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Books Fiction Reading List

Five supernatural tales by authors not known for horror

Some of the best tales of horror and terror have been produced by writers whose names do not conjure up the isolated castles, decaying mansions and sheeted forms of the gothic inheritance. These authors bring fresh perspectives to well-worn tropes and often use the form to explore themes found elsewhere in their works. Such stories are valuable to scholars of the supernatural in fiction, demonstrating the potential of the genre, and to those interested in individual authors, as they provide neat examples of overarching themes in a writer’s oeuvre. Most importantly, they give the reader a tale well-told.         

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Books Interviews Non-fiction

Podcast, episode #2: Kendall R. Phillips on the birth of horror in American cinema

Peter talks to professor Kendall R. Phillips about his book, A Place of Darkness, and how horror developed in early American cinema up until the release of Dracula in 1931.

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Books Fiction Interviews

Helen Marshall interview: ‘It’s more like a dream vision than a science fiction novel’

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.

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Books Essays Fiction

The banality of evil in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”

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.

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Books Fiction Interviews

Kate Pullinger: ‘The witch is such a contradictory and interesting figure’

Patrons can listen to the exclusive audio version of this interview.

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.

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Books Fiction

Samantha Schweblin’s Mouthful of Birds makes the Man Booker International prize 2019 longlist

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.

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Books Essays Fiction

The legacy of Hill House: haunted spaces in Shirley Jackson’s novels

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.

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Books Fiction

Night Thoughts: The forgotten bestseller that inspired the Gothic

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.

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Books Interviews

Melissa Edmundson: ‘The ghost story gave women a voice’

Melissa Edmundson is a literary historian specialising in nineteenth and early twentieth-century British women writers, especially those who wrote supernatural fiction. Much of her work centres on re-discovering those writers who have been forgotten. Edmundson is the editor of a new collection of ghost stories by Victorian women called Avenging Angelspublished by Victorian Secrets, an independent publisher dedicated to books about and from the nineteenth century.

If you wish to explore the area further, beyond Avenging Angels, Edmundson wrote for us a reading list of ghost stories by Victorian women writers. Here, I speak to Edmundson about the new collection and her chosen area of research.

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Books Interviews

The Gothic imagination: notes from a talk with Professor Nick Groom

Editor’s note: Katariina Kottonen’s excellent write-up of a talk between Peter Meinertzhagen and Professor Nick Groom from 2017 was originally published on Chance and Physics.

The description goes as such: a sleeping woman is draped over the end of a bed with her head hanging down. An incubus is crouched upon her stomach. From the curtains in the background emerges a horse’s head with glowing eyes. The setting is rich in colour – dark reds, yellows and ochres – while the dreaming figure is brilliantly white. The painting is titled The Nightmare, but its explicit eroticism suggests other, more sensual interpretations.