Horror Clichés: Part Two

halloween-webAs regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been busy moving house of late, which is why I’ve been so quiet recently. But my favourite festival, Hallowe’en, is upon us, and so I decided to pull myself away from my cardboard boxes for just long enough to write a celebratory blog post. I toyed with the idea of writing a serious critical evaluation of the works of Poe or Lovecraft, but rejected it for two reasons: firstly, it would take too long, and secondly, moving house has scrambled my brains and it will be months before I can do, think or write anything even remotely clever again. Continue reading

There’s Such a Lot of World to See…


Off with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsies-O…

I’ve never been a particularly materialistic person. When I was a child, I dreamed of running away with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsies, like in the old ballad. Not for me a suburban semi and a stack of debts. Oh no! I was going to live in a caravan, travel wherever I wanted, and cook over a camp fire. Later – and not long after I came to the disappointing realisation that most modern gypsies don’t in fact live in old-fashioned wagons and wear gold hoop earrings – that dream was transmuted into a burning desire to travel the world with no more than I could stuff into a backpack.

I achieved neither ambition, sadly, but I think they’ve nevertheless left their mark on my personality. I am, by nature, pretty nomadic. Every few years I get itchy feet and find myself yearning for a change of scenery. Continue reading

It’s not real, but it’s definitely true

dreams-mirrorLast month, Authors Electric’s Bill Kirton wrote this very interesting post. He was talking specifically about the fantasy genre, but he made a point that I think is relevant to all fiction:

“We carry all these race memories, dreams, imaginings; we can release people and things from their restricted functions. Maybe fantasy is simply a means of relaxing our grip on experience, a way to deny chronology and inevitability. Maybe it’s just a less uptight reality.”

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A Brutal War seen through a Young Woman’s Eyes: Ellen’s People by Dennis Hamley

A1zllPmfbbL._SL1500_“It’s dark now. The church clock has long struck midnight. Betty and Madge, twins and my younger sisters, went to sleep the moment I blew their candle out, but I can’t sleep and I’m wondering if I ever will again.”

Thus begins Ellen’s People, the first novel in Dennis Hamley’s Ellen Trilogy. Ellen Wilkins, a young woman living in rural England on the eve of World War I, has just witnessed a recruitment drive in her village. She has also witnessed some of the less attractive behaviour associated with such campaigns: jingoism, hatred of “the Hun”, and fury against those who openly prefer peace to war. To Ellen, this is more than a purely abstract concern: her beloved brother Jack has enlisted, and she worries about what might happen to him. “I don’t know much about wars,” Ellen admits, “except soldiers and sailors get killed and Jack might get killed with them.” Continue reading

Beauty? It depends on who’s looking…

Warning: reflections may be distorted by societal pressure.

Warning: reflections may be distorted due to societal pressure.

A man of my acquaintance, who shall remain nameless, is currently going through something of a midlife crisis. Just a few years ago, he accepted an expanding waistline and greying hairs with equanimity. Now, he has begun an aggressive campaign against these things. He practically lives in the gym. He is contemplating cosmetic surgery to rid his face of its tiny, almost imperceptible, lines. When he isn’t doing these things, he’s complaining about how he isn’t quite as handsome as he’d like to be. And there I was thinking that obsessive anxiety about one’s appearance was a female trait… Continue reading

Linear vs Circular

cycletimeI recently read this very interesting post by Lauren Sapala, in which she argued – very convincingly, to my mind – that writers, by pressuring themselves to achieve goals, can actually hinder their progress. In the post, she made a very simple but, to me, quite startling point, which in turn provoked one of those “lightbulb” moments, when I thought, “Ah-ha! So that’s where I’ve been going wrong all this time!” She says:

“Our culture tends to think of time as linear. It moves forward in a straight line. So if you want to get anything done, you need to move forward in a straight line as well. And the most popular method used in our culture to conquer this straight line is to push ourselves. This push is commonly referred to as ‘drive’ or ‘motivation’.”

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