Posts filed under 'The Infection Spreads'

Angry Robot comes to life by JD’L

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Earlier today I escaped the confines of the Horror Reanimated dungeons – nice though the new décor is – and went topside to talk to the editors of the brand new genre imprint, Angry Robot.

I say topside; the meeting actually took place with the three of us – Marc Gascoigne, Lee Harris and me – strapped top-to-tail along the nearside rail of the Central Line. Crotch first into the oncoming tube-trains, waiting to be riven from bollocks to brains if we didn’t conclude the interview within the allotted time.

I just love a thrill, don’t you?

Angry Robot is an imprint of the massive mainstream publishing house Harper Collins.

Here’s what the lads, soon to be ladies if they weren’t succinct, had to say for themselves. Amazing, really, how fast a person can speak when time is a factor…

THE REAL AR: Just to let the readers know, the evil clowns who run this debacle had filled in some answers already, way before we got to see this. The cheeky little scamps. In the interests of full transparency, kids, we have no option but to heckle them, and ourselves I guess, via an alternative tag. Beware all imitations, kids!

Joseph D’Lacey: Hi, gentlemen. I’m delighted you could join me for a quick chat about what promises to be a great leap forward for genre fiction.

Angry Robot: Just get on with the bloody questions, can’t you?

THE REAL AR: Oh no, that’s not us. We would have said something far stronger than bloody. Weaselly word, fit only for second-rate upstart horror houses if you ask us.

JD’L: As you wish. Now what was it I was going to ask you?

[…distant echo of hurtling trains…]

Oh yes, I remember now. Angry Robot launches on the 1st July. How many titles are you launching with and can you tell our readers a little about each of them?

Angry Robot: Here’s the list. Perhaps you could, like, read it later.

[I couldn’t. I was far too interested in what lies in store for genre-reading fans. I share this list with you now.]

THE REAL AR: Oh yeah, like we’d skip an opportunity to plug our books? Get real. Two books per month, all paperback originals. July is Slights by Kaaron Warren, a massively disturbing serial killer horror novel; and Moxyland by Lauren Beukes, bleeding edge day-after-tomorrow cyberthriller about losing your identity in an ID-compulsory world.

JD’L: It appears that what makes Angry Robot different from other F/SF & H publishers is their interest in cross-genre material. Is it that simple, guys, or is there more behind the imprint’s ethos?

THE REAL AR: Well, it’s not simple, but you are. B-boom. Only joshing with you. [Punches Joe’s arm. Hard.]

What my arm looked like afterwards...

What my arm looked like afterwards...

In truth, there’s a whole world of difference to Angry Robot, from the obvious (the content of the books we’re publishing) to very subtle organisational and strategic differences that, if we were to explain, we’d need automated whiteboards and PowerPoint and several days.

But “crossover” is a big deal for us, that’s true. There’s a whole bunch of complicated reasoning stuff I could go into, but in my head there’s simply a little memory-impression from first playing one of the Final Fantasy games on the first Playstation. My hero is stood there in the steam train wrecking yard, eight foot sword on his back. There are helicopters and dragons in the sky, spells and guns in my backpack. And it feels OK. Better, it feels bloody great.

No-one’s got a major problem with books that mix and match genres these days. Indeed, “is it horror or fantasy” is a compliment if you ask me, and damn but you can’t move for really excellent novels that cry out to be labelled “science fantasy”. But somewhere between the bookseller’s need to shelve books here and not there, reviewers’ needs to pigeon work so they can assess it and an underlying human liking for things being straightforward, we’ve developed this habit of putting genre stuff into little boxes.

What happens when you put important things in little boxes

What happens when you put important things in little boxes

We were talking about this with the big SF guy at one of the UK’s biggest bookchains (no names, no fistfights). His take was that soon enough there will be a new shelf – or more likely, a table at the front of the store, cos this stuff isn’t necessarily just for the long-term enthusiasts – where the crossover stuff sits: video game-derived fantasy and horror, literary SF that’s marked for general reading, massive Facebook-boosted teen novels, and the best of the hardcore genres too. We’re just right on the tip of that wave.

There’s a second whole string to this, for Angry Robot particularly, and it’s the unwieldy but essential term “Post-YA”. If you were the same age as Harry Potter when you read his first novel, you’re too old for that pre-teenage stuff and have been for several years. If you spent the last five years loving Doctor Who, ditto. There’s a whole generation reared on fabulous new departures in SF and fantasy, whether in books, games, graphic novels.

