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Topics - Paul Campbell

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1
Books / ToC Best New Horror 25
« on: September 09, 2014, 10:35:09 am »
For those interested, I noticed this morning that editor Stephen Jones has posted the Table of Contents for the 25th Anniversary Edition of Best New Horror (which, according to Amazon, will be released on 16th October for the UK edition and the 4th November for the US edition:

WHO DARES WINS: ANNO DRACULA 1980 by Kim Newman
CLICK-CLACK THE RATTLEBAG by Neil Gaiman
DEAD END by Nicholas Royle
ISAAC'S ROOM by Daniel Mills
THE BURNING CIRCUS by Angela Slatter
HOLES FOR FACES by Ramsey Campbell
BY NIGHT HE COULD NOT SEE by Joel Lane
COME INTO MY PARLOUR by Reggie Oliver
THE MIDDLE PARK by Michael Chislett
INTO THE WATER by Simon Kurt Unsworth
THE BURNED HOUSE by Lynda E. Rucker
WHAT DO WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT Z— by Lavie Tidhar
FISHFLY SEASON by Halli Villegas
DOLL RE MI by Tanith Lee
A NIGHT'S WORK by Clive Barker
THE SIXTEENTH STEP by Robert Shearman
STEMMING THE TIDE by Simon Strantzas
THE GIST by Michael Marshall Smith
GUINEA PIG GIRL by Thana Niveau
MISS BALTIMORE CRABS: ANNO DRACULA 1990 by Kim Newman
WHITSTABLE by Stephen Volk

Here's the link to the page [scroll down to the second item]:

http://stephenjoneseditor.com/forthcoming01.htm

2
TV and Film / And So It Ends: a look back at why Harry Potter matters
« on: July 16, 2011, 11:00:51 am »
When all is said and done – when the eye candy special effects of Quidditch matches and fantastical creatures has been superseded by advances in technology in Hollywood blockbusters yet to come – it is the little moments that this viewer and his wife will return to.

When a friend one time bemoaned the fact that ‘Half-Blood Prince’ gets bogged down in pointless hormonal teen-angst instead of getting on with the story, I smiled... and shook my head.

No, I said, that IS the story and it’s what I love about the Harry Potter series: it never loses track of the characters. It never forgets that, when viewed as a whole, these eight movies are a story of growing up, of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Of love and friendship and death. Because without those little funny and touching moments between the characters – if all you want is for the movies to rush from one plot element to another – then all you’re left with is plot... and no story. Remember: plot is what happens TO the characters; story is what happens AS A RESULT of the characters.

That’s the real gorgeous beauty of these movies, and it’s what will bring viewers back repeatedly to their DVD shelves. As Frodo said to Sam in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’: “What are we fighting for Sam?” “That’s there’s still some good in this world,” Sam replies, “and that it’s worth fighting for.”

That’s why you need those little indulgent moments, because without them it’s just razzle-dazzle special effects and set-pieces. Harry and Ginny’s first kiss: they’re in the Room of Requirement and Ginny tells Harry to close his eyes while she hides Professor Snape’s copy of Advanced Potion Making. And before Harry opens his eyes Ginny leans forward, kisses him and whispers, “That can stay hidden up here too, if you like.” That, my fellow Muggles, is pure movie gold. That’s what the characters are fighting for. Love. Yes, the PLOT concerns itself with good triumphing over evil, but that only comes to pass as a result of the STORY which is about friendship. Because that is something worth fighting for.

It’s why the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s astonishing trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’, is an utter failure: ‘The Golden Compass’ movie rushes from one plot element to another: and THEN we go here, and THEN we go there. Never slowing down to allow the characters TO BE characters. What are they fighting for? Well, nothing the viewer could care less about...

Ultimately, all of this success comes about because of the brilliant way in which the author J.K. Rowling has constructed her seven-volume storyline. See, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ are good – very good – but in the end don’t quite fully succeed, and this is because the author, C.S. Lewis, had never envisioned them as a series: ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ was originally intended by the writer to be a one off. As thoroughly enjoyable as the three Narnia movies are, there is no through-story like Rowling’s Harry-Voldermort. Indeed, over the course of the three Narnia movies even some of the Pevensie children themselves become side characters. And although that was entirely the point – part of the plot – in the end it harms the story. It dilutes what the characters are fighting for. It weakens its forcus.

