HAPPY HALLOWEEN! It’s finally the best day of the year. We hope you’re all decked out in your spookiest costumes and ready for lots and lots of candy.
Here to celebrate it with us, and to conclude our special 31 Days of Halloween launch month feature, is critically acclaimed, world-renowned horror editor/writer Stephen Jones.
Based in London, England, Jones is a Hugo Award nominee, three-time World Fantasy Award winner, three-time International Horror Guild Award winner, five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, 21-time British Fantasy Award winner and also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association. If you’re thinking that Jones’ shelves must be heaving under all those statuettes, you are probably right (though admittedly we haven’t seen them). He has more than 140 books to his credit, including The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History, the highly recommended non-fiction studies Horror: 100 Best Books and Horror: Another 100 Best Books (both with Kim Newman), and 27 volumes of Best New Horror.
Jones knows horror fiction like few in the industry do, so he’s the perfect person to bring our month-long list of reading recommendations to a close.
Now, dig in, get scared and have a wonderfully wicked Halloween, from all of us here at the Library.
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31 Days of Halloween… with Stephen Jones
Describe a time when a scene in a horror novel really unnerved you or caused you to turn on all the lights.
To be honest, that has never really happened to me. Back in the day — when I actually had time to read horror novels regularly — I always used to enjoy them, but I can’t recall any that actually unnerved me to that extent. It’s always taken a lot for fiction to actually scare me (which is perhaps why I became an editor), and novels have always seemed more like a roller coaster ride to me — you’re in it for the long term, and there will be (emotional) up-and-downs along the way. However, there have been times when I have been scared by short stories (M.R. James’ ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You’; Ramsey Campbell’s ‘The Chimney’), movies (The Uninvited; The Innocents) and TV shows (The Stone Tape), which are more like a quick ride through the ghost train. After doing this professionally for nearly forty years, I have to admit that it takes a lot to scare me these days.
In your opinion, what is the all-time scariest horror novel or short story?
Again, that’s a tough question, as I don’t judge horror fiction by its “scariness.” I know I was thrilled by Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot, which I always thought was much better than The Shining. And I adored Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes for the language and the atmosphere. I guess one of the scariest short stories I’ve ever read is ‘Sticks’ by Karl Edward Wagner. Not only is it nominally a “Lovecraftian” story about backwoods horrors, but it is also supposedly based on a true story that happened to pulp magazine illustrator Lee Brown Coye. You only have to read Wagner’s story to see where The Blair Witch Project or the first season of True Detective came from.
Your top three fears?
Ha! That’s an easy one. Like so many people, I’m a bundle of neurosis. My top three (real-life) fears, in reverse order, are:
3. Physical disability: So much of what I do involves eyesight, hearing, mobility. I am constantly worried, as I grow older, that I will begin to lose my eyesight or hearing (which will affect my ability to read, or watch movies and TV). Or that I will not be able to get around as well as I used to. I saw this happen to my mother before her death earlier this year — it was heartbreaking to see this once-active and vital woman betrayed by her own body as it gradually became more and more infirm as she grew older.
2. Mental illness: For the reasons stated in the previous answer, much of what I do — what defines me as a person — is done with my mind, my imagination. The idea that my mental facilities will somehow degrade over the years fills me with dread. Diseases like Alzheimer’s are on the rise (or, at least, are being better diagnosed), and I hate the idea that, one day, I might not remember who I am, what I have done.
1. Death. The big one. I love what I do, and I do what I love. I don’t want it to end. I have no faith in any kind of existence after death, so I believe in doing the best you can during your (relatively) short span of life. Leaving something behind that defines “you.” I’ve never had children, so my books are my children — they are what will remain behind after I am gone. And hopefully one or two will survive long after I’m dead so that, at least, I may become a minor footnote in the history of horror literature. That’s really all I can ask for . . .
For more on Stephen Jones, visit him at www.stephenjoneseditor.com.
Author photo copyright © Peter Coleborn. All rights reserved.