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Showing posts from May, 2013

The Green Book - out now!

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I'm not sure about reviewing something that has me in it, but let me say that the first issues of The Green Book is rather spiffing all round. The brief of TGB is 'Writings on Irish Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic Literature', which is quite a broad brief. In his Editor's Note, Brian J. Showers gives his eminently good reasons for focusing on Irish weird fiction, and makes clear that his approach will be very inclusive. And that is certainly the case with the contents of the first issue. Part One of Albert Power's extended essay 'Towards and Irish Gothic' begins the first issue in fine style. I admit that my knowledge of some of the texts mentioned is pretty much non-existent. That didn't stop me enjoying Power's erudite and poetic exploration of stories that range from, in his words, 'Celtic Crochets to Castles of Dread'. As an introduction to the subject that impresses with the depth and range of Irish literature, this would be hard

Coming attractions!

Supernatural Tales #24 will be out in August, which isn't that far off, really. It's nearly June! The contents, barring any mishaps, will be as follows (though not necessarily in this order): Sean Logan - 'Dollhouse by the Sea' Lynda  E. Rucker - 'The Wife's Lament' Steve Goldsmith - 'The Boys With the Ball' John Llewellyn Probert - 'A Life on the Stage' Michael Abolafia - 'Omnia Exeunt in Mysterium' Sam Dawson - 'Man Under' Jane Jakeman - 'Majorlena' Key words for the above stories are - hotel, Birmingham, drunk, ballet, mother, trains, flies. Well, that's how I remember them.

Review: Herald of the Hidden, by Mark Valentine

This collection of tales spans the years 1983 to 2009, and offers an interesting selection of Mark Valentine's work. Most of them concern the investigations of Ralph Tyler, an 'occult sleuth' of a slightly unusual sort. Unlike Hodgson's Carnacki, Blackwood's John Silence, or Le Fanu's Dr Hesselius, Tyler is a regular bloke with no powerful connections or unusual resources. He resides at 14 Bellchamber Tower, but this is not so elegant a residence at the name suggests. His methods are simply those of the researcher, coupled with a bit of initiative and a tendency to try and do the right thing - sometimes in defiance of his client's wishes. There is an obvious problem with the psychic sleuth format. Each story contains the germ of its own failure by telling the reader that the hero will not die, or be otherwise rendered hors de combat. While this is fine in a TV series of the X-Files variety (and there are a lot of them around), on the printed page it does s

Hello Goths!

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Apparently it's World Goth Day, so let's hear it for the Germanic tribes that disrupted the later Roman Empire, and even sacked the Eternal City itself... Only kidding. It's the day to celebrate courageous make-up strategies, colour-free sartorial tastes, and a general sub-culture that is - in my experience - charming, intelligent, and fun. Go Goths! In noodling about this topic this morning I found a highly instructional video for any young person of today who is wondering if they should go full Goth. It's true, you know - you always see Goths in couples.

Richard Marsh Exhibition: It's Creepy in Crawley!

Richard Marsh was, in his day, one of the best-known authors in Britain. His proto-horror novel The Beetle (1897) rivalled Dracula. As someone remarked, friends are better than critics, and now there's an exhibition dedicated to Marsh's life and work. Here is the link , where you will find the facts: The Beetle , published in 1897, is the tale of a shape-changing Egyptian creature that comes to London seeking revenge on a leading MP, which greatly outsold its close rival Dracula (published the same year). In 1910 Marsh's publishers felt able to call him 'the most popular living author'.  A lesson there, I think, for any writer who worries that they've failed to win recognition. It is, to say the least, ephemeral in most cases. The author  Robert Aickman was the grandson of Richard Marsh. He was the only child of a rather odd and unhappy union between Marsh's daughter Mabel and the much older William Aickman.

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990)

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I am not well. Some sort of virus laid me low on Sunday night, and I crawled off to bed with much sweating and shivering. Then, this morning, came the attack of the squitters that led me to conclude I am ill and not merely feeling a bit under the weather. Oh well. A bit of cinema is always good for me when I'm feeling low, so I decided to watch, for a second time, Kurosawa's portmanteau magical realist portmanteau movie. Akira Kurosawa's Dreams is a Japanese-American co-production - 'Stephen Spielberg Presents' are the first three words to appear on the screen, and Martin Scorsese cameos as Van Gogh. The film comprises eight stories, all based on the director's dreams at different stages of his life. The first story, 'Sunshine Through the Rain', is about a little boy who ignores his mother's advice and goes into the woods on a day when the sun is shining, but it is also raining. In this weather, he is warned, foxes hold their weddings - and they

Queen Mary's Dolls' House

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Sorry I haven't blogged lately - not a lot going on that is relevant to ST. But 'certain things' have arisen, and I'll blog about them next week, honest. In the meantime, M.R. James fans might enjoy this little film.

