Tuesday 31 May 2016

Fairies Destroy Greenbelt

Well, sort of. It seems that in the lovely English county of Somerset there's a problem with fairies, elves, pixies, good folk, or (if you're C.S. Lewis) the 'longaevi' - it means longlivers. However long they may live, the problem is that in recent years the Somerset fairies have abandoned the classic mini-hill fort architectural stylings of their ancestors in favour of something tackier.
Volunteers managing Wayford Woods in the Somerset village of Wayford, near Crewkerne, acted after being overwhelmed by more than 100 fairy doors that had mysteriously appeared at the bases of their beech, ash and oak trees. 
Sometimes tiny doll’s house chairs and beds would be found behind the doors, and delighted children would flock from far and wide to leave notes for the fairies – reassuring them that they believed they exist, and asking them to grant wishes.
All very well, but as someone observed, 'it has all gone mad on the internet'.
“Last year,” said Ms Acreman, “an entire fairy playground appeared at the bottom of the woods, complete with 2ft slides and swings. Some doors are far from the paths, so when children go to see them, the bluebells get trampled.”
I am against trampling bluebells. I think the fairies in Somerset need to get their act together and start enchanting peasants, abducting passing blokes, inspiring weird painters, and generally act in accordance with their traditional values. This consumerist outburst in Faerie is just as ludicrous as it is in the world of us larger folk. If the fey folk are expecting their property values to go up indefinitely they're more confused than Tam Lyn. It will only take one good storm to bring them down, in many cases quite literally.

C.S. Lewis at his desk
C.S. Lewis. In his excellent book Discarded Image he does not mention fairy soft-play areas, decking, or conservatories

Thursday 26 May 2016

Joe Dante v. Hollywood

This interview might be of interest to movie lovers. Joe Dante made some excellent and charming movies after cutting his cinematic teeth making trailers for Roger Corman. Like many people he's baffled by the way creative control is routinely wrenched away from directors by studio execs.
It’s hard enough to make a movie when you’re all on the same page. But when you suddenly discover in the middle of the movie that now they’ve decided that it shouldn’t be what they thought it was about, it should be about this … that’s a recipe for disaster.
I agree with him about this, too.
I’m a James Whale student. His Universal Horror pictures were on TV when I was a kid. And a movie like The Invisible Man, the Invisible Man is throwing ink at people and being crazy and silly at one point, and then beating them to death with a stool in another moment. And it’s a dichotomy—because horror movies are essentially absurd anyway. The audience is always looking for something to laugh at, and if you give it to them, then they relax and then you can really scare them. But I always liked genres that cross.

And I second this endorsement.
There’s a movie called Idiocracy that Mike Judge made a couple of years ago, which came out to no particular notice, because the studio hated it and they buried it, but it has come true. It’s a predictive comedy about how awful the future’s going to be, and so many aspects of this movie have actually taken place, and are actually happening as we speak, that it’s almost not funny.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

The Sentinels

Hi guys. I have a short horror novel coming out next month from an American publisher (so it's edited for American spelling, idioms etc). They are willing to provide e-books to reviewers. If you are American/Canadian they are particularly keen to have you review it as that's their target market, but anyone can have a go. So, please let me know if you'd like an e-book in return for the promise of a review.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Muladona, by Eric Stener Carlson

Tartarus Press sent me an e-book of this novel to review. I'm glad they did, as it's a brilliant work of American Gothic supernatural horror.

Muladona is set in the small east Texas town of Incarnation in 1918. The Great War is coming to an end and the Spanish Flu epidemic is taking hold. Widespread disruption leaves the narrator, 13-year-old Verge Strömberg, to fend for himself at home in a town where people are dying like flies. Then he receives word that a terrifying creature from Mexican/Indian folkore is coming to kill him and drag him to Hell. According to folklore the Muladona is a fire-breathing winged mule by night and transforms into an ordinary (but sinful) woman by day.

