Odds and Dead Ends: Scary Shadows | Analysis of H G Wells’ ‘The Red Room’

 

H. G. Wells might be more known for his science-fiction novels, such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, but some of his short stories might as well have been written by H. P. Lovecraft. The Red Room is a straight up ghost story in the same vein as M. R. James. It’s a little gem of a story, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts as to what makes it such a delight.

The Red Room details the protagonist taking up a challenge of sorts to stay in a cursed castle bedroom overnight. The opening sets this up nicely in what might now seem a cliché. The opening line that ‘“I can assure you,” said I, “that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me,”’ is reminiscent of Jack Torrance in Kubrick’s The Shining saying ‘“That’s not going to happen to me”’ when Ullman speaks of the previous caretaker going insane.

This single line perfectly sets up the beginning of the character’s arc (from skeptic to believer), tells us the genre of story (supernatural), and the character of the protagonist. His skepticism is reinforced when he says that ‘I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house’. He is ‘abbreviated and broadened to an impossible sturdiness in the queer old mirror at the end of the room.’ He sees himself as a rock, immovable against anything that passes his way. However, the mirror has changed his appearance, and just as he sees himself to be a rock in a storm, his faith is soon to be changed.

The protagonist’s disbelief in ghosts is due to a fear of age and dying. It is said that he is ‘“eight-and-twenty”’, which is twenty-eight for those who don’t speak century old English, making him a young man. This is in contrast to the three elderly people who apparently live in the castle. This fear of their age presents itself when the protagonist remarks that ‘There is, to my mind, something inhuman in senility.’ Age removes human qualities, and so something very old is to be seen as disgusting, or feared. Spirits, dead for many years, must be terrifying to him.

As the protagonist leaves the group for the room, they are described as ‘dark against the firelight’, which is one of the many allusions to shadows peppered throughout the opening. This further links them to the spirits that will eventually come to haunt our protagonist. Just a little later the protagonist himself expands on this idea, even remarking that ‘their very existence, thought I, is spectral.’

Along with this is the line ‘“It’s your own choosing.”’ This line is repeated like a mantra throughout the opening, and though it may be a bit overdone, the message is clear. By disobeying the warnings given, he brings the doom upon himself. This cliché also gets played up in The Cabin in the Woods, when the group ignore the warnings not to go up to the cabin. You get what’s coming to you.

Soon, even before we enter the room itself, Wells drops the recurrent image that will pervade the remainder of the piece, that of moving, sentient shadows fighting against the candlelight. There’s something very primal about this opposition, very simply a play of light against dark, of good against evil. ‘My candle flared and made the shadows cover and quiver.’ That the shadows are anthropomorphised, being said to have ‘came sweeping up behind me, and another fled before me into the darkness overhead’ is disturbing. Light has to be controlled by man, dependent on him, but the dark can move as it wishes.

The repetition and enhancing of this play of ghostly shadows is what drives the remainder of the piece. ‘The door of the Red Room and the steps up to it were in a shadowy corner.’ The protagonist must move into the realm of darkness if he is to attempt to hold out against it. The room itself is a ‘huge shadowy room with its black window bays,’ full of dust and ‘black corners, its germinating darkness.’ And against all this the candlelight has very little effect, ‘a little tongue of light in the vast chamber; its rays failed to pierce to the opposite end of the room.’

Despite being disturbed by ‘some impalpable quality of that ancient room,’ the protagonist tries to ‘preserve my scientific attitude of mind,’ and examines the room ‘systematically.’ He lights several candles throughout the room, illuminating all that he can, but despite this he still puts his revolver ‘ready to hand.’ Have all his efforts been in vain? He tries to maintain that he is in control of his emotions and that his ‘precise examination had done me a little good,’ and yet ‘I still found the remoter darkness of the place and its perfect stillness too stimulating for the imagination.’ All the build up at the beginning of the story begins to pay off, as our anticipation for ghosts and ghouls overrides the common sense saying that there is nothing there. Every mention of a black spot, a shadow in the rafters, is somewhere we search for ghosts in between the lines, looking for subtext. We are literally jumping at shadows.

A draught enters the room, and soon the candle in the alcove begins to flicker, which ‘kept the shadows and penumbra perpetually shifting and stirring in a noiseless flighty dance.’ An attempt to light more candles gives us his humorous remark that ‘when the ghost came I could warn him not to trip over them.’ Though this line is obviously a joke to himself, he’s brought ghosts into his everyday vocabulary, thinking of them as existing in his world. He’s begun a path away from disbelief into acknowledgement.

And then the candles start to go out.

Now that Wells has ratcheted up the tension by implication alone, he brings on the scares. The alcove, where the deepest shadow has been, is suddenly in darkness again. A candle has gone out. When trying to relight it, two more go out. The shadows do not give him time to bring back the light, and immediately move in for the kill. Again the comparison of the darkness to calculated activity is drawn, as ‘the flames vanished as if the wick had been suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb.’ The protagonist moves closer and closer to hysteria, and ‘a queer high note getting into my voice somehow.’

The protagonist, hysterical, again breaches into the realms of ghostly belief by exclaiming that ‘“those candles are wanted… for the mantel candlesticks.”’ He begins to fight against the shadows’ continuous extinguishing of the candles, ‘the shadows I feared and fought against returned, and crept in on me, first a step gained on this side of me, then on that.’ It is a fight that he can only lose because as was said many times at the beginning, it was a fate of his own choosing.

And yet the ambiguity is still maintained, because the draught was never initially shown to be ghostly in nature, and when he picks up another candle, ‘abruptly this was blown out as I swung it off the table by the wind of my sudden movement.’ Wells continually holds the reader in suspense of wanting to see something overtly supernatural, so that we voraciously follow the protagonist’s stumbling with our own clumsy speed, running headlong through the pages. It is Wells at his finest.

His escape from the room is even deliberately non-supernatural, battering himself up by his own stumbling in desperation and anxiety. And in the end, the final revelation of the nature of the malevolence in the room is a beautiful touch. ‘“Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms.”’ It is described as being a supernatural force, but it is entirely possible to view it as a kind of mass hysteria. Somewhere creepy that instills fear that causes people to essentially, accidentally kill themselves in terror. The disorientation of a sudden acceptance of the possibility of spirits, of the loss of a guiding light, combined with his fear of age and decay, all fuel a Todorovian fantastic story. It’s a wonderful touch to end the piece.

In conclusion, The Red Room is a masterfully crafted ghost story that should be remembered with the best. A great build up to a frantic fight of the rational vs. the irrational part of the brain, with memorable descriptions of the sentient shadows, in a spooky gothic castle. It’s inspired my own work[1], and I hope that you’ll find something delightfully spooky from it as well.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

King, S., 1977. The Shining. United States: Doubleday.

The Cabin in the Woods. 2012. [Film] Directed by Drew Goddard. USA: Mutant Enemy.

Todorov, T., 1975. The Fantastic. New York: Cornell University.

