Showing posts from November, 2013

The Daisy Chain

This 2008 horror movie is unusual on several counts. Firstly, it takes fairies seriously, possibly for the first time since J.M. Barrie. Secondly, it's set on the west coast of Ireland - an excellent location for many reasons, but well off the usual horror film path. Thirdly, it's a co-production between several worthy agencies, made with the support of the BBC and its Irish counterpart, RTE. Fourthly, both writer and director are female. Given these facts, you would expect something a little different from the average gore flick, and you'd be right. The premise is simple. A young Anglo-Irish couple return to the husband's home village because life in London has become unbearable following the death of their daughter two years' earlier. Samantha Morton's character, Martha, is now heavily pregnant again. She and Tomas (Steven Mackintosh) move into a house outside the village, near the cliffs, and discover they have some rather odd neighbours. There's Sean

RIP Joel Lane

I was shocked and saddened this evening to read that Joel Lane died in his sleep last night. I never met him, but we did correspond by email on the occasions when he submitted stories to ST. The stories were excellent, but he was quite modest about them. I never had the courage to ask him why he'd submitted his work to an amateur editor who couldn't even afford to pay him.  It's hard to believe Joel Lane's no longer around. His continuing presence as a major British talent was for many of us simply a given - a writer of real insight and impressive intellect. He was classed as a horror writer, but his short stories can bear comparison with those of any contemporary writer regardless of genre. A tribute from Mark Valentine can be read here . I'm sure there will be many more in the days to come. From some of my Facebook friends, I culled the following comments: Joel Lane was one of the most phenomenal and underappreciated writers of his generation, one of the

The Incredible Robert Baldick? Really?

This is a failed pilot  that aired on the BBC in 1972. It stars Robert Hardy as Sir Robert Baldick - a name taken from a real person , who happened to die in 1972. So, it's a name culled from an obituary by writer Terry Nation . So far as I know this is the only attempt at supernatural fiction by Nation, who is of course best known for creating the Daleks and thus boosting Doctor Who from obscure kids' show to global telly phenomenon. Given this, I don't think it's entirely a coincidence that Sir Robert likes to be addressed as 'Doctor' while he's solving weird mysteries with the aid of his loyal companions. It's also notable that he travels around in an unusual conveyance (in this case a private train, not a space-time machine). A few things to look out for: the girl who's been 'killed' in the opening bit is clearly breathing; there are enough stick-on whiskers here to make a convincing Bigfoot video; and I think there's a neat bi

Get it Down, and Other Weird Stories

Martin Hayes featured in ST#17 with '13 Nassau Street', a sort of ghost-story-with-a-twist. It seems slightly out of place here, as most of the tales on offer in this collection  are outright horror and tend to have a sci-fi vibe. The shadow of Lovecraft falls across some of the most interesting stories. Luckily, Hayes isn't one of those who assumes that references to the Necronomicon and so forth make a Mythos tale work. Instead he takes Lovecraft's basic premise - ancient, terrible beings lurk out there, or down there, or somewhere - and runs with it in some interesting directions.  Thus in 'Me Am Petri' a meteorite brings an alien entity into the ideal location - a scientist's laboratory. Unfortunately for our would-be invader, certain aspects of modern human society prove far more monstrous than it is. More serious and altogether darker is 'Beneath the Cold Black Sea', detailing a confrontation with the Deep Ones in an American coast

The Moon Will Look Strange

Lynda E. Rucker's debut collection from Karoshi Books  includes eleven stories that all fall within the broad category of weird fiction. They are also united by a common sensibility - a feel for loss, and loneliness, that at times makes the the lives of Rucker's protagonists almost unbearable. Most stories about solitary folk having strange experiences fall into one of three categories. There are fictions in which a lonely individual never makes a connection with another human being - or at least, not a healthy, natural one. Then there are Jamesian tales in which scholarly bachelors seem quite happy in their solitude, until something happens to seriously discommode them. Finally, and most familiarly in the modern American horror story, there is the situation most of Rucker's characters find themselves in - that of suffering loss and being unable to face it squarely, or deal with it in other ways. Thus in the impressive title story Colin, scarred by the accidental de

Movie Posters - How Many Have You Seen?

