There’s an affinity between horror and the avant-garde. From the visceral dystopian visions found in Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, to the gothic-infused surrealism of films like Jane Arden’s The Other Side of Underneath and Bill Gunn’s Ganja & Hess, and even to David Lynch’s projects over multiple mediums, experiments in form frequently amplify the nightmarish aspects of horror (both horror as a genre and horror as an emotion). Adam L.G. Nevill’s recent collection of stories entitled Wyrd and Other Derelictions is part of that avant-garde horror tradition.
Artist and illustrator Eli John is primarily inspired by ghost stories, and supernatural and gothic fiction, searching out the sublime and psychological landscapes in his work. That he lives and creates in the Pendle Forest, in the shadow of the Lancashire witches, could not be more appropriate. That he’s also a bookseller specialising in old ghosts and new, even more so. As Eli John adds a new M. R. James project with US publisher Centipede Press to his illustration stable, he talks to Sublime Horror’s Lucy Wood about obsessions, solitude and getting his hands dirty.
In recent times, fans of literary horror have been treated to a remarkable spate of short story collections that explore the fuzzy boundaries between genres and between worlds. The writers of these books might be considered heirs to the “strange stories” of Robert Aickman or the “dark tales” of Shirley Jackson. The latest addition to this pleasing trend: Dan Coxon’s debut Only the Broken Remain.
It is perhaps fortuitous that Ben Hervey’s BFI Film Classics: Night of the Living Dead monograph has been republished in 2020. Not only was this the year when we most needed stories about the failure of systems we have trusted implicitly, but it was also the year that The Living Dead, a novel by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus, was published by Tor Books.
The Boatman’s Daughter begins with an epigraph, taken from line two hundred and forty-three of The Tempest. If what’s past is truly prologue, then Shakespeare’s play undoubtedly proves to be the genesis of Andy Davidson’s second novel. But displaced to the bayous of the Deep South, with a gloss of supernatural horror, this tale of power and betrayal undergoes its own transformation, a mutation that seems less the work of charms and baseless visions than of some rough, unhallowed magic.
“In Chapel Croft, You don’t have to play with fire to get burned…” and so goes the blurb on this thriller laced with supernatural elements, mystery, and horror. The story gets off to a cracking start with a short prologue which the reader later learns to be a flashback.
A family on a day out to celebrate July 4th experiences the unthinkable.
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 2016, Orenda Books published Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories, a mystery shot through with elements of horror. It was one of the first novels to use the conceit of a true crime podcast to inform its structure: the story is told through episode transcripts, with the show’s host, Scott King, acting as narrator.
Aren’t we all the heroes of our own narratives?
The Glass Man, at last released to the wider public after having been made in 2011, is, thankfully, as box-fresh as it was then – a relevant, eternal and enduring character study delving into the stories we humans can’t help but make up, to make sense of the world.