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Showing posts from August, 2013

ST#24 - reviewed

Alex Lugo, guesting at the Arkham Digest, has some good things to say about the latest issue. He singles out three stories for specific praise - those by Lynda Rucker, Michael Abolafia, and Sam Dawson. But he's very complimentary about the whole magazine. Supernatural Tales #24 is an excellent journal of consistent, disturbing, well written supernatural fiction. Although the aforementioned tales shine a bit stronger than the rest, there really isn’t a poor story in this issue. Highly recommended.

Ghosts & Scholars update

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The new G&S M.R. James Newsletter is a rollicking good read. As well as news and reviews - lots of good stuff there - you get new stories by Jane Jakeman and Peter Bell. There's also information on how to enter the next competition to win a place in the 2014 G&S Book of Shadows . You can subscribe to the newsletter by contacting Ro Pardoe via her excellent site . And here's a question for Monty James fans. The cover pic below is by Alisdair Wood - but which MRJ story does it illustrate?

Building a Spooky Library - Dalby Surround

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It would be absurd - albeit a lot of fun - to try and buy a book by every ghost story author of note. Apart from anything else, many such authors are 'one hit wonders', known for one significant story - 'Thurnley Abbey' by Perceval Landon is a good example. Other writers may be an acquired taste (just wait till I get onto Aickman) and buying a possibly-pricey collection that you struggle to finish is a mite disappointing. So we obviously need good anthologies. This means that editors matter, and Richard Dalby is one of the most important editors of ghost stories. The Dalby name on the cover guarantees that a genuine expert in the field has chosen the contents. Of the dozens of books Richard Dalby has edited down the years, the obvious one to go for (in my opinion) is the Virago Book of Ghost Stories . There is a complicating factor, here. The above volume deals with 20th century stories by female writers. There is also a Virago anthology of Victorian ghost stori

They Took Our Ghosts Away

They came and took our ghosts away; We stood and let them do it, to be fair. Some grumbled, but most simply looked away. A few gave way to rage, and then despair. They told us it was for the common good; Our ghosts were old and out of style. The moans and cold spots, and the pools of blood, The wraith that haunts the old ancestral pile... All silly, shop-worn, or just overdone, Or so they kindly told us. Come the day We thought to question them, they had all gone - The ghosts, and those who took our ghosts away.

The 14 Scariest Ghost Stories?

Ooh, that's a provocative title, isn't it? But I was prompted to quite literally type those words onto the interwebz because someone did indeed write this: 'The 14 Scariest Ghost Stories' . Which is asking for trouble. Not least because of the obvious question, 'Why 14, Smartarse?' The article, to be fair, is a Hallowe'en piece from last year that someone recently raised on Facebook. It's typical of its kind. I suspect it was one of those 'Quick, we need X,000 words!' jobs, employing a writer with no particular expertise other than an ability to hit a deadline. My suspicions were aroused partly because I hadn't even heard of some of the authors concerned, and partly because the synopses of the stories are... Well, if you read 'em you'll note they don't actually say anything that couldn't have been quickly cut 'n' pasted. Here, for instance, is the perfectly reasonable but essentially useless (in the context of the

RIP Julie Harris, Farewell Eleanor Lance

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I was sad to learn that Julie Harris, a veteran star of many films and Broadway shows, has died at the age of 87. For fans of supernatural fiction her greatest role was that of Eleanor Lance in The Haunting (1963), the first and by far the best cinema adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House (1957). Eleanor, or Nell, is an interesting example of a traditional Gothic heroine in a modern ghost story. Naive and confused, she falls victim to Hill House but at the same it is implicit that she is - to some extent - helping to trigger or amplify some of the strange phenomena that assail the ghost hunters. The director, Robert Wise, made considerable demands on Julie Harris, and I think she delivered the goods, not least in scenes involving the character's unspoken thoughts. Here is the second spookiest scene from the film:

Aickman Studies - Call for Papers

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A new journal dedicated to Robert Aickman is due to be launched in the latter part of this year. The editor, Tom R. Baynham, is calling for papers. Who are we to disappoint him? If you would like to get in touch, here's the link .

Vote! All the way to the wire...

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If you haven't already voted for Swan River Press in the Arthur Guinness grants poll, please do so. SRP is Ireland's only publisher dedicated to Gothic and weird fiction, and one of the very few we have that routinely produces excellent collections of new ghost stories. Brian and his team have done a lot for us readers, now e have a change to help them out! Vote here .

Free eBooks - classics and rarities, all for nowt!

