Halloween was not a priority holiday for me as a child. I enjoyed it well enough (a life-long penchant for sweets and dressing up has to begin at some point), but it never ranked among the A-list holidays. Those few, coveted spots were dominated by Christmas and birthdays because I loved toys more than candy. Halloween served as the local opener for the big show: it had its own appeal but mainly served to set the tone for the following acts. I didn’t realize there was anything unusual about this until I got to college and realized that Halloween was an integral part of many childhoods, my girlfriend’s among them.
My upbringing has a lot to do with this tragic downplaying of the year’s best combination of eccentricity, hedonism, and terror. Growing up in a conservative Christian household doesn’t leave much tolerance for any of Halloween’s primary characteristics. Still, it wasn’t as though my brother and I were forbidden from participating. On the contrary, we would select costume patterns from the fabric store each year, and my mother (an absolute wizard on the sewing machine) would dedicate hours to making those patterns a reality. Thus garbed in our homemade costumes, we would charge brazenly into the virulent cesspool that was the local elementary school’s Corn Cob Festival. Said festival was exactly what you’d expect: a densely-packed collection of costumed children frantically running from one game to the next, exasperated parents a few steps behind. Candy bags hung from the hands of angels, devils, ghosts, princesses, witches, and (in the case of yours truly) a Dalmatian until they became too loaded with loot for an eight-year-old to manage. They would then find their way into the arms of their associated adults, adding to the burden of costume props, carnival maps, and perhaps a drop or two of the hot stuff to help the night pass more smoothly.
Surely a fantastic time for anyone unburdened by the self-consciousness puberty brings, so why wasn’t this at the top of my yearly events? As I mentioned earlier, my parents were very conservative, and this mindset informed what they thought would be best for us growing up. Thus, our Halloween participation was bound by certain restrictions and preconceptions that colored the holiday in bleaker shades. For one, we weren’t allowed to go as anything evil. This included the obvious ones—devils, vampires, werewolves, witches—and the odd ones like Ghostbusters, Disney villains, and Power Rangers. In a child’s mind, the classification of costumes as “evil” transfers to the wearer of any such costume quite easily. Thus, when the Corn Cob Festival rolled around, I found myself questioning the alignment of my friends. How could seemingly good kids dress in lawful evil costumes? Did that mean they were really evil? Was it okay for me to crush on a girl if she dressed up like a witch? Although forgotten a week into November, such thoughts managed to make Halloween slightly sinister.
The other main element of unease came from my mother’s insistence that we bring our pets indoors while we went trick-or-treating. People sacrificed household pets in Satanic rituals on Halloween, she said. This was in the early 1990’s, so my seven-year-old self could not have checked Snopes even if I’d had the thought to question her. As it was, I did not. Therefore, I spent the time between houses with two main trains of thought running through my head: somebody may have kidnapped my dog and sacrificed her to Satan, and that somebody might live in the next house. Not entirely rational, perhaps, but it made sense to me. I had a very fearful and over-active imagination, you see.
When I was in the third grade, our church started hosting Harvest Festivals, which were essentially Halloween parties minus all evil stuff. It was also around this time that I stopped trick-or-treating. This took care of both problems rather handily, and late October became a simpler time of year (thereafter called “Harvest” and not “Halloween” in my house). However, this aversion toward all things horror continued well into high school. I saw my first horror film (Hannibal) when I was 16, and I was decidedly uncomfortable the whole time. I didn’t see The Nightmare Before Christmas until I was in college. Somewhat ironically, it was my girlfriend who first introduced me—at 21 years of age—to the fantastic myriad of horror films available. The genre quickly became a favorite of mine, and I began consuming them with reckless abandon.
All this to say: Halloween may not be on equal footing with Christmas in terms of past fondness for me, but it has come into its own in recent years. I can’t exactly go trick-or-treating anymore (not going for that particular kind of creepy, thank you), but I can still appreciate all of the blood-chilling books and movies that come out of hiding this time of year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Collins has spent his entire life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he generally prefers to stay indoors reading and playing video games. As a child, he never realized that he could create video games for a living, so he chose to study creative writing at Colorado State University. Upon graduation, he worked as an editorial intern for a local magazine before securing a desk job with his alma mater.
Lee’s short fiction has appeared in Ensorcelled andMorpheus Tales, the latter of which awarded him second place in a flash fiction contest. In 2009, a friend challenged him to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and the resulting manuscript became his debut novel, The Dead of Winter. It will be published in 2012, and the sequel, She Returns From War, arrives in 2013. In his spare minutes between writing and shepherding graduate students at his day job, Lee still indulges in his oldest passions: books and video games. He and his girlfriend live in Colorado with their imaginary corgi Fubsy Bumble.
ABOUT THE BOOK: The Dead of Winter (Cora Oglesby #1) – Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist. When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.
A stunning supernatural novel that will be quickly joined by a very welcome sequel, She Returns From War, in February 2013.
Angry Robot is giving away TWO (2) finished copies of The Dead of Winter
For entry into the giveaway please answer the following question then fill out the form below: Which US State does the action in The Dead of Winter take place in?
- a. Colorado
- b. California
- c. Hawaii
This giveaway is open to UK/EU/US/CAN and ends 6pm GMT 31st October 2012
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