The figure of the child has been a perennial presence in horror. Whether it’s the harrowing grief of losing a child – losing a part of ourselves, one intended to continue after our own deaths – that suffuses Don’t Look Now to the use of the child as an avatar of uncanny otherness in The Midwich Cuckoos – where the secret rituals and curious logic of children, often opaque to adults, take on a sinister aspect – children are continually depicted in their role as a threat to the supposed certainties of adulthood.
Let’s get an admission out of the way before we begin: I never read Misty as a child. In my defence, I was barely three years old when it was merged into rival comic Tammy, effectively ending its run, but it was also, as the title of this cultural history of the comic defiantly reclaims, “for girls”. In the Lancashire of the late 70s and early 80s that, unfortunately, made it very much “not for boys”.
In his introduction to this anthology editor Mike Ashley reminds us that “although the history of the ghost story often emphasises the role of male writers … it is all too easily overlooked that the development of the field, helping the weird tale to progress, was as much the territory of women. And that was true from the very start”.
Embarrassingly, I’d never seen Near Dark before I started writing this review. I don’t know why, it just seemed to pass me by. I take some comfort in the fact that, at least on initial release, this vampire-noir-western hybrid passed a lot of other people by as well.
One thing I’m perpetually fascinated by is the concept that we can never truly know other people, even those we might feel close to. All we can ever know is our own experience of their behaviours. We may even be able to predict those behaviours to a reliable, comfortable degree but when those predictions fail – when someone confounds our expectations, acts out of character – then we find this deeply disturbing.
In his introduction to this anthology editor James Machin suggests that works of British weird fiction can be distinguished from their perhaps more well-known American variants due to their “refusal to fully reveal their horrors, relying on ominous hints, telling detail and atmosphere, instead of the full reveal”. It’s an interesting position to offer and one, I admit, I can easily agree with.
A new publication from Undertow is always a treat. With books like Laura Mauro’s wonderful Sing Your Sadness Deep and the Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthologies Michael Kelly has made the imprint into a go-to for modern weird horror fiction. Thin Places is Chronister’s debut collection, blending stories previously published in places like Black Static and Kelly’s own Shadows & Tall Trees with a handful of previously unpublished works, so she faces the double-edged sword of being amongst excellent company. Thankfully, she faces it with aplomb.
It’s often claimed that we know more about deep space than we do about the deep oceans. The truth of this is debatable – it’s a slight exaggeration of a quote by oceanographer Paul Snelgrove, “We know more about the surface of the Moon and about Mars than we do about [the deep sea floor]”, but we do know surprisingly little about something which covers the majority of our planet’s surface.
So-called “genre” fiction has had, since its inception, an issue with defining itself. Even the word itself is vague, coming from the same root as the less-flattering description “generic”. It implies a mass of different types, clustered together haphazardly and cowering beneath the monolithic purity of the much more proper literary fiction.
No one would have believed in the last months of 2019 that two episodic adaptations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds could be released onto the world’s televisions screens. One, a period-accurate adaptation from the BBC, landed with as much fanfare as a meteorite landing on Horsell Common and was almost as well-received. The other, a bilingual co-production from Fox and Canal+ set in the present day, crept out to little notice due to its awkwardly staggered release pattern across France and the US, eventually reaching the UK in March of 2020.
Will the invasion of La Guerre des Mondes, to distinguish it with the French title, be more successful or will it be “slain as the red weed was being slain”?