A Brief Break

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I’ve now read thirty some-odd Fear Street books and I’ll be taking this week off. The Fear Street books are kind in that you can knock them out in an hour, but I’ve also read so many of them in one go I think I need to give my brain a break. If you’re looking for horror to hold you over until then, I make these suggestions:

  • The Diviners and Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. Set in the 1920s without ignoring some of the ghastlier bits of the decade, it involves teens with special powers who come together to face supernatural threats. While the first one feels incomplete, the second more than makes up for it, and both have their horror filled moments.
  • Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. I discovered this completely by accident while shelving in the library and if you are a fan of southern horror look no further. Featuring a small town, witches, haints, and demons. It is both quiet and ghastly.
  • The Black Tapes produced by Pacific Northwest Stories. A podcast centered around the unsolved cases of Dr. Richard Strand, a skeptic, in which Alex Reagan discovers mystical doorways, shadow men, and Satanic math. Done in an NPR style, it covers several well known horror tropes in interesting ways.
  • On that note check out Archive 81 as well, much shorter but a found footage style podcast chronicling Daniel Powell as he listens to historical documents surrounding a very strange building. If you’re looking for a more old school radio experience, The Horror! from Relic Radio brings you forgotten stories of classic radio.
  • And if you’re still in a nostalgic mood, I recommend The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which takes the Sabrina formula, tosses in some Satan worship, and sets it all in the 1960s. Despite it’s sparse release schedule, it’s been a delight from start to finish. I also had the pleasure of checking out Afterlife with Archie and found myself enjoying it quite a lot. It uses the recognizable characters without removing them too much from familiarity, while also tossing them in a dark and dangerous world.

If you’re so inclined, you could also check out my bi-monthly horror serial Deadlands, which uses old west tropes and classic ghost stories. I’ve been attempting to fill it with more content as well, and I’ve discussed the history of Bigfoot and the Chupacabra, as well as how one discovers cowboy songs. If you’re interested in different kinds of stories, I’ve also started a writing journal, which features things like princesses, vampires, and other adventures.

I’ll return next week with that classic R.L. Stine flavor. Happy hauntings!

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Fear Street: The TV Series

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The whole reason I started this blog, the whole reason I decided to time travel back to the 90s when I was obsessed with these books, the whole catalyst for the words you’re reading now, is a conversation I had with a friend about a Fear Street TV series.

Horror on TV is reaching its apex. Nostalgia driven reboots of franchises are never going to go away. 90s kids are on top right now, pushing out those 80s loving stooges so we can finally stop referencing John Hughes movies and throw in a few more Power Rangers. Period pieces on TV are a more and more popular thing too, and honestly the 90s setting is half the fun of these books.

I’m a writer (it’s been mentioned), and while my only experience writing scripts is a creative writing class I took almost a decade ago, I consider everything I do on this blog research for a pitch for a Fear Street TV show. I’ve thought about it a lot while reading, how to fit these puzzle pieces together, how to create a coherent narrative out of what are primarily stand alone stories, but I think I’ve started to figure it out. So here it is, my pitch for a Fear Street show (from someone who doesn’t know how to pitch a TV show):

Fear Street: The TV Series

The year is 1991. BOBBI and CORKY CORCORAN have just moved to Shadyside and are living on FEAR STREET, right next to the graveyard. They’re attending Shadyside High, whose senior class is cursed to die, where half the school has a personal experience with the bad juju going on over on FEAR STREET. They’re ready to try out for the cheerleading squad and make due in this weird town. The cheerleaders make up the main group, but LISA BLUME and CORY BROOKS get their own subplot with the strange new girl who moved into FEAR STREET. CORY is obsessed with ANNA, who may or may not be a ghost, while LISA tries to suss out what’s really happening over on FEAR STREET. Intermixed with their drama are other students, most likely DEENA MARTINSON and JADE SMITH, who uncover a murder after a prank phone call gone wrong, as well as NICOLE DARWIN, who believes she’s switched bodies with her best friend LUCY KRAMER. LISA is starting to collect every strange tale that she comes across.

SEASON ONE would follow the Cheerleader books primarily, with the other characters having their subplots that lead up to the discovery of THE EVIL that inhabited JENNIFER’S body. After BOBBI’S untimely death and subsequent banishing of the evil, we meet JAN I-CAN’T-FIND-HER-LAST-NAME, who is a FEAR descendent.