Wells, H. G., 1896. The Red Room. [Online]
Available at: https://repositorio.ufsc.br/bitstream/handle/123456789/157356/The%20Red%20Room%20-%20H.G.%20Wells.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
[Accessed 23 06 2019].

Wells, H. G., 1897. The War Of The Worlds. United Kingdom: Pearson’s Magazine.

Wells, H. G., 1931. The Time Machine. New York: Random House.

[1] For those interested, the piece in question, The Voice-Snatcher, will be released in The Sirens Call #45 at the end of June/beginning of July.

Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference Be a Panelist!

Authors, Presenters:
Want to panel at HOW Con? Participate in 4 easy steps.

Step1: Join the free forum.
http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net/

 

Step 2: Figure out what you want to do.

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW, you ask?
~ Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level.

~ Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc.

~ Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event.

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“Don’t forget if you are interested in presenting a workshop as part of the HOW Conference, you should submit your materials to horroraddicts@gmail.com.”

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Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 24-28, 2019

Attention Literary Horror Addicts, Wicked Women Writers, Masters of the Macabre, and any fellow demented author folk!

HorrorAddicts.net is having our very own Online Writing Conference in February 2019!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to take part in the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference and learn HOW to hone their literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write. Yes, the HOW Conference is open to any genre and general writing topics, not just horror!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW, you ask?
  • Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
  • Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
  • Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
  • If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event
  • Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
  • Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc
Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more Information or to chat RIGHT NOW in our open Pre-Conference area with your fellow writers!

To participate in HOW,  you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! During the week of the conference February 24-28 2019, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Workshop Applicants should submit their workshop proposal no later than February 1 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading Horror Addicts Online Conference Query so we recognize your message.
A general outline of your workshop should be included in the body of the email, along with details about any worksheets or technical materials you may need or will be using. If you would also like to schedule a Shout Box chat as part of your workshop or any other kind of live or daily event rather than or in addition to a stagnant forum workshop, let us know.
Of course, please include your contact information so we can respond with any questions about your workshop or confirm your approval as part of HOW.  Please allow up to a week to reply to your application query. If you don’t hear from us by February 7, please contact us again or join the Pre-Conference area of the HOW forum for the latest information.
Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 24-28, 2019

Attention Literary Horror Addicts, Wicked Women Writers, Masters of the Macabre, and any fellow demented author folk!

HorrorAddicts.net is having our very own Online Writing Conference in February 2019!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to take part in the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference and learn HOW to hone their literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write. Yes, the HOW Conference is open to any genre and general writing topics, not just horror!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW, you ask?
  • Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
  • Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
  • Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
  • If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event
  • Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
  • Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc
Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more Information or to chat RIGHT NOW in our open Pre-Conference area with your fellow writers!

To participate in HOW,  you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! During the week of the conference February 24-28 2019, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Workshop Applicants should submit their workshop proposal no later than February 1 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading Horror Addicts Online Conference Query so we recognize your message.
A general outline of your workshop should be included in the body of the email, along with details about any worksheets or technical materials you may need or will be using. If you would also like to schedule a Shout Box chat as part of your workshop or any other kind of live or daily event rather than or in addition to a stagnant forum workshop, let us know.
Of course, please include your contact information so we can respond with any questions about your workshop or confirm your approval as part of HOW.  Please allow up to a week to reply to your application query. If you don’t hear from us by February 7, please contact us again or join the Pre-Conference area of the HOW forum for the latest information.
Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 24-28, 2019

Attention Literary Horror Addicts, Wicked Women Writers, Masters of the Macabre, and any fellow demented author folk!

HorrorAddicts.net is having our very own Online Writing Conference in February 2019!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to take part in the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference and learn HOW to hone their literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write. Yes, the HOW Conference is open to any genre and general writing topics, not just horror!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW, you ask?
  • Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
  • Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
  • Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
  • If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event
  • Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
  • Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc
Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more Information or to chat RIGHT NOW in our open Pre-Conference area with your fellow writers!

To participate in HOW,  you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! During the week of the conference February 24-28 2019, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Workshop Applicants should submit their workshop proposal no later than February 1 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading Horror Addicts Online Conference Query so we recognize your message.
A general outline of your workshop should be included in the body of the email, along with details about any worksheets or technical materials you may need or will be using. If you would also like to schedule a Shout Box chat as part of your workshop or any other kind of live or daily event rather than or in addition to a stagnant forum workshop, let us know.
Of course, please include your contact information so we can respond with any questions about your workshop or confirm your approval as part of HOW.  Please allow up to a week to reply to your application query. If you don’t hear from us by February 7, please contact us again or join the Pre-Conference area of the HOW forum for the latest information.
Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

Odds and DEAD Ends: Claustrophobic Killing

The Horror Legacy of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’

Agatha Christie probably isn’t a name you’d associate with horror. She was a crime author; the writer you snuggled up in the armchair with on a rainy afternoon for a good thriller with twists and turns. For the first two decades of her career, the famous detective with the little grey cells, Hercule Poirot, was her livelihood. And yet, in 1939, she unleashes And Then There Were None. This single novel redefined strategic, rhythmic, multiple murders in fiction and would come to change horror itself.

On the documentary The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, John Carpenter cites Christie’s novel as an influence on his adaptation of Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?. In the novella, dozens of scientists find an alien imitator in their midst which is ultimately defeated with only a few deaths. Carpenter’s The Thing is much bleaker, with just sixteen men left to fight and kill, and ultimately are left with two survivors and an uncertain future, desolate and alone.

Strangely, though a larger crowd might sound initially scarier, as they could be so many people, it is when there are fewer characters that the tension mounts. The walls have closed in. There aren’t seven rooms that a killer could be in; there’s only one. And, standing in the right place, you can be sure to see them. Carpenter reduces a few dozen characters to his sixteen, and Dame Christie had already done it with just ten.

Everything about the novel has the purpose of constricting the ten, subjecting them to as much pressure as possible, crushing them. The house is cut off from the rest of the world and those on the mainland have been told not to rescue them. We’re confined to the hallways of Soldier Island’s house, chasing shadows.

Added to this the dripping theme of guilt that Christie presents us with, permeating every sentence, every word of the novel, and we see that she is pressurizing the characters emotionally. The past catching up with them; they can’t escape the killer or their conscience.

But I’m not here to discuss the novel as a whole. What I want to bring to your attention is the legacy of its setup. Just look to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Though light-hearted, there are two episodes of the first series in which the S.O.S brigade are trapped on an island with a single house, in a storm, when a murder takes place. Suddenly everyone begins casting suspicions, doors are kept locked, shadows are seen outside. Though there is only a single murder, as opposed to the many in Christie’s novel, the setup is so similar it borders on parody.

To go even further, die-hard fans of horror-thrillers will remember the series Umineko no naku koro ni, or When The Seagulls Cry. Twenty people on an island in a storm being killed off systematically to appease an old legend. This direct homage is done not just because it’s a nice reference, but because the formula is so easy, simple, and effective. No communication to the outside world, trapped in one place, being killed off by a psychopath in the midst.

