Why I’m glad I can still be scared by stories

If you follow me on Twitter in any way (I haven’t been terribly active there; working an 8-5 job cut back considerably on my social media time), you might have noticed that I mentioned that I was reading It by Stephen King.

I ended up checking this book out because I was looking for Tony Hillerman novels and happened to stumble across King’s section while in the middle of that search.* Now, I know that this book is regarded as a horror classic, but I knew nothing about it other than that there was an evil clown that had, in the film adaption, been played by Tim Curry.

That was literally all I knew about it.

So I figured that it couldn’t be that bad. Right?

Ha.

Now two things before going on: 1) I’m still reading it, currently at about page 200 and 2) I’m coming down with a cold. So 1) this is not a review, and 2) you might want to take it with a grain of salt when I say that this book is utterly terrifying to me.

Terrifying as in, I woke up last night at about one this morning and could not fall asleep again for the life of me. Now at this point, I was not at page 200- I think the clown had only made an appearance twice. Nonetheless I was absolutely convinced that every creak in the apartment foreboded either Pennywise’s presence or the coming of something horrible to to tear me to shreds.

This was likely heightened by my impending cold. Nevertheless for the rest of the night I was in the grip of that heart-thumping terror where you don’t want to want to breath too loudly and are terrified that any sudden move will attract the attention ofย  something with teeth. I honestly haven’t had that feeling since I was in 8th grade and had just watched Signs.**

After getting to work and spending some hours in the daylight, I was trying to decide if I should be embarrassed by that. I mean, when it comes down to it, it basically means that I’m still scared of things that go bump in the night. It means that words on a page can still freak me out to the point that I can lose a significant amount of sleep.

So is that a sign that I haven’t really grown up yet? Given that I’m not yet twenty-one, I certainly haven’t hit peak maturity (at least I hope I haven’t because I still tend to have angry meltdowns when I get hit with certain kinds of obstacles). But I remember asking myself- as I went through work a little more bleary-eyed than normal- if that was something to be ashamed of. I still let words get to me. I still let ink on a page conjure monsters in the dark.

Perhaps this is something I should be embarrassed by a decade from now, but for now, I’m really glad that I still had that moment of heart-stopping terror. Because it means I haven’t forgotten how to let the unknown have power. Yes, I should probably find a way to get over my fear of the dark soon, but for now, I think I’m okay with the fact that this book scared me so much. For one thing, it’s hard to find a book that does a good job being truly scary. And for another, I’m glad that I haven’t forgotten how to get so lost in a book that I can imagine something wholly terrifying.

Every now and again it’s good to get a reminder that shadows can be frightening, and not just because, to paraphrase Hitchcock, fear is an emotion we like to feel when we know we’re safe. There’s something terrifying about the unknown and the inexplicable, even if there’s theoretically an explanation out there. It’s good to get a reminder that maybe we should feel a little twinge when pushing back against the mysteries of the universe. Not necessarily because they might yield evil clowns, but because they might yield things that are better not brought to light. We live in an age where discovery is kind of the battlecry of our world, and I think that a warning about where that battlecry could lead is never out of place.

Even if, in a horror story, it’s standard procedure to ignore the warnings before going into the haunted house.

 

*Look, it’s a university library and they have weird cataloging systems. You could be looking for sci-fi and find Goethe’s Faust in the original German right next to the spaceships.

** Yes, yes, I’ve head all the mockery about how this movie isn’t scary, but if you’re in that camp, you can put a lid on it for now because it was- and still kind of is- incredibly terrifying to me. THAT CORNFIELD SCENE UGH.

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10 thoughts on “Why I’m glad I can still be scared by stories

  1. It’s been yonks since I read this book but I don’t seem to remember finding it particularly scary. Mind you, I don’t think I was poorly either.

    I definitely remember being annoyed with how cheesy the film was though.

    I also reckon you’re already more mature than I am, so heaven only knows what you’re going to be like in another five years from now. I don’t know what the Canadian equivalent of pipe and slippers is, but no doubt you’ll be thinking about them by the end of summer. I’m still swapping Pogs with the kids next door.

    Get well soon.