Look at the Harry Potter series: viewed in hindsight it’s not just the story of teenage friendships, for it also presents an astounding portrayal of one man coming to be viewed in the end entirely differently by the viewer. Professor Snape. What an astonishing character arc – and yet Rowling had it all there, right from the beginning: Snape using a counter-curse against Professor Quirrell to save Harry during the first movie’s Quidditch match. Wait, isn’t Snape the bad guy?! We’re made to wonder, right from that first movie all the way through to the revelations of the eighth. ‘Narnia’ has nothing on that. It’s clear that Rowling has thought her seven-volume story through like a military operation: the first four books may have come out only a year apart, but the author had begun planning them seven years before the first one was ever published.

And the friendships, that’s all there too. Look at the Ron-Hermione moments seeded throughout the entire movie series. Harry and Hermione are just good friends, thus all the unself-conscious hugs she gives him. Yet there is a physical tension – a conscious awareness of each other – between her and Ron. At the end of ‘Chamber of Secrets’ Hermione flings her arms around Harry... but, both of them equally awkward and embarrassed, Ron and Hermione only shake hands. In ‘Prisoner of Askaban’ during Hagrid’s first lesson with Harry cautiously approaching Buckbeak, Herminone grabs Ron’s hand, before quickly letting go, both of them looking around uncomfortably. All, finally, converging in Hermione’s emotional outburst at the end of the Yule Ball in ‘Goblet of Fire’ where (like a soul crying out ‘Look at me!’) she says, “Next time there’s a Ball, pluck up the courage to ask me before somebody else does – and not as a last resort!” And in another moment of movie gold, Harry and Hermione comforting each other on the steps in Hogwarts, unable to be with the one they want. “How does it feel, Harry, when you see Dean with Ginny?” After Hermione sends her bird charms crashing into the wall beside Ron and Ron flees, Harry replies, “It feels like this.”

It’s why ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is one of my favourite instalments: not only is it the calm before the storm of the seventh and eighth movies but it allows the characters’ friendships to come to fruition. ‘Half-Blood Prince’ does not become sidetracked, far from it. You need that, because that is the story. It’s what I love about it: yes, they’re wizards and witches but the film makers never lose sight of the fact that they’re also young adults going through the most important transitional period of their lives. These movies aren’t about fantastical magical events inconveniently interrupted by mushy teenage moments. Instead they’re precisely all about those ordinary, everyday teenage moments, played against the backdrop of incredible events. Those amazing events only occur at all because of who the characters are; it’s only natural that the plot should play second to the story of their lives. Because they are what truly matters. Because they, as Sam would put it, “Are worth fighting for.”

As if that wasn’t enough, as if the story of Harry-Ron-Hermione (and, indeed, Snape) isn’t in itself reason enough to revisit this whole series, Rowling has also given us an amazing supporting cast of characters. All too often in a series, all the characters outwith the main group rarely hold a reader’s/viewer’s attention for long. And yet Rowling has created not one single boring character, and what an amazing supporting cast they are: the Dursley, the Weasleys, the Malfoys, Hagrid, Dobby, Sirius, Bellatrix, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and on and on. In fact, one of Rowling’s most inspired moves, and certainly a wonderful way of keeping things fresh, was to continuously have a new colourful character each year as the Professor of the Dark Arts. Glideroy Lockhart, Remus Lupin, Mad-Eye Moody, Dolores Umbridge. Not to forget the delightful potions master from ‘Half-Blood Prince’, Horace Slughorn, or the Professor of Divination, Trelawney. Then, too, you have the caretaker Argus Filch, the ghost Nearly Headless Nick. Well, you get the idea. Quidditch, the Ministry of Magic, the Dementors. The richness of the world Rowling has created is so rewarding that I can’t ever imagine tiring of it.