This claustrophobic killing rhythm has been replicated so many times now that it’s hard to think that it had an origin of some kind. And there were stories that used aspects of it before And Then There Were None, but none of them had the same impact.

Could you conceive of the modern slasher flick without some of the points mentioned? Could you imagine Alien if it was in a city with a nuke nearby? If the bridge in The Evil Dead were intact? Perhaps Saw II would be better if only two people died in that house? Maybe if the police didn’t keep them caged in the apartment, REC would have been vastly improved?

If you want maximum terror, you keep people confined. This isn’t just a claustrophobia thing; it’s the idea of escape. Freedom. You find what a character wants, and then take it away from them; it’s storytelling 101. In Scream, Sidney says that horror movies are just girls that ‘run up the stairs when they should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.’ But when the front door opens up to a cliff-face or the vacuum of space, there’s no option. We’re trapped. We are creatures constantly in need of control, and when we don’t have control of escape possibilities, we panic. We get scared.

Christie got the formula and nailed it. It hasn’t been beaten since. It’s the reason why The Mousetrap is the longest continuously-showing production of all time. It’s why Waters of Mars was one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in recent memory. It’s because it taps into our basic instincts and then removes them. We can’t fight and we can’t run. We can only try to survive and hope and pray. And anyway, as Leslie Vernon says, letting people escape ‘is really embarrassing.’ These killers aren’t going to let us off the island.

And Then There Were None is the perfect slasher prototype and should be revered and remembered as such. Agatha Christie wrote the essential horror blueprint. Fact.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

Bibliography

Alien. 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: Brandywine Productions.

Behind the mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon. 2006. [Film] Directed by Scott Glosserman. USA: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Campbell, J. W., 2011. Who Goes There?. 1st ed. London: Gollancz.

Christie, A., 1952 – present. The Mousetrap. London: St. Martin’s Theatre.

Christie, A., 2015. And Then There Were None. London: HarperCollins.

Doctor Who – Waters Of Mars. 2009. [Film] Directed by Graeme Harper. United Kingdom: BBC.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

Saw II. 2005. [Film] Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. 2006. [Film] Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

The Thing: Terror Takes Shape. 1998. [Film] Directed by Michael Mattesino. United States Of America: Universal.

Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. 2009. [Film] Directed by Chiaki Kon. Japan: Studio Deen.

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Analysis of Casting the Runes and Ring.

M. R. James’ classic ghost story, Casting the Runes, is perhaps one of the most beloved of all time. It follows Mr. Dunning, uncovering a plot by Dr. Karswell to kill him via a series of ancient runic symbols. Similarly, for the modern age, Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring, (thanks largely to Hideo Nakata’s film adaptation), changed the face of Japanese horror films, much in the way that Scream did for the slasher genre. Examined in this article is the concept of infecting a victim with a deadline, by which, if the deadline isn’t passed on, the victim will die. This concept is, in both texts, a product of history and the past, which can infiltrate the modern day to scare the reader.

CASTING THE RUNES

James’ story is rooted in folklore of witches and magic. James himself was a noted historian of folklore and mythology, writing many papers on medieval manuscripts and other texts. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this interest seeps through in Casting the Runes, his uncovering of ancient texts mirroring the discovery of the slip of paper with the runes.

The main conflict I perceive in the text is the tension between the modernity presented by Dunning and Harrington, and the history and past presented by Karswell, fighting for power. Karswell, a man who has “…invented a new religion for himself, and practiced no one could tell what appalling rites” (p.238), has cast a hex on Dunning for shunning his new book. The past, in its runes and legends, is here the antagonistic force presented through Karswell, his book described simply as ‘an evil book’ (p.242), the mythic past’s main point of origin. Karswell’s magic lantern show presents the darker side of children’s myths and fairy tales, such as Red Riding Hood, which bleed through into the modern world:

“At last he produced a series which represented a little boy passing through his own park – Lufford, I mean – in the evening. Every child in the room could recognize the place from the pictures. And this poor boy was followed, and at last pursued and overtaken, and either torn into horrible pieces or somehow made away with, by a horrible hopping creature in white, which you saw first dodging about among the trees, and gradually it appeared more and more plainly.” (p.239)

Not only do we see the past colliding with the modern present through this passage, but after this, showing slimy creatures on the slides, “…somehow or other he made it seem as if they were climbing out of the picture and getting in amongst the audience” (p.240). Dunning and Harrington, on the other hand, are modernity’s flag-bearers. Dunning investigates the noise in the night, “…for he knew he had shut the door that evening after putting his papers away in his desk” (p.252), proving a logical, empirical mind, later reinforced here: “It was a difficult concession for a scientific man, but it could eased by the phrase “hypnotic suggestion” (p.255). Dunning even suggests that Karswell was “…mixing up classical myths, and stories out of the Golden Legend with reports of savage customs of to-day…” (p.258), showing a scholarly knowledge of the subject matter.

Therefore, the strange atmosphere about Dunning, the mysterious death of Harrington’s brother, the strange wind, “I supposed the door blew open, though I didn’t notice it: at any rate a gust – a warm gust it was – came quite suddenly between us, took the paper and blew it into the fire” (p.258), only increases our fear and trepidation, especially with the three month deadline hanging over our heads before Dunning’s eventual demise, for they can only be supernatural, against Dunning’s core beliefs. We try to decipher it rationally, following our protagonist’s example, but are unable to. Modern science cannot fight back against the curse of the runes. When Dunning and Harrington resort to deception and return the slip to Karswell, we slip into the past, so to speak, presented with the evil past that the characters have tried to deny for so long. We want to see evil banished back to where it belongs, away from Dunning’s modern day, back into the history books.

This brings us to the final moral dilemma. We are asked at the tale’s conclusion, “Had they been justified in sending a man to his death, as they believed they had? Ought they not to warn him, at least?” (p.266). They have become like Karswell, dispensing an ancient, malevolent death upon those they deem a threat. Though they justify this by claiming Karswell deserved it, and that Dunning would be dead otherwise, it is an unnerving note to end with, asking if they should have asked the darkness of history to prove itself, or descended to the old ways as they do, dispensing justice in, what is for them, a “new rite”, much like Karswell created for himself.

RING

Suzuki’s novel, Ring, adopts a similar structure in terms of its narrative. A malevolent force (the spirit of Sadako Yamamura) has given a victim (Asakawa) a time limit (seven days) to find what mysterious instructions he needs to follow in order to save his life (copying the cursed tape and passing it on). The runes have been replaced by the video tape, and it is here that we see one of the key, fundamental differences to James’ story. Sadako is built upon the myths and folklore of Japan, but her embodiment of ‘the past’ is intertwined with modern technology. The distinct opposition inherent in James’ tale is no longer as easy to see in Suzuki’s novel.

