Thursday, 8 November 2018
Friday, 2 November 2018
She was the first. But not the last. They found her body in a New York park, surrounded by her killers. A Murder of Crows, screamed the headlines. It was an oddity. An unusual event. At least, it was then.
The reporters turned to the scientists, asking how could this happen. The scientists brushed them off. It was a million to one incident, they said. All but one scientist, who quietly pointed out that crows were among the smartest of animals and asked what if they had learned something new.
The next day brought two more killings, both in the same incident. An old man was attacked in the street. A police officer tried to go to his rescue. The crows killed him too before they fled, taking his eyes with them.
A curiosity became a shiver of fear throughout the city. Scarecrows appeared on the lawns of the people who had them, in the windows of apartments for those who did not. The talk shows were no longer talking about how weird the first killing was, but rather filled with the voices of worried callers, asking what was going on.
The mayor said it was just a rogue group of birds, and experts were being consulted. Not that there were experts in this.
Day three brought ten deaths. All separate incidents across the city. This wasn’t one rogue group of birds - or at least, not any more.
The mayor issued a bounty, $100 reward for each dead crow. The environmentalists cried out, the hunters showed up.
The fourth day was the bloodiest yet. The hunters took to the streets, loaded up with their rifles, and the crows came for them. All the deaths that day were among the hunters. The crows suffered casualties, but there always seemed to be more. 35 hunters died that day.
People shut their doors, peered out their windows and listened to the TV news. The governor declared a state of emergency that night, and called in the national guard.
They called it the Central Park Massacre. The national guard rolled right into town, lined up neatly on the grass of the park, and began to die. The troops were trained to fight other soldiers, not the quick arrows that gathered above, so many that the midday sky grew dark. Then they fell, in a rain that turned red as they struck their targets.
The only survivors were those sealed inside their armored personnel carriers, and they fled from the screams of their comrades. The crows stood attendant above the massacre, massed on the trees of the park, defiant.
People didn’t dare to go out after that - and when they did, they were picked off one by one.
The president boarded Air Force One to come and take charge of the situation personally, but the TV anchor, stranded in the studio for days now, reported the plane went down - all four engines hit by a bird strike.
Trapped indoors, starvation and shortage of medicine started to take its toll. No more deaths one by one, now they came faster. Risk the birds, or die indoors.
Those who were lucky enough to get to their cars found they had no way of getting out to refuel. They couldn’t drive far enough to get away from the birds. The lucky ones were those who managed to get to indoor garages of malls big enough to find shelter.
The remnants of government started a rescue operation. Where to go? There was only one option - the underground shelters, stocked up on military rations long enough to consider alternatives. The few survivors reached there. Most didn’t.
We live underground now. Cultivating food where we can, and peering out reinforced windows at the surface world denied to us now. They say we’re lucky, that we ought to be grateful. But I sit and stare out the windows each day. They ask me if it’s because I miss the old world, the way it used to be, but it’s not. I come to remind myself how I hate the sky.
Sunday, 28 October 2018
Hunting for something spooky? Here's five lesser known horror movies - and a ghost hunt with prizes too!
The group has joined forces for a competition to win copies of, ooh, well, lots of books - the ones below.
There's an event on Facebook too for Halloween - right here: https://www.facebook.com/events/373362076545635/?__mref=mb
To have a chance of winning, your ghost hunt involves finding a ghost through a series of blog posts - including this one! The ghost hunt starts at www.cbvisions.weebly.com - with each ghost having a letter. Click the ghost to go to the next blog, put the letters together and... well, come join the event to find out more. Tales From The Underground is my contribution to the pot, which includes my story Professor Algernon Whitlock's Exotic And Fabulous Grand Tour of the Underworld.
You miiiight even find a ghost in this very post. If you're lucky.
Also while we're in the, um, spirit of Halloween, let me recommend five lesser known horror movies to you - that might just fit your mood come the night itself.
