Writers anticipate and dread proofs. After several months of delay, I have received the proofs for Holy Horror—it should be out in the next couple of months for both of you who’ve asked about it. Anticipation is pretty straightforward, but why the dread? Those of us who write books have to deal with the fact that publishing is, by nature, a slow business. What I’m proofreading now is material that I wrote a couple of years ago; the final manuscript was submitted back in January. The internet has accelerated the pace of everything, and now that I have a daily record of my public thoughts on this blog, I can see how my own outlook has changed in that time. Reading proofs reminds you of whence you came, not where you are.
I suspect that has something to do with the internet and instant access to information. I also suspect that’s why many of us trust books more than the “open web.” The oak that has taken centuries to grow is a hardy tree. The handcrafted piece of furniture lasts longer than the mass produced. Books, hopefully, stand the test of time. Writing is an exercise in building eternity. These thoughts, the author hopes, will be around for some time to come. As long as libraries endure. Looking at the proofs, there’s pressure to get things right. Was I correct in what I wrote down so long ago? Since then I’ve read dozens of books more. I’ve even written the draft of another book myself. I face the proofs and shudder.
Part of my angst, I suppose, is that Holy Horror will likely sell better than my previous two books. It may actually get read. No, it won’t be any kind of best-seller, but perhaps a few hundred people will read it. That’s a lot of pressure for those of us who’ve primarily written for other academics. Perhaps this fear is the reason I’ve moved to writing about horror films. Those of us blocked from the academy have to build our own credibility, one book at a time. Reading the proofs, although already dated, I find myself liking this book. It was fun to write, and it has a good message, I think. Even prestige presses know that books about horror films are of popular interest. As I read through where my mind was in days stretching back before the nightmare of Trump, I see that I had only just started on this path. Before me are the proofs of that.
So, I’m getting ready to update this website. I’ll give you a warning before things change. Another update, however, is in order. I’ve been promising that I’d let you know when my forthcoming book with McFarland received its final title. Well, drum roll please! The final title is actually the first title I proposed—Holy Horror: The Bible and Fear in Movies. And it has an ISBN: 978-1-4766-7466-7. And a cover design too, but I can’t share that just yet. It is appropriately lurid, matching the subject. But in all seriousness, the book makes a case for the fact that many people understand their religion via popular media. Being a bad boy, I look at it through horror movies.
The title Holy Horror was a play on Douglas Cowan’s excellent book, Sacred Terror. I recall reading that book, starting the night I bought it as SBL, curled up in the swank conference hotel bed, turning pages until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. It had honestly never occurred to me that religion scholars could get away with writing about horror movies. Cowan had the natural advantage of being a Canadian, something I’ve always longed to be. He also has a secure university post. I was, at the time, just a guy trying to feel secure in what seemed like (and turned out in reality to be) a threatening seminary position that was shortly to end.
It may be difficult to understand how horror can be consoling. It can. I’m a squeamish guy. I don’t like blood and gore. I hate being startled. Nevertheless, I took comfort in this genre as my career was falling apart. Holy Horror was a cathartic book for me to write. There’s more than a little metaphor in it. One thing that will become clear to readers is that the Bible is no stranger to horror movies. Ironically, many of them are strangely conservative—Carol J. Clover’s classic Men, Women, and Chainsaws (which I’ve reviewed on this blog) made that point clearly. Horror often has the same message as your typical Disney film, although it’s presently slightly differently. How so? Well, I can’t say very much here or you’ll have no reason to read my book. McFarland does a great job with publishing this kind of title. You won’t find it in Barnes and Noble, and not likely in your local indie either, but it’ll be available on Amazon and these days that’s enough. And before long these pages will change to reflect its coming.
Posted in Bible, Books, Higher Education, Memoirs, Monsters, Movies, Popular Culture, Posts, Religious Violence
Tagged and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Carol J. Clover, Douglas Cowan, Holy Horror, Holy Horror: The Bible and Fear in Movies, McFarland Books, Men, Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen, women