Reading Horror as a Kid

I’m almost finished watching Stranger Things. I have a lot to say about it and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit so far. If you were ever curious what I was like as a kid, just watch the show. But make the characters horribly shy and mean. 

I’m going to write a pretty long 2-3k word piece on it later in the week. So if you want to read that sort of thing, keep an eye out. 

There’s a scene in the show where a character is reading a copy of Stephen King’s Cujo. It reminded me of all the hours I spent devouring King’s books. For me, they were powerful talismans. The covers were so esoteric and creepy, especially during the Satanic Panic of the 80s. I remember reading The Stand in 4th grade and a kid called me a Satanic faggot. 

I tried to ignore him, but he kept asking me if I worshipped the devil. I already liked heavy metal and didn’t go to church, so I said “yes.”  He shut up and that was the end of it.

At that moment I realized how much power there was in horror. People were really scared of it, especially the dumb ones. 

I’ve never been scared of these stories. They never got creepy enough for me and I never got frightened. I loved the monsters. I loved learning the rules of the paranormal universes. The metaphysics of terror have always been my thing. 

Stephen King has always been the best to me. I’ve read a lot of the other writers of his era, but I don’t think anyone was as consistently good. There are writers with more extreme ideas, but King masters the normal. His cul de sacs and rusty cars were so real to me. 

His book On Writing is my favorite about the craft of being an author. The way he describes whether or not a person is a “real” writer is that if a person wrote something, got paid to write it, and paid a bill with that money, then they are legit. This was really important for me. It gave me permission to think of myself as a writer. And once that happened, I was able to make something of a career of it. 

Before the summer is done, I want to finally read The Dark Tower series. But right now there’s a copy of Cujo sitting on the book share shelf at work. I’ll start that Monday. 


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