Eastercon 2017 Review!

For those who don’t know, Eastercon is the annual British National Science Fiction Convention. Now in it’s 68th year, it draws together an eclectic mix of sci-fi, fantasy, comic book and horror fans, creators, writers, illustrators, artists, cosplayers, and booksellers, as well as a whole host of other interesting people. This year it took place in Birmingham, England, under the moniker of Innominate. Its logo  was a ( presumably) green alien head. I went along and took part. He’s what happened…

 

 

I had two events planned for Innominate. The first was a panel on comic book legend Jack Kirby. Most people know Kirby from his days with Marvel  in the Sixties. In fact, Jack “King” Kirby, or Jolly Jack Kirby (whichever you prefer) was an influential comics creator who co-created Thor, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Superman’s nemesis Darkseid and a whole host of other even wilder characters. This was a lot of fun, even though it took place less than an hour after I had arrived and before I’d even booked into my hotel.  But bringing my hastily-acquired knowledge of how Kirby actually invented modern superheroes was very enjoyable. My fellow panellists, Stephen Aryan, Ali Baker, Kin Ming-Looi and Adele Terrell all brought their considerable knowledge and talents to bear.

Panel over, it was time to get my bearings and have a breather from the 2 hour drive down a congested M6. There were almost a thousand people in attendance, with sci-fi legend Pat Cadigan, illustrator Judith Clute and art connoisseur Colin HArris all being the guests of honour.  I checked in with a few friends I hadn’t seen since… well, the last Eastercon, missed several interesting-looking panels. I then attended the “The Explosive Opening Ceremony”. Thanks to a scientists from the Royal Institute, it was indeed explosive, and I will never forget the impressive sight of a luminous courgette.

Missing panels is something of a hobby of mine at Eastercon. I missed a couple more that night, but managed to attend both the art show reception and a Gollancz launch party. Both were curiously low-key affairs, with guests simply milling about with little or no introduction. I got the impression these were for “people in the know” whoever they were, and felt a little excluded, but even so I managed to chat briefly to some intriguing folks.

I decided to skip the Regency ball (not being a fan of how people were actually treated in the Regency period) and the Blake’s 7 Wobblevision (which I’m sure was good fun) and tried to grab some actual sleep. Car parking was a bit steep in Birmingham. Fortunately, I left my car next to the A-Team’s van ( I never did find out who it belonged to) and saved some cash courtesy of a reduced parking ticket from the con hotel, which was great value for money!

 

Jack Kirby shows his trademark style!

 

Saturday was a busy day indeed. I lost some time trying to find my way around the NEC (not a good idea when there’s a 24-hour gaming convention on) and ended up driving to Coventry! Thankfully, and against all odds, I managed to arrive in time for my kaffeeklatsch. These were great ways to speak with several fascinating guests at the con, including author Adrian Tchaikovsky and lit agent John Jarrold. After that, I missed a few more panels chatting in the bar, before heading into the panel titled *punk. This was a very entertaining and informative talk on the various “punk” genres, including steampunk, cyberpunk, and even weirdpunk ( which I never knew was a thing) . The discussion was lively with issues of class inevitably being thrown up against steampunk. The panellists were all fantastic, and I left with the feeling that I knew more than when I entered. Which is always a good thing.

I am embarrassed to say that I attended very few other panels that day. Some of these were just fun (Towel-fu, Sofa Racing and Hungry Human Hippos) some were a bit too technical for me (Neurodiversity, 3D printing, and a workshop on a Dremel – something about which I am still unenlightened), and some of which conflicted with lunch. Although this last point sounds trite, when you’re on your feet for 18 hours a day, lunch becomes a necessity. Unfortunately, many of the panels conflicted with the street food that was on sale in the fan lounge, while the hotel food was exorbitantly priced. For someone with certain dietary needs, food became an increasing problem, resulting in nachos for breakfast. Suffice to say, I left the con never wanting to see another baked potato. May I suggest some salad, vegetables and pasta in the future?

