Saturday, 28 November 2015

HWA Bram Stoker Award

The reading list for the Bram Stoker Award in the Short Fiction category includes two stories from ST#30. They are 'Even Clean Hands Can Do Damage' by Steve Duffy, and '30' by Helen Grant.

I am very pleased that two excellent authors are in the running for an award because I think good writers deserve publicity. Oh, and I hope lots of people buy the magazine, of course. It's interesting to note that, while both stories are very traditional in some regards, they also manage to be genuinely original in some important respects. They're also very different in tone, with Helen's story somewhat playful and knowing (almost the very end) while Steve's is more sombre, as befits the subject matter.

If you feel the urge to peruse those excellent tales, you can find it in print and ebook from here. Go on, get stuck in - it's quite cheap and a good read.

Cover art by Sam Dawson

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Wicker Man and the Lambton Worm

One of the first tales of weird fiction I learned wasn't from the pages of Edgar Allan Poe or M.R. James, but from English medieval history. Where I grew up in Sunderland one of the few local legends - perhaps the only one of note - is that of full-on monster v. hero action.

The Lambton Worm is a ballad that tells a familiar tale. A foolish person makes a blunder that unleashes a dangerous entity upon an unsuspecting world. Well, County Durham, anyway. The worm in question starts of small, gets bigger, and eventually becomes a major nuisance that can't be killed by regular warriors. So a hero arises and - thanks to advice from a witch, no less - kills the monster. Unfortunately, the witch's bargain brings a curse upon the hero's line...

If you want to read the story, the traditional ballad is here. There are some interesting twists, not least the fact that young John Lambton, the hero, is also the twit who unleashes the worm in the first place. But what's all this got to do with The Wicker Man? Well...

In this article you can read about the way in which Peter Schaffer wanted to follow The Wicker Man with a story involving the Lambton Worm. It's bizarre stuff, to say the least. I mean, who would really buy into this as a starting point?
Laden with heavy use of special effects, the story would open with a group of officers from the mainland arriving at the eleventh hour, just in time to rescue Neil Howie from being roasted within the belly of the wicker man. Upon his rescue, Howie sets about pursuing Lord Summerisle, who must be brought to justice for his horrific actions.
Well, okay, maybe they could make that work. (But why would officers from the mainland assume anything was wrong?) Anyway, what follows is weird indeed:
This ending, of course, would have seen Sergeant Howie engaged in a Saint George-style battle with the Lambton Worm itself, to be followed by a clash between spiritual world views: Howie’s faith in the Christian God set against the old gods of Summerisle’s pagan belief.
Crikey. Probably just as well it wasn't made. Especially since Ken Russell had, by that stage, already based a film on the same story, albeit filtered through Bram Stoker's novel Lair of the White Worm. And that's a good excuse to show Hugh Grant symbolically slaying the not-so-legendary 'D'Ampton Worm'.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Punctuation, People

Oh, Monty - you and your promiscuous young people. Why couldn't you just write about genteel scholars looking for old books 'n' that?

Gleaned this online, so I'm not sure of the source, but it looks (and reads) like the dear old Grauniad.