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Showing posts from April, 2013

The White Ship

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I went to the seaside today and did not have any spooky experiences. I did have chips, so, result. But I like all forms of nautical spookery and weirdness. Here's a musical example.

Nothing sinister - or is there?

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Gelliant Gutfright would like to tell you a story.

Horror & American Pessimism

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I just watched the film YellowBrickRoad (and yes, the title is written that way). The first few minutes and the last few seconds are very good. The eighty-odd minutes in the middle are mostly tedious, irritating, and probably not worth your effort, dear reader. Let me explain why. The basic set-up is this: 1940: the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire walked up a winding mountain trail, leaving everything behind. 2008: the first official expedition into the wilderness attempts to solve the mystery of the lost citizens of Friar. There's more, of course. Some of the townsfolk are killed along the trail and their mutilated bodies discovered later. Most of them simply vanish into the woods (I've no idea how credible this is - my knowledge of American wilderness areas is sadly limited). One survivor returns to be interviewed, but a recording merely shows that he has been maddened by a strange sound. So much for backstory. The narrative proper begins when an academic go

A New Book!

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When I got back from Sussex last Thursday I found not one but two of those red card thingies from the postman. One of them I knew related to a DVD box set that a friend kindly sent me on loan. (Game of Thrones, Season 2, if you must know.) The other was more mysterious. Imagine my surprise when, having toddled down the road to the depot, I retried two hefty parcels. One was indeed the American TV series that is firming up the pension schemes of so many fine British actors. The other was this ... Yes, it's a volume of tales by Mark Valentine, who is surely one of the top chaps of modern English weird fiction. As you can see, it's a typical Tartarus hardback, produced to the highest standards and a thing of beauty in itself. But what of the contents? Well, in Herald of the Hidden you will find all the stories involving Mark Valentine's occult sleuth, Ralph Tyler, plus several stand-alone tales. The Tyler tales were previously published from the mid-Eighties onward i

MRJ Headstone Restoration

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At Rye I found that E.F. Benson's grave is very modest, because the distant relative responsible didn't like him very much, and didn't even bother spelling his name correctly. The EFB Society does its best, but there's only so much that can be done with what amounts to a perfunctory resting place - an afterthought rather than a memorial. By coincidence, the other day I found this reminder of how M.R. James' admirers restored his grave at Eton at the turn of the century. I wasn't there, I hasten to add - but I got the little brochure because I contributed a few bob.

Rye Observations

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I just got back from Rye in Sussex, a town so stuffed with history that it hardly has room for anything modern. I stayed at the Mermaid Inn, which is a lovely (if rather pricey) establishment, formerly favoured by smugglers. In the pic below you can see the sign of the Mermaid. The sign was knocked off by a van on Wednesday, but quickly replaced. The Mermaid, of course, has a resident ghost, but did not manifest itself to me. This is a regular non-event when I stay in a historic inn or some such. Mermaid Street, Rye

The Supernatural Stories of H.G. Wells

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This article originally appeared in All Hallows, the journal of the Ghost Story Society, in 1996. As I don't have it in any usable format, I thought I'd simply scan in the proof copy. Let's see if it works. Click to enlarge and all that...

Gothic Noir, Silvered Dreams

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I know next to nothing about photography, but sometimes I stumble upon a photograph that speaks to me. It  usually begins with 'You know nothing about photography', admittedly, but it sometimes expands on this and points out that I'm missing out on the work of an interesting artist. So it is with a postcard I recently received (along with a very welcome subscription renewal) from a reader in Texas. The postcard features a 'hand-tones silver-gelatin photograph by Rocky Schenck . And if you don't know Mr Schenck's work, try this for size: Yes, that is Nicole Kidman, the former Mrs Cruise. So this Schenck chap is probably quite successful, given that his commercial portfolio includes quite a few celebs. But his site also features what might loosely be termed fantastic or strange images, and I think people who enjoy supernatural fiction might well appreciate it. Here are a few examples: Dream Sequence Cemetery Screening 9th and Lake Ever

Dark Adventures in Space, Time, and Gibbering Terror!

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I can't remember when I first came across the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society , but it must have been a good while ago. I have, rather oddly, been a Lovecraft fan for many years, despite never finding his stories remotely frightening. I know, it's weird. But it's not Lovecraft's fault - most horror stories don't scare me much, if truth be told, because the things regular human beings do to each other are far worse than those dreamed up by authors. No, I like Lovecraft because his stories are elaborate mental games with the reader. How much can we guess before he reveals it? How blatantly will he telegraph his punches? And how many adjectives can he cram into one sentence? All of which is rather irrelevant preamble to my look at the excellent series of dramas from Dark Adventure Radio Theatre . Even if you don't like audio drama, the quality of these adaptations should impress you. The latest, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward , is a two CD job, offering a deta

Where's my old chemistry set?

