Tuesday 31 March 2015

The First Ghost Story Awards!

“We are pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Ghost Story Awards, sponsored by the literary society A Ghostly Company, and the journals Ghosts & Scholars and Supernatural Tales. The awards are for the best ghost story and the best ghost story book published in English in 2014.

The winners are:

Story – "Shallabalah" by D.P. Watt, The Ghosts & Scholars Newsletter no 26, Haunted Library

Book – Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J.S. Le Fanu edited by Jim Rockhill and Brian Showers, Swan River Press

Our warmest congratulations to the winners, who will each receive a specially commissioned statuette, and a year’s free subscription from each of the three sponsors.”

Saturday 28 March 2015

Perchance to Dream

Charles Beaumont deserves to be better known. He was one of the writers (along with Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson) who contributed some great horror/fantasy episodes to The Twilight Zone. Unlike his co-writers, though, Beaumont died relatively young, in 1967. A few years later Matheson and Bloch both enjoyed TV success.

If Beaumont had lived he might have given us some wonderful movies and TV shows. Like Matheson, he might have produced much of his best work in his middle and later years. As it was Beaumont suffered a slow, painful, and mysterious decline due to a disease that aged him rapidly. He died at 38 but according to his son he looked 98. Towards the end his writer friends stepped in to meet deadlines for him, He insisted on splitting the fees.

I have to confess a special affection for Beaumont because he scripted one of the best bad sf movies. Queen of Outer Space, featuring a young Zsa Zsa Gabor. While director Ben Hecht wanted a straight space movie, Beaumont transformed Hecht's dumb story into an affectionate parody of the genre that's still fun to watch.

Perchance to Dream

Now Penguin Classics have brought out a collection of Beaumont's tales. I think that's rather wonderful, as a few years ago the only way you could get them was in the form of old, tatty paperbacks - or at least what was my experience. The cover's cool, too.

Oh, and the title story? One of my all-time favourite TZ episodes, about a man who seeks help because he is terrified of falling asleep. Who could forget Maya the Cat Girl (Suzanne Lloyd), or the twist ending? I really must watch the Twilight Zone again, it's good for morale.

Monday 23 March 2015

Trailer Time!

This your humble editor reading a story from the forthcoming issue of ST, due out in April. As you can see if you click on the clicky thing, it is by Rosalie Parker and entitled 'Selkie - a Scottish Idyll'. The title is somewhat deceptive, as old hands at this game may have guessed. I love stories with a strong folklore element, and this is a cracking example of how to made modern 'quiet horror' from traditional elements.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

'The Familiar' in Newcastle

On 22nd April the redoubtable Rob Lloyd Parry will be giving a reading of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's classic tale, 'The Familiar', at a pub in Newcastle. 

According to Rob: 
It'll be a very informal rehearsed reading - just me at a lectern - not like the M R James shows you've seen. Could you spread the word among local supernatural/literature enthusiasts, who might be interested in this kind of thing? And ask anyone who might want to come along to email me for details and to get on the guest list?

The reading will be free but a hat will be passed at the end. If you'd like to get on the guest list for this special supernatural occasion, email Rob at: roblloydparry@hotmail.com

The Glyphs Gets an Actual Amazon Review!

'Excellent, well-written stories that are disturbing and unnerving rather than full-on horror.
If you want something gourmet rather than fast-food, these are for you.'

Well, who can argue with that? There will now be a pause...

Anyway, my collection of ghost/horror/weird stories is out there and people are actually reading it, apparently. It's at Amazon (US) here, and Amazon (UK) here

It's inexpensive. Please let that influence you.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Supernatural Tales 29 - contents

Supernatural Tales 29

Then her other hand was upon me, clutching my other arm. She drew nearer, like a lover searching for a kiss.

Jeremy Schliewe: 'Distance' 

'The unearthly wailing woke him again. He lit the lamp and went outside. At once the keening stopped, the shadowy rocks mute and unmoving.'

Rosalie Parker: 'Selkie - A Scottish Idyll'

She prodded the fish with her fork, and that was when the weirdness started. Because the fish started moving on the plate, as if it was still alive.

Jane Read: 'Service Charge'

When he received the book in the mail, Klenz had no memory of ever having ordered it.

C.M. Muller: 'Dissolution'

Despite not being able to see further than a few feet in front of him, he attempted to push through. The further he pushed through the more the fog seemed to coalesce into something impenetrable.

James Machin: 'An Oubliette'

“Yes, I must have stepped on something. A nail or a piece of glass. I do tend to go out in my bare feet.”

Katherine Haynes: 'Just a Snuff at Twilight'

The breathing seemed to be a man’s: even, not unnaturally loud, undramatic. It wasn’t the gasping of someone dying, as he had first feared. He wasn’t, he felt, hearing a recording of murder or terminal illness.

