“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”
-Ray Bradbury, THE OCTOBER COUNTRY
For so many of us, October is the greatest time of the year. As Bradbury points out, it is a magical time, a time filled with childhood wonder and a sense of mystery. It is a time for the Autumn People.
Who are the Autumn People? As Bradbury again says:
“For these beings, fall is ever the normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth….Such are the autumn people.”
This is frightening imagery…
But for some of us, there’s an allure there, a seduction, a gentle hand that takes our own and guides us into the shadows, into the grey places where the light is often afraid to venture. For, you see, we ARE the Autumn People.
And we’re all around you.
Some are obvious. Some dress in black and fill their faces with piercings. Some listen to Bahaus or Cannibal Corpse. But they’re only a small part of who we are.
The Autumn People are everywhere.
We’re in offices. We’re on the subway. We’re serving potato salad at church picnics. We’re your brothers and fathers and daughters and aunts. We may wear suits and ties. We may listen to classic rock. We may drive a Prius and spend a good chunk of time at the gym. You’d never know us by looking at us.
And that is part of the magic.
For us, there is no time greater than those short days and ever-lengthening nights leading up to Halloween. There is a comfort and a solace in those aforementioned grey places and, when the eyes of the world are not on us, we slip away to our native home, to our October Country, and revel in the wonders hidden inside the shadows.
Chances are that, if you’re reading this, you may be an Autumn Person too.
Shhhh, it’s okay. It doesn’t make you lesser, though it does mark you as different. But don’t shy away from it. Don’t apologize and pretend that it’s a guilty pleasure. Revel in it. Wear it as a second skin. Howl it to the black sky at night and bask in the glow of the moonlight. This is your month. It’s OUR month.
We are the Autumn People. And, every October, we march.
There are amazing and wondrous books and movies that we seek out every Halloween season, we Autumn People, to help us find the pinpricks in the sunlit world that let us slip back into our own. There are the obvious ones, the big names, the folk that benefit from marketing and PR machines.
But I would like to take a moment to introduce you to some of the hidden, the Autumn People that brush by you at the book store and stand in line behind you at the coffee shop. Their work is just as wondrous (and often more so) than the names you know. Every one of the works listed below is breath taking and will fill your home with shadows and Jack’O’Lanterns and dark whispers.
You can hear them now. In the distance, a rumbling. Thousands of boots on the ground. The wind carries leaves across dying fields. Cold rain begins to fall. And they thunder.
Come, now, and join the March of the Autumn People.
BENJAMIN KANE ETHRIDGE
Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times (co-written with Lisa Morton and illustrated by Greg Chapman)
MERCEDES M. YARDLEY
MICHAEL LOUIS CALVILLO
And, if you’d like to check out my work that was written deep inside of the October Country, you can visit the page on this site for my novel DARLING or my Bibliography page for some of my short fiction.
Are you an Autumn Person? What are your favorite books, movies, video games, music, or graphic novels that help you get in the mood for Halloween? Please post them in the comments section.
Audiences tuning into the second of three debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney last night were expecting what one member of the town hall audience described as a “knock down, drag out fight.” They were disappointed.
“It wasn’t what we wanted to see,” said Debbie Watkins, a college student from UCLA who watched the debates on television. “We wanted to see blood.”
Instead, the debates derailed just a few minutes in as the two candidates realized they agreed with each other on major issues.
“What I’m coming to realize,” the President said during a question on the economy, “is that Governor Romney is a good-hearted, intelligent man who only wants the best for this country.”
Governor Romney, a tear in his eye, thanked the President. “I have to say,” he added, “that the President has accomplished quite a bit in his four years in office that we don’t give him credit for. Mr. President, I have to apologize.”
After a tear-filled exchange, the two men embraced. The audience was quiet as they began to publicly discuss how to improve the economy, job growth, and enact immigration reform. Half-way through what should have been a debate, when the two candidates realized that half of the crowd had left the auditorium, they laughed.
The President then looked straight into the cameras and issued a controversial statement. “Governor Romney and I, following an example set by our running mates, have decided to work together to create a plan that’s the best for America. If I’m not re-elected, so be it. What’s important is that this country thrives.”
