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Showing posts from December, 2014

2015 - anniversaries and things

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The coming year sees quite a few anniversaries of significance to lovers of the ghostly, the eerie, and the downright odd. Here are a few: A.C (1862-1925) and E.F. Benson (1967-40) - Authors of numerous ghost stories. D.K. Broster (1877-1950) -  Couching at the Door , a Jamesian collection Margaret Brundage (1900-76) - Noted horror/fantasy artist, esp. for Weird Tales John Buchan (1875-1940) - 'The Grove of Ashtaroth', 'The Wind in the Portico', and others Angela Carter (1940-92) - 'The Company of Wolves', 'The Lady of the House of Love', and others

Howie & Bob - Parallel Lives?

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H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Aickman - those two crazy guys are the chalk and cheese of horror, though which is which I obviously can't say. If works by both appear in the same anthology quite a few readers are bound to be seriously annoyed. I enjoy reading both, but I suspect I'm in a minority. Aickman certainly didn't rate his American predecessor, declaring that 'The Music of Erich Zann' was the only Lovecraft tale he liked. And yet both are revered authors whose reputations have been maintained not by mainstream critics, still less by 'the book buying public', but by generations of fans. Both were well-read men who set out to institute a kind of 'reform' of the horror story (or weird tale, if you like). Let's consider some other similarities. 1. Childhood Both men were only children. Lovecraft was born in the USA in 1890, Aickman in England in 1914. That's a gap of about one generation, with the North Atlantic thrown in. But look

A Miscellany o' Stuff

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In one of James Thurber's essays he remarks on losing his sight and having nurses read the newspapers to him. At one point a nurse comments that in the review section there are lots of books about Mussolini. Turns out it was 'Miscellany'. End of amusing aside. Start of actual blog bit. I've been away over the Christmas period, doing Family Life. I actually enjoyed it, as it meant eating too much and then lying around reading books for the want of anything else to do (you'll have gathered that my folks are not online). In my old bedroom I found quite a few volumes I hadn't perused for many a year. Some were volumes of period ghost stories, which explains that last sentence. But I also enjoyed re-reading this: If you know Tsutsui (like I know Tsutsui) you will be aware of his strange and often sexually explicit work. Salmonella Men on Planet Porno is one of his best-known story collections. The title story was dramatised rather well for a Radio 3 sf s

Footprints in the snow

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Yuletide greetings from ST cover artist Sam Dawson. Hope you get a lot of interesting visitors!

Daydreams and Nightmares

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It's too late to order this for Christmas, but worth remembering if you're reluctant to tackle the January sales. What on earth am I on about? Why, only the first collection of supernatural fiction to come with an introduction by me, your humble ST editor. Oh yes. I went there. Not sure what the form is re: reviewing books by friends that you've introduced. Suffice to say, this is the genuine article. The book in question is Daydreams and Nightmares by Katherine Haynes. It is published by Phantasm Press , which consists, in part, of legendary editor Richard Dalby. A rather nifty paperback, the collection only costs £7.50, for which you get seven tales that I describe as.... Hang on a mo, I'll check. Ah yes, these stories are 'distinguished by well-crafted prose, economical characterisation, and efficient plotting'. I also opine that Kate 'offers keen insights into our sometimes petty human concerns, and contrasts them with the threat or, occasionall

Some Christmas Viewing and/or Listening

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I'll be dashing hither and yon, and I daresay you will be too - but there may be times during the Christmas and New Year season that you will have an hour or so to kick back, relax, and enjoy some entertainment. I've been scouring YouTube recently for ghost stories and related matters. Here are a few suggestions (leaving aside ST's own YT channel, of course) for Yuletide enjoyment of a weird, spooky, or otherwise dark nature: First, a BBC TV drama that suffers from ropey visuals and sound. There's also a very intrusive time code thingy. But it's still a cracker. Wouldn't you like to see Richard E. Grant as Sherlock Holmes and Frank Finlay as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Well, here they are: Next, an old favourite. I've posted it before, but it's about as seasonal as you can get. 'The Phantom Coach', an animated adaptation of the story by Amelia B. Edwards. If you want to hear something strange in the way of music, the following link was s

Well done, Jane!

Next year's Best British Horror anthology from Salt Publishing will include 'Quarry Hogs' by Jane Jakeman, which first appeared in issue 27 . And yes, Ellen Datlow this year published Jane's story 'Majorlena', which appeared in issue 24. BBH 2015 editor Johnny Mains has published the provisional list of contents, which is as follows: SHADDERTOWN - Conrad Williams QUARRY HOGS – JANE JAKEMAN RANDOM FLIGHT – ROSALIE PARKER A SPIDER REMEMBER – SARA PASCOE EASTMOUTH – Alison Moore LEARNING THE LANGUAGE – John Llewellyn Probert REUNION – Rebecca LLoyd THE THIRD TIME – HELEN GRANT DROWNING IN AIR – Andrew Hook ALISTAIR – MARK SAMUELS IN THE YEAR OF OMENS – Helen Marshall APPLE PIE AND SULPHUR - CHRISTOPHER HARMAN ON ILKLEY MOORE – Alison Littlewood THE BROKEN AND THE UNMADE – Steven Dines ONLY BLEEDING – GARY McMAHON THE NIGHT PORTER - RAY RUSSELL SOMETHING SINISTER IN SUNLIGHT – Lisa Tuttle SUMMERSIDE - ALISON MOORE PRIVATE AMBULANCE – Simon Kurt Unsworth TH

