Notebook: To Keep The Cold Away

Tell me about them, you ask. And he tells you.
These are netsuke, he begins. Long ago, far away, people wore flowing robes instead of the clothes we wear today. Beautiful as these were, and they were so very beautiful, they had no place to keep their belongings.
No pockets? The thought amazes you.
No pockets, he agrees. So they fashioned little pouches, and hung them from their belts with buttons to hold them closed. Long ago, nothing could be useful without also being beautiful so they carved these buttons into flowers, or gods, or…
Little monkeys! You laugh.

To Keep The Cold Away, which appeared in the first issue of Mycelia from Glasgow-based Hedera Felix, is unusual for me in how accidentally autobiographical it is. My grandparents did indeed both die in close succession, albeit not as close as in the story, and I was left their small collection of netsuke, which I had always loved since being a child. One of these was a monkey, “sad-faced and hiding from the rain under a broad chestnut leaf”.

Netsuke

This is the first entry in a new series I’m calling Notebook, where I talk briefly about the inspiration and influences of published works. I hope you find it interesting

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Tech Noir Nights: Hellraiser 3 (1992)

Tech Noir Nights is a series of articles about the bars and nightclubs of 80s/90s genre movies. The reasons for this series existing are outlined in this introductory post. Whether these reasons are good reasons is debatable…


Hellraiser 3 is a slightly different proposition to The Terminator and Robocop, the previous films in this series of articles. Firstly, it’s a sequel. More than that, it’s a sequel which deviates sharply from its previous incarnations. Secondly, it’s not that good a film.

Well, perhaps that’s not very fair. Personally, I think it’s a really fun film. An excellent slice of preposterously 90s action where cop cars explode in balls of flame, TVs play apocalyptic news reports despite *gasp* not being plugged in and Doug Bradley chews out the one-liners like there’s no tomorrow. Which, of course, there might not be.

It is not, however, a good film and it is not a good Hellraiser film. Indeed, as Howard David Ingham’s already pointed out, very few Hellraiser films are actually good Hellraiser films.

That said, we’re not here to discuss the film. We’re here to discuss the film’s club.

And what a club it is.

Let’s take a trip to The Boiler Room, where it’s not your drink that gets spiked.

Hellraiser3_001

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And turns no more his head – St Decuman, St Denis and the head-carrying saints

Today, 27th August, is the feast of St Decuman.

In the 7thC, Decuman travelled from his native South Wales to Somerset, setting himself up as a hermit healer and pastor near modern-day Watchet. Despite his good works, Decuman must have made some enemies as legend tells that “a certain man more venomous than an asp, more poisonous than the adder” attacked the holy man and cut off his head. Unperturbed, however, Decuman picked up his head, washed it and replaced it back on his neck. Surprisingly effective, this allowed Decuman to go about his business and eventually found a church in Watchet.

St_Decumans

This makes Decuman a member of the cephalophores, or “head-carriers”; saints who were killed by beheading and are often depicted holding their own head in their hands.

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Spiders and Flies – The Gothic monsters of sci-fi horror

This second in my series of articles on the Gothic roots of sci-fi horror – this time looking at the shared monstrosities of Alien and Dracula – is now up on the Sublime Horror website.

The Spider and the Fly, by Arthur Rackham

Next will be a piece on Gothic environments, using The Castle of Otranto and Event Horizon.

“Are You Lena?” – Selfhood and the Unheimlich in Annihilation

This paper was initially presented at the Embodying Fantastika conference, held at the University of Lancaster on August 8th-10th 2019.

Are you Lena?.001

Before I start I should offer a couple of warnings and comments as an introduction to this paper.

Firstly, my presentation uses infrequent images of violence and self-harm which, albeit from a fictional source, could still be disturbing to some. Secondly, the paper’s content has also been slimmed down slightly from the initial abstract, purely for reasons of time.

Are you Lena?.002

Thirdly, perhaps disappointing for literature fans, I’ll be talking far more about Alex Garland’s 2018 film adaptation of Annihilation than I will Jeff VanderMeer’s original book.

Due to this, there will also be some spoilers for the film’s narrative.

Are you Lena?.003

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Bloodbath Literary Zine (Issues 1 & 2)

Bloodbath is a new zine from Edinburgh-based editrix Katy Lennon that “seeks to serve as a platform for new and established authors to subvert and defy [genre fiction’s] conventions”. This is accomplished through themed issues which blend short fiction, poetry and visual art in an package of exceptionally high quality.

Bloodbath’s first outing, ‘The Bodies Issue’, features works that deal with human (and inhuman) flesh in all of its often-grotesque familiarity. This is a place where families blend and blur in newly-excavated swimming pools, and office workers are forcibly melded with their photocopiers. Every possible incarnation of incarnation is, as the zine’s description declaims, “torn apart, transformed or consumed”.

Next comes ‘The Demons Issue’ and, as the black metal influenced cover implies, everything is taken up a notch. The design work, previously impressive, now becomes an integral part of the zine’s physicality; toner misprints and smoke stains smear from blank page to text while Rachel Brand’s ‘Demonic Longing’ is as much Malevich-esque artwork as it is poem. In terms of prose, Charles Kline’s ‘They Shall Hunger No More’ blends folkloric taboo and coming-of-age trials into something that has a sinister nature of its very own while Rafael Torrubia’s ‘Thrice’ – with the wonderful line “grown long now, like the memory of a wolf” – seems to reflect the zine’s own growth in scope and power.

Bloodbath is one of those journals where I had to pace myself, savouring each morsel and gobbbet. It’s a much needed and politically-aware breath of fresh, cold air in a genre too-concentrated on retreading old tropes and outdated concerns.

Both issues of the zine can be ordered through Bloodbath’s webstore and a third instalment, ‘The Hauntings Issue’, is now in progress. If the quality and contents continues improving then that should be quite a thing to see!