Sam Dawson: 'Cul-de-sac'

Thursday 12 March 2015

Farewell, Sir Terry

The knight of the thoughtful page has gone before. I've always thought of him as a young man, perhaps because I was a young man when I first enjoyed reading his books. Or perhaps some authors remain genuinely young at heart, and it shows in their writing.

I haven't read every one of the dozens of Discworld novels, but I've been an admirer of Terry Pratchett's work since the early days. His sf books, Strata and The Dark Side of the Sun, are well worth seeking out. But it is of course for his fantasy that he's best known. His books are full of supernatural imagery and ideas, as well as characters who use magic (or are used by it). 

What I admired most about him, I think, is that his imagination never took him far from a very English and humane view of life. He infused his work with humour and compassion, and never forgot that his readers were intelligent human beings who would 'get it'. He will be greatly missed.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

A New Stephen King Story

For just a squillionth of a second there you thought I was publishing a new Stephen King story, didn't you? Go on, admit it, you though the world had gone quite, quite mad!

But no, gentle reader, Mr. King is not appearing in ST, by arrangement with his common sense. His new story has been published in The New Yorker, which is a proper publication that has articles on sensible things, very intellectual cartoons, and general classy stuff. (There's an Amazon pilot for a New Yorker TV series, I rather enjoyed it.)

Anyway, the story is here.

It contains the sentence: 'Around two o’clock, while the little girls were playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Musical Chairs, Jim Trusdale entered the Chuck-a-Luck and ordered a knock of whiskey.'

You just know this will not end well.

Friday 6 March 2015

Supernatural Tales 29 - Coming Soon-ish!

Next month, if I'm any judge of such matters, ST #29 will be available in print and ebook form. It will of course contain spiffing stories by splendid authors. Further facts to follow, but in the meantime here's the cover illustration courtesy of Sam Dawson, illustrating his intriguing tale 'Cul-de-sac'. Spooky, eh?

Thursday 5 March 2015

Literary Slumming for Fun and Profit

Ursula Le Guin is not at all happy about Mr. Ishiguro's disdain for genre fiction.
A fantastic setting requires vivid and specific description; while characters may lose touch with their reality, the storyteller can’t. A toneless, inexact language is incapable of creating landscape, meaningful relationship, or credible event. And the vitality of characters in a semi-historical, semi-fanciful setting depends on lively, plausible representation of what they do and how they speak. The impairment of the characters’ memory in this book may justify the aimlessness of their behavior and the flat, dull quality of the dialogue, but then how is it that Axl never, ever, not once, forgets to address his wife as “princess”? I came to wish very much that he would.
Oh dear. Still, I don't suppose Kazuo's agent will be that bothered.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Fairy Control Measures

Wayford Woods, Somerset

What would Sir Arthur Conan Doyle say? It seems there's a veritable plague o' fairies down in Somerset. Or rather, a case of unchecked fairy home development.

Hundreds of fairy doors have been attached to the bases of trees in Wayford Woods, Crewkerne. 
It is claimed the doors have been installed by local people so children can "leave messages for the fairies". 
But trustee Steven Acreman said: "We've got little doors everywhere. We're not anti-fairies but it's in danger of getting out of control."

Twee overload, I feel. But in a way this restores my faith in humanity, a bit. After all, who'd have thought little kids would leave messages to fairies in hollow trees?

Wayford Woods, Somerset

So, fairies. Where do you stand? Choosing my words carefully, I admit that I am not by any means a fairy expert. But they're as valid (in the sense of traditional) as any other supernatural or paranormal entities, I suppose. 

I can't recall an episode of The X-Files dealing with fairy folk, but that's probably because they were never allowed into the puritan New England colonies. It's worth noting, though, that in Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter Hester's love-child Pearl is presented as a fairy-like being. 

And here I am, a grown man, writing about fairies. Weird, eh? Anyway, here's another recent news item about people in Northern Ireland who say that the wee folk will be annoyed if us big folk move their sacred bushes. A 'fairy thorn' has been growing unmolested at a golf club since before it opened in 1893. In a way it's like crazy golf, I suppose. Only instead of a little windmill...

"When people visit the club we have to warn them about the fairy thorn. We tell them to nod to it as they go past and they have to apologise if they hit it."

And here's a 1964 report of the problems caused when a fairy thorn was removed. It's clear that fairy traditions were still very much alive then. 