Watching these characters – and, indeed, the actors – grow up before us is fascinating. I love the fact the first two movies are kids movies; there’s no hint, really, of what lies ahead. Until, of course, you get to ‘Prisoner of Askaban’. Even the naysayer film critics sat up at that one and said, “Hey, hold on a minute...” From the fifth film onwards these were no longer merely kids’ movies. It’s what accounts for their immensely broad appeal: children will watch them for the action and special effects, teenagers and adults for the humour and the series’ growing depth. Even the opening titles change as the story darkens: from bright gold in the first few movies to chipped and crumbling grey stone.

Viewed as one 1100+ minute über-movie the achievement is nothing short of remarkable.

3
Books / REISSUE Kim Newman's Anno Dracula
« on: May 07, 2011, 01:25:02 pm »
I'm sure Pete's flagged this up already on  the BFS's news page, but for those who missed it -


- here's the amazon link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anno-Dracula-Kim-Newman/dp/0857680838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304769909&sr=1-1

I've got quite a few of Newman's books but, alas, I missed out on this when it first appeared almost 20 years ago (and if has now been out of print for the past 17). Despite living in the Glasgow/Edinburgh area, I've never in all those years came across a secondhand copy - and even the paperback goes for a pretty sum on eBay.

Well, thanks to the good folks at Titan Books it’s now back in print, and not simply a reprint with a spanking new cover. Think of this as the DVD equivalent of a 20th Anniversary Special Edition, for it comes with 120 pages of bonus material: alternate scenes and endings, 16 pages of annotations, extracts from the author’s unproduced screenplay, essays and even a bonus short story. Also, the main text features minor corrections to the 1992 edition.

Titan will also reissue the other two novels in the sequence, together with the long-awaited fourth volume, Johnny Alucard.

Got my copy this morning, and I’m really chuffed to bites: glad, now, I didn’t fork out for an old copy off eBay or Abebooks – this new B-format edition is far superior.

4
Books / Covers for Stephen Jones's next two books...
« on: March 01, 2011, 09:04:46 pm »
In mid-September sees Jones's third project with Ulysses Press, following on from The Dead That Walk: Zombie Stories (2009) and Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts (2010).

Titled Haunted: An Anthology of Modern Ghost Stories, here's the Amazon link (currently available at an even lower pre-order price from Book Depository):
 
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Haunted-Anthology-Modern-Ghost-Stories/dp/1569759847/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299012397&sr=1-1

And, of course, mid-October sees volume 22 of Best New Horror. I'm not sure if this is just a preliminary art work - or perhaps just the cover of the US edition - but certainly the credits at the bottom of the front cover are just a mock-up: Stephen King and his son Joe Hill did NOT do a collaboration last year (that was the year before). But, still, that cover sure is eye-catching...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mammoth-Book-Best-New-Horror/dp/1849016186/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1299012562&sr=1-2

5
Here's the thing: if I watch a movie and it's just 'all right' then that's fine; after all, it has only been an hour and a half or two hours of my time. But the thing is, of all the forms of entertainment, reading has the slowest delivery. I don't speed read and so, what with working and sleeping and all, even a short novel like "The Harrowing" by Alexandra Sokoloff will be read over a period of 4 or 5 days. That's a lot of investment of one's free time and therefore - call me unfair - but a novel had better be more than 'all right'.

I recently read an interview with and review of Sokoloff in a back issue of Black Static magazine. I have few novels by women writers (especially in the horror genre) and so wanted to discover some new ones -

- and "The Harrowing" is just 'all right'. Or, as the Americans might say, it's got a beat and you can dance to it. Fine. If it was an hour and a half movie. But four or five of my evenings after work? Nuh-uh. It's not just the fact that the story is only ever merely good, the writing too is workmanship. Despite being a short book, there are some 30 chapters and in every other chapter characters 'whirl' and 'gasp'. Must be a record as to how many times these two verbs have ever been used in one work. Doesn't the author's word processing software come with a thesaurus? I'm sure it does, but this kind of by-the-numbers, phone-it-in laziness is symptomatic of the whole book. And more damningly, I was always consciously aware that I was reading; I was never 'in the book' where you achieve that wonderful moment when you forget you're actually reading. Oh, yeah, and how lame was that epilogue?!

