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Showing posts from August, 2012

ST#22 cover - provisional

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The back cover consists of Sam Dawson's full drawing, thus. Estimated post-out, end of September.

If you like that sort of thing...

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Recommended. By me, obviously.

Well done, Lynda!

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Lynda E. Rucker , whose story 'The Wife's Lament' will be appearing in ST next year, has been published in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Here she is holding (or should that be fervently clutching?) the latest issue: Pretty darn good. F&SF was of course one of the old 'pulp' magazines , rapidly became a byword for quality, and has published just about every major author of science fiction, fantasy and horror post-1945. And that's exactly where Lynda belongs. Incidentally, her story 'The Last Reel' appeared in ST#10 (now sold out) but can also be found in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol. 18, which can still be purchased here and there I think. As you can see, she was in prestigious company then as well. Why mammoths are so interested in horror is beyond me, but each to his own. I'll get me coat...

Quite

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M.R. James' The Ash Tree (1975)

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Thraxton Whelk and the Rather Tricky Moment

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Being an unauthorised chapter in the frankly unconvincing and psycho-sexually dodgy memoirs of some fake Victorian bloke who bears absolutely no resemblance to Dr W-ts-n, no way, no how...  It was on the third day of J--- in the month of ---ber in the year 189- that I found myself in ----olotl Avenue in the L-nd-n borough of ---ders Gr--n. I had decided to visit my old friend Thraxton Whelk, England's greatest occult detective. Or, more properly, to renew my acquaintance with the psychic sleuth; for we had not seen one another or communicated in any way - not even by whistling in code in different bits of a maze - since we parted after Whelk so nearly met a grisly end during the Extraordinary Affair of the Vampire Penguins. I confess to feeling a little trepidation as I hauled the bell-pull out of the door frame, tried to replace it, then hid it among what may have been begonias. I call Whelk my friend, but he is notorious for his changeable moods. One minute he can be Hai

Monty & the Spiders!

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Author Helen Grant, whose story 'The Sea Change' appeared in ST in 2007, has an excellent article on M.R. James at her blog. Warning - not for arachnophobes. No way, no how. If you aren't given the screaming abdabs by our leggy friends, a reminder that an excellent American dramatisation of 'The Ash-Tree' can be heard on my YouTube channel. Or indeed, right here below:

Audio Excitement (Within Reason)

If you'd like to peruse the YouTube bar over on the right, you will notice... Me doing one of those air hostess demonstrations of the emergency exits. No, not really. But you will notice more antique radio drama, including: 'The Burning Court' - an ornate, ideas-driven thriller - original story by John Dickson Carr. 'Let Me See Your Face' - an adaptation of A.M. Burrage's ghost story 'One Who Saw'. 'The Dunwich Horror' - a Forties radio version starring Ronald Coleman, of all people. And some other goodies.

A Time Lord Laments...

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Many Gibbous, Batrachian, Demented, Blasphemous (etc, etc) Returns

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Witchcraft

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So, four hundred years since the infamous  Pendle Witch Trials . I read a book on witchcraft (a scholarly, historical volume, I should add) that described the whole sorry, shocking chapter as the Pendle Swindle . Reading of it now the obvious conclusion is that it was stage-managed like a modern 'reality' show. The difference is that the losers in this particular Big Brother House were not voted out, but executed. The BBC has an interesting little piece about modern witches in Lancashire. Not surprisingly, modern witches tend to keep their activities and beliefs secret from colleagues, friends and family. I suppose ridicule is more likely than persecution nowadays, but you never know. Some Christian fundamentalists are crazy enough to try anything. In supernatural fiction witches, dead or alive, are reasonably well represented, if you stretch the definition a lot. Karswell in 'Casting the Runes' is a black magician, but he could hardly be more removed

Cosmic horror = British public transport

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Dallas Goffin in ST (more or less)

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This blog began in 2006, which means several issues of ST had been published with no bloggage (I'm a late adopter, I suppose). So it transpired that some excellent art by  Dallas Goffin  hasn't featured on this blog, though it was used extensively in early issues. So, to correct that, I thought I'd put some of that material in a post now. I originally contacted Dallas to ask if he'd be interested in doing some cover art in exchange for free copies of the magazine. Instead he sent me a big folder full of material that he'd produced for projects that never got off the ground for various reasons, and said I could use anything I liked. A generous man, a good writer, and a fine artist.  Unused (sadly) Egyptian horror illo 'Fancy a nibble?' (Unofficial title) Sort of Lovecraftian Sphinx(?) 'The Black Cat' - a personal favourite, cover  for ST#8 Selection of small drawings 'Bloody Heston Blumenthal, getting us all a

When good things happen to good people

Tartarus Press are up for awards, and no mistake. I just got an email about it: We are delighted to have been nominated for this years World Fantasy Awards. Raymond Russell and Rosalie Parker are shortlisted in the "Special Award: Non-Professional" category, as is Mark Valentine for Wormwood . Reggie Oliver's Mrs Midnight is shortlisted in the Best Collection category. We have blogged about the Awards here .

