Sunday, 31 October 2010

Halloween Horrors

So it's Halloween today, the day the veil between the worlds of human and spirits is at it's weakest and Google makes me the star of it's special logo. Go Velma!!!

As Halloween is special to all Speculative Fiction fans, today I will be doing a round up of horror books worth taking a look at, along with some interesting bits and pieces that are relevant to All Hallows Eve.

Yesterday I went to a book signing at Forbidden Planet, London for N.K.Jemisin's second book in The Inheritance Trilogy, The Broken Kingdoms and Karen Miller's The Reluctant Mage. While I was there, I picked up some new books, one of which is The Child Thief by Brom. This is a beautiful edition, larger than a trade paperback, with black and white full page illustrations of characters at the beginning of each chapter and a glossy insert of 8 colour paintings of the main characters. Brom is known for his artwork and graphic novels, and this is his first foray into fiction. I have read the first couple of chapters already (I just couldn't help myself) and I think I am going to enjoy it, a lot! The Child Thief is the story of Peter Pan, but not as Disney portrayed him...
"Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life. He appears to lonely, lost children—the broken, hopeless, and sexually abused—promising to take them to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive, and you never grow old. But his promised land is not Neverland. . . ."
Goodreads describes the book as follows:
"With this haunting, provocative, relentlessly thrilling reconsideration of a timeless children's classic, the acclaimed artist Brom dramatically displays another side of his extraordinary talent. Exploring the stygian blackness that gathers at the root of the beloved Peter Pan legend, he carries readers into a faerieland at once magically wondrous and deeply disturbing."
From my initial reading of the first couple of chapters yesterday, this is a deliciously dark take on the Peter Pan legend, written in a rich and luscious prose with descriptions that reflect Brom's background as an artist. I will be reviewing the book in full soon, at Speculative Book Review as I think this will be a book to savour.
I also bought Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett. This has been on my radar for some time and promises to be a dark and frightening read...
"It is the time of the Great Depression and thousands have left their homes seeking a better life. But Marcus Connelly is not one of them. He searches for one thing only: revenge. For somewhere out there - riding the rails, stalking the camps - is the mysterious, scarred vagrant who murdered his daughter. No, Marcus Connelly seeks not a life, but a death. The question is: how much is he willing to sacrifice to get it?"
I have read some very good reviews of Mr Shivers and long winter nights seems, to me, to be the best time of year to read this.

Another recent purchase is of a book that was published in 2002, but The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce was recommended to my by a friend and so I am looking forward to reliving some old childhood nightmares!
"The disquietude in Graham Joyce's coming-of-age tale is that of having too much power as a child--the kind of power that turns your slightest wishes into mayhem. This power is granted to the rather ordinary and fearful member (neither the smartest nor the strongest) of a trio of friends growing up in small-town England by his stinky and enigmatic night visitor, the Tooth Fairy. The charm of this British Fantasy Award-winning novel is in his subtle and unsentimental portrait of a supernaturally benighted childhood. As Ellen Datlow writes in Omni, "Joyce immediately hooks his readers from the very first page with a small sharp shock and holds the reader with engaging characters and an air of menace. This tooth fairy is ... mischievous and destructive, representing our own worst aspects.""
 I love the cover for The Tooth Fairy and the summary and reviews I have read lead me to think this book may just frighten the life out of me, especially with my phobia of dentists and all things tooth related. For reading wrapped up in a warm duvet with all the lights on, I fear!

A recent short story anthology caught my eye and found it's way into my TBR pile, and that book is Sympathy For The Devil, edited by Tim Pratt.
"The Devil is known by many names: Serpent, Tempter, Beast, Adversary, Wanderer, Dragon, Rebel. His traps and machinations are the stuff of legends. His faces are legion. No matter what face the devil wears, Sympathy for the Devil has them all. Edited by Tim Pratt, Sympathy for the Devil collects the best Satanic short stories by Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Stephen King, Kage Baker, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Kelly Link, China Mieville, Michael Chabon, and many others, revealing His Grand Infernal Majesty, in all his forms. Thirty-five stories, from classics to the cutting edge, exploring the many sides of Satan, Lucifer, the Lord of the Flies, the Father of Lies, the Prince of the Powers of the Air and Darkness, the First of the Fallen... and a Man of Wealth and Taste. Sit down and spend a little time with the Devil."
With the Devil as the theme, this anthology of 35 stories from authors across the range of speculative fiction genres will no doubt revive some of the lingering legacies of an Irish-Catholic upbringing! This is a book where I will read one story a day before reviewing it on completion... I don't want to scare myself too much all at once.

