Helen Marshall is a World Fantasy Award-winning author. She has previously published two short story collections, Hair Side, Flesh Side and Gifts for the One Who Comes After, as well as two collections of poetry. The Migration is her first novel and it deftly combines horror, fantasy, and science fiction to tell an imaginative post-apocalyptic story. I spoke to Marshall about her new book, its themes and influences, the state of weird fiction, as well as her work as a creative writing teacher.
In the summer of 1948, more than three hundred letters arrived at the offices of The New Yorker in response to a short story, “the most mail the magazine that ever received in response to a work of fiction” (Ruth Franklin, “‘The Lottery’ Letters,” The New Yorker June 25, 2013). At a time when the post-World War II boom of the United States was about to decline into the paranoia and conformity of the Cold War, the story in question could not be more appropriate, nor terrifying for the American imagination.
If you read my review of Kate Pullinger’s 1999 novel Weird Sister, you will know how much I enjoyed it and how relevant its ideas are today for the very same reasons that the study of witches and witchcraft remains as relevant as ever. Professor Marion Gibson’s reading list of witches in fiction introduced me to Weird Sister and the professor is also introducing the book to new generations of undergraduates as it features on a module she teaches at Exeter University; Pullinger says she gets students contacting her every year to ask questions for their essays. I spoke to Kate Pullinger about Weird Sister, her research into the Witches of Warboys, and her experiments with digital fiction.
Argentinian author Samantha Schweblin’s novel Fever Dream was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 and now her latest book, a short story collection (her debut collection in English) called Mouthful of Birds, has made the longlist for 2019.
Think of the term “haunted house” and it is likely to conjure up a variety of images, including decaying Victorian mansions or Gothic manor houses from rural England. However, mention the town of Bennington, Vermont and it is not likely to strike fear in the heart of the Western imagination the same way “Transylvania” would. Yet, it is a locale responsible for generating one of the greatest modern haunted house stories in the English literature.
There are, of course, innumerable claims that could be made to have been the first ghost story, or the first piece of Gothic horror in literature. This piece argues that Edward Young’s extraordinary poem Night Thoughts deserves a look-in as an early example of Gothic literature because of the extravagance of its Gothic imagery, and the depth of its argument that the ideas of the ghost and the tomb are central, rather than ornamental, to any proper discussions of existence or imagination.
In April 1593, the whole Samuel family – Alice Samuel, her husband John, and their daughter Agnes – were tried for witchcraft. They were hanged for their supposed crimes, ‘the bewitching of the five daughters of Robert Throckmorton Esquire’ and ‘the betwitching to death of Lady Cromwell’. If you weren’t already aware of the Witches of Warboys, this is not the fictional setting for Kate Pullinger’s 1999 novel Weird Sister, it is a genuine case that scholar George Kittredge called ‘the most momentous witch-trial that had ever occurred in England.’
C. J. Tudor‘s debut novel, The Chalk Man, released last year, was a fantastic success. It was a Sunday Times bestseller, shortlisted for the Steel Dagger and National Book Awards, made its way onto a number of the year’s “best of” lists, and even claimed a highly coveted quote from Stephen King, who said, “If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.” It was a success even before it was published, being Tudor’s literary agent’s fastest selling book of all time, won in a nine-way publisher auction.
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.
The bloodline of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles is as enduring as the ancient blood drinkers about whom she writes and, with the publication of 1976’s Interview with a Vampire, is largely to blame for Twilight and the rest of its handsome and un-horrifying brood.
Fans of the series forgive me, for I am entirely new to it and may make observations that are obvious to you, knowing as I do only of the influence it has had on popular culture, the fiction of the vampire, and their chiselled new image. Once, the vampire had no need for mirrors, but you get the impression Rice’s regularly enjoy tending to their hair. “Almost all vampires are beautiful. They are picked for their beauty.”