The female ghost with long hair avenging their death is a well-established trait in Japanese folklore. These stories are called kaidan; the vengeful ghost termed an onryō. Theatre Group Soaring, in the novel, would no doubt have practiced traditional Japanese kabuki theatre, itself one of the main vehicles through which kaidan tales were passed throughout the centuries. Even in the film adaptation, the strange, contorted movements of Sadako (as played by Rie Inō) is directly inspired by stereotypical movements of onryō from kabuki theatre, and Rie Inō herself was apparently trained in kabuki. The story of the spirit in the well has also been around for centuries, the story of Okiku and the plates, being a potent example.

Sadako is therefore very much rooted in Japan’s past, in more ways than just being dead. Asakawa, on the other hand, is very much the modern man, constantly carrying around a word processor, saving files to floppy disks, phoning Yoshino from the island to help his investigation. Ryuji is a professor of philosophy, a discipline which “…as a field of inquiry had drawn ever closer to science,” (p.88). These two men are built of the modern world. They even live in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world. When arriving at Pacific Land, Asakawa notes that “Faced with this proof that the modern power of science functioned here, too, he felt somewhat reassured, strengthened.” (p.61).

Suzuki uses technology, the statement of the future and urbanity, to steer his antagonistic force, striking at civilisation’s heart. Sadako’s wrath and anger takes over the videotape, itself situated in a cabin complete with “A hundred-watt bulb lit a spacious living room. Papered walls, carpet, four-person sofa, television, dinette set: everything was new, everything was functionally arranged.” (p.63). Asakawa, despite his hesitations and fear of what the tape might show him, ‘No matter what sort of horrific images he might be shown, he felt confident he wouldn’t regret watching” (p.73). Why would his regret watching? It wouldn’t be as if anything could happen to him, constrained as it were by the (very much Western) technology before him.

Just like Karswell’s magic lantern show, however, the images on the tape have their own weight and reality, “Startled, he pulled back his hands. He had felt something. Something warm and wet – like amniotic fluid, or blood – and the weight of flesh.” (p.77). When Asakawa answers the phone, it is described that:

“There was no reply. Something was swirling around in a dark, cramped place. There was a deep rumble, as if the earth were resounding, and the damp smell of soil. There was a chill at his ear, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood up. The pressure on his chest increased, and bugs from the bowls of the earth were crawling on his ankles and his spine, clinging to him. Unspeakable thoughts and long-ripened hatred almost reached to him through the receiver. Asakawa slammed down the receiver.” (p.81).

That silence from the other end of a telephone gives this impression, this startlingly sensory imagery, showcases Sadako’s reach and wrath, without her saying a word.

In the finale, Asakawa, realising why he survived and Ryuji did not, agrees to wager the entirety of humanity by spreading the virus to his parents-in-law. Whereas James simply had the characters return the curse to Karswell, he the price for Dunning’s survival, here, Suzuki has entire the world be the price for saving Asakawa’s family. Whereas Casting the Runes ends with a definite confirmation of Karswell’s demise, Ring ends with the ominous passage, “Black clouds moved eerily across the skies. They slithered like serpents, hinting at the unleashing of some apocalyptic evil.” (p.284). Asakawa has become accomplice to Sadako’s malice, the past in control of modern technology and, through that, the modern man. “In order to protect my family, I am about to let loose on the world a plague which could destroy all mankind.” (p.283).

CONCLUSION

Both James’ short story and Suzuki’s novel present characters eagerly, desperately trying to beat the deadlines they are faced with, wished upon them by people that want them dead. Through their representations of an evil, malevolent past, embodied by Karswell and Sadako, both authors present us with a moral choice of who we save, and who we kill in exchange. What is different about their endings is the level of intimacy and scope we are presented with. Casting the Runes is a story of personal vengeance, where the battle is between Karswell on one side and Dunning and Harrington on the other, with the evil-doer getting their just desserts, like a boxing match. Ring’s evil is much more impersonal, and the apocalyptic ending shows the sheer magnitude of what must happen for someone to live. You don’t end the curse; you just pass the buck and hope someone else will do it for you. The ending’s bleak tone implies that there is no hope, that nobody will sacrifice themselves to stop the bleeding, and that the virus will move from one soul to another, runes forever being cast.

Written by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

James, M. R., 1994. Casting the Runes. In: Collected Ghost Stories. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, pp. 235 – 267.

Ringu. 1998. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Ringu/Rasen Production Company.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

Suzuki, K., 2004. Ring. London: HarperCollinsPublishers.

 

 

David’s Haunted Library: The End Is All We See

The End Is All We See  contains two horrific stories from M.F Wahl and A.J. Brown. The book begins with intros from each author saying that when they met they wanted to try an experiment together. This book became that experiment. Both authors felt that their writing style complimented each other nicely and they both had story ideas which happen after an apocalypse.

The first story is Purple Haze by M.F. Wahl. It follows a band of survivors who left Earth in a spaceship in order to find another Earth-like planet to live on. The ship crash lands on a beautiful looking planet but there are only three survivors. The crew realizes their situation is bleak and things get worse as they explore outside the ship and discover something in the air is making them want to harm themselves and each other. Purple Haze becomes a blood bath with a shocking ending. M.F. Wahl uses vivid imagery to describe her characters situation and the planet they are exploring. What happens to the explorers is described so well that it’s enough to make you thankful for the air you breathe.

The next story is Run For The Flame by A.J. Brown. It starts simply enough with a bunch of teenagers behind a protective wall, about to race up a snow covered hill. There is more here than meets the eye though, they are living through an ice age and the wall they live behind is breaking down, their only hope is a tower on top of the hill.  The teenagers have a short period of time to retrieve a flame in the tower before they freeze to death. The problem is nobody has ever survived the run and without the flame, the community will die. This was an excellent story, the ending was a little confusing but I love all the characters. They are in a race against time, facing an impossible task but each one has a different emotional reaction to the situation. You feel for all of them and watching them go through what they do is excruciating.

What both of these stories have in common is a fresh spin on an old idea, they both take place after a catastrophic event and what transpires next is something that I haven’t seen in Science fiction or horror. Both authors tell an excellent story and the length of each one can be described as perfect. They’re short but pack a punch that you might not recover from.  To say their experiment worked is an understatement and I hope this isn’t the last collaboration between these authors.

 

Clockwork Wonderland Author Guest Blog Post: Michele Roger

 

Alice in Wonderland: the Bridge Between Reality and Fantasy

By

Michele Roger

 

It’s a Fine Line

           I discovered Lewis Carol and “Alice in Wonderland” later than most children.  While many of my friends tell me they read it with parents as a childhood bedtime story, I didn’t read the classic tale until high school.  Admittedly, by the time it was assigned to me, I was resentful.  Why was an Honors English class reading a kids book?

