Fiona's Horror Biography

They say no one is more zealous than a convert, which seems to apply to Fiona, because she could be called a convert to horror fiction -- having not really discovered the genre until 1977, the year she graduated from college.

As a kid Fiona liked to listen to (and tell) spooky stories -- at first the rather tame ones that pass around Girl Scout campfires, then the bloodier ones girls whisper in secret at slumber parties -- and she developed quite a repertoire of stories she'd heard or made up, with which she frightened her friends, and even the littler kids in the neighborhood; but she never read anything resembling horror until she was 12, when she discovered Edgar Poe. She read all of Poe, and later some Ambrose Bierce, and (of course) W. W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw," but being in a protected private-school environment, she knew very little about what was, or had been, going on in the wider genre of horror and sf. She watched "Outer Limits" and "Twilight Zone," and an occasional old B & W monster flick on the tube. By the time she was a science nerd in high school, though, she wasn't watching movies or TV at all -- just reading, reading, reading -- in the area of "classic" literature.

In college, then, she developed an occasional habit of going to horror movies in theatres, but still knew almost nothing of the field. The fateful turning point was in her senior year, when she saw the movie "Carrie." (A perhaps nauseating romantic tidbit: it was her first movie date with the guy she'd eventually marry.) She liked it so much -- especially the opening scene with the girls throwing sanitary products at Carrie -- which really resonated with the cruelty she'd experienced from other girls in junior high -- that she watched the credits with great attention, asking out loud in the theatre, "Who wrote this?" She knew Brian DePalma already, through "Phantom of the Paradise," but she knew that some other person must have written this story. All the way back to the dorm room she repeated the name "Stephen King" over and over to herself so she wouldn't forget it. It seemed such a bland name, an everyman name, she was afraid it would fly right out of her head and she'd never hear it again (a funny thought in retrospect, eh?).

She didn't do anything about it right then, other than jot down the name, but late in her senior year, literally on the brink of graduation, she happened to see a paperback of The Shining in the university store. It was in a shiny, trashy-looking (to her snobby tastes) cover, the sort of thing she never usually gave the time of day to...but it had that name on it. So she bought it. And loved it.

And the rest, as they say, is history. She started medical school just a month later. The fear and gore in the hospital -- the big-city emergency room full of trauma cases, the autopsies, the pregnancies gone drastically wrong, the crazy people -- death and disease and despair all around her -- fanned the flames of her horror sensibilities. She soon began reading horror in a big way, branching out from mass-market paperbacks into the older stuff, getting caught up on what seemed like a whole world she'd been missing out on -- pop culture! all those movies! She has yet to see the end of it.

A couple of years ago, she could've made a list of authors she thought were especially good (e.g., McGrath, Lansdale, Ligotti) but the fact is, the deeper she gets into the field, the more she finds that is high quality, one might even say high literature. She's finding horror written by non-English-language authors, by obscure authors who only make it into the small presses and almost never into bookstores, and mostly by authors (Cormac McCarthy is a current fave) that get classified as "mainstream." Which doesn't mean she's lost her taste for the corny side of pop culture, at all -- it's rather that the field is bigger and more promising than she'd thought.

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