But otherwise Saturday night was (as I remember) filled with good conversation around the bar, mainly involving 2000AD, and the world’s most insanely difficult sci-fi pub quiz. So afterwards I headed back to my hotel to get a well-earned 5 hours rest!

Sunday was another busy day. Beginning with a sci-fi criticism masterclass by Manchester University’s Geoff Ryman on Afrofuturism, it continued with a panel on writing scifi with and about disability. This was a terrific discussion which made me realise just how few positive portrayals of people with disability there are. Even heroic disabled characters have to either overcome their disability or are given some great super-power to compensate (I’m thinking of you, Georgie Laforge). A lively talk from Pat Cadigan topped the day off with a session entitled “Pat Cadigan Explains It All”. And she did, with a rather graphic demonstration that I feel I will never forget. The other panels were mostly sci-fi, and  I would have liked to see  a little more fantasy and horror in the programme. But I guess that’s why it’s called a Sci-Fi convention! Much of the rest of the evening was mainly preoccupied with dinner. Sadly, the Groan-Along showing of Ed Wood’s sci-fi fiasco”Plan 9 From Outer Space” was cancelled due to someone bringing the wrong DVD. The replacement, “Transformers” failed to find an audience. So instead I had a long and lively talk with many people who wandered in and out of the fan lounge until the wee hours, when I realised I still hadn’t decided (due to a variety of reasons) on what I was going to read for my author reading at 10am the following day!

Now, 2am is not a good time to decide what you are going to be reading in less than 8 hours. However, I think I pulled it off. Sadly, my reading conflicted with my friend Arthur Chapell’s fascinating talk on sci-fi pub signs, so I had to miss that, as I couldn’t very well be absent from my own reading! Myself and grimdark author Anna Smith-Spark expected a low-energy crowd, it being the fourth day of the convention at 10am! However, the opposite was true. Many faces that were far too fresh for my liking turned up (probably due to Ms Smith-Spark’s presence, I may add), and I realized I had better be on top of my game. Fortunately, my last-minute preparation prevailed, and the reading seemed to go very well, with a lively Q&A sessions afterwards that involved such diverse subjects such as Dungeons & Dragons and the poetry of William Blake.

The con ended on a high note with the closing ceremony, attended once against by the guests of honour, and the giving of the Doc Weir award. I spent the rest of the day catching up, saying goodbye and generally making a nuisance of myself before heading home up the M6 once more. Maybe it was just that the traffic was less congested, but I felt a new surge of energy and hopefulness. It seems to be a common thing at Eastercon. The experience of being around so many creative and passionate people renews you, and you go forth into the world once more, ready to apply pen to paper, confident that there are other people out there who feel just the same as you!

My thanks to the organisers for letting me participate, and my apologies to anyone I didn’t get to speak to. See you next year!

(P.S. Some of the above may be exaggerated… just a little).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Autumn Man is out now!

As promised, you can now buy my novel THE AUTUMN MAN as either an e-book or softcover book from Amazon.com, courtesy of Solstice Publishing, you lucky people!

THE AUTUMN MAN is a gripping tale of horror and the paranormal.

Here’s a taste of what you can expect…

“Milton is a small, industrial Northern England town where nothing ever happens. But all that is about to change. When grieving schoolteacher Megan Vervain rents her spare room to an enigmatic loner named Amon, she starts to suspect something about her new lodger is odd; he spends his night studying maps of the town, looking for something in its ancient past. Soon, bizarre events occur: local people go missing, graves are robbed, and a terrifying beast stalks human prey at night.

“Another stranger has come to Milton – the lustful, murderous Von Daniken. For centuries, he and Amon have been searching for the same mystical item known as the Cure. Now, they have found it, and the town of Milton is about to become an apocalyptic battleground for their final showdown.”

More information will be coming soon. But for now, head over to Amazon to read a sample for FREE!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The big reveal!

As promised, here is my big news for all of you who like horror and fantasy novels. If you’re looking for the latest horror, paranormal or dark fantasy fiction, you could do worse than choose to read THE AUTUMN MAN… by yours truly!

