Saturday, 19 May 2018

Codex Shub-Niggurath - Review

How quickly things go when you're getting older. One minute you're wondering who would win in a fight between the Cybermen and the Autons, and the next minute you've got dodgy knees.

Which is an odd way to introduce another poetry pamphlet from Pete 'Cardinal' Cox, Peterborough's Bard of the Bizarre. As you'll have gleaned from the title, this is another in his series of musings on Lovecraftian weirdies, and this time it's the turn of the Goat With A Thousand Young. Just the sort of benefit tourist the op-ed writers of the Daily Mail have nightmares over.

As always, the poems themselves are pithy, concise explorations of Lovecraftian ideas and related notions. Just as good are the notes that Cox adds, weaving yet more strands in his alternative history of this world, and others. It's a bit steampunk, a bit conspiracist (in a good, fun way, not a mad racist way), and erudite as all get-out.

First up is 'Chimaera of Lydia', the weird hybrid monster of the land that worshipped 'many-breasted Artemis'. There's a sense of Pan-ic and mystery in this one that bodes well, what with 'split-hoof prints/Embedded in high places'. In the note Cox asks if Shub-Niggurath' cult lies behind goat-deities of the classical world.

'Ram of Mendes' follows, logically enough, and a dash of Herodotus. Egypt and nearby areas were rammed with rams, of course. The bleat 'Baa' becomes Baal. This leads us to 'St John of Patmos' Lamb', as who better to spot beings that transcend time and space than a great visionary? I'm really impressed by the way these poems skip from pagan to Christian mythology. 'Vegetable Lamb', the fourth short verse, takes us to Tartary and the fascinating travellers' tale of the plant that was also an animal. A seemingly minor oddity, it serves as a warning that 'Other creations can take place/That could wipe us from planet's face'.

A change of pace and style for the next poem. 'Verses Discovered in a Seventeenth Century Broadside' is an account of a Civil  War army that encounters a giant ram '100 yards tall, sir'. This links the huge, spectral ram with witchery, and the mad trials of that era. The kicker is that the whole unbelievable tale might well be... not true at all.

Still on military themes, 'Baa'fometz' looks at the alleged Templar worship of a hermaphrodite idol and the link with Eliphas Levi's famous 'Horned God of the Witches'. Very timely in these gender-wobbly times.

'Ya-Te-Veo' surprised me by being about a plant that captures small animals. This takes us away from 'pure' Lovecraft, if memory serves, but is just as much fun. I had not heard of this particular killer vegetable, but what follows is 'Dawn of the Triffid', a stark example of concrete poetry with a literal sting in the tail. Or frond. Whatever.

Finally 'The Nonahedron Ritual' adds a little more to the vast apocryphal lore and addresses the reader directly on tolerance. 'Three times three forms of sexual variety' seems about right for now, but just wait til the sexbots arrive in force. The note ends thusly: 'Do not confuse with the Nonahedron Order, an eccentric organisation that combines Satanism, skinhead politics, and Star Trek'. Well, quite.

All in all, a jolly good pamphlet, and yet again I have Learned Something. Several Somethings, in fact.

If you would like a copy send a C5 SAE to:

58 Pennington
Orton Goldhay

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Horror Babble!

Right then, I'm doing various things. Writing my sixteenth book for Scare Street - that's quite a lot of books. Working on ST #38, which is shaping up nicely - more on that soon, I hope. And I'm also girding up my ageing loins for a collaborative project with Ro Pardoe's Haunted Library - exciting stuff!

"But Dave, how do you relax amid this whirl of activity?"

Glad you asked me that, made-up anonymous person. I often listen to audio versions of favourite stories, especially ghostly and weird fiction. Which brings me to Horror Babble, a substantial YouTube contributor that posts readings of mostly old horror. I think the team, led by Ian Gordon, do an excellent job.

What's on Horror Babble? A lot of Lovecraft, if that floats your boat. Some M.R. James, a fair bit of Robert Bloch, a big chunk of Robert E. Howard, and a major dollop of Clark Ashton Smith. The complete Carnacki stories by William Hope Hodgson are also there, which is a plus, and there are  Algernon Blackwood's 'greatest hits' as well. There's also some new fiction from various writers, including Creepypastas (i.e. demonic lasagne, ghostly macaroni, etc).

So, if you like listening to horror that's well-chosen and well-read, you might want to give Horror Babble a go.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

'Picnic at Bluebell Wood'

The last story in Kate Haynes' collection Waiting in the Shadows is a tale of Mean Girls. Or is it? Moyra is a new girl at school, and feels her life would be complete if she could join the elite group of clever, fashionable girls. So when they invite her for a picnic she is ecstatic. Even more wonderful is the fact that the boy she fancies will be there.

Of course, as the date of the outing approaches Moyra begins to wonder if she is being set up. Maybe the group is going to ruin her life, as mean girls tend to do? And sure enough, when she arrives at Bluebell Wood with her bag stuffed full of nosh, there is no sign of the cool girls. An upset Moyra decides to have a picnic by herself - that'll show 'em. But then she encounters a weird presence - pink of face and somewhat Jamesian - that prompts her to flee.

At this point the mean girls scenario is twisted into something else. Moyra is entitled to join the elite group, but membership comes at a very high price. Far from being a stepping stone to something better, Bluebell Wood turns out to be the focus of everything. There are worse things than being an outsider, it seems.

And so the book ends with a suitably dark tale. Overall this collection offers an entertaining canter through a world that overlaps with those of many genre greats. Any ghost story fan would, I think, enjoy it.

That ends my running review. More to come soon! There are all these books...