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Showing posts from May, 2015

New from Sarob

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Romances of the White Day is the new volume from Sarob, consisting of three long stories paying tribute to the manifold worlds of Arthur Machen. The authors are John Howard, Mark Valentine, and Ron Weighell. Each explores a different aspect of Machen's fiction, ranging from London to Wales in simple geography, and much further afield in terms of the supernatural . Expect a review shortly! 

Q - The Winged Serpent (1982)

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Imagine a monster movie in which Aztec ritual sacrifice conjures up a flying monster that snatches New Yorkers from high buildings. Well, we don't need to imagine it, because it was made by a chap called Larry Cohen. And it's every bit as weird as it sounds. Q is one of those exuberantly daft films that marked the temporary demise of the cheap-and-cheerful(ish) horror/monster movie that was actually intended for movie release. The rise of VHS meant that, in a few years' time, films with such absurd (and bloody) premises would go straight to video. But Q (the Winged Serpent bit was added later, and doesn't appear in the opening credits) was seen as your local fleapit, in all likelihood. As such, it commanded some decent production values and a starry cast. Rather than just review it, I found an old MP3 recorder and decided to test it out by recording my brilliant observations. It's been  many, many years since I saw Q on late-night telly. In fact it'

An Extra Shadow

Here's a poem fresh from the pen of Cardinal Cox, whose latest pamphlet is reviewed below... An Extra Shadow We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor There seems to be no moral to this sorry tale As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door It causes the young chambermaid an extra chore  We thought our round uncle had imbibed too much ale We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor At meals the bright cook prepares enough for one more Slime on scullery flags we blamed upon a snail As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door Creak upon the empty landing chills to the core No known previous resident was sent to gaol We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor When the sweet vicar kindly called we heard he swore What, we wonder, could have ripped the eternal veil As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door A nervous niece had vivid vision of gore We await the inevitable midnight wail We count an extra shadow on drawi

Steam Driven Oi

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I am deeply ashamed. It took me literally days to figure out the title of Cardinal Cox's latest pamphlet. Days. And I actually have in my possession a worn paperback of John Sladek's collection The Steam-Driven Boy . I blame this virus I've had for weeks, I really do. Any road up, what makes the Cardinal's latest effusion all more the interesting is that it is not a poetry pamphlet, as such, but consists of a short story with poetry trimmings. I'll reveal the delights of the former in a moment, but first, let us peruse the poems. First up is 'An  Address to the Citizens of Middlemarch', its signatories 'General Ludd and Brother Enoch of the Military Council of the Invincible Army'. George Eliot meets Shelley's 'Masque of Anarchy', here, with its ominous warning to the toffs that if they push the plebs too far regrettable things may occur. It recalls (for me) O-level history on the Corn Laws and Peterloo, but also the lousy state we&

John Howard Interview

I've only met John Howard once (and that was probably enough for him), but he's a nice chap as well as a writer/genre expert whose tastes overlap with mine in some interesting areas. Anyway, here's an interesting interview with him. I was particularly struck by this passage: The future was going to be brighter, cleaner, safer. Slums were being demolished and new housing built. In some places the ruins caused by World War II were finally being swept away – in London there was the Barbican scheme and Route XI. Sleek motorways crossed the country. Jet airliners like vast metal birds flew overhead, and I watched the Apollo missions on TV. Now we know that new solutions give rise to new problems, but to this child it seemed that only challenge and wonder was in store. I read comics and watched films and programmes on television which showed the marvellous buildings and world of the future, and I thought that one day I should see them and live in that world. Sometimes I fee

Nice Person

An American reviewer has give a five star rating to my Kindle collection The Glyphs . I am very pleased.  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.

Authors at the BBC Archive

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The BBC has a huge catalogue of interviews conducted for radio and television down the decades. I've been poking around in the archived items and so far haven't found any major revelations for fans of supernatural fiction. But there are a lot of interviews with authors whose work will be known to fans of the weird, the Gothic, and the fantastic. Here are a few links, but there are many more to be stumbled upon, I'm sure. Daphne du Maurier  (1971) takes you on a tour of her Cornish home. T.H. White  (1959) discusses Arthurian legends and folk tradition. J.R.R. Tolkien  (1968) talks about his life in Oxford and his immensely successful books. Philip Pullman  (2001) is also interviewed in Oxford about his immensely successful etc. Elizabeth Bowen discusses the importance of character in fiction (1956).