 

The plot is a carefully kept secret, but just between you and me I can tell you that this is a contemporary supernatural story with a twist. And what a twist! You’ll never see it coming…

I’m super proud of this book. It’s the product of a lot of sweat, blood, tears, and yet more blood. As you’ll find out for yourself when you read it! So if you like your Stephen King mixed with a little Clive Barker, a dash of Anne Rice, and a healthy dose of Guillermo del Toro, this is the book for you!

More details coming soon as to how you can get your hands on a copy of what I’m sure is going to be the hottest read of the summer, if I don’t say so myself! (Never let it be said that I hide my light under a bushel).

In the meantime thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to keep coming back for more news on this exciting new title and some exclusive freebies!

The Autumn Man. He’s coming… soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Exciting horror news!

In case you haven’t been watching my Twitter feed or Facebook page (and shame on you if you haven’t!) I’ve had some rather exciting news recently. To celebrate, here is a full moon. Did you know that each month has its own full moon with its own name? The one below is the Hunter’s Moon from October. It’s particularly apropos, for reasons that will become apparent.

Further information will be revealed in the coming days. For now let’s just say that if you like horror fiction or stories about the paranormal or supernatural, this is most definitely for you.

Keep your eyes peeled for the big reveal coming soon!

 

The Hunter’s Moon photo courtesy scientificsonline.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Horror Masterworks series!

In this post, I thought it would be fun to create my own list of Horror Masterworks books containing the greatest horror novels and short stories of all time.

The idea struck me because a while ago Gollancz brought out a series of Science Fiction Masterworks. These contained seminal sci-fi novels considered some of the best sci-fi novels of all time, such as Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls as well as the obligatory PK Dick books. The series was an introduction to many authors readers might not be familiar with.

This was followed soon after by another series of Fantasy Masterworks with books such as Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter and George R R Martin’s Fevre Dream. However, due to less success this time around, plans for a Horror Masterworks series were apparently shelved. It might also have been due to the fact that some of the “fantasy” tiles were in fact horror, or even science-fiction as in Jack Finney’s Time and Again.

 

Another mislabelled "Science Fiction Masterwork".

Another mislabelled “Science Fiction Masterwork”.

 

There has been a huge reticence by major publishers and booksellers recently to acknowledge the horror field. Yet despite this, horror is booming. Horror films like The Conjuring and the Paranormal Activity series have accounted for some of the most profitable Hollywood films this century. Horror novels continue to appear regularly on Amazon’s Top Selling Books list.  The public, it seems, thirsts for horror, even if publishers don’t want to supply it.

In conclusion, it seems unfair that Sci-fi and Fantasy should get their own Masterworks series while Horror is left out. So without further ado, here are my recommendations for Gollancz’s non-existent  Horror Masterworks series!

 

THE HORROR MASTERWORKS COLLECTION THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN…

  1. H P Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu & Others
  2. Ray Bradbury, The October Country
  3. Richard Matheson, I Am Legend
  4. Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
  5. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  6. Bram Stoker, Dracula
  7. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
  8. Peter Straub, Ghost Story
  9. James Herbert, The Rats
  10. Stephen King, The Shining
  11. Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
  12. Charles L Grant, The Hour of the Oxrun Dead
  13. Clive Barker, Cabal
  14. Ramsey Campbell, The Doll Who Ate His Mother
  15. Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan
  16. Robert Bloch, Psycho
  17. William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderland
  18. Sheridan Le Fanu, Through A Glass Darkly
  19. Roald Dahl, Kiss Kiss
  20. M R James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
  21. Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby
  22. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey
  23. Edgar Allen Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  24. Thomas Ligotti, Teatro Grottesco
  25. Laird Barron, Occultation
  26. Robert R McCammon, Boy’s Life
  27. Daphne Du Maurier, The Birds
  28. Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho
  29. Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
  30. Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
  31. William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
  32. Algernon Blackwood, Ancient Sorceries & other Chilling Tales
  33. Charles Dickens, Ghost Stories
  34. Rudyard Kipling, The Mark of the Beast & Other Stories

As you can see, there is plenty for horror fans to sink their teeth into.

