Monday, 20 April 2015

Jamesian Movie Posters!

If only these movies had been made...

I like these posters. They appeared on a Facebook page dedicated to M.R. James. They are the work of a very talented artist called Alan Brown, who has a page here. Unfortunately, the actual posters were part of a project based on MRJ's work, and the resulting book is now sold out. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Codex Jermyn - the Cardinal Goes Ape!

I hope you'll excuse a post that isn't, strictly speaking, about the supernatural but is about the weird. Cardinal Cox's latest poetry pamphlet is inspired by one of my favourite H.P. Lovecraft stories - 'Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family'.

The central premise of the Lovecraft story is that there is no clear line between ourselves and our ape-cousins, and that interbreeding is possible. (Well, that's my reading of it, anyway.) In his new pamphlet Cox takes this idea and runs with it, creating a series of poetic mini-sagas featuring many of the most fascinating (and hirsute) characters from English literature. The over-arching theme is that Homo erectus, an ancestral species, never really died out, just retreated to the mountains and wildernesses of the Earth. And there they lurk, emerging now and again to become the stuff of legend...

Friday, 17 April 2015

Nunkie's Coming to Newcastle!

Robert Lloyd Parry's excellent Nunkie Theatre Company will be on Tyneside next week for not one but two public readings of classic ghostly tales!

The first is a reading of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's 'The Familiar' at The Union Rooms, just by Newcastle Central Station, on the evening of Wednesday, 22nd April. This is taking place in one of pub's side rooms - just turn up shortly before 8pm for the reading, which will take about 45 mins. It's all very informal, but it would help RLP is you let him know you're coming, as that will determine just how big a Union Room they actually need! Contact details for Nunkie are here. No charge, but a hat will be passed for donations.

On Thursday 23rd April, which is World Book Night, the main event is taking place at Newcastle City Library. RLP will be performing 'Casting the Runes' and 'The Residence at Whitminster'. This is a free event, but obviously places are limited. Booking and performance details are here. The performance starts a bit earlier than usual for Nunkie - times are officially 18:30 – 19:30, though that's not nearly long enough for two stories plus an interval. If you don't know the new City Library, it's not far from Northumberland St/Eldon Square. Map here.

So, if you happen to be close to Geordieland, why not come along and have some old-school spooky fun!

The Ghost Story Awards - Reminder

Yes, next year there will be another set of Ghost Story Awards - one for best short story, one for best anthology or collection. Mark Valentine, who's running the awards on behalf of a sinister cabal that includes yours truly, has come up with the excellent idea of providing a quarterly aide-memoire, so that readers can make note of what they have (and haven't) read during the course of the year. This might make it a bit easier to reach a decision, and with luck it will boost the number of voters.

So, here is the first of the lists - these are not official nominees, just memory joggers. (The Helen referred to below belongs to A Ghostly Company, as indeed do I).




Helen Kemp suggested that it would be helpful to have a checklist of ghost story publications during the year, to assist readers planning to vote in The Ghost Story Awards. It might also be of interest for anyone who wants to know of recent publications in the field. Here is the first quarterly listing, compiled by Mark Valentine, of books and journals which may contain ghost stories (broadly interpreted) published for the first time this year in English and in paper and ink.


Give Me These Moments Back by Mike Chinn

Leinster Gardens by Jan Edwards

Dead Water by David A. Sutton


The Werewolf of Lisbon by Chico Kidd


The Yellow Wood by Melanie Tem


Suffer the Children by Dominic Selwood

The Voivod by Dominic Selwood

Dunhams Manor

The Usher by D.P. Watt


Sensorama edited by Allen Ashley

A Ghostly Company

The Silent Companion 10 edited by Antonio Monteiro


Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman


A Confederacy of Horrors by James Robert Smith


A Different City by Tanith Lee

The New Yorker

“A Death” by Stephen King


That Is Not Dead edited by Darrel Schweitzer


Friends of the Dead by James Doig


Leytonstone by Stephen Volk


Orpheus on the Underground by Rhys Hughes


Black Static 45

Interzone 257


These Last Embers by Simon Stranzas

The Walter de la Mare Society Magazine

“The Idealists” by Walter de la Mare

This is an aide-memoire for readers voting in The Ghost Story Awards, to help remind them of eligible books and journals published during the year. But a book or story does not have to be on the list to be eligible for votes. Readers may vote for who they want, within the rules. This is not a list of recommendations or nominations. The aide-memoire lists books and journals actually published (not simply announced or due) in the period shown. It is sure to be incomplete and suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Supernatural Tales 29 - Spring 2015

The latest issue is now available to purchase in hard copy form here. I'll have news of ebooks in due course. If you're a subscriber, your copy is either on the way or soon will be.

