How I Spent June 2022


Well, summer’s arrived, and with it comes my annual tradition of trying to finish off a stack of book reviews while also trying to avoid melting into my chair. Still, I managed to squeeze out the first instalment of my Hugo Awards series, and Splatterpunk Awards coverage will be coming soon.

And while it already seems like a year ago, this month also saw the conclusion of Doctor Who: Redacted. I had the honour of scripting the third-to-last episode, which can be heard here.

Article topics for July and beyond:


June 2022: A Month in Horror

This month saw David Cronenberg’s film Crimes of the Future go on wide release; the reception has been mixed, but then, hasn’t that always been the case with Cronenberg’s work? Another talked-about release was Dashcam, which — if a screenshotted email is to be believed — was banned by Vue for its offensive content; although Vue denies placing this ban.

In awards news, the Ladies of Horror Fiction presented their prizes to a new batch of works. The winners this year were Jessica Lewis’ Bad Witch Burning (Best Young Adult), Lorien Lawrence’s The Collectors (Best Middle Grade), V. Castro’s Goddess of Filth (Best Novella), Gwendolyn Kiste’s “Sister Glitter Blood” (Best Short Fiction), Jessica McHugh’s Strange Nests (Best Poetry), Hailey Piper’s Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy and Isabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever (tied for Best Collection), Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl (Best Debut) and Rachel Harrison’s Cackle (Best Novel). 2022 marks the final year of the Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Berserkers, Hags and Landladies (1912)

Elliott O’Donnell’s Werwolves, a compendium of supposedly true cases of lycanthropy, continues its European tour as chapter 16 covers Iceland, Lapland and Finland. O’Donnell starts the chapter on fairly stable historical ground, discussing Icelandic berserkers, but then launches into one of his dubious anecdotes (“told to me on fairly good authority”, he assures us).

The main character here is a berserker named Rerir, who is spurned by a beautiful maiden named Signi. The author gets to indulge his blood-and-thunder tendencies by describing Rerir turning into a bear, breaking into Signi’s family home at night, hugging to death a servent and crushing the skull of Signi’s mother. However, this awakens Signi’s father, who is also a berserker; and the two were-bears proceed to duke it out. Signi herself tries to intervene, but accidentally stabs and kills her father instead of Rerir. The day is saved by the household cook, who happens to have at hand a concoction of sulphur, asafœtida, and castoreum (ingredients mentioned elsewhere in the book as potential wards against lycanthropy). Once the brew is flung in the face of Rerir, he changes back into his true form as a hunchbacked human and is duly executed.

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Starting Next Week: 2022 Splatterpunk Award Reviews

It’s that time of year again: the time where I knuckle down and review every single work nominated for KillerCon Austin’s Splatterpunk Awards.

It’s my fifth year of doing this. I covered the inaugural Splats of 2018 at WWAC (part 1part 2part 3). In 2019 I reviewed the awards at the now-dead but still-archived Horror After Dark (short storiesnovellascollectionsanthologies and novels). 2020 was when I moved the coverage to my own blog, and I kept it here in 2021.

Over the following weeks, I’ll be continuing the tradition by reviewing the 2022 finalists. I’ve already been knee-deep in a tide of blood and guts, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you…

Survivors: Crusade Review Round-Up


The reviews have started coming in for my Survivors novel Crusade! First, here’s Rich Cross, proprietor of the in-depth Survivors fansite A World Away:

What’s made immediately clear is that author Doris V. Sutherland has immersed herself in the timeline, plot points and rhythms of the 1975 series of Survivors. Sutherland’s prose is steeped in the established Survivors TV canon, and numerous series one events (up to and including the mis-trial and execution of Barney) are referenced throughout the Crusade storyline. This attention to continuity is stitched-in in a way that feels like a natural complement to the plot, rather than something shoehorned-in in an attempt to “please fans”. What’s also really gratifying is that so many of The Grange’s ensemble of residents are drawn into the action as the crisis develops and given some genuine, authentic-sounding agency. […] Crusade succeeds as a very different Survivors’ audiobook experience to Nation’s rethought novelisation from 1976 and to 2021’s Ghosts and Demons. This astute, cautionary tale of the threat that distorted religious certainty can pose to the survivors of The Death is the kind of grown-up and probing storytelling for which the series’ setting is so conducive.

