Dale Bailey’s seventh novel, In the Night Wood, is a modern gothic fantasy, infused with folk horror elements and the spirit of a dark fairytale. Originally released last year, and featured on Tor.com’s best books of 2018 list, the novel is being re-published in a new hardback edition by HarperVoyager, who clearly see untapped potential.
Witches, in one shape or form, by one definition or another, have a long literary history and are a constant source of inspiration. I spoke to Marion Gibson, Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literature at the University of Exeter, to put together this reading list of witches in fiction, starting with the relatively modern Young Goodman Brown in 1835. Clearly, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list, but a cherry-picked selection that will likely be of interest to our readers. Marion is the author of an introductory book on the study of witchcraft, the themes of which we discuss in the first episode of the Sublime Horror podcast.
This is the first in a new series where we round-up the most interesting new (UK) releases in horror and cross-over horror fiction. “Cross-over” is worth specifying because a number of the books here wouldn’t be shelved under “horror” in the average bookshop but alongside other literary fiction, so it’s all the more important we call them out. One of the aims of Sublime Horror is to remove some of the artificial boundaries between what is “genre” and what isn’t, which I hope will bring new books to the attention of readers who might otherwise fall into one camp or the other. The first book on this list is a brilliant example of what I’m referring to.
The horror film, as a genre, emerged in 1931 with the release of the Universal-produced Dracula and, later that year, Frankenstein. It wasn’t until this time that the language of horror entered the popular vernacular and that a framework of a genre had been defined. But by no means were these two films the first to use horrific elements; elements designed to evoke the uncanny, use the supernatural as an artistic and emotional tool, and to shock audiences. It is this pre-1931 period of American cinema that Kendall R. Phillips’ book A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema (which was included in the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker non-fiction award) focuses on, a period of proto-horror that set the foundations for a genre to come.
The supernatural has long been a convenient way to address socially taboo topics, especially during the nineteenth century when ghost stories became increasingly popular. Indeed, the ghost story very much became a Christmas tradition, which you can read more about in our review of Spirits of the Season. For women writers during this period, the short story became an empowering form, giving women both a professional and social voice. This is the theme of a new collection of ghost stories by Victorian women writers edited by Melissa Edmundson, featuring ten great representative authors. Naturally, her book is the best place to start if you’re looking to explore these stories – buy the book here. If you’re looking for further reading, I spoke with Melissa about what other books she would recommend; here are her choices.
“Mortal Echoes: Encounters with the End” is another great collection from the British Library that provides the reader with an intimate experience with the otherwise unfathomable: our own mortality.
Mortal Echoes: Encounters with the End is the second book I’ve reviewed in the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series (read my review of Spirits of the Season), which aims to revive long-lost material from the library’s vaults in the genres of horror, the gothic, and weird fiction. This collection focuses on death, stories which bring us face to face with our own mortality.