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Showing posts from 2007

Reggie Pulls It Off

Back Home after visiting the folks at Xmas. Reading Masques of Satan, by R. Oliver Esq. I'm three stories in and, yet again, stand (or lie in bed) amazed at the man's brilliance. Three books, and he's showing no signs of flagging. Even branching out into sci-fi. And the illustrations are as masterful as ever. I wonder if there's any point in reviewing a book this good? The word of mouth should be enough. But I'll have a go anyway, in ST13.

Have Yourself a Major Spooky Christmas

Lots of ghost stories on the TV and radio this year. Perhaps this is because we are living through a time of economic/political uncertainty. Or somebody at the BBC had an attack of taste. Whatever the reason, it's a good thing. I actually watched Denholm Elliott in 'The Signal-Man' all the way through the other night. Unfortunately, I also watched 'The Haunted Airman', based on a Dennis Wheatley novel. Well, what do you expect from the old bore? Serves me right. On the wireless, it's MRJ all the way for Radio 4. No less than five stories, Monday to Friday, introduced by Sir Derek Jacobi. Ro Pardoe has kindly asked me to review these for the G&S newsletter, so at least I haven't disgraced myself in 2007. On BBC 7 the second wacky retro adventure for The Scarifyers has arrived, and it involves a character who is clearly based on MRJ. Even better, this story has a Lovecraftian theme. 'Ia! Cthulhu f'thagn! And a Happy New Year!'

ST13 News

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Ruddy Nora, no peace for the wicked. I've been working on covers as well as contents. I am possibly in a position to do colour covers in future. See what you think. These pics are based on photos sent to me by Tony Lovell, author and freelance eyeball. Thanks, Tony, and if I've messed 'em up let me know.

Well, paint me pink and call me Shirley

... for I am chuffed. Adam Golaski, may his tribe increase, has decided to dedicate his first book to me! Me! That sort of thing normally happens to the Aga Khan or Richard Dawkins, but now I too am in the literary world of tribute and accolade. And of course if he sends me a copy I will review it with clinical impartiality. Just like them proper interlekchuls in the Sunday papers.

Good News from the Vatican

Fans of Robert Silverberg may have been lured here under false pretenses. Sorry. But I am in a sense the Pope of the Supernatural Vatican, kind of. And really do I have good news. Thanks to Gary Fry (may his tribe increase a bit) I have contacted a much cheaper printer. With luck ST will be able to continue more or less as before! I might even be able to go to a colour cover. Unless it was all a dream...

You wanted pics...

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Here's a bad picture taken with an old camera by a man with a headache in England on a rainy day. And here's another one... Note that I've included two early issues to give some idea how times have changed. Zeppelins no longer cleave the skies, the Empire has fallen, and magazines are a bit glossier.

Soon, my pretties

Well, ST12 and AGOG are both here. Gosh, there are a lot of them. Posting out soon.

What is Valdemar reading?

Kipling - The Mark of the Beast and Other Supernatural Tales (Fantasy Masterworks). What to say about the wily Kipper? He was fascinated by the cruel, dark and downright barmy aspects of life. Not all of these stories are genuinely supernatural, but who cares? One Eye Grey - 2 issues of this new Penny Dreadful turned up unbidden. They are rather good. Admittedly they cost several hundred pennies, but the prose is far from dreadful. Worth watching out for - tales of spooky London, all based on folklore and urban legends. Falling Apart by Elaine Morgan. Subtitled The Rise and Decline of Urban Civilization, this is the Aquatic Ape author's take on modern life and its myriad semi-malcontents. Evolution in Action by Julian Huxley. Yes, Aldous' brother with a series of lectures adapted into essays. Controversial stuff from the man who coined the term 'transhumanism'. Since I'm on about the fascinating subject of me, what is Valdemar listening to? On my Sony MPthingy I h

Accolade (not a soft drink)

Some good news - Helen Grant's story 'The Sea Change' from ST11 has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. This follows an inquiry from a leading anthology editor about the story. I was greatly impressed with 'The Sea Change' myself, of course, but I wouldn't have named it as the strongest story in the issue. Shows what I know. (The story is also topping the ST readers poll.) Other news - the Mike Chislett special, A Game of Ghosts, has been printed and will be delivered soon (I hope). The magazine proper, ST12, is due for printing early next month. I will be a bit of a race to get overseas copies out before the Christmas period, which (judging from Tesco this afternoon) is almost upon us. So, things are quite good really. But I'm tired, God I'm tired. Work is getting harder as I get older, I suppose. Can I rediscover the joy of writing? If not, it'll be no show on the fiction front. I've no intention of doing work I don't enjoy in my free

Updatery

Okay, sorry I'm so late. The sitch is as follows: 1. The ST Mike Chislett special is at the printer and due for delivery next week. 2. The regular ST12 is also at the printer but no fixed date for delivery as yet. Let's say late October. 3. The postal system is in meltdown. Let's hope they sort it out before Xmas. 4. I've been asked to write some stories for a new publisher. I am flattered. I am also worried that I won't be able to produce anything good... Stay tuned for terror!

