Odds and Dead Ends: Hyde and Seek

Why Stevenson’s classic still haunts us

It’s hard to think that Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, could be anything like a surprise today, with the story so deeply ingrained in the popular conscious, at least at a basic level. But when the story was unleashed in 1886, it changed the face not only of gothic fiction but everyday thought. It altered how we look at ourselves. Its names are used so frequently as short-hands that we don’t even realise we use them. Its story is so potent because, at some instinctual level, we’ve known it all along.

That both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are two halves of the same person is so obvious to us now, that it is hard to remember that this was the novella’s major twist. Although the concept of the doppelganger had been used before; never quite like this. In an age of scientists beginning to look at the mind, Stevenson kick-started the psychoanalytic influence of popular culture. That later Freudian theories of the ‘id’ and the ‘ego’ would so closely mirror Henry Jekyll splitting his consciousness into its good and evil sides, is only to be expected. Studies into schizophrenia, insanity, and other levels of mental illness,  still the property of the scientist in the asylum, just beginning. That this madness could spill into the streets of London was unthinkable.

What I think captivates us most is that the moral dilemma proposed in the story is so deeply personal and human. After a single transformation, Jekyll gets a taste of his new, unrefined freedom. The dark activities that Hyde participates in thrill him, excite him so much that he voluntarily changes over and over again. When he realises that it’s getting harder to remain as his good side, something seems to change in Jekyll’s narrative. This is something much older, instinctual, a kind of self-possession. And when he thinks he is rid of Hyde for good, temptation strikes again, leading to the downward spiral that spells out his doom.

Therefore, we ask ourselves questions. Is evil inherent in all of us, and is it only a matter of time until temptation unleashes it? Once a single crack appears, have we set up an inevitable chain of events that will lead to our final demise? Though Jekyll’s potion may have rattled the initial cages, eventually Hyde possesses the key to his own lock. What about those of us who are perhaps weaker than he? Will one day our darker sides discover that the cell door, if rattled hard enough, will break on its own?

By now, the doubling trope is so old and worn down that it is hard to see it as new and refreshing. And yet, just like most of our movie monsters, time and time again it crops up. The reveal in Fight Club is one of the most well known in cinematic history, and even The Usual Suspects has a trace of it. Primal Fear (another Ed Norton movie, and another movie from the 90’s; perhaps there’s a follow-up article on the prevalence of doppelgangers in that particular decade?) also follows through on this concept. Psycho is perhaps one of the most influential examples of this theme being carried across, and Stephen King has used it several times in his various writings. Any ‘evil inside’ story is dubbed ‘a modern-day Jekyll-and-Hyde’. How many stories can you think of that receive this kind of treatment?

One of the best doppelganger movies of recent times is Jordan Peele’s Us. If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you do so immediately. Peele takes the concept and fills it with additional meaning. It isn’t just evil inside, but all of our lost hopes and griefs, all of the unfilled desires. The Untethered are our lost childhoods let loose and raging at the world. Life has crushed its dreams into the cookie-cutter pattern of capitalist aspirations that never manage to satisfy.

Never before have we been so aware as a people that, sometimes, we’re just as bad as the monster’s we have dreamed up to take our place. When before we created entities to embody our fears, we now project them as altered versions of ourselves as an attempt to come to grips with the evil inside. We don’t create avatars and fill them with our darkness anymore, because the avatar staring back at us is every bit ourselves as we are right in the beginning.

Even in The Exorcist, Karras must eliminate all doubt that the disturbances in the McNeill household are not being caused by Regan herself, before he can convince the Church that an exorcism is needed. He must go into the investigation with the initial belief that Regan, as a result of the breakup of her parents, the overworking of her mother, and her journey through puberty into adulthood, has unleashed a subconscious identity with parapsychological powers. In this story, demons are less readily-believed by the Church than Regan unknowingly having a ghostly Mr Hyde.

And so the legacy of Stevenson’s story lives on. Through its dozens of adaptations, its thousands of reworkings, and the endless imaginations his characters have inspired, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has touched us all because, very simply, it gets us to ask ourselves a very potent, and disturbing, question. “Am I evil?” I don’t think there’s a person in the world that hasn’t at some point thought they had a bad side waiting to destroy the world, and perhaps this little novella is the reason we all started looking at others, and ourselves, with a little more trepidation than we did before.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Fight Club. 1999. [Film] Directed by David Fincher. USA: Fox 2000 Pictures.

Primal Fear. 1998. [Film] Directed by Gregory Hoblit. USA: Rysher Entertainment.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Stevenson, R. L., 2006. Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In: R. Luckhurst, ed. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales. New York: Oxford, pp. 1 – 66.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Usual Suspects. 1995. [Film] Directed by Bryan Singer. USA: Blue Parrot.

Us. 2019. [Film] Directed by Jordan Peele. USA: Monkeypaw Productions.

