“How would a zombie really decompose in Night of the Living Dead? Are there instances of shape shifting in nature like in The Wolfman? What is the science behind the night terrors that inspired the creation of Freddy Krueger? Is there scientific data supporting ghost detection like the tools used in Poltergeist? What is the psychological drive that compels cannibals like Hannibal Lecter?”
To say that Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the cornerstones of modern horror is an understatement. What has been one of its enduring impacts, at least to me, is the sharp juxtaposition of what could be argued to be a family movie against almost casual brutality, tuning viewers in across the span of decades to a story of fear that feels timeless at its core.
Reviewing a book as erudite and as confident as this is in many ways a challenge, as Nicole Cushing’s ambitious work demands to be judged by the highest standards. A Sick Gray Laugh is very firmly in one of the oldest of the traditions of the novel. Playful, clever, at times spellbinding and always brave, the narrative is in the style mastered by Lawrence Sterne in the eighteenth century in his astonishing work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. We are, very early on, introduced to the character of “the writer”, Noelle Cashman. We are posed various questions and challenges from the very start, and we are firmly patronised, though always with wit and charm, when our frustration or fascination are anticipated: “These are entirely reasonable questions,” writes “Cashman”, “Be patient. All shall be revealed.”
Weird fiction, a literary mode defined by Lovecraft as possessing “a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces”, is usually spoken about in the same sentence as names such as Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, M.R. James, and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike the earlier and related genre, the gothic, the names of women very rarely turn up in discussions of weird fiction, unless when referring to writers who came later in its development, from the 1950s onward. And even then, far too little. It’s high time, therefore, for the release of this new collection of short stories from Handheld Press, edited by expert on women’s supernatural fiction, Melissa Edmundson, whom Sublime Horror readers might remember from Avenging Angels and her reading list of ghost stories by Victorian women.
Born in Greece, raised in Ireland, educated in England, and a writing career forged in America – perhaps it is Lafcadio Hearn’s lack of a permanent home that resulted in his openness towards and interest in other cultures. If we look back on Hearn’s career and works, it is a recording of folklore and local customs that stands out most clearly.
Cursed Britain opens by posing the question: if your misfortunes gradually escalated and piled on top of one another, would you – could you – believe yourself cursed? If you came to that conclusion, one a younger you would have found preposterous, what would you do about it?
Ask a horror reader which book of 2019 they’re most excited about and one might reasonably answer with King’s The Institue or Tremblay’s Growing Things, to give two notable examples. In other words, new books from mainstays of the horror genre. I would answer with Andrew Michael Hurley’s Starve Acre. I would say this not only for the simple reason that Hurley is one of my favourite contemporary novelists writing horror fiction but for what Hurley represents.
I’ve been a fan of Stephen Chobsky ever since The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out when I was in college. Needless to say, I was excited to hear that he was dipping his feet into the horror genre with Imaginary Friend. The book centres around a young boy named Christopher Reese who goes missing in the woods after following a disembodied voice. Upon returning, Christopher realises he has something akin to superpowers: he’s no longer dyslexic, he wins the lottery, and he can somehow hear people’s thoughts. But there’s a catch. He keeps having reoccurring nightmares about a “hissing lady” who wants to tear down the wall between the “imaginary world” and the real one, which has something to do with another little boy who went missing fifty years ago.
Because I’m a woman who loves horror, people always ask me who my favourite women horror writers are, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I don’t always have the best response. Beyond the obvious choices like Mary Shelley or Shirley Jackson, sometimes it’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list when your bookshelf is made up of 90% white men.