Some good, some... not so good. But all good fun, I feel.

The Torygraph on fantasy and such

The writer Anne Billson has a good piece in the Telegraph about the recent World Fantasy Convention. It's familiar stuff, by and large, as we already knew genre fiction is not a load of old tat. But I daresay it's a revelation to some that there is a long tradition of good writing sheltering under the fantasy brolly. And I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about one particular author next year. This year's convention coincided with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Machen, the Welsh fantasy author of The Great God Pan, which Stephen King has called "one of the best horror stories ever written". Perhaps nowadays Machen is best known as the writer of The Bowmen, a short story in which ghostly archers from the Battle of Agincourt help defeat a company of Germans in the First World War.  The author never intended it as anything other than fiction, but it somehow became accepted in many quarters as an account of actual events, and ended up cont

Pulp Art - Joseph Eberle

I think I've seen a fair bit of Eberle's work in my time, as I've thumbed through plenty of old magazines (I had an uncle with a vast collection of pulp stuff). I think these illustrations owe something to Virgil Finlay, but I could be wrong. Maybe the influence went the other way? Leah Bodine Drake at least has a Wikipedia entry. Best known as an editor, poet, and critic, she only wrote two stories for Weird Tales (in 1953/4), but they clearly merited pretty good artwork.

Pulp Art - The Wendigo

The excellent horror/fantasy/sf author Mark Fuller Dillon has been sharing images from old pulp magazines with his Facebook pals, so I thought I'd share some of them with you. Most of them are sf illustrations, but some fall into the supernatural horror/fantasy category. This one by Matt Fox, is from Famous Fantastic Mysteries , June 1944. Click to enlarge.

Nunkie's Nice Nordic Pair

To the Lit and Phil in Newcastle, last night, to see the redoubtable Robert Lloyd Parry of Nunkie Theatre perform two more classic M.R. James stories. The choice of tales is interesting, pairing as it does the relatively mild but fun 'Number 13' with the much darker 'Count Magnus'. The link is of course that they are both tales of Nordic lands - the first set in the Danish city of Viborg, the second set mainly in rural Sweden. 'Number 13' makes a good opening feature, so to speak, because there are quite a few unforced laughs to be had with Mr Anderson's attempts to communicate in Danish. The most obvious bit of humour - Mr A's somewhat forced concoction of a poem in mock-Gothic style - was omitted. I think that's a sensible edit as it's perhaps a bit too silly, and it allows the story to be tightened up. And, as always, in hearing the tale performed I noticed a few things that I'd forgotten. Anderson catching sight of a bit of the undead

Closed to Submissions

ST is now closed to submissions for this year. I've received a lot of stories, many of them good, some of them excellent. I'm still reading 'em, but I'm sure I have enough for at least the next two issues. I'll be inviting submissions again sometime in the New Year. If you sent me a story and haven't heard from me, please be patient - I'm thinking!

The Green Book - Issue 2

The second issue of Brian J. Showers' excellent journal of writings on 'Irish Gothic, Supernatural, and Fantastic Literature' is pretty splendid. It's always good to see Richard Dalby's name because he's one of he most knowledgeable experts on the ghost story tradition. In this issue he contributes a fascinating account of the life and works of Mervyn Wall , an author who has eluded me till now. He seems like a fascinating chap and I think I'll seek out his books, especially his mediaeval fantasies concerning an unfortunate monk. Equally erudite is Albert Power, whose long essay 'Towards an Irish Gothic' reaches the high Romantic era and offers quite a few insights. I particularly like Power's learned but often humorous approach. Thus the author Regina Roche's novel Children of the Abbey 'displays a loose-limbed flakiness', a phrase as amusing as it is useful in genre criticism. The big surprise of the issue (for me) was an art