As an aside, this generation hasn’t read every influential book published in the last fifty years. That’s going to mean that some of the books they love, and want more of, will seem like rehashes of past glories, from authors slavishly devoted to the bygone styles of earlier great authors. There’ll be moaning about derivative work. And we will encourage this with all our might. There’s plenty of resources there to help new genre readers find the greats once we, and other imprints like us, have hooked them in the first place. But we need fresh blood (leave it!) and you don’t attract that by continuing to publish the same old traditional stuff that was past its sell-by twenty-five years ago.

JD’L: Apologies in advance for the cynicism of this question but it must be asked!

Following the recent demise of the Virgin Horror line and the credit crunch destroying thousands of jobs across every sector, doesn’t it seem a little gung ho to be starting a new publishing business?

THE REAL AR: Hmm, let’s see if we can answer this without both impugning the fine intentions and dedication of the hapless Virgin crew and coming across like total arrogant cocks. Nope, probably going to fail on both counts. Let’s just say that there’s plenty of room in all the genres for good new writing, as much now as at the height of the last economic boom. Without it, genres will continue to age and become even more moribund than they sometimes seem even now. And, part two, well, we ain’t them. We’re going about it a different way, as masters of our own destiny rather than pawns of a large organisation – we’re not one editor in-house, we’re a separate division with agreed targets and strategy, but other than that full permission to go and do what we need to do.

JD’L: A personal question now to each of you. Which writers of any era have affected you most profoundly? – the genre is unimportant.

Marc Gascoigne: Aw jeez, that’s a long list; I go back a long way and I can gush for England. How about instead, a gush of authors I can think of that I’d boost to someone whose horizons I wanted to broaden? Get online and discover for yourself what the best novels to track down and read from this little lot… Mark Helprin, Keith Roberts, Matt Ruff, Daryl Gregory, Frances Sherwood, Ernest Bramah, Lucius Shepard, Nancy A Collins, Ian MacDonald, Jonathan Carroll, Marco Vassi, John Franklin Bardin, Edward Whittemore, Thomas Disch, Patrick Harpur, Marc Behm, Langdon Jones, Ben Marcus, Connie Willis, Barrington Bayley, Conrad Williams, Jonathan Littel, Barry Hughart, David Schow, Peter S Beagle, Michael Blumlein, Dan Rhodes, Christopher Priest, Edmund Cooper and about a million others… and a bit of a sneaky boost, AR author but a real talent for blowing your mind, the incredible Kaaron Warren and Slights. Fuck me, what a book.

Lee Harris: I’m not nearly as widely read as Mr G within the genre, but then I’m not nearly as old. I have some crossovers with Marco (Disch, Williams, Priest) and a few others to throw into the mix. I love the work of Mike Carey in all its formats, Richard Matheson, Tolkein (the obvious ones), much of Stephen King’s output (though I tend to prefer his psychological horror, rather than his supernatural works) and most of Orson Scott Card’s back catalogue. I’m currently working my way through a lot of Charlie Stross’ books, and enjoying discovering Graham Joyce and Michael Marshall Smith. I remember reading Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia as a child, and that was the first book I remember reading that had believable family relationships, and complex emotional themes. As for classic SF, the usual suspects: Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov. They’re considered the classics for a reason…

JD’L: Are you hoping to discover similar talent with Angry Robot? Perhaps you have already…

THE REAL AR: See previous answer, kid. Told you, that’ll teach you to send a prepared set of questions.

[At this juncture, I felt the desire for a cigar. Marc and Lee did a lot of twitching and swearing but it didn’t ruin a damned good smoke.]

JD’L: Ahh. That’s much better.

THE REAL AR: We should perhaps point out at this point that Joe actually lives on the shabbier side of Leicester, with his unsurprisingly youthful mother, and works in KFC, and wouldn’t know a good Monte Cristo if it was stubbed out in his left eye. No denying the strength of his imagination though. And we’re based in Nottingham, so why the hell he decided to pretend we were on some London underground line, well, only Joe can answer that one.

A Monte Cristo (number 5, my favourite)

A Monte Cristo (number 5, my favourite)

JD’L: Now then, as editors of many years standing (I’m not saying you’re old or anything) and therefore based on your experience, what would you say is the function of Horror?

