Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Season More Than a Day

Well, it finally looks like Halloween out there. A front moved through last night, bringing cooler temperatures and a heavy cloud cover. The sky is gray and the ground is littered with leaves and a brisk wind is sending showers of more leaves past my windows as I type this. Bruce the cat is running back and forth at the windows, leaping and pawing at the leaves as they strike the glass.
   I was reading some horror stories from the 2002 collection October Dreams, and between the various stories, some of the authors had published short essays about their favorite Halloween memories. I tried to recall if I had a favorite such memory, but no single incident stands out. I mean, I remember trick or treating (it always seemed to be raining) and going to my grade school Halloween carnivals, but there's no one memory that stands out.
   For me, childhood Halloweens were much as they are now, a season more than a day. A time to watch scary movies, read scary books and comics and just enjoy the spirit of Halloween. I can recall reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and the Halloween Tree, and watching marathons of Universal horror movies. My Halloweens always featured Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney Jr.
   We always had Jack O'Lanterns. My dad, a big kid at heart, was always ready to carve a pumpkin and put it out on the front porch. Often we would turn the face toward the house's front windows so we could see the flickering candle lit features as we watched scary movies in the living room.
   I was watching a documentary on YouTube called The Sci-Fi Boys, where a bunch of Hollywood directors, writers, and special effects guys talked about how they were all influenced by Forest J. Ackerman's magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. That magazine looms large in my childhood as well, and at Halloween I definitely dug out my collected issues and read about horror movies from all eras. In those pre-VCR days, the pictures in those magazines were sometimes the only look I had at famous but obscure fantasy, SF, or horror films like Freaks, Metropolis, The Golem, or The Lost World. Heck, even King Kong was only a legend to me until someone set up a screen and showed it one night at my local library. Famous Monsters of Filmland was the only place you could see articles about special effects or movie make up. No wonder guys like Rick Baker and Peter Jackson were so enthralled by the magazine. You can probably see why I was so thrilled to have my novel Blind Shadows reviewed at Famous Monsters.
   Anyway, that was and is Halloween to me. A few days to revel in the darker side of the human imagination. To wander through moon lit nightscapes of shadows and fog, where things undreamed of in our philosophies lurk just beyond the borders of the fields we know.

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