Governor Romney nodded. “I think the President should get another four years but, if I’m voted in, I’ll make sure that the plan we come up with together is what’s enacted.”
“The important thing,” the Governor added, “is that we worry about what’s best for America, not what’s best for our party.”
The two then retired to work through the details of their plan.
Outside the town hall, Republican and Democratic attendees began to riot. A police car was overturned and a nearby preschool was set on fire.
“NOOOOOOO,” one man yelled. “We can’t have this! We have to crush the Democrats! They’re evil!”
A woman then clubbed him in the side of the head with a board ripped from a local church that had been desecrated in the violence. “Death to all RepubliKKKans,” she screamed, the triple “K” somehow enunciated.
News commentators were also aghast. Fox News ran a headline titled “Romney: A Modern Day Benedict Arnold,” while MSNBC commentators simply grunted and flung feces at one another.
Today, the country still reels as violence sweeps across the nation. We’ll have more news as it becomes available.
Last night, millions tuned in to watch the Vice-President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan square off at Centre College in Danville, KY. Viewer expectations were mixed, with those on the right anxious to get a first look at Paul Ryan’s debating prowess, and viewers on the left wanting to see Biden bring a tougher challenge than the President did in his first debate against challenger Mitt Romney.
What no one expected to see, however, was how the debate played out.
“It was surreal,” said stay-at-home Mom Connie Wilkes, 39, of Lawrence, KS. “I mean, I expected sparks to fly, but not like that.”
Connie is referring to an event at the end of the debate.
Throughout the debate, Biden interrupted the challenger while simultaneously displaying a grin that many saw as condescending. Ryan, in turn, seemed to flounder during the foreign policy section but went on to attack the Obama administration throughout the debate. The two men seemed completely at odds, which is why it was so surprising to millions of Americans when, at the end of the debate, the two contestants began to engage in what many commentators called a “serious make-out session.”
The event began when Biden approached Ryan to shake hands. When the two gripped one another, the sweat still heavy on their brows from the hot lights and the hour spent vigorously at odds with one another, their eyes locked and they stood there, the auditorium still, until Biden reached his free hand up to caress Ryan’s cheek.
In a swift, explosive move that brought Secret Service Agents rushing to the stage, the Republican Congressman threw an arm around the Vice-President’s waist and drew him into a long, passionate kiss.
Following the debate, the two held hands as they ran through the hallways of Centre College, darting this way and that to avoid the media and the Secret Service, before security cameras caught them slipping out through the cafeteria. Once outside, the two hopped onto Biden’s vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle, where Ryan slipped his arms around Biden’s waist and rested his head on the VP’s shoulder. They drove off into the night.
Their whereabouts are still unknown.
“‘To that Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.’”
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
The folklore of the British Isles is filled with its share of things that go bump in the night, but few are as ominous or as frequently sighted as the Black Hounds. Read More
The nation gathered around their television sets last night for the first debate in the 2012 Presidential Election. While the suspected topics of health care, the economy, and Cthulhu took up a large portion of the debate between President Barrack Obama and his challenger, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the surprise topic was PBS.
As part of his strategy to reduce the budget, Romney said: “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to the stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Big Bird immediately responded to the statement via Twitter. “Mitt – U no wut I wud luv? Kikin the shit outta u.”
The tweet exploded across the internet, some in support of it, many more coming down on the large avian for what they felt was crude and a direct threat to a Presidential Candidate.
Bird Bird went on live television this morning to address the issue. Speaking with “Today” show host Matt Lauer, the normally docile and friendly bird flew off the handle.
“Who the [censored] does he think he is? I’m [censored] Big Bird. You got that, Mittens? I’ll stick this size 18 foot straight up your [censored] ass.”
Wearing a pair of sunglasses and sipping from a dark bottle containing what he simply called “Bird Juice,” Big Bird broke into a fit of laughter. “I’m sick of this. You know that? Everyday, I have to put up with whiny brats, diva guest stars, and [censored] Oscar the Grouch. Have you ever smelled that thing’s breath? It’s like he went down on a dead squid.”