I have any number of terrific novels by women on my shelves, but mostly a single book here and there or occasionally two or three by the same author. With the exception of Margaret Atwood and Connie Willis there and no female novelists whom I slavishly follow.

Short story collections by female writers, on the other hand, I have a ton of: Alice B. Sheldon, Lisa Tuttle, Pat Cadigan, Alice Munro, Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link and on and on, including multiple collections by the aforementioned Atwood and Willis. I've recently read some wonderful short stories and a novella by Sarah Pinborough, but have yet to read her novel "A Matter of Blood" released by Gollancz last year (I've heard her Leisure novels released in the States are 'all right'). And Black Static magazine also did a feature on Sarah Langan. Here's hoping ...

... and here's wondering where all the great female horror novelists are.

6
Books / Visitants: Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts ed. Stephen Jones
« on: November 21, 2010, 12:43:04 pm »
Editor Stephen Jones's latest book is just out. You can find my review here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1AYLPPIHA68A1/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

7
Books / Affordable paperback reprint of Mark Samuels's collection
« on: October 23, 2010, 06:28:19 pm »
For those, like me,  who despair of the elitism of an author's text ONLY being available in an expensive limited edition, you will be pleased to know that THE MAN WHO COLLECTED MACHEN AND OTHER WEIRD TALES by Mark Samuels is scheduled to be reprinted by Chômu Press next year:

http://chomupress.com/our-books/the-man-who-collected-machen-and-other-weird-tales/

It was originally published earlier this year by the über-expensive Ex Occidente Press. Now, don't get me wrong, if I ever saw their edition I'm sure I'd find it to be drop-dead gorgeous. But 50 quid for a book less than a 150 pages? Thanks, but no thanks...

... besides, I'm a reader. You know? I want to read the story. I'm not buying it so I can have an expensive ornament.

(And here's something else to consider when viewing these fancy limited editions as nothing more than over-priced ornaments: the only thing you ever see of them on the shelf... is the spine.)

Oh, and the paperback reprint of Samuels's book will contain a brand new bonus story.

9
Books / The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 21
« on: October 10, 2010, 12:11:42 pm »

10
FantasyCon / Horrorcon - I mean, Fantasycon!
« on: October 08, 2010, 11:15:18 am »
Now we’ve banged on about this before, but the reason I’ve brought it up again is because if you go to the BFS home page and scroll down to the post titled ‘FantasyCon 2010: Blogged!’ (upload on Wed. 22nd Sept) you’ll come across this:

http://floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.com/2010/09/horr-i-mean-fantasycon-2010.html

The author doesn’t berate the con for being (what they perceive) as a horror convention... but they have noticed it.

I mentioned myself that I came to my first Fantasycon in 2006 because I saw a postcard advertisement for it in the fan bar at Eastercon that year in Glasgow. I came because Ramsey Campbell was the GoH... and because I thought it was a horror con.

I think Fantasycon is a horror con

- but by default, not design. As the first line of the society’s Wikipedia entry states, it was created as an off-shoot of the British Science Fiction Association. So, therefore, I wouldn’t expect the society to concentrate very much on science fiction. Besides, Eastercon is long established and already caters very well to science fiction: it averages a thousand attendees each year. I’m as big an SF fan as I am a horror fan, but as much as I enjoyed the two massive SF Worldcons held in Glasgow (1995 and 2005), and for that matter Eastercon in 2006, I like the smaller conventions. They’re more cosy, more intimate. I loved the Scottish Albacons that I attended in the 1990s. Alas, I came to them when Albacon was on the cusp of dying out. But they were great cons and I came to Fantasycon hoping to find the same kind of atmosphere.

I didn’t. They were, in fact, even better!

As regards the big London and New York publishers, the horror genre is marginalised. So it’s only natural that its fans and practitioners would want to gravitated towards each other – circle the wagons, as it were, especially during the horror bust of the ‘90s. And it’s to Fantasycon that horror fans and writers have come to and found a home.

