Wed, 15 February 2017 Respectable Horror

I’ve a story called ‘Spooky Girl’ in the next anthology by Fox Spirit, called Respectable Horror, which is edited by K.A. Laity.

The cover, by Stephanie Johnson, has just been revealed and it’s a corker.

The ToC is:

  • The Astartic Arcanum – Carol Borden
  • The Well Wisher – Matthew Pegg
  • The Little Beast – Octavia Cade
  • The Holy Hour – Chloë Yates
  • A Framework – Richard Barber
  • Malefactor – Austin Waller
  • The Estate of Edward Moorehouse – Ian Burdon
  • Spooky Girl – Maura McHugh
  • Full Tote Gods – Damien White
  • A Splash of Crimson – Catherine Lundoff
  • Where Demons Don’t Tread – Suzanne Willis
  • The Recovery – Edward Gauvin
  • Running a Few Errands – Su Haddrell
  • The Feet on the Roof – Anjana Basu
  • Miss Metcalf – Ivan Kershner
  • In These Rooms, These Houses – Jonathan Oliver
  • Those Who Can’t – Rosalind Mosis

The original brief for the anthology was:

“So we would like tales of civilised, gentle(wo)manly horror, cold, calculating and bloodless; spinechillers rather than slashers, enervating instead of eviscerating. Though a wee bit of the red stuff will not make us blanch, focus more on unshakeable dread. Make us afraid to investigate that noise downstairs. Cause us to shudder when we glimpse something move out of the corner of our eyes. Think Ann Radcliffe and the Gothics, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, M.R. James and even those modern folks like Shirley Jackson and Fritz Leiber.”

I had a lot of fun writing this story, and I suspect the protagonist of the tale will not stay quiescent for long. Further adventures beckon.

Tue, 14 February 2017 Let Love Rule

Happy Valentine's Day

I created this Valentine’s Day image today, from a photo I took recently.

Whatever you think about the commercial qualities of this ‘holiday’, take a moment to consider all the people who love you today. And let them know how much you value them.

And if you are feeling unloved, take this to be your Valentine’s Day card from the world.

Mon, 13 February 2017 Women In Horror Mixtape

Mark West asked me to contribute to his Women In Horror Mixtape, the third in his series of recommended works, which was scheduled to be part of the Women in Horror Month celebrations.

This time I picked ‘Red as Blood’ by Tanith Lee. Partly it’s a tribute to the history of fairy tales, which have always been part of the horror tradition, and Lee’s version of ‘Snow White’ is a beautiful, complex re-imagining of the story.

But it’s also to recognise the importance of writers like Lee who were trailblazing for women in horror long before that was an acceptable genre for women to populate. She, and other writers like Shirley Jackson, Lisa Tuttle, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Kit Reed, Sheri S. Tepper, and Daphne du Maurier (among many others), wrote what they wanted and made it easier for all of us who follow behind.

It’s important that their work is remembered as outstanding examples of the genre, and not allowed to fade into unfair obscurity.

Sat, 04 February 2017 Kindred – the graphic novel

I recently appeared on RTÉ Radio 1’s culture and arts show, Arena, in which I gave a brief overview of the graphic novel adaptation of Kindred, the award-winning novel by science fiction legend Octavia E. Butler. The graphic novel is adapted by Damian Duffy (writer) and John Jennings (artist), and published by Abrams ComicArts.

You can listen to the show as a podcast online, and my segment is at the end. It’s a pity I didn’t have more time as I could have talked for longer about this fine work.

Butler was a writer hero of mine when I was a teenager; her sf novels about the struggles with identity, race, hierarchy, and power gave me much to ponder, and remain an inspiration. I re-read the novel before I reviewed the adaptation, and Kindred remains a moving, gripping story about slavery and the complex legacy of race relations in the USA. It’s as resonant today as it was in 1979.

Duffy and Jennings do the novel justice, and give Butler’s characters a new visual life. It’s wonderful to see this seminal text as a graphic novel adaptation, and hopefully it will introduce this important writer to a new audience.

Mon, 30 January 2017 Waiting for Andre

Need some cheering up? If you have access to Sky Arts then I highly recommend the half-hour short, ‘Waiting for Andre’, which is part of their Urban Myths series of shorts.

In it the writer Samuel Beckett agrees to drive the young Andre Rousimoff (who became famous later in life as the wrestler Andre the Giant) to school every day as a favour to Andre’s father, who is building Beckett’s new house in the French countryside. This is based on a core, true story.

The cast are all terrific, with David Threlfall (Frank Gallagher in the original UK version Shameless) as the laconic, astute Beckett who is in between plays, and Liam Macdonald is fabulous as the young Andre.

But, dear lord, it’s the dialogue and character interaction that is the star – well done writer Neil Forsyth. It provided a constant supply of laughs, along with some touching moments. I really needed that last night.

Sun, 29 January 2017 Disappearing Migrant

Disappearing Migrant

Past lessons about the need for humanity and empathy erode under the force of belligerent selfishness.

