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What holiday feels more medieval than Halloween? With its roots going back to Celtic and Christian traditions, mixing the pagan festivals and feasts and the holidays of the Church of Rome, i.e. All Saints Day and Samhain (Old Irish for “summer’s end”), or the Roman feast of Pomona and/or festival of the dead, Parentalia, Halloween has been around for some time. This more commercially celebrated event today owes itself, however, to the past long ago. European and American cultures have embraced Halloween and its like-celebrations for eons. Moreover, the same peoples have a connection to the holiday or festivities in a way that all derive from “the dead” and the ancestors who have passed on to the next world.
Netherworld Dreams falls into the category of darker children’s literature, ventures into the macabre, and relates to the ever difficult subject of death; whereas, when it comes to kids, they naturally gravitate toward scary topics. Kids enjoy being frightened, as do teens and adults. This is especially so around Halloween – and “the dead” and death are an inseparable part of what the holiday is all about. Outside of getting dressed in costumes, going trick-or-treating, and eating candy, etc., Halloween can be a good time either at home with the kids or at a party to read scary books and to tell scary stories. The works of Edgar Allen Poe, for instance, are what I remember to be a favorite to read in a group, near a fire or by candlelight, around the holiday. This was, at least, when I was young.
Granted, I am making a suggestion of my own work for Halloween, which may or may not be a favorite choice as there are so many dark stories and wonderful books available. This one comes to mind: It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. There are also a vast array of ghost-story and horror-for-kids books out there. Yet, I posit – putting modesty aside – that Netherworld Dreams is a good fit for the right readers looking for something new, now that Devil’s Night (Oct. 30) and Halloween are soon approaching.
I’ve been fascinated with horror since I was a child. Part of the blame for this falls upon my parents, who allowed me to watch horror movies when I was little. I saw the Omen when I was four or five. After it I was consumed with terror, it was a hell to go to the toilet. I can also blame my grandmother… She used to live in a huge house, its cellar was immensely dark and crowded with old stuff and, although, its attic was never used, I always saw a humanoid figure framed in its single window. I was terrified of going there. Also, she used to tell me scary stories. Scary, half-real stories from WWII and, of course, after each one of them, I asked for more. Now, I have developed a sickly affection for the monstrous word Horror. Because of this I’m writing this three(four?)-parter on Horror and its appearance in different art mediums. Without any further ado, let’s begin our descent to madness.
“Only I can hear their screams.” Can you feel it? The inner loneliness, despair, madness and in the end – pure horror? These six words are alive. There’s character, emotion and conflict just boiling over the edges. All of those working in unison is a sign of good Horror. It places characters in situations where their true selves are revealed, where fear and love clash inside of them, where we, humans, are really being put to the test. Of course all good fiction does this. What matters more is asking what truly makes good horror? What makes a difference between the chilling (pun intended) Shining and gooey Trolls 2? What really latches onto us and holds tightly until we finish the story?