Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It's Hallowe'en!

Another Hallowe’en and another tale for you:


 It begins with a competition.

This Halloween, create a new fear.  Major rewards.

Looks fun.

An old photograph, small part of background carefully distorted, just enough to cause discomfort, a sense of wrongness, a feel of the uncanny, the creepy.  Play with photoshop.  It’s a laugh.

An impression of hair with a glow or nimbus behind it.  Features and limbs unseen though there are hints against the dark of things that seem sharp-edged and bone-white.

Photograph not quite enough.  Needs more.  Needs a caption.

‘He said glory would be our reward.  All we had to do was give.  We gave all.  We received out reward.’

That should do it.

It’s spreading.

Some wannabe film students muck around with their mates and a digital camera camera.  Ten shaky, blurry seconds of something.  Something that gives an impression of hair and bone.

‘God, what’s that?  What is it?’
‘Get out.  Just get out.  I’m right behind you!’

Sudden blackout with electronic screech.
All very Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity.

‘Tonight we want your calls about your spooky experiences!’

‘It was like the thing in the photograph, you know, the famous one of the playground.  Well I was haunted by that thing all my childhood.  It’s real.’

Result!  Losers out there think it’s true.  Tossers.

The Website That Let’s You Tell Your True Life Paranormal stories

They’ve given it a name.  They’ve given it a gender!


Is it too late to copyright?

A flicker in the mirror.  That which makes you suddenly check that there’s nothing behind you.  The light patch in the dark of  the trees that is suddenly wrong.

you’ve got gloryboy on your trail

Houston we have a meme!

Pastor Caleb Gems performs exorcisms to rid you of evil
‘I know that gloryboy exists’
‘There he was, watching me from the woods, a darkness darker than that around.  A strange glow.  Hair and bone’
‘In my bedroom, in the corner, just there for a moment I saw him from the corner of my eye.  I see him still.’
‘Please God, save me from gloryboy.’
“gloryboy: He Exists” by Pastor Caleb Gems, $10 special price when you click here.

Coming through.  Coming through.

At you can get your gloryboy mugs, tee shirts, mouse mats and badges.  gloryboy is here with your reward!

A focal point.  New bogeyman.  Something is hungry.  Something is ready to feed.

There’s glory for You!
Follow the new hilarious gloryboy web-strip!  You’ll get your reward!

Coming through. 
Coming through.

Where did that come from?  Be seeing old glory himself if not careful:)

Photograph from 1912 shows that gloryboy has been with us a long time.

Oh give me strength!

Does this medieval woodcut show gloryboy?

No it doesn’t.  It can’t.  I created him, it, two years ago for a competition.
Never did get my reward.

Latest gloryboy footage and testimony.  Is he after our children?

They’ve added so much to him.  Not just a name and a gender.  They’ve given him a look, motives, an MO.
It was meant to be something odd, a bit creepy, unsettling.  Not some comic book villain with complete backstory.
It’s not mine anymore.
He’s not mine anymore.

gloryboy has escaped.

And I think he’s coming home.

Tonight’s discussion.
The unexplained disappearance of the self-proclaimed creator of gloryboy continues to cause controversy.
Did he get his reward?

With apologies to Victor Surge

‘Ostension’ copyright © 2012 Alastair Chadwin

 Or you can read it, along with some comments about the its writing, over at Spring Heeled Jack.

Meanwhile, in the run up to Samhain this year I’ve been reading up on my ghostly literature.  Best of the batch so far, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver which I read, liked, admired, but was not overly scared or unnerved by it until this morning when I was in the bath.  No I don’t know why either.  Baths don’t feature in the book at all, as far as I can recall and as I only read it a week back, if they did they weren’t major plot drivers.  Odd.

I’ve come across this delayed reaction to ghost stories before, noticeably with MR James.  A detail from the story will suddenly pop back into my mind at an unexpected moment.  It can be inconvenient.

Another read was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  This was made into the famous 1963 film, The Haunting and the script there follows the novel very closely.  Interestingly though, the most famously scary sequence in the film is less so in the novel, while the novel’s most alarming scene comes across as somewhat melodramatic in the film. 

Disappointments have included a surprisingly clumsy and unsubtle effort by Henry James called The Romance of Certain Old Clothes.  I hope he gets his act together before I get to Turn of the Screw.

