Friday, 3 June 2016

Marked to Die

If you like your horror weird and uncanny and rather mind-warping, then you're probably already a fan of Mark Samuels, a writer as deserving of a tribute anthology as any of the greats. And who better to publish a tribute to this master of the weird than Snuggly Books and editor Justin Isis?

It's called Marked To Die
: a Tribute to Mark Samuels

From the website:

It's available in two formats - a royal octavo paperback and a limited edition hardcover. The hardcover is case laminated (i.e. no dustjacket) and has a completely different cover than the paperback—that is a nightblack cover with, in snow white gothic lettering, the word “MARKITTY” written up top. Only 100 copies of the hardcover will be printed, and of these only 75 offered for sale to the public.

Mark Samuels—“the contemporary British master of visionary weirdness”, as Ramsey Campbell has called him—stands at the forefront of 21st century Horror, combining an unparalleled understanding of the Weird Fiction tradition with his own modern take on cosmic dread. An acknowledged influence on numerous writers in the field, his stories depict the isolation and despair of urban life giving way to vistas of universal alienation and, on occasion, spiritual transcendence.

Now, in this collection of original works inspired by Samuels’ writing, his characteristic themes are extended into previously undreamt-of settings: the hull of a Russian nuclear submarine headed to the heart of Chaos; the compound of a Japanese death cult with designs on the human race; a hospital run by the Men with Paper Faces; the Crying Rooms of London’s secret Reverse; the far reaches of the collapsed future and even the private thoughts of St. John of the Cross. Fed by the “strange tales” of the 19th and 20th centuries but firmly rooted in the present, Marked to Die is a digest of urban terror shot through with intimations of a monstrous Sublime.

Table of Contents:

The Shadowy Companion, foreword by Mark Valentine
Rapture, Reggie Oliver
The Golden Dustmen, Colin Insole
Canticle, Daniel Mills
White Light, White Heat, Adam Nevill
The Black Mass, Justin Isis
The Big-Headed People, DF Lewis
Attraction, John Mundy
The Early Signs of Blight, Kristine Ong Muslim
Chaoskampf, James Champagne
A Bad Un to Beat vs. The High Gate Waterman:
It’s All About the Benjamins, Brendan Connell and Quentin S. Crisp
The Language of the City, Thana Niveau
The Singular Quiddity of Merlin’s Ear, Simon Clark
The Carnivore of Monsters, Stuart Young
The Men With Paper Faces, John L. Probert
Empty Houses, Ralph C. Doege
Reinformation Theory, Yarrow Paisley
Prison Inquieta, Jon Paul Rai
Slag Glass Lachrimæ, David Rix
Coda



Monday, 23 May 2016

John Llewellyn Probert's A-Z of Books

Today my blog is being hijacked by John Llewellyn Probert. Take it away, JLP!

AUTHOR YOU’VE READ THE MOST BOOKS BY

Jonathan Carroll, Michael Moorcock, Christopher Fowler, R Chewynd-Hayes, Ramsey Campbell

BEST SEQUEL EVER

The Illearth War by Stephen Donaldson. Certainly my favourite part 2, and it feels like a sequel even if it's the middle bit of the first chronicles of Thomas Covenant. About halfway through there's a massive battle that's just so well-described and choreographed that it remains one of my favourite ever reading experiences. More than any other book I think it's the reason I still love epic fantasy to this day.



CURRENTLY READING

Sourdough & Other Stories by Angela Slatter. And it's great.



DRINK OF CHOICE WHILE READING

Frangelico Martini with a splash of King's Ginger Liqueur. No ice.

E-READER OR PHYSICAL BOOK

Physical book always. Hardback. The bigger and posher the better.

FICTIONAL CHARACTER YOU WOULD HAVE DATED IN HIGH SCHOOL

The nymphomaniac from Guy N Smith's Killer Crabs. I think she was called Caroline du Brunner. See? I can even remember her name & I haven't read this book since I was 13, so she must have made an impression, and I bet she would have in real life as well. Other than that any of the sexy attractively proportioned ladies in books by Mr Smith or James Herbert. Before they met a terrible demise at the claws, pincers, tentacles or other appendages of whatever outsized freak of nature was being used as an excuse for some gory deaths and sexy interludes on this occasion. And I would have known to run the minute I heard any clickety-clicks or scratchily-scratches.



