Introit to a little something about me, which you might not know if we've met recently: There's something 'wrong' with me.
'Wrong' being a term people use for folks most folks ain't like, which is all of us, I guess, but is some of us in particular who are just a titch outside what is considered to be nominally charming and 'off-beat.'
Longtime readers of this blog know that when I go to write fiction from a piece of art, almost nothing good can come from it. I kill off people, mostly, or sew them to ceilings, or sell them off in terrible human trafficking schemes. If they're not human then they're certain to be running from something awful or getting lost in the great outer reaches of space. One time, I even had me being attacked by radioactive spiderlings in a TB hospital in Russia.
Obviously, there is in my mind a definite bent toward the dark and gruesome.
I thought I was sort of alone in this dense dark space of dreadfulness, until I discovered the artwork for the original 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark' series, which features some of the most 'me' artwork I've ever seen. These are the drawings that scared the snot out of legions of young kids back when they were published (starting in 1981), and which because of my age (graduated HS in 1980, so too old!) I missed out on entirely. I would have LOVED these books, and stared at the illustrations lovingly until they were embossed on my retinas to the point where I could close my eyes and see them in negative.
So, now, OF COURSE, I want all three books. And they are, OF COURSE, out of print.
Oh, you can buy the stories, but just not with the Stephen Gammell illustrations that made the books so ghoulishly memorable. Because, you know, why include the iconographic art? Why the heck would you print out a 30th anniversary edition of the books with the original illustrations, the ones the made such reluctant fans of so many young kids? It would be foolish to include them, right?
(insert loud 'gah!' here)
Harper-Collins thought it would be fine to just switch out illustrators (GAH!), and thus have included illustrations from another artist (A really good one, mind, but not SG!) in their re-distributions, thinking that of course because it's a BOOK the words are most important, thereby forgetting it's a KID'S BOOK and therefore, because children are visual, it's the illustrations are what moves the stories into hive-mind memory. This new version is not the same, doesn't evoke the same feelings, doesn't promote the same sense of 'out there' the old one did, isn't the same squidgy morass of fear and fascination the old one was, and so I don't like it even if I HAVEN'T EVEN READ EITHER VERSION.
Sheesh, people! Let children be scared. Let them chase their fright down long passageways into shady corners while in the comfort of their own snug beds. Let them be terrorized at home, safe, where there's a warm lap to snuggle into if needed and a word or two about 'overactive imaginations' to wrap around themselves before trundling off to bed, knowing that even the terrible things in those pictures aren't real. Don't water it down, mostly because for hte people who 30 years ago had the wits scared out of them by mere illustrations and who commented on the sad lack of them in the re-release there is no clear message that the mystical terrible pictures that accompanied them did anything but heighten the appreciation of the story, and give each cowering child a little bit of horrifying reminiscence to their younger selves.
Of course, you must remember that this message comes from me. The one who wrote this. And who dreamt of her sunny bedroom walls eating her alive with their gulping malodorous mouths and soil-stained knife-like fingers.
When she was 4.
Yes. I might indeed have some issues, but it's all given me some wonderful ideas for completely dreadful new stories to tell. Perhaps (dun dah duuuuun!) in the dark.
(That up there is one of the illustrations in question from the books on question, which I recognize as one of the staircases in the house of the my dreams. It goes to the attic. AND BASEMENT. At the same time.