What's in it? Tales of love and hate, fear and hope, folklore and mystery, magic and ghosts, not in that particular order. Settings range from suburban England to Japan, characters range from feisty waitresses to solitary bibliophiles, and ghosts (or ghostly things) are seldom far away.

He lit the lamp and went outside. At once the keening stopped, the shadowy rocks mute and unmoving. 
Rosalie Parker: 'Selkie - A Scottish Idyll'

She prodded the fish with her fork, and that was when the weirdness started. Because the fish started moving on the plate, as if it was still alive. 
Jane Read: 'Service Charge'

When he received the book in the mail, Klenz had no memory of ever having ordered it. 
C.M. Muller: 'Dissolution'

She drew nearer, like a lover searching for a kiss. 
Jeremy Schliewe: 'Distance'

The further he pushed through the more the fog seemed to coalesce into something impenetrable. 
James Machin: 'An Oubliette'

 “Yes, I must have stepped on something. A nail or a piece of glass. I do tend to go out in my bare feet.” 
Katherine Haynes: 'Just a Snuff at Twilight'

The breathing seemed to be a man’s: even, not unnaturally loud, undramatic. It wasn’t the gasping of someone dying, as he had first feared. 
Sam Dawson: 'Cul-de-sac'

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Eeriness of the English Countryside

An article on the Guardian's site explores just about everything you could describe as folk horror, focuses on several key writers of supernatural fiction, and ranges far further afield than the title might lead you to believe. For instance:

The Duchess of Cambridge looks at Self Portrait as a Drowned Man by Jeremy Millar during a visit to Turner Contemporary, Margate.

This would appear to be a pregnant royal looking a corpse - possibly that of a recalcitrant footman who forgot to record Downton for Kate and was accordingly bludgeoned to death under an obscure statute of Edward III. But in fact it's this:
In 2011, also inspired by Blackwood, Millar created a sculpture entitled Self-Portrait of a Drowned Man (The Willows). He cast his own body in silicone, dressed it in his own clothes, then gouged “his” face and skull with odd puncture wounds, as occurs in Blackwood’s novella. The disconcertingly lifelike (deathlike) “drowned man” that resulted was displayed prone on the gallery floor. It was first shown at Glasgow’s CCA, and proved so unnerving to audiences that warnings had to be issued. It is presently on show at Turner Contemporary in Margate. Earlier this month, the Duchess of Cambridge visited the gallery and was photographed looking at Millar’s pseudo-corpse selfie.
Isn't it rather wonderful that Blackwood still has so many fans and that they are putting his work, albeit indirectly, in the spotlight? Admittedly the article is a bit arty-intellectual, but I like that. There's room enough the world of supernatural fiction for those who (like M.R. James) don't like intellectual chat, and those who do. Oh, and Lovecraft gets a look in, because why not? And the focus on MRJ's story 'A View From a Hill' is refreshing - I think it's a rather underrated story.
Shortly after A View from a Hill appeared in the London Mercury in May 1925, MR James was contacted by the poet AE Housman, a friendly acquaintance and fellow Cambridge don. Housman admired the story, but felt there was “something wrong with the optics”. It was a nitpick on Housman’s part – he was suggesting that anyone looking through liquid-filled binocular barrels would experience a blurred refraction of vision, rather than its strange sharpening. His literalism missed the point entirely, of course – and it is tempting to read Housman’s quibble with the story as a broader objection to James’s unsettling of the pastoral, a mode in which Housman was deeply invested.
The 'unsettling of the pastoral' keeps happening. It's happening rather a lot every issue of ST, come to think of it. This is not down to a deliberate policy by your humble editor - simple because I so often receive excellent stories about how weird the rural is, and how full of terrifying pitfalls it can be.