Monday 27 April 2015

Back Issues!

I've been rummaging through boxes of things (as one does) and found a few spare copies of issues of ST that are not available in print-on-demand format. If you want to contact me and simply ask for a copy of any of these, I'll send it, then you can send me the postage plus whatever you think is fair payment. They're not all in brilliant nick. So, here are the facts...

I have half a dozen copies of this issue, which contains stories by Simon Strantzas, Mark Patrick Lynch, Gary McMahon, John L, Probert, Duncan Barford, Gary Fry, William I.I. Read, John Travis, and Michael Chislett. Cover art by Dallas Goffin.

Edited Post

I did have some other issues, but somebody's already bagged 'em. Such is the speed of the internet.

Vote, vote, vote!

... by which I mean, of course, that you should use your vote to endorse the best story in a recent issue of ST. (And it doesn't matter if you've read the print version or the e-version, the poll is open to all readers.)

'Yes, definitely an amusing supernatural phenomenon. Best make a note of that.'

So far I've not received many votes about ST#28, the last winter issue. I will be announcing the winner of that poll in ST#30, so if you'd like to give your opinion of which is the best story just bung a vote in the comments here. Or you could email me. ST is also on Facebook, so you really have many opportunities to have your say.

No, when I said 'put your cross in the box...'

By the same token, ST#29 is out now - if you read it and think 'Ooh, that one was good!' why not tell me? If you don't, I'll never know, and your opinion counts.

Democracy - it's arguably better than rule by busty vampires

Remember, the winner of the reader poll gets the princely sum of £25. I know it's a very small sum, but it's at least a gesture from reader to writer, and writers like to be appreciated. So, please appreciate 'em! 

There are several handy ways to vote

Old Joke Corner

Thursday 23 April 2015

The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows Volume Three!

In the latest G&S newsletter, Ro Pardoe announces a third opportunity for you to craft a story based around one of the classic tales of M.R. James. I'm pleased to be able to reproduce Ro's announcement in full, as she's much better at the detailed stuff than I am. So take it away Ro...

I'm very pleased to say that The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows Volume Two has proved to be just as successful as Volume One, and it was already out of print by the beginning of December. So Sarob's Robert Morgan and I have agreed to go ahead with a third volume to complete the sequence and include prequels and sequels to some (hopefully all) of those M.R. James stories which were not covered in the first two collections. Admittedly it could be a problem in that there are only a limited number of MRJ stories remaining - twelve to be precise - but I think there are still plenty of possibilities (still no one has attempted to explain what was going on in "An Evening's Entertainment"!), and even now I know some of you have started working on or thinking about submissions (I've already accepted one!). So here's the full list for you to take your pick from:

"Lost Hearts"
"The Ash-tree"
"Number 13"
"The Rose Garden"
"The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral"
"Martin's Close"
"An Episode of Cathedral History"
"A View from a Hill"
"A Warning to the Curious"
"An Evening's Entertainment"
"There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard"
"The Fenstanton Witch"

You may be wondering about the inclusion of "The Fenstanton Witch". This isn't among the stories published in, or just after, MRJ's lifetime, and is sometimes listed with the unfinished drafts. But unlike the rest of those (with the exception of the comic "A Night in King's College Chapel") it is a completed story, just one which MRJ never really polished to his own satisfaction.

The deadline for submissions to the third Book of Shadows is December 31st. Send them to me preferably in the form of a Word or RichText e-mail attachment (or in the body of an e-mail or on a CD-ROM), but typed hard-copy is acceptable too. As ever (to repeat the rules for the other two volumes): "any submission which is just a revamp or parody of the plot of the chosen story is unlikely to be selected. I'm looking for something more original than that, and, indeed, there is no rule that a story has to be in the James tradition itself. I will not look kindly on entries that have been simultaneously submitted elsewhere. The word count is entirely up to you (within reason!). You can submit more than one story if you like."

The current plan is for the book to be published around the middle of 2016. Last issue I mentioned the idea of also including prequels and sequels inspired by some of MRJ's other works such as The Five Jars, Abbeys, The Apocryphal New Testament and Suffolk and Norfolk. I haven't made a final decision on this, but I'm open to the possibility, especially in relation to The Five Jars (you'll remember that MRJ himself was considering a sequel at one point). So if you have something you'd like to do along these lines, contact me and we'll discuss it.

The Sea of Blood

Reggie Oliver's latest collection is a retrospective from US publisher Dark Renaissance Books. The Sea of Blood contains Reggie's 'greatest hits' from his many earlier volumes, plus some new stories.

