Borrowing from the Crypt Keeper
Jessica B. Bell
Perhaps my earliest experience with horror, the cheesy, tongue-firmly-in-cheek antics of the grizzled skeleton host of Tales From the Crypt has had a huge influence on my writing. Strange as that may sound (the series would never be considered high literature), I loved the larger-than-life comic book gore and over-the-top villains who were usually just jilted husbands or wives looking for revenge, or else seizing the opportunity to feed one another to some monster under the stairs. As if this is how normal people would act. But then, these were the kinds of stories where creatures from another planet, zombies rising from the dead, and cannibalistic families that looked like the Brady Bunch were commonplace.
More so even than Tales from the Crypt, I loved the old Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella comics, which introduced me to artists like Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corben, John Severin, and Alex Toth. I loved how these stories could take seemingly normal people and put them into the types of situations for which we have no point of reference on how a person would respond. There’s a surreal aspect to it that defies definition, and so much of it depends on juxtaposition. The writer takes a certain situation for which there are already pre-conceived societal expectations – everyone reading is familiar with how things should work out – and then turns it on its head, and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
While I don’t write pure pulp horror (yet, I should say, as I’m always experimenting), I borrow greatly from this tradition of subterfuge and deception, leading the reader down one path only to reveal, too late, that I have led them into a trap. I loved The Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, The Outer Limits, and anything by Harlan Ellison that I could get my hands on.
These were the types of stories that dared to ask What would happen if…? What would happen if you actually acted on that impulse to kill your boss? What if you turned left instead of right, and went to check out that dark house at the top of the hill? What if there really were alligators in the sewers? What if you woke up and nobody knew who you were? What if God went on vacation, and left the devil in charge of the world, and made some drastic changes? What if aliens arrived and threatened to destroy us unless we changed our warlike ways, only to return 20 years later, and upon discovering that we’ve negotiated world peace, destroyed us in disgust, telling us that we hadn’t been entertaining enough; that they’d wanted us to be more bloodthirsty, more destructive?
“Random Act of Kindness” is just such a story – one where seemingly normal people are put into completely abnormal situations – and is just one strange story found in Viscera, published by Sirens Call Publications and available now. It tells of a young girl’s initiation in a Christmas tradition that will leave you stuffed but looking forward to leftovers the next day.
Viscera — Jessica B. Bell
Viscera is a collection of short stories full of all the things that make you squirm, cringe, and laugh when you know you shouldn’t. You’ll remember why you’re afraid of the dark and experience an abundance of weird creatures: witches, ancient gods, and all-too-human monsters – the scariest of all.
Indulge your twisted sense of humor with stories about unconventional werewolves and a woman with a frog fetish. Know what it’s like to arrive too late to save an unusual alien abductee, or giggle with sick delight as a woman serves up a special Hasenpfeffer dinner to her pig of a husband.
Settle in for bedtime stories fit for monsters.
Viscera will grab you by the gut and squeeze, making you cry for mercy—or laugh like a fiend!
Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.
Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com.
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