Marc Gascoigne: Oh, you know the answer to this one. Hell, a child of six could explain. Caves, sabre-toothed tigers, the sudden urge to piss against the wall here rather than down behind the trees next to the stream. Next question!

Lee Harris: *rolls eyes* (although, not in the usual Horror Reanimated sense of the phrase) Some of us take these questions a little more seriously, Marco.

I’ve been a fan of horror literature as far back as I can remember, and have become somewhat immune to it in recent years, and I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that horror just didn’t work for me, any more. Last summer, however, I took a copy of Ramsey Campbell’s The Grin of the Dark on holiday with me, and read it at night when my wife and children were tucked up in bed. While reading it, for the first time in many a long year I found myself curling my legs up off the floor and checking the shadows. I knew there was nothing in the room with me, nothing hiding in the shadows. I knew this. But you can never be too careful. You know – just in case. That book reminded me why I’d always loved horror: a well-crafted tale of terror should unsettle. It should make you uncomfortable. It should disturb. It should make you feel.

JD’L: We usually give interviewees the opportunity to make Sword of the Ultimate Darkness and Plague Pit awards, however, I felt it would be unfair to put two editors on the spot in that way. Besides, I’m sure these tracks are vibrating…

THE REAL AR: What are you talking about? Jesus, geeks. Here’s a suggestion: get out of the house, learn to talk to real human beings.

How I learned about Monte Cristo Cigars

How I learned about Monte Cristo Cigars

JD’L: One last question, though. Apart from interviews like this one, what frightens you to your very core?

Marc Gascoigne: While typing some of these answers, I was listening to a bootleg of exotic Beatles cover versions. Forget Shatner (if you can) for I must report that Arthur Mullard’s three-falls-and-a-submission assault on “Yesterday” nearly caused unexpected leakage. In book terms, though, nothing yet. My normal reaction is more a lick of the lips at a truly deliciously nasty reveal than a shudder of terror. An admirer of the technique rather than a blubbering wreck.

Lee Harris: My wife. Alone. With a credit card.

JD’L: Well, gentlemen, this has been an absolute pleasure but I believe I can feel the approaching breath of the next train to Ealing Broadway. Must dash!

It only remains for me to add that all of us at Horror Reanimated wish you the greatest success with Angry Robot Books. I hope we’ll soon have reason to showcase some of your titles right here!

Thanks for joining us and being such good sports.

THE REAL AR: Yeah, whatever. Jesus. He does go on. Shakes head sadly.

Add comment June 30th, 2009

Andy Remic interview by JD’L


andyremicphotoJoining us today at Horror Reanimated is Andy Remic.

His novels, Spiral, Quake and Warhead are published by Orbit, and War Machine and BIOHELL are published by Solaris. Andy writes SF but his work contains a plethora of horror elements, as I discovered when I read his latest offering, BIOHELL.

The novel is a high-adrenaline rollercoaster ride stacked with mutant zombies and gore galore. The characters, mostly members of an elite force known as Combat K, are in constant danger right from the opening page and fight their way out of dozens of major scrapes. BIOHELL is hardcore action from start to finish but the blend of SF and Horror is very satisfying – much like the mix in Aliens.

I had a chat with Andy on Facebook to find out more about his work and his influences.

Joseph D’Lacey: Hi Andy and welcome to Horror Reanimated – where blogging is HELL!

May I offer you a slice of cold brain? Some fermenting lung tissue, perhaps? We recently butchered a Bloody Books intern and I must say, she’s been rather tasty. Sadly the only drink on offer is Editor’s urine. We never seem to run out of that. If none of this takes your fancy, we’ll move onto the entertainment – digital amputation. We like to make our visitors as welcome as possible, you understand…

Andy Remic: I’ll have a glass of piss, please. It can’t be any worse than the toxic hydrochloric acid “in a glass” offered at my local hostelry. And a slice of brain, on toast, with a side serving of Heinz baked beans sounds just great, mate. Unless you have some Cadbury cream eggs? Covered in Hippo sperm? Yum.

JD’L: At last, a guest with my own tastes! Now then, to business: What do you think is the percentage genre-split of Horror to SF in BIOHELL. Was it a conscious decision or did it just happen that way?

AR: I think, in all honesty, BIOHELL is probably a 50/50 SF/horror split. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, just the way the novel turned out. It was one of those mad projects where the characters come alive, put a boot up the arse of your carefully scripted plan, and run riot in the little mental sandbox you’ve created. It was a halluva lot of fun to write, and hopefully the scripted hedonism transfers to the reader through sheer exhilaration and character enjoyment.biohell

JD’L: I certainly felt you enjoyed yourself writing it. It comes through in the exuberance of your style.