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This is one of the spiffing extras from the brilliant two-disc version of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward , which arrived today. More to follow, probably. I daresay I'll write a review of the drama, too, at some point. Maybe I'll do a bumper all-in-one look at all the dramatic emanations of the HPLHS...

Blast from the past...

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Now I've started rummaging around among my old books and stuff, I can't stop. I have here, for instance, a copy of the Wark Annual for 1979. It's another Ro Pardoe production, and - like all her publications - chock full of goodies. It's actually famous (or notorious) for the article partially reproduced above, entitled 'Duck, You Suckers!', in which Joseph Nicholas delivered a devastating broadside against the amateurish standards of fantasy fanzines. Anyone who thinks the Good Old Days meant higher standards of critical insight, or even basic literacy, might care to think again. Most of what Nicholas said then is still applicable. The only difference is that, instead of photocopied 'zines, the chosen medium of half-baked twaddle is the blog (ahem). I must try harder... Oh, and the cracking illustration of Medusa (or so I assume it to be) was the work of Dave Carson.

Vote!

Votes are dribbling in for the best story in ST#23. Remember, the winning author will receive the almost generous sum of £25, which might be enough to buy a lot of biscuits at Poundland, or a plastic toy for a gerbil. Yes, modern publishing is very much a winner-take-something game. So vote for your favourite story now! Or whenever is convenient. You can let me know by email, post, or indeed by simply commenting below.

Chapbook Corner

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I was looking for something, and - as you do - I found some things that were interesting, but none of which were the thing I was looking for. One thing I'd forgotten about was this chapbook from Ro Pardoe's Haunted Library, published in 1984. It's a short story by Ramsey Campbell. I vaguely recall receiving it, but have no idea whether it was a gift or a purchase (or perhaps a bribe for 'services rendered', but we'll say no more about that). Anyway, if anyone asks you for a supernatural tale that involves a parrot, confident that you will say 'How Love Came to Professor Guildea', you can amaze them by naming this one instead. And, yes, the story does revolve around the parrot's most famous and entertaining ability. I may start looking out other obscure publications. I'm sure you'll be fascinated to hear about them in the weeks, months, aeons to come...

A Game of Books (and Telly)

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I first read George R.R. Martin's fiction in the late Seventies. I can't recall if the first of his books that I encountered was the short story collection A Song for Lya , or the novel Dying of the Light . Both are excellent, by the way, and both foreshadow the Martin mega-saga that has now become the TV series Game of Thrones. What Martin did in his early, award-winning sf was emulate earlier authors, notably Robert Heinlein, Cordwainer Smith, and Larry Niven, by creating a detailed future history. In the universe he imagined the human race struck out for the stars, colonised strange and scary worlds, and encountered interesting and sometimes very powerful aliens. Most of his early stories, plus that one straight sf novel, were set in a galaxy some centuries after a catastrophic war with two rival alien empires fragmented the human race into various regional powers. This Balkanised sector of the galaxy, the Manrealm, was a backdrop for some well-written, often lyrical,

Helen Grant - a new novel!

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Up-and-coming author Helen Grant, whose stories graced early issues of ST, is launching her new novel this week. As you can see from this blog post , she went to Belgium over the Easter weekend, because the book, Silent Saturday , is set there. (Who knew they had a branch of Waterstones in Brussels? Well, they do.) While Helen's novels are not supernatural fiction, and are aimed at teen readers, they are very absorbing and intelligent thrillers. I think her work has a lot to offer readers of all ages. But, if you happen to know a younger person who likes books, one of Helen's would surely make an ideal birthday or Christmas gift.

Dollhouse of terror...

Over at A Podcast to the Curious , Will and Mike talk about M.R. James' story written for Queen Mary's huge, posh dolls' house. As always it's a very interesting chat with lots of background detail and anecdotes. Also, there are links to notes and other information. If you're familiar with the story, you'll recall that it's one of the more nasty MRJ yarns. It features the killing of innocent children (as in 'Lost Hearts') and a supernatural device that the author himself admits is a reworking of 'The Mezzotint'. For some reason I like this one - it seems to add up to more than the sum of its parts.