Tag Archives: horror

Friday Fiction Fixes #11…

Dracula by Bram Stoker – 1897

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Probably not Stoker’s original vision.

I have spent a fair portion of my life writing dark fiction, but somewhat surprisingly I was a little late to the party with this one, and I didn’t read Dracula – the grand-daddy of horror literature – until I was thirty. Perhaps it’s because vampires have never really done it for me as a sub-genre. Then again, if you want to be a film director, you watch Hitchcock movies. If you want a career in porn, Ron Jeremy’s your man… well, you know, so I’ve heard.

Literature of such vintage is often stigmatised by its stagnant use of language, but although Dracula is now one hundred and twenty years old, it still feels quite fresh and accessible. The narrative takes the non-traditional form of letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles, but despite this often clunky way of storytelling, it’s still a much easier read than you may expect going in – testament to how well the story is told.

Is it worthy of being held in such high regard? Possibly. It’s difficult to be objective with a property as ubiquitous as Dracula. It’s certainly not the greatest horror novel I have read – I’ve had more fun with stories published both before and after – but cinema has been in love with the character for decades, so there’s something to be said about the reach of the chilling and iconic Count.

Friday Fiction Fixes #5…

The Ash-Tree by MR James – 1904

MRJames1900It’s very difficult to read stories of this vintage – even those written by a deity of the supernatural genre such as MR James – after spending any length of time with modern authors. It takes a while to acclimatise to the differences in language and the way that the story itself has been put together, but stick with it – it’s a worthwhile excursion.

In some regards it is an unfair comparison, because it’s apples and oranges. MR James was writing at a time when readers did not have the attention span of a gnat. The Ash-Tree – about an inherited English estate with a cursed history – is only 5400 words, but James, one of the most atmospheric writers of his generation, manages to pack more in to that word count than many twenty-first century authors could do with four times the length.

The Ash-Tree was published in 1904 in James’ first collection of shorts, Ghost Stories if an Antiquary, and the full text is available to read for free online here, if you want to give it a look.

Friday Fiction Fixes #2…

Superstitious by RL Stine – 1995

Superstitious is a great Stevie Wonder song, but it’s also the single most terrible novel I have ever read. In fact, a novel written by Stevie Wonder about the song would be much better.

Memories of a darker time.

Superstitious was released in 1995 and I read it shortly thereafter. It was curiosity more than anything else, because Stine was being billed on the cover as “The World’s Bestselling Horror Writer”, but I had never read any of his fiction, and I was only vaguely familiar with his name.

Of course, the reason my knowledge of his work was limited was because – until this release – his audience had been children. This was his first story for grown-ups… and boy does it show.

The novel belonged to my future brother-in-law, so the silver lining is that he was the one who paid for the book. He read it first and recommended I read it as well. I guess he didn’t want to be the only one with a sour taste in his mouth. We were (and are) both writers, and we both would have been embarrassed if this was our work.

I can remember writing a list of all the terrible phrases, sentences, and unintentionally funny moments, and wondering why this guy had a publishing contract and I didn’t. Unfortunately I don’t have the list any longer, but I’ll offer you this, the opening to Superstitious, exactly as it is presented to the reader. And trust me, it gets a lot worse from here.

Charlotte Wilson stares up at the ceiling. Pale yellow light from the street filters through the venetian blinds, spreading a shadow pattern of lines over her head. Bars, Charlotte thinks, prison bars. The guy beside her stirs. She hears him muffle a burp. His after-dinner burp, Charlotte thinks bitterly. I was dinner.

After we were done ripping it apart figuratively we decided to rip it apart literally… so we took turns using it as a surfboard to slide down his staircase. Okay, it was silly and disrespectful, but I promise you, it was a thousand times more fun than reading it.

Monday Movie Mentions #2…

House (1986)

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“Say your prayers.” Roger’s ex-wife gets a makeover.

Horror and comedy are polar opposites, and although a lot of movies have tried to marry the two genres, only a select few have managed to create something worthwhile.