Needless to say it's a substantial volume, and as it just landed on my humble doormat with a major thud this very morning I will need a while to craft a review. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say it looks good. DRB are a new outfit to me, and judging by this volume they are serious players.

Oh, and I was pleased to see that this collection kicks off with 'Beside the Shrill Sea', which first appeared in ST4 a long, long time ago.

The Sea of Blood

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Mysterious Crate News!

Best steer well clear of this one...

Well, not really news, as it's from the spoof site The Onion. But having said that, it captures the essence of Victorian Gothic rather wonderfully, complete with the ominous headline Mysterious Crate Arrives From London.

Shipman and stevedore alike confirmed that the crate is unpleasantly cold to the touch, and none reportedly wished to remain in its presence for long. 
According to entries in the captain's log, when the puzzling cargo was first brought aboard in Liverpool, the ship's cat would not cease in its hissing and hid amongst the ballast the journey entire; and indeed, all aboard the Redoubtable were, to a man-jack, loathe to pass near the crate.

Selling a rare-ish book

Not sure how rare it is, really, but I need to free up some shelf space. Anyway, if you're interested I've offered a book for auction on eBay.


This is one of 200 numbered copies, published in 1995. It was one of the first Tartarus Press publications. It's a very nice volume in very good condition i.e. I have not spilled anything on it or otherwise damaged it over the years. I cannot, of course, speak for the condition of its soul...

Monday 20 April 2015

Jamesian Movie Posters!

If only these movies had been made...

I like these posters. They appeared on a Facebook page dedicated to M.R. James. They are the work of a very talented artist called Alan Brown, who has a page here. Unfortunately, the actual posters were part of a project based on MRJ's work, and the resulting book is now sold out. 

Saturday 18 April 2015

Codex Jermyn - the Cardinal Goes Ape!

I hope you'll excuse a post that isn't, strictly speaking, about the supernatural but is about the weird. Cardinal Cox's latest poetry pamphlet is inspired by one of my favourite H.P. Lovecraft stories - 'Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family'.

The central premise of the Lovecraft story is that there is no clear line between ourselves and our ape-cousins, and that interbreeding is possible. (Well, that's my reading of it, anyway.) In his new pamphlet Cox takes this idea and runs with it, creating a series of poetic mini-sagas featuring many of the most fascinating (and hirsute) characters from English literature. The over-arching theme is that Homo erectus, an ancestral species, never really died out, just retreated to the mountains and wildernesses of the Earth. And there they lurk, emerging now and again to become the stuff of legend...

Friday 17 April 2015

Nunkie's Coming to Newcastle!

Robert Lloyd Parry's excellent Nunkie Theatre Company will be on Tyneside next week for not one but two public readings of classic ghostly tales!

The first is a reading of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's 'The Familiar' at The Union Rooms, just by Newcastle Central Station, on the evening of Wednesday, 22nd April. This is taking place in one of pub's side rooms - just turn up shortly before 8pm for the reading, which will take about 45 mins. It's all very informal, but it would help RLP is you let him know you're coming, as that will determine just how big a Union Room they actually need! Contact details for Nunkie are here. No charge, but a hat will be passed for donations.

On Thursday 23rd April, which is World Book Night, the main event is taking place at Newcastle City Library. RLP will be performing 'Casting the Runes' and 'The Residence at Whitminster'. This is a free event, but obviously places are limited. Booking and performance details are here. The performance starts a bit earlier than usual for Nunkie - times are officially 18:30 – 19:30, though that's not nearly long enough for two stories plus an interval. If you don't know the new City Library, it's not far from Northumberland St/Eldon Square. Map here.

So, if you happen to be close to Geordieland, why not come along and have some old-school spooky fun!

The Ghost Story Awards - Reminder

Yes, next year there will be another set of Ghost Story Awards - one for best short story, one for best anthology or collection. Mark Valentine, who's running the awards on behalf of a sinister cabal that includes yours truly, has come up with the excellent idea of providing a quarterly aide-memoire, so that readers can make note of what they have (and haven't) read during the course of the year. This might make it a bit easier to reach a decision, and with luck it will boost the number of voters.

So, here is the first of the lists - these are not official nominees, just memory joggers. (The Helen referred to below belongs to A Ghostly Company, as indeed do I).




Helen Kemp suggested that it would be helpful to have a checklist of ghost story publications during the year, to assist readers planning to vote in The Ghost Story Awards. It might also be of interest for anyone who wants to know of recent publications in the field. Here is the first quarterly listing, compiled by Mark Valentine, of books and journals which may contain ghost stories (broadly interpreted) published for the first time this year in English and in paper and ink.


