Many people say that childhood is an idyllic time. It is, after all, a time of innocence and hardly any responsibilities.
Most of them forget, however, that childhood can also be a very terrifying time. Active imagination creates monsters in the shadows, and danger everywhere.
Though many people get over their childhood fears, for some, these fears manifest into phobias which spill over into adult life.
With Halloween just around the corner, we asked some Malaysian authors about their childhood fears, and whether they influenced their work.
When artist Faezal Tan was a kid, he was scared of being possessed, or having his mind controlled.
This was in part due to films like George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Also not helping were books like George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which featured characters who follow orders blindly.
Today, Faezal is no longer scared of supernatural forms of mind control. He is concerned, however, about a different kind of “mind control”... societal pressure.
“Being forced to be obedient and to conform to things senselessly does scare me. It helps me to keep exploring new and different creative approaches towards my work, ” says Faezal, whose graphic novels include Major Zombie and Batu Belah: The Untold Story.
Whispers in the night
Indeed, societal influences also played a role in influencing the work of horror author Julya Oui.
“One of my greatest fears when I was a child was what people said to me. Yeah, they literally told me what to be afraid of.
"The sinister looking darkness, creatures of the night, blood-sucking monsters, ugly-looking things, and the terrifying fear of the unknown, ” says Oui, whose works include Taiping Tales Of Terror and Here Be Nightmares.
Everywhere she turned, something was out to get her, Oui recalls rather descriptively. With all these “supernatural creatures” hanging over her, she decided to interview them and get their stories.
“In a way I am just a dictator, you know. The taking dictation kind, not the other kind. So, the stories I write are whispered to me like confessions but to you they are horror stories that will creep the hell out of you, ” says Oui.
For speculative fiction writer Eeleen Lee, author of 13 Moons and Liquid Crystal Nightingale, she was once afraid of things that go bump in the night. Specifically, things that were “perched in the corner of her bedroom and watched you when you were sleeping.”
Films such as Labyrinth and Dark Crystal (“puppets tend to be scary by themselves!” says Lee) frightened her, while the classic spook book series The Osbourne Supernatural Guides gave her nightmares about haunted houses, vampires and ghosts.
Regardless, the brave young Lee would make a fort out of her pillows and stuffed toys to counter them.
“Those were the things that influenced my childhood reading habits. I figured ghost and horror stories and films were good research on how to beat such things, ” says Lee.
Pull up a chair
When asked about his childhood fears, author Tunku Halim responded in true horror writer style: “by crafting a short story”.
“I despise having a chair placed in the bedroom. My greatest fear is opening my eyes in the dead of night and, as a chill slips up my neck, behold a thin silhouette lazily lounging there.
"Then this woman-thing with long greasy hair slowly rises and creeps over to my bed, its foul breath rasping, its slimy long fingernails reaching, its eyeballs half-rotting and dangling in the moonlight. Its evil grin turns my stomach to liquid, ” writes Tunku Halim, author of Horror Stories, Horror Stories 2 and Dark Demon Rising.
“I try to scream but its sharp teeth are already deep in my throat and my own sticky blood soaks into the pillow. All then turns pitch black.”
If you ever meet Tunku Halim, do try to get him to show you the entire story, which we hope he will publish someday.
In true horror movie style, it even comes with a twist at the end. We decided not to reveal it here but it is indeed chilling!
“So if you do have me as a stay-over guest, please make sure that no chair stands in my bedroom. For it is my greatest fear and you never know what I might do, ” he concludes.
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