How I Spent May 2020

DorisMay20As I type this, I’m just a tiny bit worn out from cramming to finish off my to-do list for the month. I freely admit that I left a few things until the last minute. Oh well – I’m on top of things now, I think.

The big news this month is the unveiling of my novel The Omega Factor: Divinity, based on the classic 1970s TV series of psychic forces and occult investigation, which’ll be released in July as an audiobook read by Louise Jameson. I hope to be talking a bit more about that project very soon.

Other than that, I’ve been getting stuck into my awards-reading for 2020. If you’ve been following this blog you’ll have been seeing my Splatterpunk Awards reviews – and allow me to apologise for that if uninhibited blood-and-guts isn’t your idea of a good afternoon’s reading. Meanwhile, my coverage of the Hugo Awards will be starting at Women Write About Comics not too far in the future.

Articles published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for June and beyond:


May 2020: A Month in Horror


This was a turbulent month for the horror community. Scandal broke out when it was revealed that Adam Donaghey, a producer who worked on 2017’s A Ghost Story, was arrested in late April on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor during the production of that film. He was released on a $25,000 bond, and resigned from all projects he was involved with at the studio Cinestate. “It’s unclear if and when his next court appearance is scheduled”, reports IndieWire. “A spokeswoman for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office referred requests for information about the case to the city Police Department. The department is not responding to records requests because of city offices’ pandemic-related closure.”

These question makes currently hanging over the Donaghey case no doubt contributed to the affair being overshadowed by another scandal – one with much smaller implications, but where the details are at least clearer. The controversy concerned long-time film critic and horror buff Joe Bob Briggs, who wrote an article last year expressing bewilderment at contemporary LGBT discourse:

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BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT! The Omega Factor: Divinity


I’m proud to announce another project for Big Finish: having written a short story and audio drama set in the universe of Doctor Who, I’ve now written an entire novel based on another work of British telefantasy…

I’m not sure how many readers of this blog will be familiar with The Omega Factor. It’s a series from 1979 about a pair of paranormal investigators and the sundry psychic phenomena they encountered on a weekly basis. My novel, Divinity, expands the series’ mythos into the past, as Tom Crane and Anne Reynolds become embroiled in a mystery that has its roots in the occult world of postwar Britain.

The Omega Factor: Divinity will be out in July in audiobook-only format, read by series co-star Louise Jameson (Doctor Who fans will know her as Leela, companion to the Fourth Doctor). Pre-order it here!

Official synopsis:

When Tom Crane is sent to the sleepy village of Coldad to investigate a poltergeist, he expects to uncover nothing more than an elaborate hoax. Then the terrified Wright family invite him to spend the night in their haunted house, and he gets to experience the unsettling phenomenon at a closer range than he might have liked.

The investigation takes an even more personal turn when Anne Reynolds turns up an old interview, hidden on a dusty cassette in the Department’s archives.
Who was Margaret Grange, and why was Department 7 so interested in her life story? And could Coldad have a sinister connection with Edward Drexel, the evil magician who killed Tom’s wife?

The Gernsback Back-Catalogue

electricalexpOne of my ongoing projects is an issue-by-issue retrospective of Amazing Stories, the pioneering science fiction magazine, and I’ve covered it as far back as its debut issue of April 1926. But one thing I haven’t been able to delve into, yet, is its prehistory. Amazing Stories grew out of Hugo Gernsback’s earlier magazines, which were general science and technology publications that occasionally ran fiction – but these magazines and stories are nowhere near as well-documented as Amazing.

Galloping in to the rescue is Mike Ashley and Robert A. W. Lawndes’ book The Gernsback Days, which includes a lengthy appendix listing every single story to have been published in a Hugo Gernsback magazine. Thanks to this, I was able to get a glimpse at that antediluvian world of Gernsbackian SF before Amazing.

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Paradise, Maine by Jackson B. Thomas (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

paradisemaine_jacksonrthomasDarren and Vanis Caswell are a young couple, but already their marriage has been disrupted. Vanis has caught her husband spending time with an Internet camgirl, although her anger at him lessens when he is injured in an accident. The couple agree that a visit to a cabin retreat in the coastal Maine town of Paradise will give them a chance to begin patching up their relationship.

But Paradise is not as idyllic as it purports to be. The town is home to the Watcher, a deformed cannibal who lurks nearby, eager to dig his axe into those who get too close to his domain…

It scarcely needs mentioning that Paradise, Maine evokes memories of 1980s slasher films. The central villain of the Watcher would have fit right in alongside Jason and Leatherface: a misshapen face with one eye higher than the other, a loincloth torn from the clothes of some unfortunate passer-by, and enough cunning for him to catch each victim unawares.

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Weeping Season by Seán O’Connor (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

weepingseasonA man wakes up to find himself naked in a forest, chained to a tree. Nearby is a young woman in a similar predicament. Neither person remembers of how they came to be there, or even who they are: their only means of identification are numbers tattooed onto the backs of their shaved heads. But whoever chained them up appears to be playful as well as cruel, as they soon find that keys to unlock their manacles have been provided.

Even when they are free from their chains, the man and woman are far from safety, as testified by the charred corpses fused to a nearby electric fence. Before long they find that fellow survivors have banded together into a communal camp. Some can remember details from their past lives; one, Tom, even recognises the man – whose name is Richard – and helps to jog his memory. The woman also begins to recollect her identity, remembering that her name is Tiff.

Exactly who is behind their ordeal remains a mystery, but a clue to their captors’ sadistic motives soon becomes apparent. The forest is rigged with cameras and loudspeakers, and the numbered survivors – even those who have found the comparative safety of the camp – are being watched. When the watchers desire further entertainment, they begin presenting terrible tasks to the people in the forest, tasks that must be completed if the participants hope to survive…

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“Param” by Susan Snyder (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

triggerwarningbodyhorrorThe final contender for the Splatterpunk Award for Best Short Story hails from the Madness Heart Press anthology Trigger Warning: Body Horror. The main character of “Param” is an individual of unspecified gender who frequents a certain club. There, our anti-hero routinely picks up women for one-night stands, taking them home and torturing them with a range of implements.

The story opens with the protagonist smoking a cigarette while looking upon the corpse of their latest partner, the sex toy of that night having been an immersion blender: “I started using it on her breasts but the splatter of tissues and fat was off-putting and killed the mood.” This act, we are told, was consensual. The club is a gathering place for sadists and masochists, and the protagonist has a connoisseur’s ability to identify the most willing partners – although this latest woman is, so far, the only one willing to die. But then, heading upstairs from the basement torture chamber, the killer makes a terrible discovery: they have managed to lock themself inside.

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Fumetti Nightmares


Lately I’ve been dipping into my collection of weird Italian comics (fumetti, for those in the know). Specifically, I’m reading Belzeba, a series from the 1970s. It’s set during the itme of the Spanish Inquisition, and sees Satan trying to get his revenge by impregnating a cow with his offspring. The spawn of Satan is born fully-formed as a shapely young woman who happens to have a knob, and proceeds to cause mayhem throughout medieval Spain in her mission to hunt down and kill the dirty old man Torquemada.

It’s utterly bonkers, but it’s also completely par for the course as far as 1970s erotic-horror fumetti is concerned. Defending these things on any sort of formalistic ground is a tall order: the plots are basically stock scenarios from Universal and Hammer films mashed in with hardcore porn, the cartoonish artwork is often weirdly discordant with the horrific subject matter (Belzeba, with its cutely Disneyish character designs, is a particularly good example) and as for any sense of taste or decency, well, look elsewhere.

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