Tuesday 24 April 2012

Guest Post by Alexander Gordon Smith: The Real Magic of Horror (The Fury Blog Tour)

For a variety of reasons, recently I have been cutting back on the number of blog tours I am participating in. However, there are a handful of authors who are always welcome to guest post on The Book Zone and Alexander Gordon Smith is one of them. He writes such great articles, and if you haven't seen his earlier pieces that have appeared on The Book Zone you can find them here and here. This time he is here as part of the blog tour for his new book, The Fury. At the end of this post you will also be able to read details about an amazing The Fury competition that Faber are running.

The Real Magic of Horror

This is my third guest post for the awesome Book Zone (For Boys) blog – my favourite book blog in the world! – and I’m really honoured to be here again! Last time I talked about how playing Murderball was the inspiration for my new book, The Fury, and this time I’d like to go back even further, to when I was a kid, and talk about another moment of horrific inspiration!

When I was six years old, or thereabouts, I had my first experience of real horror. I don’t mean a tragedy, I mean genre horror. I used to go and stay with my Gran and Granddad up in Scotland. They were a wonderful couple (both sadly passed now), and my Gran especially was a lovely, round, little old lady who liked to give me and my sister treats. She worked in a shop, one that rented videos, and she would often bring home sweets and toys and films for us. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but on one of these trips I must have told my Gran that I really liked horror. Being six years old, what I probably meant by this was that I enjoyed the occasional episode of Scooby Doo. But my Gran must have got the wrong end of the stick, because one afternoon she came home from work with a stack of videos for me to watch. Horror videos.

I don’t know exactly which movies they were – I think I have blanked out the memory! But there were definitely zombies. And killer puppets. And chainsaws. I remember being absolutely terrified, but I didn’t want to hurt my Gran’s feelings by telling her to turn them off, so I kept trying to make excuses (I must have gone to the toilet seventeen times), or claiming I heard someone knocking at the door, or just staring at the wall above the telly trying to tune out the screams from the screen. But my Gran was sitting right next to me, and she kept pointing out all the gruesome bits, saying things like “Oh look, she’s just eaten his eyeballs.” That night, lying in bed at my Gran’s house (which was quite a scary place anyway, as there was a cupboard door in my room that would never stay closed and I was convinced monsters lived in there), I was absolutely terrified; literally petrified, I couldn’t even move in my bed. Right then, six years old, monsters were 100% real. Ghosts and zombies and serial killers with chainsaws were 100% real. There was no distinction between fantasy and reality in my head. Absolutely anything could happen. So, when my Gran walked into the bedroom (she must have sensed I was still awake), wearing nothing but a nightie, her teeth already out for the night, saying “Are you okay?” I was utterly convinced that she was a zombie. I fell out of bed, ran into a wall, and that’s all I can recall about that particular evening.

For a little while after that, I couldn’t even watch Scooby Doo without having a panic attack and bursting into tears. But I think that night is what gave me a real sense of the potential for horror. Obviously I didn’t rationalise it like this at the time, being only six, but looking back at that night, and the other times I was scared witless as a kid, it made me realise what I love about the genre: Horror makes the impossible possible.

Horror twists reality and fantasy in a way that no other genre does. How many times, when reading a scary book or watching a gruesome movie, have you felt that tickle of fear crawl up your spine, your scalp shrink, your guts churn? Not because of the words on the page or the images on the screen, but because right then, in that moment, you are convinced that the horror has leaked out into the real world – there really is a serial killer lurking behind the shower curtain, or a ghost in the mirror, or a brain-eating zombie right outside the front door. At the risk of sounding like a wimp, I regularly leave the hall light on at night because I’ve been reading something terrifying – and occasionally my bedroom light too (most recently a few weeks ago when I was utterly convinced there was a legless witch at the bottom of the stairs who wanted to eat me)! That isn’t sane, rational behaviour – it’s because deep down in my psyche I am absolutely, 100% convinced that there are bad things in the house, that the story has become real, just like I was when I was six.

For me, that is the true power of horror – it takes the boundless, depthless, incredible imagination of childhood and lets you explore it once again. As adults, we often lose that ability to lose ourselves in fantasy; it’s so much easier for us to rationalise, to distinguish between what is real and what is not, what is possible and what is impossible. I think we suffer for it, because we become rooted in reality, and we lose that sense of wonder and awe. For me, one of the best things about being a kid was that everything you read, watched, wrote, dreamed could be real, that literally anything could happen. Of course when you read any book or watch any film you suspend your disbelief a little, but you’re still often aware that what you’re experiencing is just a narrative. With horror, though, the physics of the story leak out of the pages, off the screen, they become as real as the world you live in; utterly, terrifyingly believable.

I’ve had a few people get in touch already to say that The Fury has had this effect on them, which is great! I wrote the book to get under your skin, to stay with you long after you have finished reading it. The core idea of the story – that at any moment, without warning, every single person in the world will turn against you, tear you to pieces, and then go back to their lives as if nothing has happened – will start off sounding ridiculous, impossible. But hopefully after reading it you’ll be in the mall, or at school, or at a football match, and suddenly you’ll start to wonder what you’d do if everyone fell silent and turned to look at you with expressions of utter hatred; if they all screamed at once and started running towards you with nothing but murder on their faces. You’ll start to plan your escape routes, your hiding places, what you might be able to use as a weapon. And in those moments, the story will have become real, you’ll be six years old again and living in a world where anything can happen.

Horror turns you into a kid again, it opens up your imagination, making everything possible. But it isn’t all about being scared. That’s the real beauty of it, I think. It’s like exercise for your brain – if you believe that monsters are real, even for a short time, then suddenly other impossible things become possible too: maybe even things about yourself that you never thought you could achieve. It makes you question your idea of reality, of your own world and your own potential. Suddenly you are no longer being told what’s real – you create your own reality, your own boundaries. It stops being a case of, “That’s impossible, I could never do that,” and becomes instead, “Well, who says it’s impossible?” That’s the true magic of horror. If anything can be real then anything can be possible. If anything is possible then anything is doable. And if anything is doable, then do it! Horror makes that happen.
Thanks, Darren, for letting me stop by on my blog tour!


Huge thanks to Gordon for taking the time to write this for us. A lot of what he has written rings very true for me too - I have a habit of planning escape routes whenever we go out for a meal, etc - just in case the zombie apocalypse finally arrives during that evening. And this was long before I read The Fury. If you love horror and have not yet discovered the Furnace series or The Fury then shame on you!

Competition Details:


A brand new competition from THE SPARK, Faber’s new online community aimed at creative 13 – 18 year-olds.

THE FURY is a brand new YA thriller from Alexander Gordon Smith, about what would happen if, without warning, the whole world tried to kill you. It’s a non-stop, rollercoaster ride of excitement, mystery and supernatural terror – and we giving YOU the chance to create the trailer for it!

If you’re between the ages of 13 and 18 and fancy trying your hand at filmmaking, all you need to do is send us a script and storyboard for the trailer of THE FURY, by 2 July. You don’t need filmmaking experience or equipment – if your script is selected in our top five you’ll win a Flip camera with which to bring your trailer to life!

Finally, the filmmaker behind the best of those five trailers will win a £500 Apple Store voucher and see their film used worldwide as the official trailer for the book.

Go to the competition page to find out more about the book, how to enter and tips on how to write the storyboard for your book trailer. Closing date Monday 2nd July 2012

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