Sunday 31 January 2010


The cat has been traditionally associated with black magic in the West for many centuries. The witch's familiar, with which she would converse, might be seen as a survival of earlier, animistic beliefs that attributed a soul - and, by extension, some degree of reason - to all living things, be they plant or animal.

None of which explains or justifies this.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Progress Report

Here we are again. Thanks to everyone who's sent their sympathies about my mother's stroke. She's still in hospital, doing okay, but needs physio and is waiting for a place in a special unit. I'm optimistic, but it's early days yet.

I'm working on ST17, using my little netbook, as my old laptop seems to be dead. I may be able to recover stuff from the C drive without paying a hundred quid to some 'expert', but we shall see. Point is I've not had to rebuild the ST files as I cunningly backed them up just before Christmas.

So, ST17 will contain the following stories:

The Tunnel - Peter Bell
Mr Nousel's Mirror - Michael Keyton R
The Dress - Elizabeth Brown
13 Nassau St - Martin Hayes
Cabin D - Ian Rogers
The Language of the Nameless Region - Richard Gavin
Lessons - Katherine Haynes
Quite a spread here. Most have contemporary settings, but some are 'historical' and 'The Dress' is anyone's guess, time wise. Likewise some are traditional ghost stories, but others - notably Richard Gavin's story - owe more to Lovecraft and perhaps Machen or Blackwood. All in all it's a pretty good spread, and I'm lining up reviews and a nice bit of non-fiction from Colin Westney.
So, readers be not afeard. The only thing I really regret about ST is not being able to make it a quarterly, there's so much good writing out there. But the work, ah the work...

Thursday 28 January 2010

Shut it down

Dark City (1998) is an interesting example of a Gothic thriller that, while failing on quite a few levels, is still good enough to bear rewatching every year or so. It's got a spiffing cast - where else would Ian Richardson, John Bluthal and Richard O'Brien rub shoulders with Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt? And, while the central premise is a bit ropey, the execution is rather good.

Without blowing the gaffe, Dark City is a combination of hard-boiled thriller of the Chandler school and a science fiction plot that exploits Clarke's dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Strangers who secretly control this city of dreadful (and perpetual) night have near-magical powers. They are also zombies, of a sort,  and their technology is retro-clunky in style, if not in potency. So my praise for the movie probably belongs here rather than my other blog, which tends to be more sci-fi and general ranting.

Visually, the film is still pretty good, despite a great many bits of tat that make a point of keeping cast and audience in the dark. While Dark City isn't a classic, it is certainly more impressive than The Matrix, with which it has a few basic gimmicks in common. Sadly, thanks to Hollywood idiocy, the very first moments of the movie are marred by a cretinous voiceover that gives much of the game away. (Think Blade Runner, the original cut.) I recommend turning the sound down till the credits roll, should you decide to rent it.

Oh, and it stars Rufus Sewell and Jennifer Connelly:

Saturday 16 January 2010

Lost Sleep

Just a quick post to say that I've got troubles. My mother had a stroke last Sunday night. She's okay mentally but paralysed down one side and recuperating slowly in hospital. Needless to say this has been a bit stressful for me. To add to my stress my laptop self-destructed and I lost some work on the next issue of ST. I may recover this. Just to let you know lack of posting here won't mean I've abandoned ST; I just feel a need to watch DVDs mindlessly when I'm not actually doing anything important. I'm tired.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

The Deep Ones Have Returned!

And are looking a bit pasty, to be honest. To the Japanese, they are known as 'ningen'. They are giant, white skinned humanoid creatures that lurk 'neath polar seas, and occassionally hop onto the ice for a toddle around. It's all at the excellent Pink Tentacle blog.

Reportedly observed on multiple occasions by crew members of government-operated “whale research” ships, these so-called “Ningen” (lit. “humans”) are said to be completely white in color with an estimated length of 20 to 30 meters. Eyewitnesses describe them as having a human-like shape, often with legs, arms, and even five-fingered hands. Sometimes they are described as having fins or a large mermaid-like tail instead of legs. The only visible facial features are the eyes and mouth.

An non-urban legend wouldn't be the same without some of that good ol' grainy footage. So here's some.

Oo-er fertang, or however you say it. I'm convinced. I'm never going near the polar regions again. And I want my teddy.

Sunday 10 January 2010

A Warning to the Curious

I've always been a bit unsure of the Seventies M.R. James adaptations by Lawrence Gordon Clark. On the one hand, it was good to have MRJ stories on the telly, of course. But on the other, I felt they were a bit unscary and ponderous. That said, having just rewatched the BFI DVD, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first - and most-praised - LGC film is rather good.

'A Warning to the Curious' is a condensed but faithful adaptation of MRJ's best late story. It's an odd sort of tale, not least because the ghost of William Ager seems to vary in strength and other powers from scene to scene. But the film is carried to some extent by some very good performances, especially Peter Vaughan in the lead role of Paxton. It's clever of Clark to change the character from a, young lonely but fairly wealthy antiquarian to an unemployed amateur with worn shoes and a shovel strapped to his suitcase.

Also excellent is Clive Swift as Dr Black, who befriends and helps,but cannot save Paxton. I still have problems with Ager, though, who is presented as a mad yokel before and after his demise. Anyway, here's the first ten minutes or so.

Friday 8 January 2010

Not Dead Yet

Despite the blanket of white stuff that has now officially brought the End of Civilization only a half a bucketload of grit away, I have not actually frozen to death. No, my laptop gave up the ghost last Sunday and I am now improvising with a tiny replacement gizmo. It'll take me a while to get sorted but I will try and post a bit.

At the moment I am reading not one but two (2) spiffing books of original short fiction. One is Strange Tales III from Tartarus Press, to which there is a link to your right. No, right. The other is a John Travis collection. I laughed aloud when I unpacked the latter, opened a page at random and read the title 'Arse of Dracula'. Am I a bad person, I wonder?

Helpmeet - a brief review