The House on the Borderland

Is anyone listening to Jim Norton's reading of the Hodgson classic? It's on BBC7 at teatime. Well, my teatime. I think it's pretty good, considering that it's an abridged version. I have been a bit sniffy about Hodgson's prose style, but when read aloud he has undeniable gravitas. I only wish I could learn to listen to Jim Norton without thinking of Bishop Brennan being kicked up the arse.

Apologies for absence

I am sorry about the long hiatus since I last posted. 1. Thanks to everyone who tried to help with ST's cash-flow problem. I think the basic difficulty is the low print run. If reader numbers go up over time I could return to a flashier format, but as things stand I will have to return to the simpler stapled booklet look. 2. The web page is giving people some problems if they use Internet Explorer. I could try to set up a new, pristine site if someone could help with the basics, as I am not very cyber-competent. Does anyone know of any good freebies re: web hosting?

The Lit Goth

I was a mite tetchy in my last post. So, to make up for it, I'm adding a link to a very good literary site. All those who love Gothic fiction (and poetry) should take a peek.

Ringing the Changes

My witty title refers to the Robert Aickman story, in which a honeymoon goes horribly wrong. Not that I'm planning on having a honeymoon, disastrous or otherwise. But changes are on the cards re: Supernatural Tales. The problem is money. I can't cover the costs of printing the high-quality ST covers any more. I have the options of simply killing the magazine, raising subscriptions by several hundred per cent, or returning to the original, cheaper stapled booklet format. I favour the latter - I don't want to stop yet and I don't think readers will bear a huge hike in prices. But what do other people think?

The Horror...

I recently read a horror story. I was struck by how familiar it all seemed. The plot, the characters, the inevitable conspiracy, and the violence. Especially the violence, which has an off-the-shelf feel to it. Am I alone in being disappointed by horror, as a genre? I'd like to know what people who read more widely think of the field these days.

Review - The Omega Factor

This is a sort of 'emergency review' I'll never wedge into ST. So here goes... 'Thoroughly Evil'. It's not often you come across that phrase on the blurb of a DVD box set. It's a quote from the late Mary Whitehouse, who for many years was the self-appointed voice of decent God-fearing folk, and every bit as humourless and narrow-minded as the phrase suggests. Mrs Whitehouse didn't like The Omega Factor because one episode featured spiritualism, hypnotic regression and the like. But does the disapproval of the (now defunct) Mrs Whitehouse mean it was any good? TOF was produced by BBC Scotland, broadcast in 1979, then disappeared without trace. It was never repeated and never released on VHS, nor did it crop up on cable or satellite. This explains why many fans of sci-fi, horror and general spookery missed it when it first aired. Seen for the first time, The Omega Factor is not half bad, albeit very much of its time. The series opener, 'The Undisc

Expressions of interest

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I'm heartened by the amount of enthusiasm for the Mike Chislett special issue. With a bit of luck I'll have most of the work done within a month or so. It remains to proof it and then get it printed. And, of course, I'm also working on ST12, but again I'm making good progress. I've uploaded the basic cover art - a variation on the ST format.

The Numbers Game

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Just checking the likely page count for ST12. Oh, how hilarious it would be if it turned out to rival Ulysses. No, not quite. Eighty-four pages of fiction. Throw in about ten pages of reviews and a bit of marzipan, and I should be able to offer exactly 100 fun-packed pages. I like the idea of offering exactly 100 pages every time, for completely infantile reasons. Anyway, the point is that ST12 is on course. Yay! I feel terrible, though - a head cold I can't shake off. I bought a bottle of Bells and intend to give it a right old hammering this weekend. Oh, and why Rod Serling? Well, one of the reviews concerns Mr Serling's post-Twilight Zone antics.

