Like many adults trying to stay relevant in the career market, I went back to school for diversify my resume. After a year of study, I completed all degree requirements for a BA in Communications but still needed 4 credits of electives to qualify for graduation. I selected, for my final term, two courses offered through the English department. ENG320: Vampires in Literature and Film and ENG 315: Zombies in Literature and Pop Culture. (I know!) As a hobby-writer of horror, I take vampire lore and zombie tradition very seriously. As an added bonus, the term ends just before Halloween— what better time to study horror!
My assignments involve a great deal of disturbing reading and viewing horror video. As a long-time fan of paranormal and dark fantasy, much of the assigned material is already in my library. I’m having a deliciously ghoulish time but have noticed some unintended consequences of my studies.
1. Weird Dreams
No, the creepy assignments aren’t giving me nightmares about zombies and vampires. Instead there must be something about studying the horrific, paranormal, and surreal that stimulates the creative centers of the mind. I’ve been having lucid dreams in which I’m certain I’m awake. I eventually figure out it’s a dream when events become so strange they can’t possibly be true.
2. Strange targeted advertisements
As with all academic assignments, I sometimes have to do some quick internet research to fact-check something I want to say in a paper of class discussion. This is usually no big deal when I’m googling things like “what year did the British Empire pass women’s suffrage?” or “Who were the signers of the Declaration of Arbroath?” Things like that don’t do too much mischief to Google’s algorithm. It’s a different story when you start googling things for a Vampire class like, “how deeply do you have to penetrate the chest to stab the heart?” Last week, I had to come up with a zombie response plan for an assignment. I researched survival gear, weapons, and stealth travel tactics. Now I’m getting all kinds of adverts targeted to doomsday preppers and newsletters outlining the latest kooky conspiracy theories.
3. Weird Facebook friend requests, invitations, and twitter followers
Apparently my online research doesn’t just give me strange adverts. I also get friend requests and follows from some pretty interesting people. I had no idea there was a goth fetish club in Columbus, Ohio. There is also a Vampire LARP group that meets (ironically) in a church every Sunday night. Their website insists they do not physically accost anyone or drink blood, but— why chance it?
4. Deliciously horrific story ideas
Immersing myself in the vivid alchemy of so many creepily creative minds overstimulates my own imagination (really, it doesn’t take much). I have to keep interrupting my academic work to write down the delicious ideas I get for my own fiction. I see stories in every detail. Shadow muses haunt my peripheral psyche whispering seductively trying to draw me away from my assignments into my own writing. I keep a composition book close at hand and try to catch them and press them between the pages for later.
5. I got hooked on THE WALKING DEAD
One of my assignments required me to watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead. Half-way through the first episode, Dearest was watching with me. Half-way through the first season, we were completely hooked and binge-watching from netflix up to season 4. We were desperate to get caught up before the series resumed next month so I recorded the entire season 5 marathon on AMC. We are now completely caught up and ready for The Walking Dead season 6 premiere!
Admit it. You want to be me. You want to study Vampires and Zombies under Ph.D. professors who take horror seriously. You want your own Giles helping you untangle occult mysteries. I’m living the dream (or rather nightmare) of having my study of paranormal film and literature taken seriously. I have total justification to blow off chores and social obligations to completely immerse myself in the genre I love. I’ll just have to try and live with your envy. Try not to hate me too much.
Read ~ Write ~ Wander
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