December 17th, 2019

Anya final stand, S7

Posting meme: How did I get into horror for maplemood

How did you first get into horror? for [personal profile] maplemood
What a great question, and the answer is this man:

I don’t mean any of the movies he directed. I don’t even mean the Three Investigators series that he put his name on and occasionally appeared in, iirc, which were written by a number of authors but originally developed and written by Robert Arthur, although I loved those more as a kid than any of the more famous kids’ detective series. I mean another project by Robert Arthur with Hitchcock’s name on it, a series of short story collections he edited for children: Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful (1961), Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery (1961), Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum (1965), and a handful of others with less alliterative titles, all published in the 60s.

I have so much fondness for these collections. They hit a wide range of tones, from humorous with spooky elements to dark fantasy to a handful of really pure horror. There’s the one about the man who turns into a Great Dane and never does discover how to turn back (“Henry Martindale, Great Dane” by Miriam Allen DeFord) and the one about the boy who unknowingly befriends his timid werewolf boy neighbor (“The Young One” by Jerome Bixby). “Slime” by Joseph Payne Brennan is classic monster horror, “The Wonderful Day” by Robert Arthur is a classic be careful what you wish for story with a lot of people receiving satisfying comeuppance, and “Miss Emmeline Takes Off” by Walter Brooks is a cheerful story about an elderly spinster who stumbles into being a witch and quite enjoys the results. Most significantly, Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum introduced me to Ray Bradbury by way of his story “Homecoming,” the first story I really loved about a family of sympathetic horrors, long before I was exposed to The Munsters or The Addams Family.

Speaking of Bradbury, these collections feature a remarkably wide array of authors; browsing through the three collections I own, I see Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, HG Wells, Lord Dunsany, Robert Louis Stevenson, Theodore Sturgeon, Manly Wade Wellman, and Idris Seabright, among lots of others

Anyway, these collections are delightful and were formative for me, a kid with a desperate hunger for the weird, the fantastic, and the spooky. Those tones were relatively hard to come by pre-Harry Potter, especially if Goosebumps wasn’t really your scene, and boy I read a lot of weird forgotten children's novels from the 60s and 70s for that reason. (Alexander Key, anyone? John Christopher? The Girl with the Silver Eyes? The Little White Horse? Although that one’s quite a bit older.) But these collections were some of the first I found that satisfied that need for me, and they definitely were the precursor to my love for things like Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (which is the source of this icon!). They gave me a taste for horror and dark fantasy that’s less about gore or monstrous evil, and much more about stories where the monstrous is sympathetic and the evil is most often found in human pettiness and cruelty, which remains my preferred type of horror to this day, although it’s been quite a long journey to get me to the point of calling myself a horror fan and actively seeking it out. But I guess that’s a post for a different day. ;)

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comments welcome over there. (comment count unavailable DW replies)