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Book Review: A Winter Sleep by Greg F. Gifune

A Winter Sleep Author: Greg F Gifune
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

I liked this book it was easy to read and kept your interest. It had elements I love; winter, Eerie Hotel, and Crazy people. The story has Horror, Psychological Horror and just plain crazy. I kept thinking I had figured out this story then the author would change it up on me. When I got to the end I was still doubting what seemed to be the end wondering if there will be a sequel and he will explain it to me in an epilogue.  Then I was just, “Whoa okay that is just crazy,” and I don’t know if it was the story or me.

I loved the main character, Ben Hooper. I don’t want to give away too much and ruin the story but you get that he is going somewhere and through the story, you find out what happened and what he is doing. He ends up at an old Hotel called the Monarch, this hotel made me think of another famous hotel “The Overlook” and even the song, “Hotel California”.  He meets a group of strangers at this hotel and they have what appears to be nothing in common, but something is keeping them all there. In the story Ben’s past and present intermingle and you wonder what his future holds.

The story has all kinds of things going on and it keeps you engaged to the end. You get crazy, horror, ghost, spooky something for everyone. The real question is it real or all in Ben’s mind. I am still wondering! Thanks for a fun read. I might have to read it again!

#PM2 YouTube Book Trailer Part 3 – Tonight

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a teenager in a world overrun by zombies? What would you do to survive? Would you act as bait to lure zombies into a trap? Would PM Rebel Infectionyou create a weapon to combat the hoards? What if you became infected with the plague? What would you do if you lived in the Plague Master Universe?

H.E. Roulo’s Plague Master: Rebel Infection follows the journey of teenager, Trevor Seth, as he returns to his homeworld with a vaccine to cure the zombie infection. Trevor’s celebrity also makes him a dangerous threat to the powerful Founders and revolution is in the air. Trevor is caught in the middle and despite his homeworld’s troubles, a message from a Plague Master forces him to seek reinforcements on other worlds. He hunts for the woman he left behind, and an answer as to why the vaccine is failing.

Trevor and his friends must fight in space stations and worlds overtaken with the infected to discover the terrible truth about his cure.

Tune in to Part 3 of H.E. Roulo’s Book Trailer Miniseries on  H.E. Roulo’s YouTube channel this evening, and get a sneak peek into the life of a typical teenager living in the Plague Master Universe. And be sure to check out Plague Master: Rebel Infection. Available now!

Chilling Chat: Episode 173 | H.E. Roulo

chillingchat

H.E. Roulo’s short stories have appeared in several dozen publications, including Nature and Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue. She is the author of the Plague Master series. Fractured Horizon, her science-fiction podcast novel, was a Parsec HE ROULO 1Award Finalist.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Heather. Thank you for joining me today.

HER: Happy to be here, Naching. 

NTK:  Could you tell us a little about Plague Master? What is this series about?

HER: Sure! I’ll throw a few buzz-words at you then dig into it a bit more. It’s a dystopian, sci-fi/horror, zombie YA trilogy. The series takes place in a solar system colonized by humans, but there’s a new infection raging on the planets.

There are a couple storylines, but the biggest one is Trevor, who grows up on a downtrodden planet that really didn’t need a zombie infection to make it even worse. There’s also a dome for infected who haven’t become zombies to go to, but of course, nothing is as it seemed.

In the new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, Trevor returns to his homeworld with a cure for the infection, except it stops working and he has to find out why. It’s not just politics and secrets, of course. There’s space travel, avalanches, and diving through zombie-filled tunnels.

NTK: Sounds exciting! What inspired you to write about zombies in a space setting?

HER: I’d released a sci-fi book, Fractured Horizon, and was looking to write something that would catch people’s attention. I saw a call for an audio drama and wrote a short, 40-minute script. They loved it (it’s out there in the Omega Road Chronicles.) I wrote a related short story, and that sold. It was obvious that zombies were good sellers and I felt like I had a different enough approach to stand out. I took what I’d learned and wrote the full novel. Plus, writing zombies is fun!

There are a lot of zombie stories out there. Fewer space zombies.

NTK: I have to ask…do you prefer fast zombies or slow ones?

HER: Oh, good question.

I promise I’ll answer that. First, let me say that I didn’t have to choose. In my world, the infected becomes violent and crazed as they first change—so you have the terror of the fast zombie. However, after a while, they slow down and become almost docile unless riled up, so you get your slow zombies.

This allowed people to think zombies could be kept in herds, like sheep.

Anyway, in general, I like the fast ones.

I loved 28 Days Later.

NTK: Are you a fan of George Romero?

HER: I think you have to give him credit when you talk about zombies. I wouldn’t risk calling myself a fan, though. I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough. 

NTK:  How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

HER: Characters always act in ways logical to them, so sometimes they can’t take the path I had planned. Still, I always know the end of a story before I begin and it’s just a matter of steering them where they need to go.

NTK: What’s your writing process like? Do you outline?

HER: Oh, you may be sorry you asked that.

NTK: (Laughs.)

HER: I am a true believer in outlining. I have an entire process, and my most successful blog post ever was on how to outline a book—it gets tons of hits every fall as people gear up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s called, “A Simple Novel Outline – 9 Questions for 25 Chapters.”

I have to know my beginning and end. I need at least two or three scenes I’m really excited about.