A country estate is something... a bit dodgy

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Sometimes it pays to look up things you already know, especially on Wikipedia. For instance, in the entry on Lovecraft's novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward we read that A possible literary model is Walter de la Mare's novel The Return (1910), which Lovecraft read in mid-1926. He describes it in his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" as a tale in which "we see the soul of a dead man reach out of its grave of two centuries and fasten itself on the flesh of the living".[3] The theme of a descendant who closely resembles a distant ancestor may come from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, which Lovecraft called "New England's greatest contribution to weird literature" in "Supernatural Horror in Literature".[4] Another proposed literary source is M. R. James' short story "Count Magnus", also praised in "Supernatural Horror in Literature", which suggests the resurrection of a si

Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

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British portmanteau horror starring Donald Pleasance, Jack Hawkins, Michael Jayston, Joan Collins... It's a roll-call of British talent that was evidently desperate for work in 1973, really. Passes the time nicely.

Synchronised Suspiria

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The Russians won the Olympic synchronised swimming gold on Tuesday with a routine based on Dario Argento's cult horror film Suspiria . And here is a video of an earlier version they performed in London before the games:

The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows

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Oo-er. This is a rather nice tribute to old Monty, I think. Check out the facts at Sarob Press' blog .

Sporty Spooks?

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The fact that M.R. James 175th anniversary coincides with the London Olympics led me to ponder whether supernatural fiction and sport go together. James wrote 'After Dark in the Playing Fields', of course, but the crucial point is that no sports are being played (well, not by people, anyway). There are of course horror movies that feature sport heavily - if Attack of the Zombie Cheerleaders hasn't been made yet, it's only a matter of time*. But can the ghost story 'work' in the context of sport, which is generally a public event in daylight? Well, there's golf. Many consider H.R. Wakefield's 'The Seventeenth Hole at Duncaster' to be the best golfing ghost story (though strictly speaking the menace is more of a demon). I think Margery Lawrence at least equals Wakefield with 'The Fifteenth Green'. But, excellent though they are, I think golf is a bit marginal as sports go. In my humble opinion, golf is pointless unless you have to tackl

M.R. James Birthday Tributes

Over at the fine This is Horror blog, you can read about the influence M.R.James has had on a lot of contemporary writers. There's also an interview with Robert Lloyd Parry about his wonderfully authentic MRJ readings roadshow, aka Nunkie Theatre. Here's a little eztract: I enjoy them all in their different ways. I don’t think I could have spent so long doing the shows if I didn’t love the material.  Most terrifying? At different times they’ve all elicited the right kind of reaction – which is a mixture of amusement and fear. Perhaps the most satisfying was when a friend of mine came along to a show out of politeness, and expecting I think to be rather bored, seemed genuinely disturbed by ‘Lost Hearts’ when I met him in the pub afterwards.

Meanwhile, in Cambodia

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There is of course much academic speculation about ghost stories, and the broader, related genre of horror fiction. Much of this talks - quite reasonably - about complex sociological factors that lead people to enjoy being scared, disturbed or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable. Conventional wisdom has it that people are entertained by fictional violence, in its various forms, when the real thing is remote. Crime writer Denise Mina said as much recently: "People are interested in crime fiction when they're quite distanced from crime," she said. "People in Darfur are not reading murder mysteries.  "I think people are afraid of crime if they're quite safe. People rehearse being afraid. It is about distance and experiencing those primeval emotional responses in a safe environment." Distance is the key word. Crime fiction is relatively 'close' if it concerns someone being murdered,  because we know this could happen to us or someone we ca

According to that nice Mr Wiki

Oddly enough, it only just occurred to me to look up 'Ghost' on Wikipedia. And here's what it says: In traditional belief and  fiction , a  ghost  is the  soul  or  spirit  of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the  apparition of ghosts  vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to realistic, life-like visions. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as  necromancy , or in spiritism as a  séance . The belief in manifestations of the spirits of the dead is widespread, dating back to  animism  or  ancestor worship  in pre-literate cultures. Certain religious practices—funeral rites,  exorcisms , and some practices of  spiritualism  and  ritual magic —are specifically designed to appease the spirits of the dead. Ghosts are generally described as solitary essences that haunt particular  locations , objects, or peop

Happy birthday, Monty!

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150 years ago Montague Rhodes James was born. Thanks to him, I'm writing this and you're reading it. Without MRJ there would still be supernatural fiction, but he had a profound influence on the field. He shunned the overdone, unconvincing occultism of Victorian/Edwardian authors. He pioneered a 'detective story' format that set a good template for ghost story authors (and of course for horror authors, via H.P. Lovecraft). He also adopted a chatty, informal style and injected humour into stories that are often extremely horrific in their implications. And of course MRJ's very success has generated critical reactions and spurred creative attempts to 'get round' his approach to the ghost story. And, above all, he brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. So...

'The Ash-Tree'

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In case you haven't looked over at the YouTube bar lately, this is one of the recent additions. You can also find a dramatisation of Henry James' 'The Jolly Corner', plus some sci-fi by way of a change.