    • Then you must have nerves of steel, because I was quivering when the kid was about to go into the basement on freaking page 6. And that was before the cold had set in its entirety. Then again, I still tend to freak out when going into basements. Hell, I still sprint up the stairs of the home basement sometimes. For… exercise, yeah. Sticking with that story.

      Never seen the film, and as in most cases, I’m leaning toward it being better that I avoid it, at least until I’ve finished. I think a good chunk of the spook comes from the sense that there’s this wrongness about the town, and unless it was shot with the atmospheric touched used on Hannibal that would be almost impossible to convey on television.

      Why Canadian, though? I’m American, I don’t think we really have an equivalent of that. Unless it’s getting twenty-four hour cable in retirement and swearing at our favorite sports teams. (I think I’d be doing that over watching soap operas).

      Thank you. I’m feeling a bit better- hopefully it’ll have cleared up by the end of this week or so.

  2. Wait, you’re not 21 yet? You’re younger than I thought you were, LOL! There’s not much difference in between us as I thought. Damn now I have to find some other way to console my ego for the fact that you can write much better than I am. ๐Ÿ˜›

    What field are you working in at the moment? Is it something good or just a grueling job to pay the bills?

    It’s so awesome that you can still be terrified by a book. I think it’s great whenever a book can have a big emotional impact on you, and horror may be the hardest one to achieve. I was disappointed when I read Dracula that it wasn’t more spooky but that’s probably because of the time gap, I’m sure it was much scarier when it was originally written! There are only two books I can remember truly terrifying me. One was a book I took out of the library for Halloween about Halloween (of course) which gave me a big chill. The second was the start of the 4th Harry Potter book with those creepy Riddles, the old man and that horrific snake! I had snake phobia and it was darker than I was used to with Harry Potter. I only realised too late it was a error to read it late at night when everyone was asleep. :S

    I hope you feel better soon!

    Ohh, and I found Signs very scary when I first saw it, I think I was 13 or something.

    • Not yet. Though to be fair, it’s only a matter of weeks until I hit that age. And hey, I think your writing is fine! It’s a lot more enthusiastic and fun to read than mine- I feel like I come across a pretentious aspiring academic half the time ๐Ÿ˜›

      I’m in online work, writing content for a jewelry-making website and generally getting a good rundown on what needs to happen to generate stuff that people can find. It’s interesting stuff, though the commute is a pain no matter how I try and spin it. But luckily it does pay the bills. Thus far.

      I feel like Dracula is a really fascinating book for the impact that it had, but it’s hard to hold up the terror when we’ve had so many derivations and imitations since. But I can definitely see Harry Potter doing that to you- I read it a lot older than most kids and I remember freaking out at the unicorn-blood scene in book 1. And as far as reading at night goes, isn’t that always what happens? You never know until midnight and then of course you can’t unread it…

      Thanks! I’m feeling a bit better- I’m hoping that it’ll be played out by the end of the week.

      Same! And we watched it in our basement. I do not recommend that at all. It was utterly terrifying because after it ended no one wanted to get up to turn on the light. We were all afraid something would grab us when we weren’t looking.

      • Haha just different styles I guess. A less chatty style is much easier to adapt to real life though, especially for what you want to do!

        Ohh, that sounds quite interesting actually, and useful too. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Yeah I think you’re right there, even if it was a spooky book the amount of times vampire have been used in contemporary literature and warped into empathetic characters rather than scary ones would just make it less so. Haha true! Luckily I ended up reading the first HP book when I was much older, I started on the second because the first was all sold out at the time *grumpy face* I had seen the film though so it wasn’t too bad.

        Ohh good!

        You watched it in your basement?! No wonder it freaked you out! That may have scarred me for life it I’d done that, tooooo realistic. ๐Ÿ˜›

        P.S. I have a sarcastic review of Hush Hush that angel book coming up which you may like. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Although I’m am saddened to admit even to myself that I am giving it 3 stars, which it shouldn’t deserve but somehow managed to get out of me. :s

  3. Well, on the bright side, I’d say that experiencing fear like that is a sign of an active imagination. Perhaps an over-active imagination, but that’s better than no imagination at all, right? So embrace your fear- it makes you a more creative writer! ๐Ÿ™‚

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