I mentioned Aliens in the intro – a film that really did justice to the genre mix. Would you say Aliens has any influence on what you do or did you have other inspirations for your SF?

AR: I love the Alien films, and indeed much of Cameron’s work. I was a wee nipper when I saw the first Alien film and that brooding dark atmosphere has always stayed with me. Mostly, though, with this novel I was influenced by Shaun of the Dead. I just love that film, and after watching it a few times I thought, I must write a zombie novel, but twist it with modern technology. Hence, my “Microsoft and Tits” philosophy was born, and I invented the Biomod Human Upgrade as an excuse for a contemporary twist on the zombie theme. Other than those elements, my influences are subliminal and subconscious. I try damn hard to be original :-) .

JD’L: Apart from the fact that your characters are never more than three feet from a zombie, the barrel of a gun, an angry robot (we’ll come back to that later…) or all three, the aspect I most enjoyed in BIOHELL was the humour. I laughed out loud many times. How important is humour in your work? What about in your own life?

AR: I have a very good, very dark, and very twisted sense of humour. I believe the world is a giant comedy platform, and we are merely puppets acting out one huge improvisation for the benefits of a bored omniscient audience. Or something. I suppose you’ve got Ben Elton, Blackadder and Red Dwarf during my formative years to thank for that…. so yes, the humour is important to me, but I don’t crowbar it in. As I’m writing, humorous situations or dialogue just present themselves, and if they fit they go in. If the humour doesn’t fit, it stays out of a scene… but my main character, Franco, sexual deviant, ex-mental patient and an expert with demolitions, is prone to many proactive angles of black humour and masochism.

JD’L: In your acknowledgements you mention manic depression and semi-alcoholism among your own characteristics. Your characters Franco and Keenan reflect these traits to a degree. Was that intentional?

AR: Yup. I drink. I wish I didn’t. I’m affected by the weather. Who isn’t? I moan about it. Humans do. Ho hum. And then my characters suck out my innards zombie-eating-intestines style, in order to populate their own deformed minds with my mutated personal defects.

JD’L Apart from being mad, drunk and ginger, Franco has suffered other indignities in his life. For instance he’s no stranger to Sexually Transmitted Diseases and appears to have caught many of them from aliens. How many aliens have you slept with, Andy?

AR: Haha, I thought you were describing me then!! Well, I’ve tried a few aliens, mate. It all stems down to an obsession with tentacles, suckers and beaks, you know, the sort of things you only usually find in a McDonnies double cheeseburger.

JD’L: Yummy!

I’d like to point us back in a horror direction now. What are your views on the development of Horror? Do you see it as something that died and has been stinking the place up? Did it never die? Or do you see a particular upsurge in the genre more recently?

AR: I think there came a point when sales slumped, and films died, and people watched and read far less in the horror genre. I’m not quite sure why that happened; for a while it might have had something to do with subliminal toxic poisoning of minds, maybe Chernobyl fallout, maybe Government-planted chemicals in the water supply. Or maybe just aliens living amongst us. Whatever it was, I think there is a resurgence wave and horror is on a strong rebound right now. Praise the Lord!!

JD’L: Or Satan…

What works of Horror, if any, do you remember from your childhood, teens and twenties?

AR: I consumed lots of horror early on, from about the age of 13, and The Fog and The Rats by James Herbert, which circulated my school like a plague of ebola. I read a fair bit of Steve King, and the really *bad* Guy N. Smith books about an ex-Priest ex-SAS guy called Sabat, which were totally gross, but great fun nonetheless. So, you could say I was into sophisticated misogynistic torture porn from an early age.

JD’L: You’ve come to the right place, then! Such happy memories!

If you were to write a pure horror novel, what subject or subgenre would you pick?

AR: Genetics and mutations, probably. It’s an area which fascinates me, horrifies me, and usually worms into every single novel I write in some way at a molecular level. My first 3 Spiral novels concern a race of creatures called the Nex, a blend of cockroach and human, so, men and women with increased insectile responses, chitin woven into their skin and eyes, and natural protection against NBC warfare… for example.

