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The Top Five Books That Turned Me into a Horror Nerd

Hi. My name is Claire and I am an unashamed horror nerd. I love everything that ranges from bloody and gory, to the tortured and psychological – if it gets my heart beating fast and leaves me looking over my shoulder, then you can consider me a fan. It doesn’t matter if it’s a film, game, comic or book, if it scares the shit out of me then I will love it.

As well as consuming horror, I love creating horror. Up until this year, I was running a series online based on slenderman myth along with Irish mythology called She is The Huntress. After having to cut the series short due to personal disputes, I am now rewriting it as a novel and hope to have it released next autumn. Writing something that will pull people into reading it despite not wanting to see what’s waiting for them on the next page is a thrill in itself, and having got into horror so heavily via books – my parents couldn’t dictate what I read as a child as easily as they could read BBFC ratings on films – my ultimate hope is that I can make others feel the same chill I did.

So, how did I become so enchanted by the genre? These books had a hand in it. Sit back, get comfy, and make sure the door is locked…

Goosebumps: Welcome To Dead House – R.L. Stine (1992, Scholastic)

H215_SCH_GB1DeadHouse_0.tif

Who didn’t love Goosebumps back in the day? I discovered this book in my primary school’s library, and was curious about the gorey cover. The plot follows a family that moves into a new house (something I did a fair bit in my youth) and finds that all is what it seems in their new dwelling. Suddenly, zombie children! Fake great uncles! Spooky real estate agents! A dog!

For an eight year old girl, I was holding true terror in my hands as I read along. This book lead me to read through as much of the Goosebumps range of books that I could find in any library I came across, as well as the well-loved TV series, and soon my feet were firmly placed in the genre. I also have a huge amount of admiration for author R.L. Stine who has made his living scaring children senseless. What a wonderful bastard.

Point Horror: Teacher’s Pet – Richie Tankersley Cusick (1991, Scholastic Point)

teacherspet

My cousin/stand-in sister Rox got me into the Point Horror series as came to the end of my time in primary school and found I needed something a little more frightening to whet my wicked whistle. It also introduced me to a whole different type of fear – obsessive people. A naive teenage heroine who loves to write and be scared… oh, I can picture her so clearly.

Suddenly, a handsome, fragile teacher who falls for her – I always pictured him as my old history teacher Mr Clayton – and a demented stalker enter the scene and our heroine is left scared for real! It had everything I wanted in a book, suspense, drama, and a protagonist I could, strangely enough, relate to. Like ghosts, zombies and dentists, obsessive stalkers are fun to fear in fiction, but should be avoided in real life.

 Misery – Stephen King (1987, Viking)

misery

I actually borrowed this off my nan (AKA, my reading hero) and found it feeding further into the fears left from Teacher’s Pet. A talented writer, a demented fan, an axe… it was a perfect story. It had a heavy, claustrophobic feel to the whole story, along with the tension that built the longer that our protagonist Paul was kept captive by His Number One Fan Annie.

It opened my eyes to the legend that is Stephen King and his extensive back catalogue of horror and suspense – my particular favourites include Pet Sematary, Carrie and Cell, as well as The Running Man. His writing is sheer perfection, and I implore every horror fan out there to pick up at least one of his books in their lifetime. You won’t regret it.

The Rats – James Herbert (1974, New English Library)

therats

James Herbert was a superb British writer who passed away back in 2013. He was exceptionally talented for painting a gruesome picture involving gore and violence, and I recommend this book to anyone reading this just like it was recommended to me by my mom who read this back when she was my age now.

I love rats.They’re adorable, intelligent little animals and they make wonderful pets – but not the rats in this book. They are vile, disgusting mutated monsters who rise from under London and begin to attack people without provocation. One of their first victims in the book is a baby. Herbert does not shy away from shock and mutilation in his debut novel and it makes for truly unsettling reading.

American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis (1991, Vintage Books)

american psycho

The odd one out in my selection here, but the book that cemented my fear of human beings and made me question sanity as it stands. This is not a horror book, but it is still shocking, graphic and paints a picture of a deplorable human being in main character Patrick Bateman. Most people will know this story from the iconic performance that Christian Bale gave in the 2000 film adaptation – he based his version of the character on Tom Cruise – but having read the book, I can assure you that the more graphic parts were definitely left out, probably so it would actually get shown in cinemas.