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The Fabulous Benson Brothers - as they were not really known - were all writers and all achieved some measure of success. E.F. (Fred) wrote many ghost stories, while A.C. (Arthur) wrote stories, too, but more famously came up with the words 'Land of Hope and Glory', upsetting poor old Elgar in the process. R.H. (Hugh) Benson, the son of an Archbishop of Canterbury, changed sides and became a Catholic priest. His ghost stories are, I think, better than you might expect. But don't take my word for it - you can download a free eBook of RHB's collection A Mirror of Shalott here . (The author died in 1914, so it's well out of copyright.) There are several other eBook collections at the same site, Mystery and Imagination , including Oliver Onions's Widdershins, and classics by Mrs Oliphant, E.G. Swain, Sabine Baring-Gould, and many others. Well worth a look!

Building a Spooky Library - Algernon Blackwood

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Someone once likened  Paradise Lost  to a great cathedral that no one visits. Of course academics and students do read Milton, but I suspect that - when it comes to the average poetry enthusiast - old Milt is off limits. The same might be said of the average horror fan and the 'classics' of the genre. Lovecraft, yes, and we'll get to him later. But Blackwood - like Machen - is known to lovers of supernatural fiction thanks to a handful of much-anthologised stories.  One problems is that Blackwood wrote a lot of mediocre stuff during a very long career. Indeed, he wrote so many stories that even he was unsure how many he'd produced. Born in 1869, this contemporary of M.R. James lived long enough to appear on post-war BBC television before dying in 1951. But his best-known stories were written before the First World War. 'The Wendigo' and 'The Willows' are highly praised by virtually all experts in the field. 'The Wendigo' has inspired at leas

Best New Horror - Long Listed

Congratulations to ST authors who appear on Ellen Datlow's world-famous long list of Honorable Mentions. They are, in alphabetical order:  Stephen Cashmore - 'The Badger Boy', ST 21 Stephen J. Clark - 'The Vigil', ST 22 Adam Golaski - 'Translation', ST 21 Derek John - 'The Blighted Rose', ST 22 Ian Rogers - 'Midnight Blonde', ST 22 and Steve Rasnic Tem - 'These Days When All Is Silver and Bright' - ST 21 Jolly good show! You can read all of those excellent stories, and many more, by clicking away madly at the link to the left and purchasing a print or pdf copy of the relevant issues.

The Badlands - Review Copies Available

Hello online world. A couple of months after publication Mike Chislett's novella The Badlands (see the link on the right) is not exactly selling like hot cakes, and that's a pity. Mike's a true original and his work deserves a wider audience, in my opinion. So if anyone would like a free PDF review copy, please let me know and I will email it to you. If you like interesting weird fiction, I don't think you'll regret it. I just want to get the news out there and I think that if enough people read it there'll be some good word of mouth. So, drop me a line - freebie to be had! You have nothing to lose but your vague misgivings.

The Komarovs - Review

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He staggered to his feet and patted himself distractedly. "I hardly dared to hope," he whispered. Then he eyed me up and down.   "You don't look like a necromancer." "What d'you want, a pointy hat?" I retorted. Chico Kidd 's story 'Cats and Architecture' graced issue 2 of ST, waaaaaaay back in 2001. The story was the first published here to be anthologised in a 'Best of...' anthology. More importantly, it was also the story that broke a severe writing block for the author. In that first story the Portuguese sea-captain, Luis da Silva, found himself in Venice and under demonic attack. The result was to make him a ghost-seer and necromancer - one with the power to conjure up those who've died before their time. Three and a half years later Luis takes his family to the fair in Lisbon, hoping to have a nice day out. Needless to say things do not go as planned. The result is a novella that's great fun, full of inter

Building a Spooky Library - Ramsey Campbell

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There is a suitably nebulous region where supernatural fiction overlaps with horror. It's not always necessary for a supernatural tale to be horrific, but many of the best ones are. It is also possible for a supernatural tale to be the length of a novel, but this is uncommon - the best examples of the genre tend to be short stories. Of the modern masters of the supernatural story, Ramsey Campbell is undoubtedly one of the greats, if not the greatest. Campbell's career as a writer is a remarkable success story, albeit one hedged about with the problems that beset the vast majority of authors. His first anthology of Lovecraftian Tales, The Inhabitant of the Lake , was published by the legendary Arkham House in 1964. Campbell was in his late teens at the time (he was born in 1946). This remarkable debut was followed by a second Arkham collection, Demons by Daylight , in 1973.

New books by ST stars!

