INTRODUCTION TO FEAR OF THE DARK BY PAUL KANE
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I make no secret of, or excuses about, my own fear of the dark. It’s very real and has been with me since I was little. Even now, on occasion, that small boy who used to be terrified at the thought of going to bed with the lights off resurfaces. But I beat him down, as adults do. Remind myself I’m a grown-up and I shouldn’t be scared of the shadows, or what I believe to be in them. Anyone who’s ever read my work should be able to trace the influence of this fear. I mean, just look at some of the titles: stories like “Blackout” and “Shadow Writer” (from which I took the name of my website, shadow-writer.co.uk); books like Alone (In the Dark), The Shadows Trilogy and Of Darkness and Light. In fact, if you’ve ever read the prologue to the last one, you’ll catch a glimpse of that little boy yourself, imagining all kinds of things in that darkened bedroom. Imagining the dark was alive and coming to get me. I think it’s a pretty healthy fear, actually, and to quote from Mike Carey who did the introduction to Of Darkness and Light, “Fear of the dark has a very impressive pedigree...” Many writers have tackled it in the past, and I’m sure many more will in the future. However, in the meantime, you have this excellent anthology which has gathered together many like- minded souls in an effort to work out just what it is about this subject that scares us. Why are we so frightened of what’s out there when the sun goes down? I know what personally creeps me out about it all, but it’s always fascinating to get other people’s take on it. And so, in “(To Live, To Die) By Dusk’s Dark Light,” Charlie Loudowl investigates the subject not only of night, but some of its more famous inhabitants, focusing on a search for the scientific reasons behind them. In “She’s Not There,” Brian Wright switches to the supernatural, and muses about the possibilities of what might happen after that great darkness: Death. “A Distinctive Curiosity,” however, by Dave Ingalls concerns itself more with the transportation of souls to that void — at least while they’re still here on earth. A catalyst for a living darkness, darkness made up of many parts which also has many tiny wings. Then in Eric Dimbleby’s “Beak Boy” the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred as the titular entity plagues one man in utter blackness. While in “Dark Horse,” Martin Rose examines what happens when nightmares are thrown into the mix, terrors that become all too real when the connection with a sinister carnival is revealed. “Daughters of the Night” on the other hand, sees Adrian Chamberlin in full flow, penning a disturbing story about a gothic neighbour and sins being punished. Fearful is night to the guilty, he writes as a warning... In “Finders Keepers” Michael F. Fudali gets to grips with things in the shadows, only glimpsed in the periphery of your vision (something else I know all about). Then in “For Fear of the Little Men” Sandra M. Odell mixes the age-old childhood fear of things under the bed at night-time with an investigation into creatures supposed to only exist in fairytales. Mary A. Turzillo’s “Handyman” takes as its subject matter the very real fear of the stalker in the dark — the mythology of a serial killer put to use to cover a deadly crime. Returning to the supernatural again, Aaron Polson’s “Keeping the Dead” involves an old house and another kind of mythology altogether, a battle between the living and those who crave the dead. Set in the 19th Century, “Lullaby of the Grotesque” begins with a spot of late night grave robbing (Burke and Hare style) which has disastrous consequences, and ends with a uniquely shocking twist guaranteed to make you shudder. Yet in “Crack O’Doom” by Angel Leigh McCoy, the impending darkness precipitates an unusual storm. A storm that leads to another terrifying situation altogether: one that really will make you fear the dark. The, appropriately titled, “Nocturnal Visions” by Mark Leslie reminds us that some of the fabled characters said to call on us only at night can be as frightening as they are welcome. And A.D. Spencer’s “Reminiscence” uses noises in the dark to make the hairs on the back of your neck prickle; will it be what you’re expecting? You’ll just have to read to the finale to find out... In “Spy Glass Hill” from Lisa Mannetti, it is an old house rather than a location, and the destination for a team of ghost hunters who get much more than they bargained for. Next comes Anne M. Pillsworth’s “The Doll in the Window,” which you really would not want coming after you when the lights have dimmed. “The Closet" by Norman L. Rubenstein & Carol Weekes is a perfect device for exploring fear of the dark, here the place for keeping terrible and tragic family secrets. The ever-reliable Christopher Fowler, though, examines the darkness one figure can bring with him in “The Man in the Rain.” Can this person, an outline glimpsed in the downpour after a funeral, really be the harbinger of death? Finally, “What She Dreams” from the imagination of Brian D. Mazur has the protagonist actually crawling through darkness — you’ll discover why when you read it. I can’t think of anything more unnerving! So there you have it, tales which... What’s that? What about my own contribution, “Keeper of the Light?” Well, it would probably be fair to say that this particular story is a culmination of all those years of being scared and writing about the dark. A cautionary story about what might happen if we don’t take what’s out there in the blackness more seriously. Just a little something to think about when you turn out the light and try to get to sleep tonight... Paul Kane December 2010
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