How I Spent February 2022


Well, for me, this was another month of focusing more on fiction than on blogging. My in-progress short stories are taking shape and I’m in talks with a new guest artist for the next issue of Midnight Widows. I also squeezed in a little work on my novel — further progress is very much on my to-do list for next month.

Articles published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for March and beyond:


February 2022: A Month in Horror

Following on from the fifth Scream released last month, February saw a new additon to another venerable horror series with the ninth Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, entitled simply Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film debuted on Netflix to mixed reactions — which, to be fair, is better than the last few films in the series managed.

Meanwhile, horror fans who appreciate fiction with a solidly leftist slant were doubtless happy to see both the inaugural issue of the horror-adjacent Seize the Press and the publication of Gretchen Felker-Martin’s much-discussed novel Manhunt.

In awards news, February saw the releases of the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards and the contenders for the Rondo Awards, which enjoy their twentieth iteration this year.

Bidding farewell…

Richard L. Tierney was a writer best known for his sword and sorcery fiction, although his work also included horror elements. He was an admirer of the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, and acted as both a Lovecraft scholar and an author of original Cthulhu Mythos material. He passed away on 1 February, aged 85.

Ivan Reitman was a director and producer closely associated with comedy. His single most popular comedy film was also horror-adjacent: Ghostbusters, released in 1984, showed that comedy had a place in the era of big blockbusters and also acted as a gateway to horror for a generation of youngsters. He passed away on February 12, aged 75.

Dave Thomas was a writer, animator, musician and known to many horror fans as co-host of Brian Keene’s beloved Horror Show podcast. Keene announced his peaceful passing on 14 February.

Werewolf Wednesday: Elliott O’Donnell on How to Exorcise a Lycanthrope (1912)

The last time I dipped into Elliott O’Donnell’s 1912 book Werwolves I covered the author’s description of how to become a lycanthrope. In the next chapter, he examines the matter of how to do away with a troublesome werewolf. The title of the chapter is “Werwolves and Exorcism”, but O’Donnell admits to being skeptical about the legitimacy of exorcism in any context:

I have been present when exorcism has been tried—tried on people supposed to be obsessed with demoniacal spirits, and tried on spontaneous psychic phenomena in haunted houses—and in both cases it has failed […] I am not only dubious as to the powers of exorcism generally, I am also dubious as to its effect on werwolves. I have come across a good many alleged cases of its having been successfully practised on werwolves, but in regard to these cases, the authority is not very reliable, nor the corroborative evidence strong.

O’Donnell also rejects the idea that werewolves are created as a result of “the lycanthropist being possessed of a separate individual spirit”. However, he does believe that “the property of werwolfery is a gift which is, more or less, directly acquired from the malevolent spirits” and therefore concludes that, if exorcism can achieve anything at all, curing werewolves will be one of its uses. Furthermore, as skeptical as he might be, O’Donnell finds it worth his time to outline a purported recipe for werewolf-exorcism (note the reference to the werewolf wearing a girdle, an established element of lycanthrope folklore):

Nearly all the methods prescribed embrace the use of some potion; such, for example, as sulphur, asafœtida, and castoreum, mixed with clear spring water; or hypericum, compounded with vinegar—which two potions seem to have been (and to be still) the most favoured recipes for removing the devilish power.

The ceremony of exorcism proceeded as follows: The werwolf was sprinkled three times with one of the above solutions, and saluted with the sign of the cross, or addressed thrice by his baptismal name, each address being accompanied by a blow on the forehead with a knife; or he was sprinkled, whilst at the same time his girdle was removed; or in lieu of being sprinkled, he had three drops of blood drawn from his chest, or was compelled to kneel in one spot for a great number of years.

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: Elliott O’Donnell on How to Exorcise a Lycanthrope (1912)”

The Vampire Defined, in 1842

While doing some research for another blog post I stumbled across a Google Books copy of William Thomas Brande’s 1842 Dictionary of Science, Literature & Art which includes an in-depth entry on vampires. This is fairly in-depth for something written before vampire literature had become a coherent genre, and makes an interesting time capsule. I searched and found very little about the entry online, so I decided to repost it in its entirety.

VAMPIRE. A bloodsucking spectre; the object of superstitious dread among various nations of Europe. The belief in vampires, i.e., in persons returning to the earth after death and burial, not as ghosts, but in actual corporeal substance, and sucking the blood of living men, appears to have prevailed in classical times. The Empusae, Lamiae, and Lemures were species of vampires. One of the most detailed stories of vampires is the tale of Machates and Philinnion which Goethe has made the foundation of his poem of the Bride of Corinth: in which the dead bride of a young man visits him at night, and withers him by her embrace.

But in modern Europe, the populations among which vampire superstitions have prevailed appear to be of Slavonic descent. The word vampire is said by Adelung to be of Servian origin; and although the modem Greeks have also their vampires, yet the barbaric, names by which they call them (Vroucolachas, Vuroulachas, Vardoulachas) seem rather to indicate the Slavonic, or perhaps Albanian source from which they derived both the tradition and the word. In Crete they are called Katakhanas, and firmly believed in. (See Pashley’s Travels.) About a century ago, there prevailed in several districts of Hungary an epidemic dread of vampires, which lasted some years, and gave birth to many extraordinary stories.

Continue reading “The Vampire Defined, in 1842”

The A-Z of Horror is Available at Godless


If you read small-press horror fiction, then you really should pay a visit to Godless. It’s an online retailer dedicated to horror, exploitation and trash, providing a worthy alternative to Amazon and working with the anti-sex trafficking chairty Children of the Night at the same time.

