Halloween is my favorite time of year for literature. For the last week, I've been reading horror stories to my kids before bedtime: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" by Richard Matheson (made into a Twilight Zone episode starring William Shatner), "The Statement of Randolph Carter" by H. P. Lovecraft, etc.
That's just child abuse, depending on the age of the kids, and they are probably small if he's reading to them.
Over the years, I've written quite a bit about the literature of horror (go here for a quick compendium). I've also wondered why I like the genre so much. It may be as simple as what Edith Wharton called "the fun of the shudder." But there may be something else at work as well: Horror is a fundamentally conservative genre.
True, I know I'm horrified whenever I read about conservatism.
It's of course a huge and diverse field, so it's a little silly to slap it with a label.
But he'll do it anyway, because he's just silly like that.
Yet so many of its stories involve a rupture in the social order and conclude with its restoration.
War involves a rupture in the social order--morals always relax during a war--but that doesn't stop them from loving mass killing.
They are also full of warnings about not messing with things you can't understand, which is a sublte plea for respecting tradition.
I suppose Miller would have been far happier if medical science never dabbled in things it didn't understand, like cures for illnesses.
Finally, this is the one genre that aggressively questions the assumptions of materialism and gets away with it. Russell Kirk's fondness for ghost stories — as a reader as well as a writer of them — was no coincidence.
You know you're conservative when you believe in ghosts, because ghosts are supernatural and God is supernatural. QED! But do our believers really believe in the supernatural? Do ghosts haunt the scene of crimes? How many people have died throughout history, under horrible circumstances? Millions upon millions. Yet nobody's ever been able to demonstrate proof of the existence of ghosts. If ghosts were real we'd be elbowing them aside every time we went to visit Granny at the cemetery.
Do they believe demons haunt the land, looking for souls to steal? If so, why don't they use charms and blessed items to protect themselves, as our ancestors did? Do conservatives believe in angels? If so, why do they pay for police and soldiers and bodyguards, when they have a guardian angel looking over their shoulder at all times? And are these guardian angels thwarting God's gift of free will?
Gosh, it's fun to pretend to believe so you can hit everyone over the head with your Jesus stick, while actually living a life that is based on scientific achievement. You can both have your cake and pretend you didn't eat it.