Sunday 27 December 2020

Scare Street Submissions Guidelines

Scare Street, the firm that publishes most of my stuff, is looking for new talent. Raw talent. Hairy talent. well maybe not hairy, but you get the general idea - anyone with new tales of the supernatural and related spookery or horror may find a market at the Street of Scares. Here are the guidelines - read them carefully, deadline is January 11th, midnight EST. Here's the first bit of the guidelines to give you some idea of what's required:

Scare Street is accepting submissions for short horror stories with a focus on ghosts, the supernatural, paranormal, monsters, and dark tales.

Unpublished short stories must be 3,000-7,000 words and will be included in our Night Terrors anthologies consisting of ~65,000 words each. These stories will be published in e-book, print, and audio formats in English within 6 months after the submissions close date. Based on reader reception, we may also publish them in e-book, print, and audio formats in German and Spanish.

A Strange Christmas Game | A Ghost Story by Charlotte Riddell | Full Aud...

Sunday 20 December 2020

The Death Spancel and Others - Running Review Part 2

It occurs to me that I didn't give much biographical information in the first part of this review. So here goes:

Katherine Tynan (1859-1931) was an early supporter of women's suffrage, an Irish nationalist, a devout Catholic, and in 1893 she married an Englishman, Henry Hinkson. The couple lived in London for a while, then moved to County Mayo in 1912. Henry, who earned a meagre stipend as a magistrate, died in 1919, leaving Katherine dependent upon her writing to provide for her three children. A prolific and popular popular novelist, she achieved much critical praise for her poetry, which made her a significant figure in the Irish literary revival of that period. 

On to the middle bit of a very enjoyable collection of what might loosely be termed Gothic Tales. And I find an interesting example of great minds thinking alike. 'A Sentence of Death' bears a strong resemblance to E.F. Benson's tale 'The Bus Conductor'. 

Sunday 13 December 2020

Paranormal - Egyptian Supernatural Horror

There have never been so many genre TV series. Horror, science fiction, and fantasy - we're up to necks in the stuff. Thanks to the onslaught of streaming services like Netflix,  Amazon Prime, Hulu, and myriad others, there is a voracious demand for content and a lot of money being thrown at producers in many a country. The result is a deluge of stuff that is, inevitably, variable in content, but often interesting.

Which beings me to the unpromisingly-titled Paranormal, an Egyptian Netflix series based on a series of books by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik. It consists of six hour-long episodes. The story is set in Cairo the late Sixties, with Nasser still running Egypt and the ever-present threat of air attack by an unnamed enemy. The main character is an improbable hero, Refaat Ismail (Ahmed Amin) a professor of haematology at Cairo's university. He is a morose, bespectacled chap with a receding hairline. And yet he becomes - in spite of himself - a champion of light against darkness as he battles a series of supernatural threats.

Thursday 10 December 2020

The Death Spancel and Others - Running Review Part 1

Having praised the cover, what of the book? Well, I'm around 50 pages into The Death Spancel and I'm enjoying it. As the collections contains a lot of quite short stories plus some poems, I thought I'd review it in sections rather than one tale at a time.

Sometimes I skip introductions, but in this case that would be foolish as Peter Bell offers his thoughts on the author, putting her in context and explaining why her ghost stories have remained unconnected until now. The late Richard Dalby was working on assembling Katherine Tynan's weird fiction but sadly died before he could bring the project to fruition. Finding her supernatural tales was not easy because they were originally published in periodicals, then assembled into collections long out of print. 

Sometimes, of course, an obscure author is justly neglected. But in Katherine Tynan's case this is not the case. Her fiction is of a high standard, crafted in relatively simple yet still lyrical prose. Her stories draw upon Irish folk traditions and sometimes have a straight moral (she was a nationalist and a devout Catholic) but more often there is a sense of loss and/or wonder, very redolent of the Celtic Twilight. Her vignettes often concern women who are hard done by stand apart from the mainstream, and it's hard not to see the author revealing something of herself here.

The death of women in childbirth is a recurring theme in Victorian fiction and Tynan rings the changes on this powerful theme. It's easy to forget what a mixed blessing pregnancy was. Every woman knew that being in 'an interesting condition' could be a death sentence. Doctors did not wash their hands, there were no antibiotics, and there was no blood transfusion. 

Sunday 6 December 2020


Not strictly speaking a supernatural tale by any means, but fascinating because of its role in the rise of British horror. In 1954 the BBC screened a live performance of Nigel Kneale's adaptation of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The reaction was spectacular. Here you can see clips of Kneale and his collaborator, Rudolf Cartier, talk about the show, along with the stars. Peter Cushing nails it by saying the story would have had much less impact if it had been set in a foreign country. 

Thursday 3 December 2020

Beautiful New Book!

The Swan River Press have kindly sent me a review copy of a rather lovely volume. The Death Spancel and Others is a collection by Katherine Tynan, a name I was vaguely aware of. Here's a brief biog:

Katharine Tynan (1859-1931) was born in Dublin and raised at Whitehall, the family home in Clondalkin. Her literary salon there attracted notables such as W. B. Yeats, with whom she formed a lifelong friendship. Tynan became a prolific writer, authoring more than a hundred novels in addition to memoirs and numerous volumes of poetry. Her works deal with feminism, Catholicism, and nationalism — Yeats declared of her early collection Shamrocks (1887) that “in finding her nationality, she has also found herself”.

This looks very interesting - anyone praised by Yeats must have something going for them, I feel. Also, the book has a wonderful cover.

This very stylish cover image is by Brian Coldrick, evoking the Celtic Twilight (I assume). If the contents are half as good as the artwork I will be well pleased. 

Oh, and I've no idea what a spancel is. But I intend to find out.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

The Curse of Yig - Dark Adventure Radio Theater


What mysterious and eldritch item recently dropped through my cursed letterbox, and onto my blasphemous doormat? Yes, it's a bit of Lovecraftiana, in this case a dramatisation of 'The Curse of Yig', one of old Howie's many collaborations. Zealia Bishop's tale, as worked over by Lovecraft, is a cracking bit of American frontier horror, and here the HPLHS gang have done a fine job in evoking the weirdness of the premise.

The story begins with a student approaching the boss of an asylum about a patient who is kept segregated in a locked room, attended to only by a handful of trusted staff. The key to the patient's bizarre and disturbing condition is the legend of Yig, a snake-god of a now extinct tribe. We move back in time to 1889 and the innocent migrants moving into the Oklahoma territory. It's an absorbing tale that shows how well you can do horror in a Wild West setting.

As well as a drama of over an hour (which can simply be downloaded at a reasonable price), the CD comes with a folder of historical documents. These include a map of the territory, a poster, pages from a period newspaper, and so on. They make for an attractive package, showing yet again that this kind of fan product can be professional and thought-provoking. 

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...