Among the more recent additions to Godless is the complete line (so far) of Red Cape Publishing’s A-Z of Horror anthologies, from A is for Aliens to L is for Lycans. I’ve contributed to the line, with my stories turning up in I is for Internet and L is for Lycans, but I’m just one of many writers involved in this project. So, take a look!

A Long Year’s Dreaming: February Progress Report

I’m still devoting a chunk of my day-to-day free time to my essay collection A Long Year’s Dreaming: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in 2020, which I’m hoping to publish this year. I’ve narrowed down the list of remaining novels that I hope to cover, and planning to get my teeth stuck into the films of 2020; I’ve tackled msot of the blockbusters, so now it’s time for the lesser-known releases to receive their due.

Most importantly, I’m happy to announced that all proceeds from the book will go to MSF UK, the British branch of Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders). This was my hope from the start of the project, but I’ve only recently obtained the necessary permission to confirm that it will be the case.

Here’s a stil-incomplete (but slightly longer than last time) list of essays you’ll be finding in the book when it’s finished:

  • Bang in the Coffin: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Dracula
  • Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Controversy
  • Prophets of Doom: Did these Authors Predict COVID-19?
  • The Last Laugh: Animated Films Before the Pandemic
  • Coronaphobia: Horror Films in Lockdown
  • 2020 A.D.: Reviving the British Anthology Comic
  • Broken Futures: Iron Man 2020
  • The Year we Had No Heroes, Except for This Lot: Superhero Films in 2020
  • Investing in the Gods: Jiang Ziya and the Fengshen Cinematic Universe
  • Wit, Weirdness and Warped Ethics: Megan Giddings’ Lakewood
  • Cannibal Women, Laughing Lords and Ownvoices Iconoclasm
  • First Lady: Lilith as Icon of 2020
  • Out with the Old and into the Sun: The 2020 Hugo Awards
  • Dragons and Death Cults: The 2020 Dragon Awards
  • Red Brains: Zombies in 2020
  • Blue Veins: Vampires in 2020
  • MAGA 2020 and Beneath: The Strange World of Trumpist SF
  • For Better or Worse, the Film of the Year: Tenet
  • Huns, Rouran and Uyghurs: Mulan goes to Xianjiang
  • Untitled Last Emperox Essay
  • From Smashing the Klan to Killing Jimmy Olsen: The Superman Family in 2020
  • Untitled Doctor Who Essay
  • Aquaman’s Architect: Robson Rocha in Memoriam
  • Ghosts of Christmas Present

Werewolf Wednesday: “Wolves Don’t Cry” by Bruce Elliott (1954)

Originally published in the April 1954 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Bruce Elliott’s “Wolves Don’t Cry” has long been a fixture in werewolf anthologies – largely due to its novel twist on the lycanthropy theme. The main character is a zoo wolf who has suddenly transformed into a human, and awakes in his cage to find himself with a new body:

Inside the naked man’s head strange ideas were stirring. His paw, what had happened to it? Where was the stiff grey hair? The jet-black steel-strong nails? And what was the odd fifth thing that jutted out from his paw at right angles? He moved it experimentally. It rotated. He’d never been able to move his dew claw, and the fact that he could move this fifth extension was somehow more boggling than the other oddities that were puzzling him.

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: “Wolves Don’t Cry” by Bruce Elliott (1954)”

Five Strange Loves

I’ve decided to mark Valentine’s Day by looking back at some of the weirdest romances I’ve had the pleasure of writing about…


Lord Ruthven and Aubrey’s Anonymous Sister

The market is glutted with romances between vampires and mortals, but back when John Polidori wrote “The Vampyre” it was still a novel concept. Just ask poor old Aubrey, who ended up with an undead in-law when his unnamed sister married Lord Ruthven. I wrote about Polidori’s tale back in 2019 to mark its 200th anniversary, and also examined a range of the vampiric couplings that followed in its wake. Yes, including Ed and Bella.

Continue reading “Five Strange Loves”

“You Perfect, Broken Thing” by C.L. Clark (2021 Ignyte Awards)

Wrapping up my reviews of the 2021 Ignyte Award for Best Story finalists (see also “My Country is a Ghost”, “Express to Beijing West Railway Station”, “Body, Remember”, “Rat and Finch are Friends”). “You Perfect, Broken Thing” can be read here.

The world has been hit by a deadly pandemic and the cure for the illness is in short supply. One way of obtaining it is by succeeding in an athletic tournament held each year; training for this event is a gruelling process that accelerates the disease, but is necessary for any athlete who hopes to gain an edge. The story’s protagonist, Coach, is determined to place in the top three and thereby earn two shots of the cure: one for herself, and one for her lover Honey.

The team has three other members besides Coach and Honey. One is Shell, who gives support to Coach, showing concern that the latter may be pushing herself too hard. Another is Rowboat, who is similarly pushing himself, albeit through the less rigorous method of devouring protein-heavy food, “hoping another protein shake or spoonful of peanut butter will grow new myofibrils out of nowhere.” Then there is seven-year-old Little, a pint-sized troublemaker who provides both comic relief and a poignant remainder that even children have been forced into this brutality.

But it is Coach and Honey who remain the focal points of the story. Coach is the physical centre, the figure whose every movement is related to the reader with up-close tactility; Honey is presented in more abstract terms as a goal to be attained, a chance for a happily-ever-after, but she is no less important: a sprinter needs a finish line, after all.

Continue reading ““You Perfect, Broken Thing” by C.L. Clark (2021 Ignyte Awards)”