JD’L: Your work strikes me as absolutely perfect for adaptation to Graphic Novel and Game Script formats. I think Combat K could become legendary if they had more exposure in visual media. Have you thought about this? Perhaps work is already afoot…

AR: I would welcome anybody wishing to convert my works in the graphic novel or game arenas – even at an indie level. I love all this stuff, but have no real skill myself… as Clint Eastwood said in Dirty Harry, a man has to know his limitations. Ho ho. Good ol’ Clint. So – open invitation to artists and game developers. Drop me a line :-)

JD’L: HR readers with these skills, take note!

It’s rumoured that you have fiction of a slightly different kind being released shortly by the brand new Harper Collins imprint Angry Robot. What can you tell us about that?

AR: Nothing has been officially announced yet, but contracts are currently in negotiation. If it all comes off, I’ll be writing a very nasty hardcore fantasy trilogy. Think David Gemmell crossed with James Herbert, with maybe a bit of Hemingway tossed into the fantasy frying pan. At least, that’s the plan :-)

JD’L: Lastly, we have a job for you. You have been given the power to make two awards. First, The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness for the work of horror in any medium which you believe is a timeless classic.

Second, you may banish to The Plague Pits the very worst work of horror in any medium.

I’ll be interested to hear the views of a not-strictly-horror-dude on this one.

AR: Timeless horror classic. Hmm. My all time favourite goes to the Steve King novel, The Shining. Flawless plotting, immaculate characterisation, and just a beautifully constructed and written book. Perfect, in fact. It does not have a single element which could be improved. Steve King – you’re a bastard. In a nice way. Let me buy you a beer, you damn genius.

With regards to banishing work to the Plague Pits, I’m going to quote David Gemmell on this, because I thoroughly agree. As writers, we all work damn hard on our little babies, so I’m going to keep my big mouth negative vibes to myself. I’m happy to sing the praises of anything I like, but keep my mouth shut on anything I don’t. After all, that would only be my pathetic and possibly hypocritical personal viewpoint anyway, right? And being half-zombie, I think I don’t really qualify as totally human anyway.

Now, Joseph, can I have my severed fingers back please? I did what you asked….. come on, be a sport!!

JD’L: Well, it’s nice to see a vote for Mr King – and I applaud your nobility on the Plague Pits decision. Such honour! Maybe HELL just isn’t the place for you…

Andy, I want to thank you for coming to visit us today and for being such a good sport. I hope you enjoyed the digital amputation. Bill’s been practising on his family members (or was that his family’s members?) Digits are non-returnable, I’m afraid. Let’s see you write a novel now you’ve got no fingers…

Mwa Ha! Mwa! Mwa Ha Ha Ha Haaaaaaaa!

1 comment February 12th, 2009

On how Stephen King influenced me and what that really means by JD’L

king_the-stand2

There’s no doubt that Stephen King has affected the writer in me. But he affected the reader in me first.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on which of his works have impressed me the most. I use the word impressed very deliberately. It’s only those tales that psychically ‘pushed into’ me I’m going to talk about, those works whose touch is still upon me. It would be very easy for me to go and pick some of them off my shelf or call them up online to refresh my memory but that would be cheating. I want to comment only what remains with me after all these years.

I was about 13 when I discovered Stephen King. I read his work with commitment and loyalty for many years. The novel I loved the most was The Stand. There was a tale to get lost in if ever such was written. Not only that, aged 14 or 15 by that time, I truly believed the end of the world was coming one way or another. The world in The Stand was therefore all the more real for me to enter and dwell in.

Yet, it wasn’t usually Stephen King’s novels that truly affected me. It’s my belief this gentleman of fiction is primarily an extraordinary craftsman of the short story and it is in those works that I really connected with his imagination – or his connected with mine. Many of his best works were collected in the 1978 anthology Night Shift – in there you can even find one of the seeds that went on to become The Stand; a post viral apocalypse tale called Night Surf.

nightshift1It was also in Night Shift that I discovered Stephen King didn’t write horror exclusively. He also unearthed incredibly tender tales of the tragedy in human relationships – I’m talking here about The Woman in the Room and The Last Rung on the Ladder, both of which brought tears to my otherwise cynical and jaded adolescent eyes. The most ‘fun’ story in Night Shift was Battleground, a wonderful tale in which a hired assassin confronts a box of animate and very well equipped toy soldiers in his apartment (and comes off poorer for it).

The tales in Night Shift were so imaginative and so varied I never forgot them. It must be rare that an anthology by a single author could have this effect. It’s certainly rare in my case – I can’t name another book like it.