Later in the interview, he interrupted Lauer during a question regarding what letter comes after “M” to go on a tirade. “In ancient cultures, I was worshiped as a god. Indians called me a [censored] “thunderbird.” I have Charlie Sheen blood in my veins, man. I’m a rock and roll warlock with an eight ball of coke for a heart. My feathers will grant you fertility.”
When Lauer tried to calm Big Bird, the Sesame Street performer told him to “shut the [censored] up and listen to the Bird. Okay? Jesus [censored] Christ!” He then stood, threw his chair at a cameraman, and stormed off set.
PBS immediately released a statement stating that Big Bird has been “struggling with substance abuse and will be entering a rehabilitation program today.”
Brad C. Hodson is a writer living in LaLa Land. His novel DARLING will be released on October 26th from Bad Moon Books (http://www.badmoonbooks.com). To see more of his work, check out his Bibliography. You can also follow him on Twitter@BradCHodson.
The following is a post that originally appeared on author Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s site. Check out the Bram Stoker Award winner’s work here: http://www.bkethridge.com/WORK.html
THE WAR ON HALLOWEEN
Brad C. Hodson
Imagine it’s the eighties. An overweight only child, one parent dead and the other in prison, sits in front of the television in his laboratory-goggle-sized glasses while a cool autumn breeze kicks up leaves outside. He repositions to put his shadow between the soft orange light sneaking through the window and his television, where the setting sun’s glare might obscure Dracula as he welcomes Jonathan Harker into his home.
The child waits for the sun to set completely. That’s when the fun begins. For this one night every year, he can don a costume, joining the community as he bounds around from house to house, enjoying candy and meeting the neighbors. Halloween is a month-long festival for him, a buildup of movies and TV specials and school decorations that eventually culminates in this one night where the world seems more vivid, more alive, than it ever has. For him, and for most children, Halloween is a highlight of his year.
Flash-forward thirty years. That same kid is now an adult, has lost the weight, and his glasses have been replaced with contact lenses. He has his own family now to replace the one absent him as a child. Yet this one season, this magical mysterious month of October, is still his favorite time of the year. It’s stuck by his side ever since his childhood like a great friend, always there when he needed it.
And people want to take it away from him.
Okay, maybe I’m being melodramatic. The kid, of course, est moi. But it’s true I love Halloween and I do believe that there is an ill-conceived and mean-spirited assault on my favorite holiday.
You hear a lot of overblown hype about the War on Christmas. However, even were it all true, I think Christmas is going to be fine. It’s got a much stronger position and is part of a global cultural phenomenon.
I’m not worried that Halloween is going to disappear, mind you. There will always be Halloween and there will always be people championing it. But what I’ve noticed, year after year, is that Halloween seems to weaken a bit, become diluted. When I was a kid the entire month of October was Halloween-centric. Now it’s been relegated to a short period of time leading up to the holiday itself. Rare are the massive month-long movie marathons on television, the paper Jack-O-Lanterns and ghosts seem fewer and farther between, and Trick-Or-Treat is being replaced with more and more “Fall Festivals.” This gets my inner Mr. Hyde all riled up and ready to roam the streets.
First off, I think anyone in the twenty-first century should have enough logic at their command to realize that Halloween neither encourages nor condones anything negative or evil. The stories of people hiding razor blades in candy are urban legends and twelve-year-olds aren’t performing the Black Mass in the elementary school playground. Instead, they are engaging in social rituals, cementing the bonds of community, while practicing a kind of role-reversal with adults as they can, on this one night every year, dress up, go out at night, and demand things be given to them (at least, I hope this is the one night parents let them do this…).
So, what’s the problem?
The fear of paganism.
Personally, I find this idea so idiotic that it makes me pray to Dionysus that my next bottle of wine will obliterate it.
Man, that Dionysus loves to party!
I’m not going to get into a cultural look at paganism. Needless to say, it’s not devil-worship and Wiccans aren’t going around sacrificing babies on altars of human skin. But the idea that we can get away from all things pagan is quite absurd. Our culture is a direct outgrowth of ancient Roman culture and almost everything we do in this country can trace its roots back to pagan religions and rituals.