If that sounds improbable, Carlson makes it very believable by presenting us with a world in which the supernatural intertwines with the everyday. If I had to categorise Muladona I'd put it somewhere between Ray Bradbury and Mark Twain, with a distinct touch of Rod Serling and a dash of Ambrose Bierce. It's world is that of often cruel life in the deserts on the southern frontier of the US at a time when bigotry against 'natives' and Mexicans was not merely tolerated but respectable.

It's also a magical world in which young Verge, confined to bed for much of his life, enjoys the works of Victorian authors like Stevenson, Verne, and Wells. He also hears the tales of the people of Incarnation, an old gold-mining town recolonised by a group of fiercely Protestant Swedes, led by his Verge's overbearing grandfather. There's a compelling, prolonged clash between the earthy but humane values of the locals and the austere, hypocritical ways of the incomers that proves central to the story.

As well as a strong central narrative, this is also a story about telling stories. Verge finds a way to protect himself from the Muladona for a while by hiding under the bed sheets (sound familiar?), but the creature torments him, night after night, by telling him scary stories. These tales become ever more disturbing and personal as his allotted time runs out and he must do the one thing that will defeat the monster - guess it's true name.

The stories within the novel are all first-rate, and show the author's great versatility. One particularly impressive tale is a neat variation on 'The Venus of Ile' by Merimee. Another is a futuristic story of science misused to control 'naughty' children that's truly nightmarish. All explore the themes of exploitation and violence that underpin the creation of American society, and it's interesting that (without giving too much away) Carlson here rejects the American dream in its narrow 'Trumpian' sense.

None of which conveys the essential quality of the book, which is not a thesis or a lecture. It is more of a boy's fever-dream recollected in old age by a man who has lived life to the full. We know Verge survives, albeit with scars, because this is his first-person recollection. Yet the Muladona is still far more menacing than most horror monsters, and the revelation of its true identity is deeply shocking but artistically right.

Eric Stener Carlson is a new writer to me, but on the strength of this book I'd say he was a first-rate author of supernatural fiction. He mines deep in the old tradition, but makes something rich and new, and his prose is admirably clear. I'll be seeking out more of his work.

Saturday 21 May 2016

ST 31 Poll Nears Its Terrifying End

Well, with less than 48 hours to go it looks like Tim Foley is going to run away with the amazing prize of £25 (which, at current exchange rates, is worth less than ever before)! If you haven't already voted, why the heck not? It's free and harmless.


It's over! And Tim Foley's elegiac story of lost hopes and dreams won by a clear margin. With luck Tim will have received his generous cash prize by now and should be able to afford an extra pair of socks, depending on exchange rates.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Where Wolf? There Wolf!

We all know the story. Two young American guys on holiday are hiking across the Yorkshire moors. They hear a spine-chilling howl, and take refuge in a pub inhabited by familiar British stereotypes, especially Brian Glover...

No, hang on, that's a film.

The real legend is the beast they call...

Old Stinker!

Really? That's the best the county that gave us Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Geoff Boycott could come up with? Oh well.

Anyway, there's a list of links to Yorkshire/Humberside werewolf reports here.

Always keen to fill in some historical context, the Yorkshire Daily Mail writes:
The area's problem was recognised in AD 937, when King Athelstan granted the building of a hostel to provide travellers with shelter from these attacks. 
Anyone on the road through would have been particularly wary of Wolf-monath – the Saxon name for January – when the creatures, starved of the easy-pickings of livestock, would turn on human prey.
Holy flip! It's all happening in Bronte and/or Philip Larkin country.

Nina Paley - Sita Sings the Blues

I think I mentioned this wonderful feature-length animation based on the Ramayana when it came our years ago, but I just thought I'd mention it again, m'kay? It's free to watch online on many platforms, as its creator decided to give it to the world. That's very generous of her. Here are a couple of clips.