The society and Fantasycon does cater to fantasy (recent guests have been Raymond E. Feist, Juliet E. McKenna and Terry Brooks), but maybe the reason people don’t think it does it not due to anything that the society it doing, but simply because the genre of fantasy itself has evolved so much over the years.

For instance, China Mieville is a fantasy writer – but one from whom heroic and high fantasy fans ran as far as they can. Their loss.

It may be that heroic and fantasy is so popular, that its fans don’t feel the need to come to a con: instead they visit the forums and messageboards and blogs of their favourite fantasy writers.

There are many fantasy writers who come to Fantasycon – such as Chaz Brenchley – but they don’t just write traditional fantasy. So when people say ‘Oh, it’s a horror con’ they’re often only focusing on one aspect of what many of the writers do. That and, frankly, their very narrow view of what they think ‘fantasy’ is. Fantasy doesn’t just mean Tolkien, Donaldson and Jordan. Give me the likes of China Mieville any day. Indeed, for me, the best writers are the fearless ones, the ones who mix it all up: screw such and such a genre, let’s do it all – in one book! Fabulous and daring writers like Tim Powers, Kim Newman, George R. R. Martin, Connie Willis, Lisa Tuttle and Charles Stross’s ‘Laundry Files’.

Now, it might be argued that this is ‘dark’ fantasy, but I disagree: it’s ‘dark’ only in the sense that interesting stories naturally evolve out of drama and conflict and a sense of peril to the characters. In that regard most stories could be considered ‘dark’!

There are some fantasy writers who regularly come to Fantasycon, such as Chaz Brenchley, Juliet E. McKenna, Steven Erikson, James Barclay, Mark Chadbourn, Mike Chinn and Tim Lebbon. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. But, again, many of these writers don’t just write fantasy. Admittedly I’ve read very little traditional fantasy, mainly because it tends to run to ten volume ‘trilogies’! Besides, I personally feel that the least interesting writers are the ones who only ever write in one genre. Give me a Dan Simmons or a Michael Marshall Smith any day! Admitted the only high profile science fiction writer I can think of who comes to Fantasycon is Ian Watson... but, again, Ian doesn’t just write SF.

And this is where the ‘Horrorcon’ aspect of Fantasycon comes in, because off the top of my head I can think of the following horror writers who regularly attend: Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris, Christopher Fowler, Simon Clark, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane, Sarah Pinborough, Adam Nevill, Nicholas Royle, Reggie Oliver, Mark Samuels, Paul Kane, Simon Bestwick, Gary McMahon, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Paul Finch, Gary Fry, John L. Probert, Allyson Bird and –

- well, you get the idea.
 
Plus hard-to-define guys like Allen Ashley, Andrew Hook and Neil Williamson.

But – and again! – they don’t all just write horror.

And just as I talked about some people’s narrow definition of ‘fantasy’ so too is ‘horror’ often narrowly defined. Check out these recent BFS award winners:

‘The Reach of Children’ by Tim Lebbon
‘The Language of Dying’ by Sarah Pinborough
‘Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical’ by Robert Shearman

Would you consider those horror? Really?! They are as far removed from The Pan Book of Horror Stories as you can get. And that’s the thing: people readily accept that science fiction has a vast umbrella: military SF, hard SF, science fantasy and so on. Horror isn’t just Guy N. Smith or old tatty paperback anthology series.

But because horror has been pushed into the margins its practitioners have, over the years, come to find that not only is Fantasycon a home, it’s the only home (at least in the UK).

It has also been said that too many of the people involved in running the BFS and Fantasycon are horror writers or horror fans: Paul Kane, Debbie Bennett, Marie O’Regan, Martin Roberts, Guy Adams and so. But is it their fault that, apparently, they’re more enthusiastic about their genre than most traditional fantasy fans? Or at the very least they’re willing to turn their enthusiasm into the hard work of running a con and a society. The only person I can think of who has an obvious enthusiasm for traditional fantasy – and who runs the cons – is Jenny Barber. Jan Edwards and Peter Coleborn,  I believe, have a wide taste in reading.