 

Thankfully, I was a goody-two-shoes and wanted to impress my teacher.  I dug into the story, assuming it would be a quick read, an easy paper and take me that much closer to kicking off my Spring Break.  Like so many things in my teenage life, I was wrong.  Alice in Wonderland consumed me.  It resembled many aspects of my real life and the people in it.  Epiphany hit me somewhere in the wee hours of the drive from Michigan to Florida as I sat reading in the car on a family Spring Break trip in April of 1988.  I was suffering the microcosm of my dysfunctional family crammed in the confines of a compact Ford Escort for eighteen hours when it hit me.  Lewis Carol took the extreme personalities of people he must have met somewhere in his life and turned them into the most fantastic creatures/characters to help tell a story.

 

I knew people like the caterpillar. I had parents of friends who smoked hash and made it look enlightening.  Caterpillar people loved parties, where jazz played softly in the background and martinis, were served in the library or study where guests could check out all of the books they had read.  These same people rarely spoke to their kids (my friends), drove expensive cars and paid for things with large wads of cash from their wallet.  All the while, they seemed to sit in a lofty leather chair and do nothing.  How they made their money was a mystery to me.  Caterpillars seemed addicted to the excitement of impending metamorphosis and bragged about their state of great change, telling their children they should aspire to it.  In reality, caterpillar people never turned into anything beautiful; much to the disappointment of their children.  I, on the other hand, thought they were entertaining.

 

The rest of that sophomore year and through my first summer job, I decided to find fantasy characters in my own reality.  There was no option out with a glass that said, “Drink me”,  to avoid driving in a hatchback with my parents, younger sister and two German shepherds to go places.  Heading to summer family events certainly felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole at sixteen.  I had the same tumbling feeling when I got my first summer job testing water samples and writing mind-numbing reports for the State of Michigan.

 

Mad Tea Party

The summer of 1988, I met my own personal Cheshire at a beach party. While drinks were flowing under the cover of darkness, I was drunk on a boy. One part bad boy, one part overwhelmingly charming and kind, stunningly handsome one minute, gone the next, not to be seen for weeks; leaving me with the memory of his smile.  He was well read but only shared his love of books quietly, unlike the caterpillars.  As I waited for him to materialize, I read books in his absence, hoping it would give us a chance to have something to talk about.

With all of the reading of classics and sci-fi, something inside me stirred, I was afraid to leave the safety of summer and high school.  Wonderland, Orwell’s versions of earth, the worlds of Omni magazine short stories had become a refuge.  Every college application, scholarship essay and step towards graduation, college and looming adulthood threatened to take my fantasy characters and imaginary places away.  My parents were pushing hard that I change my major from special education to law.  Secretly, I longed to be a writer.

One simply didn’t spring changing my parents well thought plans for my future.  They had their hearts set on a family lawyer.  I couldn’t just change and be a writer. Suggesting such a thing took cunning and skill.  I took an assessment test and had it sent to my mother at home so she would open it.  I waited until the weekend when I knew the cocktails would be flowing and pressed her about my results.  In reality, the school librarian had already informed me of the results, but I wanted to present my case with hard evidence.

As she stirred her drink, prepping dinner, she told me that she nor my father believed in such tests.  It said I should become a writer or a journalist.  Everyone knew girls couldn’t make any kind of living doing either of those things.  All the big work went to men.  I sighed.

 

Return to the Realm of the Queen of Hearts

It’s fair to say that I didn’t understand the Queen of Hearts and the notion of yelling, “Off with their heads!” until I heard my inner motherhood scream, “if I see that kind of behavior again, young lady, heads will roll.”  Fast forward to 2009, I was a mother of young teenagers and unknowingly, I had returned to Wonderland.

As an act of preparation for life, I read Alice in Wonderland to my kids.  We had moved into an old farmhouse in the country.  It was easy to see the characters that real people could be. Raising teenagers required escape.  I began to write, using everything I had learned from my trips down the rabbit hole.  Parenthood was the white rabbit, always in a hurry but never the less, magical and maddening and a beautiful chaos.  Lines between reality and fantasy were blurred from exhaustion but it made life all the more like Alice’s; adventurous and full of discovery.  Three novels and one children’s book later, I am thankful for Lewis Caroll.  I would have made a lousy lawyer anyways.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544785518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493493560&sr=8-1&keywords=clockwork+wonderland

 

Michele Roger is the author of the Sci-Fi novel, “Dark Matter” (2009), “The Conservatory” (2013) and “Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Story” (2015).  She is also the author of the “Mr. Kiwi” Children’s book series under her pen name, Michele Beresford.  When she isn’t writing, she is a harpist; performing and teaching in Detroit.

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_5?qid=1492955702&sr=1-5

 

David’s Haunted Library: Greylock

David's Haunted Library

27108969Alexei Georg was born to be a famous musician, his father was a pianist and Alexei’s only desire was to follow in his footsteps. Alexei has created a name for himself by writing and performing a sonata called October. At least that’s what people believe, Alexei has a dark secret. He found the sonata in an old 19th century Russian sea chest. When he performs it a dark creature appears and stalks him and now his career is going downhill.

To make matters worse Alexei is having an affair and his wife has been murdered with the evidence pointing to him. In order to revive his career Alexei plans to write a symphony based on the songs of the beluga whales while in isolation on Mt. Greylock. Though even alone on the mountain he can’t escape the creature that he has brought into the world or the accusations of murder. Alexei must face the darkness he has unleashed or it could use him as a conduit forever.

Greylock by Paula Cappa is a supernatural murder mystery where mythology and music create a dark mood. The music itself is like a character and what and how something is being played has an effect on everyone else in the book. It’s through the music that evil gets unleashed, but it’s also how Alexei expresses his emotions. Music is his life and it’s what makes him happy, even if some think he is not really that good at it. Alexei is a complicated character, at first I found I didn’t like him because he is having an affair, talks about murdering his wife and he is lying about the music he creates. Though as you get to know him you see him as someone who wants to live up to the family legacy and is willing to do anything to do so. This is a need that’s easy to relate to. By the end of the book you see a very different Alexei then you see a the beginning and its the character’s transformation that makes the book memorable.

Another thing I liked about Greylock was how the mystery unfolds. there are two different mysteries going on at the same time and in the case of the murder mystery there were times in the story where I was pretty sure that three different people were the murderer but I was wrong each time. This was enough to hold my interest throughout and the other mystery of who the dark entity is was just as compelling.

Greylock is not your average horror novel, it’s more personal. There is no over the top violence but you see Alexei deal with such personal horrors as abandonment, betrayal, wanting something he can’t have, his own insecurities as a musician and his need for fame. On a smaller level we also see the other characters in the book deal with the same issues and see what different paths their choices lead them in. Greylock is the kind of book you may have to read twice to catch all the subtle details, it’s about creating a mood and not in your face like some horror is. If you enjoy a good supernatural mystery then you should check it out.

