Jenny is a shy, small-town South Carolina girl whose touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague. She can’t touch anyone for long without killing them. Her life is painfully lonely until she meets a boy named Seth with the opposite power, a healing touch. Jenny’s love for Seth brings the wrath of Seth’s beautiful, popular and devious girlfriend, Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all–the power to inspire love.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of Jenny Pox.
Teachers, family members and others sometimes ask why I insist on writing books about ghosts and genetically engineered monsters. Presumably, having studied literary greats like Homer, Milton and Shakespeare, I should aim a little “higher” in terms of subject matter, in the opinion of some people.
I’m not sure what makes a work literary. These days, it often seems to involve angst and sexual problems, with random references to obscure artists mixed in for the appearance of…something. I don’t know. But when you consider the above-mentioned writers, it’s hard to not to notice that Homer is full of monsters, witches, and supernatural beings, as are Milton and Shakespeare. While it may be difficult to discern a clear Marxist-Freudian subtext in The Odyssey or The Tempest, these classic works have stood the test of centuries, while your average postmodern literary novel by a Ph.D is forgotten the moment it drops off the printing press, having never been noticed in the first place.
Deep down, we’re all afraid of monsters. There are deeply rooted genetic reasons for this. Our earliest mammalian ancestors were little shrew-like creatures scampering around in the shadows of the dinosaurs for millions and millions of years—this is likely the reason that stories of dragons can be found in every known human culture. Even after the dinosaurs went extinct, our ancestors struggled to survive in a world of saber-toothed tigers, crocodiles and cave bears. If you weren’t paranoid about the monster watching you in the dark, there was a good chance you’d get eaten.
The monsters are etched into our DNA. I once read about an interesting zoological experiment, in which the researchers made a piece of wood in the shape of a hawk. They held it over a group of recently hatched chickadee, and the hatchlings ran for cover. Though only a few minutes old, they already knew the shape of their predators.
What makes horror more interesting than a “man versus nature” struggle is the addition of human intelligence to predatory traits. The vampire is a human with fangs, the werewolf a human with claws. If the thing hunting us is not merely big and scary, but also has the capability of understanding us and toying with our minds — that’s a truly scary thought.
This combination of animal predation with human intelligence may be at the root of people’s fascination with serial killers — countless novels and movies have been made on the subject, and even Jack the Ripper is still famous more than a century after his handful of murders. Though few of us will ever have any likelihood of encountering a serial killer, it keys into the worst human fear: the combination of physical power and high intelligence.
The worst monsters are politicians, from Sulla and Caesar to Hitler and Stalin. Such people massacred millions, yet we have not had time to develop an instinctive fear of politicians. The ability of humans to become monsters is a product of modern technology, from mechanized weaponry to mass media to spread propaganda. Rarely, during a presidential election, do we even consider the politician’s likelihood of committing mass murder. We are much more afraid of the lone invisible stalker in the night, despite the historical record showing us that we are more likely to be killed by a politician’s order than a grinning Jack the Ripper. This illustrates how far instinct rules over reason and knowledge when comes to what we fear.
When we deal in horror, we deal in the instinctive fears more than the rational and learned fears.
Because of our genetic heritage of being stalked by predators for ages, we may have an excess of fear that is not useful or necessary in the world where we live. The horror genre helps build our tolerance to fear. While we are being pursued through the dark forest and into the old church by the undead, our everyday fears are becoming a little more manageable.
There are plenty of rational fears — poverty, disease, death of a loved one. We should not let such things strike nearly as much fear into us as a hungry beast springing from the darkness. By strengthening our resistance to fear, we become less likely to react out of fear in our daily lives, and more likely to make conscious, intelligent decisions. Horror helps us to become less like animals driven by blind instinct, and more like human beings.
Maybe this is why a good monster story can survive for so many centuries. The story of the conscious mind overcoming the savage beast has likely helped us grow less fearful, less violent and more empowered to shape our own destinies.
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. Most of his writing wanders into the horror or science fiction genres, reaching into the darker depths of human nature, where things are often scary or funny.
He is the author of Jenny Pox and three other novels. His Haunted E-Book International Blog Tour will begin in January, with great giveaways like an Amazon Kindle and The Haunted Library ebook collection.
Want to purchase JL’s novels?
Jenny Pox at Amazon or the Book Depository
Dominion at Amazon or the Book Depository
Helix at Amazon or the Book Depository
Mid-Afternoon at Amazon
Contest Time! JL Bryan has graciously offered to give away a copy of Jenny Pox. All you have to do is answer this one question: Why do you think monster stories have survived? Do you think they help us to become less fearful or more? Or simply ask JL Bryan a question. (US/Canda Only)
As always, there’s more ways of getting your name in the hat (remember, these aren’t mandatory to enter, just extra entries):
- +1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.
- +1 to any review you comment on, however, comments must be meaningful. Just give me the title of the review and I’ll be able to figure it out from there.
- +1 If you are a follower of Literary Escapism on Facebook and/or Twitter
- +10 Purchase any of JL Bryan’s novels (listed above) or any novel through LE’s Amazon store or the Book Depository sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: jackie AT literaryescapism DOT com. Each purchase is worth ten entries.
One thing I do add to my contests…the winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.