So, as has been pointed out in the past, if people feel traditional fantasy is sidelined at the BFS and Fantasycon then the best solution it to get involved.

Or, better yet, embrace Clive Barker’s call-to-arms for a “Death to Genre!” definitions entirely.

(But, then, he’s a horror writer ;) )

11
General Discussion / Small Press titles... and who can afford them
« on: October 07, 2010, 11:24:49 am »
I just got through sending an email to a writer from whom I directly bought their new book, as I was unable to attend Fantasycon this year, and it got me thinking maybe I ought to share a slightly rewritten verison of that email here:

(It'll probably upset a few folks, but anyone who's stumbled across my rambling topics in the past knows I'm like an elephant in a china shop anyway, so I figure what the hell...)

I picked up my email to this writer from where we'd left off before, where, in reference to the deluxe edition of her book, she said:
 
"And they have over priced the leather bound edition"

I replied:
 
"I popped over to their website - yeah, I see what you mean!!!  (Especially for such a relatively slim book.)
 
[...]

I had a conversation at the last con I was at, where we were talking about the cost of small press titles: I LOVE Pete Crowther's Postscripts magazine/anthology: it used to cost me £26 for a 4-issue paperback subscription - now it's hardback ONLY and costs £50! Needless to say, I no longer subscribe... Same with those Ex Occidente books: who are they meant to be for?!?! You're talking £50 for a book less than 150 pages! Simon Bestwick blogged that this year he deliberately avoided the PS Publishing table because he knew he couldn't afford to go there. And don't even get me started on Centipede Press: their onmibus edition of Reggie Oliver from Cold Tonnage costs £135.00!
 
You know, the small press would probably do a helluva lot better if the audience whom the publishers are targeting could actually afford to buy their bloody books. And I NEVER buy from the US... you end up paying half again as much for postage."

Now, I know we've got folks like Atomic Fez, Screaming Dreams, Pendragon, Grey Friar and the like whose books are reasonably priced, but you get where I'm going with this, right? (Incidentally, I'd probably buy more small press titles if the publishers would stop using that HORRIBLE Lightning Source as their printers!)

I know of several writers who have been published in Postscripts in the past, but have now let their subscription lapse because they can no longer afford it. I think it's a sad day when past contributors of a magazine/anthology series can't afford to buy its future issues.

And what I especially hate is when the only available version of the text is an expensive limited edition: I'm a humble reader on a blue-collar wage - give me a freakin' £10 paperback already, willya?!

(Recession, sheeesh, what recession...)
 
Anyhoo, rant over! ;)

12
If you clicked on this thread looking for a testosterone infused rant in defence of the Alpha Male, forget it (go watch a Michael Bay movie instead).

The BFS is a man’s man’s man’s Society… But, then, it’s man’s man’s man’s world.

Look closely. No, really, look very closely indeed. In fact, look no further than the very issue of Dark Horizons in which Jenny’s editorial appears: of the 21 contributors only 5 are women, including Jenny herself and one of the artists. Of the 9 short stories only 1 by is a woman. There are 3 non-fiction articles, all written by men, all about men.

I am no less guilty: I contributed a non-fiction article of my own to the previous issue of DH… about a male writer.

Looking at my shelf of small press purchases from the past 4 years I note, to my chagrin, not one female author. Quite a number of those books are from PS Publishing. PS titles must, by now, number in the hundreds. But you know, off the top of my head, I can only think of 4: three novellas (Juliet E. McKenna, Lisa Tuttle and Elizabeth Hand) and one of the PS Showcase mini-collections. I know there’s more – I mean, there’s got to be more, right?!

Yes, there are more male practitioners in our genres than female – but, then, isn’t it also true that more women read books than men?

If DH 56’s guest editorial had been written by anyone else I would probably have said “Ah, I don’t have time for this” especially as our home PC has been on the frazzle since last November (and with job security at my place of employment being at an all time low – a quarter of the workforce was laid off in the weeks immediately surrounding WHC2010 – it’ll remain frazzled for quite some time).