Two other SK works dented me permanently. Again, they weren’t novels but they weren’t really short stories either. However, their effectiveness still proves, to me at least, that he’s a master of the shorter form. First of these was The Long Walk. I’m sure you all know the story but for those who haven’t read it, it’s the tale of an annual ‘marathon’ with 100 male children as the competitors. If you haven’t read this one, get out there and find it. Being a teenage boy when I discovered it galvanised my rebellion against the mindless authoritarianism I faced in school every day.

thebachmanbooks2Finally, and perhaps best of all, was a cross-genre piece by the name of The Mist. Damn, that was one all time classic tale. I read it as the tail-end-charlie in a Kirby McCauley anthology titled Dark Forces and it was the one story in there that really blew me away. Once again, it was the only one I still remember. Needless to say, many of these superb stories have gone on to form the basis for successful feature films.

Did I say impressed? Did I say dented? When it comes to what he did to my imagination, harpooned is a far better word.

But what does really it mean to be influenced? Simply that I tried to write like Stephen King? That I decided to write stories with similar themes and monsters?

darkforces2

I don’t think ‘influence’ can ever be that simple a matter. What happened wasthis: I realised the potential of the imagination – both for the writer and the reader. I understood it was possible to write in different genres and still excel. And my interest in the bizarre was profoundly deepened.

As all writers do, I’ve fantasised about seeing my books on the shelves of bookstores. I’ve hoped – and still do! – that I could make a living writing books. But never in my most intense dreams did I imagine that one day Stephen King would read one of my books and like it enough to give me a quote for the jacket. Never, never, ever.

Thank you, Mr. King.

5 comments November 11th, 2008

How the twilight breached my mind by JD’L

The first time I experienced deep psychological fear I was eight.

Some older kid was telling ghost stories – dismembered hands that strangled children and objects which moved around on their own. The tales were innocuous but they were too much for my tender little soul. I wept, horrified and inconsolable, and spent the next few weeks utterly terrified. Before that, I’d never really felt the power of the supernatural.

At the time, I was reading like crazy – mainly innocent children’s books by authors like Enid Blyton. I was working my way up through ‘reading skill’ levels marked on the books’ spines with colour-coding. This wholesome education came to a swift end one winter holiday. My dad took me into a bookshop for the first time, something that became a habit for us and which has had a deep effect on me. We were in Switzerland and the English language section of the book shop was barely the size of a kiosk. There on the shelf, though, I saw a book with a great cover – a massive blue whale deep under the surface of the ocean. The book was called ‘Leviathan’. I didn’t know even know what the word meant. I bought the book – with my father’s blessing. In a few sittings my ‘reading skill’ shot through the roof and my innocence ended.

Leviathan was the tale of an oceanographer who wanted to prevent whaling. He and a team of friends hired mercenaries to train them in the use of weapons with the aim of hijacking a huge Russian whaling vessel. When they boarded the target ship, however, the crew put up a fight they weren’t expecting. The book was overflowing with sex and bloody violence and I was happily harpooned. It was the way the people died that got me. Shot in the brains, mangled by propellers or dismembered with razor sharp whaling hooks. Utterly dreadful. Irresistibly fascinating.

Next came anthologies of short horror and then, when I turned nine or ten, the early works of James Hebert such as The Rats and The Fog. After that there was no turning back. Guy N. Smith, Graham Masterton, Stephen King quickly followed, as did the grandfathers of horror like Poe. And coupled with this basically gory, lurid fixation came an interest in the occult, the paranormal and anything other-worldly. What a twisted boy I became.

These days, I find myself fairly inured and untroubled by horror generally. Horror is a kind of dark fun for me now. It’s very rare that something comes along and disturbs me the way those ghost stories did all those years ago. And if it does, it’s usually only for a few moments.

Maybe I’ll talk about the things that did get past the armour in another post.

