I have a couple of posts coming up that talk about different aspects of my trip to Transylvania for the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival (IVFAF). For now, please to enjoy the PowerPoint of the paper I presented for the academic conference. I’ll be submitting the full paper for publication.
SKIN TRADE is a historical horror about a young girl who journeys into the zombie-ridden west under the guise of a boy to learn the art of the skin trade–trapping and skinning zombies to sell their hides. Along the way she learns what it takes to pass as a man, what she misses about being a woman, and how hard can be to hold onto your humanity.
A coming of age story couched in the Old West, that Bram Stoker Award-winning author Joe McKinney said, “reminded me of Steinbeck and Harper Lee at their best. Skin Trade belongs on the top shelf of zombie fiction. Pay attention folks. This is how it’s done.”
SKIN TRADE, from author Tonia Brown. Get your copy now! http://tinyurl.com/nn5nqx2
October is by far my favorite month. I already love fall more than any other season, but October gets to claim the greatest holiday of all–Halloween. I write horror, so none of this is probably very surprising.
I still dress up. Since moving to Philly I’ve been a naughty schoolgirl, Jill Valentine (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis version), Lorena from True Blood, and Wonder Woman. As Wonder Woman, I won a costume contest and my prize was beer. So there. The two years that I didn’t dress up, I regretted it just like I knew I would. This year my boyfriend and I decided back in July to do something completely off the wall. He would be Princess Leia (Episode IV version), and I would be Chewbacca. I’ve tried my costume on, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to walk around in this thing. CUTEST CHEWBACCA EVER.
I have a lot of other costume ideas, but with Halloween only once a year, I might have to start cosplaying at Comic-Con. Next up is my long-planned-but-never-executed Dalek. I’ve also wanted to be Samara from The Ring, and the Woman in the Box from Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. That one is admittedly a bit obscure, so it’s really a matter of personal geekery.
So, what about you? What are your favorite costumes?
Last term we read Stephen King’s Misery, which was the first King book I ever read, 25 years ago. I was 10 at the time. (Now you know what’s wrong with me.) Consciously or not, my own work is influenced by Stephen King more than probably any other writer. At some point in my teens I borrowed *cough* my mother’s first-edition hardcovers of Salem’s Lot and The Shining. They remain on my bookshelf to this day. So, this is not my first reading of The Shining, but twenty-or-so years later, it’s a much richer and more frightening story than it was in my teens. I had seen Kubrick’s film version first, and it does not hold a candle to the book. Shelley Duvall is horribly miscast, and Jack Nicholson’s acting, in typical over-the-top fashion, makes a mockery of the creeping horror in Torrance’s gradual transformation from man to human monster.
Like the haunted houses in The Haunting of Hill House (which King references in The Shining) and Hell House, the Overlook Hotel is a character in and of itself. But the terror that the Overlook inspires isn’t just through the supernatural beings that lurk within its corridors. It’s the hotel’s apparent sentience, its ability to focus on the very worst elements of human nature and draw them out into the open; it is the ability to call out to certain people and bring them to the hotel, then systematically destroy them–an echo of Eleanor Vance, who finds her tragic destiny in Hill House. The Overlook detects a weakness in character and exploits it, turning a man like Jack Torrance, who struggles daily with alcoholism and an explosive temper, into a creature of primal rage bent only upon violence and destruction. The question we are left to ponder is how big a role the Overlook, or even the alcohol, actually plays in Jack’s downfall. Jack wallows in self-pity from the start, and is plagued by the memories of his father, who was also a violent drunk. It doesn’t take long for Jack to begin exhibiting drunken behavior even when he’s sober. Perhaps the hotel merely helps us to understand who we really are; perhaps Jack is a man haunted not by the ghosts of the hotel, but by the darkness in his own heart.
Jack is, of course, not the only member of the Torrance family struggling with his or her nature. Danny, the Torrances’ five-year-old son with an extraordinary psychic gift, cannot help falling into trances in which he sees the future. He cannot help that he has an “imaginary” friend named Tony who shows him what might happen. And Wendy, Jack’s wife, cannot help but think that she is the reflection of her mother, a bitter and hateful woman who was jealous of Wendy’s relationship with her father. Wendy is not-so-secretly envious of Danny’s closeness to Jack, and never lets Jack forget the night he broke Danny’s arm. But it is Jack’s status as the weakest member of the family which allows the hotel to possess him, his inability to overcome his failures that fuels the haunting. He will rise through the ranks, the ghosts assure him. He will finally be someone important.Yet even his five-year-old-son can see through that ruse. Jack, desperate for his life to have meaning, refuses to accept that it’s Danny the hotel really wants–for Danny’s psychic power will magnify the haunting to unimaginable proportions.
But before the ghosts destroy Jack Torrance forever, he finds the strength to fight them long enough to redeem himself and save his family. He tells Danny, “‘Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you'” (428). The boiler that he had forgotten to dump is about to explode. Having also forgotten until now, Danny taunts the creature, who has since used the roque mallet to beat the last vestiges of Jack from its face, with this fact. The hotel about to go up in flames, the Jack-thing rushes off to the boiler to stop it, affording Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann the opportunity to escape.
Where did Jack end and the Overlook begin? Near the end of the book Dick Hallorann, kind and decent by any standard–a man who has lived a far different life than Jack Torrance–experiences a few moments in the equipment shed, while the hotel burns, where he is nearly overcome by murderous thoughts. At this point it’s clear that it is not merely the hotel that is haunted, but the very ground upon which it is built. And Dick’s thoughts could certainly be due to his “shining,” an ability nearly as strong as Danny’s. However, since Stephen King admittedly wrote Jack Torrance as a semi-autobiographical character, and was struggling with his own alcoholism at the time, it seems to be more of an acknowledgement that monsters hide in even the best of people. In Wendy, as her mother; in Danny and Dick, as the “shining” they never asked for; and in Jack, as the culmination of a lifetime of failures.
What monsters are you hiding?
King, Stephen. The Shining. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1977.