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Werewolf Wednesday: More Ways of Becoming a Werewolf (1912)

Chapter 15 of Elliott O’Donnell’s 1912 book Werwolves covers lycanthropy in Norway and Sweden. In his characteristic manner, O’Donnell opens with some bold and completely unsourced statements:

As in Denmark, werwolves were once so numerous in Norway and Sweden, that these countries naturally came to be regarded as the true home of lycanthropy. With the advent of the tourist, however, and the consequent springing up of fresh villages, together with the gradual increase of native population, Norway and Sweden have slowly undergone a metamorphosis, with the result that it is now only in the most remote districts, such as the northern portion of the Kiolen Mountains and the borders of Lapland, that werwolves are to be found.

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Werewolf Wednesday: O’Donnell’s Danish Werewolves (1912)

In the fourteenth chapter of his 1912 book Werwolves, Elliott O’Donnell continues his international tour of purportedly true (but woefully under-sourced) lycanthrope lore. This time, he takes us to Denmark, opening with a characteristically stupendous paragraph:

SINCE so much has already been written upon the subject of werwolves in Denmark, it is my intention only to touch upon it briefly. It is, I believe, generally acknowledged that, at one time, werwolves were to be met with almost daily in Denmark, and that they were almost always of the male sex; but I can find no records of any particular form of exorcism practised by the Danes with the object of getting rid of the werwolf, nor of any spell used by them for the same purpose; neither does there appear to be, amongst their traditions, any reference to a lycanthropous flower or stream. Opinions differ as to whether werwolves are yet to be found in Denmark, but, from all I have heard, I am inclined to think that they still exist in the more remote districts of that country.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Trees, Burning, Spells and Other Methods of Combatting Lycanthropes (1912)

After spending a couple of chapters in what can only be described as self-parody, Elliott O’Donnell’s 1912 book Werwolves heads back to pseudo-scholarship with its thirteenth chapter: “The Werwolf in Belgium and the Netherlands”.

O’Donnell opens by telling us that “Belgium abounds in stories of werwolves, all more or less of the same type” and asserts that, as with their French counterparts, Belgian lycanthropes are found as both male and female in equal proportions. While the book has offered multiple different methods of becoming a werewolf, we learn that “nearly all the cases of werwolfery in Belgium are hereditary.” The focus of the chapter, however, is less on becoming a werewolf and more on disposing of them:

In Belgium, as in other Roman Catholic countries, great faith is attached to exorcism, and for the expulsion of every sort of “evil spirit” various methods of exorcism are employed. For example, a werwolf is sprinkled with a compound either of 1/2 ounce of sulphur, 4 drachms of asafœtida, 1/4 ounce of castoreum; or of 3/4 ounce of hypericum in 3 ounces of vinegar; or with a solution of carbolic acid further diluted with a pint of clear spring water. The sprinkling must be done over the head and shoulders, and the werwolf must at the same time be addressed in his Christian name. But as to the success or non-success of these various methods of exorcism I cannot make any positive statement. I have neither sufficient evidence to affirm their efficacy nor to deny it.

O’Donnell also recommends rye, mistletoe and mountain ash as tools for driving away lycanthropes, although he warns that the last of these attracts evil spirits in some countries including Ireland, Spain and India.

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The Sweetweird Swingback


I was recently reminded of a comment someone made at one of the video game forums I posted at as a teenager. It’s stuck in my mind because it’s one of the few comments I saw posted at a video game forum when I was a teenager that had any sort of intellectual merit. The poster said that one reason he was fond of Japanese games and cartoons was that they were able to be weird without being gross, in contrast to the English-speaking world where weirdness went hand-in-hand with gross-out humour.

He was talking specifically about Conker’s Bad Fur Day (for those unaware, that’s a British video game that started out as a sugar-sweet title about a cutesy squirrel, but was retooled during development to be filled with South Park-esque swearing, violence and bodily function humour) but I think it checks out as a general observation. For some time, the quirkiest and most offbeat American cartoons that received any sort of mainstream acceptance typically embraced gross-out humour: South Park, Ren & Stimpy, and going back a bit, the works of Robert Crumb, Ralph Bakshi and Basil Wolverton.

There are some notable exceptions from the psychedelic era — see Yellow Submarine — but for the most part, you’d have to go back to the splendidly strange Betty Boop cartoons of the thirties to find strangeness without grossness. Meanwhile, growing up, I noticed that many of the games I played had a certain oddball aesthetic that seemed the sole preserve of Japan (Warioware, Parodius and Goemon all spring to mind) and after that poster pointed it out, I realised that yes, the general lack of gross-out was a defining trait.

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