Maybe it's because he's a Londoner

Mike Chislett, so far as I know, doesn't have internet. So I can express my admiration for him without making him go all red and flustered. He's a remarkable writer, and perhaps one of the true originals - someone who, while widely read and keenly interested in the greats, still goes his own way. I've just been correcting the proofs of his story 'Blood and Glass', which rounds off his Devil's Mirror sequence. It's quite long - thirty-odd pages - and it was a marathon job to type it up. Needless to say I made plenty of errors, some profoundly stupid. Tiredness does it to you every time. But the story itself is wonderful, not least for the way it suggests - not too explicitly - a story behind the story that maybe-explains it all. Or maybe not. I've still got to sort out 'A Game of Ghosts', the title story of the forthcoming special issue. I'm spending a lot of time in Mike's head at the moment, as I've also been checking through his st

What I've been up to lately

1. Donned rabbit ears and improvised bunny tail for charitable purposes. Pictorial record of this exists. Damn. 2. Haircut. Hair is now shorter. Success! 3. Received money and/or praise for ST11. Returning to twice-yearly format seems popular. Voting for best story has started early. So far it's a draw between Peter Bell and Helen Grant, with Mark Nicholls in third place. Early days yet. Also receiving good response for special Mike Chislett collection. 4. Watched film - Things To Come. Amazing qualified failure. The only British sci-fi blockbuster ever, really, unless you could Kubrick's 2001, which was made here. Notable that the American trailer on the DVD described Wells (in 1936) as the World's Greatest Historian. 5. Started reading William Trevor's collection 'A Bit on the Side'. He's as good as he's cracked up to be. Always a relief to 'discover' a writer in middle age, especially a short story writer.

The cost of humble pie just went up

Being unworldly and/or stupid I have been known to make mistakes. My latest seems to relate to postage in the UK. I thought I'd grasped the new system (based on size as well as weight) but clearly I've goofed in at least some cases. So anyone having to pay any excess postage should deduct it from their next subscription, assuming they want to renew. So much for the Royal Mail website, with its claim that 2nd Class Large is 'suitable for most magazines'. Ah, well...

Slightly annoying behaviour

More inquiries from people wanting to submit stories. I don't think one, so far this year, has bought a sample copy of ST. They don't want to read the magazine. They just want to send me stories that are (in general) unsuitable for it. Should I make it obligatory for writers who have not yet done so to buy a copy of ST if they want to submit stories? Would this be unfair to impoverished authors, scribbling away in garrets, coughing consumptively? After all, they couldn't afford to buy every magazine on the market. Any moral philosophers reading this, please advise. Unless you're mad and/or French.

Review: The Seafarer

Conor McPherson was twenty-five when his eerie play The Weir won a deserved acclaim on both sides of the Irish Sea. His most recent work, The Seafarer, is another foray into the realms of the supernatural. Like The Weir, it centres on a group of garrulous Irishmen who are drinking, arguing and yarning. Unlike the earlier play, though, the supernatural element is much more explicit. The play centres on the tribulations of Sharky (Karl Johnson), a middle-aged man who seems to have made a thorough shambles of his life. Having lost yet another job - by becoming over-fond of his employer's wife - Sharky has returned to Dublin to look after Richard, his older brother. Richard (Jim Norton) has recently gone blind due to an accident involving a skinful and a skip. He is now a demanding invalid. We join Sharky on Christmas Eve, and the seasonal drinking is well under way. Sharky has sworn off the booze for the duration. Richard, predictably, regards him as a party-pooper. Their friend Iv

In the next exciting issue...

With ST11 on its way, thoughts turn to ST12. Most of the stories are sorted, bar a last proofing. And looking over them I was surprised to find similarities of theme and idea among a rather disparate bunch. Children do seem to crop up rather a lot, one way or another. So does physical deformity (not in the same stories, I'm glad to report). Also, people getting lost in what should be familiar territory, or at least harmless places. Maybe there are only a few basic ways to tell a ghostly tale, and we're bound to see them coming round over and over. Anyway, what's in store? Simon Strantzas has another story about Toronto, which he tells me is a great place to live. You wouldn't think so... Mike Chislett takes a mother and daughter into a foreign cathedral and separates them by extraordinary means. Gary Fry confronts a gang of squabbling builders with something grotesque. Gary McMahon and Duncan Barford both offer very short, inner-city horrors. Bill Read has written an in

The Lost Issues...

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More precisely, the lost covers. I tried to liven up the appearance of ST shortly after a distinguished editor (after praising the contents highly) complained that it looked like 'a parish magazine'. What parish magazines actually look like these days I couldn't say. But, stung to action, I thrashed around trying to find artwork that would make it look less parishy. Or should that be parochial? I attempted to create abstract, stylish covers, but somehow was never satisfied. In the event I was spared further internal wrangling when Allison Lovelock and Dallas Goffin - two excellent, and very different, artists - both offered me some fine work for free. But I wonder how people would have reacted if I had taken the homespun fractal route instead? 

Blatant Dishonesty in a Good Cause

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Having recommended the young persons below to the eager masses, I suppose I ought to emphasise the fact that I'm peddling a fine magazine of original short fiction. In a marketing coup, I have managed to secure celebrity endorsements from some important people...

Support Creative Young People of Today!

No, really, there are creative young people out there. They don't all just stand around on street corners quiffing their blingboxes and shouting 'Jackanapes!' at passing constables. No! Two younger personages of my acquaintance do music and jewellery, though not at the same time. http://doctorphonic.blogspot.com/ http://micro-giraffe.blogspot.com/ Go to these blogular places. They are quite interesting for ladies and/or gentlemen. I endorse them utterly.

Issue Eleven is Go-ing quite soon

Well, that's that then. I have ST11 in great heaps lying around the living room. I have lots of envelopes and stamps. I'm in the process of printing myriad sub renewal slips to shove in - ooh, luvverly money! I have also had some renewals courtesy of folk at the Derby Alt.Fiction event. While it was a somewhat sparse audience for the ST11 launchette, those who were there did appreciate Peter Bell's excellent reading. In fact, his story came across even better aloud than it does on the page. Great stuff. So, if any readers are out there, ST11 will be heading your way in the next week or so. I think the Bank Holiday might be a good time to sit stuffing envelopes. It will probably rain, after all... If you need any information, gentle reader, email me.

Salesmen and other forces of evil

I was going to buy a mobile phone yesterday, but didn't. Why? Partly because I felt pretty lousy - like a hangover without the booze. Probably a virus. But my main reason for only buying things that I can simply pick myself, like new jeans or some headphones, is of course human interaction. The very word makes me depressed. Ants interact, but apparently we don't talk, discuss, joke, debate, argue or gossip any more. No, we interact as well, like the ants. That, at least, is the mode in our corporatist culture. So I avoided the mobile phone shops, with their eager staff, all programmed by their 'trainers' to see me not as a human being but as a target of opportunity to be financially engaged. It's not just business, of course. In politics, the more the Blairs and Browns talk of 'engaging' me in 'debate', the more I realise my opinion doesn't matter in the slightest. I am not a citizen, I am a subject, and will have to do as I am told. 'You'

Problems, problems...

It's been a while since I blogulated here, partly because I've been working (moderately) hard on ST11 and related matters. The other reason is that I can't get this damn thing to load up the content I want! The existing ST web page, maintained (very kindly) by Chico Kidd, seems to be paralysed. I would like to make this blog the site, as I don't need anything too elaborate. However, anything beyond basic text seems unloadable. This may be due to my obsolete computer, which is starting to fall apart. So my next job is buy a nice, new PC and see if I can't get this show on the road. If anyone has been looking at this, sorry it's been dull. I will try harder.

Pete 'n' Dud

I recently bought the DVD of 'Bedazzled' - the original film, not the remake with Liz Hurley. Obviously. Anyway, it's a very uneven but still highly entertaining effort. I'd forgotten how significant a role Eleanor Bron played - or rather, how many roles she played, bringing some much-needed thespian skills. Dudley Moore could act, Peter Cook quite obviously couldn't. Since he plays Satan aka George Spiggott this isn't such a severe handicap as it would be in later films ('Supergirl', anyone?) as the Devil is obviously not human. But it does produce some flat scenes, making the film seem like a series of TV sketches cobbled together. It is more than that, but only just. Still, some of the set pieces are very good - Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations surely anticipated today's bloody miserable art-school 'rockers'. And it's always nice to see leaping nuns. Pity we've lost so much of Pete 'n' Dud's very best work. Well done a

Happy New Year!

Admittedly, I'm a day late, but I'm sincere, and if you can fake sincerity... etc. So, what excitement looms for 2007? Here are some of my irrelevant and pointless predictions... 1. George W. Bush will be replaced by an actual lame duck. The dollar will rally strongly against the pound. Fewer people will shout at the TV as ducks are cute. 2. The Charleston will become the dance craze of the under thirties in Luxembourg. (There are four of them.) 3. Fewer species will be become extinct, but many will be seriously inconvenienced. 4. Hollywood will 're-imagine' every TV show I loved as a child and ruin it by making it a mindless marketing opportunity for toys and video games (this process has already begun). 5. David Tennant will continue to gurn and squawk his irritating way to ratings triumph in Doctor Who, and do very well without my patronage. 6. Battlestar Galactica (the last best hope of good sci-fi telly) will arrive on DVD very, very late in the year... 7. I m