Meanwhile, I hope to see more people coming clean about how they caught the horror bug…

 

4 comments September 29th, 2008

Welcome, Fiends, To My Crypt of Nostalgia…by Bill Hussey

My love of all things grisly and ghastly can be traced back to one glorious summer day in 1984. I even know the date – 15th July – the time of day – mid-morning – and can have a pretty good stab at the exact time: it was 10.30… ish. How do I recollect these details with such precision? Well, it was my birthday for starters – how portentous is that, guys and ghouls? – and my treat for the day was to be dragged along to one of the thousands of car boot sales which clog up Lincolnshire’s car parks during the summer months. Holidaymakers, wending their way to Skegness in a never-ending caravan of, well, caravans, like nowt better than spending their Sunday mornings picking through other people’s God-awful tat. But, hands up, my family take an unhealthy delight in just the same hunt for bargains – a hunt, I feel, which is as illusory as any Grail quest, no matter what gappy-toothed and perma-tanned daytime antique dealers would have you believe.

I was miserable, scuffing my trainers across the gravel, grunt-answering questions, giving my poor little sister endless and pretty lethal Indian burns. Hey, I was only seven – and I believe that particular defence still holds water in a court of law today. Anyway, suffice to say I was being, in the words of my long-suffering old man, ‘a right little sod’. Still, it was my birthday and so punishment had to be my parents’ last resort. A bribe was the way forward. And so my dad suggested we check out a stall selling comic books.

Right, here’s where my writer’s instinct wants to take over and embellish the tale. I could tell you that the stallholder was an aged Chinese gentleman with rheumy eyes and bird-like talons for fingernails. I could say that he chuckled dryly as my dad asked if he had anything to keep a snot-nosed brat quiet for an hour or two. I could describe how that creaky-boned, cadaverous character handed over a monkey’s paw, winked with a knowing malevolence (something which my old man would not have noticed, of course) and told us this was ‘just the thing to entertain a wilful child.’ And, as we trotted away, I might have glanced back to find… litter swirling in the empty space where the old guy’s stall had been…

Sherlock Holmes once said that reality was far more interesting than anything the mind of man can conceive… not so here. The stallholder was a stout Yorkshireman with vaguely pornographic tattoos and a beard which could have served as an aviary for a pack of undiscriminating starlings. His line in sales patter – barked prices followed by a steely-eyed stare – might have made Genghis Khan ferret about nervously in his pocket for the correct change. All in all, he was the kind of guy Geoffrey Boycott would call ‘salt of the earth’. He informed us that he was selling his son’s comic books because ‘the lad’s of an age when he shouldn’t be reading such stuff.’ I look back now at that statement, from the point-of-view of a thirty-one year old comic book geek, and my heart bleeds for Beardy’s boy. Still, his loss was my gain.

I picked through dozens of stacks of well-kept comics. These were treasured things but, as a self-centred creature of seven, I felt nothing for the previous owner. I flicked through old issues of Green Lantern, Spiderman, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Superman, even a few newer Ghost Riders.

And then I saw it and stopped dead.

At first I thought I must be seeing things. Surely the company’s logo was the more familiar ‘DC’ – not ‘EC’. But no, this was something called ‘Entertainment Comics’. And then I took in the cover – THE COVER, PEOPLE! – a thing of beauty and of teeth-chattering horror! I held it out at arm’s length and, I kid you not, shuddered!

‘TERROR’ screaming down the side banner.

Portraits of three creepy ghouls – our hosts of horrible – running down the page.

And that stunning and beautifully rendered full colour cover illustration –

A terrified man, locked in the embrace of a decomposing corpse, being sucked into a pit of quicksand.

This was TALES FROM THE CRYPT – issue 24 – and, by way of its disgusting, despicable host, THE CRYPT-KEEPER, I was introduced to the genre I would come to love. I walked away from the comic stall with an armful of Tales… and it was the beginning of a lifelong love affair, not just with the horror genre but with horror comics. I went on to collect beautifully bound copies of Tales, the Haunt of Fear, the Vault of Horror and Weird Science. After gobbling down the staples of the genre years later, I still maintain that the best of these trashy old comics are the equal of the masterpieces of the form. Indeed, Ray Bradbury had several of his first-class short horror stories adapted by EC for Tales. These artists and writers (underrated luminaries like Jack Davis, Feldstein, Jack Kamen etc), directed by a comics publishing genius called William M Gaines, fired my imagination as much as HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson and, dare I say it, MR James. Their creeping corpses, vicious vampires and double-crossing, murderous business partners stirred my writer’s juices, while their busty femme fatales caused other stirrings I’d rather not discuss here! These stories, admittedly not all works of genius, were full-bodied, scream-in-your-face horrors, and I loved their boldness. In this day and age of shy literary terrors, I often think that a good dose of EC could liven up some of the feebler horror novels we find in Waterstones and Borders. The clarion call of EC could have been: let the flesh rot, let the blood flow! Hear hear, say I!

