Clowns: They’re Not Just for Breakfast Any More!

Matt Cheney has posted an interesting review of The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott. I know Ann thinks highly of this book. I’m afraid I have a problem with clowns in fiction that’s similar to my problem with Westerns: I tend not to be drawn to them. It’s not so much an antipathy as an indifference. Now, put a clown in a wider context, like a huge circus in which they have a small role–I’m fine. Put them front-and-center…not so much. I fully admit this is a fault in me, but, there it is…

It does, however, make me wonder what a reprint antho of clown fiction would like? Are there enough iconic clown stories to make an antho?


  1. Ennis Drake says

    I have a near-paralytic fear of clowns. Dolls too. And clown dolls give me rolling chills that won’t relent without a spike in my coffee. I wish I was joking. I think it stems from watching Poltergeist when I was way too young. In fact, I think a lot of my life stems from that moment.

    I want to read this book. I really do. But the cover freaks me out too much. I’d have to buy it, rip the cover off, and bury the remains in the back yard when I was finished. No. Nevermind. That thought disturbs me too.

    You know, for someone that writes mostly horror/dark fantasy, I’m a big . . .

  2. says

    I am not sure about clown stories, but there are a few interesting French circus based novels….One by the Goncourts…and one called Lulu by Champsaur. Actually, there is a weird story by Catulle Mendes that has a pig who is a sort of clown…who does ballet or something.

    Personally I am not into clowns, but have to say that I absolutely love westerns.

  3. says

    Liggoti’s “The Last Feast of Harlequin” is one that I would add to the hypothetical collection. Like you, clowns (and even more so for me, mimes) just freak me out. I don’t scream or panic, but I can’t stand looking at them. Read the Elliot book a couple of months ago and Matt’s comments cover my reactions to it as well. Good, solid, but damn those clowns just creeped me out a bit too much!

  4. Claire says

    I, too, was scarred by Poltergeist. Yee.

    The only clown story I can think of is Peter Høeg’s last book, The Quiet Girl, which, while not about the circus, does have a main character who is a clown, and does have some scenes set in and around the circus.

  5. Hellbound Heart says

    i think of ‘it’ by stephen king when i think of clowns and i think i’ve read a few too many short stories where clowns are evil psychopaths or malignant supernatural beings…..dunno, maybe it’s the idea of a person donning monsterously inappropriate clothes and garish makeup and grinning manically at me….brrrrrr….
    peace and love….

  6. Mia says

    Thanks for that nightmare. I must now go hide under my covers until visions of Tim Curry and Bozo disappear. *shudder*

  7. says

    One of my favorite stories from last year was Chris Furst’s “The Last Great Clown Hunt” in Weird Tales. And reading this post reminded me of a wonderfully surreal story that Google tells me is Lavie Tidhar’s “High Noon in Clown Town.” So there’s two stories to jump-start the definitive Clownpunk anthology. I wonder if you could excerpt part of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus too–the head clown’s quasi-religious speech about the function and power and future of clowns, maybe? (I forget if that’s just one section or an ongoing thing that weaves in and out of the rest of the story…)

  8. says

    Clownpunk. I love it.


    Uncanny Valley. I’d love an anthology of all the doll / clown / mime stories. Heck, add some animated corpses in for good measure.

    But seriously, the clowns in Pilo aren’t, like, killer clowns. I mean, yes, they do kill, but they mainly kill the acrobats, and who hasn’t wanted to push one of those guys off the highwire once in a while? Plus, the clowns kill because of very real human flaws, not because they’re evil evil, a la King. I can’t see them giving nightmares, unless you’re very sympathetic to skinny men in tights.

  9. says

    Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, wrote an article for Rogue magazine in 1960 that was later reprinted in Famous Monsters magazine, called “Clown At Midnight,” the thesis being that if you see a clown at the circus, it’s a normal occurence, but if a clown comes looming up to your door under the moonlight at midnight, it would be terrifying. Now, of course, the concept has been done to death. So to speak.

  10. says

    whan i was encarcarated there was a chainfenced pen fulla clowns. theyd be in there hoalin an barkin an weepin all hours of teh day an night. bashin against teh fence an snapin their dripin fangs. sometiams theyd be quiet an youd wlak by an theyd expload inta a franzy! ‘yapyapyap! harrooo!’ etc. whith their gliterin swivelin clowany eyes al buged out an lungin at ya.

    fare done gime a turn it did.

    from bogol’s classic clowan cycle

  11. says

    Interestingly, wearing my hat as an editor of the New Haven Review, I published a short story of Nick Antosca’s called “The Thickness of Clown Blood,” which delves into, among other things, the Cosa Nosta-like brotherhood within clown society. Fictional, I presume.

    I also happen to know someone who went to clown school and another person who was a clown when he joined a traveling circus for a summer. I swear I am not making this up.

  12. says

    I hope this isn’t out of line, but there are two clown-related stories in the first issue of Swill, the magazine I design and illustrate. One by me, one by Bucky Sinister. The curious can find samples of both at the magazine’s site.

    Mine’s a character study that doesn’t quite come off at the end; Mr. Sinister gave us a fun action/adventure piece.

  13. says

    I’m curious to find out what blog system you have been working with? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest site and I’d like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any recommendations?