GLAD YOU GAVE THIS BOOK A CHANCE

The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf. I would never have thought that a book written in 1842 could have so much face exploding, rampant spider demon black pustulating boil plague spreading horror. Fantastic. Anyone interested in the roots of the genre should seek this one out and keep with it until the action really kicks in about halfway through. And it was written by a parson. A parson! I would have loved to have heard some of his sermons.



HIDDEN GEM BOOK

Darkness Weaves by Karl Edward Wagner. All his Kane books are brilliant pieces of epic fantasy but this might just be the best. Wagner's skill at economically setting up plot and backstory is so good it should be taught on writing courses. For all I know it is.



IMPORTANT MOMENT IN YOUR READING LIFE

It's going to be around 1996 when I started reading again for the first time in ten years. University education & post-graduate training had meant I felt guilty if I picked up any book that wasn't a textbook ( a very common occurrence amongst my peers as well - isn't that a shame?. Stephen King's Desperation got me back into reading, then Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, and I haven't stopped since.



JUST FINISHED

DJSturbia by David J Schow.



KIND OF BOOKS YOU WON’T READ

Pretty much everything is fair game, but I stay away from YA & children's books (the appeal of Harry Potter to adults remains a bit of a mystery to me). There's too much grown up stuff out there to read. And I don't mean The Sucking Pit or Lobsters Out Of Hell. Oh but I do really, don't I? Hey I never said I was perfect, and if I prefer Guy N Smith to J K Rowling that's my plate of dressed crab.

LONGEST BOOK YOU’VE READ

One of Steven Erikson's marvellous 1200 page plus Malazan Book of the Fallen epics like The Bonehunters or Reaper's Gale.



MAJOR BOOK HANGOVER

Eat Them Alive by "Pierce Nace" (who WAS he / she? We shall probably never know). If you're not nodding in agreement then you've obviously never read this one. Not that that's necessarily a recommendation. I've only read this infamous paperback once and yet I can still remember most of its hilarious, ludicrous plotline, the terrible antics of the guy determined to get revenge on some criminal gang for his castration by using giant killer preying mantises (mantides?), led by the one he christens Slayer, who gets to ride in the front seat of his jeep so that the mantis feels special. Gosh, there seem to be a lot of monsters on the rampage books in this list, don't there? I had no idea they'd made such an impression on me.



NUMBER OF BOOKCASES YOU OWN

13. More on the way. Or they're all going to have to be made taller!

ONE BOOK YOU’VE READ MULTIPLE TIMES

The Monster Club by R Chetwynd-Hayes (more monsters!)



PREFERRED PLACE TO READ

In a wingback oxblood leather armchair.

QUOTE THAT INSPIRES YOU FROM A BOOK YOU’VE READ

"They shook hands with Henry, slit his throat, attached brown blood and breath bags to his wheezing lungs and dribbling arteries, snapped the bone, cut the remaining sinews and lifted his head clear of his body and straight into a preservation tank."

from "Bloodthirsty" by Martin Waddell in The Ninth Pan Book of Horror Stories
One of my favourite comedy horror tales ever.



READING REGRET

Probably that when I was a bit younger I felt the need to spend far too much time persisting with reading books many people considered classics when all I was doing was having the dullest and / or most miserable time imaginable. I even read some of them twice just to make sure I didn't like them. Some people will stare aghast and open-mouthed if I mention any titles, so I won't.

SERIES YOU STARTED AND NEED TO FINISH

Actually it's Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series - I've read the first eight and have the final two-volume massive 2000+ page finale to go.

THREE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BOOKS

The Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short Stories of Jonathan Carroll



Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock



The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester



UNAPOLOGETIC FANBOY FOR

Michael Moorcock

VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS RELEASE

Centipede Press are bringing out six classic John Blackburn novels including Nothing But the Night and A Scent of New Mown Hay, all in gorgeous collector's editions. I cannot wait.



WORST BOOKISH HABIT

Buying lovely posh limited editions of books.

X MARKS THE SPOT: START ON THE TOP LEFT OF YOUR SHELF AND PICK THE 27TH BOOK

The 27th Pan book of Horror Stories




YOUR LATEST PURCHASE

The Anatomist's Dream by Clio Gray



ZZZZ-SNATCHER BOOK (LAST BOOK THAT KEPT YOU UP WAY TOO LATE)

The Alabaster Hand by A N L Munby



Monday, 16 May 2016

A-Z of Books

I spotted this challenge on Facebook and thought it was a marvellous idea so decided to give it a go. I'm not tagging anyone, so if you want to do it too, leave a link to yours in the comments!