SEASON TWO would then explore the FEARS. CORKY would begin seeing signs of THE EVIL returning, LISA would be tracking down more horrifying tales of FEAR STREET, and their paths would cross. JAN would discover she was a FEAR (possibly after enacting the events of PARTY SUMMER), and while LISA uncovers the history of the FEARS, she uncovers NORA GOODE‘S writing, and we get a flashback period piece of the FIER and GOODE rivalry.

SEASON THREE would start to focus on the FEAR STREET SENIORS but I haven’t read any of those books yet an can’t remember a gosh darn thing about them so I withhold any ideas until I do. Alternatively, we could have an entire season dedicated to FEAR STREET SUMMERS, with a few interconnecting storylines maybe connected to Camp Nightwing.

In tone I think more Buffy than Scream Queens, enough humor to poke fun at itself without being too meta. I sort of like the idea of Corky and Lisa teaming up with Corky being a Mulder and Lisa being a Scully. It’s hard to choose any character to lead the series, since they are primarily stand alone novels, but the Cheerleaders I think are most remembered and Lisa shows up in every book, so I don’t mind putting them center stage. It’d be good to wait to introduce all the Fier/Goode rivalry, until there’s an emotional investment, and putting in a character like Jan who has a blood relation to the Fiers might make for some additional drama, either with the Evil trying to make its way back or the Fear curse living on. Mixing in the sort of anthology nature of the books and a cohesive storyline might be some work, but it’d be worth doing.

A me ten years ago who was still writing fanfiction and engaged in that sort of community might consider starting an epic fanfic series, but these days I just don’t have the energy. It will be a shame if I ever do write a series similar to Fear Street that this whole blog will be used to sue me if I try to publish it.

Fear Street Saga #3 – The Burning

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We come to the end of this saga, and all will be revealed. Luckily there’s the Fear Street Sagas to look forward to, and this melodrama isn’t over yet.

The Cover

fear street saga the burning

This is my least favorite of the Fear Street Saga covers (pulled from its GoodReads page). The girl’s expression is very nothing, and the dagger is oddly placed (and would have been better for the last book cover). I’m guessing that’s supposed to be Nora and Daniel, as well as Nora escaping the burning mansion. This book has fewer jumps than the last ones did, so the story is more on Nora than anything else, so I guess they had a little less to work with.

Tagline

The Fear Street Saga… where the terror began.

I still find this perfectly serviceable. No complaints.

Summary

Nora starts us off again, still writing all the way to dawn. She leads us into New Orleans, 1845, where Simon Fear is about to con his way into a rich person’s party. He puts together this list of his best attributes:

  1. I am good-looking.
  2. I can be very charming and witty if I desire to be.
  3. I am as smart as anyone in New Orleans.
  4. I am determined to do anything it takes to be a success.

We will find only a handful of these to actually be true. No mention is made of Elizabeth, who I thought survived the last book with him, but she’s utterly unimportant to the story anyway. Simon is sure he’s going to find himself a rich wife here, and he gets into the party in the worst possible way. Like I’d rather Stine just have written him breezing past the servants. He pretends to drop his hat, kicks it inside, and then quickly latches onto other people walking in. It’s terrible, it means they’re going to be looking for him, and for sure it comes back to bite him later.

Simon tries to schmooze, but the ladies ignore him. So far his charm isn’t doing him a whit of good. He sees a woman on the staircase, and she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and he’s instantly in love. Her name is Angelica Pierce. Simon is quickly kicked out of the party, but not before Angelica gets a good look at him. Angelica’s a mean girl with her cousin Liza, and they make fun of clothes, men, and poorsies together. She sees Simon being carried away but finds him handsome enough to stay on her mind. She’s got two suitors interested in her: James Daumier and Hamilton Scott. She dances all night, and when the party is over she goes out to her garden, where Simon is waiting for her. He grabs her, tells her not to scream, and then asks her to marry him before absconding. Yup. Real charming, super smart.

Simon, despite his “Goodness is weakness” motto he adopted in the last book, has never used to the dark arts given to him by the amulet of his family. He’s ambitious, but not enough to do devil magic. He is held at knife point on his way home from the party, which forces him to use the amulet to burn a dude’s face off. Now the gloves are off, and Simon starts following Angelica around. Angelica, Liza, and James go to the opera. She sees Simon and makes some dreamy comment about him, which sets off James. Suddenly he climbs onto the banister of their box and then topples off, and I started keeping a death count because a lot of people die in this book and it’s all gruesome, though James gets the least horrific description of his:

Simon watched the body plunge from the box. It hit with an echoing thud in the aisle.

