Halloween or Hallowe’en, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on the 31st of October, the eve of the All Hallows’ Day and just before All Souls day. It is a time dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (the eponymous hallows) and the faithful departed.

I personally find Halloween to be a strange and fascinating celebration because while it is a traditional Christian celebration, some believe that many Halloween traditions originated from pagan Celtic harvest festivals, such as the Gaelic festival Samhain, and that this festival was eventually Christianized as Halloween. Samhain was a time when livestock were slaughtered for winter, it was believed that the boundary between this world and the world of the spirits could more easily be crossed. The spirits of the dead were thought to use this as a time to revisit their homes so feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Not everyone however believes that Halloween had its roots in Samhain though. Some academics, have argued that Halloween began independently as a solely Christian holiday. Already, just from trying to trace Halloween’s origins, we find a dilemma – is it a co-opted pagan holiday or is it just an unusual Christian holiday?

Whichever side of that fence you come down on, there is no denying that Halloween has taken on a unique pop culture image, its theme of using stories, revelry, music, images to confront the concept and power of death has been mostly replaced with meaningless costumes, candy, and parties. Still, either through Samhain or its nomination as All Saints’ Eve, Halloween had always been about death and the dead.

For some reason, despite the influence of Christianity that came to Africa with colonization, Halloween has never really been popular in Africa. A bit odd, considering that Africans have many old traditions associated with honouring the dead and masquerading – two of the most obvious aspects of Halloween traditions. For example, the Alekwu of the Idoma people in central Nigeria, the Amadlozi, of the Zulu and dozens, if not hundreds, more. Christianity has a history of absorbing and fusing with local customs and beliefs as it spread. Syncretism—the process whereby two or more independent cultural systems, or elements thereof, conjoin to form a new and distinct system—is one of the most important factors in the evolution of religion. Indeed, observing local Christian denominations all over the world, it is easy to see where local beliefs and culture have influenced the religious practice there. So this begs the question: Why did Halloween not find its way into Christianised Africa?

Perhaps it was because the colonists and Christianised Africans refused to allow their religion to be associated with what they thought were primitive, savage beliefs. Perhaps it is because there has been so much real death and cruelty inflicted by one group onto the other that Christianised Africans had enough to be afraid of in their day to day lives. They didn’t need or want any scary festivals or fictional horrors keeping them up at night. I have no idea, I can only speculate.

Anyway, TheNakedConvos (TNC), being an online African community has always been about exploring concepts, opinions and ideas, no matter where they come from. Fear is no exception. TNC has its own Halloween tradition of publishing fictional horror stories during the week of Halloween. For the last 5 years, we have celebrated Halloween every October with Lights Out, an annual series of horror stories that aims to showcase the best horror fiction we could find, and use it to explore fears as best we could.

It started as a bit of a fun, not-so-serious, side-project in 2011, curated by the excellent series creator Chioma Odukwe and TNC founder, Wale Adetula. Since then, Chioma, Wale and I have arranged the Lights Out special every Halloween, working with some of our favourite writers while always trying to find new voices to add something new to mix.

Previous Entries in the series include:

  • Lights Out: First Blood (2011)
  • Lights Out: Nightmare Theatre (2012)
  • Lights Out: Twisted Fairytales (2013)
  • Lights Out: Monsters (2014)
  • Lights Out: Nigerian Horror Story (2015)

To celebrate its sixth year, The Lights Out series expands into a full-fledged, continent-wide anthology, digging deep to find some of the best buried African horror fiction.

This year, Lights Out issues a special edition of 10 horror stories – some original, some re-issued, all excellent – by some of the best African writers working today. These stories are set in Africa, feature African characters and explore African fears through the horror genre.

This is: Lights Out: Resurrection

Why the theme of ‘resurrection’, this year?

Well, resurrection has two meanings, according to the Mariam-Webster dictionary.

  1. To raise from the dead
  2. To bring to view, attention, or, to use again

Similarly, we call this collection Lights Out: Resurrection for two reasons:

  1. Some of the stories in this collection are brand new horror stories focused on the theme of Resurrection: The return of the dead, of that which was buried. Buried people, buried secrets, buried prejudices, buried sins. These stories explore what happens when the things we thought we’d put away return for us and find their way back into the world. They explore that which is raised from the dead.
  2. Some of these stories have appeared in print but never online before. They are by self-published writers who have made a name and a business for themselves especially in the genre of horror fiction. We have resurrected their work and present it you know for your frightful pleasure side by side with edited and improved versions of some of the best stories from the previous editions of the Lights Out series that also explore the subject of resurrection. We have added thousands of words of text, changed endings and fleshed out characters that they may rise and live again. They are brought back to your view, your attention, used again.

The stories in this book are not sweet. There is murder, infidelity, cruelty, theft, rape, racism, and much more besides the monsters and ghouls. This is a horror collection after all, and every fictional horror derives its power, in sum or in part, from a real one. But there is love too, and kindness and hope in some places. I personally believe that horror stories are good for us. As the Stephen King quote that opens this book says, “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”

I hope you enjoy this book, that you are scared and horrified by it, that it gets your blood pumping and your heart racing, that it gets your mind wondering, thinking about old horrors in new ways and that when the book is done, you go back into the world comforted by the knowledge that the fictional horrors are not real but keenly aware of those horrors that are.

 

Wole Talabi,

October 2016.


Wole Talabi is a full-time engineer, part-time writer and some-time editor with a fondness for science fiction and fantasy. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Lightspeed Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Terraform, the Imagine Africa 500 anthology, Futuristica Vol. 1, Omenana, Abyss & Apex, The Kalahari Review, and several other places. He is the consulting fiction editor for TheNakedConvos (TNC). He edited the anthology These Words Expose Us and co-wrote the play Color Me Man. He currently lives and works in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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