One word of warning: this is not a list of personal favourites (although many of them are) or a list of the most scariest books of all time. Instead, I’ve tried to balance true masters in the field with their most notable works, either because the book set a new bar in the genre, or because it is their most representative work. I’ve also tried to include some modern writers such as Thomas Ligotti and Laird Barron to show you that horror is not dead but is in fact alive and well and still growing, albeit a little more in the dark these days!

I hope you enjoy the list. Feel free to disagree, and be sure to let me know what you think about the list in the comments below!

Pleasant dreams!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review 2016!

Happy New Year! Here is a fun little thing I thought I’d share at the start of 2017. It’s a list of the books I read during 2016. This is not a reading list, or even a recommendation, just a recap of the books I’ve read over the last 12 months… and maybe a few screenplay and graphic novels as well. I’ve marked with an asterisk (*) the ones I thought were particularly important. Enjoy!

cropped-antho-cover-by-graeme.jpg

Treasure Island*, Kidnapped*, Robert Louis Stevenson

Occultation*, Xs for Eyes, Laird Barron

The Death House, Sarah Pinborough

Boy’s Life, Robert R McCammon

The Madness of Cthulhu, ST Joshi (ed)

The Last Revelation of Gla’aki, Ramsey Campbell

The Haunted Grave, Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso

Tender Is The Night*, F Scott Fitzgerald

My Gun Is Quick, Mickey Spillane

Dark Terrors 5, Stephen Jones (ed)

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos*, HP Lovecraft and others

Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement

The Birds*, Daphne Du Maurier

The Haunting of Hill House*, Shirley Jackson

Revolutions, Graeme Shimmin, Craig Pay, Eric Steele (!) (eds)

The Chronicles of Amber series: Nine Princes of Amber, The Guns of Avalon, The Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, Roger Zelazny

The Art of War*, Sun Tzu

And in graphic novels…

Skizz, Alan Moore, Jim Baikie

The Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol 3, Gerry Conway, Gene Colan etc

The Essential Werewolf by Night, Vol 1, Marv Wolfman, Mike Ploog etc

(And of course too many comics and screenplays to mention.)

So there you have it. Maybe you’ll enjoy some of these, maybe you won’t. I enjoyed them all. Have fun exploring them or making up your own list. Now for next year…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Top 20 Alternative Halloween Horror Movies!

It’s almost that time of the season again… Hallowe’en is like Christmas for horror writers. Are you looking for some great horror movies to watch and scare the life right out of you? Great. But before you reach for that Stephen King DVD or watch “Halloween” for the zillionth time, you might want to check out these top 20 alternative horror movies that are (almost) just as great!

Some of these are obscure, some of them are lesser known titles by horror masters like John Carpenter and George A Romero. But they all share one thing in common. These are great films!

 

 

Elvis and JFK versus The Mummy!

Elvis and JFK vs The Mummy in “Bubba Ho-Tep”!

20. Bubba Ho-Tep (2006)

Elvis is alive and well and living in a nursing home, along with JFK, whose brain has been put in the body of an old black man. Cue an undead Egyptian mummy that is picking off the other residents one by one.  Yes, this is a real movie. Worth it for Bruce Campbell’s Evil Presley impersonation alone.

19. The Innkeepers (2011)

Ti West follows up his masterful homage to 1970s slasher films, “The House of the Devil”, with this slick, scary supernatural tale about  two bored, postmodern clerks looking after a haunted hotel. Scooby Doo it ain’t.

18. It Follows  (2014)

A terrific modern horror film about a ghost that… follows. To say any more would be to spoil the plot. Guaranteed to completely ruin any teenage date.

17. House! (1986) 

Fantastic, rubbery horror/comedy with William Katt (“The Greatest American Hero”) at his most likeable. A horror writer moves into a haunted house. What else do you need to know? With Norm from “Cheers”!

16. Martin (1976)

George A Romero is of course best known for zombie films. Here’s his vampire film. Or is it? John Amplas is excellent as the young man who may or may not be a bloodsucker in this disturbing, realistically told tale.

15. Black Sabbath (1963)

Mario Bava is not a name that is widely known. But it should be. This atmospheric, Technicolor Italian masterpiece features three scary stories and is introduced by none other than Boris Karloff!

