Sunday, 22 April 2012

Closed graves...

Sorry not to have tweeted much (i.e. at all) on the second day of Open Graves, Open Minds, the Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium held at Keat's House - it was a busy day, which kicked off with a tour of the house and then moved on to the sessions proper, starting with a double act from your humble blogger and my friend Kevin Jackson.

I did a 45 minute slot on the folklore of the vampire, and how it differs from the vampire we have come to know from fiction and films. In this I was aided by my friend Thomas over at That Elusive Line, who drew me the handsome vampire you see here.

Then Kevin spoke about various vampirical things, and showed his 10 minute vampire film, Pavane for a Vampire Queen. Take a look if you haven't seen it - it's beautiful :-) And for the eagle-eyed features a cameo by, well, me.

The whole day was a great success, I thought, but the highlight for me was the closing talk, by Sir Christopher Frayling, a man whose books and TV programmes I have admired since I was young. He spoke about pictorial representations of the Gothic in art and film, and it was flawless and fascinating. It was based in part on material first considered in his show Gothic Nightmares from 2006 at Tate Britain, still available in the show catalogue. It was a total fan-boy moment for me, as we traded folkloric aspects of the undead.

Then came vampire themed canapés; black pudding on coffin shaped blinis, stakes through steak etc, and we all went home very happy, and much more enlightened about vampires in general. I'd like to thank Dr Sam George of the University of Hertfordshire for inviting me, and for organising the weekend.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

My first published writing...

Here for your delectation I am going to put up a small piece of writing - the first thing I ever had published, as a teenager, which I recently re-discovered when at my mother's house.

Back in the late Dark Ages (1985, I think) I entered a 500 word maximum horror story competition run by the fanzine of my favourite band at the time; Siouxsie and the Banshees. I will embarrass myself by telling you that I won, however, having just re-read the second place entry, I suspect these may have been the only submissions...

Nevertheless, I guess at the back of my mind, it may have planted the seed that it was actually possible to get your writing published, though at the time I was more pleased with winning a tour jacket.

The one thing is does show however, is that I've always been a gruesome little oik, and I present it here just as I wrote it, with a few spelling mistakes corrected, because it's never too late to get your homework right.

The other thing it shows is that I was always destined to be spare with my writing - the limit was 500 words and I coasted in at 325. Such parsimony!

It's called Just a Joke, and it goes like this:


The coffin of nurse Amy West had been exhumed, and now the crude box lay before me. As head surgeon of the city morgue it was my duty to perform an autopsy; demanded by the Police; only now after her burial. She had apparently died of fright. I opened it; my assistant choked as he gazed in; ‘oh Lord.’ My eyes fell to the lid’s interior. The cheap wood was scratched as if by wild animal’s claws, and was stained dull red in places. Then my view sank to the girl, to her fingers; a bloody mess, to her ripped nails, to the huge splinters piercing the once sensitive flesh, exposing bone, to her bloodied dress, and finally to her dry eyes, staring from a face frozen in fear… ‘She wasn’t dead.’
So what had happened..?

As a student nurse she had initially been squeamish, like all the other students, except one girl who never spoke to the other nurses, except to make cynical remarks about their lack of guts. Naturally the other girls hated her, but when they observed an amputation for the first time, they saw her smiling, and they decided to get even for her callousness. Amy was supposed to take the amputated arm to be incinerated, but this is not what she did. That night the nurse took the arm, daubed it with green fluorescent paint and hung it in the strange girl’s room, so that it reached towards the door. They waited next door in Amy’s room for their victim to come off nightshift. Eventually footsteps stopped at her door and went in, then, nothing… Two minutes of silence, then Amy nervously went next door. Seconds later a chilling shriek caused the others to scramble out after Amy, just in time to catch her she turned from the open door and fell, her face writing with confusion; and why…? Behind her, on the bed, the girl crouched, eating the arm…

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Open Graves...

Well, next Friday and Saturday I'll be attending and speaking at OPEN GRAVES, OPEN MINDS; the Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium being held at Keat's House, London. I'm delighted to be going along and honoured to be speaking in the company of some wonderful academics and other writers including Sir Christopher Frayling and my good friend Dr Kevin Jackson.

The conference literature says "Delegates will investigate the most famous vampire narrative of all, Dracula, on the centenary of Bram Stoker's death and interrogate its relationship to new developments in interdisciplinary research, drawing on nineteenth-century vampire archetypes. Dracula, of course, is the seminal vampire novel (though it has its antecedents); a gripping narrative that dramatises anxieties over sexuality, new technologies, foreignness, and modernity. Invited speakers will debate the evolution of Dracula from novel to theatre, film to comic book."

At the time of his death, Stoker was better known as a minor personality in Victorian London, as the theatre manager of Sir Henry Irving, who'd been Britain's greatest actor. His obituary did mention that he'd written a certain book called Dracula, but actually his death was overshadowed by the fact that that large boat had sunk in the Atlantic five days before, and the papers were full of Titanic news.

So at the conference we'll be paying due deference to his Stokerness, leaving no (grave) stone unturned, or indeed pun to rest in peace, as we investigate various aspects of the great man.

My talk is going to focus on how the folkloric vampire differs so markedly from the one we've come to know, largely though not exclusively as a result of Stoker's book, and is entitled The Elusive Vampire. It's derived from a chapter I've written for the forthcoming book; Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture, edited by Dr Sam George.

All in all it should be good fun, and I'll be tweeting from the event next weekend.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Some early writing...

Herewith the first piece of writing of mine that I still have. Unearthed at Easter. And in case you're wondering, I was five :-)

"Guy Fawkes was a man and he wanted to blow up the houses of parliament and one of Guy Fawkes’ friends had a brother. And he was going be in a meet and the King sent out guards and the guards caught Guy Fawkes. And they got his powder."

No wonder my books are on the brief side...