Moving away from all the birthday fun, because seriously I can’t handle anymore of this excitement the punch bowl is nearly empty & I’m sure I can hear strange creaking sounds from the bedroom! So how about finding how Gary McMahon would love to spend his ideal Halloween & taking stock of the movers & shakers this past year with Colin Black Abyss.
Gary McMahon gives us his perfect Halloween, he’s such a gentleman that he even has bullet points for easy reading.
Gary McMahon has featured many times on the HHHB in interviews, reviews and articles, he is also known for writing great short stories including his new collection To Usher the Dead (tales of his well loved character Thomas Usher) & the much revered Concrete Grove trilogy.
My ideal Halloween night would be as follows:
- No day job responsibilities that day, due to the building collapsing and maiming everyone except me.
- A nice dinner with my family – something like Halloween curry, which is basically just normal curry with the word “Halloween” in front of it.
- No children knocking on the door begging for sweets.
- Nobody gets dressed up in silly costumes.
- Nobody carves any pumpkins.
- Nobody sets off any seasonally-inappropriate fireworks.
- Nobody gets to say “Bah, humbug!” to me for being such a curmudgeon.
- A double-bill of The Regular Show with my son before he goes to bed.
- An episode of Family Guy after my son has gone to bed.
- A viewing of several of my favourite horror films, perhaps the following: The Evil Dead (for a bit of fun), Halloween (because it’s appropriate), The Exorcist (because it’s terrifying), The Blair Witch Project (ditto), and finally The Shining to end things on a high note. My wife shall go to bed and allow me to enjoy these films on my own, in peace, as all good films should be enjoyed.
- A good bottle of single malt whisky to ease things along.
- A reading of one of my favourite ghosts stories, probably an MR James tale.
- A late night.
- Followed by a late morning because there’s still no work due to that nasty incident.
Colin Black Abyss gives his highlights of horror this past year.
Colin Black Abyss is a well respected reviewer of the horror fiction genre, a veritable who’s who firmly placed within the heart of the horror fiction community itself.
So lets now turn you over to the man himself…..
Ah…Samhain (or Mi na Samhna, if you prefer), don’t you just love the darkness that name invokes, a time of transition, summer to winter, light to dark, living to dead. So this should be a time when we celebrate Celtic culture and mythology but instead what do we get, Trick or Treat, it’s enough to make you want to sacrifice a goat (or two).
It’s interesting how this monetisation of an ancient festival has established itself throughout the UK, how many pumpkins can you see these days? Pumpkins, when exactly did the Pumpkin become part of British culture? Of course this is just the re-invention of old tradition, Guising (the dressing up part) was traditional in Scotland when I was growing up but we didn’t have pumpkins we had turnips (neeps actually), try hollowing out one of those bastards to stick a candle in! Guising was so folk wouldn’t be recognised by the fairyfolk who could also walk the streets on halloween and the tradition of collecting treats relates back to food being left out to appease said fairies.
But as horror lovers which do you prefer the deep rooted festival with pagan inferences and mystical references or some ned chucking eggs at your wall. In a way it sums up where we are in the horror genre, the conflict between the tradition with the likes of Machen, James, Aickman or even the more recent examples of folk horror (Wake Wood, The Blair Witch Project) and the commerciality of Hollywood horror, gore and torture porn. Perhaps we are all too detached from nature these days to allow the merest whiff of meaning to be invoked on a dark night when the moon shines full and the clouds scuttle across the sky. Instead we revel in the facile where gore beats emotion, money overides spectacle and glamour wins out over reality.
So let’s take a moment to celebrate those who hold true to the tradition and still shine a flickering candle against the pervading darkness. Here are some Samhain (not Halloween) reading recommendations:-
1- Adam Nevill – A writer who keeps the flame burning for the old ways. His books have a pagan reality which makes them all the richer and he hasn’t written a bad one yet.
2- Gary McMahon – Another writer in touch with reality, his gritty urban series The Concrete Grove perfectly blended street culture with its more malevolent pagan past.
3- Graham Joyce – His writing is beautiful but his ideas are even better. Another who takes myth and blends it with reality in ever surprising, ever evolving ways.
4- Robert Holdstock – Sadly no longer with us but his legacy lives on with his Mythago tales highly recommended. Often labelled as fantasy there is always plenty of horror within Holdstocks modern myths.
5- Alan Garner – Sometimes laughingly labelled as a children’s author there are few writers who can unsettle the reader (of any age) like Garner at his best.
6- Geoff Holder – Might not be a familiar name to horror fans but Holder has created a fascinating niche in the factual investigation of folklore and mythology. He never treats his subject as dry or his readers as dense but his explorations are always fact filled and humour rich.
So there you go, switch off the inevitable re-run of that Hollywood dross lock the doors, light a candle and settle down with one of the above authors’ works and make your world a better (if slightly scarier) place.
Bright blessings to one and all from The Black Abyss.