Machen-ations

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Arthur Machen, a remarkable writer I don't mention often enough, was one of the greatest exponents of the weird tale in the early 20th century. Now a major Machen collection is in peril from library cuts! Machen enthusiast Mark Valentine sends the following: The public library at Newport, Gwent, houses a splendid Arthur Machen collection, including rare items, some donated over the years by his admirers, friends and family. It is the best public collection of his work in the UK, and an argument can be made for its international significance. The library is now under threat of closure. The local council are considering a plan to replace it with much smaller local hubs.  The Friends of Arthur Machen are joining those concerned by the closure. Please consider adding your voice to those urging the local council to protect the library and collection. A wide response may help them rethink plans or at least safeguard the collection.  Full details, including where to write to a

Some Classic Ghost Stories for Christmas

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Author Helen Grant has published a list of ten classic ghost stories for Christmas. It is also, as you'd expect from a very accomplished writer of spooky fiction, an excellent introduction to the ghost story for anyone who'd like to give it a go. In fact, of the ten stories listed, only one - 'The Accident' by Ann Bridge - is unfamiliar to me. But there are so many good stories, so many brilliant authors! So I thought I'd list ten ghost stories by other writers, just to demonstrate what a wonderful range of material is out there. Like Helen, I'm stretching the definition of 'ghost story' to mean 'tale of the supernatural'. (She lists 'Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book' and Conan Doyle's 'Lot No. 249', neither of which has a ghost. Marghanita Laski's 'The Tower' seems debatable as well.) Right, here goes... 1. 'Blackham's Wimpey' by Robert Westall (From  Break of Dark ) A superb example of

The First Iranian Vampire Western

Reaching a hitherto neglected demographic. This is worth a look, I reckon.

Scarborough Fair: Remember Me (BBC1)

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Well, there it goes, the best supernatural drama on British television for quite a while. No spoilers here. Suffice to say that a story that would have worked on the page as a novella proved strong enough to sustain three hour-long episodes. Everyone will have their own opinion about whether it was padded and by how much. For me each ep seemed to go rather quickly, and all worked rather well. I could witter on at length about everything that went on. Suffice to say that the Gothic tradition is alive and well when characters have names like Ward, Fairholme, and Parfitt. What might be termed Imperial Gothic, the weird tradition of Buchan, Haggard, and Kipling, was more than hinted at. I liked the way a very English ghost story also had global reach, so to speak. Gwyneth Hughes' scripts for Remember Me can be downloaded at the link. I think, in terms of intelligence and subtlety, they are as good as any modern ghostly fiction. I look forward to even greater things from he

Anne Billson nails it

From the Daily Telegraph comes what I must agree is bad news: Universal is 'reimagining' its classic monsters . In an article that I'd urge you to read, Anne Billson points out that this is almost certain to produce some crappy films that can't hold a candle to the horror classics. A few quotes: Do you remember Universal's post-Millennium monster movies? Do you remember The Mummy and its increasingly naff sequels? How about Van Helsing, Dracula Untold or The Wolfman – which even Universal's president admitted was " one of the worst movies we made ". For me, though, the decisive scuppering factor was Benicio Del Toro's uncanny resemblance to Frankie Howerd. Another problem is that upmarket film-makers (...) just don't "get" horror,(...). Take the late Mike Nichols, who saw Wolf as "transcending the horror genre" and apparently imagined, rather endearingly, that he was the first director ever to portray the wolfman as a me

Vote, vote, vote!

Remember, readers of ST, you can vote for your favourite story in the current or last issue - the winner off the reader poll will win the princely sum of twenty-five quid. Okay, it's not much, but it's a nice accolade for an author to be told people really like their work. Remember, writers are sensitive souls. They need encouragement. So vote for you favourite story in issue 28, or indeed in issue 27, as I'll be announcing the latter winner in the next issue. And remember, while we're about it, to have a think about all the ghostly fiction you've read this year. 2015 will see the first Ghost Story Awards , and Mark Valentine wants you to let him know which stories and collections most impressed you in 2014. Details at the link.

'She wants him back' - Remember Me (BBC 1)

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After enjoying the first episode to a degree that was almost unseemly, I was a little concerned that part 2 of this original, feature length ghost story would flag a bit. I don't think it did, though arguably it caught its breath. For those who've yet to see it, I can only keep recommending it. This  is what I wrote about the first part. In the second episode  -   Spoiler Alert and all that -  the surprising truth about runaway oldie Tom Parfitt begins to emerge. And again I was impressed by how writer Gwyneth Hughes combines elements of the traditional British ghost story with modern Asian horror tropes. Thus the entity - her name is Isha, we discover - moves in a way familiar from The Ring and The Grudge. (And there's a bit of a play on geography, going on, as Isha is a ghost from southern Asia, not the region where modern horror film was recently reinvented.) There's an interview with Gwyneth Hughes here, in which she casts some interesting light on her method