Around the Web: Spooky good reads, tips, and The Walking Dead debate

By G. Robert Frazier

In honor of Halloween, here are a few horror-related tidbits to satisfy your sweet tooth, if you dare:

The History Channel presents a crash course on the history of Halloween in several short, spooky videos. The series includes a history of witchcraft, pumpkin carving tips, a look at how candy corn is made, and much more. The videos run about two minutes each, but be warned: you can easily get sucked into watching the whole lot of them and before you know it you’ll have lost a half hour of your time.

Want more? Check out these spooky Irish myths about Halloween.

Time shares this video about how Halloween became a holiday

LitHub columnist … discusses why we love to be haunted.

True life can often be stranger than fiction. As proof, check this story about Dr. Sergio Canavero who wants to transplant a head onto another body.

Author Chuck Wendig asks: “Why is horror so anathema in publishing?” Once you let that sink in, check out his 25 things you should know about writing horror.

Hugo award-winning editor John Joseph Adams talks about horror and his favorite writers with The Master’s Review.

The New York Times Book Review offers this list of the latest and best in horror.

The Guardian asks “what scares the masters of horror?”

Kids, Charlie the Choo-Choo isn’t related to Thomas the Tank Engine. Charlie is a spooky train from the pages of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series due out in book stores Nov. 22 from Simon & Schuster and written by King under the pseudonym Beryl Evans.

Speaking of King, Cemetery Dance frequently shares a column called News from the Dead Zone featuring all things King. The latest edition has news about his newest collection of essays, his aforementioned children’s book, as well as updates on film and TV projects based on his works. I was fortunate to see King on his last book tour at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville earlier this year, and even more fortunate to come away with a signed copy of the book. Writer’s Digest columnist Philip Athans shared these lessons on crafting monsters by drawing from King’s The Mist.

A Head Full of Ghosts author Paul Tremblay, who has a new three-book deal with HarperCollins, is planning to release a short story collection next year.

The season seven premiere of The Walking Dead generated a lot of criticism for going too far in terms of brutality and blood on TV. I’m a fan of horror movies and horror fiction, but even I thought it was one of the most over the top and revolting 90 minutes of programming I’ve ever seen. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with The Walking Dead already—I love that it has delivered powerful, scare-filled stories to the small screen, but hate its increasingly repetitive plot, the complete waste of its titular zombie villains as legitimate threats, and lack of narrative drive to determine what caused the outbreak or if it can be cured. I’m hopeful the series gives us some strong storytelling in the weeks ahead and a lot less gore, or I may have to go the way of Fear the Walking Dead and American Horror Story by turning it off altogether.

Video blogger Ray Edwards posted an extremely thoughtful piece about “Why I stopped watching The Walking Dead.” I think he nails it in terms of what feelings the season premiere evoked in viewers: hopelessness, anxiety, and helplessness. Edwards says those are feelings he doesn’t want in his head, that he would much rather carry feelings of hopefulness, peacefulness, and helpfulness. I don’t want to feel those negative things either. I’d much rather laugh or cry in joy or feel a sense of pride. Mel Gibson’s new movie, Hacksaw Ridge, for instance, is a movie experience that will have you bursting with pride and good emotions when it is over. But, I’m not sure quitting watching The Walking Dead at this point will erase the negative feelings the season seven premiere evoked. I think now that the show has reached what has to be its lowest point, its all is lost moment, that we will be watching our heroes each week out of a desperate need for hope. That, by the way, is one of the hallmarks of any well-structured story. Once a character gets to the bleakest, harshest moment, he or she must make a decision: quit and give in to your fears and sense of failure and utter helplessness, or take a stand to make things better. Watch the video at the link above. Watch the series. Then you decide.

As if The Walking Dead’s gore isn’t enough, now there’s a haunted attraction, McKamey Manor, drawing fire for its immersive torture-like level of mayhem on its guests. According to the article, participants are subject to waterboarding, force-feeding, punching, slapping and torture. Virtually nothing is off limits as the goal of organizers is to make sure no one completes the maze. So far, they’ve been perfect. The whole idea of taking such things to extremes for an adrenalin rush sounds eerily similar to a drug addict’s attempts to reach a new high. The danger lies in just how far you’re willing to go and how far event organizers can push things. But then, that sort of thing is part of our culture. Just look at the evolution of theme park rollercoasters over the years. Each new one takes riders higher and faster than the last one. Extreme sports is another example, as individuals dare to dive off cliffs or race through grueling obstacle courses with no apparent regard for safety. I’m perfectly content to get my thrills from the safety of my recliner with a good movie or a good book, thank you very much.

To that end, here are some short horror films. I hope to watch several of these, but plan to cap the night with a DVD double feature of The Mist and The Wolfman. For those of you writers out there thinking about writing a horror opus of your own for the big screen, Screenwriting U breaks down 13 subgenres of horror in its guide to writing horror scripts.

Screenwriters and filmmakers interested in writing horror should jump on this: The second online Genre Summit features four days of webinars beginning Monday from experts on everything from developing, writing and shooting a horror film to selling your screenplay and self-financing your project. The sessions are free for 24 hours, but you can pay for an upgrade that gives you lifetime access.

The Genre Summit 2 guest lineup includes horror director  Uwe Boll, who recently announced his retirement. Boll says “the market is dead. You don’t make any money anymore on movies because the DVD and Blu-ray market worldwide has dropped 80% in the last three years.” Now that’s scary news for any screenwriter, filmmaker or horror movie fan. Of course, Boll’s movies are generally considered some of the worst horror movies around, so it’s not like his movies were ever making huge sales gains on DVD or Blu-ray anyway. On the other hand, movies like The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe, and Ouija 2 are seeing considerable success at the box office. Even Boo! A Madea Halloween slayed the competition in its opening weekend. So there’s hope for you screenwriters right there!

And finally, if you write in the horror genre, you need to know about The BloodList, an annual survey of screenplays that includes the best dark scripts that fit into the wide horror genre.

Happy Halloween!

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