halloween

(Probably) The Greatest Halloween Signing Ever…

Yes, it’s not quite Halloween, but what’s a couple of days between friends?

Come along to the Great Halloween Signing in the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London tomorrow (Saturday 25th October) and hang out with Actual Proper British Horror Writers (and me. Who will be basking in the reflected glory and trying really hard not to grin like a loon.)

We’ll be signing between 1pm and 2pm, and afterwards there’s a BFS Open Evening taking place in the nearby Bloomsbury Tavern.

I’m there as a contributor to ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! ENDGAME, the third of the ZA! series of mosaic novels.

9781472106421

If you’ve not come across the series – or any other mosaic novels before – think of it as a cross between an anthology of short stories and a novel in dossier form, with each contributor taking one aspect of it. (One of my favourites is the zombie-related app store, complete with developer comments.) My “story” is the diary of a teenager caught up in the zombie outbreak – the catch being that she wasn’t one of the lucky ones. So if you’ve ever wanted to know what goes through a teenage zombie’s mind…

 

Halloween in the Hall of Corpses

If you follow some of the Team Mushens (as in Juliet Mushens, our lovely agent. Yes, she has a posse. I know.)  group on Twitter, you’ll probably have heard about the Halloween Shorts thing we’ve got running, arranged by the marvellous @mygoditsraining.

I say “we”, because I’m kind of cheating on this one and going slightly off-campus. While the others have all been terribly good and clever and written proper actual new short stories for Halloween, I’ve not had time and am horribly disorganised and, well, me.

However, the other day while I was rummaging through my hard drive looking for yet another file that I’d managed to save to completely the wrong place and then lose (because – again – me) I came across this. Think of it as something from the catacombs.

Murderess Lane is an old story of mine… I must’ve written it around 2009, 2010 – something like that and it was published online by Hub Fiction magazine. I’m very attached to it, partly because it’s set in Smithfield and the City of London. This has long been one of my favourite places and I’ve both lived and worked there. It’s part of my history – which is probably why I feel an incredible urge to go back and mess with it. This is also the story which introduced the Hall of Corpses – which is the closest thing to a mythos I’ve got. It’s turned up (either alluded to, in disguise or flat-out as itself) in a couple of things I’ve done, for no other reason than my idiotic affection for the idea.

So, ahead of Halloween (and posted now because come tomorrow I disappear down the convention rabbithole for a week)… welcome to Murderess Lane.

 

MURDERESS LANE

 

I once met a man who had a habit of finding strange places. I say “habit” rather than “gift” although that’s what I’d call it, myself. He was a man who could be found next to a bar – no matter the time of day or night; the kind of man who, if asked the right sort of questions and given the right sort of drinks, would tell you anything you wanted to know. Just the kind I was looking for.

I met him in a pub in west Smithfield, where he was slowly but steadily working his way through the row of bottles behind the bar: he wasn’t especially pleased to see me, but I sat down beside him anyway and began by asking if he was the man who had found the Hall of Corpses. The question didn’t surprise him, and instead he squinted across at me, then laughed. “So you know about that one, do you?”

(more…)

To the Shock of Miss Louise

I was never much into horror when I was a kid. My best friend, Becky, and her older sister were hugely into it – they’d seen every Stephen King adaptation going by the time we were 12, and I remember reading the copy of It she’d lent me… or trying to, anyway.

I think I got as far as page 24 before I had to close the book and put it in a drawer. On the other side of the room. Under another book. And then put a cushion in front of the drawer. Just in case.

I wasn’t exactly a robust child.

The aversion to horror evaporated soon after: literally, overnight, when I saw “The Lost Boys” for the first time.

I can’t remember quite why, but we (my parents and I) were staying with my aunt & uncle overnight. The house wasn’t that big, and my parents were sleeping in the spare room, while I had the sofa in the living room. I was 13, and my aunt put a video on.

No prizes for guessing what that was.

After everyone else had gone to bed, I remember opening the living room curtains and looking out of the window at the night. My aunt’s house was opposite a large area of open ground – a sort of common-slash-playing field – and I stared straight at the dark. To this day, I have no idea what I thought (hoped? feared?) I was going to see. And yes, I do feel like an idiot every time I think back to it. But I was 13. We’re all idiots when we’re 13.

The thing about “The Lost Boys” was how immediate it felt. As a teen horror-avoider, I was vaguely aware of vampires in the sense that they lurked in mansions wearing big black capes and… stuff. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t particularly interesting, either.

But my encounter with these particular vampires coincided with my American phase. I had pictures of American landmarks stuck on the ceiling of my room, and was planning my roadtrip. Beyond that, even: I had it in my 13 year-old head that America really was the city on the hill (yes, not only was I an idiot, I was probably the only teenage girl in Wales to be obsessed by JFK). So suddenly, I was seeing vampires in a whole new way – a way that dovetailed with the stuff I did care about.

Blew. My. Mind.

I fell in love with the Frog Brothers’ comic shop; with Santa Carla’s boardwalk (my husband, all too aware of my love for the film, is convinced this is why I love Brighton’s pier as much as I do…).

I fell in love with the cave David & his boys carved for themselves, all candles and Jim Morrison posters (along with vampires, my love for The Doors was another infection that stemmed squarely from the film). I fell in love with the utter amorality and absolute freedom the Lost Boys stood for. And I was quite taken with the bikes, too.

I was completely oblivious to any subtext – there’s the usual vampire themes rattling around in there, but being a film of the 80s, and a West Coast one, there’s more than a hint of gang mythology in there (the dinner in the cave smacks of a hazing, and the attack on the Surf-Nazis on the beach is a gang initiation if ever I saw one). But that was what made it frightening – particularly so. Not because this was the first time you saw the vampires for what they were, but because you saw them through Michael’s eyes. These were his friends: the people he thought he belonged with… suddenly become truly monstrous. When you’re a teenager like I was, the idea of belonging is so important, the desire to belong so all-consuming that it made Michael’s dilemma even worse. Lose your soul or lose your friends… you’d actually have to stop and think about that, wouldn’t you?