First up is a properly scary movie, the Spanish horror movie [REC]. There was a US remake of this as Quarantine. DO NOT SEE THE REMAKE. The original is great, the remake tepid. It's a found footage movie - and one of the best of its type.
Sticking with black and white, we're going further back, all the way to 1942, for the fabulous Simone Simon horror Cat People. There's a more modern remake of this, that mostly involves people not wearing clothes. But this has real naked terror. For its era, it's very sensual - and the lead character wrestles with questions of identity. It's an unsettling movie, even in this age of more full-on horror.
Back to the 1980s now, and Pierce Brosnan proving he can act - though his French accent sometimes wobbles. Brosnan plays an anthropologist who explores tribal cultures - only to discover a tribe of modern nomads living in LA, living outside the law, and waiting, waiting to be noticed by their next victims...
I'm always surprised this hasn't become something of a cult hit - the visuals are great and the ending as creepy as can be.
Finally, a Disney movie. That's right, a Disney movie. In fact, a Disney movie so scary it led Disney to set up its adult film division. It's Something Wicked This Way Comes, the movie adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel - and it's simply great. It's about a circus that comes to town - Coogan and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Circus - promising to fulfill your dreams, at the tiny price of your soul. It's also as warm a movie about the relationship between father and son - a father a bit too old for his liking, a son bursting to grow into adulthood - as you will find. Jason Robards is brilliant as the father, Jonathan Pryce sinister as the head of the circus. Enjoy, with a little fear in your heart.
BONUS MOVIE: This one's well known, but getting on a bit now - it's the Hammer Horror adaptation of Quatermass and the Pit. Martians, the devil, scientists and the end of the world, all wrapped up in a lovely Hammer horror bow. Great fun.
Friday, 26 October 2018
I never met Greg Stafford. The closest I ever came was encountering some of his writing in an old Runequest list when I was back in university and greedily printing out everything to do with the game that I could on piles of computer paper.
But when he died earlier this month, I felt a real loss, for his work has been such a key part of my life for so long that it hit home hard.
I started roleplaying back in the 1970s. My first game might have been the old blue book of basic Dungeons & Dragons, but it was Runequest that really caught my imagination. Greg Stafford was its creator, and the imagination behind the world of Glorantha in which the game took place.
My first copy of Runequest was the second edition, back in 1980 or so. I was about seven or eight at the time, and I fell in love with the game. One of my favourite childhood presents was the Christmas gift I unwrapped containing the Cults of Prax and Griffin Mountain books for the game. I fell into those pages and didn't emerge all day. Runequest was something different, something special - and Glorantha with it.
Unlike many other game systems, Glorantha offered a coherent world. This was a place of concrete locations, not nebulous villages and taverns. There were defined cities, established holy places, nests of chaos to beware of - all with shifting lines of control as rival factions fought for territory. Players didn't choose character classes, but found themselves choosing allegiances. The dragons to beware of were empires, the heroes often the underdogs, the resistance. And often overwhelmed.
Into this landscape came the players - often fighting their way through traditional dungeons but often with different goals. Sure, there was treasure to divvy up, magical items to strive for, but often the advancement came through the faiths the players chose to side with, working their way up the ranks of the cults who could offer them the magic they strove for. Advancement came through being part of the society around them. That was kind of revolutionary back in the day Runequest was published.
There are so many gaming moments from Runequest that bring a smile to my face all these years later, from the fumbles that just fell right (hit nearest friend with a Flameblade just as a comrade drags themselves through lantern oil beside you is an unfortunate one), to the mythology that becomes punchline ("Let's go down Wakboth Way." "NO!" "Why not?" "Wakboth's the devil!" "Well... hush my mouth.")
It's had a lasting effect too in my writing - my characters Rasten and Weasel both started out as NPCs in my Runequest campaign. One a hero, one a villain, now exploring a world of my own and partnered up in the story A Taste For Battle and lurking around the back of my brain for a fantasy saga that one day I'll write.
So thank you, Mr Stafford. We may never have met, but you let us play in your playground, and I - and my gaming colleagues - loved every minute of it.
