More Hand-Wringing on the Torture Bus

Last week I wrote about blogger Samuel Collingwood Smith and his attack on author Jason Sanford over a horror story written by the latter. My response focused mainly on Smith’s post, but really, the comment section deserves its own reply. If you’re familiar with the moral panics over horror comics in the fifties and horror videos in the eighties, you’ll know exactly what Samuel Collingwood Smith and his readers are trying to stir up.

Sanford’s story (“The Wheels on the Torture Bus Go Round and Round”) struck me as rather tame as far as the horror genre goes, and I got the feeling that Smith’s commentators were either feigning outrage (bear in mind that the attacks on Sanford were spurred by his research into violent right-wing rhetoric at the Baen Books forum) or had simply never read a modern horror story before. My impression was reinforced when I posted the story at a community of horror readers (namely, r/weirdlit) and they generally agreed with my assessment of it:

I think it’s rather tame honestly. It’s not gratuitously violent or anything. A little dark, but you expect that from the title.

Yeah, this was not nearly as bad as the title led me to expect. It’s definitely grim, but not graphic. It’s also quite good in my opinion.

A pretty tame great-great-grandbaby of the Lottery and similar.

It’s slightly unsettling and really slickly executed. I admire the craft that went into it. Almost New Yorkery.

i was surprised by the ending – i thought there would be more of a twist… did i miss something? but no, don’t see the controversy at all.

Now we’ve established what horror enthusiasts make of the story, let’s delve into the twilight zone that is Samuel Collingwood Smith’s comment section…

Continue reading “More Hand-Wringing on the Torture Bus”

The House of Eddas: the Death of Balder (Sort Of) in Journey Into Mystery #107

Thorgarg0This month’s main story is “When the Grey Gargoyle Strikes!” After some more scenes of Don Blake/Thor pining over Jane, we get a new villain: French chemist Duval, who turned his hand to stone in a laboratory accident (“Ohh! I have carelessly spilled the potion on my hand!”) Not only is this appendage permanently made of rock, but anything it touches – except, conveniently, Duval’s glove – is similarly turned to stone for half an hour. With this trick up his sleeve, Duval is able to both petrify his victims and transform himself into a stony-skinned supervillain, with the ultimate aim of stealing Thor’s hammer and obtaining immortality – this is, I believe, the first time the comic has established that the weapon gives the user longevity.

The Grey Gargoyle is the first street-level villain introduced by the comic since Mr. Hyde back in issue #99; between the two, every opponent faced by Thor has either been an Asgardian antagonist or someone recycled from an earlier issue. And once again, we see the at Lee and Kirby still viewed Thor as, ultimately, a conventional superhero who went up against conventional supervillains: a gargoyle-themed evildoer who turns people to stone could easily have been cast as a denizen of Utgard or an offspring of Loki, but instead he’s given a mad scientist origin.

Continue reading “The House of Eddas: the Death of Balder (Sort Of) in Journey Into Mystery #107″

Werewolf Wednesday: Jekyll and Wolf

My weekly Killer Horror Critic series on the history of werewolf cinema is back with another Paul Naschy vehicle: Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman

Past instalments:

Samuel Collingwood Smith vs Jason Sanford: Right Wing SF/F Goes Full Mary Whitehouse

I’ve long had the impression that, for all of the bluster about triggering snowflakes and smashing safe spaces, a lot of the people involved with right-wing SF/F are – at the end of the day – just as prone to pearl-clutching as Mary Whitehouse, the notorious British moral activist who campaigned against everything from Doctor Who to 1980s zombie films. Today I came across a good example of this courtesy of Samuel Collingwood Smith, a blogger also known under the pseudonym of “Matthew Hopkins”, who has just posted an utterly laughable attack on author Jason Sanford.

For context, Jason Sanford has been under attack from various right-wing SF/F authors since last month over his blog post documenting violent rhetoric at the official forum of publisher Baen. I’m planning to cover that controversy in more detail in a later post; for now, suffice to say that a number of bloggers have tried a variety of tricks to discredit him. The latest trick is to attack Sanford through his fiction, described by Samuel Collingwood Smith as “offensive, depraved and vile”.

So, what exactly are these “offensive, depraved and vile” stories that Sanford has allegedly written? I decided to take a look.

Continue reading “Samuel Collingwood Smith vs Jason Sanford: Right Wing SF/F Goes Full Mary Whitehouse”

How I Spent February 2021


This month I’ve been in my bunker cracking on with a few projects. I don’t have much to show for them right now, but that’ll all change in the future.

For a start, I’ve got started on my year-by-year overview of Lovecraftian fiction; right now I have complete drafts of the first two articles, but since I’m hoping to make it a weekly series, I’d rather wait a while before I start posting. Next, work is properly underway on my Satanic Panic: Back and Based series; I’ve got started on the first profile. On top of this, my commissioned novel is roughly one-fifth finished.

In each case, I’ll be getting more work done over the course of March. So, until next time…

Articles of mine published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for March and beyond:

February 2021: A Month in Horror

Protest movements and countercultures have often appropriated fictional characters as icons, and this month saw another example of the phenomenon with protesters in Myanmar dressing up as the ghostly nun from The Conjuring 2 and its spin-off The Nun. Holding a banner reading “The Nun Will Never Forgive Dictatorship”. The protest took place outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon, spurred by allegations that China aided Myanmar’s military junta.

Elsewhere this month, we found icons of horror media becoming irrevocably tarnished. At the start of February, Evan Rachel Wood accused Marilyn Manson of grooming her as a teeanger, adding to a substantial list of allegations against the singer going back to 1998. Towards the end of the month, another woman – Bianca Allaine – mounted accusations of her own, claiming she was on the receiving end of an emotionally abusive relationship with Manson that began when she was sixteen.

Continue reading “February 2021: A Month in Horror”

Werewolf Wednesday: The Rats Are Coming

My weekly Killer Horror Critic column on cinematic lycanthropes has reached the single worst werewolf film I’ve ever seen: The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

Past instalments: