Back in my theater days, the more serious the play, the more quickly rehearsal dissolved into Pythonesque rompings. In trying to find the heart and soul of The Thing (that is, the Conscience-Catching Play), unfruitful but, uh… creative, alternate versions of scenes, characters and moments inevitably presented themselves. What if Stanley, Mitch and the boys were playing Hungry Hungry Hippo instead of poker? How about Breakin’ Two: Henry Fivebugaloo? This is called “process”.
Well, while we were trying to get our shit together for our only-a-week-away previews, some very smart people were taking notes and making plans.
You know the books I’m talking about – twisted hybrids of literature and horror. Take a classic, divert it, dip it in weird-assery, stick an unexpected element on the side of its head with rubber cement, and you have both an idea for a book and a bitchin’ halloween costume. Most of the books on this list are not new, but maybe you haven’t thought of them as fertile costume ground. Or worse, you were thinking, “Meh, I don’t really need a costume”. No. No. EVERYONE must wear a costume, no exceptions. It’s Halloween, dammit. And remember: just putting on a cowboy hat does not count, Mr. I’m Too Cool To Dress Up. This list gives you some cool, mostly uncomplicated options.
No list of these hybrids would be complete without Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The movie, with Lena Headey no less, comes out early next year. Arguably, this is the best of the lot, with the weirdness woven into the classic artfully. Seth Grahame-Smith followed it with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is not a monster/classic hybrid, but is completely made-up, like most fiction, and only makes this list because it would be a legit Halloween costume.
Elizabeth – fancy ball gown, smeared with blood, katana
Abe – black Abe suit (you know the one), top hat, smeared with blood, ax
Sherri Browning Erwin’s Jane Slayre seems a bit like a natural development of the original Gothic milieu. If you already have one foot in a dark, spiritual netherworld, why not take up arms? Or stakes? Maybe Charlotte would have written it this way, if only she’d thought of it? Also from Erwin and also featuring werewolves is Grave Expectations. (I’ll take a werewolf over a vampire any day. Why just drink the blood, when you can have the meat, too? Vampires don’t get it.) Pip is a werewolf, Estella slays werewolves, zombies, escaped prisoners, everybody hunts everybody: it’s about relationships.
Jane – period fancy dress, smeared with blood, wooden stakes
Estella – period fancy dress, smeared with blood, silver stakes
Pip – period dress (not necessarily fancy), smeared with blood, werewolf teeth
Alice’s Bloody Adventures in Wonderland from Raúl Alberto Contreras is like a themed haunt maze in convenient paperback form. “Hey – let’s take a classic fantasy tale – something psychedelic – but add shotguns and blood and — can we cuss at the guests?” Gory and obnoxious, this is not for kids, and it’s not “clever”. It’s punk. It does more or less follow the original tale, but with pretty deep twists and “fuck you!”- laced diatribes. Alice follows the White Rabbit down the hole because he has just slit her sister’s throat from ear to ear with his sword cane. Alice squishes a hamster flat. This would be a super fun stage play, if you didn’t mind all the clean-up afterwards.
Costume: cute, blue, Alice-type dress, smeared with blood, shotgun
Ebenezer Scrooge, Ghost Hunter (new) from Jaqueline Kyle pits our favorite curmudgeon against decidedly more aggressive ghosts than he’s used to facing. Thanks to shows like SyFy’s Ghosthunters, folks are not scared of ghosts in the way we used to be. It’s more likely that the things going bump outside your bedroom door are forlorn souls or spirit remnants stuck on replay or a deceased loved one who’s come back to accidentally scare the holy hell out of you by appearing at the foot of your bed at 3am. I guess it makes sense that after millennia of one-sided terror, we’d flip the tables on this former bully-of-the-night. Ghosts show their vulnerabilities, and we start hunting them. This modern take on Scrooge is ready to kick some ectoplasmic ass. As soon as he finishes his drink. His real demons in this case, after years of mucking around in the ether and losing Marley, are spirits of the decantered variety. So, it’s also an excuse to imbibe a little more freely at the party: you’re just playing the role.
Costume: early Victorian era “suit” (cheap), top hat (cheap), flask (cheap), personalize this costume with ghost-hunting tools of your choice, examples: Proton Pack (maybe go steampunk), Catholic sword, trident of Paracelsus, EMF detector (for knowing which direction to run), nightlight
An early standout in this subgenre is Ben H Winters’ Android Karenina which retrofits the past with robots and such. This is steampunk 1870s Russia, with robot prejudice taking the place of class prejudice. Hey, it’s only a matter of time before that’s a thing, and this novel (and about 50 episodes of Star Trek) will be viewed the way we view Jules Verne.
Costume: You should be good with any period Russian outfits, and Steampunk or robot under- or over-lays. Smeared with blood, just cuz.
This is just a starting point, of course: you could make up your own Twisty Hybrids from classic lit. Just please, please keep it gritty and grounded: absolutely no “punny” buisness. “Jules Fern” will get you thrown out of the party.