Why I Like Amusement Parks
by Jeremy C. Shipp
Picture me in the attic, dusting headless mannequins and possessed marionettes and a rocking chair that rocks itself every night at 3:33. These cursed items aren’t going to clean themselves. As I’m dusting, I come across a cardboard box stuffed with old papers. At the very top of the pile, there’s a tiny one-page essay I wrote in elementary school entitled “Why I Like Amusement Parks.”
Taking a break from my cleaning, I sit in the rocking chair, and I read the essay.
Here’s what my childhood self wrote:
I like amusement parks because they are fun. I like to play arcade games with my brothers. My favorite games are Golden Axe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I also like the haunted house ride. It does not scare me. I do not go to amusement parks very often but I would like to go every day.
The teacher adorned this masterpiece with an Alf sticker that reads “Great job, human.”
This is when I decide that for my Vol. 1 Brooklyn essay, I’m going to write an updated version of my childhood paper. So here it is.
“Why I like Amusement Parks, the 2023 edition.”
In my newest novel The Merry Dredgers, my main character Seraphina infiltrates a cult that lives in Goblintropolis, a once-abandoned amusement park packed with psychedelic dark rides and bizarre attractions. Follow Seraphina into the park entrance, and you’ll spot a wolf-themed roller coaster to your right, resting on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To your left, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself a moment later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in the hall of mirrors. This is only the beginning of what you and Seraphina will discover in Goblintropolis.
In this essay, I’d like to talk a little bit about why I chose a theme park as the primary setting for my book. One of the major reasons why I chose an amusement park is because they’re fun.
The fictional cultists who live in Goblintropolis are all about fun. They’re focused on honoring their inner child and nurturing happiness in their own lives. Their spiritual practices are intricately tied to the attractions at the park. To them, a ride is never just a ride. A ride might test your spiritual resilience or represent cosmic rebirth.
Another reason why I chose to utilize a theme park as my setting is because the novel is very much about the bond and love between siblings. Amusement parks always evoke those feelings in me. One of my treasured childhood memories is going with my family to our local, ramshackle amusement park. This was no Disneyland. The place was held together with chewing gum and duct tape. My brothers and I loved going to the arcade and playing Golden Axe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and skee-ball and whac-a-ghost. We worked tirelessly to earn tickets enough to trade for tiny sticky hands or knockoff Alf pogs.
We also enjoyed what we called the haunted house ride, a third-rate ghost train swarming with rubber bats and plastic skeletons and plywood werewolves. Booming calliope music and staticky screams attacked our eardrums as the train car jolted us through flashing tunnels. I would give up a fortune of possessed marionettes if I could ride this again with my brothers, but alas, the ghost train was removed from the park years ago. Whether or not the ride was destroyed, I don’t know.
I was in the middle of writing The Merry Dredgers when the pandemic began. While I worked on the book, Goblintropolis became a place where I could escape from the constrainment of lockdown. Even when I couldn’t leave the house, I could ride chilling and captivating rides that I created in my mind. I could visit the park every day, if I so desired.
During the past three years, I’ve lost loved ones to covid and other diseases. Because of this, Goblintropolis also became a place where I could process and speak about my grief. The park is, in a sense, a funhouse mirror reflection of my own pain and love.
My main character Seraphina and I grieved together, and we searched for joy together in the chilling, captivating twists and turns of our lives.
My hope is that readers of my book who’ve experienced grief will connect with Seraphina and feel less alone.
Picture me in the attic, sitting in the rocking chair, which rocks me without any prompting, since it’s 3:33. My laptop’s on my lap, and I’m finishing up “Why I like Amusement Parks, the 2023 edition.” Once I’m done, I’ll print out a copy and leave it in the cardboard box for a future me to discover. Maybe I’ll write another edition someday. I hope I’ll still like amusement parks.
Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of The Merry Dredgers, The Atrocities, Bedfellow, and other books. Their shorter tales have appeared in over 60 publications, including Cemetery Dance, Dark Moon Digest and Apex Magazine. Jeremy lives in Southern California in a moderately haunted Farmhouse. Their twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.
This essay is appearing as part of the Blog Tour for Shipp’s new novel The Merry Dredgers. A summary of the novel follows:
Seraphina Ramon will stop at nothing to find out the truth about why her sister Eff is in a coma after a very suspicious “accident.” Even if it means infiltrating the last place Seraphina knows Eff was alive: a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists.
Follow Seraphina through the mouth of the Goblin: To the right, a wolf-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To the left, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but the best way to investigate this bizarre cult, is to join them.
As part of the tour, publisher Meerkat Press is also holding a giveaway for a shopping spree and a sculpture by Shipp. More details can be found here.
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