As the book goes on, we are left wondering if anything we are being told by Bateman is true. Is he a psychopath? Is he leaving a bloody trail? Or is he just another jaded yuppie? It is a chilling insight into his mind – as well as a graphic tale of sex, violence and madness.


 

So there you have it! These are the books that cemented my love for the written fright. As for my currently reading section, here is what I am slowly devouring…

  • Red Dragon – Thomas Harris
  • House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Horns – Joe Hill
  • Code Junkie – Jeffrey Koval Jr

If you have any horror book suggestions, or anything to say about the books I’ve spoken about here, please leave me a comment and we’ll have a chat! Until next time friends, take care – are you sure all the doors are locked?


 

ClaireClaire is a foul-mouthed British twenty-something who spends most of her time pretending to be an adult. Her nerd status started from an early age with her dad’s love of sci-fi and developed through a love of gaming, reading and horror. As well as volunteering for a charity, Claire writes about her life with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mental health over at her blog, as well as tweeting nonsense over as @MouthAndSpoons. The dream is to either make it as a successful writer, or go into mental health research. She lives at home with her equally nerdy husband, their dog Lady, cat Pip and a lot of fish.

Con Job

Photograph by Brian Malfant

‘Con Job’ is part of a multi-post series where the writers of Some Nerd Girl share their convention stories – whether they be good, bad, or ugly!

Monster Mania is a horror convention in New Jersey that introduced me in to the world of conventions – in a less than conventional way. My first con experience was as a model in an attempt to recruit extras for an independent zombie flick that never actually happened. Back in 2006, cosplay wasn’t quite the culture it is today, so seeing zombies wandering abut in 50s garb was a pretty unique treat. A startling number of people wanted pictures of being bitten.

Thanks, Walking Dead. Now it's NORMAL.
Thanks, Walking Dead. Now it’s NORMAL.

The next year, our friends were working on getting a production and prop replica business off the ground. While my friends were running around as Sexy Evil Ash and Zombie Wolverine and Spider-Man, I opted to keep to the booth running and sell the various replicas and curios we had brought with us. Pirate Aztec Gold, a bust of Leatherface, even a replica of the possessed phone from Nightmare on Elm Street were all yours for a price.

The Ghoul School had actually done a great job making these props – which were promptly sold and then autographed by people who had been in the movie. By Sunday, I was tired and Sexy Evil Ash (aka Peaches) was tired of running around. We’d hardly spent any time together that weekend, so when our “boss” announced he was going to take over the booth so we could actually enjoy the convention, we were delighted. We told him we were going to go over and check out the table with the guys from The Devil’s Rejects – Sid Haig and Bill Moseley. “Yea, well, go give ‘em backrubs and have fun,” he joked.

These guys.
These guys. Sid left, Bill right.

Peaches and I looked at each other, mulled over the thought, and, for some reason, concluded; “Yea, let’s totally do that!”

And so we did. First, we went to Bill Mosely. Because the guy who plays Otis Firefly is probably not terrifying at all, right? And he wasn’t. Actually, he was wearing a kimono-style silk robe.

How could we do this? We decided to go with Rule #1 of How To Do Things You Are Probably Not Allowed To Do – act legit. We grabbed a few of our friends’ flyers and headed towards the signing rooms. Admittedly, our execution was not perfect. It started with a hesitant and stumbled suggestion, complete with nervous head-scratching and foot shuffling. “We’re… uh… we’re with one of the vendors? We wanted to, y’know, offer the signers, a, uh… a back rub? To say thanks for coming.”

Bill Moseley shrugged and said “Cool, let’s do it.”

My approximate reaction.
My approximate reaction.

At first there was a totally panicked, wide-eyed moment of amazement. Did that just happen? Did he, this totally famous and terrifying monster, agree to a back rub? In a silk robe? In a second, Peaches was behind the table and going to town on his shoulders. There were a few attempts at chitchat, and the occasional person came up for an autograph and Peaches would duck out of the way. After a few minutes, Peaches announced she was done and that we appreciated meeting him. He held out a $20 bill and offered it to her. Blushing, she said she couldn’t accept it, we were doing it for free!

