The last big Halloween party I threw happened just before the pandemic. It was a lot of work, they always were. Weeks of dragging decorations across town; building some overly ambitious new one every year; making manic entreaties to generous friends to help put them up, and to strangers to come enjoy them, and to even more selfless friends to come take them down in the next day’s harsh morning light. Staying late at the venue in the days before to get the prep done, staying until the end of the party to ensure everything went okay. The last couple of times: to do it all with children. It was a lot, and while I wouldn’t say the rise of a globe-spanning deadly contagion was a relief, exactly, it did save me a lot of time, effort, and money in late October.
I do miss it, though, and I always feel enormously flattered when people ask me if I’ll be doing it again and tell me how much fun they had. The best is when people say it was like a Halloween party from a movie. Perfect.
Well! It is Halloween still, just barely, which means there is still time for me to hit my self-imposed deadline. I am not throwing a party this year, but I have a different spooky offering for you. It does not involve wild, drunken dancing. But it does represent a lot of work.
I wrote a gothic novella.
I have a deep affection for this form, particularly when it’s narrated by a hyperlexic wiener who will spend an infinite number of words to convince you that he has a bad feeling about all this. I find that both relatable and extremely funny.
Another thing I love: Scooby Doo. I introduced my kids to the series during the pandemic. The franchise is dedicated to the macabre, but also absolutely refuses to let anyone have a bad time (unless you count having your crooked real estate scheme foiled). And, like gothic horror, it is not only undiminished by formula but thrives on it, building a structure so unshakeable that it would grow to encompass the most inane celebrity cameos imaginable, which I also find extremely funny.
And that’s what led me to write this, which I hope you will enjoy.
I tried to cover all the greatest hits:
- febrile narrator
- horrible rustic who speaks in incomprehensible and inconsistently written dialect full of regrettable puns
- pretentious allusions
- gathering dread
It was meant to be a short story, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Writing fiction is impossibly hard! I learned a lot by forcing myself to do this, and I hope I’ll use those lessons again, perhaps even on something where the central joke and my own least defensible writerly habits don’t line up quite so well.