And then everyone just screams. Simon uses this as a chance to get in Angelica’s good graces by comforting her, and it seems he continues to comfort her up to and after the funeral. Liza doesn’t trust Simon, but Angelica doesn’t mind. About a month after one of her beau dies, she’s on her way to being engaged to the other. She, Liza, and Hamilton go to see off Angelica’s aunt, and Hamilton is super into the steamboat. They cross past the roped off area, and Hamilton falls in, leading to his gruesome demise.

His limp body rose up, then made a loud crunching sound as it was crushed between the wheel and the boat. It plunged back into the water, then was dragged up again, only to be crushed with another loud crunch.

That boy is dead.

Angelica mourns again, but a few months after that Simon comes a-calling. At this point Angelica is down to be wed. Simon, so overjoyed with the news, tells Angelica that he murdered those two gentleman for her, because that’s what every girl wants to hear. Angelica then tells him that no, he didn’t murder them, because she murdered them with her black magics. They’re pretty overjoyed to find evil in each other, and when Angelica worries her father won’t allow it, Simon gives him a heart attack. They’re so overjoyed, they toast blood together. Simon’s evil goes from zero to one hundred in this scene, and the escalation is so hilarious I think it can only be conveyed through a full transcription of the chapter, but dang, if murdering folks and drinking blood together isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is.

Now Nora leads us into Shadyside Village in 1865, where Simon and Angelica now live with their two daughters and three sons. Hannah is the younger daughter, but she’s far prettier, more social, and is basically better at everything than Julia, something Simon does not let up about. Angelica is basically high on dark magic all of the time and just randomly falls into trances. They’re setting up for a big party, when a new staff member is introduced, by the name of Lucy Goode. She immediately breaks something of Julia’s and is warned not to go around saying her name thanks to the bad blood between the families. At the party, she spills hot soup on Julia, nearly scalding her, and Julia tells Hannah that she did it on purpose. Hannah isn’t sure, until she finds a snake in her bed, and when she puts on a pair of shoes after Lucy has cleaned her room, a large shard of glass had been hidden inside, cutting her foot. Hannah wants to fire her immediately, but Julia says they have no proof to back their claims, and she isn’t sure father would believe them. I’m pretty sure in those days you could fire whoever you wanted for no reason, and I highly doubt Simon would notice her gone, but whatever.

Hannah heals up, and all the kids go for a picnic in the woods, along with Hannah’s dog. They play for a while, and Hannah gives her dog first bite of their food. The dog then becomes incredibly sick, and, yes, I’m going to share that death too.

As Hannah watched in alarm, the dog’s entire body began to convulse. Fluff coughed, then his stomach heaved, and he began to vomit, his legs trembling, his entire body quivering. Then all at once, the dog crumpled to the blanket, dropped onto his side, and was still.

(Oh, man, I felt terrible just writing that. I could see all the violence in the world done to children and regular people, but I thought about my cats being poisoned and got real sad.)

Hannah is sure Lucy prepared their food and goes to confront her, but their head of staff tells her Julia prepared the lunches. Hannah finds Julia in the woods and confronts her. Julia tries to choke her out, lets go of her too soon, and Hannah whacks her in the head with a shovel in another terrible display.

Julia’s eyes bulged wide. Then they rolled up in her head as she dropped to her knees. Blood spurted from her nose, flowed down her chin. Finally she dropped facedown into the grass.

Hannah flips the fuck out and tosses her sister’s body into the coffin of another man about to buried. She then goes back home and hides until her father asks her where Julia is. Simon goes to look for Julia and can’t find her, until he hears someone crying from beneath the dirt. See, like Julia, Hannah didn’t check to make sure she was dead, and Julia was buried alive. Simon digs up the grave but isn’t fast enough, and he finds her dead corpse in the ground.

Simon is ready to rampage, especially when he sees Lucy Goode’s name on their staff ledger. He grabs a sword and starts swinging wildly, accidentally hitting Hannah instead

And as the darkness grew and the shimmering light faded, Simon’s vision was restored. He could see clearly once again.