But she’d love if he gave her a signature, if that was ok?

Bill promptly picked up his sharpie, signed the $20, and handed it to her.

Did that really just happen??
Did that really just happen??

After that, we fled to the smoking area outside. Giddily puffing and smoking away the nervousness, we recapped the whole thing, looked at the pictures I had snapped, and completely geeked out. Once the nerves went away, we paused.

Could… could we do it again?

If one person was totally cool with it… would the others be as well?

Turns out, celebrities *love* back rubs. While waiting in line to talk to Sid Haig, I stared at an adjacent table. There, beside a very polite and bored assistant, was the one person I’d wanted to meet all week. Could I do this? I sidled up beside the assistant and slipped her a flyer. “We’re with the Ghoul School Production table. We’re offering back rubs to the signers? I didn’t want to interrupt…” I trailed off, looking at the line of eager folks waiting for autographs. The assistant assured me that she’d pass the flyer along.

A moment later I heard the most amazing, smoky, intrigued voice of Jason Mewes say, “Really? Where is she?”

This glorious bastard!
This glorious bastard!

In a flash, I was looking at Jay Mothaf*cking Mewes, explaining the free awesomeness we were providing. A moment later, I was touching one of my gods, and he liked it. By this point, Peaches was attacking the massive stature of Sid Haig, who was practically asleep at her touch, and we were gleefully snapping pictures of each other whenever we had to step aside so a fan could get a picture. Finally, I knew I had to be the best-best friend a gal could have, and help out my homie.

So I say, “Listen, Jay, I give good back rubs. But Peaches over there? She’s an artist.” Jason happily agreed to have her come show him her skills. By the time she was done, he was basically a puddle on the floor.

What was really interesting was the way different celebrities reacted. Many offered us free autographed pictures – even a few whom we had offered back rubs to but declined. Some acted as if us offering back rubs was the very height of rudeness. I even gave a back rub to a production manager, who had been feeling a little left out at the attention of the celebrity whom he had accompanied. It was a story for the ages – two college kids pretending to know what the hell they were doing when really it was all almost a total scam and a way to meet celebrities without having to wait in line.

What I considered our level of cleverness at the time.
What I considered our level of cleverness at the time.

The absolute best result of our mostly-unauthorized solicitations, however, was the one day at a comic convention 2 years later.

Peaches was wandering about, again in her Sexy Evil Ash costume, when out of nowhere a voice cries out, gravelly but urgent, “PEACHES!” Confused, she looked around for the originator of the ruckus. And there he was, was Jason Mewes, frantically waving at her. “I NEED A BACK RUB!”


Barb2Barbie O’Havoc has been considered a nerd since the first time she pissed someone off for having a weird opinion. Since then, she’s been spending her time indulging in the surprisingly expensive habits of reading trashy vampire novels and hitting people while playing roller derby. Both of her main hobbies have led to a love of terrible puns, much to everyone’s dismay.

Barbie O’ also loves coffee and local restaurants, and occasionally rambles about both on the Johnstown Food Blog.

Vampires – Love ’em or Leave ’em?

We here at Some Nerd Girl like to tackle the real problems of the day… like vampires – love ’em or leave ’em?

The world is losing its monsters, and it may not be a bad thing. The vampires that I grew up with- brooding, sexual, and tormented; they are truly a thing of the past. The modern era has no room for them. These days, the vampires we see may be tortured, but they’re tortured by petty pursuits and many are borne of their own machinations. “Vampire Politics” is a term seen in every new book these days. But why did vampires become boring? At the very base of the folklore, vampires have always served as cautionary tales. Folklorists have some pretty solid theories that vampirism is based on rabies breakouts. Unusual sightings of bats, a transition period before death, hypersexuality, and of course rabies is transmitted by being bitten. The tale of vampires told people the signs of a very dangerous disease. (Here’s a source if you’re on of those ‘fact checkers’: http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/18/4201878/sick-idea-how-rabies-spawned-vampires-and-zombies)

I am pretty sure Bella would not let THIS bite her.
I am pretty sure Bella would not let THIS bite her.