Thursday, 18 October 2018
Wednesday, 3 October 2018
It's October - the time of year when the wind picks up leaves and swirls them at our heels, when the shadows grow longer as they stalk at our heels. It's time for Halloween.
As we count down to the day when ghosts and ghouls and goblins come out to play, I'm doing a rundown each day of horror books that I love over on Twitter - and I'm going to gather those tweets here too, along with replies suggested by followers.
Do join in - either in the comments here, or over on my Twitter account - just click on one of the tweets below to come through and join in the chat.
I'd love to hear your suggestions. Oh, and on Halloween itself, I'll share my favourite horror book ever - if you can guess what it is beforehand, I'll give the first person to do so a paperback copy of Tales From The Tower (available at myBook.to/Tower), including my horror story The Chickcharney.
And so, we begin...
It's October, and it's time to talk about scary things. Each day until Halloween, I'm going to recommend a book. A scary book.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 1, 2018
To start, it's Dark Harvest, by Norman Partridge, about the day the October Boy rises from the corn, a knife in his hand... and heads for town. pic.twitter.com/KHpjI6OZOO
This really is a fantastic read - with the boys of the town let loose to try to kill the October Boy, with the promise of escape from the town, a new life, a new world if they succeed. There's menace all over the place, and moments to make you cry. A great, great horror novel.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 1, 2018
Oooooh. NICE.— Jeff (my brother is no-lie named Michael) Myers (@fuzzyjefe) October 1, 2018
I'll answer with Joe Lansdale's BUMBER CROP. pic.twitter.com/1fgEmUNrTn
Day 2 of my #horror book countdown - and today I pick Vampire$, by John Steakley. You may think you know this from the John Carpenter movie, but you don't. This is a great horror about a hit team hired to take out vampires - only they don't die easy. #HorrorBooksForHalloween pic.twitter.com/pe9KAu7H89— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 2, 2018
The characters are great in this - but the best part is a mid-section of the book reveals a victim's tale, forced to do the vampires' work. And, worse, forced to enjoy it. Great novel, really invigorates the vampire myth.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 2, 2018
Well, that movie has a lesser Baldwin and James Woods + a crappy romantic plot. Anything, and I include the black plague, can be better than the movie.— 👻 Ricardo "Sort Of Frightening" Victoria 👻 (@Winged_Leo) October 2, 2018
It has James Woods. The last time he was good in something, it was on 'Casino' as a low life that appears when no one needs him to badger you with money request & brain hared ideas... just like in real life. Sorry if I have to choose a Vampire$ movie, I go with the Bon Jovi one.— 👻 Ricardo "Sort Of Frightening" Victoria 👻 (@Winged_Leo) October 2, 2018
I needed to clean my palate after a particularly po-faced classic while studying English Literature - and turned to a cheap, nasty, mean horror from Shaun Hutson. It was perfect. A small town community falls apart as a virus turns people into.. vampires?#HorrorBooksForHalloween pic.twitter.com/B6ptaJrCbs— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 3, 2018
There's part of this book that has shades of Stephen King's Salem's Lot, there's parts that resemble a movie that came out the same year, Impulse (starring Tim Matheson and Meg Tilly). But Erebus is a fast, brutal read, showing how quickly the veneer of society falls apart.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 3, 2018
Today in #HorrorBooksForHalloween, I recommend Turner by @karldrinkwater - but better yet, pick it up in his horror collection for the extra short stories. Turner is a nightmare on a Welsh island, a Wicker Man for the modern age, a bloodlust bacchanal. No one is safe. pic.twitter.com/2EA9joAFn9— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 4, 2018
In the short stories, I particularly loved Web. Better than Turner, even though that's the one I recommend picking it up. So come for the Turner drive-through movie, stay for the Web creature feature, go home happy.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 4, 2018
There's Housebroken by @TheBehrg , which I see as a great example of being able to take a book in unexpected but satisfying directions. https://t.co/SorffrbwWQ— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
This crazy book impressed me this year, despite the terrible translation. It also left me sickened. https://t.co/Ao6YcslCI2 The Tank by Nicola Lombardi (I had a chat with him by email but don't think he's on Twitter.)— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
The Sadist's Bible, by @NicoleCushing was a really satisfying horror novella. https://t.co/L1EfmhZq6f— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
Also some sci-fi horrors that stayed with me: https://t.co/cwIUNJdeLB— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
I talk about a few classics over at https://t.co/6R9kqEoXwe— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
I enjoyed the short story "Bent" in Rebecca Rowland's collection https://t.co/Gjp0jvAuAE— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
Body of Christ by @matthews_mark really impressed me too, as one of the best novellas I've read this year. https://t.co/aKeStk8w9a— Karl Drinkblood (@karldrinkwater) October 4, 2018
A new day, and a new addition to my #HorrorBooksForHalloween list - and it's a doozy. The best vampire story ever written. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson. Sure, there have been movies, but the book is better. Why? Well... 1/2 #horror pic.twitter.com/jhHSkwbofo— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 5, 2018
It's the voices. The friends. The colleagues. The people that lead character Neville knew. That he drank with. That he laughed with. Now all vampires. And every night they come to his door. Calling his name. Calling for him to come and join them. To come and let them feed on him.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 5, 2018
Today for #HorrorBooksForHalloween, it's a classic. The best of Stephen King's works, the centrepiece and glittering gem. The Stand. In which the world ends, and then the horror begins. It's a thick tome of a book, and worth every page. Decent TV mini-series adaptation too. pic.twitter.com/YexEqRfPiA— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 6, 2018
I love that others are chipping in with extra suggestions - such as the one below.Today's #HorrorBooksForHalloween reaches way, way back - to one of the founding stones of horror. Dracula. If you've never read it, do. So many movies, yet so much still to discover in the pages. Poor old Quincy Morris doesn't get as much credit as he deserves, y'know. pic.twitter.com/hBJwcXLbTH— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 8, 2018
Today's #HorrorBooksForHalloween entry is a bit different - ostensibly a sci-fi, Greg Bear's Blood Music is in truth a very creepy tale, which all starts with a researcher creating cellular material smarter than rats. Cells that think... that he then smuggles into the world... pic.twitter.com/sGUSgs2iRG— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 9, 2018
I'm playing catch-up on my #HorrorBooksForHalloween today - and the first of two today is my favourite HP Lovecraft omnibus, with the story that really must become a movie one day: At The Mountains of Madness. An Antarctic exploration becomes a descent into hell. Brilliant. pic.twitter.com/ElPkgEMdIZ— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 11, 2018
One of my favorite stories and just today I found my copy is missing. Damn you Old Ones! Also if you like the concept, Ararat by @ChristophGolden works around it. I really recommend that book.— 👻 Ricardo "Sort Of Frightening" Victoria 👻 (@Winged_Leo) October 11, 2018
For my second #HorrorBooksForHalloween today, I turn to a favourite modern writer, and the darkling delights within Dark Flash 2, a collection of flash pieces by @MariaHaskins. I particularly love The Weight of the Sea, Wolves and Girls, and especially A Song For Hugo. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/svk1ItDmX3— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 11, 2018
Tonight's #HorrorBooksForHalloween could have been any James Herbert novel. But The Rats was the first of his I read. I've always feared multitudes, faceless, motiveless multitudes. And that's The Rats. Coming for you. Relentless. Gnawing. Deadly. An ordinary terror. pic.twitter.com/qDZTFQsofD— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 12, 2018
I'd like to mention @AlteredInstinct that my new short story collection SOULS AND HALLOWS has a Halloween theme, encompassing spiritual, horror and B-movie monster themes. #HorrorBooksForHalloween with a #scifi slant. #indieauthor #IATRGhttps://t.co/TfURIJnj5Y— S. R. Algernon (@s_r_algernon) October 12, 2018
