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Ghoulies & Ghosties across Genres

By Hilary Williamson
October, 2000

I always remember the old Scottish prayer at this time of year ...

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

All Hallows Eve conjures up the familiar horror stories, like Shelley's Frankenstein, Stoker's Dracula and Blatty's Exorcist. But you can be horrified by books in many different genres now. The lines between categories have been blurring for some time to give us culinary mysteries, historical fantasies and horrifying tales all over the literary landscape. Here are a few recent picks from our bookshelves.

For Classic horror have a look at Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights. Read the full text of Dracula for the first mention of vampires and Transylvania, now overpopulating the literature from fantasy novels to children's cartoons! Or dig into the book piles at a second hand bookstore for copies of the Satanic stories of Dennis Wheatley, unfortunately out of print.

Horror found its place early in the Science Fiction genre - remember all the short stories in the first SF magazines with a nasty little twist at the end? Harlan Ellison continued that tradition with A Boy and His Dog and I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream. And Wells' Morlocks in Time Machine started a run of SF monsters though not with the horror quotient of the Alien series. For recent SF horror, try Di Vono's cross of SF and supernatural in Blood Moon, read about a grim society in which blood diseases drive the economy in Kerr's Second Angel, or watch New York collapse into anarchy in The Stone War.

It's not surprising that Fantasy is a fertile breeding ground for horrific tales. Try a Frankenstein variant in Lady in the Loch, a Historical / Horror / Fantasy story about gypsies, ghosts and black magic. The Silver Wolf is a historical fantasy about a sympathetic werewolf heroine in Ancient Rome. Brooks' Knight of the Word series pits magically empowered protagonists against powerful demons in an ongoing desperate battle to stave off the end of our world. For a lighter version of fantastic horror, try Tanya Huff's Keeper stories, in which the heroine and cat cohort defend the universe against the supernatural. And if you like rotting corpses and attitude in spades spend some time in Hamilton's world where monsters co-exist with humans. Her 'Make My Day' heroine Anita has the challenge of balancing a day job as vampire Executioner with her romantic relationships with both Master Vampire and a werewolf.

Back in our own world, find all kinds of terrifying tales in the Mystery genre. Serial killers seem to be the modern monsters and there is a variety to be found in Every Dead Thing, Déja Dead or Three Hands in the Fountain. Cornwell makes her serial killer even more uncanny by tossing in a werewolf theme in Black Notice. Death and Shadows has the Shadowman lurking in its woods for an added touch of horror. The hero in Graveyard Dust is targetted with a voodoo death curse. And Esau has monsters at the top of the world while Ice Station puts them under the Antarctic ice cap.

Horror is just as accessible to Teens who like this sort of thing via Stine's long running Goosebumps series, or they can enter Everworld, a 'place where nightmares are real'. And if those series don't keep them awake at night, point them to Frankenstein, Dracula or The Time Machine.

What's next in genre crossing? Are we going to see Culinary Horror (for cannibals?) or Travel Horror? Come to think of it, many of us could come up with our own versions of the latter without even trying hard. While you wait for them, spread your (bat) wings and dip into some horrific tales in all the gruesome genres. And have a haunting Halloween ...
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