How I Spent April 2020


Last month I mentioned that I was relatively fortunate in that so far I’d been able to adapt to the new normal without much disruption to my personal life. Well, the same applies to the first full month of lockdown. While I’ve been cooped up indoors, I’ve been able to make use of my additional free time to work on creative projects.

My novel’s nearly at the 40,000-word mark, I’ve been tweaking the second issue of Midnight Widows with Marcela and Jio (although they’ve been doing most of the work, I should stress) and talked over a round of revisions with the editor of my TV tie-in book (should be able to properly announce that very soon). I’ve also got started on a couple of annual traditions of mine: review series for the Hugos and Splatterpunk Awards. Hopefully I’ll be able to get each of them running in May.

Until then… adieu!

Articles of mine published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for May and beyond:


April 2020: A Month in Horror


I’ve often found myself thinking about how the horror genre fares in times of cultural anxiety. Do audiences stay away from imaginary horror when they’re surrounded by the real thing? Or, conversely, do they head to the safely-confined thrills – ones that will end when the book is closed or the TV turned off – for catharsis? There are anecdotes you could employ either way. World War II wasn’t a particularly fruitful period for horror in either film or literature; but on the other hand, 9/11 saw a renaissance for the genre, with zombie apocalypses in particularly high demand.

It remains to be seen what lasting impact the coronavirus crisis will have on the imaginations of horror creators, but we’ve already seen the genre and its community trying to adapt to the practical matters of survival in this time of quarantine.

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The House of Eddas: Tales of Asgard in Journey Into Mystery #97

Journey_into_Mystery_Vol_1_97When I started this series, I intended it to be a comparison between Marvel’s Thor comics and Norse mythology. That turned out to be a bit of a mug’s game because, well, the earliest issues had almost nothing in common with the myths. But now we come to the October 1963 issue, where all that changes thanks to the new back-up feature: “Tales of Asgard”.

For context, Journey Into Mystery had always been an anthology comic. It started out as a pre-code horror title in the EC mould, running stories like “Death of a Puppet” and “The Bewitched Bike”, and later adapted to the censorious post-code climate by running stories about giant monsters like Zog, Spragg and Shagg, with a new kaiju-alike in each issue. Even when Thor was established as the main feature, the comic had continued to run short, self-contained stories with titles like “I Know the Secret of the Sea Monster” and “Frederick Fenton’s Future” as back-up material.

Starting with issue #97, both the main feature and back-up in Journey Into Mystery were based around Thor – but they took two very different approaches.

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On Astounding Stories issue 1

2020-04-14 19.14.31

For a while now I’ve been doing an issue-by-issue retrospective of the pioneering SF mag Amazing Stories, and for a shorter while I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a sister series on its rival, Astounding Stories. Well, with the recent rechristening of the Astounding (formerly Campbell) Award, I’ve decided that the time is right. So, join me as I retreat back to January 1930 for the very first issue of Astounding Stories

The Unexplained Revisited: Hypnosis

Dk91Vc0W0AAnfRhIt’s been a while since I blogged about the legendary 1980s partwork magazine The Unexplained, but dipping back into it seems a good way to spend my quarantining period. I’ve already covered the first issue, so let’s crack open the second…

As well as continuing the series on extra-sensory perception and mysterious man-beasts that started in the first issue, The Unexplained #2 introduces a few new topics. One of these is hypnosis, which is covered in “The Power of Suggestion” by former Spectator editor Brian Inglis.

“Most people still think of hypnotists as slightly shady characters practising a highly dubious craft”, begins Inglis. “We see in our mind’s eye the evil Svengali, the character in George du Maurier’s novel… Today’s stage hypnotist, however, is no longer the seedy villain of the story. He is a well-dressed and well-heeled smoothie with the patter of a conjurer, who exercised his talent before audiences in clubs.”

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