The Paranormal Perceptions series was created to gather some of the most interesting authors that are using paranormal elements in their stories. Every author has their own perceptions and provides their own insight on all things paranormal, ranging from urban legends and paranormal research, to myths and inspirations. This week on the guest series is author of Hickey of the Beast, author Isabel Kunkle.
I’d like to thank PW Creighton for having me on this blog, and you all for reading this entry. It’s good to be here!
When I was in sixth grade, an acquaintance of mine gave me a copy of IT, by Stephen King. I spent the first few days of summer vacation reading it, not wanting to stop even at the grossest parts. (The bit with the refrigerator, OH MY GOD. EW.) To this day, it remains one of my favorite books—partly because I’ve always liked horror and particularly horror on a grand scale, but also partly because of the way it deals with childhood, adulthood, and friendship. Later, I got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer for some of the same reasons.
Despite parental outcry regarding gore and violence, and despite the very reasonable reactions of parents who don’t want to wake up at 3 AM when you have nightmares about brain-eating slugs, horror and YA go very well together. Before I got into Stephen King, I read RL Stine and Christopher Pike; “Bloody Mary” is THE classic sleepover game; and Halloween, a holiday dedicated to the uncanny, is also one of the most kid-centered holidays out there.
I think that power, and the lack thereof, is a huge part of the allure that horror holds for kids. At ten or twelve or fourteen, you can’t vote, drive, or have sex. Someone else decides everything from where you live to when you have dinner, and even your ability to complain about it runs up against the threat of further penalties. Furthermore, there’s a lot about the world you don’t know—even the brightest and most theoretically-educated kid is missing a lot of experience.
Weirdly enough, horror doesn’t actually reverse that situation. It just puts you in a different position. Horror has plenty of rules: vampires can’t come in unless you invite them, silver stops werewolves, and you shouldn’t play with the damn Ouija board. The thing is, your parents and teachers don’t make those rules. They might not even know about those rules. You’re the one who knows them—in some cases, such as IT or Buffy, it’s mostly kids who even know those rules are necessary. This time, the people who are “in charge” during the daylight, and who seem to know all about how the world works—or at least say they do—are depending on you to save them.
Or, at least, if you’re powerless, so are they. “Because I say so” isn’t going to work on a zombie, and you can’t threaten the Blob with no allowance or not getting into a good college. In the end, horror, for kids, is at least in part about leveling the playing field. Against the Things from Beyond, we’re all equally puny—and when you have to spend your mornings doing long division, sometimes that’s a comfort.
Isabel Kunkle lives and works in Boston, where the winters have yet to kill her. She’s been the headmaster’s kid at a number of prep schools and attended Phillips Academy Andover herself, but has yet to develop mystic powers, unless you count the ability to eat nearly anything. When she has a moment, she likes reading, roleplaying, ballroom dancing, and watching bad TV from the Eighties.