Note from Tricia: Today there’s no doubt about it. We definitely have a treat in store for you. I’m blog-swapping with the brilliant and talented A.F.E. Smith. So, sit back, grab a handful of candy corn, and read on…
Trick or treat? by A.F.E. Smith
Welcome, everyone, to my second excursion into the realms of guest blogging. It’s wonderful to be here – a thousand thanks to Tricia for agreeing to the swap!
Ever since Tricia suggested that I write something about Halloween for her blog, I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t like this time of year as much as I think I ought to.
On the face of it, Halloween is the most Fantasy-ish event in the calendar. By the time October reaches its close, the evenings are spookily dark. The days have begun to smell of woodsmoke and winter. The line between living and dead, normal and paranormal, reality and unreality is becoming increasingly blurred. The stage is perfectly set for mysterious and fantastical events to take place – ideal for any lover of fantasy, horror or the supernatural.
So what’s the problem?
Well, when I was in my teens there wasn’t one. I loved Halloween. I loved the sense of magic in the air and the shivery feeling of coming home from school when it was already dark. My sister’s birthday falls at the end of October, so every year my mother and I would throw a themed party for her. We called them Quest parties, and they consisted of a series of interlocking party games/puzzles that the guests had to solve to find the prize. There’d be a map of the house that gave the rooms names like The Forbidden Forest and The Perilous Pool, and the whole place would be decorated with candles and cobwebs and strange arcane runes that held a hidden message. Over the years, I got to dress up as a dragon (classic fantasy quest), the cat goddess Bast (Egyptian quest) and Fawkes the phoenix (Harry Potter quest). It was a huge amount of fun.
But as I got older, the magic of Halloween faded. I began to associate it with other things: tacky plastic toys, lurid sweets made of pure sugar, children in cheap masks knocking at the door and extorting treats out of you with the threat of egg on your doorstep. It’s hard to feel a pleasant tingle down your spine at the thought of ghosts and witches when they leer out at you from the shelves of every supermarket. As an adult, I’m fully aware of how commercial an event modern-day Halloween has become. And once you’ve looked behind the scenes in the haunted house, it doesn’t thrill you any more.
Sadly, of course, this is the price we have to pay for growing up. Every event that seemed so simple and heartwarming to me as a child – Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day – has been gradually tarnished with my adult awareness of consumerism and the art of making money. And now that I think about it, perhaps that’s why I love fantasy so much. Because in fantasy as in no other genre, the pure emotions of childhood – the sense of wonder and excitement – shine through, allowing us jaded adults to experience them afresh once more. I can find my way back to a time of magic by reading books I loved as a child. I can rediscover my Halloween in Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock or Susan Cooper’s The Grey King.
Now that’s a real treat.
A.F.E. Smith is currently working on several fantasy novels, but keeps getting distracted by reading other people’s. She would still like an excuse to dress up as a dragon or a phoenix, but thinks it might earn her some funny looks at work.