She Came From Beyond!
Our Research Notes series invites authors to describe their process for a recent book, with “research” defined as broadly as they like. This week, Nadine Darling writes about She Came From Beyond! from The Overlook Press.
My Weird Heaven
I was not a kid who was particularly… liked. I didn’t fit in with any groups; I wasn’t particularly good at anything. I was tall and quiet and what I did best, for the happiness of everyone, was try to stay out of the way. But I did like movies. Really over the top horror and sci-fi movies. It started with the original Halloween, which I sat down to watch with my father, the theme music having captured my interest. He was sitting at the kitchen table, my father, the small black and white TV resting on the washer — it wasn’t until much later that I realized that clothes washers were typically in laundry rooms and not in kitchens — “working on his men.” This is what he called it when he took the tiny players from his electric football game and painted them, with an even tinier paint brush, into team colors. He had all the teams in the league at that time, and even outfitted his players with number decals on their backs and chests, everything placed just so with special tweezers. I sat and watched Halloween with him — and, you know, we didn’t spend a lot of time together, in general. This was the start of something: an activity in which we could bear each other’s company.
I wore out a video tape of Creepshow by renting it every weekend for over a year from a place on Castro Street called Captain Video, a great little store that was eventually usurped by the big Tower Video on Market street and became a hardcore gay porn rental without ever changing its name. I can’t really explain it to my kids and stepkids, who’ve only ever known movies as available, inexpensive and shown on several devices, but when I was in middle school a new VHS copy of Creepshow was ninety dollars. Ninety dollars. Ninety American dollars. I tried to explain to my mother that the movie would pay for itself over time, but she was unmoved; she calmly explained to me that she didn’t have that kind of money to spend on terrible movies.
Horror in the eighties was unlike anything that exists now. Almost all of my favorite movies have been remade, or at least reimagined in some detrimental kind of way with too much of everything. Too many good looking people, too many computer effects. Back then movies were events — you saw them in theaters, then they disappeared. Eight months later they came out on video, a year and a half after that maybe broadcast television. I spent a great deal of time romanticizing the weirdest, least popular movies — The Serpent and The Rainbow, The Gate — movies that my kids would balk at. One of the greatest of all time, in my opinion, John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, reduced them to giggles when Wilford Brimley, in a tense scene in which he realizes that the Thing has the ability to wipe out mankind in less than a week, uses a computer program that appears straight out of the game Asteroids.
Later, as an adult, I was taken by survival horror video games — all the Silent Hills, all the Resident Evils. In the early 2000’s a bought a Super NES on Ebay to play the Friday the 13th game, and fell so enraptured with the theme music that I would leave the game on for all my waking hours, just to hear it.
These strange obsessions have always leaked into my work, and She Came From Beyond! is no different. Being a lonely kid often left me with the sensation that the things I loved were perhaps speaking to me, to me specifically, if only because I loved them enough to listen. Writing this book, and the books that come, entailed a love for fans who might not even exist, or ever exist; I love close readers, passionate readers, finders of Easter Eggs, inventors of theories. I was a kid who needed to belong in some space, I think, and that space was created by movies, music, videogames, and shaped by me and what I needed. I needed to hear voices. What I write, what I want to write, are voices. Voices for someone who is already listening.