Still holding the long ebony handle of the sword, staring at the blood as it stained the dress, Simon could see. Could see that he hadn’t stabbed Lucy Goode.

He had thrust the sword deep into his own daughter’s chest.

Bummer. Angelica screams at him, and then it’s smash cut to Shadyside Village, 1900.

Now we’re hanging out with Daniel Fear, who’s been sent by his father to meet his grandparents. His father is Joseph, one of the boys, who left his family’s home and refused to speak with them, and there’s no explanation why he would allow his son to go visit his grandparents. The other two boys apparently stayed and also died thanks to sickness or general bad juju. Daniel meets Simon and Angelica, the latter of which is completely gone, and Simon is an old, bitter man.Simon shouts at him that he can’t escape his blood before thrusting the amulet on him, which gives him the vision of Susannah Goode burning. Daniel is a pretty good sport about all of this.

Daniel is pretty much done with the situation and goes to visit town. He meets Nora Goode, who runs a shop with her father. They hit it off, and he spends most of his visit courting her, going for walks, which is the only way old-timey people courted. He doesn’t tell Nora that he’s a Fear, especially after she recounts some of the horror stories of the Fear mansion. Nora’s father catches her with him, though, and he knows the truth about the Fears. He locks Nora away so that she can’t see him.

Daniel hangs around the mansion some more and finds books on black magic, which, bless his little heart, he thinks means his grandparents had a scientific interest in. He finds the secret room that Hannah and Julie used, as well as the family Bible that has their lineage listed in it. I don’t know why this black magic loving family has a goddamned Bible, but we’re rolling with it. The head of staff finds Daniel and tells him everything that’s happened since book one, starting with Susannah and moving down the line. How the head of staff knows this, I cannot imagine, especially since the story has been so warped through time, and the Fear family themselves have changed the story through misinformation and misremembering. Daniel learns that Nora is a Goode from the same family that originally threatened his. He decides to go see Nora and tell her himself.

When he comes to Nora’s shop, it’s boarded up, and Nora calls to him from within that her father locked her away. He breaks in, helps her out, and he tells her his entire family history as well. He tells her they must be married right away to break the curse, and she agrees. They marry, using the amulet as a ring, and then Daniel still wants to go to his shitty grandparents’ birthday party. When they arrive, Angelica is seeing people who aren’t there, and Simon is still a bitter man. When Daniel tells them they’ve been married, Simon flips out, knocks over the cake, which lights the room ablaze in less than a second. Nora sees visions of every death in the series, from Susannah to Benjamin to Matthew and Constance to Abigail to Kate, Julia, Hannah, all of them. She manages to escape the fire and realizes that the end of the curse means the end of the Fears, who all burn up.

Nora finishes her writing, revealing that she’s been institutionalized. She claims her manuscript will inform everyone of the evil, and her nurse tosses it in the fire, though I’m not really sure how any of this information could’ve helped. If the evil didn’t die with the Fears, it’s here to stay. She learns that the mansion has been paved over, and they’re building houses around Fear Street.

Favorite Line

“Funerals are so sad, Angelica!” she wailed.

Fear Street Trends Anachronisms

There is a number of fashion trends given at the beginning of the book, thanks to the party scene. Lots of people in tailcoats and knee breeches. One girl is described as having “sausage curls”, which admittedly gives me the image I believe Stine is going for, but I’m not sure is the correct terminology for it. Lots of ball gowns and silk dresses. Simon Fear plays a big part in the mythology of Fear Street, especially since he was the last Fear to occupy the Fear Mansion. I remember less about Angelica, though I’m sure she makes appearances at times.

Rating

I didn’t love this one. I found Simon a poor protagonist, and Daniel and Nora didn’t do it for me. The melodrama of the last one was hard to top, though the death scenes were twice as gruesome. I’ll give it two shared graves out of five.

Fear Steet Saga #2 – The Secret

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These Fear Street Saga books are pretty intense. Like I said, I didn’t read these back in the day, so all of this information is new, and it’s gruesome.

The Cover

the secret

I don’t mind the cover (pulled from its Amazon page) but it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on. I think it might be Nora on the cover? Except Elizabeth is stated to have a ribbon around her neck at some point. I imagine that couple are Jonathon and Delilah. I like it more than the first one, it’s a little more ominous and a little more coherent, and the gravestones are a nice touch.