Beautiful stuff, and proof that art flourishes both because of and despite this crass world we endure, as usual.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

'Rubies and Diamonds', written and read by Tina Rath

When I started publishing ST I was fortunate to receive some of the witty, erudite tales of Tina Rath to help give the magazine a touch of class. She created a new type of narrator, a small chimaera that lives in the wardrobe of a jobbing actress and pays his rent by telling her stories. Now Tina has put a reading of one story on YouTube, so here it is!

You can find Tina's collection here.

Saturday 14 May 2016

Seances by Guy Maddin

Yes, Guy Maddin, Canada's answer to the question 'Aren't there any weird Canadians?', has done it again. His take on Dracula is well worth seeing, but then all his movies are rich and strange. Now he's made an online movie that's never the same twice. Don't ask me how, it just shuffles things like intertitles and scenes. It's 15-20 mins.

Check it out here.

You Come Here For Comedy Gold - I Deliver

Friday 13 May 2016

The Enduring Legacy of the Twilight Zone

Here is an excellent article (h/t Steve Duffy) about why the success of TTZ didn't prompt a slew of similarly good series. It is, it seems, mostly down to commercial pressures on US networks. Rod Serling, one of the true legends of weird fiction in the 20th century, ended up doing commercials for almost everything, including cigarettes, the product that eventually killed him.
Television now demanded celebrity, not literary ability — probably the main reason Serling shifted from scriptwriting to shilling, lending his distinctive persona to the makers of toothpaste and beer and many other products.
The article is also good on the censorship that went along with the power of sponsorship. Trying to deal with racism was asking for trouble when so many white American viewers were racist.
“From experience, I can tell you that drama, at least in television, must walk tiptoe and in agony lest it offend some cereal buyer from a given state below the Mason-Dixon.”
Good job the US outgrew all that nonsense. Fortunately, thanks to the power of the DVD and online streaming, people today can enjoy Serling's work (and that of writers like Matheson, Bloch, and Beaumont) without the cereal commercials. Brian Murray's article is a good longer read, full of praise for Serling. The man was not without his flaws, but he deserves to be called great because he was well aware of his failings and went ahead and tried to make a work of art anyway. He was sentimental, but so was Dickens. He wrote an awful lot of stuff, not all of it good, but so did Shakespeare. He could moralise to Olympic standard, but so could Mark Twain.

And perhaps his view of television as a genuine art form has been vindicated. I well recall that 'in 1976, just a year after Serling’s death, several of the most popular network shows were, in effect, comic strips — The Six Million Dollar Man,The Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels'. The Seventies is often recalled as a golden age of British television by older folk like me. But I'm sure that in part this is because American shows the BBC and ITV bought in were often terrible. Nothing as well-written as I, Claudius or Porridge arrived from the States back then.

Now things are not so clear-cut, and technology has to some extent liberated a new generation of Serlings offering 'high-quality scripted series distributed by cable channels and streaming companies — dramas of a scope that the movies cannot hope to match, shows that viewers can binge-watch at home on giant screens'. Futuristic stuff! No longer merely a possibility in The Twilight Zone.


The Shining - 1980

Whistle and I'll Come To You - 1968

Duel - 1971

Jason Shulman, the guy who takes photos of films, is here.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Photographs of Films

Films are a series of millions of photographs, aren't they? At least, that's what I was told. But what if you took a long exposure photo of a film? Well, some guy has done it with some films and the results are interesting.

See if you can guess  which films these are photos of. All are supernatural/horror movies, though one was made for BBC TV.

An adaptation of a best-selling novel by a major horror author

An adaptation of a famous ghost story

A horror road movie, scripted by a Twilight Zone writer

Answers tomorrow! And a link to the guy who makes these intriguing photos.