Even Stoker’s Dracula is a cautionary tale warning of the danger of foreigners. While that side of the story is maybe a little politically incorrect, if you consider the social and economic factors of the time the book was written, it makes sense. The fact that technology helps fight the danger is actually pretty neat. Mina’s typewriter and the use of a phonograph may not be cutting edge today, but the technology of the time was used to counter the darkest forces of evil. Let’s consider that for a moment, the fact that technology and logic beat out superstition and mythical creatures. We’ll come back to it later.

Hipsters may have the edge if Dracula ever makes a comeback.
Hipsters may have the edge if Dracula ever makes a comeback.

The most important part of the “old school” vampire stories, of course, is the temptation. The trade-off. What would you give for immortality? Would you flee from your friends and family as they try to introduce you to the pointy side of a stake? You’re a blood-hungry monster, after all. How will you stay sane for a millennia while seeing those around you wither and die; except for the ones you kill yourself? Would you trade in bacon for blood? Could you forsake the sun and a life in the light, for immortality in the dark? Even if you did, would it be worth it? Vampirism has always been a deal with the devil, and the devil always got his due.

Is now a bad time to mention humans are called the long pig..?
Is now a bad time to mention humans are called the long pig..?

In modern media, there are no cautionary tales to scare us in the night. We know all about bloodborne diseases, and sun allergies, and even the fact that skin shrinks in certain earths, making nails and hair look longer. In modern works, technology helps vampires. Who cares about sunlight when the only thing it will do is make you sparkle?! Even if you are one of those “bursts into flames when the sun rises” kind of vampires, well, these days you just need a witch to make you a fancy ring. Or get yourself some broad-spectrum 100spf. Why lurk in the dark worrying over the life you’re taking to feed on, when instead you could open up bottle of Bacon-flavored TrueBlood™?

Supposedly
Supposedly

Even the society of the undead has changed. With little exception, vampires have been outcasts and lone wolves. Dracula may have had a harem, but they’re barely mentioned and barely used. Lestat, the devil, tries endlessly to create bonds with other vampires, only to be spurned and betrayed again and again. Even when Rice’s vampires do manage to get along, eventually someone realizes what a terrible idea it is and sets the whole business up in flames. Even the maker of vampires in Rice’s books spends a lot of time setting them on fire.

“Not _again!_” he seemed to say….

On the other side of the fang, modern vampires own night clubs, they work as covens, they boss each other around and swear fealty to each other. Some get married, some work in gas stations. The vampires of today have integrated. Modernity, it seems, has finally made us the DietVampire.

Although... I'm pretty sure you have to diet to get a body like that.
Although… I’m pretty sure you have to diet to get a body like that.

All the eternity, but none of the torment or loneliness. Gone is the struggle to survive and not hate yourself. The modernization of vampires has been a massive tradeoff. These DietVampires really don’t have struggles very different from the ones that normal folk have. They own businesses, they call in to radio shows, they have creepy half-vampire children. All the hardship of olden days has been replaced with modern convenience, and authors have recognized that. To try to give us something to care about and make vampires scarier, the writers have turned to something different – politics and chess games. Usually there’s some sort of “let’s turn humans into livestock” angle to it, of course.

Modern vampires could learn from Supernatural's Leviathan, who are genuinely creepy.
Modern vampires could learn from Supernatural’s Leviathan, who are genuinely creepy.

There isn’t anything tantalizing to the plot lines of modern vampire stories, because even if they’re after our blood, they’re really not after our way of life. They’re not asking us to make a choice. While being livestock that may be scary to society, it isn’t very scary to a single reader. What makes vampires scary to people aren’t plans and games, it’s the temptation that they offer; the temptation to make that deal with the devil… unfortunately for horror fans, now the deal with the devil comes with 0% financing.

The verdict? You decide! Leave your thoughts in the comments!


Barb2Barbie O’Havoc has been considered a nerd since the first time she pissed someone off for having a weird opinion. Since then, she’s been spending her time indulging in the surprisingly expensive habits of reading trashy vampire novels and hitting people while playing roller derby. Both of her main hobbies have led to a love of terrible puns, much to everyone’s dismay.

Barbie O’ also loves coffee and local restaurants, and occasionally rambles about both on the Johnstown Food Blog.

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