Tagline

The Fear Street Saga… where the terror began.

Same tagline as last time, and it still doesn’t bother me. This series started in 1989 and it’s 1993, and I like that enough have come out that people are clamoring for the truth behind Fear Street.

Summary

There are so many people in these books! And following the Fier line is linear but it gets a little difficult to follow, especially when the Goodes disappear for most of the book. We start with Nora again, who’s still frantically writing, and someone is walking towards her. It’s unclear if she’s in actual danger or if she just needs to get this all down. I’m sure we’ll find out in book three.

Smash cut to Wickham Village in 1737. Ezra is now an old man with a wife, Jane, and children, Abigail, Rachel, and Jonathon. They return to Wickham Village to track down the Goodes and finish their feud. Ezra is obsessive, and his children are oblivious except for Jonathon, the eldest. He worries about his father and his fruitless attempts to destroy the Goodes. They’re disturbed to find the village is completely empty and consumed by some plague. It must’ve been a fast acting plague, because they just find skeletons lying around, including animals. It seems less like a plague and more like a bunch of alien laser beams just exploded the town overnight. They find the Goode house outside of town and decide to squat there, which sounds horrifying, but no one in this family acts normal.

They spend the next few days(? weeks? months? it’s hard to tell the passage of time in these books) exploring the town. Jonathon and his father call on their neighbors, who flip out at the mention of the Goodes, who they blame the plague on. Jonathon and Abby walk around, burying animal bodies, and then they just find a little girl and decide to get her a coffin. I’m not saying they shouldn’t try to give the dead some peace, but if I found a village of dead bodies, I’d run far away, not try to find a bunch of child sized boxes. Jonathon returns to his sister and sees her playing with a young girl called Hester. She’s mysterious and runs away all the time, and after she’s been hanging around a while she invites Abby to “her house”, and then Abby goes completely missing. They run after her and find a graveyard, which has the grave marker of Hester Goode! They dig up the grave and find Abby inside.

Now we flash forward to Western Massachusetts in 1743. It’s only a few years. Jonathon is almost eighteen, his mother is disturbed since Abby disappeared, sometimes seeing Rachel as her, Ezra is more angry and bitter than ever, and Rachel is told bedtime stories of everything the Goodes have done to the Fiers since the feud began, which can’t be good for her. They settle into their new home, and are visited by Delilah Wilson. Jonathon immediately takes a liking to her, and it’s a strange romance only in that they don’t really have any obstacles to overcome. Susannah and Edward were separated by their station (and witchcraft), and Jeremy was a farmhand while Mary was rich (and also he was an old man, also witchcraft), so while Delilah is poor, it doesn’t seem like there’s really anything stopping them from being together.

Jonathon calls on Delilah often, even after Rachel scares them all by recounting the entire cursed history of their family to her. Jonathon also hears animal screams in the night, and the well draws up blood. Jonathon hears Abigail speak to him in the night, and Rachel sees their dead sister walking around. Jonathon tells Delilah what’s been going on, and she’s pretty bummed about it. She also tells him she and her father are leaving by the end of the week. Jonathon is extremely unhappy about this as he’s desperately in love with Delilah. Worse, in the middle of the night, they hear their mother screaming about Abigail, and when they follow her outside they see her body in the well. She’s clutching Abigail’s cap, seemingly cementing that there’s been a ghost around.

Jonathon has a sudden realization, and he runs to Delilah, demanding that he tell him her secret. Delilah admits that she’s been a Goode all along! She tells him there’s a curse on both of their families, and the only way to stop anymore horror is for them to be married. Jonathon readily agrees, and they run to her father, who is a priest, deciding to get married right then and there. But the ceremony is stopped at the “speak now or forever hold your peace” (because it’s dramatic) by Ezra! He carries a rifle, Jonathon tries to wrestle it away, and Delilah is shot! Ezra moves to kill her father as well, but the priest shouts that they aren’t Goodes. What??!!

The baffling plan that Delilah Wilson and her father cooked up was that Delilah would try and get Jonathon to marry her by pretending to be a Goode. But to cement the deal, she would pretend the ghost of Jonathon’s dead sister was haunting them. She dressed up as Abigail, made animal screeches outside, threw animal carcasses into their well, and the night before, she’d lured their mother out there, and then accidentally pushed her into the well. Then they would convince Jonathon that the only way to break the curse was a marriage, and the Wilsons would be rich.