Plague Master Sanctuary DomeAfter I have those, I plug them in to a chapter framework and start filling in around them. I used to do it in Word, but I’ve found the Scrivener is especially good for that. However, I usually end up pulling it back out as I get the story more filled in. Then I work in Word again.

Once I have the outlined chapters, I start at the beginning and work from front to back, never going back! I used to rework and rework. Now I just leave myself notes to go back if something changes along the way.

When I’m deep in a novel, I try for 2000 words a day.

I did warn you.

NTK: (Laughs.) You did. What is your favorite horror novel?

HER: Favorite questions are hard for me. I rarely have that kind of loyalty to anything. I like novelty. My favorite things are the stories, songs, and televisions shows I haven’t seen yet and that surprise me. I rarely consume anything twice. Today, I’ll fondly recall the horror of certain stories in the anthology Unaccompanied Sonata by Orson Scott Card.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

HER: I’m a big fan of anything post-apocalyptic and dystopian. I had to read Cormac McCarthy’s grim and hopeless The Road after seeing the movie. I also love time travel and alternate realities. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind impressed me when it came out. Coherence and the movie Primer kept things interesting.

NTK: What attracts you to Dystopia?

HER: I’ve always loved dystopian stories. The Girl Who Owned a City was one of my first favorites. So was Z for Zacharia. I also loved Island of the Blue Dolphins and My Side of the Mountain. I think it’s about starting over, relying on your abilities to survive, and simplifying things

 

—not that most people think of dystopia as simple, but it does remove superficial troubles for real and basic needs.

So for me, it isn’t about the breakdown of society. I know that Island of the Blue Dolphin isn’t traditionally considered a dystopian story—but it’s about surviving with whatever you find yourself with. Starting over, and being able to build something new. Things get messed up—I’m sure we all look at the world and wish it was simple and basic, and about our own skills and ability—so a reset sounds great.

I wouldn’t actually want that, though. I have a family and comfortable things. (Laughs.)

Structure keeps us safe. These stories are about what happens when that safety net isn’t there.

NTK: Have you read The Stand by Stephen King?

HER: I haven’t. He wasn’t in the boxes of garage sale books my dad brought home each weekend—I’m not sure why. Eventually, I deliberately went back and read a few things by him, like The Long Walk, and was so impressed that I read his book On Writing.

Excellent advice in there, for any writers looking for a book.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror television show?

HER: The Black Mirror series has me hooked.

NTK: You’re a fan of the original Star Trek, do you have a favorite frightening episode from that series?

HER: Oh, that’s a new question!

I am a big fan of Star Trek, TOS, and of Next Generation, too. A lot of the series, actually.

What comes to mind is “The Devil in the Dark”, which is the one with the Horta, who seems like a monster but in the end we realize isn’t. There’s so much that’s fantastic in that episode.

I love creatures that are more than they seem.

I love subverting expectations, actually. I dislike predictable stories—give me something new!

NTK:  What does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

HER: Well, we’re talking about the second book in the Plague Master trilogy, so you know PM Rebel InfectionI have to write the third and final one. I’ve had the series finale in mind for a long time, so I’m thrilled to finally write it.

I have a few other short stories that will no doubt come out. I tend to submit a lot except when I’ve got a book coming out.

And I’d like to sell a novella about a villain superhero called Heart of Marble. It’s dark and funny.

I also have an urban fantasy story that I’ve been trying to finish for about a year. It’s got four or five point of view characters, and bringing them all together for a satisfying ending has been tricky.

I think it’s a novel, but I need about ten more chapters to be sure. (Laughs.)

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Heather.

HER: I had a great time. Thanks!

 

Horror Addicts, you can find Heather on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

Her new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, is available now!

 

28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party – Tonight

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Horror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. 28 Days LaterRoulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the fantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us tonight!

WHAT: 28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

WHERE: Twitter

WHEN: Tonight at 8:00 pm

FOLLOW: #ZombieGrr

Stay Spooky!

#PM2 YouTube Book Trailer Part 2 – Tonight

PM2BANNER

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a teenager in a world overrun by zombies? What would you do to survive? Would you act as bait to lure zombies into a trap? Would PM Rebel Infectionyou create a weapon to combat the hoards? What if you became infected with the plague? What would you do if you lived in the Plague Master Universe?

H.E. Roulo’s Plague Master: Rebel Infection follows the journey of teenager, Trevor Seth, as he returns to his homeworld with a vaccine to cure the zombie infection. Trevor’s celebrity also makes him a dangerous threat to the powerful Founders and revolution is in the air. Trevor is caught in the middle and despite his homeworld’s troubles, a message from a Plague Master forces him to seek reinforcements on other worlds. He hunts for the woman he left behind, and an answer as to why the vaccine is failing.

Trevor and his friends must fight in space stations and worlds overtaken with the infected to discover the terrible truth about his cure.

Tune in to Part 2 of H.E. Roulo’s Book Trailer Miniseries on  H.E. Roulo’s YouTube channel this evening, and get a sneak peek into the life of a typical teenager living in the Plague Master Universe. And be sure to check out Plague Master: Rebel Infection. Available now!

 

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