For all of its frightful trappings, in my mind Halloween will always be about innocence. As a child, I would go trick or treating in my suburban Massachusetts neighborhood and watch the other kids in their costumes–some silly, some scary, and some just bizarre–and it always thrilled me. Yes, the candy was a part of that, as well as the freedom to roam the yards and streets of Framingham unfettered. Darkness would fall and the pillow case candy sack I carried would get heavier and heavier, and you would see adults and kids wandering around as little more than silhouettes. They could have been anyone, or anything.
That isn’t to say I believed in ghosts or vampires, even then. But for a kid like me who wanted to believe, Halloween night brought me closest to the edge. The young Chris didn’t know about the druidic origins of the holiday, about Samhuinn or the season of the dead or any of those things. All I knew then was what I felt, which was a potential for magic, and for mystery (in the larger sense of the word). I used to get a real sense of joy from that feeling, on that night that just crackled with magic. Childhood is full of such innocence and purity.
As we grow up, we learn more of the world. Sometimes it makes us jaded and cynical, sometimes weary, and most often, perhaps worst of all, it makes us practical. Magic and joy are not practical things. Some would even say that in our day to day lives, they are not useful.
The way to combat that, of course, is through those very impractical things — not only magic and joy, but hope as well. Faith in each other and in something larger than ourselves.
Halloween is still my favorite day of the year, and the one on which I feel closer to my young self than any other, and I believe it’s because of that sense that magic is all around me and if I reach out my hand, I might be able to grab hold of it. Sure, I love horror movies, and they are a big part of my Halloween ritual. But, crazy as it seems, even those make me wistful and nostalgic. While I wouldn’t want to run into Michael Myers, I would love to trick or treat in a town like Haddonfield, Illinois.
I’ve got all of these things on my mind a great deal lately — magic, joy, hope, and faith. In my new novel from MTV Books — a teen zombie novel called “Soulless” — I tap into my own feelings of faith regarding young Americans. The people who’ve come of age post 9/11 don’t know what the world was like before that dreadful day, yet somehow I think that makes them more ready to meet the challenges of the future, and stronger because of it. Yes, “Soulless” contains a lot of hideous things — zombies, ghosts, murder, flesh-eating, spiritual mediums, and horrible things happening to your loved ones (a perfect Halloween read, if I do say so myself) — but it also reflects my hope for the future. Hope, by its very nature, is impractical. But it has power.
The other book I have coming out this month is “Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman.” I co-wrote the book with my longtime friends Hank Wagner and Stephen R. Bissette, and it’s a must-have for anyone with any interest in Gaiman’s work. It contains rare materials and even some bits and pieces never before published anywhere, plus hours of interviews and all sorts of commentary you won’t find anywhere else. But more than that, it’s a tribute to a writer for whom I have endless admiration.
Neil is the sort of storyteller that many would believe no longer exists. Weaned on books, he lived in the adventurous pages of some of the greatest writers of all time, and reading his work is to wonder if he still perceives himself as living there. There is no cynicism in Neil. He writes because he has stories inside of him that must be told, and his voice has style and charm and humor that is in short supply because of its nature. What is that nature? The voice of Neil Gaiman is genuine. There is a purity of motive in his work that is so rare to see in the modern world, and his magic is that he can carry us off into his story while subconsciously reminding of of a better time, when the world was younger and had more hope for the future and people had more faith in each other.
Yes, these are disparate things — Halloween, my faith in young Americans, and the pure joy of reading Neil Gaiman. But the threads are there, binding them together.
As I said, these are things that are on my mind of late, and have been on my mind for quite some time. But they will never be MORE on my mind than they will be on November 4th, when America goes to the polls to elect a new President. I believe that there is a core in all of us that cynicism has yet to reach, a part that remembers what it was like to believe in the potential of hope. We have wasted too many years listening to the voices that preached practicality, that told us idealists were fools and the world didn’t run on faith and hope and good intentions. The truth is, and of course has always been, that the world is what we make it. To use an even more tired metaphor, the truth is that we reap what we sow. Think about that. We will plant the seeds of all future harvests on November 4th, and I know what I hope will begin to grow on that day. Hope. Faith. Joy. And the magic of believing that the day will come when we will be able to close our hands around those amazing things that otherwise seem forever just out of reach.
Keep checking back with Splash Page this week as we continue to roll out more horror-themed interviews, previews and features!