I’m at my local library right now, using their internet service, and I’m replying because it was Jenny Barber who wrote the editorial. The first people I ever met at my first Fantasycon were Jenny and Pat Barber on the Friday morning at breakfast in Nottingham’s Britannia Hotel in 2006. Immediately they made me feel immensely welcome, as did later on Marie, Vicky, Jan and Peter Coleburn –

- all of them women, bar Pete. Another Pete – Peter Crowther – would be the first to admit that his wife and business partner, Nicky, is an absolute integral part in the running of PS Publishing. We forget the value that women contribute to our Society (and society at large) at our peril.

Speaking of peril, this is probably as good a time as any to talk about the current health of the BFS.

I’ve heard conflicting numbers recently: that our membership is as low as 200, or hovering somewhere around 300. Anyone got an exact figure?

That aside, more worrying is this: apparently two-thirds of those who attend Fantasycon are not even members (I have this on good authority).

True, no one need be a member of the BFS in order to attend Fantasycon, but as the vast majority of those who do are regulars why, then, do they appear to have no inclination of joining the BFS?

This is my own observation from the past 4 years, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the money: what most Fantasycon attendees want from the BFS is not the BFS, per se, but Fantasycon itself. It’s a once a year catch-up-with-old-friends session, a night down the pub if you will. More importantly, it’s a networking opportunity, a chance for folk to pitch to each other face to face. Of course, what these people don’t realise is that without the BFS – and its paying members – there wouldn’t be a Fantasycon.

But such logic falls on deaf ears.

The BFS Yearbook 2009 had quite a line-up. I dare say, though, that what would make even more interesting reading would be to discover how many of the contributors are actually BFS members.

Simply put, the BFS is being used for its annual hosting of Fantasycon. And sadly the BFS’ regular publications probably go virtually unnoticed. Many of the contributors to 2008’s Houses on the Borderland commented on the utter silence which greeted it. Our editors, too, of DH and NH work tirelessly in a vacuum with almost no idea of what anyone thinks one way or the other about the magazines they’re producing.

Fantasycon is dominated by small press publishers putting out books by small press authors who attend the con, few of whom are probably members of the BFS.

Worse, few of the publishers themselves send review copies to the BFS – and yet they happily use the BFS’ Fantasycon to sell their stuff. Of the 13 reviews I have in the new issue of Prism, only one of them was a review copy. The other 12 I bought with my own money. The vast majority of publications sent to the BFS for review are from vanity presses. I point blank refuse to review these, and on principle so, too, should the BFS as a whole stop dignifying these ‘publications’ with reviews. The review section to which I signed up is supposed to be indie/small press. A small press consists of a small group of people (or often a single person) putting out books by other writers purely as a labour of love, whilst always hoping to at least break even along the way –

- a vanity press is an imprint created solely to print copies of one person’s book(s): the publishers. That in no way shape or form constitutes an indie/small press. Not only should the BFS not feel obliged to review this stuff, but the rest of the BFS’ reviewers should do as I do and refuse to touch it, for consider: if any of these books had any worth then one of the legitimate indie/small presses would have picked it up, such as PS, Subterranean, Cemetery Dance, Ash-Tree, Screaming Dreams, Telos, Pendragon, Gray Friar and so on… someone!

Perhaps, then, the reason legitimate indie/small press publishers rarely submit material to the BFS is that they feel they have no more use for it than the two-thirds of Fantasycon attendees who are also not members.

The BFS seems to be suffering an identity crisis at the moment: its logo has changed as many times as the number of years which I’ve been a member. It has to be said, though, that the print quality of its publications has also greatly improved over the same period. But even here there’s no consistency: DH and NH use entirely different printers. The BFS’ last three full-length special publications anthologies varied not only in the quality of the paper, but so too in the physical dimensions of the books themselves. Sitting together on the shelf, a casual viewer would be surprised to learn that they were all from the same publisher, and issued within a very few short years at that.