The final book I will highlight today is one first I read many years ago, but it triggered a love of supernatural horror fiction that remains today. This book is Edgar Allan Poe's Selected Tales, a classic author of the horror genre. I had just seen (and been terrified by) the Vincent Price movie The Pit and the Pendulum and found a collection of Poe's stories on my parents bookshelves. Knowing they would disapprove, I hid the book under the mattress until I had read every word. To this day I don't think they ever realised that the spate of nightmares their 10-year old child experienced was brought on by me reading Edgar Allan Poe for the first time!
"Since their first publication in the 1830s and 1840s, Edgar Allan Poe's extraordinary Gothic tales have established themselves as classics of horror fiction and have also created many of the conventions which still dominate the genre of detective fiction. As well as being highly enjoyable, Poe's tales are works of very real intellectual exploration. Attentive to the historical and political dimensions of these very American tales, this new selection places the most popular - "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Masque of the Red Death", "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"; and "The Purloined Letter" - alongside less well-known travel narratives, metaphysical essays and political satires."
Of all Poe's stories, The Pit and the Pendulum remains my favourite and even now, many years after my first encounter with it, the story still sends shivers down my spine when I read it.

Websites and Blogs
On Wednesday I posted the press release for a new site, Dark Fiction Magazine, which launches tonight with 4 audio horror short stories. This is a site I will visit regularly as the idea of listening to a short story whilst travelling on the tube or a bus holds a lot of appeal for me. With the advent of podcasts and eReaders, the advantages of short stories come into their own, and I, for one, will be embracing this trend wholeheartedly.

My friend Jason at Kamvision is running a series of posts about Halloween, but more specifically Samhain, the ancient pagan end of year festival, from which Halloween derives many of it's 'traditions'.
Both articles are well researched and give us more insight into how our ancestors celebrated the time we now call Halloween. Needless to say, trick or treat was not part of the tradition! I highly recommend these articles for anyone who is interested in celtic/pagan mythology.

As it is Halloween tonight, I will be curling up with a big mug of hot chocolate to watch Let The Right One In. I have been saving this DVD for a while and tonight is the perfect opportunity to watch this Swedish film.
"A well-crafted horror film in the tradition of Guillermo del Toro's THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, Swedish import LET THE RIGHT ONE IN ably blends genre chills with genuine feeling. Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a 12-year-old outcast who is frequently picked on by his classmates. He dreams of getting his revenge, but he never stands up to the boys. With the arrival of his new next-door neighbour, 12-year-old Eli (Lina Leandersson), Oskar may finally have found a friend, ally, and first love. But Eli is no ordinary girl: she must keep her pale skin out of the sunlight, she can perform inhuman physical feats, and she has thirst for blood. The bodies begin to pile up, but Oskar can't stay away from the girl who has finally given him courage.

Based on the novel by John Ajvide Linqvist (who also wrote the script), LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is the best kind of horror film: one that transcends the tropes of the genre to become something new. This is director Tomas Alfredson's first foray into horror, and he doesn't hesitate to include bits of vampire mythology. But his background making comedies and dramas gives the film a surprising depth; the relationship between Oskar and Eli is tentative and sweet, even though their interactions may be surrounded by blood and violence. Composer Johan Soderqvist and the sound department create a fascinating palette of music and sounds that add to the film's perfectly chilly mood, and setting the film in a snowy Swedish suburb gives director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema a starkly beautiful environment for shooting. Though LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is ostensibly about a pair of children, this is a horror film for adults. There are plenty of scares, but it remains moving and intelligent, a rare feat for the genre."
So, a Happy Halloween to you all, and may "the ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night" come out to play!

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