Thursday, 20 July 2017

'Warmth in the Winter'

The last story in Jordan Anderson's collection is an ambitious novella. It has overtones of Algernon Blackwood and Jack London, in that it's a tale of the snowy wilderness. It's a weird tale, but the focus is as much on the protagonist's suffering as the strange forces that besiege his isolated home.

Old Jack is a loner, a man who lost his one love in tragic circumstances and has withdrawn from the world. He bought a cabin in the wild from a man who warned him not to go outside during the darkest days of winter. The supernatural force, when it appears, is satisfyingly bizarre and menacing - a tide of blackness that sweeps down and engulfs his valley.

As the tale unfolds we learn more of Jack's background. Past and present become entangled as childhood trauma repeats itself, with variations on a theme. However, there's a strong suggestion that he finds a kind of solace at the end. Overall it's a satisfying conclusion to a somewhat uneven collection. At his best the author is very good indeed, but his work would benefit from firm editing. He has a tendency to (in my opinion) over-write and pile on too much verbiage. Cleaner lines would have made the longer tales more memorable.

And that rounds off my running review of The Things That Grow With Us. Next up comes a new collection of British ghost stories by authors from outside the field. Prepare for some forthright opinions - praise, blame, the chucking around of epithets. It's all here, folks.

Monday, 17 July 2017

RIP George and Martin

George Romero died last weekend at the age of 77. He was a true innovator, someone who - working to a very tight budget - made movies that were iconic and wildly entertaining. Night of the Living Dead rebooted the zombie movie, and made possible later hits such as The Walking Dead (1968). Before Romero the zombie was a minor horror menace, usually found in period pieces such as Hammer's enjoyably camp Plague of the Zombies. After NotLD and its quasi-sequel, Day of the Dead zombies escaped their Haitian origins and starting roaming out streets and shopping malls. Oh, and they could come into your house and get you as well.



We have also lost Matin Landau, a much-loved TV and film actor. He often appeared in genre fiction, notably the original Mission Impossible and the British sci-fi saga Space: 1999. His daughter Juliet played Drusilla, a major recurring character in Buffy and its spin-off Angel. Both had the distinctive Landau features - 'aristocratic', dark-eyed, attractive in a slightly hectic, on-the-edge way. Landau's only Oscar was in the quasi-genre movie, Ed Wood. Landau played the ageing, drug-addled Bela Lugosi.

Friday, 14 July 2017

'Angelic Tendencies'

Full disclosure - the next story in this collection is a horror-fantasy called 'Burials: The Speaking Dead'. While it's not badly written it is way outside my wheelhouse and reads like a fragment of a longer work. I didn't like it at all, so I'm moving on to something I found more to my taste. With a few qualifications.

Firstly, a general point. there is a tendency in modern horror to use child abuse as a convenient plot device. I think it is as questionable as using rape as a plot device. Now anything goes for a writer, and censorship - including self-censorship - is wrong. But I wish horror writers would find something better to say about childhood in the context of weird/supernatural fiction. After all, if every sixth or seventh story you read pivoted on a woman being raped wouldn't you think it was a bit much?

Right, ran over. 'Angelic Tendencies' is about a little girl called Abigail who survives a car crash that kills her parents. She is adopted by Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Reed. The latter sexually abuses Abigail, who prays for help. Angelic beings manifest themselves in her room and start giving her advice. But are they real, or the products of a desperate child's imagination?

This isn't bad, and the descriptions of the 'angels' is rather Machenesque, as they manifest in a benighted forest. They are like 'sagging lumpy balloons' emitting sounds like 'knuckles cracking and liquids gurgling'. Uncle Reed comes to the bad end her deserves. Then Abigail is left to her life with the monstrous, powerful beings watching over her. Is this, we are left to wonder, altogether a good thing? There's a slight X-Files vibe to the ending, when an implant is put into the back of the girl's neck.

Its an enjoyable but rather imperfect story. There's an obvious plot-hole- after Aunt Cheryl appears to take Abigail from the hospital, she disappears. There is not even a suggestion of complicity in Reed's vile behaviour - the wife simply vanishes as if the author has forgotten her. In terms of form and style the killing of Reed is over-done, dragged out at inordinate length. Too much descriptive writing bores me, especially when it gives the impression the author hasn't really figured out what his Big Bad really is. But these are quibbles - it's basically a decent story that would have benefited from firm editing.

Nearly done with The Things That Grow With Us. Fingers crossed for the final tale!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Supernatural Tales 35

Supernatural Tales 35



Cover pic by Sam Dawson.

The print-on-demand version of the magazine is now available from Lulu.com here. It's priced at £2.95 plus postage, which doesn't seem too steep to me for what you get. Seven jolly good stories, covering every possible topic from ancient legends to weird local customs to entities from beyond our mundane realm. And then some.
'Absolute Possession' by Charles Wilkinson
'The Scarlet Door' by Mark Valentine 
'A Russian Nesting Demon' by Andrew Alford 
'The Subliminals' Pt 1. by Michael Chislett 
'To Utter Dust' by Mat Joiner ' 
The House at Twilight' by John Howard 
'Gold' by Helen Grant
The ebook version will be available on Amazon in the very near future. I will be sending out copies to contributors, reviewers, and postal subscribers very soon - please bear with me, this one has been a bit tricky to get together.