With the September/December issue, Prism looked as if it had come into its own. Alas, funds and time would seem to indicate that a no thrills approach is best suited, as witness this month’s new issue.

This, too, has been pointed out to me: with a continual ‘changing of the guard’ as regards to those diligently working behind the scenes so, too, does the society’s publications change. Will there be a 2010 Yearbook? Will it be from the same printer? Will it even look the same? Even if the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’ it seems doubtful that the same will hold true for next year’s special publications anthology.

This year marks an exodus of committee members, all of whom are no doubt standing down for what amounts to the same reason: the need to continuously work the ‘nine-to-five’ beat and pay bills. Sadly the first things which get sacrificed in life are the things we love doing, in favour of doing what needs to be done.

As for myself I only wish there was more I could do, but with not even a working home PC I might as well be living in a cave for all the practical use I can provide (and to think, only at last year’s Fantasycon I had big plans of going into a part-financing partnership with Screaming Dreams, with a view to helping Steve Upham get more titles off the ground; oh, what a difference 6 months makes… and this recession is far from over).

As for being one of the BFS’ Prism reviewers, I hereby resign as of right now: if most of the small press do not even feel that the BFS is important enough to send its publications to then, perhaps too, I should conclude that their books are not important enough for me to buy.

If all they, and their authors, are interested in is Fantasycon then perhaps they can run it: after all if the BFS’ membership continues to dwindle and there remains insufficient people to run it due to the overwhelming commitments of the daily grind, there may no longer be a BFS to run Fantasycon for them to take for granted.

13
General Discussion / Vote for which book Stephen King writes next!
« on: December 01, 2009, 12:22:20 pm »
That's right, if you go over to his official site

http://www.stephenking.com/index.html

and scroll down until you see the message heading Vistor Poll the author is asking for readers to vote on what he writes next.

Now, he's got a book ready for next year, so this vote is for the one after that.

A new Dark Tower novel (although not directly related to the series main character, Roland)

Or a sequel to The Shining.

You don't have to be a member of the author's forum or anything: simply cast your vote on the home page!

Quote
Hey, you guys--I saw a lot of you Constant Readers while I was touring for Under the Dome, and I must say you're looking good. Thanks for turning out in such numbers, and thanks for all the nice things you've said about Under the Dome. There'll be another book next year. It's a good one, I think, but that's not why I'm writing. I mentioned two potential projects while I was on the road, one a new Mid-World book (not directly about Roland Deschain, but yes, he and his friend Cuthbert are in it, hunting a skin-man, which are what werewolves are called in that lost kingdom) and a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep. Are you interested in reading either of these? If so, which one turns your dials more? Ms. Mod will be counting your votes (and of course it all means nothing if the muse doesn't speak). Meanwhile, thanks again for 2009.

Stephen King

14
Books / Drive-in: Joe R. Lansdale, hisownself...
« on: November 13, 2009, 04:06:19 pm »
Oh, getcha pre-orders in: for only £8.71 and for the first time ever, a triple-feature from the Terror From Texas hisownself -



Underland Press, May 2010

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Drive-Joe-R-Lansdale/dp/098022604X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258127751&sr=1-1

Collects together The Drive-In: a B-movie with blood and popcorn, made in Texas (1988), The Drive-In 2: not just one of 'em sequels (1989) and The Drive-In 3: the bus tour (2005).

Carroll & Graf packaged up the first two in 1997 as The Drive-In: a double-feature omnibus



But this new onmibus will mark the first time the 2005 limited edition Subterranean Press hardback of volume 3 has ever been reprinted.

15
General Discussion / World Horror Convention 2010, Brighton
« on: October 02, 2009, 07:03:05 pm »
At Fantasycon the WHC committee stated that in order to give the convention a casual and intimate atmosphere they were going to cap the number of people able to attend at 450. (There are NO day memberships on offer: people who sign up are signing up for the WHOLE weekend).

WHC is still six months anyway... but I would advise anyone still sitting on the fence about attending (or who knows of someone who is still undecided) to sign up soon; a count of the list of those attending

http://www.whc2010.org/membership01.html

reveals that membership is already at 375.

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