By Dana Cameron
Even though the heat wave has broken for some of us, I think we're all feeling a little oppressed by this summer on many levels. So here's a chill for you: puppets.
Get a little frisson there? A shiver up the spine? I did. It was brought back to me last week, when I was touring with the editor and several of the contributors to Cape Cod Noir (http://tinyurl.com/4yk6h9c). We had four fun events, and talked about the despicable and hateful things our characters did, or compared them with the desperate and violent things other authors' characters did. I talked about the amoral — or is she just misunderstood? — Anna Hoyt and her latest adventures “Ardent” and “Disarming,” now a podcast (http://tinyurl.com/3hzm96q), and the terrible, mortal choices she faces. No one batted an eyelash.
After the events, Mr. G and I went looking for dead things washed up on the beach, and visited the Edward Gorey House museum (http://tinyurl.com/ybz5f53), to see the home of the illustrator known for macabre and wonderful illustrations, most of which deal with wasting death, mourning, and what's hiding under your bed. So like most of you reading this, it's not like I'm unacquainted with the ooky or grim, but stepping into one room of the Gorey house, I was brought up as short as if I'd accidentally wandered into the Arachnid Hall of Fame.
Before I even saw them, something made me start to edge to the door. There they were. Along the opposite wall, was a row of doors, and on top of the doors were a line of hand-made puppets. I was just about able to note that they were obviously Gorey-esque. I broke out into a sweat. I didn't run, but I kept one eye on them at all times, uneasy until I left the room.
I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the human-like faces. I think part of it is the shell of something waited to be animated by another force. It has no life...and then it does ... and then after, it's an empty piece of cloth again. Just ... waiting.
Sure it's an existential thing, but I write about vampires and werewolves, the mutation of flesh, sex, power, and pure evil. Hell, in my latest story (http://tinyurl.com/3zdmsf2), I write about a vampire having sex while she fights pure evil. Why the hang up over cloth or papier mache? I'm not the only one: Joss Whedon, among others, has revisited the horror of puppets repeatedly, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, and, arguably, in Doll House. There's even a word, pupaphobia, for the extreme fear of puppets (and not as I first thought, fear of puppies).
Irrational, yes, and I can hear some of you saying: But Dana ... we've seen you with puppets. In my defense, that started as a joke: I cheekily announced at a convention I would be doing interpretive dance, pole dancing, or sock puppets at another session. I opted for interpretive dance that day, but brought sock puppets another time (I'm only glad there wasn't a pole in the room). I've even bought finger puppets for friends. But here's the thing: I don't like looking at them when they're not in use. I have puppets in the house, but I don't keep them where children can accidentally stumble over them. Like the scenes in the Toymaker's apartment in Blade Runner, or the idea behind Being John Malkovich, you should have a little warning before you encounter puppets.
Puppets are bad, but don't get me started about clowns. Talk about chilling...
No, seriously, talk about chilling. What gives you the creeps?
Dana Cameron’s Fangborn story "Swing Shift" was nominated for an Agatha, an Anthony, and a Macavity this year; her third Fangborn story, "Love Knot," appears in "The Wild Side" August 2. Her third colonial noir adventure, "Ardent," was published in June. When not exploring the dark colonial past and the violent but hopeful lycanthropic present, Dana tries to avoid puppets, spiders, hot peppers, and big dogs.