Wednesday, August 9, 2017

BOOKS: "My American Nightmare" ~ Revisiting William Wilson

If you can't tell from a good chunk of what I write on here, I am in love with horror of a very specific type. I love psychological, dark, morbid, low on gore and high on "dear God this will stay with me until the end of my days." I worry that I can't write it nearly as passionately as I can read it, but I try nonetheless. Try long enough and you get somewhere, and I did. Specifically with My American Nightmare, an upcoming horror anthology where I'm surrounded by women who have written some wonderfully chilling takes on classic American-made horror.

The call asked for retellings of horror stories that were American in origin. That could mean books, short stories, films, even songs. Because I'm a try-hard, I delved back as far as I could, looking to see what was considered the first true piece of American horror fiction.

While I'm sure there's room for argument, my search led me to Edgar Allan Poe's "William Wilson" -- the memoirs of a man haunted by a cruel doppelganger sharing his name. The story is semi-autobiographical, reminiscent of the outskirts of London. It's also told almost entirely internally (as is true of much of Poe's work, of course). And modernizing it was going to be a trick.

The result was "Billson"... which, appropriately enough, is semi-autobiographical for me. Rather than have the main character tell his own story, I opted for an unnamed female narrator based heavily on myself as a college freshman. I mean, in all fairness, the campus is my campus. The class schedule is my class schedule. The only difference is it exists with 2017 tech rather than 1999 tech.

The story of Billson is not the same as the story of William Wilson. There are slight differences. Poe's story was truly and full introspective from beginning to end. Billson's is, too -- but there's more to it. This was an opportunity for me to address issues that are more visible in the 21st century. Issues I personally dealt with, and issues that friends of mine are still dealing with.

Billson -- the nickname given to a young Bill Wilson by a second boy sharing his name -- trusts our narrator with a terrifying secret: this Other Bill Wilson has followed him all the way to college from many states away. In school, the mockery and imitation was irritating. But now it's gone to ridiculous levels. At first teachers confuse the two and believe Billson is skipping classes. But soon the acts turn violent, and Billson finds himself taking the blame across campus for frankly criminal acts. Our narrator, who made the mistake of walking to class with him a few times, now finds herself caught up in what she originally believed to be his wild conspiracy theories.

My American Nightmare contains over 300 pages of modern horror written by women in the genre. And it drops on Halloween so you can have a nice terrifying night in.

Preorder now from Amazon!