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Well, by star writers who've had stories published in ST. We begin with Chico Kidd, whose story 'Cats & Architecture' graced the very first issue. It also introduced the character of Captain da Silva, a Portuguese sea captain and demon-seer of the early 20th century. Chico has written a lot of da Silva tales. The latest is a novella from Alchemy Press , and I'm intrigued. It tackles a fascinating but difficult subject - the kind of people who were generally paraded as sideshow attractions. Charley Zriny wished he hadn’t hired the Siamese twins. Sure, they were a great draw, but they acted as if they were queen of the damn carnival. And that’s just the start. Besides the zombie there is a werewolf, a necromancer and ghosts. A maze of mirrors. And more zombies. Captain da Silva is at the centre of this – and all he wanted was a day out with his family.   The second book, going to print as I type this, is a new collection by Steve Duffy. There are far too few bo

Building a Spooky Library - Introduction

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On BBC Radio 3 there's a regular strand called Building a Library . This consists of advice for classical music dunces, like me, on which versions of famous symphonies etc to buy. It occurred to me that a similar strand on this blog might be helpful for those in search of essential texts in the realms of the supernatural. Like many people, I take it for granted that other people know what I consider to be the 'standard texts' of the ghost story and early supernatural horror. But I'm sure that, just as others may not have read the books in my library, there must be major gaps in my own knowledge. And then there's the time factor. Some people may have a great knowledge of contemporary authors but be a bit lost with, say, the Victorians. Others may have exactly the opposite problem - which of the moderns should they try? So I'm going to write about books that I have and consider essential, and invite others to suggest authors/texts that I may not have read or e

Vote as if your very soul depended upon it!

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There's some serious voting going on, all day, every day. See what I did there, with the time reference? But he wrote supernatural fiction too, so it's not stupid. This is either 'The Tracate Middoth' or 'Number 13'. Or something entirely different. Sweary feminists are the best feminists.

Supernatural Tales #24 - available to buy online

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If you look over to the right you'll note that issues 17-24 are now available to purchase from Lulu.com. The print magazine costs just under a fiver plus p&p, while the PDF can be downloaded for just under two pounds. This is the cover of the eBook version: The art is by Sam Dawson, and I think it's rather nifty. There'll be more of Sam's artwork in future issues, of course. And he also has a story in the latest issue.  Here is the list of contents of ST#24, with links to author blogs/sites where I could find 'em: ' The Wife's Lament' by Lynda E. Rucker 'The Boys With the Ball' by Stephen Goldsmith 'Majorlena' by Jane Jakeman 'A Life on the Stage' by John Llewellyn Probert 'Dollhouse by the Sea' by Sean Logan 'Omnia Exeunt in Mysterium' by Michael J. Abolafia 'Man Under' by Sam Dawson This is an excellent issue, though I say so myself. I aim to provide as wide

The Fall of the House of Usher (short silent film)

Ignore the Spanish subtitles, they don't last long! I think this is a really wonderful modernist effort. I particularly like the black-gloved servant, the weird imagery surrounding the coffin, and the way the fall itself is handled. But it's all good! As in weird...

Ring Around the Monty

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In ST#3, now long out of print, I wrote the following essay on the Japanese film Ring(u), with reference to M.R. James. It may be of interest. It may not. Here it is. Now here’s a funny thing – funny peculiar, that is. In which modern entertainment medium would you, gentle and discerning reader, expect to encounter the most imaginative and faithful treatment of the ghost stories of M.R. James? Did someone at the back mumble ‘the BBC around Christmas time’? O ye of narrow cultural horizons! By far the best attempt at a Jamesian spook story I have come across in recent years is a teen-orientated Japanese horror movie based on a saga originally published as an adult comic (or graphic novel , as hairy middle-aged blokes in death metal T-shirts insist on calling such things). The film is Ring , and it is available on video for rent or to buy, along with its sequel. Anyone who doesn’t like films with subtitles should stop reading now. Anyone still with us needs to know a few things

Getting there...

Supernatural Tales #24 is finally ready for lift-off, post-out, and generally going places. Overseas' contributors' copies are now on their way. British authors and cover artist Sam Dawson will receive their copies in a day or two, with luck. Then come overseas subscribers' copies, review copies, UK subscribers' copies... It's a crazy old time here at Valdemar Towers and no mistake.

Meanwhile, in Dublin...

I know it's a pain to be asked to vote for things online , what with the logging in and clicking, and having to sit down in your own home while doing it. But this is really worth it, if only to stop Brian posting video of a full Irish lunch. And he may just do that regardless. (Does he seem a mite overdressed to you, for someone trying to get money on the internet? Just a thought.) NB Brian-Of-The-Shapely-Ankles (as he is known in Irish epic poetry) would like me to point out that you can vote once a day for Swan River Press - so this really is a case of 'vote early, vote often'!

Happy Birthday Monty!

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Montague Rhodes James was born 151 years ago today.