There’s so much to unpack here. A) As Jonathon rightfully points out, Jonathon was way into Delilah in the first place, and it wasn’t a secret or anything. He was courting her openly. There was no reason to do any of this other stuff. B) This is a truly insane plan just based on a legend a small child told you and a picture of a dead girl. C) This is horrific considering THEY LOST THEIR SISTER, and their mother was already clearly disturbed by this, AND WHO WOULD AGREE TO ANY OF THIS. You may have dodged a bullet there, Jonathon.

Ezra is pretty disturbed by all this, and he walks outside and immediately gets trampled by a horse. Jonathon buries his father, throws the amulet in with it, and declares the whole curse business done.

Nora leads us into Western Massachusetts 100 years later, in 1843. We’re introduced to a brand new crop of Fiers, including young Elizabeth, Kate, and Simon. Elizabeth uncovers the metal box Ezra’s ashes and amulet were kept in, and takes the amulet. Again, she doesn’t understand Latin. Is this a Protestant thing? I’m not saying Catholics are fluent, but I saw it enough in Church to figure out some basics. They meet a vagabond wandering around who introduces himself as Franklin Goode (DUN DUN DUN), and they give him a home and a job. Elizabeth finds Frank really handsome, and they start going on secret walks. She notices Kate acts weird whenever they’re around each other, but she doesn’t care. Frank lets the audience know he intends to kill everyone, though he plans to kill their parents, devastate the sisters, and leave Simon destroyed, which seems a little more evil to me. Elizabeth also sets up that there’s an old woman named Old Aggie that is in the forest, so remember that for later.

Elizabeth is knitting one day when Kate rushes in and tells everyone that Frank has asked her to marry him. Her whole family is excited, except for Elizabeth, who’d been waiting for Frank to ask HER to marry him. She runs away, Kate runs after her, and then Simon after them. Simon finds Kate murdered, a knitting needle stabbed in her heart. Elizabeth insists that she didn’t kill Kate, and it’s clear her family doesn’t believe her. Frank tells her that Kate was disturbed, that he never asked her to marry him, and he plans to elope with Elizabeth.

Simon leaves the house, hoping to escape his grief for a little while. He runs into Old Aggie, who tells him some cryptic things. Well, not actually cryptic. She tells Simon that their last name is Fier, which is an anagram for fire, which is how they’re all going to die. Then she hands him a fucking dagger that can poison only his enemies. This is some RPG garbage, but Simon rolls with it. When Aggie tells him Frank is the one doing all the murders, Simon runs home just as Frank has finished murdering his parents. He’s about to murder Elizabeth, and Simon cuts him with the knife. It takes a moment for the poison to work, but Frank collapses. Simon figures out that helping people is for the weak, and he takes Elizabeth’s amulet, claiming “Goodness is weakness”. He changes their name to Fear to avoid that whole “fire destiny” thing, though I don’t know if Fear is the best way to get over that.

We end the story on Nora again, who teases the tale of Simon Fear.

Favorite Line

Why is she so sad, and so mysterious?

Fear Street Trends Anachronisms

The thin research isn’t as obvious this time around, I guess because there aren’t any Puritans around to make it feel like people walking around in costume. The whole plague thing is very poorly done, especially since if it were a true plague, those bodies would be piled up and burned. This is the first book that finally connects the lines from here to the regular Fear Street books with Simon Fear, who’s mentioned fairly often in the regular books.

Rating

I liked this one a lot more, possibly because it felt more coherent, and whose twists were a little more interesting. It’s still gory, with a little more supernatural stuff thrown in there, so I’m going to give it three plague corpses out of five.

Fear Street Saga #1 – The Betrayal

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I don’t think I ever actually read the Fear Street Saga books. This was back in the day, when you read the library books that were in front of you and didn’t know you could ask for more, so I just missed them. The Betrayal came out in 1993, which isn’t even that late, though it seems Stine was releasing these monthly, so who knows how many volumes had come out between this and The New Girl. Fear Street was cursed, that’s for sure, and he set out to tell the world exactly why.

