Eric Hanson What I Was Afraid Of

Eric Hanson grew up in a setting that’s been idealized by the great names of horror literature.  He was brought up in the 1960’s in a suburb of Chicago, with suburban houses on tree-lined streets, practically a character out of a Ray Bradbury story, or Robert R. McCammon’s Boy’s Life.  He became an honored artist, and his work is featured on book covers and in magazines.  Like most of us he never had to deal with threats either supernatural or science-fictional.

This is not to say his life was easy.   In What I Was Afraid Of, Hanson takes on his fears, and his stories create an eerie, dream-like and terrifying reading experience.  Through carefully-crafted prose, he conveys perspectives and experiences that are utterly unnerving.  “Pilbeam,” the story that begins the collection offers an excellent, unsettling narrative that reads like an unholy exorcism of dreams and memories.  There’s a man in a dark gabardine coat, furtive meetings, partially rendered deals – all served via the underlying sensibility of stranger-danger child abuse.  What you see in the words are the clipped, dream-like images of dreams.  The narrator is never harmed or even feels harmed.  But as a reader, you’ll be terrorized.

In the stories that follow, we see black sedans, bullies, adult minds imprisoned in children’s bodies and shocking parents.  Hanson is a master at mining his subconscious for the most frightening bits and presenting them in a manner that is both matter-of-fact and eerily impressionistic.  There’s a definite artistic rigor to these stories, which culminates in the more epic title story “What I Was Afraid Of (part of a memoir).”  If the other stories are like the dreams of a terrified child, this story lives up to its sub-head, and lets the reader feel a bit like a therapist.  The upshot of Hanson’s perceptions and writing is to gnaw away at existence itself, to undermine reality, to loosen the reader’s hold on the world that supposedly surrounds us all.  Eric Hanson takes you to the nicest, safest place in the world, a place more terrifying than you thought you could imagine.  With luck, you’ll not be able to remember your dreams.

Like many authors who specialize in terrifying readers, Eric Hanson turns out to be particularly nice.  He’s engaging and intelligent, clear and well-spoken, often very funny.  He’s exactly the guy you want sit down and share a beer with.  Via telepresence, there were no beers, but we did have a great conversation, which you can listen to below or download via this link.


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