I tucked myself up in bed that night and gave myself a good creep out. I found that thrill an addictive drug and have been chasing the dragon ever since. I hope I never tire of it.

So I say – thank you, Crypt-Keeper, you grotty old schlock-meister! Thank you for visiting me at bedtime and disturbing my night’s slumbers. Thank you for encouraging me to write my own stories. Without you and Kamen and Feldstein and the others I wouldn’t be a writer.

And now – my question to you, lovers of the lycanthrope, devotees of the demonic arts, necrophiles all – can YOU pinpoint the time when your passion for horror was ignited? Was it a particular writer? A movie? A TV series? A tale told by your evil old granny as you sat trembling at her knee?

Add your tale to this collection…

1 comment September 15th, 2008

Err… Yes, Master? Him Downstairs Lets One Out…

There’s nothing more tiresome than horror authors.

They’re just so damned aspirational: always wanting the world dancing around and clapping its hands just because they’ve conjured up a little splattering of blood and the occasional gruesome dismemberment. I mean, really…how feeble.

How so very pedestrian.

They never stop going on about how they’ve got some kind of hotline through to me here down below, when in fact the little darlings would run a mile if I so much as rammed a scimitar up their bottoms. They’ve no stamina, they’re 100-metre egg and spoon men, all froth and no bottle. Me and all the other book publishers down here, we could eat the little bastards for breakfast. Actually, sometimes we do. That Wheatley, he was bloody stringy.

Anyway, D’Lacey and Hussey – don’t they just sound so pretty? – think they’re hardcore. They think they know what horror really is. But, let me tell you – once I’ve sold their souls to Waterstone’s, I’ll eat their livers alive…

Get on with it chaps.

Add comment September 8th, 2008

Welcome to Horror Reanimated!

Welcome to Horror Reanimated, the voice of Bloody Books.

That voice is the sound of two Bloody Books authors, Joseph D’Lacey and Bill Hussey.

We’ll be here talking about the resurgence of horror – a literary plague resistant to every drug and all bad press.

These are dark times and in such times, horror’s disease spreads tendrils into even the purest hearts. If you’re reading this, you’re probably infected already.

Be vigilant.

Watch for symptoms.

When your very eyes drip pus and venom, don’t call the doctor: a shotgun  is the only medicine.

10 comments August 18th, 2008

Purgatory…

JD’L: So, this is what happens when you sell your soul, Bill…

BH: Seems like, Joseph. I thought there was something fishy about the Beautiful Books team insisting on the contracts being signed in the blood of an unsullied virgin.

JD’L: Yes, and frankly, I’d expected more cash.

BH: And more unsullied virgins.

JD’L: Too right. Have you seen the job description?

BH: Remind me…

JD’L: Well, it seems we’re to remain here in filth-ridden purgatory doing our new masters’ (Bloody Books’) bidding until we earn our freedom.

BH: How many words a day does that entail? Or how much promoting of our dread masters’… ow!… wonderful publishing house?

JD’L: Wow – where did that whip come from? Well, honestly, I think it’s kind of a loose remit. Probably a great opportunity to enjoy the sound of our own voices.

BH: Maybe you’d like to tell the free souls outside the BB dungeon a little about what we’re doing here, manacled and chained to our laptops?

JD’L: We’re going to be ranting lyrical about the resurgence of the horror genre – ha! Horror never died, did it? We’re going to meet and chat with some horror experts (seeing as we’re not qualified!) and we’ll occasionally give a little opinion on recent or classic works in the genre. Oh yes, and get our bollocks toasted off with flaming firebrands.

BH: I like the last part best! Yup, this is a kind of reaching out to horror fans, not just to promote our own works, (‘Meat‘ by Joseph D’Lacey, ‘Through A Glass, Darkly‘ by Bill Hussey, available from all good bookshops and online), but to ask why horror has turned a corner this last year or so. And we’d like your ideas and suggestions on this. Let’s get a good long discussion going on why this lumbering old beast of a genre has smashed its way back into our hearts in recent years. Also, please do let us know what you think of our books and any brilliant, (or dire), new penny dreadfuls you’ve come across.

JD’L: I’m looking forward to this, Bill. Now, who do you have to pornographically torture to get a pizza around here? Oh, and send a message upstairs about those virgins…

1 comment August 18th, 2008


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