The Cover

The 1993 cover (pulled from GoodReads) is a little hard to understand. Which girl is that supposed to be? I doubt it’s Susannah, so it’s probably Nora, but nothing suggests Nora would have this coy look about her. I suppose that’s Nora running away from the fire as well, though why she’s cloaked isn’t really covered in the book. The new cover (pulled from its Amazon page) is a little better. It’s not as soap opera-y, which this book definitely is, but it’s got a little more mystery to it, and it sort of goes with the idea of generations of Fiers. I like the blood on it too.

Tagline

I guess the only real tagline is

The Fear Street Saga… where the terror began.

Which is true. I’m not mad about it. At this point there’s been a bunch of volumes and hints as to the true nature of the Fears, so we would be clamoring to know.

Summary

This book starts in the Village of Shadyside in the year of 1900. We meet Nora Goode, who is telling the story, who is trapped in a fire. Her beloved Daniel Fear is trapped in the fire, and all she has left of him is a strange amulet “with its sparkling blue jewels held in place by a silver three-towed claw”. People shout about how evil the Fears are, the fire doesn’t stop, and Nora runs into to find Daniel and sees visions of people being burned alive, young men being tortured, and sees the ghost of a woman tied to stake and being consumed by a fire.

We switch over to Wickham Village in 1692. This was all written pre-Internet, so I can’t assume that Stine read a Wikipdia page on colonial life and called it a day. I can assume that he found a book on pilgrims and considered that research enough. I found this section particularly jarring as I’d just picked up Conversion as well, which felt very well researched. I also write a historical fiction horror serial, and if Stine is cutting corners I cannot say I blame him. Research is hard.

Susannah Goode lives in the village of Wickham during the good old days of “blaming everything on witches”. The whole village is consumed with it, thanks to the magistrate Benjamin Fier and his brother Matthew, who have gone around accusing everyone. This also starts the trend of saying “Evil One” when they mean “The Devil”. I didn’t do a ton of follow up reading on this (see: skimming Wikipedia articles), but I can’t find an actual precedent for doing that sort of thing, so I assume the editor was opposed to putting the Devil in books for kids, which is strange considering just about everything else goes on in this book.

See, Susannah wants to be a good Puritan lass, but then there’s this boy. Edward Fier is handsome, dresses well, and he has a thing for Susannah. They meet in the woods to make out and declare their love for each other. It’s not very wholesome, especially with Edward’s insistence in following God’s law, but what’s theology without a little hypocrisy. The Fier’s are all about hypocrisy. It’s very clear they’re rigging the game, giving themselves the best house, the best crops, the handsomest wives, and accusing just about everyone who gets on their bad side of witchcraft. Susannah gets caught cavorting with Edward, and she learns that Edward’s been engaged to another young lady from some other village. Susannah is devastated, but not as upset as Edward, who opposes the marriage. He tells his dad as much, and Benjamin is unhappy to hear this. Which is why, the very next day, Susannah and her mother are dragged out of their house and imprisoned for witchcraft.

Susannah and her mother are held on trial, and it’s a poor one. They’re condemned by the wind (no, literally), and Benjamin trumps up some false evidence to send them to the stake. The Fiers aren’t content with just hanging witches either. They believe in a good old fashioned burning, like back home. Edward believes his father and condemns Susannah pretty much immediately, which sucks but I didn’t have much hope for their future anyway. Susannah’s father, William Goode, he brings the Fiers into his home and offers to bribe his wife and child’s freedom. William also gets a good look at the amulet, which reads “Dominatio per malum“, which he does not immediately understand. And, again, I don’t know anything about Puritans, but did they refuse to learn Latin? Because I feel like someone would’ve picked up on that. Even if you, dear reader, did not know a single Latin phrase, the “domination” part of that phrase would certainly give you pause, and I feel like we all know what “malum” is. But the brothers convince William to give them basically everything in his home for the promise that his wife and child would be released.

Only, the next day dawns, and poor William has to watch his wife and daughter trot out to the stake and be burned alive. He demands to know what happened, and he’s told by everyone that Benjamin and Matthew stole absolutely everything from the village and fled. Which, I get that the magistrate handed down a ruling and some people might’ve felt that needed to be carried out, but I’d think the moment the Fiers showed their true colors, the town might have a good hard look at the goings on and decide “what if we don’t burn this mother and young maiden”.  William is devastated by this all, and he goes into his house, revealing a secret door, a black candle, and scarlet hood. Guess who was a witch all along!