Monday 9 May 2016

The Loney Scoops A Big Prize

Andrew Michael Hurley's debut novel, The Loney, which I reviewed here, has just won a prestigious award.
Andrew Michael Hurley’s slice of Lancashire-set gothic horror The Loney has beaten some of the year’s biggest-hitting novels to be named book of the year at the British Book Industry awards... 
First published in a limited print run of just 300 copies by independent publisher Tartarus Press, The Loney tells of a pilgrimage to the Lancashire coast, “that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune [where] the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents”. Word-of-mouth success with the small Yorkshire publisher meant it went on to be acquired by John Murray, and to win the Costa first novel award in January
The British Book Industry awards, for “books that have been both well-written and brilliantly published”, called The Loney a “true British success story”. “A debut novel suspended between literary gothic and supernatural horror, it was written by an unknown author in his 40s, who worked part-time for 10 years to be able to write,” said organisers of the awards, which are run by The Bookseller magazine. “[The Loney] quickly became the hot literary novel, with almost 100 times its original print run.”
Proof, if anyone still needs it, that Tartarus Press know what they're doing, and that there's always great new talent emerging in this genre. Well done, all!

Two Weeks To Go!

Yes, just one of the Earth fortnights left to vote in the poll for the best story in ST 31. At the moment Tim Foley's sad, lyrical 'The Sound of Children Playing' looks like romping home. But will that clear lead evaporate in the May sunshine? Remember, a prize of twenty-five English pounds is at stake, so get your voting irons out and click on the story you like best.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Underpass (2015)

I like this short horror movie, which was filmed in Chicago and features a soundtrack courtesy of NASA. Yes, NASA, check the credits. My only small criticism is that the end is a little too on the nose and does't quite belong in such a subtle work.

Friday 6 May 2016

Issue 33 - a quick look at the contents that are looming

It won't be out until August, but that's not going to stop me from dangling the next issue in front of your mind. Here are the whos and whats.

'Cutty Dyer' by Jane Jakeman

'The House Opposite' by Tim Foley

'Mum & Dad & The Girl from the Flats Over the Road & the Man in the Black Suit' by Tom Johnstone

'The Bronze Statuette' by Rosalie Parker

'One Is All They Need' by Sean Padraic McCarthy

'A Thing Like Rage' by Keith Coleman

'The Hill' by Sam Dawson 

As you can see we have some new writers, some familiar faces, and a record-breaking title from Tom Johnstone. I think it's a typically diverse issue, with styles and subject matters ranging from the traditional to the near-surreal. And that's how I like it!

Meanwhile, don't forget than awful lot of issues of ST can be purchased in print form or as eBooks. Just go to the Buy Supernatural Tales page by clicking the above tab. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Witch's Bottom

Sorry I've not been blogging much lately. I have been doing some other things, of which more in due course. In the meantime, here is a gratuitous picture of a supernatural posterior.

Monday 2 May 2016

Action, Jackson!

Steve Duffy's story 'Even Clean Hands Can Do Damage' from ST 30 has been nominated for the prestigious Shirley Jackson Award in the Novelette category. Well done to Steve - it's about time he won an award, having produced first rate supernatural fiction for decades now.

Full list of nominees is here.

And congratulations to ST alumna, if that's the word, Lynda E. Rucker for being nominated for the Short Fiction award for her story 'The Dying Season' in the excellent anthology Aickman's Heirs. Also to Steve Tem, whose In the Lovecraft Museum has been nominated in the Novella category.

Sunday 1 May 2016

ST 31 Poll - Three Weeks to Go!

Yes, just three of your Earth Weeks to decide on your favourite story in ST 31. Who will scoop the almost unbelievable £25 prize? I mean, that's 40 US dollars, people - riches beyond imagining (if you have a very limited imagination). Look over to the right, and you will see the clickable online poll. Vote!

Ju-On (Grudgey McGrudgeface) Fun!

Yes, life can be a bit dreary when you're an evil ghost whose only function is to destroy the sanity and then the persons of unwise interlopers. Fortunately Kayako and her Toshio know how to chillax during their downtime between horrific mind-shattering onslaughts. Like playing on the swings.

You can see more from this hilariously dysfunctional family's Instagram account here.

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...