AUTHOR YOU’VE READ THE MOST BOOKS BY

Either Ramsey Campbell or Stephen King.

BEST SEQUEL EVER

2010: Odyssey Two (Arthur C Clarke). Not sure if it’s a sequel or part 2 in a series, but hey.


CURRENTLY READING

Mother of Eden (Chris Beckett) and Broken Monsters (Lauren Beukes). I rarely read one book at a time.


DRINK OF CHOICE WHILE READING

Nothing, really, since I mostly read in bed!

E-READER OR PHYSICAL BOOK

A physical book is always preferable unless it’s huge and unwieldy. Much as I love to read, I can only hold up a massive hardback in bed for so long, so my Kindle is ideal for that. It’s also great for reading in the middle of the night, when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep.


FICTIONAL CHARACTER YOU WOULD HAVE DATED IN HIGH SCHOOL

I’m changing this to “fictional character you would have fallen for as a teenager”, which doesn’t make the question that much easier. Wow, I really don’t know. Hannibal Lecter?


GLAD YOU GAVE THIS BOOK A CHANCE

The Hunger Games. I wasn’t really interested in anything YA until Mark Morris recommended the series.


HIDDEN GEM BOOK

Dark Matter (Michele Paver). One of those lucky finds that became an instant favourite.


IMPORTANT MOMENT IN YOUR READING LIFE

I can’t remember what the first “grownup” novel was that I read all the way through, but it might have been Jaws (Peter Benchley). My parents never put any restrictions on what I could read, although I did rather regret certain choices at a too-young age, like The Exorcist. I’d already seen the film (on network TV, censored but no less terrifying to a 10-year-old) but nothing could have prepared me for the spider-walk scene. Nightmares and sleepless nights notwithstanding, I still wanted more horror and my mom’s Stephen King books were next.


JUST FINISHED

The Booking (Ramsey Campbell)

KIND OF BOOKS YOU WON’T READ

There’s actually quite a lot I wouldn’t read, but I definitely wouldn’t go near any chick lit or misery memoirs.


LONGEST BOOK YOU’VE READ

No idea. Maybe The Mists of Avalon



MAJOR BOOK HANGOVER

The Handmaid’s Tale. I read a lot of horror by authors who really know how to scare me, but nothing has ever disturbed me in quite the same way this book did. Especially against the backdrop of American politics today. **shudder**


NUMBER OF BOOKCASES YOU OWN

13 (And that’s just for books - add another 6 for movies!)


ONE BOOK YOU’VE READ MULTIPLE TIMES

Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)


PREFERRED PLACE TO READ

Floating on a raft in the pool in some lush tropical resort. Barring that, in bed!

QUOTE THAT INSPIRES YOU FROM A BOOK YOU’VE READ

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery)


READING REGRET

That it took me so long to read so many SF classics.

SERIES YOU STARTED AND NEED TO FINISH

Dune (the original Frank Herbert 6 - only got the last one to go) and Foundation (I read the first one and half of the second but just couldn’t engage with it).


THREE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BOOKS

1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson)


2. The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)


3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Arthur C Clarke)


UNAPOLOGETIC FANGIRL FOR

Ramsey Campbell!


VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS RELEASE

Ramsey Campbell’s next one - Searching the Dead. I read the first 100 pages of it in draft form and can’t wait to read the rest!

WORST BOOKISH HABIT

Buying more than I will ever be able to read in my lifetime!


X MARKS THE SPOT: START ON THE TOP LEFT OF YOUR SHELF AND PICK THE 27TH BOOK

The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)


YOUR LATEST PURCHASE

Nameless (Grant Morrison)


ZZZZ-SNATCHER BOOK (LAST BOOK THAT KEPT YOU UP WAY TOO LATE)

West of Eden (Harry Harrison)


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Wasps

One day in 1982, little Girl Scout me wandered down to the creek on one of our camping trips. I found what I thought was a snakeskin and picked it up. Well, it wasn’t a snakeskin; it was a wasp nest that had been knocked from a tree and trampled flat. I didn’t have this revelation in time, however.
        My memory is a demented blur of buzzing, pain and terror as I ran screaming blindly into the woods. My mother bravely fought off the swarm and I escaped with only (only!) about a dozen stings. I never wanted to revisit the experience, but since we all unearth our horrors when we write this kind of stuff, I decided to finally put it in a story. I'll leave it to you to decide if the fictionalised version has a happy ending or not.
       The character of Mitzie is mostly fiction. She’s a Frankensteinian blend of various childhood friends. I’m fascinated by the weird and passionate dynamic in girl friendships at that age, and particularly by the ghosts of our past. Events that shape and haunt us.

