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Showing posts from June, 2016

The Living and the Dead - BBC 2016

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Well, that was quite a ride. Stones! And the Old Ways are by no means past... This six part BBC series, made partly in conjunction with BBC America, is certainly one of the most ambitious and successful examples of folk horror. It was created by Ashley Pharaoh, whose previous achievements include Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars. Ingredients are as follows: Attractive cast, with two eye-candy leads and a ton of old-school Brit supporting talent, including excellent child actors. Visually beautiful - this is Hardy's Wessex turned even more dangerous and cruel than the man himself imagined it, an English landscape replete with beauty, pregnant with death. At its best TLATD looks like a wonderful arty Euro-film without ever becoming one. All credit to the hard-working team who must have slaved round the clock for some of these brief scenes. Interesting plotting keeps your attention, with nothing simply shoved in there for effect. Characters behave as they would, and are

Wormwood 1

Those lovely fellow mortals at Tartarus Press have republished the first issue of Wormwood, an excellent journal devoted to all things weird and wondrous. Here is their press release, because I'm a bit tired and would rather cut and paste. Dear All, We are pleased to announce that we have reprinted Wormwood 1 . This inaugural issue of our journal devoted to fantastic, supernatural and decadent literature contains the following: 'Gustav Meyrink: The Monster-Magician in Kafka’s Shadow' by Adam Daly'The Heroic Hereafter: Explaining Eddison' by Jonathan Preece'Ernest Bramah: A Challenge to the Biographer' by William Charlton'A Very Real Presence: Dame Muriel Spark, Briefly Interviewed''The Ninefold Kingdom and Others: Four Fictional Visions of the Political Future' by John Howard'Everything Ends in a Greater Blackness: Some Remarks on the Fiction of Thomas Ligotti' by Mark Samuels'The Decadent World-View' by Brian Stableford&#

The Living and the Dead - Episode 1

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The title is the only dull thing about it. This new BBC series has the following synopsis. 'A brilliant young couple inherit the farm and are determined to start a new life together. But their presence in this isolated corner of England starts to unleash strange, unsettling and dangerous supernatural phenomena that will start to threaten their marriage.' This doesn't state a few very important points. Firstly, we're in Victorian England, rural Somerset to be precise, in the age when steam power is still relatively new but photography is well-established and both psychology and Spiritualism are capturing the public's imagination. Light is provided by the sun in the daytime and candles or lamps at night. This is significant because director Alice Troughton makes excellent use of light and shade, offering a number of deeply Gothic images but also scenes of rural life - especially ploughing and harvesting - that recall adaptations of Hardy novels. (There's even

Happy Solstice! (Don't Sacrifice Anybody, It's All Down To Impersonal Physical Laws)

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I like some of these words very much. 'Sunstay' is excellent. Isn't English generally great at stuff like words? Trying to think positive thoughts about England.

Sentinels - now available in paperback and ebook formats

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My novella Sentinels, a homage* to M.R. James, is available here if you like that sort of thing. I don't normally refer to 'real world' stuff here, but the launch of my first book doesn't feel like a big deal. Not compared to the terrible things happening to good people in the name of bigotry and ignorance. Still, anyone feeling the need for a bit of light escapism might like it, I suppose. Update - here I am reading an extract from the book, possibly with the opposite of the desired effect, who knows? *'homage' in this context means "If he was still alive I'd need a very good lawyer."

Spirit Paintings

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Here's a fascinating piece on a Victorian artist who may have been the first abstract painter. Georgiana Houghton is almost unknown today, but in her time she was a sensation because she claimed to be producing new work by famous dead painters. Not surprisingly, some suggest that this was a mental trick she played on herself to 'justify' a woman pushing the boundaries of art. See what you think.

'Vain Shadows Flee' included in Best British Short Stories 2016

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The special thirtieth issue of ST is the gift that keeps on giving. I'm very proud that it has spawned such a fine collection of award nominees and 'Best Of' inclusions. The latest accolade is for Mark Valentine's tribute to the late Joel Lane. 'Vain Shadows Flee' has been included by Nicholas Royle in his anthology Best Short Stories 2016 , from Salt. Congratulations to Mark for an accolade that, I think, is a little belated, as he's been writing finely-crafted short fiction for quite a while now. And of course if you want to read the story you don't have to buy the anthology, because ST 30 is still available, hint, hint...

