Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which inspired the above painting by John Quidor (1858). And there was a collection of delightfully macabre poems, Shrieks at Midnight, that I would frequently check out from the library, even committing some of the poems to memory. Delightfully macabre also describes the poetry and illustrations of the late Edward Gorey (even his surname is perfect!).

So, dear readers–or anyone else who happens to be stopping by, what are some of your favorite things about Halloween? Do you prefer your scary straight-up or played for laughs? I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Moreover, from now until its release date in December, I will be giving away an ARC of my (non-scary!) debut novel Waltz with a Stranger on a weekly basis. This week’s winner will be randomly chosen from among the commenters on this post.

Happy Halloween!

10 thoughts on “Something Wicked This Way Comes–Free ARC Giveaway

  1. Didn’t we go and see the Addams Family movies together? I feel the same, no one will ever play Gomez and Morticia like they did!

    There have been a couple of stylish and suitably scary ghost films that have been made in recent years that I’ve liked: The Others is one of them, excellently acted and a wonderful twist at the end. I also very much liked the Sixth Sense. I was a little too exhausted on Halloween this year to do more than sort of glance at a scary movie on TCM, but hopefully next year I’ll do an Addams Family marathon, and possibly a scary ep of Doctor Who!

    Meanwhile, the biggest of congratulations on your book coming out. I’m so very pleased for you, as I’ve said! And now that the election is over (we won, yay!!!) I can devote myself to more scholarly pursuits again. And also to reading full novels, since I’ll have time to do more reading! Yay! I shall buy myself a copy and send it off to you, after I’ve read it, so you can sign it for me!

    1. Yes, we saw both Addams Family films together–well, the three of us, you, L., and I–and The Nightmare Before Christmas as well. I’m on the fence about watching The Sixth Sense–maybe I’ll rent the DVD sometime and watch during broad daylight!

      What qualifies as a scary Dr. Who ep.for you? I remember Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror at Fang Rock having a period “horror” feel. Image of the Fendahl was scary too. Or would you go for the most recent incarnation of Dr. Who?

      Thanks for the congratulations! I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out. Less than 4 weeks now–yikes!

  2. I of course love Tom Baker, but I was thinking of the more recent Doctor Who eps. Episodes like Blink and the two-parter with the Master at the end of Series 3. I actually never found any of the old series that scary, actually. Fun and suspenseful yes, but not scary. The budget was too small to really allow for the kind of effects that could make for really believable monsters, except for the Daleks. They’ve always frightened me and they continue to do so. The more recent version of the Cybermen have been pretty terrifying too, the whole assimilation thing. Just like I find the Borg from STNG frightening for the same reason.

    I do recommend the Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis gives one of his best performances, IMO – his other best being in Unbreakable.

    1. True, Classic Dr. Who did have ineffably cheesy special effects. Part of its charm, I suspect! A big budget can certainly up the scare factor. On the other hand, look how eerie The Twilight Zone managed to be, at probably a fraction of the cost expended on theatrical horror films. It really is the writing that makes the biggest difference.

      Daleks were ruthless killing machines–that’s probably what makes them so frightening. You can’t reason with them or move them–they just blow you away. The fact that they look like animated pepper pots doesn’t take away from that, strangely enough.

      1. You are right about Twilight Zone, but somehow they always came across as scarier, maybe because they were made to be thrillers and Doctor Who really isn’t, especially the Classic DW.

        Yeah, actually the eps in which the Daleks are made to come off as somewhat sympathetic in the more recent series has been very interesting, because the writers are trying to work with the old image of the Daleks and find different ways to somehow humanize them. But it doesn’t ever work, somehow they always turn those scary eliminating rays on some poor unsuspecting victim, armed only with some ineffective bullet-based weapon, and zap, that’s the end of them.

        Have you seen any of the recent Doctor Who eps? I’m quite fond of many of them, particularly the episode from Series 5 where the Doctor and Amy meet up with Vincent Van Gogh. It’s not as cheesy as it sounds, it’s really quite moving. I’m also mad for the Christmas Carol-like ep from a year or so ago. It had a Welsh soprano, Catherine Jenkins, as the heroine and her voice is sublime! Plus it had dear old Michael Gambon playing a Scrooge-like character. Oh, and flying sharks in the atmosphere. Great stuff!

  3. True enough! I recommend renting the newer series. It’s a lot spiffier, the writing is really good and in some ways it’s a bit more real, less goofy. Though it still has its goofy moments.

    My immersion in fandom and fanfiction has me going on about these things at length, trying to “pimp” things. So do excuse my going on! I’m all about DW and Sherlock these days.

    At any rate, I owe you a long-ish email, now that I am not wrapped up in the election. And we can catch up with each other’s obsessions that way!

    Meanwhile, I wait with baited breath for your new book! Yay!

    1. My own TV watching has dropped quite a bit in the last few years. But I can be tempted out from behind whatever book I’m reading for a new season of Downton Abbey. And sometimes, Jeopardy! Or, now and then, a good figure skating competition, although i don’t follow the sport as obsessively as I used to.

      Anyway, it’s nice to have shows to be excited about, and I look forward to that email!

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