Based on ‘Migrant Mother’ (1936) iconic Depression era image by photographer Dorothea Lange, who met Florence Owens at Nipomo, California.

Fri, 27 January 2017 Shalom

For Holocaust Memorial Day – the final speech by Charlie Chaplin from his film The Great Dictator. It remains incredibly stirring and appropriate. Shalom to everyone today.

Support kindness, empathy, and compassion. Resist fear, despair, and autocrats.

We must not revisit our great mistakes.

Thu, 26 January 2017 Deluxe Madness

I recently received the deluxe edition of the anthology The Madness of Dr Caligari, edited by Joe Pulver, published by Fedogan and Bremer, encased in a slip cover, signed by all the contributors, and with beautiful artwork on the endpapers by Nick Gucker. What a beauty!

There are other editions too: Kindle, Paperback, and Hardback.

Here’s the impressive Table of Contents:

  • Ramsey Campbell – The Words Between
  • Damien Angelica Walters – Take a Walk in the Night, My Love
  • Rhys Hughes – Confessions of a Medicated Lurker
  • Robert Levy – Conversion
  • Maura McHugh – A Rebellious House
  • David Nickle – The Long Dream
  • Janice Lee – Eyes Looking
  • Richard Gavin – Breathing Black Angles
  • S.P. Miskowski – Somnambule
  • Nathan Carson – The Projection Booth
  • Jeffrey Thomas – The Mayor of Elementa
  • Nadia Bulkin – Et Spiritus Sancti
  • Orrin Grey – Blackstone: A Hollywood Gothic
  • Reginald Oliver – The Ballet of Dr. Caligari
  • Cody Goodfellow – Bellmer’s Bride, or The Game of the Doll
  • Mike Griffin – The Insomniac Who Slept Forever
  • Paul Tremblay – Further Questions for the Somnambulist
  • Michael Cisco – The Righteousness of Conical Men
  • Molly Tanzer – That Nature Which Peers Out in Sleep
  • Daniel Mills – A Sleeping Life
  • John Langan – To See, To Be Seen
  • Gemma Files – Caligarism

I consider myself terribly lucky to have a story in this book.

If you want some idea of what the stories are like then check out Des Lewis’s Real-Time Review of the anthology.

Fri, 20 January 2017 Resistance is Fruitful

Art by Hayley Gilmore

It should comes as no surprise to any readers of my blog or Twitter that I’m not a fan of the soon-to-be elected President of the USA. I have taken a policy on social media of not posting any of the stream of prophesies of doom of what’s coming over the next four years, but I’m making an exception with this segment from the recent episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

This show has provided exceptional, pointed, satirical reporting since it was first aired, and I think it’s essential viewing (you can find it all on its YouTube channel, including extra online material). At least you can laugh while you despair. This clip has no sugar coating, and does offer an expert’s opinion of what the 45th president is going to attempt. I expect freedom of the press will be one of the first rights he will go after, and Masha’s prediction that he will encourage citizens to report on one another made me shudder – it’s an old tactic of authoritarian regimes, and America has seen it before.

Ultimately I believe in people and their basic decency, but I also know that people do strange things when they are afraid. So, be brave. Resist the fear-mongering. Look at your neighbours with clear vision: they are the same as they have always been. Decide there is a line you will not cross and defend it. Speak up when others are unfairly maligned. Be a decent human being. We are all on this planet together and how we conduct ourselves matters.

And remember – we elect politicians so we can unelect them in the future. They do pay attention to their electorates if they make enough noise, regularly. We are not without power so employ it effectively. Those of you who can march (or roll) tomorrow in one of the many demonstrations around the world should consider it an imperative as this is our first demonstration of resistance to demagoguery. Yet there are many ways to participate. Use whatever is within your means and ability. However you can resist peacefully, do so. But acting in solidarity with others helps.

I was thinking last night how I was full of joy and optimism at President Barack Obama’s inauguration eight years ago. Then I reminded myself of my despair eight years earlier when George W Bush got elected. All things cycle around, and good can emerge from testing situations.

But it depends on us stepping up and facing our responsibilities to our communities and ourselves.

I won’t be watching the inauguration. I will not give the event the ratings (and a tactic stamp of approval), and would recommend others do the same.

Instead I will focus on positive work and people I love, and tomorrow I will march on the Women’s March on Washington – Galway.

Art by Shepard Fairey for the Amplifier Foundation

Sun, 01 January 2017 parade your glorious bones

Shipwrecked, Polish American String Band Division, at Mummers Parade on New Year's day, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (LOC)

[Shipwrecked, Polish American String Band Division, at Mummers Parade on New Year's day 2011, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - photographer: Carol M. Highsmith.]

So you’re a skeleton. Grab your gaudy glad rags and celebrate your pirate past.

Dance. Rattle. Shake. Imitate the life you once possessed.

Your damned style outshines the costumes of the living.

2017: the year to parade your glorious bones.

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    “I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.... I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” — Erica Jong

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