Mark Valentine: An Incomplete Apocalypse

The Dark Side of J.B. Priestley

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Over at the excellent Valancourt books one can find all sorts of interesting things. Among them is this volume of short stories: By coincidence, a few weeks ago Radio 4 Extra ran a series of readings of weird tales, and among them was Priestley's 'The Grey Ones'. I had always assumed that, while his famous Time Plays flirt with the paranormal/mystical, Priestley was mostly concerned with what might loosely be termed social realism. But it turns out that he ranged rather widely and - in a very prolific and long career - often tackled horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. My ignorance of Priestley's contribution to genre fiction is a bit embarrassing, as I really should have known that his novel Benighted was the basis for a classic horror movie . Overall, the Valancourt site is well worth perusing if - like me - you have a mental file of titles you once read and really would to read again.  For instance, there are the novels of John Blackburn

RIP Ray Harryhausen

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Fraudsters and Families

I love supernatural fiction, which is why I publish it. But I have no time for those who tout their supposed real-life expertise in the paranormal as a way of conning vulnerable and/or foolish people. So-called psychics are particularly contemptible in this regard. And this week's startling news item about three young women rescued from captivity in a house in Ohio has only underlined the point that psychics and mediums can do tremendous  harm. You probably know the basic facts . Three teenagers were kidnapped about ten years ago. They were rescued when one of them managed to attract the attention of a neighbour in Cleveland. (And the interview with that neighbour, Charles Ramsey, is well worth seeing - he may be the coolest person in the world right now.)  For me, though, one of the saddest aspects of the case is that the mother of one of the victims found alive this week was  told by a psychic that her daughter was dead . The psychic, Sylvia Browne, was just playing the

Trailer Time

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I'm pleased to announce that one of the stories in ST#24, due out at the beginning of August, will be 'The Wife's Lament' by Lynda E. Rucker. It's an intriguing and (I think) moving tale of a young American who moves to England with her husband, only to find herself isolated and confused. Surely the wood she found at the end of her suburban street can't be a figment of her imagination? And what is the significance of the ancient artefact she discovered? The rain lessened once she found herself under the canopy of trees, and then stopped. If the forest had seemed sickly and diseased earlier, now it was all but dead. Its misshapen trees had gone white and ghostly, thin fingers of leafless branches pale against the storm-wracked sky. The earth reeked of decay. Thick ropy briar fences replaced the vegetation that had once grown there. Only her panting breath stirred the silence. The brooch hurt her hand; she was gripping it too tightly, cutting into her own flesh,

The Ward (2010)

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So, there I was on Saturday night, quaffing what might be termed a amusing little vintage (Chateau Demented Wallaby), and wondering what film to watch. I decide to give The Ward a try, with nothing but a very brief online synopsis to go on. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a John Carpenter film I'd never heard of. And, yes, it has some characteristic Carpenter touches. So, what's the deal? The film begins with a girl called Kristen (Amber Heard) setting fire to a farmhouse. The police drag her away and she is taken to a Big Spooky Mental Hospital, where - as it's 1966) she is subject to mid-20th century treatments i.e. lots of drugs and voltage across the frontal lobe. However, thanks to the apparently enlightened policy of Dr Stringer (British thesp Jared Harris), Kristen and the other girls on the special ward are allowed to draw, watch TV, listen to music, and even go outside. From the start, questions abound. Why can't Kristen remember anything be

Well Done, Michael!

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Best New Horror #24 will contain 'October Dreams' by Michael Kelly. It appeared in ST#22, last autumn. Here is a recording of me reading it (though the accent should be American). It's a very short story, but I think that is, in part, what gives it a remarkable poetic impact.

Dr James & His Legacy

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Trousers!

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For some reason, trousers are funny in a way that - say - shirts are not. This has been an established truth for centuries, as the following drama demonstrates. It's a version of one of the famous Ingoldsby Legends, which were published from 1837 by Thomas Barham. While a few of the stories and poems are moderately serious, most are frivolous, and none more so than 'The Spectre of Tappington'. This old radio recording is a bit crackly etc, but I think it comes across quite well.

Silent Saturday

Have started reading Helen Grant's new (non supernatural, probably) novel Silent Saturday. It's a fascinating story of a lonely girl who gets involved with an unusual tribe of modern-day explorers. The book is the first of a trilogy called Forbidden Spaces. Here's the trailer.

Tellers of Weird Tales

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Now here is an excellent blog , dedicated to the writers and artists whose work appeared in Weird Tales during its classic years and after. I've already learned a lot from it, and enjoyed just rambling around finding out stuff, being reminded of things I'd forgotten I'd read, and so on. And there are pictures, too!

May Day!

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May Day is a fascinating time of the year... Well, no it's not, at least not where I live. But in other parts of the world people get very excited and do strange things. For instance, over at Helen Grant's blog , you can read about the odd German custom that features in her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. This German custom involves humiliating defenceless, innocent houses... Lovecraftian Elder Chimney Sweep?

A poetry pamphlet has arrived for May Day

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And here is the factual information that came with it. As well as cracking poems the pamphlet includes a rather touching history of Peterborough's Fantasy Fairs, which ran from 1992 for over a decade. And, as usual, Cardinal Cox's sense of humour is on display, along with his erudition and fascination with the arcane. I won't quote from 'Sasquatch Porn', but I had a chuckle. Instead, here's 'A R'lyeh Limerick'. Old Deity Cthulhu Who was well known as one who One day would awake Set oceans a-quake When stars' alignment was true.