David’s Haunted Library: Of Foster Homes And Flies

David's Haunted Library

51-jpmrearl-_sx311_bo1204203200_12-year-old Denny has not had an easy life, his father died and his mother is an alcoholic but he believes in keeping a positive outlook and doesn’t let it get to him. What he really wants in life is to accomplish something and for Denny that comes in the form of a spelling bee. He was too scared to sign up for it last year so to redeem himself this year he signed up and has been practicing non-stop. Life happens though and one week away from the spelling bee he wakes to find his mother has died.

Denny and his mother have had a complicated relationship that borders on mental abuse. Danny wants to do the right thing and call 911 but he doesn’t want to get stuck in a foster home and never compete in the spelling bee which to him is more than a competition. Denny decides that the best course of action is to keep his dead mother a secret until after the event which won’t be easy with the hot weather in New Orleans.

Of Foster Homes and Flies by Chad Lutzke is a brilliant coming of age story. This isn’t your average horror book, it’s more like a human drama with elements of horror in it. Denny is a child but is suddenly forced into an adult situation and isn’t sure how to handle it, but he does what he feels he has to do with a guilty conscience eating away at him the whole time.

Denny is a kid that you have to love, what he really wants is to be a normal kid but that can’t happen so he feels the least he can do is become spelling bee champion before he starts his lonely existence in a foster home.  Denny isn’t totally alone though, he has a friend named Carter and meets a hitchhiking girl named Sam. Denny never lets on what he’s going through and both characters still manage to help him in their own ways. I got the feeling that Chad Lutzke really understood how kids would act in this kind of situation because all the characters came across as real kids.

Of Foster Homes And Flies is a masterpiece, the length of the story is perfect and the main character may not be the kid next door but he wants to be. Denny is growing into a man but has no one to help guide him so he tries to figure out things on his own. He does a good job wrestling with his emotions and taking care of himself. I could hardly put down this book. I love the thoughts that Denny deals with along with the choices he has to make while feeling completely alone.  You have to feel for the character and I love how even when he does something bad he feels shame but sees it as something he must do. Of Foster Homes And Flies is a beautiful story that fans of all genres of books will enjoy.

David’s Haunted Library: Writers On Writing Volumes 1-4

David's Haunted Library

writers-on-writing-omnibus-193x3002xHave you ever thought about being a writer? There are lots of places where you can go to get advice on writing. You could take classes, buy books on the subject or find websites dedicated to the craft of writing. With all the different places to go for information, it may be hard to find what works best. That being said, the best place to go for advice is to authors that have already been published. Writers on Writing Volume 1 – 4 Omnibus: An Author’s Guide from Crystal Lake Publishing is a great resource for newbie writers.

Some of the subjects covered in this book include how you can learn from rejection, making time for writing, character building, finding your voice, how to network, what to expect from writing your first novel and much more. In Brian Hodge’s article, The Infrastructure Of The Gods he gives tips on getting started. Such as getting rid of distractions like turning off your wi-fi and remembering that instant gratification is not something you get from writing a novel. Brian also gives good advice on never giving up because new authors are always breaking through into the mainstream.

Another one I liked was What Right Do I Have To Write by Jasper Bark. Jasper talks about how the circumstances are never right for writing. There are always excuses not to do it but the only thing you can do is make the time and let nothing get in your way. I also like how he shoots down the fantasy that writing is a dream job. He says its fun sometimes but you are working under nightmare conditions, you may spend up to a year completing your first work and even the pros laugh at the idea that writing is a dream job.

One beneficial article in this collection is Finding Your Voice by Lynda E. Rucker. I would  have thought that finding your voice would come natural but in reality it takes awhile. Lynda mentions that it took a long time for her to create a voice that wasn’t an imitation of another author’s voice. She then states that finding your voice is the same as finding your identity. The way to find it is by realizing you have something to say and what you think is important. One thing I learned here is that there are several important aspects to writing.

Even if you’re not a writer and read this book you can get a lot out of it, such as a whole new respect for writing as an art form . My favorite part of this book was entitled A First-Time Novelist’s Odyssey by William Gorman. William takes you all through his five-year journey in writing his novel from doing research, living with the characters in your head, and getting their story just right. He talks about the struggle to find his voice and the massive amounts of revisions before the book was finally published. Writing maybe the most complex art form there is and Writers On Writing is a book that can help you on the path to being a better writer and possibly getting published too.

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

 

David’s Haunted Library: The Human Condition

DavidsHaunted

28368109Terror, murder and madness are all part of the human condition. We try to hide the fact that we have evil thoughts inside us and we don’t speak about the things that scare us the most. Like what bad things a person can do to another or even to themselves in a desperate situation. The Human Condition by Mark Taylor is a collection of 17 stories that have to do with the dark side of life, such as what happens when a person is driven to madness or faced with their worst nightmare.

The first story in this collection and one of my favorites is Christmas At The Mill. The story is about a man named Jimmy who gets trapped in a room at his work over the holidays. He wanted some peace and quiet and got much more than he bargained for. I love the simplicity of this story, it’s just one character and his struggle to escape his situation. I loved how the tension builds in this story and how everything was described. Mark proves here that you don’t need a lot of elements to tell a great story.

Another good one was Bobo. This was about a man named Tim who works as a clown on a famous children’s TV show. Things start to go bad for Tim as he starts having visions of everyone in the studio audience dying. Is Tim going insane or is his subconscious trying to tell him something? Once again I loved the storytelling here, I liked how Tim sees himself as crazy, but as the story moves along you see that’s not the case. I especially liked the ending to this one.

Each story in this book is well written and focuses on characters that are just average people put in gruesome, horrifying situations.  I love character driven fiction so I enjoyed all the stories in this anthology. Mark Taylor made me like every person in this book, which made it that much scarier when they were put in danger. When I finished reading this I wondered if Mark Taylor can make short stories this good, then his novels must be excellent.

David’s Haunted Library: A Stitch Of Madness

David's Haunted Library

28473957What do you get when you have a man driven to madness by an old urban legend, a girl who owns a rag doll that might contain the spirit of her dead mother and a man who may have just gotten a visit from the devil? You get A Stitch Of Madness by A.J. Brown. This anthology contains three stories that all have to do with someone going insane and having to deal with the consequences.

The first story and my favorite  in this book is Catherine’s Well, it deals with a man named Johnny who goes to prison after being accused of killing his best friend Buster. As Johnny tells his story we see that the truth behind the murder is much more complicated. What I liked most about this story is seeing how Johnny reacts to Buster’s decent into madness. At one point Johnny asks himself why he can’t leave his friend as he goes insane and he remembers how Buster was always a good friend through good times and bad. The tragedy in this story is Johnny is punished for his loyalty and witnesses something so horrible that he will never forget it.

The second story is Stitches which is about an abused girl dealing with the death of her mother who owns a rag doll that speaks in her mother’s voice. This is psychological horror at its best because there is a mystery to what is really going on in this story. The imagery in this one was great with the description of the doll’s eyes and her stitches. I also loved the dark mood of this story as it shows what a history of abuse can do to a person. One line in Stitches which describes the main point of the story is: “It’s hard to fix torn material.”

