Showing posts from June, 2012

The Pulp Magazines Project

Want to see some old issues of Weird Tales? How about lesser know pulps, like Ghost Stories or Sea Stories? Well, a bunch of clever people have digitised them and put them online, as apparently under US law a lot of these old pulps are now in the public domain. Link to Weird Tales here .

Des Lewis reviews Peter Bell

Renowned short story author and critical blogger (or blogger critic) Des Lewis has shared  his views on Peter Bell's latest book. It's always interesting to hear a writer's take on another writer, especially when there's no back scratching involved, just an honest appreciation of the work in hand. This is Des's take on 'Bewitched': A story that takes me back to what I sense to be the early Fifties, where boys could be called “cissies” by big girls and health-&-safety hadn’t been invented: frissons of the past war, a cobbler’s shop on the corner, and the acceptable insanity that the war had doled out, and the ”superstitious awe”, and the mis-alignment of souls by literal ‘bewitchment’.   Which is almost how I read, though as a child of the late Sixties/early Seventies my experience of post-War Britain was more attenuated. Anyway, a good review.

Stolen from Facebook

I haven't read or seen any of the Twilight saga, but I have reason to believe they are not masterpieces of modern popular fiction.

'My burning feet of fire!'

H.P. Lovecraft has been well-served by film makers, at least with regard to quantity; M.R. James, much less so (though I persist in thinking of the Japanese film Ring as Jamesian in essence). However, James and Lovecraft have both done rather well compared to Algernon Blackwood, a one-time bestselling author and popular broadcaster who is now almost forgotten. But one person who remembers is the writer/director Larry Fessenden. In the film   The Last Winter Fessenden essentially updates 'The Wendigo' for the era of climate change. The film is set in Alasa, at an oil prospecting camp within a conservation area. There's a lot of tension between the oil people and the ecologists who have to assess the damage that permitting extraction might cause. But an already fraught situation is made worse because one of the oil company team is acting very strangely, and the scientists are recording absurdly high temperatures even for an Arctic summer. And for Blackwood fans there's

Dark Gods

Dark Gods by T.E.D. Klein My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is a remarkable book, offering four long stories showcasing the talents of an author who is not as well known as he deserves. The linking theme is, I think, the idea of a hidden world existing in parallel with our own - each hidden world may be different, but all are dangerously near. This is of course a rather Lovecraftian notion, but instead of piling on the horror Klein instead offers us good-natured, rather urbane and witty characters who only gradually realise that something has gone awry with the world. Spoilerish bits follow...

Walpole's Weird Wonder

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole My rating: 3 of 5 stars One of the most ludicrous Penguin Classics, this book reads as if the Monty Python boys had teamed up with Sir Walter Scott and they'd taken a whole bunch o' drugs together. If you're expecting this progenitor of the Gothic novel to have spooky atmosphere, credible shocks and believable characters, stop right there. It's an eighteenth century novel, and that means it's pre-Romantic. The novel was not considered a serious literary form at the time (or at least, not by most people) - real literature was non-fiction for sensible chaps, followed by poetry, followed by drama, with the novel lagging in last place as a fit diversion for silly young ladies. Walpole didn't really help the situation by writing a very silly book, but it's so bizarre that - if you try to visualise what's going on - you can almost appreciate why it was such a huge success. Which is why I've given it three stars.

Demon Weather

A long, long time ago a tiny magazine called Supernatural Tales survived long enough to bring out a second issue. And in this second issue was a story called 'Cats and Architecture', which was indeed about cats and architecture, but also about a Portuguese sea captain called Luis da Silva. It just so happened that the story (promptly snapped up for a 'Year's Best' anthology) was the first that the author, Chico Kidd, had been able to finish after a long period of writer's block. Somehow the 'discovery' of the captain and his world of demons, sorcerers and general spectral mayhem allowed Chico to beat the block, and she's been writing about that world ever since. If you're a da Silva fan, or just want to find out what it's all about, Volume 1. of the tales, entitled DEMON WEATHER, is now available on as a paperback or download. It's good value - if you like well-written fiction in the historical/supernatural thriller vein,


This Japanese video contains some of the most authentic, and disturbing, evidence of paranormal phenomena ever committed to the internet. Watch at your own risk.

