It’s hard to imagine, when you’re a new father, what exactly to expect from your children as they grow. Your responsibilities are easy: feed it; clothe it; make sure it doesn’t stick any part of itself into anything dangerous (electrical sockets, lion’s mouths, inter-dimensional portals, etc); and teach them to live and learn as a functioning member of society. The idea is to get them going on a good path, kick their ass back onto that path a few times, give up and let them choose their own path, and then support them through whatever it is they want to do.
Now, my wife and I had our first kid when I was a young pup – all of 23 years old. At that youthful point in my life, the point where I hadn’t admitted that my body hated me and I hadn’t started groaning when bending over to reach something, I’d amassed a highly impressive collection of exploitation, giallo, slaughter, slasher, stalker, and scary movies – a collection I’ve since heavily culled for various reasons. Our first child, an incredible, ginger-haired little girl, was a day-sleeper – a true child of the night who thrived on midnight and 2am bursts of energy and babbling. And this… this should have been my first hint of what she had in store for me.
Now, seven years later, we’ve been through her self-labelled “horror girl” status, the writing of a short story called “Vampixie”, the utterance of “braaaaaaaaiiiiiiins” at around a year old, and long night movie marathons that would impress even the most ardent of horror fanatics. She covered herself in marker because “I have tattoos like DADDY!”, threw ‘the goat’ in public on a regular basis, made vampire fangs out of french-fries (still does), and a flurry of other interesting, horror-centric things.
This is a child who can pick Vincent Price out of a line-up, knows that Bela Lugosi was the Universal Vampire, called out Christopher Lee as Dracula when watching Lord of the Rings for the first time, and argued with Greg Lamberson about the necessity of having poppy seeds on a hotdog bun over lunch.
She’s also the kid who sat up with me, for almost 3 years, watching horror films, listening to horror themed punk rock, and was generally steeped in the genre while the rest of the world slept.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she took an interest in the macabre and brought it with her wherever she went.
My kid, my horror-kid, is one of the strongest, most intelligent women in the horror genre that any of us will ever know. When I think of “Women in Horror”, I never count her, or the untold amount of other “horror kids”, out of the game.
They’re the future.
They are the women who will carry the torch.
They are the ladies who will solidify, intellectualize, and express the fury that hell hath no fury akin to, even without being scorned.
And this one… this one is mine.
Her passion, like that of mine and her mother, is literature. Her enthusiasm and dedication to the written word is rivaled by no one, and sated by virtually nothing. This is a girl who, at 6 years old, completed the entire Spiderwick Chronicles series. She’s devoured much of the seven Harry Potter books, and eradicated the entirety of the Percy Jackson series, along with the tie-in novels, to date.
But it’s the knowledge that this child is in love with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe that sends my heart a-flutter.
When our son (the second child) was a baby, the eldest and I started reading one Poe poem per night for the month of October. She was probably on the older side of 3 or just turning 4 at the time. We would sit in her bed at night, and she would point out titles she was most interested in. Of course, she wanted to read the longest ones, but I always had a different design on the evening’s reading. We hit a staggering amount of poems that year, sometimes reading two or three a night, with her favorites being Spirits of the Dead, The City in the Sea, The Sleeper, The Haunted Palace, The Conqueror Worm, and Lenore.
I cannot tell you how much this child laughed as I suffered through The Bells, though. Even a few nights ago, 3 or so years after that reading – mind you, she still finds the power to laugh maniacally about it. She can’t remember where she put her hair tie three seconds ago, but she remembers watching me suffer through…
“To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells”
…for four lengthy verses.
You can bet this was a favorite, and assuredly became a nightly request which was accompanied by maddening giggles.
It goes without saying that, in the lonesome nights of October, we saved The Raven for last. On Hallowe’en night we Trick-or-Treated in a violently pleasant manner – tickling, growling, and generally sharing the spirit of the season with family and friends as only our immediate family possibly could. We cavorted up and down the streets, jumped in the car, hit other neighbourhoods, and reaped our rewards for waiting patiently through yet another 364 days of the non-Hallowe’en, hum-drum year. When we retired for the evening, she could barely contain her excitement for the fact that we were about to read one of Poe’s most famous works. Personally, I wouldn’t have traded that moment for anything in the world. But alas, as the laws of Murphy take effect at any magical moment, by the 12th or 13th verse… she was asleep. I continued to read the story to her sleeping form, tucked her in, and went about my business with a contented smile on my face that is still there every time I think about that moment.
As a dedicated child of the macabre, she’s chosen to memorize Annabel Lee for a personal project/memorization practice. When prompted to memorize any poem she wanted, my kid went straight to Poe.
And that warms my cold, black heart.
So, all of you Big Bad Daddies out there, this one is for you more than it is for the ladies. Stand up and stand damned tall. Show the people celebrating this month’s festivities that we hold the hands of dragon slaying princesses, and guide the future of horror across the street to get that damned ball we told them to keep in the yard. Tell the kind folks who think a lady’s place in the world is behind the man-on-a-mission, that your daughter could probably out-think, out-gross, and out-crazy them in a heartbeat… and look a whole helluva lot prettier while doing it.
‘Cause these little ladies are the future of horror-to-come, and they’re gonna own your soul just like this one owns mine.
As a special treat, little miss horror-kid has memorized and recorded herself reading Annabel Lee, for y’all to enjoy.
Have a listen here, and remember that Women in Horror Month isn’t just about the actresses, authors, artists, and ladies in the spotlight. It’s about the little girl who begs you to bring her to cons, can’t wait till she’s old enough to read your novels, and yearns for the late-night double-bill viewings of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s Bride.
She’s your little princess, that much is true… but her vision of all things strange is the makings of a voice that could very well revolutionize the genre in more ways than we could ever believe.
Nurture those voices. And help them become the mistresses of the macabre that they so truly deserve to be. Celebrate the little Women of Horror.
And yeah… that almost made me cry.