Photo via Biography.com
A long time ago, before the internet gave us pictures of cats in pumpkins to celebrate Halloween, people liked to gather together and tell scary stories. Even before Halloween as we know it became an official holiday the end of the harvest, the shortening of the days, the impending winter, and the chill in the air sent people rushing to huddle around a fire eager to scare each other witless. It wasn’t just about the fun of seeing who could be the last man standing, there was also a bond that was built that would be needed for the bleak months ahead. This was the case long before master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe was even in short pants (which probably caught fire, given his luck), but after his works started to gain popularity there was a whole new batch of horrors for people to soil themselves to!
Poe’s works were visceral, unapologetic, gruesome, and psychological. He pioneered the “singular effect,” which basically meant if your aim is to write a scary story every single thing you put to paper should be for the sole purpose of making your reader curl into a fetal position and cry. Poe’s works are almost always from a first person perspective, meaning you jump into a person’s brain every time you read one and it seems like they’re always begging you personally to back them up.
It also makes them the perfect works to read out loud in the storytelling tradition. For the audience, they get to see a performance rather than a reading, and for the reader, well, who doesn’t love the excuse to go a little mad from time to time?
In a world of graphic visual violence we often forget how terrifying just sound can be (until we hear something at the window while we’re trying to sleep and remember we live on the 10th floor). This Halloween, instead of just opting for another slasher-movie fest, or eating your weight’s worth in snickers, why not gather a group of friends together, dim the lights, and have a ghost story party? Special Guest star: Edgar Allan Poe. Plus 1: Terror.
Here are my top recommendations of Poe works to accomplish your singular effect of scary fun! Happy Halloween!
Faux (gorgeous!) poster via Master Never
As we speak, in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Episode 7 is already in production.
We’ve been teased by casting announcements, script rumors, and Carrie Fisher’s Twitter (which also features lots of pictures of her dog, Gary), but as hard as the wait is 21st century Star Wars fans can find solace in at least one thing.
Namely, unlike a previous generation who had to agonize years between Empire and Jedi we have access to tons more Star Wars stuff to fill the gap. Before the age of home entertainment, fans had to rely on multiple in-theater viewings to burn the beloved trilogy into their brain. And even after the trilogy had concluded and the VCR Revolution made it possible for people to own a piece of the magic fans felt themselves wanting more. That’s where the books came in.
It started as a few one-off novels in the 1970’s, then exploded in 1991 with The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. Ever since, Star Wars novels have given fans a steady stream of battles, complex plot twists, new planets, new characters, and the growth and development of older ones. And the best part is that George had the foresight to insist that anyone who wanted to write a Star Wars book had to take into account what was already established. It wouldn’t make sense to have Chewbacca die in one novel and then have another author write a book where he was alive and well and celebrating Life Day. That continuity got fans even more invested in the world they came to view as an extended family in space.
So, while J.J and company get busy filming let’s take a lesson from an older and wiser generation and get busy reading!
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