Finally, here’s a song from a film which, despite its title, has curiously little to do with Tim Burton:

And if you are out tonight, as always, be watchful for there may be things abroad which should not be.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

When The Swashbuckler Comes In

Reading a Doctor Nikola* novel the other month, I was startled when the action suddenly shifted to my own fair Newcastle upon Tyne, town of my birth and current abode.  I shouldn’t be surprised as the city turns up in a surprising number of novels. 
*Late 19th century master villain who appeared in a series of novels notable for the fact that, contrary to the author’s intention one assumes, the good doctor is only really likable character

 First, and far and away most unexpectedly, is the curious fact that the three musketeers come here at one point.  Honest.  It’s in the sequel to the original novel, Twenty Years After, set – well, you get the idea.  It turns out that twenty years after the events of the first book brings us to the English Civil War and the musketeers attempt to rescue Charles I while he is held in durance vile in, yup, Newcastle upon Tyne.  Spoilers for novel and, indeed, English history: they fail.

It so happens that I read this book in France.  I was in Paris and being the pretentious drear that I am, I had decided to take a French book with me to read while I was there and having already read The Three Musketeers chose Twenty Years After.  So there I was in a hotel room in the Latin Quarter reading about Newcastle.  That was odd.

Other unexpected appearances of my fair city occur in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in which – if memory serves, I don't have a copy to hand – a rakish army officer is sent to Fenham Barracks, which lies to the west of the city, in disgrace which seems right and proper.  Susanna Clarke in the highly recommended Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell posits Newcastle as the centre of magic in her version of England

while the comic book character John Constantine, created by Alan Moore, had an experience up here that led to him spending some time in a secure mental health facility.

Interestingly, the one novel in which Newcastle does not, apparently, appear is Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis upon which Get Carter was based, and while the film is definitely set in Newcastle (and Gateshead, Whitley Bay and Northumberland) the book, or so I’m told, never specifies which city it’s set in.  The film, by the way, was originally going to be filmed in Hull, according to what I’ve read, but when that proved to be impracticable, the filming moved here.

So, forget Cookson country.  Let's market the North East as Musketeer country which would, let’s face it, be more fun than concentrating on those novels in which, in accordance to local by-laws, the main character’s father or grandfather is obliged to be killed/crippled/drowned in a coal fall down the pit or out at sea with the fishing fleet.  

It would be worth it, surely.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Being Volume 12 of the Brightononicom

A couple of weeks back, wearing my Spring Heeled Jack hat, I attended the British Fantasy Society’s annual wingding, or FantasyCon as they will call it.

As they define fantasy to include weird fiction I saw it as a chance to put in a bit of networking and get an idea of what’s what in the genre these days.

So what did I discover?  Of this I shall sing:

Obvious point, but does need to made for those of us whose idea of ‘fantasy’ is that it’s solely made up of those interminable multi-volume sagas involving magical artifacts and epic quests and heroes who introduce themselves as so and so’s son assuming an interest in their genealogy which most of us simply do not share, is that it’s a cheerfully open genre happy to embrace just about anything it likes.  There was none of that ‘Oh I never read [insert whatever/whoever here]’ that so bedevils a lot of book talk.

I don’t know if this is usual as I’ve never been to one of these things before, but it is an odd experience to find yourself reading a book in a bar and looking up to see the author sitting three foot away from you.*  Or even more a challenge to etiquette, to realise one is sitting opposite an author whose name you recognise and whose work you are aware of  but have never actually read.  What, if anything, can you say?  Nothing in my case.

*’Ash’ and James Herbert if you were wondering

Fantasy authors are engagingly shy about that unhappy business known as networking.  I thought I’d missed a trick by only having the logo, a mildly sinister quote and the web address on the cards I scattered about cheerfully, but apparently not.


Mark Gattiss disliked the new iDalek design and argued against it.  He was therefore particularly irritated that it was introduced in a story written by him.  

He also uses the neologism Poliakoffian to describe very, very slow moving drama.

The members of the panel discussing the member’s vote on ‘Best Ghost Story’ all admire MR James but really wish the membership would stop voting “Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad” in every single bloody year.

Any many other things besides, but you'll have to wait for the next volume to find out what manner of things they may be.