Let's round off with elves and trolls in Iceland, because it's fun.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

ST for Kindle

Supernatural Tales 28If you want to purchase a back issue of ST for your Kindle machine (or any device that runs the free Kindle app) you may like to know that it will cost you one dollar. More precisely, 99 cents - that's the lowest price you can actually charge, apparently. Sales of ST for Kindle have been fairly low considering the sheer number of people out there, and I'm not sure if this is because the thing's overpriced or just not that popular. Or some combination of the two. Anyway, if you can buy a copy that's great, if you can recommend ST to a friend that's fab.

Details of how to purchase ST are here.

Monday 2 March 2015

Romances of the White Day

A new Sarob Press volume pays tribute to the great, and sadly neglected, Arthur Machen. From the info on the Sarob blog:

Here are three newly written novelettes inspired by the works of Wales’ greatest writer of supernatural and occult fiction.

Includes an afterword to their story by each author. The stories ...

JOHN HOWARD: THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN ... a London adventure, enigmatically below the crust.

MARK VALENTINE: EXCEPT SEVEN ... an ancient ceremony revived and of where that “otherworld” intrudes.

RON WEIGHELL: THE CHAPEL OF INFERNAL DEVOTION ... of art, music, imaginary books and of pagan ritual.

Three writers of distinction paying tribute to one of the acknowledged masters of British weird fiction. Good news for discerning readers, especially since the novelette - an expanded short story, if you like - was a form in which Machen excelled.

The Glyphs & Other Tales of the Paranormal

Today, for one day only, Kindle users can download for free a collection of stories by me, your humble ST editor. Most of these stories were published back in the Nineties but there are a few more recent tales, plus a brand-new story. Here's a quick run-down of what's on offer via the actual blurb:

Ten stories of witchcraft, ghosts, alchemy, secret worship, monstrous beings, and strange phenomena.

In 'The Regulars' a group of friends with time on their hands do some research into a Victorian eccentric who had a thing about pub signs - and pagan religions.

'The Befriender' sees a sceptical journalist investigate a cult supposedly based on a secretive Roman cult. But what he unearths reveals as much about him as any ancient mystery.

The unlikely heroes of 'Skirmish' just want a quiet life, but are forced to go on a paint-balling weekend by their employer. When they slope off for a quick smoke they stray into a conflict of a very different kind.

'The Glyphs' is set in a run-down town where graffiti artists provide the only colour in a drab world - until something starts erasing their work more efficiently than the local authority.

'The Ptolemaic System' concerns a young academic researching a 17th century alchemist and sorceror, whose quest for immortality may not have been as futile as everyone assumed...

'Where All Past Years Are' offers some insights into human nature from a character who is well-placed to understand us. And put us to good use.

In 'Teddington', a student is very much in love with a girl who has some old-fashioned ideas, and very traditional ways of getting things done.

'Talkers' is a Lovecraftian tale about a conversation in a pub in Newcastle, and reveals the ultimate conspiracy theory. If you believe that sort of thing...

Some people have a way with words. But, in 'Last Writes', words have their way with an unwary person.

What is 'The Heart of England'? A controversial writer who thinks he knows discovers that he may be very mistaken.

Stop Press - I've extended the promotion for an extra day, so if you're reading this on 3rd March, it's still free.

Sunday 1 March 2015

The Singing Garden - Prints

Some years ago the Tyneside artists and writer Stephen J. Clarke was kind enough to offer some of his uniquely strange work to adorn the covers of ST. He's since moved along and is now playing with the big boys, so to speak, by illustrating the new and rather splendid Tartarus Press editions of Robert Aickman. Now at his site, The Singing Garden, the discerning lover of the strange and wondrous can buy prints of his work. I think they're very beautiful and very different from regular 'horror' cover art.

Sub Rosa

Cold Hand in Mine

Goblin Market

On a Facebook page dedicated to Folk Horror (which seems to bouncing back now, after a few years of gore-porn and zombie stuff) I came across this Arthur Rackham illustration of Christina Rossetti's poem 'Goblin Market'.

Weird, eh? Victorians wrote a great deal of poetry on eerie and supernatural themes, much of it supposedly whimsical in intent. But I think if you read the original you'll see that there was more to this market than a healthy selection of organic produce.

The whole poem is a bit long to post, given that most people don't like poetry, (What is wrong with Western civilization, eh?). But here's an extract to give you the flavour of it. I think there's more going on here than meets the literal eye...

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuff’d and caught her,
Coax’d and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratch’d her, pinch’d her black as ink,
Kick’d and knock’d her,
Maul’d and mock’d her,
Lizzie utter’d not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laugh’d in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupp’d all her face,
And lodg’d in dimples of her chin,
And streak’d her neck which quaked like curd.

Supernatural Tales 56 - contents

The next issue - due out in the autumn - will see a mixture of familiar names and some newbies. I hope, as always, that the stories find fav...