We’re sent reeling forward to the 1900s, where Nora Goode continues writing about her ancestor. She’s compelled to tell the story of what happened, and she tracks the Fiers to eighteen years later, where Benjamin and Matthew have a farm. Edward married a woman named Rebecca, and they have a son named Ezra, and thanks to Matthew’s wife a cousin named Mary.

It is Western Pennsylvania in 1710, and we meet the Fiers again. William Goode has tracked them down, and he plans to curse them all, and shit pops off quickly. Almost immediately Edward falls off the roof, hurting his arm so that he can’t move it, and Benjamin loses feeling in his leg. They hire on Jeremy Thorne to help with farm work, and Mary quickly becomes enamored with him. She brings him water and falls in love with him in about three days, though to be fair this was Pilgrim times and you had about that long to find a suitable partner before the cholera, tuberculosis, or famine got you. Jeremy is annoyed that Mary won’t discuss it with her family, even though they’ve now shared long kisses. She goes to Edward, hoping to talk with him, but they’re distracted by a phantom fire in the trees, in which they are treated to a vision of Susannah Goode burning alive. Edward has a visceral reaction to this but doesn’t want to talk about it.

Jeremy is delightfully unhelpful about this, telling Mary that “the light plays tricks in the tress” as though some mirage could show them a girl being burned alive at the stake. They kiss some more, and Jeremy tells her his father is very ill and can’t be concerned with their romance. Mary goes to visit Rebecca, who she finds hanged from the rafters of her home in a truly gruesome moment. She sees a dark figure in a field and runs out to it, only to see Benjamin strung up like a scarecrow. A funeral is held, in which Jeremy and Mary’s relationship is revealed. Jeremy also tells her his father is the one behind the murders, his father being William Goode, and Jeremy wishes to squash the rivalry between the families. Edward overhears everything and goes to tell his uncle. Matthew reveals Susannah did die for nothing at all, and he wants to kill William Goode. Edward and Mary talk him down, insisting that they make peace with the family, and cement it with the marriage of Mary and Jeremy.

Jeremy is invited to the Fier home in order to smooth things over, but about two seconds after he arrives, this horrifying passage happens:

As Jeremy crossed the room to greet him, Matthew Fier raised the silver disk over his head and pointed it at Jeremy.

Jeremy hesitated. His smile faded.

Matthew called out the words on the back of the disk: “Dominatio per malum!”

Jeremy’s head exploded with a low pop!

At first no one was certain where the sound had come from.

Mary was the first to realize that something horrible had happened.

Jeremy’s skull cracked open, and the skin on his face blistered and peeled away. Pink brains bubbled up from his open skull. His face appeared to melt away, an another face pushed up from his shattered skull.

Because Jeremy isn’t Jeremy at all! He was William all along, trying to get close to the Fiers! The Latin phrase is finally revealed to be “Power through Evil” which is honestly a terrible family motto no matter how it’s sliced. If you’re not indoctrinating your children, why even have that motto. William and Matthew have a wizard battle, and Edward grabs Mary and Ezra, escaping their home.

We are shutted forward again to the Western Pennyslvania Wilderness in 1725. Ezra is a grown man now, whose father died, and Mary, who never recovered from seeing Jeremy’s fucking head explode, drowns herself. He returns to the family home with only a vague recollection of what happened that night and the name of William Goode. He finds Matthew boarded himself and Constance up until the day they died, and Ezra swears revenge.

Back in 1900, Nora continues her writing, and she promises that it’s TO BE CONTINUED…

Favorite Line

“I will never apologize to a murderer,” he muttered.

“You and Benjamin are also murderers!” Mary cried.

Fear Street Trends Anachronisms

I don’t know nearly enough about these time periods to talk smack about Stine’s research methods. And I definitely don’t know enough about 17th century Satanists and/or black magic users to talk smack about the Fiers. I did find evidence that Puritans did attend grammar school, which taught Latin, though it’s fair that Susannah would not have this education. I’m just saying that Dominatio per malum would’ve been easily figured out by anyone. It’s also baffling to me that the Fiers didn’t indoctrinate their children in their black magic, but I guess this cycle of Fiers doing violence on Goodes doing violence on Fiers wouldn’t happen otherwise.

Rating

I was expecting a little more out of this, since people fondly remember the Fear Street Saga. Maybe because I didn’t have nostalgia for this, I was slightly less forgiving, so I’m going to give it two exploding heads out of five.