Librarian and friend of Writing Bloc Becky Spratford is hosting a series titled 31 Days of Horror on her blog. She’s invited our authors to tell her readers why they love horror. Here’s Aly Welch, author of SILLY LITTLE MONSTERS.
Asking why I love horror is akin to asking why I like food or water. I have consumed it in one form or another for as long as I can remember, and it helps to sustain me. At first, anything scary was not my thing. Seeing movies like Gremlins and A Christmas Story in the theater as a toddler terrified me. When you’re little, and everything is still new and loud and confusing, A Christmas Story plays like a nightmarish fever dream instead of the holiday classic most remember it as.
My first literary exposure that gently eased me into a deeper appreciation for horror was a rabbit tale of mystery from Deborah and James Howe: Bunnicula. I developed an interest in writing around the same time. If Harold the dog could do it, why couldn’t I?
I grew to enjoy my horror with a side of heart and humor. Whenever I checked out Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark from the school library, the funnier offerings like “The Viper” and “Wait Till Martin Comes” earned the most re-reads. I was finally able to recognize and enjoy the humor in Gremlins on a smaller screen, and monster movies became more appealing, too.
Eventually I sought out darker and scarier content. I first flipped through Stephen King’s gruesome illustrated novella The Cycle of the Werewolf when I was nine. His books, along with movie adaptations like Cat’s Eye and Stand By Me, felt as definitive of the 80s as music by Madonna, though my enjoyment of both has extended well beyond then.
When Saturdays still meant morning cartoons to my peers, I looked forward to late night programming like Monsters, Tales from the Dark Side, and Friday the 13th the Series (a show about cursed objects, not the boring dude in the hockey mask, though a crossover was considered at some point). Even an anthology series featuring wise-cracking Freddy Krueger. He really slayed me with his puns.
I’ll just show myself out…
The more age-appropriate series Are You Afraid of the Dark? became my favorite part of Saturday night Nickelodeon in the 90s. By then, YA horror was beginning to hit its stride with Fear Street by R. L. Stine, and books by Christopher Pike and L.J. Smith. I particularly enjoyed Pike’s crisp writing style and witty protagonists, and Smith’s vivid descriptions and breathless romance. I wanted more than cheap thrills and the occasional giggle, I wanted to relate or dream of a more exciting life than the one I was living.
Along came genre-defying television like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dead Like Me. I found comfort and catharsis through fictional horrors that often mirrored the very real trials and tribulations of growing up. The characters’ missteps sometimes meant more to me than their triumphs. As scary as seeing the Chosen One hit rock bottom was, I appreciated the reminder that present circumstances aren’t permanent and don’t define us.
And then there’s Angel. I’ve been thinking about Angel a lot lately. If Buffy taught me to pick myself up and try again, Angel reminded me why we fight in the first place. Not because we’re chosen, or because there’s something to be gained from the effort, but because humanity is worth fighting for no matter the outcome. Today that message hits harder than ever.
At its core, we confront our fear of death through horror. It reminds us that life is fragile and fleeting and encourages us to embrace it for as long as we can.
Aly Welch lives in Western New York with her husband, author Mike X Welch, and their twin sons. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys acting, karate, and yoga. She also loves exploring the woods and still hopes to find magic behind every tree and under every rock.
An earlier version of “Alpha” appeared in the Writing Bloc Deception anthology. It leads Silly Little Monsters, which will be published by Writing Bloc on October 23rd.
She is currently working on her debut novel.