Photos by Joanna Malinowska and Neven Krcmarek – remix by Carola Cox

Letter from the editor – What Halloween Means to Me

by Jean Asselin

Sometimes the stars align.

When we accepted a story with the word Halloween in the title—now the cover story for our 13th issue, no less!—we just knew that life, the universe, and everything would combine to have that issue come out near Halloween. Definitely. Of course we did. Yeah, let’s go with that.

I admit that as a child, Halloween meant three things: a sudden slew of treats; un-scary monster displays in windows or on lawns; and wildly colorful costumes, or amateur cosplay before the word was invented. My family even owned a Green Ghost board game (look it up). I knew Halloween from a time when kids would trick-or-treat neighborhoods in small, unsupervised hauntings, their only real risk a mild sugar overdose. Any association between Halloween and the horror genre came much later.

Surprisingly for a child who scared easily, I sought the Aurora “long box” monster kits, fascinated by the James Bama box art for Frankenstein, and later the Mummy and the Creature. But this is as far as I dared go to bring horror down to size. (Upon discovering science and technology, my plastic kit tastes shifted to machines of the flying kind.)

In the French literary tradition, horror belongs to the fantastique category. Author Élisabeth Vonarburg once told me this about the difference between fantastique et science-fiction: in the former, there are beings whose sole purpose is to hate us, whereas in the latter it is the blind forces of the universe that hurt us.

The former genre being paranoid, I chose science fiction early on, reassured that when the forces of the universe kill us, it is with supreme indifference! (As for fantasy, I have sufficiently written on it within these pages—shameless plug: see issue #2.)

Our cover story easily wears the fantasy label. Terrible events also happen in another story, but they take place within fictional space exploration. In yet another, technology so advanced as to be magic, to misquote Arthur C. Clarke, produces scary results. None can be labelled as genre horror—I get enough of that watching the news.

What does Halloween mean to me now? For all its commercial silliness, it is also a reminder that young children need tools to approach the scary and unfathomable, since they’ll find plenty of that in their adult lives. Halloween is an opportunity.

So, think of our 13th issue as James Gunn’s Ad Astra’s Halloween treat to you. The monsters within these pages are for the most part our own demons. The costumes, props, and settings serve one purpose, and one purpose only: to tell a good story.