“The Lost Boys” was my vampire gateway-drug. After that, I convinced my dad to buy me the first three of Anne Rice‘s vampire books. We were on a ferry, and the newsagent-slash-bookshop happened to have all 3 of them in the wire spinner-rack outside. I knew enough to realise that if my parents were to pick one up and really look at it, I’d never be allowed to get the rest… so I went for broke. I read them back to back through northern France. I still have those same copies, broken-spined and dog-eared and smelling of teenage rebellion.

I scoured bookshops for vampire collections (chief among them, Parragon’s 1994 edition of The Giant Book of Vampires, edited by none other than Stephen Jones… Sometimes, I wish I could go back and explain to my younger self just how amusing I find that. She wouldn’t get it: how could she?) and smuggled them into the house, under the nose of my by now disapproving mother. I watched every vampire film I could get my hands on – and even waded my way through a not-terribly-well-dubbed version of “Der Kleine Vampir“.

It wasn’t all bad: watching all those vampire films meant I eventually discovered Near Dark – which I maintain is the best vampire movie ever made. It’s better than “The Lost Boys”, I admit… but while I love it, it’s never quite managed to edge David, Marco, Paul & Dwayne out. Nothing has. In such appalling affection do I hold that film, I’ve bought it three times (once on VHS, when I wore out my aunt’s copy; and twice on DVD. It was the very first DVD I bought).

If it had been the film it was originally intended to be, complete with the tweenage, not teenage, vampires and the set-up for the sequel that never happened, “The Lost Girls”, I don’t think I could have loved it as much. Perhaps if I’d seen it at a different time, it wouldn’t have had such a hold on me – a hold that has lasted 17… 18 years thus far and shows no sign of letting up.

But these are moot points. I saw it when I saw it, and it was the film it was: noisy, snarky, silly, flashy, bloody in places and heavy on pop-culture. I’ve written about my love for it before, and a lot of what I’ve said here echoes that earlier article. I’m consistent, you have to give me that. This particular outpouring of Lost Boys love stems from two places: the wonderful article on Ghostbusters from the Guardian’s site, and Damien Walter’s piece on vampire novel, “Stainless” (as well as his referring on Twitter to “The Lost Boys” as “Probably [the] most influential vamp movie ever.”)

It certainly influenced me.

Hot Zombie

Somewhat different from the Flaming Zombies I was drinking at the launch of “Ashes”, Ilsa Bick’s new YA book for Quercus on Monday, these zombies are another animal altogether.

I’ll explain.

Brighton being Brighton, we’re not exactly a subdued bunch in the city. Brightonians take most things in their stride (take, for instance, the awful homophobic itinerant preacher prowling the streets of town yesterday. He began howling at a gay couple walking past him, and they duly stopped, looked him up & down… and one of them responded with “You’ll never get me to turn, love. Not in those shoes,” to rousing applause from passers-by).  But I digress.

Yesterday was Beach of the Dead day. For the uninitiated, that’s our annual mass zombie-walk. I know. It’s hard to tell the difference between that and a regular weekend on the seafront – what can I say?

But yesterday, I was on my way home through town – not long before the walk (shuffle?) started, and I ran into a bunch of teenage zombies lurking outside Burger King. One of them was wearing a cardboard crown. Fair enough. However, what bothered me were the two girls in the middle of the group, who were adjusting their lipstick…

Yes, they weren’t just zombies. They were sexy zombies.

Now, maybe I’m getting cynical in my dotage… but isn’t this rather missing the point? Sexy zombies? Seriously? And let’s be clear – this wasn’t oh-my-god-these-girls-are-so-hot-they-even-look-gorgeous-when-they’re-part-of-a-horde-of-shuffling-undead. No. This was “Excuse me? I heard there’s a Britney circa-1998 video casting round here somewhere…” sexy.

Maybe I’m just not crediting them where credit’s due: perhaps they were channelling kids who were on their way to a fancy-dress party when they were attacked by rampaging monsters… It just seems like that option is, frankly, a bit meta.

I’m not saying you can’t have sexy monsters. Vampires are the old standard, despite being, y’know, dead. Werewolves, too: they’re all about the inner beast. Both have reasonable, logical justifications for bringing a bit of sexy back with them.

But zombies…?

The Pumpkin Posse

Remember my pumpkins? Oh, stop smirking. These ones, which I was wittering on about a while back. Yes. Those ones.

Halloween’s been and gone, and you’ll be pleased to know that yes, those brave little pumpkins fulfilled their Halloween destiny. Meet the pumpkin posse:

Muscling in on the action, we have Jack. He’s big, he’s mean and boy, is he angry. (He came from Tesco. You can’t blame him, really)

Next up, Pinhead. He’s got an attitude that could only be described as spiky, and you don’t want to ask him what’s in the box.

And finally, there’s Mr Ouch. Poor Mr Ouch. He had a bit of a run-in with one of the kitchen knives and it’s not looking good for him. Or maybe he’s so sad because Small Boy has christened him “Dot”, for no apparent reason?

So there you go. Pumpkins: nutritious and evil. Round here, at least.

Who says Halloween’s just for the kids?

Ouch

For various reasons, few of which make any particular sense to me, and even fewer of which will make any sense to the rest of the world, I’ve been skimming make-up FX stuff online this afternoon.

And, given the time of year, I figured I’d share some of the fruits of other people’s labours:

Loving the zombie. And that’s something I didn’t think I’d be saying anytime soon… Urk.