The Lovecraft Paradox

When I want to nod off at night I often listen to talking books of one sort or another. I have a cheap mp3 player on which I've loaded - along with examples of my embarrassing, middle-aged-bloke taste in music - a number of spooky or sci-fi stories. Among the latter are the audio productions of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, one of the alter-egos of the excellent HPLHS . The four Thirties-style 'radio' dramatisations are The Shadow Over Innsmouth , The Dunwich Horror , At the Mountains of Madness , and The Shadow Out of Time . They are all very well done - faithful adaptations of Lovecraft stories. But in listening to them as I wait for the Sandperson to come I can't help noticing how very wonky the central premise of Lovecraftian horror is. To recap: Lovecraft tried to move beyond the old 'ghosts, vampires and werewolves' brand of supernatural fiction and strove to create a new genre of 'cosmic horror'. This is predicated on the assumption that the m

Strange Epiphanies

Writers are often obsessives, repeatedly returning to the same emotional terrain to try and map it more thoroughly. This, I think, is the case with Peter Bell, whose stories constantly address the pain of loss or loneliness, and often do so by taking a character out of their familiar context. Thus in the first story collected here, 'Resurrection' an expert in psychiatric medicine who finds herself laid low by depression goes for a short holiday in the Lake District. She finds what seems at first an idyllic valley, but there's a distinct 'Wicker Man' vibe about the place: strange scarecrows, talk of the Beltane Fires, and an odd aside about the number of healthy children born lately. Sure enough, our protagonist is headed for a confrontation with the sort of festival that could never comply with health and safety law. But there is a twist, which is more a matter of emotional perspective than plot. A similar scenario is played out in 'M.E.F.' but with impor

Ghost Stories from Japan

There are dozens of these very short ghost stories out there. Some are pretty good, most fairly so-so. But it's  noteworthy that Japan - unlike the UK - has no problem mass-producing TV ghost stories. Here it's a major project for the BBC to do precisely one. This has perhaps as much to do with the decline of the one-off drama as a TV art form as to a perceived lack of demand.

Portmanteau Thai Horror Movie

Remember the portmanteau horror movies of the old days? Asylum , Tales from the Crypt , Dr Terror's House of Horror all spring to mind. I think that what killed off the sub-genre was the rise of 'slasher' movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, which offered young audiences the same kind of thrill - a series of nasty incidents with some kind of linking narrative. The obvious downside of the slasher flick, though, is that if the central premise is weak, or the machete-wielding maniac is unconvincing, the whole thing is pretty flimsy. Whereas a series of stand-alone, if linked, stories can offer more variety. Anyway, 4Bia (Phobia, geddit?) is a recent Thai attempt at this concept. The four loosely-linked stories, each helmed by a different director, pretty much run the gamut of horror film orthodoxy. Here, of course, are haunted lovers, vengeful spirits, and young idiots running about in the woods. But all four tales are handled with sufficient panache and energy to prove d

'In the Rigging' by Jane Jakeman

My reading of a story that is set to appear in ST next year - not quite sure which issue. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this sneak preview (or free sample) blog readers. Find Jane Jakeman's many and varied books on Amazon here .


Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edogawa Ranpo My rating: 4 of 5 stars View all my reviews

'Lamia' by Peter Bell

Humourless, snobbish American academic Paul Ferrers is Visiting Professor of Gothic Literature at King's College Cambridge, and a great admirer of M.R. James. His scholarship is somewhat contentious, though. For instance, he holds that the creature released in 'An Episode of Cathedral History' is an actual vampire, which ruffles some academic feathers. One day Ferrers sets off to scout around some interesting locations (Aldeburgh, Dunwich) and ends his East Anglian odyssey with a special event - a performance by Dr Rant. Anyone who's enjoyed a performance by Robert Lloyd Parry will know the score, here. Instead of a reading of a story Dr Rant, 'in character' as the late Provost of King's, tells it to an audience in a darkened room in a spooky country house. There difference between the Dr Rant and the real RLP is that nobody seems to know much about the good doctor. His background is mysterious, he never gives interviews - indeed, nobody seems to know whe

A Certain Slant of Light

This  new collection by Peter Bell begins with a previously unpublished tale entitled 'Lamia'. The first sentence runs: Paul Ferrers had been in post at King's College, Cambridge, for over a year before he made any effort to explore the eastern counties in search of associations with M.R. James. I think I'll wait till tonight and read it in bed.

'The Edge of the Map' by Iain Rowan

Everybody got this okay? If this is the only way I can get 'em out there, it's what I'll do. It takes a while - a longer story will take ages to load, but I suppose I can leave the laptop to do the job overnight.

'The Edge of the Map' by Iain Rowan

This is me reading the shortest story from the current issue of Supernatural Tales. It's about eight minutes long Let me know what you think of this reading with regards to clarity, pace, expression, pronunciation etc. And do you think it would benefit from music and/or special effects, or are you a purist who prefers a plain reading? No right answers, just diverse opinions!

