How I Spent December 2019


Well, like many other people, I spent the month celebrating the festivities while looking back on what came before. For me, the decade as included a graduation, a transition, my first employment and my first published book — quite a few coming-of-age moments, then.

But I can’t spend too much time in the past. I’ve got work to do, and I’ve already assembled a to-do list for January. Onward ho!

Articles of mine posted elsewhere this month:


Article topics for 2020:


December 2019: A Month in Horror

Well, that’s the last month of the year and the last year of the decade. As the strains of Auld Lang Syne drift through the air, let us see what December brought us in horror culture…


Some old ghosts came back to visit as the long nights of winter drew in. A couple of classic tales of the supernatural were dusted off for our screens around Christmastime, with Steven Knight penning a miniseries of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (starring Guy Pearce) and the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas strand returning with Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of “Martin’s Close” by M. R. James (starring Peter Capaldi).

I managed to miss both of them — although I did catch Black Christmas in cinemas. This film spurred quite a bit of debate even before it came out — partly because of its irrelevance to the 1974 film of the same name (despite it being ostensibly a remake) and partly because of its feminist themes. It was not especially well-received by critics, scoring only 40% at Rotten Tomatoes.

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The Vampyre’s Legacy is Complete


It’s done! My year-long, twelve-part, 35,500-word overview of vampire fiction — marking the bicentennial of John Polidori’s seminal “The Vampyre” — is now complete.

You can read the final post at WWAC. I’ve taken a different approach this time: while the earlier instalments spotlighted one story per decade, this time I’m covering one story for each year of the 2010s, thereby wrapping up the series and celebrating the decade.

If you missed them, here are the first eleven posts in the series:

Part 1: Two Centuries of Blood — John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1818); Cyprien Bérard’s Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires (1820)

Part 2: The Feminine Touch — Théophile Gautier’s “La morte amoureuse” (1836); Elizabeth F. Ellet’s “The Vampyre” (1849)

Part 3: Deconstructing the Vampire — Charles Wilkins Webber’s Spiritual Vampirism (1853);  Paul Féval’s Le Chevalier Ténèbre (1860)

Part 4: Carmilla and Company — J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1871-2); Anne Crawford’s “A Mystery of the Campagna” (1886)

Part 5: Enter Count Dracula — Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897)

Part 6: An Occult Dawn — M. R. James’ “Count Magnus” (1904); Sax Rohmer’s Brood of the Witch-Queen (1918)

Part 7: Dion Fortune’s Demon Lover — Dion Fortune’s The Demon Lover (1927)

Part 8: In the Shadow of Hollywood — Henry Kuttner’s “I, the Vampire” (1937); Irina Karlova’s Dreadful Hollow (1942)

Part 9: Atom-Age Vampires — Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954)

Part 10: Sympathy for the Devil William Edward Daniel “Marilyn” Ross’s Barnabas Collins (1969); Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976)

Part 11: Urban Fantasies Nancy A. Collins’ Sunglasses After Dark (1989); Tanya Huff’s Blood Price (1991); Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005)

2019: A Year in (Offensive) Pictures

Around this time last year I posted a look back at 2018 through the lens of controversies over offensive images. It was interesting to write, so to ring out the end of the 2010s, I’ve decided to do the same for this year.

Here are twelve images that people found offensive during the course of 2019. Agree? Disagree? Read and decide…


January: Essex County Council Transgender Clipart

Near the start of the year Essex County Council issued a Future Library Services Strategy Questionnaire with a tick-box section for gender. It had three options: man, woman, and transgender. Any attempt at inclusivity was perhaps a little undercut by the choice of images: while male and female were signified by stock photos of cheery people giving thumbs up, the transgender box was illustrated with a drawing of a glum-looking, masculine-framed individual pulling off a wig. Not everyone found this appropriate.


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Green Lantern, Superheroics and Childlike Creativity


I’ve been reading The Silver Age Green Lantern Volume One, which has the earliest adventures of Hal Jordan – including his appearances across Showcase issues 22-24, before he got his own comic. Given that Hal is still with us all these decades later, it’s interesting to take a close look and see exactly what it was that made this character stick.


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On the End of Sword and Sorceress


The annual anthology series Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress saw its final instalment this year. The fact that it survived that long might come as a surprise to some, given that its namesake was the subject of a paedophilia scandal five years ago. Over at WWAC I look at the strange and sordid story of how Marion Zimmer Bradley’s literary trust tried — and ultimately failed — to salvage her reputation…

The Unexplained Revisited: Mysterious Man-Beasts

Unexplained 1It’s time for a trip back to that venerable publication that did so much to enliven 1980s Britain: The Unexplained!

We all know that you can’t go wrong with a yeti, and this fact is recognised by the first issue of The Unexplained: having covered UFOs and ESP, the magazine closes with Janet and Colin Bord’s essay “Man, Myth or Monster?”

The feature has an international focus, namechecking the woodwoses of English church carvings, the Sasquatch of Canada, the Yeti of the Himalayas and the wild man of China. The last of these receives a first-hand description from Pang Gensheng, who reportedly had an encounter in 1977:

The ‘man’ was about 7 feet (2.1 metres) tall, with a sloping forehead and deep-set black eyes. His jaw jutted out, and he had broad front teeth. Dark brown hair hung long and loose over his shoulders, and his body and face were covered with short hair. His long arms reached below his knees, and he walked upright with his legs wide apart.

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Goodreads Awards Vs Dragon Awards


Back in September I wrote a report about this year’s Dragon Awards, where I compared their voting turnout to that of the Goodreads Choice Awards:

The Dragon Awards present themselves as being “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience”, and while they have grown in both credibility and scale since their introduction, it is still debatable as to how well they are living up to that aim. Unlike the Hugo Awards, the Dragons do not issue detailed voting breakdowns, making it impossible to tell how many people have participated in each category. The rough overall vote-counts released by the administration — 4000 in 2016, 8000 in 2017, 11,000 in 2018 — indicate that the Dragons have attracted a voting base that is larger than that of the Hugos, but still far smaller than that of the Goodreads Choice Awards, where individual books can garner tens of thousands of votes.

Despite being likewise open to the public and conducted through an online poll, the Goodreads Choice Awards contrast significantly with the Dragon Awards. For example, this year’s winners in the Goodreads science fiction and fantasy categories were Vengeful by V. E. Schwab and Circe by Madeline Miller, neither of which made the Dragon ballot, while many past Dragon winners failed to even make the shortlist at the Goodreads awards. If the full Goodreads voting base began taking part in the Dragons, the results of the latter award would be substantially different — which raises the question of which of the two is doing the better job of representing the broader fandom.

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