 

A gorgeous, full-colour apparition in Black Sabbath!

A gorgeous, full-colour apparition in Black Sabbath!

 

14. April Fool’s Day (1986)

Great, fun 80s slasher movie that is a cut above the rest.  Features great set pieces, but I promise you’ll never see the ending coming. April Fool!

13. Wolfen (1981)

Psychedelic horror featuring Albert Finney. Something is killing vagrants in New York City. The detective in charge thinks he’s investigating a werewolf. But the truth is stranger than he could have imagined. A very original horror movie.

12. Vampyr (1932)

If you thought the only old horror film worth seeing was Nosferatu, you’d be wrong. This semi-silent movie classic still has the power to chill with its surreal imagery and its depiction of vampirism as almost a mental illness.

11. Carnival of Souls (1962)

Made by a former banker with a cast composed almost entirely of friends and neighbours, this creepy ghost story has been imitated countless times. The fact that only the lead actress is a professional just adds to the unnerving quality of the movie.

 

Going Our Way? A bus load of ghouls in "Carnival of Souls".

Going Our Way? A bus load of ghouls in “Carnival of Souls”.

10. The Innocents (1961)

The great Deborah Kerr stars in this adaptation of a rather unsavoury tale by Henry James called “The Turn of the Screw”. That’s all you need to know about this classic creepy kid horror movie.

9. Tenebrae (1982)

Dario Argento is one of the Italian kings of slasher movies (or giallo movies as they’re called there). This is possibly his best. An American horror author in Italy finds that someone is killing people using his novels for inspiration. The identity of the killer will keep you guessing right up until the very end.

8. Lord of Illusions (1995)

Clive Barker’s follow up to Hellraiser is less well know but equally atmospheric.  Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) is great as down-on-his-luck supernatural Private eye Harry D-Amour, investigating a very hellish cult.

7. Silver Bullet (1985)

Here is the obligatory Stephen King movie. But this is a less famous gem, starring Corey Haim and Gary Busey and based on King’s illustrated novella “Cycle of the Werewolf”. It grabs you from the start and never lets you go.

6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Carpenter didn’t direct this sequel. But the image of kids in pumpkin masks that suddenly start to decompose will haunt me for the rest of my days. And what’s with those indestructible bodyguards?

 

Jesus, this is creepy. That pumpkin mask from Halloween III!

Jesus, this is creepy. That pumpkin mask from “Halloween III”!

 

5. Near Dark (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow’s excellent vampire road movie never says the V-word once. Beautiful photography and a classic Tangerine Dream score make this possibly the best cult horror film of the 1980s.

4. The Fog (1980)

John Carpenter’s “other” movie. A rip-roaring ghost story with Jamie Lee Curtis and some phantom pirates. Just steer well clear of the hideous Disneyfied remake!

 

3. Curse of the Cat People (1944)

Subtle, sophisticated, psychological horror that perfectly captures what it’s like to be a kid when nobody believes you. This film  has nothing to do with Cat People or lycanthropes of any variety. The studio simply gave the writers the title to work with!

 

2. Dance of the Vampires (1967)

Roman Polanski directs this beautiful Gothic horror movie, complete with castles, wolves, vampires, hunchbacks, and snow-topped mountains. It’s also a hilarious comedy! The ill-fated Sharon Tate gives this movie a poignancy that was never intended.

 

Who is the werewolf? Who cares? Just enjoy this great 70s B-Movie romp!

Who is the werewolf? Who cares? Just enjoy this great B-Movie romp!

 

1. The Beast Must Die (1974)

This groovy 70s werewolf movie is also a whodunnnit! In fact, you get the chance to solve the mystery for yourself while the film stops halfway through! Peter Cushing and a host of character actors are lured to a big game hunter’s isolated mansion while their host tries to figure out which one of them turns furry under the full moon. A fun time is guaranteed for all!

 

There you go, my pick of the best alternative horror movies to brighten up your Halloween night. Happy viewing, and don’t have nightmares!

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized