When I was maybe twelve, I ran across a Stephen King book. I don’t know what book it was. I think it was in my grandmother’s mobile home, when she was visiting us one summer. “Don’t read that,” she said. “It will probably scare you a lot. All King’s books are scary.”
With that, Stephen King was firmly implanted in my mind as an author of horror and all things that go bump in the dark. I haven’t read a single Stephen King novel in my life, despite being widely read. It was there, in my head, that command “don’t”. I mentioned it to my mother and she affirmed in some way, I’m not sure which and I don’t want to put words in her mouthy, that I “shouldn’t”.
And I haven’t. Somehow it got twisted up in my mind that “good girls” wouldn’t read “those” books. I wasn’t even really aware of this prohibition. I saw King novel on the shelve and just moved right on past it. Not a conscious decision, not a “it’s not for me”. I just moved right by it.
I’m only now realizing how deep and long running a simple suggestion can be. The guys over at the Self Publishing Podcast have been talking about King and his book “On Writing” in my ear for six months now. Not ever week, but now and then, he comes up. I had to examine myself and wonder, “Why have I never read this author?” I’ve watched the Shining and the Green Mile. Scared the crumb out of me but both stories were excellent. It’s probably time to break this unintentional placed block in my mind and go read something by King. Past time, most likely.
If you’ve read previous posts, especially “That Subversive Genre”, then you know that I spent part of my childhood in a fundamentalist community. You don’t just walk away from some of those experiences. Even years later, I proudly told my father when he inquired about my reading choices at the library that “I have a personal rule against vampire books.” He praised me for my exclusion and for years, I held on to that decision because I knew I had made him happy. He didn’t even know whether or not I was still following those rules. Eventually, in college, I ran into Anne Rice and as the saying goes, that was all she wrote. I’ve been reading vampire books ever since, as well as way too much vampire fanfiction by the likes of the talented LitGal. This writer was the second most powerful force in my life in getting me out of my childhood viewpoint on alternative lifestyles. You should check her out on Amazon, where she writes original fiction with a Dream Spinner Press as Lyn Gala.
It’s good to re-examine our reading selections now and again. Sometimes we may find that we’ve become another person and like something we didn’t like before, or that what we were told about something no longer applies. You might find your original taste remains the same, as I did when reading Her Dark Angel but not all the time. It’s healthy to be aware of why we make our choices and sometimes to push the boundaries a little. Personal resolution this year, read something in the horror genre that’s not vampires. Goodness, I hope it doesn’t end up being zombies. Zombies are scary!