Illustration Friday: Scary

Pen and ink. The shading is added digitally, but next time I would do it with watercolour – I enjoy the fluidity of it for single-colour work.

I enjoy stories where someone (character or audience) is shrunk to doll-size – whether Diana Wynne Jones’ Magicians of Caprona or Doctor Who’s “Night Terrors”, E. Nesbit’s “The Town in the Library in the Town in the Library”, the opening scenes of Babe or any number of others. They are usually intended to be scary, but I don’t find them so. I enjoy the fantasy – a fascination with small details, the coffee cans full of beads and the plaster ham in Beatrix Potter’s A Tale of Two Bad Mice, the giant Oreo in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. However, the best of them capture that dollshouse disproportion, where the scale of everything is always slightly off. Although it doesn’t scare me I find it beautifully unsettling.

After recently reading some M.R.James and watching Paranormal Activity 3, I am realising it is that gradual discomfort, the perpetual off-kilter sensation that I like best about horror. Sustained eeriness, rather than fright. The eternal unspoken whispering, the phenomenon which hints at but never fully grants an explanation. The serious scary stories which I like best are those which gradually and casually build to some subtle fright, and then never resolve it fully: I like the stories of the characters to be finished, for good or ill, but I do not want all questions to be answered – one reason that I don’t care for strong occult overtones in books I read in order to make myself scared of the sound of the wind. If all ghosts are identified, diagnosed and laid to rest, then that is as bad as ending a fantasy with “it was all a dream”. No, a little wonder and thrilling fear should stay in the world.

In other news: Delia Sherman’s Freedom Maze is loose on the world, and I did the cover and it has Delia’s words inside and Gregory Maguire’s words on top of it, and I am possibly a little excited.