We have an entire vault in our labyrinth dedicated to horror: fictional and real. There is something unique about the genre, though it doesn’t get much critical respect. As Lora Ivanova points out in our short conversation, it’s fundamental to the human experience.
Dwarf + Giant went to ScareLA, the premiere Halloween convention, last year and got a ton of value out of it. Beyond the stack of books we picked up for review, we met our pals at Gantom Lighting and the Southland Ghostbusters, who both helped us out opening night of The Last Spookstore: A Horror Story Art Show. (Oh, and we might gather all our paranormal investigator pals we’ve met there and do a panel at the store. What do you think of that?!) The 2016 edition is this weekend. We had a short convo with Lora Ivanova, the executive producer and co-founder…
Eric Larkin – Beyond being an entrepreneur, which you certainly are, you have an extensive background in theater. In fact, you’ve been involved with, arguably, LA’s pinnacle theater experience, “Delusion”, right?
Lora Ivanova – I’ve spent most of my life, since I was a child, in theater – originally doing puppet theater. So, I spent a lot of time with these bizarre or unusual characters in the dark. And yes, I was one of the founding members, in the first group of people, that created “Delusion”. My job was to bring people to the show which, because it was so new and different, was not an easy task, but I was wholeheartedly behind it. They’re back again for 2016, and I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do.
EL – What sort of books influenced you growing up, and what are you reading these days?
LI – I used to read 45 – 60 books per summer, when I was a kid. A lot of folklore, legends – even some Native American stories – a lot of classics like Hunchback of Notre Dame – stories with heroes. This was mostly in my native language (Bulgarian). As I got a little older, I read a lot of science fiction: Asimov, Sheckley, etc.. Lately, I haven’t been as interested in fiction. I’ve read a few things, not sure how to categorize them – Psychopath Test, which explores the idea and definition of the psychopath. I also recently read Stiff, which is about what happens to a person when they die. Also, Connected. [All about the incredible influence of a person’s social network.]
EL – What are your favorite characters or stories from horror?
LI – Mostly the classics: Frankenstein – yes, this includes the young Frankenstein! – Dracula and so on. In fact, film-wise, I really love What We Do in the Shadows, from the guy in “Flight of the Conchords”. These are really classic monster types, with some wacky elements and updated situations.
EL – There are a lot of genres for books, film, TV – like, comedy or romance – but nothing seems to get the attention of horror. Horror even has its own holiday. I mean, there’s Valentine’s Day, and there are smaller conventions for everything under the sun, but nothing else has the same appeal. Why do you think that is?
LI – Well, ScareLA is maybe the first dedicated Halloween convention, as opposed to a more general horror event. It is a combination of horror and more traditional Halloween elements, like carving pumpkins for instance. The theme this year is “Season of the Witch”.
As to why… obviously, fear is part of human nature. They say we make decisions based on either fear or love. So, I think fear is relatable. Everyone experiences fear and darkness, no matter how much we pretend we have perfect lives on Facebook. Halloween, horror – these things can give a face to inner fears and can even make them entertaining.
EL – There seems to be a big move for art and entertainment to be more and more immersive and interactive: from VR to escape rooms to Pokemon Go. How do you think horror or even just ScareLA in particular are part of that?
LI – Halloween is inherently immersive: we go outside, put on costumes, talk to strangers, go into haunted houses – there’s community, coming together in some way, to share experiences.
Maybe the move is towards interactivity, but it might just be a move towards extremes. It could just be a tendency to push limits, like a competition – go bigger, go further. But there is a difference between fine entertainment and mere distraction. Is something truly interactive or is it just escapism?
I’ve been particularly interested in the technology. A connection has been made between violence in Virtual Reality and in real life. It could be a door to some unforeseen impact. We actually have a presentation this Saturday called “The Dark Side of VR” about this subject. I’ve read about some PTSD research in this area, raising questions like “Should First Person Shooter games be allowed in VR experiences?” So, we should be careful when exploring these new things. What are the effects as we get closer and closer to making them like real life?
Well, here we go, heading into the unknown: will our quest for engaging entertainment turn us into monsters? Maybe it already has. But like every single character in every horror story ever – from Dr Frankenstein to Randolph Carter to the coed that just heard a sound upstairs – we can’t not go see for ourselves.
So, we’ll see you Saturday at ScareLA.