The first night we spent together, Mitzie wanted us to prick our fingers and share our blood like she’d seen in a movie, but I was too afraid of the pain. Mitzie looked stunned, as though I’d said something in another language.
“What do you mean you’re afraid?” she asked, staring at the sewing needle she was going to use.
I shrank back as she poised it over her hand, and then pressed it into the tip of her little finger. She didn’t even do it fast. She took her time and pushed it in slowly, like she was enjoying it. Blood welled from the puncture and she held the dripping needle out to me.
“Your turn.”
“No way! I can’t do that!”
“Then how are we gonna be blood-sisters? You have to make a sacrifice.”
I tried to think of alternatives but Mitzie’s suggestions (knife, razor) were even scarier than the needle. In desperation I tried scraping my hands against the icicles in her parents’ empty freezer. I’d once cut myself like that by accident, but it wouldn’t work when I tried to do it deliberately.
Impatient with my squeamishness, Mitzie finally grabbed my hand and jabbed the needle into my finger.
“Oww!”
“Don’t be such a baby!” she laughed, pressing my bloody finger to hers. She smiled. “Now you’re a part of me.” When it was done she licked both our fingers. My stomach fluttered with unease.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Going to the Sun Mountain

I don’t remember the dream at all, but I woke up one morning with the opening paragraph in my head, along with the name “Glacia”.
       I’ve never been to Alaska, but snowy places pop up a lot in my dreams. Probably because I hate the cold. Our subconscious is a playground for our anxieties, after all. Once I dreamt about a weird radio station called “Alask”. And sometimes I dream about another ice age.
Anyway, I scribbled down the story’s opening before I could forget it. I had no idea who the narrator was or what any of it meant. No clue who she had killed or why. All I had was her weird voice. So I just followed where it led and the story blossomed from there.
       It's a story I'm very fond of and I was so happy when it was accepted by Black Static, for issue 49. It's my Black Static debut, in fact! I'm in some stellar company and I hope it won't be the last time something of mine graces its deep black pages.
       If you like it, please let me know. I'd love to hear from you!


Monday, 14 December 2015

All I want for Christmas is Yuki

illustration "Yuki Hayashi" by Chrissie Demant
What's behind door no. 13 in the Vault of Evil Advent Calendar of Death, Doom and Ghastly Horrible Murder? Why, it's a sweet, romantic little ghost story called "Guinea Pig Girl" and it's my solstice gift to you this year.

I believe you do have to shed some blood by joining the cult first, but they don't ask for money - just your soul (or is it your firstborn child?). In any case, it's a small price to pay for getting to read some fun horror stories by both classic and contemporary authors.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Christmas for the Doomed!

It's that time of year again. Time to don your armour for any excursion outside the house, time to curse all those people who stubbornly refuse to buy anything online, time to put in your earplugs to block out the sound of all those Christmas carols we've heard a billion times, time to get out the true Christmas movies like RARE EXPORTS and DIE HARD and THE THING, and time to enjoy another Vault of Evil advent calendar full of grim, gruesome horror stories to make the season pass in blood-soaked joy!



Chrissie Demant
It's already well under way, but there's still time to gorge on some of the poisoned sweets before getting caught up. A grisly tale of my own is lurking behind one of those little rotting advent doors, and a quick scan of the previous years' advent calendars will give you a clue to the date.  ;-)

And if you're as sick of those same old Christmas carols as I am, and you like your holidays with a Cthulhoid / Elder Gods / Great Old Ones / Monster-y edge, might I suggest the remedy that made them fun for me? The H P Lovecraft Historical Society's "Scary Solstice" versions are an absolute delight. I made a few fan videos with them in my self-taught editor-of-recut-trailers days. Here's one of the best:



Hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whatever version of the winter festival you celebrate. Scary Solstice everyone!