Creepypasta fascinates me for a variety of reasons, one of which is this: It’s no longer confined to the internet. The short story collection The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2, edited by YouTube favorite MrCreepyPasta, recently hit shelves, so when a copy of it landed in my inbox, I was happy to check it out. In some respects, I’m sort of surprised that collections like this one haven’t become more common — although in others ways, perhaps that’s understandable. Authorship when it comes to creepypasta can be… tricky.
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We’ll get to that in a bit, though. First, some details and my thoughts on this particular collection:
Published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2 follows up on The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can’t Unread. The first volume in the series was actually also published fairly recently — in September of 2016 — so the turnaround time between volumes was pretty speedy. And, honestly, I kind of think it shows. I’ll admit that as a collection, I find this one somewhat lacking, and I think a possibly rushed delivery date might have something to do with that.
My disappointment stems from two primary places. First, a substantial number of the stories included in The Creepypasta Collection: Volume 2 can already be found online in some way, shape, or form, whether it’s in print (think sites like Creepypasta.com) or as a YouTube video or sound recording. There are a few exceptions; Isaac Boissonneau’s “Bats In Winter,” The Right Hand of Doom’s “The Strangest Case of Dr. Henry Montague,” and Ashley Franz Holzmann’s “Slumber Party” all seem to be unique to The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2. Furthermore, although I found Jaime Townsend’s “If Only They Were Cannibals,” Aaron Shotwell’s “Proxy,” and Christopher Maxim’s “The Beast of Battered Grove” online with some pretty basic searching, “If Only They Were Cannibals” is only available via Google Books in Townsend’s collection Ghoulies, Ghosties and Other Terrible Terrors, while “Proxy” and “The Beast Of Battered Grove” appear to have been released as a PR move to drum up interest in the collection. But to be honest, just three totally unique stories out of 20 isn’t a great ratio. The bottom line is that the vast majority of the tales can be experienced online for free, frequently via their original sources.
Nor is there any commentary for any of the tales, either from MrCreepyPasta or from the writers themselves. This struck me as somewhat unusual; typically, one of the draws of a short story collection is the fact that each story includes an introduction or postscript from either the editor of the collection or the author of the individual tale. These blurbs tell us something new about we’re about to read or what we’ve just read: Sometimes it’s about where the inspiration for the story came from; sometimes it’s about what caused the story to resonate with the person who chose it for the collection; sometimes it’s something else, and entirely unexpected. Whatever it is, though, it leads to a richer reading experience. Collections edited by Ellen Datlow, for example, are wonderful for this very reason, as are volumes put together by Neil Gaiman; they always include something terrifically illuminating about each story which allows us to see something in them we might have missed otherwise.
Hence my disappointment. If I’m going to shell out for a book, I’d hope that there would be something in it that wasn’t already accessible via your standard internet connection, whether it’s entirely new stories or some extra insight into existing stories. How wonderful would it have been to read 20 brand new, never-before-seen tales from these notable creepypasta authors, commissioned specifically for this collection? Or to at least hear about where the ideas for these strange and spooky tales may have come from? That’s what I’d be most interested in getting from a collection like this. Perhaps coming at it from one or both of these angles might be a way for successive volumes in the series to improve.
Am I being too harsh? I don’t mean to be a total downer. The book is enjoyable for what it is; I just can’t help but think that it could have been so much more.
If you’re new to creepypasta, though? Well, that’s the reader I think will get the most out of this collection. MrCreepyPasta takes the vast sea of horror fiction available online and curates a selection of memorable tales; what’s more, the collection serves as a solid introduction to some of the bigger names out there creating freaky fiction on the internet: Creeps McPasta, Madame Macabre, Vincent V. Cava, and more. Standouts include Madame Macabre’s “The Crawlspace” and “Craters In Her Face”; WellHeyProductions’ “That Thing Up There”; the aforementioned “Proxy” by Aaron Shotwell; and Michael Whitehouse’s “Tunnel 72F,” which was originally published on Creepypasta.com as “Tunnels.” What sets these five stories apart for me is the quality of the writing itself: While all of the tales included within The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2 feature memorable plots, the ways in which these five stories are told are particularly effective — that is, from a technical standpoint, the prose is just good.
Which brings me to the subject of authorship, and why I am both surprised and unsurprised that we’re now starting to see printed books collecting notable creepypastas.
I’ve discussed this issue a number of times before, both here on The Ghost In My Machine and on several of the other outlets I’ve written for over the years, but it’s particularly relevant here, so now seems like a good time to revisit it. One of the hallmarks of creepypasta in its early form was actually the lack of authorship — a quality which is coded even within the word itself: “Creepypasta” is a variation on “copypasta,” which is itself a bastardization of “copy-paste.” “Copypasta” refers more generally to those blocks of text you see all over the internet, nearly always identical to each other or with just a few small changes, the sameness a result of the text in question simply having been copied and pasted and shared over and over and over again until no one even remembers where it came from anymore. “Creepypasta,” meanwhile, originally referred specifically to those copied and pasted blocks of text which told short, scary stories — think “Wake Up” or “The Woman in the Oven.” The authors of these copied and pasted horror stories remained anonymous in the way that those of most classic urban legends or pieces of folklore did, passed along from person to person with their true genesis remaining largely unknown.
In the modern era, however, “creepypasta” has become the name of a particular subgenre of horror fiction: That which is first published on the internet. There are now writers specializing in creepypasta whose names we know, who attach their monikers to their work in a way that early creepypasta authors rarely did: Slimebeast, AKA Christopher Howard Wolf, creator of “Abandoned by Disney”; Kris Straub, author of “Candle Cove”; and all the folks featured in The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2, whether they go by their given names or online pseudonyms. That’s interesting to me; in the same way that authorship in, say, the theatre evolved from fast-and-loose during the English Renaissance up through the firmly entrenched concept of the modern playwright (sorry; once a theatre person, always a theatre person), so, too, has authorship with regards to creepypasta evolved.
Do with that what you will.
The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2 is available for purchase from Simon and Schuster, as well as retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Check out MrCreepyPasta on YouTube while you’re at it.
The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2 was provided to me as a press copy. All thoughts are my own.
[Photo via labuero/Flickr]