Beyond Stephen King

Dracul coverOne of the first things you notice working in a library is how books seem to come in trends. Once a subject is popular every publisher rushes to put out a book on a similar theme, sometimes by commissioning a work to be written, sometimes by pulling something from their backlist of older works  but usually as a fad begins to develop more than one author feels the need to write their own take on that topic. So, it’s not surprising that there have been a whole slew of books on the current President and US politics in general, a dump of books on Keto dieting and a bushel of books on cooking with an Instant Pot.

In fiction, as well, trends are easy to spot and usually spread across all forms of popular culture almost all at once. Sometimes it takes a long time for a craze to percolate, while other times a trend explodes and it takes a bit for publishing to catch up. Zombies and the undead have been around in books and films forever but was the rediscovery of George A. Romero’s classic 1968 independent horror film Night of the Living Dead and the arrival of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel series The Walking Dead, which later spawned a hit television series and then suddenly zombies were everywhere.  Books, movies, music, games, stickers, clothing, whatever you can imagine can have a zombie theme, ranging from the sinister World War Z, to the silly like Disney ‘s made for teens high school comedy Zombies, there’s even a zombie romantic hero in Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.

While I’m not really a “zombie” fan, I must admit that I really liked both the film and Warm Bodies books.  The real importance of the zombie trend was the re-animation (pun intended) of the horror genre in writing. Over the last couple of decades, the horror genre was dominated by a single author, Stephen King.  While there have been other well received authors and works, including Dean Koontz, Clive Barker and Peter Straub, none have gained the acclaim of King. It was nice to see that a number of industry influencers have predicted the return of horror fiction as a force in publishing for 2019.

Leading the new wave of books are some great titles from 2018, including a return to classic themes such as Dacre Stoker’s Dracul, which pits Bram Stoker, the author of the original Dracula in the role of monster hunter and turns the famed novel into a veiled memoir. Monsters make an imaginative return in the high technology novel Awakened by James S. Murray with Darren Wearmouth.  When a state-of-the-art subway line opens in New York, the first cars return drenched in blood with no passengers and as the tunnels flood, those in the station realize something is coming, something deadly that should never have been awakened.

End of the world readers will love H.G. Bells’s Sleep Over: an Oral History of the Apocalypse, where a worldwide plague of insomnia leads to mass suicides and madness.  We all have things that make our skin crawl; be it spiders, ghosts, or confined spaces. My personal fears, which probably come from watching too many episodes of The Twilight Zone are clowns and creepy children.  Shelley Jackson  explores the whole phenomena of spooky kids in her new novel Riddance: Or: The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children.  This historical tome centres on a school that teaches children with speech impediments, only to find that their utterances are actually the voices of the dead, who are seeking a way back into the land of the living.

The dark nights of winter are the perfect time to discover the type of chills not caused by a dip in the temperature.

Lori Kauzlarick- www.tbpl.caIf you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!

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