How I Spent October 2018

DorisOctober18Ah, October. The month where I get to carry out my annual #31daysofhorror ritual, gobbling up one horror film and one horror story for every day of the month. This year, I decided to throw in an extra course by devouring a stack of zombie novels. Om nom nom, as they say.

I’ve taken all of this as an opportunity to squeeze in some research – specifically, for the horror chapter in my book Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Speculative Fiction in the Culture Wars. The chapter in question will have a section on zombie fiction (a few works of which turned up in the Puppy campaigns, although this was seldom mentioned by observers) along with a section on the short stories written for Nightmare’s Women/Queers/People of Colour Destroy Horror special editions. I was able to make a pretty big dent in the chapter over the month of Halloween; now I just need to get cracking on the section about urban fantasy…

Articles of mine posted elsewhere this month:

Article topics for November and beyond:


DC’s Cursed Comics Cavalcade

Cursed Comics CavalcadeI’ve finally got round to visiting my local comic shop for the first time this month, which means that I’ve rather belatedly got my hands on DC’s Halloween special Cursed Comics Cavalcade. Last year DC put out a special where a bevy of horror writers re-imagined the company’s heroes as macabre monsters, but Cursed Comics ditches this high concept in favour of more straightforward in-universe fare. Let’s see how it turned out…

The comic opens with two stories that are really artists’ pieces, rather than writers’ pieces. “The Spread” is a Swamp Thing story written by Tim Seeley that serves mainly as a vehicle for Kyle Hotz’s artwork, and Hotz pulls off the requisite body horror with aplomb as plants and flesh blur in and out of each other. In the Batman story “Gorehound” writer Gary Dauberman squeezes a complete slasher movie (including twist ending) into eight pages; Ricardo Federici’s atmospheric artwork is the main selling point, rather than the hyper-compressed plot.

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Zombies, Gamers and Role-Reversal: Brian Keene’s The Rising

BrianKeeneRisingI’ve been spending my October reading-time delving into zombie fiction, starting with Brian Keene’s 2003 novel The Rising. And it got me thinking about the genre.

The early 2000s were a boom time for zombies, with The Rising on bookshelves and 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and a remake of Dawn of the Dead in the cinemas. What exactly caused this resurgence of interest in the genre? After all, zombie films had seen a definite lull through the 1990s, in comparison to their golden years of the 70s and 80s.  Doubtless there are many erudite articles on how the zombie apocalypse embody specific turn-of-the-millennium anxieties, but I suspect that the main factor was something more prosaic.

While zombies weren’t a particularly popular subject in horror films during the 1990s, they were firm favourites in horror video games at that time – see the likes of Resident Evil and House of the Dead. Then, come the 2000s, a generation weaned on zombie video games was eager to see the theme explored in other media.

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Proto-Doctor Who: “Around the Universe” by Ray Cummings

AmazArounduniverseA while back I wrote about an Amazing Stories issue containing “Around the Universe” by Ray Cummings, which was originally published in 1923. It’s a story about a guy named Tubby who goes off on an adventure in space with a scientific genius. Something that struck me about “Around the Universe”, even though I didn’t mention it at the time, is how much it feels like a prototype for Doctor Who.

While later incarnations have drawn upon everyone from H. P. Lovecraft to J. K. Rowling, the original, Hartnell-era Doctor Who had its roots in the work of two writers in particular: Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Its storylines can generally be divided into Vernean and Wellsian categories.

The Vernean approach has the characters journey through an exotic but broadly realistic environment, their observations and discoveries serving to educate and enlighten the juvenile audience; we see this in Doctor Who’s historical storylines. The Wellsian storylines have a much stronger element of the fantastic while keeping room to touch upon a few philosophical ideas; we see this when the Doctor meets alien races – such as the Daleks, who are essentially Wells’ Martians, with a bit of Morlock DNA thrown in for good measure. The Doctor himself is the perfect linking factor as he owes something to each author, being a hybrid of Wells’ Time Traveller and Verne’s Captain Nemo.

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