Give Me These Moments Back by Mike Chinn

Leinster Gardens by Jan Edwards

Dead Water by David A. Sutton


The Werewolf of Lisbon by Chico Kidd


The Yellow Wood by Melanie Tem


Suffer the Children by Dominic Selwood

The Voivod by Dominic Selwood

Dunhams Manor

The Usher by D.P. Watt


Sensorama edited by Allen Ashley

A Ghostly Company

The Silent Companion 10 edited by Antonio Monteiro


Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman


A Confederacy of Horrors by James Robert Smith


A Different City by Tanith Lee

The New Yorker

“A Death” by Stephen King


That Is Not Dead edited by Darrel Schweitzer


Friends of the Dead by James Doig


Leytonstone by Stephen Volk


Orpheus on the Underground by Rhys Hughes


Black Static 45

Interzone 257


These Last Embers by Simon Stranzas

The Walter de la Mare Society Magazine

“The Idealists” by Walter de la Mare

This is an aide-memoire for readers voting in The Ghost Story Awards, to help remind them of eligible books and journals published during the year. But a book or story does not have to be on the list to be eligible for votes. Readers may vote for who they want, within the rules. This is not a list of recommendations or nominations. The aide-memoire lists books and journals actually published (not simply announced or due) in the period shown. It is sure to be incomplete and suggestions are welcome.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Supernatural Tales 29 - Spring 2015

The latest issue is now available to purchase in hard copy form here. I'll have news of ebooks in due course. If you're a subscriber, your copy is either on the way or soon will be.

What's in it? Tales of love and hate, fear and hope, folklore and mystery, magic and ghosts, not in that particular order. Settings range from suburban England to Japan, characters range from feisty waitresses to solitary bibliophiles, and ghosts (or ghostly things) are seldom far away.

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'

She drew nearer, like a lover searching for a kiss. 
Jeremy Schliewe: 'Distance'

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. 
Sam Dawson: 'Cul-de-sac'

Friday 10 April 2015

The Eeriness of the English Countryside

An article on the Guardian's site explores just about everything you could describe as folk horror, focuses on several key writers of supernatural fiction, and ranges far further afield than the title might lead you to believe. For instance:

The Duchess of Cambridge looks at Self Portrait as a Drowned Man by Jeremy Millar during a visit to Turner Contemporary, Margate.

This would appear to be a pregnant royal looking a corpse - possibly that of a recalcitrant footman who forgot to record Downton for Kate and was accordingly bludgeoned to death under an obscure statute of Edward III. But in fact it's this:
In 2011, also inspired by Blackwood, Millar created a sculpture entitled Self-Portrait of a Drowned Man (The Willows). He cast his own body in silicone, dressed it in his own clothes, then gouged “his” face and skull with odd puncture wounds, as occurs in Blackwood’s novella. The disconcertingly lifelike (deathlike) “drowned man” that resulted was displayed prone on the gallery floor. It was first shown at Glasgow’s CCA, and proved so unnerving to audiences that warnings had to be issued. It is presently on show at Turner Contemporary in Margate. Earlier this month, the Duchess of Cambridge visited the gallery and was photographed looking at Millar’s pseudo-corpse selfie.
Isn't it rather wonderful that Blackwood still has so many fans and that they are putting his work, albeit indirectly, in the spotlight? Admittedly the article is a bit arty-intellectual, but I like that. There's room enough the world of supernatural fiction for those who (like M.R. James) don't like intellectual chat, and those who do. Oh, and Lovecraft gets a look in, because why not? And the focus on MRJ's story 'A View From a Hill' is refreshing - I think it's a rather underrated story.
Shortly after A View from a Hill appeared in the London Mercury in May 1925, MR James was contacted by the poet AE Housman, a friendly acquaintance and fellow Cambridge don. Housman admired the story, but felt there was “something wrong with the optics”. It was a nitpick on Housman’s part – he was suggesting that anyone looking through liquid-filled binocular barrels would experience a blurred refraction of vision, rather than its strange sharpening. His literalism missed the point entirely, of course – and it is tempting to read Housman’s quibble with the story as a broader objection to James’s unsettling of the pastoral, a mode in which Housman was deeply invested.
The 'unsettling of the pastoral' keeps happening. It's happening rather a lot every issue of ST, come to think of it. This is not down to a deliberate policy by your humble editor - simple because I so often receive excellent stories about how weird the rural is, and how full of terrifying pitfalls it can be.

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...