Much has been made of the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter celebrations, so there’s no need to delve into that. However, here are a few other areas that the people who decry Halloween should re-examine if they’re truly trying to avoid pagan influences.
What? What’s more all American than sports?
Well, organized sporting events have their roots in pagan religious festivals. For the Greeks, all sporting events were held as rituals to honor the gods. For the Romans, they originated as Etruscan funeral rites to ensure passage to the Underworld. For the Aztecs, it determined who would be sacrificed (the losing teams had their hearts removed – kind of like what British soccer hooligans do today).
So next time you Godly folk enjoy a football game, remember that you’re participating in an ancient pagan ritual.
Yep, here’s Dionysus again.
Whether it’s wine, beer, or rum, alcohol came about as a way for pagan peoples to become more connected to their gods. From the Greeks to the Vikings to Native Americans, mind-altering substances offered a connection to the other side. Think of that while guzzling your next Bud Light.
It doesn’t get much more pagan than this. Cake? Check. Candles? Check. Presents? Check. Making a wish? Even celebrating the day itself? Check and check.
All relics from pagan rituals.
“Wait,” you might say. “Our wedding is purely Christian/Jewish/Secular/etc.”
Well… Not really. The white dress, the ring, the bridesmaids and groomsmen, all of these were established during ancient Roman weddings. Each are pagan rites that serve a very specific purpose in ancient pagan religion.
THE DAYS OF THE WEEK
“Happy Friday,” you might say to your co-worker, completely oblivious that you just said a prayer to the Norse Goddess Freya.
Every time you say or write “Wednesday,” you are offering homage to Wotan (or Odin, if you’re nasty). Thursday? Oh, you mean THOR’s Day!
You and the kids got anything planned for Saturn’s Day this weekend?
Oh ho ho, you people are so pagan and don’t even know it.
My word count’s running low, so here’s a quick list of other pagan rituals you likely observe. Do some Google-Fu if you doubt their pagan origins:
-Saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes
-Thanksgiving and any other large dinner feast at a holiday
-Funerals (especially tombstones, flowers, and eulogies)
-Putting flowers in the house
-Placing photographs anywhere (image-based magic goes back thousands of years before photography and directly led to our cultural practice of keeping images of living and deceased loved ones around)
-Sleeping on a bed instead of the floor
-Naming a child after a dead relative (this is Ancestor worship in its purest form)
-School (Yep, even organized education goes back to pagan rites)
So next time you’re tempted to attack Halloween for being pagan, leave my favorite holiday alone and go and enjoy your incredibly pagan American lifestyle.
Brad C. Hodson is an author and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. For more of his work, please visit brad-hodson.com, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In the mood for some Halloween fare? Of course you are. All month long, the Horror Writers Association will be hosting HALLOWEEN HAUNTS on their blog. Every day there will be a new blog post (sometimes two) that’s pure Halloween goodness. As the site says:
Those of you who were brave enough to spend Halloween with the horror writers on this blog last year have an idea of what to expect from Halloween Haunts. This year we have an even bigger lineup of posts, excerpts, and giveaways to make October fun and help horror readers connect with some of today’s top horror writers. Authors such as Linda Addison, Allyson Bird, Charles Day, Benjamin K. Ethridge, J.G. Faherty, Brad Hodson, Joe McKinney, Lisa Morton, Stefan Petrucha, John Skipp, Hugh Sterbakov, John D. Taff, Patrick Thomas, Rocky Wood, and many others have all contributed posts or interviews to bring you a daily dose of treats for this Halloween season. And if you’re a horror writer reading this and you’re not yet a member of the Horror Writers Association, I hope Halloween Haunts will entice you to check out the HWA and consider joining. The HWA offers writers many benefits, including mentoring, networking, market news, and professional resources, and it presents the annual Bram Stoker Awards®.
Notice that Brad Hodson guy listed there? I hear he’s all right…
So mosey on over to http://www.horror.org/blog/ and spend the month with us strange and interesting folk on the dark side…