Just a reminder that the only collection of Jacqueline Simpson's ghost stories in the world today is available as a special paperback via the Supernatural Tales page at Lulu.com. Go here to find a reasonably-priced volume of excellent tales from one of Britain's leading folklorists. Many, of course, fall into the M.R. Jamesian tradition, but there is quite a bit of variety. Several tale were previously published in Ghosts & Scholars and of course ST itself. Autumn approaches, and this book makes ideal reading for the darker nights!
Monday, 31 August 2020
Friday, 28 August 2020
Alfred, Lord Tennyson - he's a bit of a joke poet, isn't he? Maybe it's the combination of big hat, big beard, and cloak? Maybe it's the fact that he was Queen Victoria's favourite? Unlike Browning and Swinburne, he was not exactly an intellectual. And his works on King Arthur and related matters seemed, for much of the last century, to be tedious and backward looking. Auden claimed that Tennyson was the least intelligent of the major English poets. This seems to sum up the modernist viewpoint - that old Alfred was stodgy and dim. A landmark, certainly, but a dull one to be ticked off a list rather than visited for pleasure. Not what a poet aspires to be, of course, but what very many successful ones end up as.
When I was a lad Tennyson featured in a Monty Python skit as the author of the Charge of the Ant Brigade ('Half an inch, half an inch...') Galton and Simpson put the original 'Charge...' on the wall of Tony Hancock's house just so Tone could mock the repetitive verse. But, not unlike Arthur Pendragon himself, old Alfred did not lie down and die. Instead he drifted off to the mystical Isle of Anthologies, where he bided his time. And, quite recently, there's been a revival of interest in Tennyson, as the Victorian era gets reassessed to bugger yet again.
Which brings me to Cardinal Cox's latest pamphlet. In it, he interweaves scenes from the poet's life, imagery and ideas from his work, and descriptions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings Tennyson inspired. I was pleased to see no less an authority that Dr. Gail-Nina Anderson, art historian and expert on all things Gothic and Romantic, offered invaluable expertise on the works covered.
We begin with Alfred as a boy, lying in the Lincolnshire grass, daydreaming of kings and queens. The first painting is The Lady of Shalott by Holman Hunt, and I was intrigued to see how Cox sees it, if you catch my drift. The story of the picture interweaves with other stories, becomes part of a web as complex and fragile as the famous tapestry that suffers such catastrophic failure
After that we come to Waterhouse's painting of the same subject, and a different perspective. This one, you'll recall, shows poor Elaine of Astolat (as Malory styles her) floating downriver. The poem was mocked mercilessly for just this detail when it was first published. Tennyson invites mockery because of his sincerity, which can be a fatal flaw. But Cox rightly sees the power in the image of the dying woman, the stream, the fading song.
Tuesday, 25 August 2020
I am a huge fan of The X-Files and watch its best eps over and over (and over) again. Like most cult shows its stars and writers come together every now and again for conventions, but of course those are impossible nowadays. So instead they've all gotten together to do a charity event online. And quite the event it is - singing the theme tune for charity.
"But... but Mark Snow's classic theme tune has no lyrics."
It does now. Fans wrote them. But can Mulder and Scully sing? Can Skinner carry a tune? Will Agent Doggett get the hardest part? Let's fine out.
Monday, 24 August 2020
One of the best contemporary horror writers has finally been given the chance to shine between hard covers thanks to the perspicacity of one of our more distinguished small press publishers.
I am not, at present, able to divulge any more. But I will keep you informed as and when the book is imminent. Suffice to say a lot of the stories in it will have appeared in ST. I am chuffed.
We now return to our regular schedule of weirdness.
Saturday, 22 August 2020
Valentine Dyall, aka The Man in Black, presented a radio tale of terror for many years. (The black grab was later worn by none other than Mark Gatiss.) The script is based on the classic(?) by Bulwer-Lytton, 'The Haunters and the Haunted'. It's a classic haunted house mystery with Dyall as the psychic doctor. And there's a twist ending! Very creaky and nowhere near as good as Dead of Night (1945) but an interesting curiosity.
There were posted to a FB group on book art. They are from "The Willows and Other Queer Tales "
(Londra: Collins Clear-Type Press 1932).
Friday, 21 August 2020
Thursday, 20 August 2020
Wednesday, 19 August 2020
From Swan River Press in Dublin comes a short novel about England, or at least one set there. It is also set in that historical period older people (like me, nowadays) think of as 'between the wars'. This was the Silver Age of the ghost story, when M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and E.F. Benson were still active but the great burst of creativity that preceded the First World War had begun to fizzle out.
The title is word play - the story concerns a ghostly monk haunting the environs of an English abbey. Pulborough Abbey is a fine old historic building (not unlike the cathedral in de la Mare's 'All Hallows'), but the nearby village is tiny and backward. The arrival of the monkish ghost triggers a chain reaction among the locals and sends out ripples as far as London, from which a celebrated investigator, Walter Prince - dubbed 'Ghost-Finder General' by the tabloids - comes.
The blurb on the flyleaf sums up the feel of the book.'Peopled with richly drawn Dickensian grotesques and filled with bizarre and comical incident, Munky is as compelling as it is antic. Catling transports the reader to an interwar England in the throes of change. Part bizarre ghost story, part whimsical farce, part idiosyncratic literary experiment, it could be described as P. G. Wodehouse collaborating with Raymond Roussel, with a dash of M. R. James, if it weren’t so uniquely its own thing.'
Friday, 14 August 2020
I well remember the first time I saw the original version of The Ring (Ringu) on VHS, quite an experience given the haunted videotape theme. To me, the long-haired ghost Sadako was a novelty. But in Japan it seems such spirits are part of an ancient and still vital tradition. In this article you can read about Sadako and her close relatives.
And there are many others...
Fudakaeshi is notorious for its ability to persuade people to remove their protection charms against ghosts (fuda) and let vengeful spirits in. Fudakaeshi was firstly described in “Kyōka hyakumonogatari”—a collection of comical poems of the late Edō period about Japanese spirits. Being Yūrei themselves, Fudakaeshi can not touch or remove protective fuda, but by tempting or bribing foolish and greedy people, they achieve this goal and can attack their poor victims.h/t Steve Duffy
I'm quite excited because few people bother to review ST, hint hint. (I can offer free ebooks in mobi or epub formats, btw.) But over at Goodreads a nice chap called Bryan took up the task, and you can read his review here. He sums it all up thusly:
Well worth the read, the latest issue of Supernatural Tales showcases a talented group of authors whose work should satisfy both hardcore and casual fans of ghost stories.
We find you in a Haitian back streetWe find you crowned in gold where four roads meet
Fascinating and not at all slimy, this pamphlet is available to anyone who sends the Cardinal a C5 sae at his Gothic atelier:
He can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
Saturday, 8 August 2020
Monday, 3 August 2020
Saturday, 1 August 2020
This powerful and rather beautiful animation has a serious political purpose - if you wait until the end credits you'll see what it is. But if you know the history of WW2 and Japanese militarism you can probably guess well before that. I think it's good, and I hope you enjoy it.
The redoubtable New York editor Ellen Datlow has published her (very) long list of stories under consideration for her next anthology. The ...
I paused in my reading of this fascinating book to make a note of this remark by one key character: "When Hegel called Giordano Bruno &...