By JAKE SEXTON
In recent years, Halloween has transformed. No longer just plastic masks and candy for kids, we have come to embrace monsters and creepiness in our pop culture, and get pretty excited about this holiday. Here are a few recent works to get you into the Halloween spirit.
One of the creepier original premises I’ve heard of this year was for Adrian McKinty’s “The Chain.” Single mother Rachel Klein gets a phone call from a stranger to inform them that they have kidnapped Rachel’s daughter, and that her daughter will not be released unless Rachel kidnaps someone else’s child! It’s like one of those chain letters you were always warned not to break, but one in which you defeat your nightmare by becoming the monster in someone else’s. If you don’t want to sleep tonight, or want to gain phobias about your own children, read this book right away.“Frankenstein” was essentially the world’s first science fiction novel, written by Mary Shelley. It was more of a tale of the folly of man playing God, than it was about the monster we’ve come to know. Roseanne Montillo’s “The Lady and Her Monsters” tells us about Shelley’s life, feminism and personal relationships, and how her book was informed by the science of her time. Apparently much more lurid than most of us would expect, these early experiments were a mix of alchemy, medicine, reason, daring and madness. Many of these early scientists could easily star in true crime stories!
“Lore” is a recent multimedia phenomenon by author and producer Aaron Mahnke. It began as a podcast looking at “true scary stories” about myths, urban legends, hauntings and monsters. As the show became more popular, Mahnke started a “Lore” TV show and series of books. “The World of Lore” series has three books so far, focused on different topics: “Monstrous Creatures,” “Wicked Mortals” and “Dreadful Places.” However the books stick very close to the content of the podcasts, so reading and listening could feel a bit redundant.H.P. Lovecraft has become all the rage in modern horror, and homages to his work are quite common. He is known for his “weird tales” in pulp magazines from the 1920s, which developed a bleak mythology about powerful gods and alien worlds that were so incomprehensible that any human who saw them was reduced to madness. But over time, Lovecraft’s works have been tainted by revelations that in his personal life he was a horrible and vocal racist. Which is why I was so interested in Matt Ruff’s novel “Lovecraft Country,” which promised to juxtapose the cosmic horror of Lovecraft’s mythology with the racist horror of African-Americans living under Jim Crow in the 1950s. In this book, the scares from white supremacy often outweigh the scares of evil cults and supernatural powers.
After Halloween, you can start preparing for the next batch of holidays with Healthy Holiday Cooking workshop on Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. And if cooking’s not your thing, you can come to our next Second Saturday concert, to listen to the talented jazz pianist Danny Green, Nov. 9, at 1 p.m.
— Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or visit online at sdcl.org.