The last story is called A Sickly Sweet Scent which deals with a man who may be the devil looking for work on a farm and maybe a soul also. This story had a Twilight Zone feel to it. I liked the dialogue between characters and the way the story gets more complex as it moves along. In the beginning I thought this was going to be a story of good versus evil but the author took a different approach with it. This tale might make you hate grapes when you’re done reading it

I listened to the audible version of this book read by John Malone and I felt that John’s narration added a lot to each story. John’s deep voice added a sense of menace to the scarier parts of the stories and his delivery was perfect. Each story here reminded me of Stephen King because they are all character driven tales. You feel for all the characters here, when bad things happen to them it’s terrifying, even though the characters are flawed and might have deserved what was coming. A Stitch Of Madness is an example of great horror storytelling that you should put on your to be read list.

Dance Of The Goblins

newgoblinEvery 200,000 years the earth shifts on its axis destroying most life on the planet, but there are always survivors and those survivors go on to start a new society with new religions and some life forms evolve into something else. In the caverns away from the unpredictable and dangerous humans are the goblins who live a simple spiritual life keeping in harmony with the earth.

We also have small communities of humans who have started a different way of life. One group lives life following a strict religion while another group isn’t as strict but still holds on to some superstitious beliefs. One thing they both have in common is a fear of what they don’t understand and when a human wanders into one of the caverns where the goblins dwell, a series of events begins that could lead to war between goblins and humans.

Dance Of The Goblins by Jaq D Hawkins is a fascinating novel which builds a fantasy world where a lot of the beliefs mirror our own. What I like most about this book was how even after society collapses new societies will begin with the same prejudice and fear of what they don’t understand as we have. Three different societies are presented in this book, and they all look at the other groups as being beneath them. The interesting part is hearing what each group thinks of the other and then seeing how that group really is. Even the goblins who are presented as being in tune with the earth have prejudices against the humans that are incorrect and we see in the book how each society has their flaws. Dance Of The Goblins is like a sociology text-book disguised as a fantasy novel.

My favorite character in this book was a female goblin named Talla. Talla uses magic to disguise herself as a beautiful human woman in distress to distract some humans who are getting to close to the goblin’s layer. Thinking she is in danger the humans take Talla to their community and we hear Talla’s thoughts on human society as well as what the humans think of her. In one moment that I found hilarious, one of the humans takes Talla into a bedroom wanting to force himself on her. At this point Talla is curious what sex with a human would be like and is unafraid. Her reaction scares the human who runs out of the room thinking she is a succubus. I loved how when the human doesn’t get the fearful reaction that he wants from the woman, he labels her as evil rather than seeing the act that he was about to perform as evil.

My only problem with Dance Of The Goblins was that it spent so much time describing the world in which the story takes place that the story itself seems unimportant. I found myself being bored with the story but I loved how the goblin and human societies were described. This book may be light on action but it makes up for it in its attention to detail on how each society works. Jaq D. Hawkins has created a realistic fantasy world and an excellent dark fantasy novel. This is the first book in a trilogy and it will be interesting to see how the goblin’s world changes in future installments.

Remembering Tanith Lee

Lee-Tanith-221x300In a 1998 interview with Locus magazine Tanith Lee said that everyone is a book and we all have a story to tell and everyone is important. Tanith Lee looked at herself as a storyteller and she did a great job entertaining people with her stories. On May 24th 2015 Tanith Lee passed away at the age of 67 after a long illness. Her fans will remember her for her 90 books and 300 short stories that she wrote throughout her life.

I admit to not being to familiar with Tanith’s work but as I was reading the articles that described her career, I began to admire this woman. She was born in 1947, her parents were professional dancers and she had a love of Weird Fiction and Science Fiction stories. This was despite the fact that she couldn’t read until she was eight years old due to undiagnosed dyslexia. This didn’t stop her from being an avid reader and publishing her first story at the age of 21.

From there she went on to publish several stories in the Horror, Science Fiction and Children’s Literature genres. She also won several awards including The Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award and The World Fantasy Convention Lifetime Achievement award. More important than winning awards, she produced a body of work that entertained legions of fans and she got children to read and write by producing work for a young audience that didn’t talk down to them. Tanith Lee had a passion for writing and storytelling and she left behind several literary masterpieces that people will enjoy for years to come.

I wanted to close out this article with a beautiful poem that was put up at http://www.tanith-lee.com/. If you wan’t to find out more about her work and life check out: http://www.daughterofthenight.com/

19-9-1947 – 24-5-2015

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave
behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the
wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work
magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever
and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need
no words at all.

Tanith Lee

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Mimielle’s Musings: 10 Delightful Madwomen You Really Should Get to Know

Today if you Google “women…insanity”, you will mostly get hits for an exercise program that some people advocate with the dubious boast of it of making them vomit.  Instead, I will sit here with my nice cup of milky tea, curled up in my comfy chair and take you on a little tour of The Ophelia Gallery and reveal to you another view and definition in the form of a little list for your future reading pleasure…

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1. Emilie Autumn, present, not a character, mental health advocate, she is bipolar, a talented musician and addresses ‘madness’ through her music, stage shows and also through her semi-autobiographical writing, most notable to date is her hefty illustrated tome ‘The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls’ soon to be a self-narrated audio-book.
wuthering-heights

2. Cathy Earnshaw

(fictional character, Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847)
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3. Bertha Rochester

(fictional character, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte,  1847 )
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4. Emma Bovary

(fictional character, Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, 1857)

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5. Anne Catherick

(fictional character but based on a true story, The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins, 1860)
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6. Rebecca

(fictional character, Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier 1938)
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7. Anna Wulf

(fictional character The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, 1962)
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8. Esther Greenwood

(semi-autobiographical character, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, 1963)
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9. Annie Wilkes

(fictional character, Misery, Stephen King, 1987)

 

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Notes & Quotes:

“If a man wanted to get rid of his wife, he would simply get two doctors to certify her and lock her up,” says John Sutherland, Emeritus professor of English Literature at University College London. “It’s what Dickens himself did when his wife kicked up a fuss at his affair.”

Many of these have been made into films but there is nothing quite like letting the madness creep in at 3 am when the world is full of shadows, the silence is all around and you and your mind are all alone together, the only ones awake.

In closing…”Mimi, why only nine, why not 10?”
“Why…does it…bother you?” 🙂

OK then, go read about Ophelia in Hamlet, she will be our #10.

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Mad Music Scream-Along for the Day: Emilie Autumn, “Opheliac”

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Stay Beautiful, Addicts! ~Mimielle~

Review: Ketchup On Everything

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Elliot Tather is a man who has lost everything. He had a good life but one event caused it all to fall apart and now he is a lonely person traveling the countryside in an RV searching for meaning. He finds what he is looking for one night when he arrives at an all night diner and witnesses something unbelievable that changes everything.

