The spice mines have not been kind to me lately; I’ve been in one of those awful malaises that I hate so much. I am behind on the book (of course) and I’ve been struggling with some short stories I needed to write. However, yesterday I made some progress on the book (huzzah!) and I think I am snapping out of it. The first thing I saw this morning on social media was this, from Anne Rice:
“To be a writer one thing is required. Write. That’s the big secret. It’s one word. Get the words down on paper, one way or another, and save them. Believe in your own voice, too, and your own way of doing it. Don’t listen to people who say negative things. They’re common. Writers are precious.”
That helped some, and I am hopeful that I am not coming out of the malaise.
Today’s horror topic is Christopher Pike.
I’ve often talked about how discovering the works of Christopher Pike in the early 1990’s was a revelation to me about young adult fiction, which I had dismissed most of my life; I’d gone almost directly from the kids’ mystery series to Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie and Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt and so forth; adult mystery and suspense. It was finding Pike–and later, R. L. Stine’s Fear Street books–that got me started writing the y/a books in the 1990’s, and even planned on connecting them all together, like the way Stine did.
Christopher Pike’s novels were seriously twisted. The first ones I bought copies of were Whisper of Death, Witch, Die Softly, and Remember Me. I was startled at how ‘adult’ the themes in the books were; when I was a teen the few books about teens I remembered were about “should I or shouldn’t I have sex?” or “drugs are bad for you” or “this is what happens if you DRINK”–that tiresome moralizing shit I couldn’t be bothered with–and in almost every instance it was about white kids in the suburbs, safely middle class. Pike’s characters were all mostly white still, but there wasn’t any overt, hit-you-in-the-head-with-a-baseball-bat type nonsense. Some of the kids were poor, from broken families, having sex, drinking, doing drugs…in other words, these were teenagers dealing with adult problems, and doing the best they could.
Whisper of Death was the first one that I read, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading, from page one. The point of view character, Roxanne, and her boyfriend, Pepper, were driving home to their small town from an abortion clinic in a nearby, larger city. Roxanne is the product of a single parent home; her mother ran away when she was a little girl, her father is blue collar and drinks too much, and Pepper, her boyfriend, is higher up on the economic scale and made it clear from the moment she realized she was pregnant that abortion was the only option. Pepper’s cavalier attitude about the situation–the palpable relief he feels now that it’s over–also has her questioning whether he is the right guy for her. So, Roxanne’s nerves and feelings are already on edge and raw as the true terror starts…every town they pass through on the drive home is abandoned. Even in their home town, there’s no one around but find three other teenagers they slightly know, and soon discover the only thing they have in common, really, is a connection through a girl named Mary Sue, who recently committed suicide, and who also apparently wrote short stories about the five of them dying in horrible ways.
As they look for other people, one by one they begin dying the way their deaths were described in Mary Sue’s stories.
I went back and read all of Pike’s books, enjoyed them all–and again, all of them were really dark and twisted. Remember Me, which turned into a trilogy, was about a dead girl whose spirit was trying to figure out who pushed her off a balcony at a party and killed her, for example. He also got me to discover Stine and Jay Bennett–who wrote amazing hard-boiled y/a thrillers. Pike also showed me that you could really push the boundaries in y/a fiction.
And now, the spice mines are calling me again.