There are some childhood fears we outgrow, but some still have the power to terrify us.
Terror through the eyes of a child is the focus of the first anthology of short stories from Sirens Call Publications, Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed.
Included are stories by Julianne Snow, Colin F. Barnes, Nina D’Arcangela (who also worked on the production of the book), Phil Hickes, Amber Keller, Kim Krodel, Lisamarie Lamb, John McIlveen, Kate Monroe, Brandon Scott, Joshua Skye, and Jack Wallen. Roughly half had previously been published through Sirens Call.
Most are from the child’s perspective, though the fears of adults are woven into the stories as well. In Wallen’s “Forgotten,” parental guilt is inextricably linked to a child’s ghostly encounter. In Snow’s “Madeleine,” a child’s night terrors cause her mother increasing concern until a great-aunt provides an unorthodox solution.
Kalla Monahan and Nina D’Arcangela both read submissions and were involved in the editorial process behind the collection.
“No one experiences horror like a child,” says D’Arcangela.
“As adults, we rationalize what we see, hear and feel going on in the world around us, but children in general aren’t emotionally capable of dealing with unfamiliar happenings, and those unfamiliar happening can manifest themselves as ‘things’ that become evil or nefarious.”
“As a child, you brain doesn’t process dark shapes and ominous sounds the same way as it does when you’re an adult,” says Monahan. “You don’t have that inner voice that reasons with your frightened mind, making everything okay again. Having authors write about horror from a child’s perspective opens up the floor to so many possibilities.”
When considering submissions, says D’Arcangela, she tried to read them with the mindset of a child, and then reassess them as she would any other story. “In all honesty, every story we received had its own flair that tap-danced on a remembered nerve or two,” she said, but they had to limit the number included to twelve.
A few of the tales blend fear with guilt — over the loss of a child, over harm to family members, over spreading gossip; one even artfully dovetails a parent’s guilt and concern over a child’s brain tumour.
“Guilt is a large motivator for fear, and most horror – particularly the horror of a nightmare – is fear-driven,” says D’Arcangela, adding that great horror stories can be built on fear without adding guilt.
“A child needs no guilt to feel fear,” she says. “Fear is a living, breathing entity all its own in a child’s mind, but very few children can craft a story that will engage an adult reader, thus the wrap around to the ‘why’ factor. Adults also respond much stronger to the emotion of guilt than fear – fear is an emotion most adults will choose to rationalize, whereas guilt is an emotion we tend to embrace openly when standing face to face with it.”
Some things just scare the bejeezus out of us when we’re young and stay with us for the rest of our lives. An incident early on, such as an accident or injury, can mean you’ll be forever spooked by whatever caused it.
You may not know what is going to scare you until you read it, says Monahan. “Sometimes the reader has no control over what it is that will scare them; they suppressed memories of something from their childhood that they will not recognize as having come from that era in their lives until it rears its ugly head again. That’s the beauty of horror – the visceral reaction that can come out of nowhere.”
D’Arcangela agrees that what really gets under a person’s skin depends on a person’s individual psyche, but adds some things are universal.
“The obvious prevailing answer for most everyone would have to be the fear of loss,” she says. “The loss of someone or something we love, or the loss of our own lives. While children may not conceptually understand the long term meaning of death, on a primal level the human animal is aware that all things end and has a healthy fear of this awareness.”
While there were certain similarities in the stories — most were from a child’s or young person’s perspective — one of the surprising things about the submissions they received, says Monahan, was that while “you expect that some of the stories would have similar themes, none of submissions overlapped in any way. The stories that made it into the anthology really are a unique collection of tales that all speak to the theme in one way or another.”
Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed
- Edited by Kate Munroe
- Sirens Call Publications, 144 pp, $14.99
Available in print here:
Available in ebook format here:
Smashwords Digital (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/153016
Amazon Digital US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007VONDPM
- Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed (josephpinto.wordpress.com)
- Amber Keller: On Childhood Nightmares (sirenscallpublications.wordpress.com)
- Lisamarie Lamb: On Childhood Nightmares (sirenscallpublications.wordpress.com)
- Julianne Snow: On Childhood Nightmares (sirenscallpublications.wordpress.com)
- Nothing to Fear Anymore: Guest post from author Colin F. Barnes (raevanswrites.me)
- Sirens Call Publications: Childhood Nightmares (horroraddicts.wordpress.com)