House was released in 1986 and was the first in a disjointed quadrilogy of films. The series was somewhat unique in that there was no uniformity or overarching tone. But don’t bother with the others, and don’t let the generic title fool you – do yourself a favour and just watch this one.

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A great scene featuring former Miss World, Mary Stavin, in a bathing suit.

The special effects may be cheap and rubbery, but that’s because the movie never takes itself too seriously, and that’s okay. Horror doesn’t have to be realistic evicerations and computer-assisted effects that are indistinguishable from real life. Sometimes it’s all right for horror to just be a little bit of mindless fun.

The premise is simple. After his aunt commits suicide, divorced horror author Roger Cobb moves in to the house where his young son disappeared. Struggling to come to terms with that as he writes his next book about his experience in the Vietnam War, things start to go bump in the night.

Harold: Hey, it’s great to have a new neighbor. Woman lived here before you was nuts. Biggest bitch under the sun. Just a senile old hag really. Wouldn’t be surprised if someone just got fed up and offed her. Know what I mean?
Roger: She was my aunt.
Harold: Heart of gold though. Just uh, a saint really. And uh such a beautiful woman, for her age.

House is an underappreciated movie that has never been given the love it deserves, and you’ll probably have to speak to a lot of people before you find someone else who has seen it, but give this low budget gem a chance – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

From Fact to Fiction…

It’s been a lean year for publications (three have fallen through and one smelled like a con job so I pulled out) but I feel more confident about this one. My dark fantasy/horror hybrid, The Girl in the Glass Bottle, will make an appearance early next year, in Issue 13 of Australian ezine, SQ Mag.

The speculative short story was inspired by a woman at work. She told me about the time she put a message in a bottle and let it ride the waves of the North Sea, and what happened after she did. I love it when real life inspires the things I write, because it’s often just a case of skewing the details into something with a beginning, middle, and end.

Even as she was telling me, her truly endearing tale of friendship was becoming something a lot more sinister and disturbing in my head. How pleased she will be to discover I have twisted her memories in such a way, remains to be seen.

I really should see a doctor.

Back to School…

ReplayI am pleased to say that my horror novella debut, Replay, will be released electronically by Dark Prints Press on April 15th, for the low-low price of $3.99 Australian (other currencies are available) either as an instant download from the main site, or via e-retailers such as Amazon, Bookworld, and Kobo. Replay is an unapologetic, old-school horror tale about a reunion that should never have been. Fate may be late to the party, but she is always on her way…

I am particularly impressed by the thirty-second promotional video that editor, Craig Bezant, put together for the release:

Dark Prints is an Australian outfit I have been involved with several times over the last few years. I had short fiction in the first four issues of the now sadly defunct ezine Eclecticism; and was also featured in The One That Got Away, a dark crime paperback anthology, released in 2012, so I am very pleased to be extending the relationship further with this release.

The Darkness Loses a Soul…

James HerbertJames Herbert died today. He was sixty-nine years old.

My dad was a fan. In fact Moon and The Magic Cottage are probably the only two novels I saw him read. Ever. Years later – when I read both of these for myself – I thought if that was as far as my dad dipped his toe into the library of books the world had to offer, he could have done a lot worse.

I read a dozen of Herbert’s novels, and while he didn’t hit the nail squarely on the head each time, he was one of the few authors I would keep going back to every now and then, because he could always be relied upon to deliver a good, solid story, and I knew that he was capable of great things. The Fog is one of my favourite books of any genre, and definitely in the top handful of horror tales I have ever read.

He is often – unfairly, in my opinion – compared to Stephen King; partly because they both had their first novels published in 1974, but mostly because they both wrote broadly in the horror genre, albeit on opposite sides of the Atlantic pond. But the similarities really end there.

Herbert was (almost exclusively) a balls-to-the-wall horror writer, and he didn’t pull any punches with his prose. Having said that, he was never gratuitous just for the sake of it, and he didn’t care about cheap shocks either. He wrote it that way because that’s how he saw it, and I have always admired him for that.

Rest in peace, James: you will be missed.The Rats