I’m not even sure where to begin on talking about Ketchup On Everything by Nathan Robinson. This is one great novella, but if I talk about it too much it will spoil it. When I started reading it I immediately fell in love with the main character, Elliot. Everything is described from his view-point and he goes into great depth describing the diner that he goes into and the waitress that is taking his order. You begin to care for the waitress as well as Elliot’s inner thoughts describe the kind of person he thinks she is. In the beginning you also get a quick glimpse of the RV that he is traveling in and I found myself wondering what brought Elliot to the diner and why does he talk like his wife is with him.

The story may unfold slowly with very little action but you are so into the characters that you don’t really notice. We eventually hear about Elliot’s past and I found myself wondering would I be like Elliot if this happened to me? When I was half way through the book I was thinking  where is this story going?  Then a whole new story begins that makes you question what happened earlier in the book. This is a masterfully told tale that has a slow build and ends with a lot of action and an exciting climax.

Ketchup On Everything combines real life horrors with fictional horrors. This is the perfect horror novella because it preys on your emotions. You care about Elliot and you watch him go through every parent’s worst nightmare and then you get hit with a surprise twist. This book may have an odd title but it does make sense when you read it. The title and description of this book gives no clue as to what comes in the second half of the book, which is where everything changes. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Ketchup On Everything.  You won’t regret it.

The Colony: Descent

18924947Book 3 in The Colony saga starts with a small band of humans still trying to out run the zombie horde which has taken over Earth. It took only a few hours for society to crumble but a few humans still managed to survive and this is their story. The Colony: Descent by Michaelbrent Collings is a story of hope, survival and zombies.

Descent is just a little different then the first two books. The story begins with 8 people trying to get away from fast-moving zombies who are just as smart as the humans and can’t seem to be destroyed. The survivors have to run through an empty skyscraper and a wrecked aircraft but they finally manage to get to a safe place. There escape comes at a cost though, they are still trapped and they are not in good shape. They need food and medicine and they have no supplies.

One thing that sets this book apart from the last two is it has a little humor and there is a little downtime for the characters. I liked the non stop action that’s in the first two installments and the first half of this book but I liked it that things slowed down in this one, you got to know the characters better and it sets up some really creepy scenes. The action picks up again towards the end and when the zombies find their way to the survivors it is one of the scariest things that I’ve ever read in a zombie novel.

My favorite part of this story is the relationship between Ken and his wife Maggie. In a stressful time Maggie has turned against Ken but when things get  harder they come together. There was one scene I liked where Ken sees two of the other survivors show affection for each other and feels jealous. Another scene I liked was when Maggie sees all the survivors working together and thinks to herself “my family.” I love how all the survivors work together against the zombies despite their differences.

Descent also has one of the funniest lines that I’ve ever read in a book. After Ken has been passed out for a long period of time due to infection, he wakes up and asks how long they have been where they are and his daughter answers: “We’ve been here for seven poops.” I also loved the zombies who were trapped in the airplane and how decapitated zombie body parts start to come after the survivors in the sewer tunnel.

Descent has some great moments, I think this was the best in the series and I’m glad there is a part 4 coming. This one may have less action but it is scarier than the others and all the characters really had a chance to shine. My only complaint about this book was that there are lots of questions that get brought up and I figured they would get answered in this one. Instead the book ends with another major cliffhanger. On the bright side I’m curious what Michaelbrent Collings has in store for the survivors. Considering how each book had something that made it more terrifying than the last one, I have to see what Michaelbrent Collings comes up with next.

Free Fiction Friday: Dead Girls

This weeks Free Fiction Friday selection is a book that mixes Science Fiction with Horror called Dead Girls by Richard Calder. This book was originally published in 1992 and takes place in the year 2072. In the future Europe is having a recession. They have been taking in all of the refugees from the defunct Soviet Empire and the spreading of a plague has effected all of their exports. In order to compete in the global economy with the United States and Japan they have used nanotechnology to create life size realistic female dolls that are programmed to be the perfect companion for men.

Technology never seems to work like you want it to though and the dolls have evolved and are rebeling against society. With their vampiric saliva they are causing males to impregnate women who then give birth to human/robot hybrids that want to overthrow humanity.

This book is the first of a trilogy, the second book is called Dead Boys and the third is Dead Things. The way I heard this book described makes it sound like a war of the sexes and a metaphor for the sex trade and how it effects personal sexual relationships. If you want to find out more about the author go to http://www.sf2h.com/richardcalder/index.php. If you would like a copy of this book leave a comment on this post. The first comment gets the book.

Beware of Marysvale

The town of Marysville is not a Merry place. The town is surrounded by tall hairy blood thirsty monsters called the Brean. They have  six inch long black fingernails and fangs the size of daggers. The only thing keeping Marysvale from these creatures in the woods is a wall that surrounds the city. The people in town are not allowed to leave Marysvale and those that try to go to Marysvale rarley survive the trip through the woods. Things weren’t always like this in Marysvale, originally the Brean we’re not dangerous but something changed a few years back and the Brean started a rampage across the countryside.

One man that might hold the key to Marysvale’s future is John Casey, a 22 year old man who doesn’t know a lot about his past. John has the power to see into people’s souls, he knows people’s secrets and tries to protect his friends from evil. He also has the tendency to get himself into trouble. He’s now on the run to Marysvale where he will find love, battle monsters and find out that what is within the walls of Marysvale is just as terrifying as what surrounds it.

Marysvale by Jared Southwick is a book that people of all ages will enjoy. There is some violence but it is not overly descriptive and people who like to read young adult novels will enjoy this book just as much as older readers. Marysvale is a book that works on many levels and has something for everyone.

People that are into romance will enjoy the love story between John and a woman named Jane. Horror lovers will enjoy watching John try to escape from the brean and action lovers will enjoy all the fighting scenes within the city. There is also some mystery involved as you try to figure out what happened in John’s past and how much the other characters know about him.

What I enjoyed most about Marysvale is how unpredictable it is. In the beginning the author sets up who you believe are going to be the heroes and villains in the story but the main villain is quickly dealt with in the first two chapters and John takes his horse and goes on the run. At this point I wondered where this story was going as  it turns from a fantasy story to a horror story as John meets the brean and has to run for his life.

Another thing I really enjoyed about Marysvale is the social commentary that is given on the people that live in Marysvale. No one can enter or leave the city and in order to have safety from the monsters outside, the people inside have given up all their personal freedoms. In the town the government holds all the wealth as the townspeople live in squalor. The townspeople fear whats outside the walls more then what is inside. I fealt Jared Southwick was giving a metaphor for how we lost some of our personal freedoms after 9/11 and he did a good job of pulling it off.

I highly recommend this book. My only two issues  with it was that there were a couple of unanswered questions and some of the characters that we’re introduced in the beginning we’re never heard from again. Just recently though a sequel to Marysvale was released called Alyth which I’m hoping will answer all of my questions. Marysvale is an unpredictable thrill ride that will leave you anxious for the sequel.