I had this scheduled for later in my #HorrorBooksForHalloween rundown but... well. Blackbirds is great. The lead character is a screw-up. She's running away from the world. From herself. She can see the future - but she can't escape it. Brutal, funny, bleak, brilliant. pic.twitter.com/xYzTrK0SAM— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 13, 2018
Today is catch-up day on #HorrorBooksForHalloween after a family day yesterday - so if you're looking for a scare before sleep, I suggest World War Z, by Max Brooks. Don't think of the movie, this is a series of excerpts from across the war. Most terrifying? Zombies under water. pic.twitter.com/aCJvysVxlZ— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 14, 2018
Today's #HorrorBooksForHalloween choice might as easily be considered sci-fi, and other titles by John Wyndham might fit better - but The Chrysalids unnerved me as a kid. It's about the out of place, those who are made to feel they don't belong. As a kid, I felt that. #horror pic.twitter.com/zyipqbqHWI— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 14, 2018
By the way, I don't remember the cover on the one I first read - I think it was one of those all yellow plain covers at the library. The cover didn't sell the book to me, but every word of it lingered with me. Don't judge a book by its cover? Well, that could be the plot too.— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 14, 2018
Today in #HorrorBooksForHalloween, I recommend a book that's not always horror, but contains some of the most haunting stories I've read in a long time. Godfall is the title tale in @WriterOdell's collection but The Home For Broken is harrowing. Others shine too. A great read. pic.twitter.com/OMBCIdsHyI— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 15, 2018
I'm zigzagging in my #HorrorBooksForHalloween - something old, something new, something borrowed... which could of course double up as the recipe for the creature in Frankenstein. Mary Shelley's tale belongs in every #horror list, every #sci-fi list. A creation of genius. pic.twitter.com/P6hASQW1jy— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 17, 2018
Tonight's #HorrorBooksForHalloween could be Edgar Allan Poe's collected works... but hey, that's easy to pick. How about something different? Writerpunk put together a punk spin of Poe tales in an anthology of many writers, and it's brilliant. Scary? Sure. Inventive? Hell, yes. pic.twitter.com/3jnAXXZmeo— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 18, 2018
Also, a bonus #HorrorBooksForHalloween entry - in an anthology I edited. But this is for a very specific shout out, because the #horror story by @AleiKotdaishura, Beast, is a superb read. And I hope to coax her to return to the next anthology to come from @InklingsPress... pic.twitter.com/aTDW6TkBMu— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 18, 2018
Today's #HorrorBooksForHalloween is a double bill, like all good horror movie screenings. The first is a classic - that perhaps gets overlooked a bit these days. It's brilliant - how could it not be, it's Oscar Wilde - and it's cruel. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Pierces the soul. pic.twitter.com/pMusIfgegh— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 19, 2018
The second #HorrorBooksForHalloween entry for the day is the best by Dean Koontz - Phantoms. A town's population suddenly disappears - and the reason harks back to famous disappearances of the past, such as the Marie Celeste crew. An ancient evil indeed is unveiled. pic.twitter.com/WML3kKmDXJ— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 19, 2018
Tonight's #HorrorBooksForHalloween entry is a bit of a phenomenon - adapted as the second-longest running play in the history of the West End, and with a good movie adaptation featuring Daniel Radcliffe. It's The Woman In Black, an endlessly creepy tale by Susan Hill. A classic. pic.twitter.com/HSw2kyYglC— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 23, 2018
An unusual choice in tonight's #HorrorBooksForHalloween - in that it's a sci-fi novel. But The Legacy of Heorot is more than that - it draws on mythology (the Heorot of the title), it's an ecological thriller... and when the horror hits, it hits hard. It's a dangerous universe. pic.twitter.com/Dr2MID4c66— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 29, 2018
Today's #HorrorBooksForHalloween is the end of the world. And that's when the horror starts. The few survivors of This Is The Way The World Ends are not the lucky ones. They are the ones put on trial. By the dead. James Morrow's mind-binding sci-fi horror is a revelation. pic.twitter.com/Ijsmv7Jglv— Altered Instinct (@AlteredInstinct) October 30, 2018