Damned Rite: Melt

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When I was a lad a seismic shift occurred in British horror fiction. For years the only living author of horror stories everyone heard of was Dennis Wheatley. Then, as the mid-Seventies became the late-Seventies, James Herbert burst onto the scene. It's not easy for anyone under fifty to grasp how important Herbert was - he wrote horror that was not encumbered by the paraphernalia of snobbery. While Wheatley's world was aristocratic, replete with country houses and titled savants Herbert's was democratic, inhabited by career journalists, photographers, detectives - regular blokes, more or less. Herbert also created a new format for the horror novel, one in which multiple perspectives are offered to the reader as a series of (usually very violent) events unfold. Wheatley's approach had been that of the old-school ghost story writ large, in which a small group of upper-crust characters navigate the dark waters of the occult. Herbert routinely produced a cast of chara

Supernatural Tales 30

I'm pleased to be able to announce the full list of contents for the Autumn issue, which will also be the thirtieth ST. Very few small-circulation short story magazines survive for thirty issues, and I'm delighted to have such a stellar line-up to mark the occasion. So here are the authors and the titles of their stories in alphabetical order: Steve Duffy - 'Even Clean Hands Can Do Damage' Adam Golaski - 'Wild Dogs' Helen Grant - '30' Michael Kelly - 'Tears from An Eyeless Face' Lynda E. Rucker - 'An Element of Blank' Mark Valentine - 'Vain Shadows Flee' 

Manuscript Critiques for Novice Writers

I'm offering a service that might help aspiring short story writers polish up their work. See here  for details.

The Big Three-O

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The thirties issue of Supernatural Tales is heaving into view, or taking shape on the slipway, or being fuelled preparatory to lift-offs - feel free to use your own image. But it's definitely coming, and it's a special issue. I went out like an optimistic fool and asked a few of the writers who've contributed to ST over the last decade and a half to contribute. As a result the Supernatural Tales 30 will contain a broad range of fiction from authors from all 'eras' of the magazine. So there's a story from Steve Duffy, who graced the very first issue, and the ST d├ębut from Mark Valentine which constitutes a tribute to the late Joel Lane, who was very supportive of ST in its early years. Expect further announcements in the next month or so as contents are finalised. Oh, and there's a cracking bit of cover art from Sam Dawson that goes rather well with a story that features a mysterious room, a series of tragic events, and a family with the implausible name

Back Shuck on the Wireless

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The Charles Parker Prize is awarded every year for the best student radio feature. The latest prize went to a short documentary about one of the most famous supernatural entities in English folklore - Black Shuck . You can hear the entire radio show here  on the iPlayer. The documentary 'Back Shuck - Hellhound of the East takes up the last twenty minutes of the show. Black Shuck's finest hour, so to speak, took place back in 1577 when he appeared in a church at Bungay and munched on some parishioners. He then telepored a few miles to Blytheborurgh and committed more mayhem. Other accounts suggest the dog is a portent of death, or simply wanders about scaring people, or is even benevolent to lone travellers, especially women. This may just be because people are describing, y'know, dogs. But the radio show is well worth a listen. I think it captures in a short space the essence of folklore, with its mixture of history, anecdote, humour, fear, and enduring mystery.

A sense of wrongness?

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For reasons best known to my brain, I've been thinking about films/TV shows that just don't fit the standard pattern. They're not necessarily bad, just somehow 'not right'. They don't quite fit the accepted pattern and this can be rather jarring, even if script, performance, visuals etc are good. Examples so far are Fulci's THE BLACK CAT (giallo set in England with a multinational cast), and Stephen Weeks' 1974 film GHOST STORY (filmed in India but set in England, starring Marianne Faithful). Oh, and there's the obscure pilot for a BBC Lovecraftian drama starring Paul Darrow from Blake's 7. Any others spring to mind? Or am I being obscure/weird above and beyond?

The Shirley Jackson Awards

Congratulations to Simon Strantzas, whose collection Burnt Black Suns has been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. My review of it is here . Congratulations also to Michael Kelly, whose Shadows and Tall Trees has been nominated in the anthology category. Full list of award nominees is on the SJA website  here .

