Sunday morning at World Horror 2010 was hectic (not helped by misplacing the programme book with all my notes!) after breakfast as we packed for 11 am checkout, so I missed the Dennis Etchison hour, and Gary McMahon's reading (sorry, mate, hope it was good..?), but I was able to catch last few minutes of a panel item, about value of awards, moderated by Andrew Hook. Having bought a print (by Bob Eggleton) from the artshow while loitering around during lunch break, I went to support Chris Teague's Pendragon Press event, launching Silversands by Gareth L. Powell.
At 3 o'clock, it was time for 'The Year In Review' panel, where I met Anne Billson (one of my favourite film critics), and talked rubbish about best horrors I watched in 2009. Despite losing David J. Howe, and Joe Jenkins (Monica Kuebler became our replacement moderator), the panel wasn't wrecked by my tired waffling. The closing ceremony was packed, while WHC organisers wisely kept shortlist of thank yous to a minimum, so many people could leave promptly (if only to face havoc on public transport due to strike action).
Overall, then, it was a great convention, and hugely enjoyable gathering of old friends and new faces. I met a few more writers (including Terry Grimwood), bought some new books, sold copies of Premonitions(many thanks to Roy Gray!), and somehow managed not to get too drunk.
Despite rude awakening of Oz grand prix at 5 am (thanks, Stephen!), I was breakfasted and fully conscious in time for morning's readings by Joel Lane and Cardinal Cox, both very good indeed. Sticking to my current book-buying rule of 'hardcovers only', I got Vincent Chong's new artbook from Telos tea party, and then found a seat in lounge for WHC guest of honour interview: James Herbert, who talked about his career. 'Unrealised Nightmares' was a panel about horror films that were never made. 'Those Were The Days' was a panel about 1960s – 1980s era of genre anthologies. Although she was poorly, elderly film star Ingrid Pitt proved an endearing and very entertaining interviewee, though best described as charmingly potty.
Teatime programme item 'State Of The Art' had too many panellists for Russell room, so Ramsey Campbell switched it with 'Into The Gore Zone' from the Lounge. Once re-settled, it was good to hear F. Paul Wilson (The Keep) and Graham Masterton (The Manitou) to talk about their first novels - both filmed to good effect, decades ago. I caught last half-hour of art show reception in Britannia room and considered which print to buy. Had a nap before steak & chips, then walked down the illuminated pier where HWA Bram Stoker awards banquet was being held.
Back at the hotel bar, more drinking continued until clocks were reset an hour ahead. I enjoyed first part of Phantom Gaslight theatre, with Geoffrey Jesson recounting tragically comic but ultimately macabre tale, 'Puss-cat'. More drinking ensued and I met writer John Travis (once published by Pigasus Press), and some Facebook friends.
Arrived in Brighton early, quick journey via A27, easily found Royal Albion hotel on seafront. Parking hassles and rain spoilt Thursday's mood a bit, especially with having to wait for later check-in than we'd hoped... for top floor twin-room without any view. Had good feed at local chip shop, then went back to hotel in time for mid-afternoon panel item about zombies.
Opening ceremony (at teatime) was a packed out, standing room only, but we had front row seats. 'New Blood' was a panel with next generation of horror writers. Who Cares What You Think? - proved an interesting panel topic on reviewing for blogs. First day of drinking was rounded off with a couple of creepy new short stories, of great descriptive flair and subtlety, read by author Ramsey Campbell.
Friday started dry and windy during our seafront walk after breakfast. 'X Factor' offered retro movie reminiscences of panellists (both writers and artists). Tanith Lee was interviewed by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, but I forgot to ask a question about her scripts for Blake's 7... 'Size Matters' was a worthwhile panel topic on current small press activities. Left reading by Brian Lumley after a few minutes because I found his story rather boring (too much arithmetic & fractions about vampire's age!), and went to see art show, where I met artist Caroline O'Neal and poet Cardinal Cox – both contributors to Premonitions.
I bought a couple of hardcover books at Newcon Press launch, and went to interesting 'Heritages of Horror' panel, featuring critics Kim Newman and David Pirie, talking about movie books. 'Life Sucks', a discussion of vampire fiction, was final panel of day for me.
Had a fine evening out, yesterday, watching The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde staged by European Arts Company at Quay Arts Centre, Isle of Wight. This refreshingly brisk adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novella is a stylised comedy-horror that makes the best of such a low-budget production’s technical limitations with highly judicious use of special effects, and sees the whole cast also performing well-choreographed stagehand duties, adding ironic humour to this charmingly inventive minimalist recreation of the classic Victorian gaslight stalker tale.
William Hartley plays Henry Jekyll as simpering yet ‘mad’ doctor, all repressed desire and nervous tics, who’s even cowed by haughty butler Poole (Arthur James, who also plays a publican and two other characters). Of course, just a risky tipple later, he transforms - via simple but effective theatricality of a garish waistcoat and swaggering demeanour - into untamed London lothario, egotistically prone to violence with murderous intent.
An introductory/ wraparound meta-narrative, concerning US actor Richard Mansfield (who portrayed Jekyll & Hyde at London’s Lyceum in 1888, until the Whitechapel murders forced the play’s closure), gives repertory veteran Richard Latham his first of five secondary parts. Unlike Stevenson’s original story, which contains no female characters, this stage version features Jennifer Bryden, also playing five different roles, including Jekyll’s sister.
Despite some excellent comic timing, many of the jokes do tend to be witty (tincture as viagra tonic!) rather than hilarious. The first hour is largely good-natured fun and games (some clever business with Jekyll’s housecat, and the return ‘train journey’ to Scotland, is particularly amusing), while the second act is much less campy, delving a lot deeper into Freudian dramas that reveal psychotic alpha-male Hyde’s predatory nature, and permits a range of more ‘adult’ themes (including incest) to be explored.
The company’s play is on a tour of small theatres in UK (throughout March, April, and May, this year) and is certainly worthwhile entertainment.
My next 'Blood Spectrum' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews is done for Black Static #16. Although this issue of the magazine is still a work-in-progress, the big news is that it will be printed in full colour! Here's a couple of images taken from TTA Press editor Andy Cox's page layouts for my column, which show just how much impact adding colour to Black Static has... (Click on the images to see them full-size.)
My four-page 'Laser Fodder' column in Interzone #227 (T3A Press) has DVD & blu-ray review coverage of Hardwired, Thrill Seekers, Time Traveller's Wife, The Avengers - series 3, The Interceptor, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (which, admittedly, I'm dismissive of), Shane Acker's 9, Caprica TV pilot-movie, The Box, and Lathe Of Heaven remake.
I read and greatly enjoyed Jeff Lint’s The Caterer comic (#3 ‘reprint’ by Floating World). Steve Aylett (steveaylett.com) continues to milk his phenomenal Lint mania. This perfectly ‘reproduces’ the format and printed medium of 1970s’ comics, complete with dodgy adverts and a ‘fan mail’ page. “Once again tatty curtains part on the true situation.”
When he’s not practising trademark ‘stillness’ with baffling diatribes, ‘hero’ of The Caterer, Jack Marsden, is causing untold mayhem and indulging his penchant for splash–page dreamscapes eerily reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. This is surreal comicbook weirdness at it most deliriously offbeat, so utterly irreverent that Aylett risks losing as many readers as he’s likely to gain.
Newly minted pulp action scenes vie for attention with inconveniently preposterous dialogues and supporting characters - like (or perhaps you don’t?) Sheriff Leonard Bayard that help define friable Jack by doing things he doesn’t, such as leaning, or giving moderately sane advice (“don’t let it be udders”). But, whatever else we think of Jack, in The Caterer, we’re bound to wonder “what he’s doing now” and what he’s going to do next…
Further cause for celebration, is a new revised edition of Aylett’s implacably amusing Inflatable Volunteer.