Codex L'ng

The indefatigable Cardinal Cox has struck again, this time with a pamphlet of poems for Unicon , to be held in August at Cambridge. Here's the shoggoth-tastic cover of Codex L'ng. (Slightly dodgy scan, sorry.) And here are two sample poems, both rather intriguing. Note the extensive annotations that are very much the hallmark of the Cardinal. This pamphlet 'takes its inspiration from the references to 'inaccessible Leng' in the tales of H.P. Lovecraft as well as the Tibetan legends of the land of gLing'. Oh, and it's written in verse-forms used by the sixth Dalai Lama in the 17th century. As usual, to order a pamphlet all you have to do is email the cardinal:

Ghosts in daylight

Thailand has been churning out dozens of horror movies lately, almost all of them ghost stories of some sort. What makes them interesting (to me, at any rate) is that they are the product a Buddhist culture that's lately 'collided' with Western values, most notably individualism and the consumer capitalism that springs from it. So you've got a culture with reincarnation and karma woven into its DNA coming to terms with the Hollywood horror genre as well as all the good stuff from Japan (secular Shintoist culture) and Korea (Catholic Christian, mostly). Not sure quite where this is leading because I'm not an expert on anything I've referenced - damn! Suffice to say that Thai ghost/horror movies are worth a try, if you don't mind subtitles and the inevitable fact that these are films aimed at a young audience - the characters are almost always young and pretty. Of course, that could be a recommendation. Anyway, here are two Thai movies I've seen recent

Kubla Khan

Coleridge was the Romantic poet who 'did' the supernatural, while Wordsworth got stuck in the mud. From this, much follows.

ST author signs big posh book deal!

Well, sort of. Helen Grant's story 'The Sea Change' appeared in ST#11, has moved  to Random House from Penguin/Puffin. She is rapidly establishing herself as the leading writer of teen thrillers. Random House Children's Books has acquired three novels by Helen Grant in a five-figure deal. The author was previously published by Puffin.  Fiction publisher Annie Eaton bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the titles through Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson. The Forbidden Spaces trilogy is set in Flanders, and follows 17-year-old Veerle De Keyser as she tries to discover the truth behind something she has witnessed almost a decade before: the bloodstained figure of a local man carrying a dead child in his arms.  The first book, Silent Saturday, will be published under the Bodley Head imprint in 2013. Eaton said it "promises to be one of the most exciting literary thrillers of 2013".

New Mic Test

Right, I've got a new, inexpensive but decent microphone, and I'm testing it out. You can ignore this if you like, I just need to hear what I sound like after much tinkering and swearing. (NB there is no swearing in this video.)

Supernatural Tales 22 - who and/or what's in it?

Yes, I'm engaged in the perennial struggle with things like paragraphs, punctuation and, you know, words 'n' stuff. The contents of the magazine (barring sudden, terrifying changes) will be as follows: 'The Longest Night of the Year' - Andrew Alford 'The Badger Boy' - S.M. Cashmore 'Hands' - Charles Wilkinson 'The Blighted Rose' - Derek John 'Midnight Blonde' - Ian Rogers 'Visitor Attraction' - Sam Dawson 'The Rustling of Tiny Paws' - Carole Tyrrell 'Only the Dead Know Deptford' - Michael Chislett While I know people hate spoilers, I thought I'd dangle a few titbits in the form of facts.  So here goes: Irish authors - 1 British authors - 5 Canadian authors - 1 US authors - 1 Haunted Houses - 3 Young women in foggy graveyards - 1 Hard-boiled private eyes - 1 Gypsy flower sellers - 1 Badgers - 1 Vampires (non-sparkly variety) - 2 References to the song 'American Pie' - 1

Every House is Haunted

A spooky thought, and a spooky title for a first collection by up-and-coming Canadian author Ian Rogers. Find out more here . The publisher says: In this brilliant debut collection, Ian Rogers explores the border-places between our world and the dark reaches of the supernatural. The landscape of death becomes the new frontier for scientific exploration. A honeymoon cabin with an unspeakable appetite finally meets its match. A suburban home is transformed into the hunting ground for a new breed of spider. A nightmarish jazz club at the crossroads of reality plays host to those who can break a deal with the devil...for a price. With remarkable deftness, Rogers draws together the disturbing and the diverting in twenty-two showcase stories that will guide you through terrain at once familiar and startlingly fresh. Release Date: October 15, 2012 Ian Roger's story 'Cabin D' appeared in ST#17. In ST#22 you will be able to read his story 'Midnight Blonde', you lucky pe

'The Listeners'

Another recording done very quickly and uploaded as a video, so again not brilliant quality. But this is a favourite of millions - it came second in a BBC poll to find the nation's favourite poem, which isn't bad going for an overtly supernatural piece of fiction. (I think Wordsworth's daffodils won.) Anyway, hope you enjoy it.


I am delighted to reveal that the story 'Translation' by Adam Golaski (ST#21) has been recommended for a Bram Stoker Award. The award is presented by the Horror Writers Association. The reading list is here . Whatever you think of awards, it's good to see ST up there with the likes of Cemetery Dance and Black Static.  More importantly, Adam is getting the recognition he deserves as a seriously original author.

A subscriber in Japan!