The Sea of Blood - Review

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“Reggie Oliver, quite possibly our finest modern writer of spectral tales.” Ramsey Campbell “…by miles, the best living exponent of the spooky yarn,” Barry Humphries “I envy anyone who has yet to discover the elegant work of Reggie Oliver.. Some of the most powerful stories.. clearly show him moving beyond genre, addressing human relations with the heartbreaking power of a V. S. Pritchett, or William Trevor.”  Michael Dirda,  The Washington Post Sometimes one wonders if a review might not be a tad superfluous, but here goes... I first became aware of Reggie Oliver's work when ST was newly launched onto the turbulent seas of marginal genre publishing. I was very lucky when he submitted a story, 'Beside the Shrill Sea', which duly appeared in ST's fourth issue. It was his first published story and is also the first in this book , which gathers works from the author's six collections. It thus offers an excellent introduction to the fiction of a very

Update on The Glyphs

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As of this morning this collection of my stories was riding high at '#142,004 Paid in Kindle Store'! Eat your heard out, E.L. James! Thanks to everyone who downloaded it, free or paid for, and I hope you enjoy the stories. If you're not sure whether it's your cup of tea you can always download a free sample to read the first ten pages or so. This will at least demonstrate that there are words, many in the right order. And remember that dozens of issues of ST are also available to Kindlers, all quite reasonably priced (I think) at £0.99.

Dark Floors (2008)

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Last night I watched the most expensive Finnish horror movie ever made. If you're not sure how to react to that, imagine how I feel. Dark Floors stems directly from the victory of the flamboyant Finnish metal band Lordi in the Eurovision Song Contest. Surfing a (smallish) wave of international fame the rockers got enough financial backing for a fairly modest production, in which they appear as ghostly/monstrous entities. A writer credit goes to Mr. Lordi, the make-up and prosthesis expert who fronts the band. The film was shot entirely in Finland with ordinary folk playing extras. Amputees were asked to volunteer to portray zombies, possibly the first such casting decision since Michael Winner's The Sentinel. On imdb the directing credits include the name Alan Smithee. Oh, and it was written in Finnish then translated into English to give the movie an international market. If this sounds like a truly terrible, misguided, Eurotrash vanity project, well... Maybe it is. A bi

Witch's Cradle

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The Green Book

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The Swan River Press over in Dublin's fair city publishes a fine journal dedicated to Irish Gothic, supernatural and generally weird fiction. The latest issue has (for me, at any rate) a bumper bundle of interesting items. Contents "Editor's Note" Brian J. Showers "Fitz-James O'Brien: The Seen and the Unseen" by Kevin Corstorphine "A Story-teller: Stevenson on Le Fanu" Richard Dury "Arthur Machen and J.S. Le Fanu" James Machin "Shape-shifting Dracula: The Abridged Edition of 1901" Elizabeth Miller "An Interview with Mervyn Wall" Gordon Henderson "Reviews" Digby Rumsey’s Shooting for the Butler (Martin Andersson) Wireless Mystery Theatre’s Green Tea (Jim Rockhill) Dara Downey’s American Women’s Ghost Stories in the Gilded Age (Maria Giakaniki) J.S. Le Fanu’s Reminiscences of a Bachelor (Robert Lloyd Parry) Charlotte Riddell’s A Struggle for Fame (Jarlath Killeen) Karl Whitney

There's a Buddhist Hell Theme Park...

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It's in Thailand and, depending on your viewpoint, the exhibits are either horrifying or hilarious. Maybe a bit of both. I've chosen to use some of the less extreme examples from the Movie Pilot article. But if you want to see a man having his enormous testicles attacked by dogs, by all means click on the link. So, among the attractions, there's climbing a cactus while naked... Being impaled - fun for the kiddies! No real clue about this one. Apparently the idea of this theme park is to raise money for Buddhist monks. I know - why can't they just brew some nice liqueurs for sale to tourists, like sensible Western monks? This is a prime example of what not drinking can do to you.

Inside No. 9

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The second series of this excellent show by League of Gentlemen stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton is as enjoyable as the first. What the dynamic duo have done is re-invent the old anthology thriller/horror series as grotesque but oddly charming comedy. It's currently available to watch on the BBC iPlayer . It's a pity that we only get six shows at a time instead of the much longer runs of earlier anthology series, but the basic format is traditional enough. Each time we get half an hour to watch the antics of a group of characters who are, in some sense, inside No. 9. The number in question may relate to a house, apartment, hotel room, railways sleeping car, or whatever. But the story always features a clever build up and a twist of some sort. This may sound formulaic - well, comedy is inherently formulaic, when you think about it. But what Shearsmith and Pemberton manage to do every time is offer a different setting and atmosphere while staying true to a simple pr