Lost Hearts and Sleepless Nights

Up-and-coming author Chloe N. Clark has an interesting article about M.R. James and the influence he exerted over her younger self. James is, among many things, one of the finest ghost story writers of all time. His ability to slowly raise dread and create truly horrific depictions in a few pages is, for the most part, unrivaled. When I lecture about horror, which I’m wont to do in front of classrooms, I usually make the argument that there are essentially two ways to make truly effective horror: through dread and through awe. Awe-based horror is the essential feeling of something otherworldly or “wrong.” Dread-based horror is, just as it sounds, the slow building of tension that creates a mounting feeling of dread or terror. Most good horror, in my opinion, does one or the other of these (if not, sometimes, both). James often managed to convey both of these kind of horrors.

PAGAN TRIPTYCH - Review

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When I learned that Sarob Press were going to issue a book consisting of three novellas paying homage to Algernon Blackwood (following the success of their Machen tribute, Romances of the the White Day ) I was pleased. But I also wondered which Blackwood they would pay homage to? Because in a very long career Blackwood did write a lot of stories and novels, and while there are certain common ideas in his work,  he did range more widely than, say, Machen or M.R. James. I'm pleased to report that in Pagan Triptych Ron Weighell, John Howard, and Mark Valentine do indeed explore different aspects of Blackwood's legacy. In the first novella, 'The Letter Killeth', Weighell explores the world of arcane knowledge and shadowy conflict between occult forces. A sinister figure (something of a Karswell, in fact) demands to view a collection of unusual items bequeathed to a college. A polite refusal leads to a curse and attempts to protect the innocent family targeted lead into s

Forthcoming Books

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The first book in this series of three linked (but can be read as standalone) novellas is now available on Amazon for Kindle, print edition to follow shortly.

Lovecraft Tarot

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Over on the fascinating DevianArt site, a person going by the name of Tillinghast23 has produced much of interest (to me, and I'm sure to many others). Their art is mostly monochrome and marvellous. There's a Lovecraft Tarot that's great fun.

Quatermass!

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"London calling!" One of the best TV shows of all time seems to be on the way back. (Skip down to the link if you know all this stuff already.) Quatermass began on nascent BBC television in 1953 and ran  to three serials (not series) in the Fifties. Each serial was divided into six episodes of just over thirty minutes each. The scripts were by the Manx writer Nigel Kneale, whose first and only collection of short stories won a prestigious literary award before he moved on to radio work, then television. Kneale summed up the first three 'classic' serials in terms of how we encounter some other, arguably superior, alien life form: 'We go to them, they come to us, they've always been here'. Simple, as good ideas often are. Each serial was adapted as a movie by Hammer and the first, The Quatermass Xperiment, essentially launched Hammer horror as it was to become known. The third movie adaptation, Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is one of the best Hammer

Huldra

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Here  is an entertaining and informative article on huldras, the mysterious and often seductive tailed folk of Scandi forests. The huldra is described as a beautiful woman with a tail that sometimes peeps out from under her peasant attire, but sometimes she's just full-on naked and lures unwary Nordic chaps to what may be their doom. However, as with all such beings there are many and varied ways in which they are said to interact with us mortals. Some huldra or huldrekarl are inherently deceptive and evil, but many respond to the treatment they receive. If treated kindly, they have been known to use their magic to help humans and solve their problems. If treated unkindly, they can be hateful and vengeful. Much like any other being in the world. The forest huldras were held to be kind to colliers (wood burners that make charcoal) and watched their charcoal kilns while they rested. The colliers knew that she would wake them if there were any problems. This allowed the to slee

John Carpenter on Eighties Horror

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Spoiler alert - he thought most of it wasn't very good. You can see his interview at Terror Time . Here are some choice quotes. “One springs from an organic idea and has a truly artist’s eye working.” He continued on, comparing Friday The 13th and Texas Chainsaw “And Friday the 13th, I feel, affects me as very cynical. It’s very cynical moviemaking. It just doesn’t rise above its cheapness. I think the reason that all these slasher movies came in the ’80s was a lot of folks said ‘look at that Halloween movie. It was made for peanuts, and look at the money it’s made! We can make money like that. That’s what the teenagers want to see.’ So they just started making them, cranking them out…most of them were awful.” Of course 'most of them were awful' is a verdict that can readily be offered on almost any decades genre offerings. But I do think he has a point about the Eighties. Very few of the horror movies of that period have worn well. Yet much of the science fiction has