Saturday, 5 January 2008

Dark Horizons from the British Fantasy Society

December brought a batch of publications from the British Fantasy Society: Prism (their quarterly newsletter), Dark Horizons (the biannual short story plus articles mag) and a one-off special, H P Lovecraft in Britain by Stephen Jones.

This last was written by the anthologist involved with the production of Necronomicon: the Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft, due for January 2008 publication by Gollancz, and covers the patchy history of publication in the UK of the works of one of the original masters of horror. Now I am not a fan of that genre, but I have memories of reading some anthologies as a teenager and will probably pick up a copy of this one, if only through nostalgia.

Prism contained the usual crop of reviews, one of which (Attica by Garry Kilworth) sounded interesting enough to add to my "to buy" list. I have a fondness for tales involving strange worlds connected to our own; in this case via an attic which, like Dr Who's Tardis, turns out to be very much bigger on the inside than the outside suggests. There are the usual columns by the slightly less usual columnists plus an interview with Vincent Chong, the winner of the Best Artist category in the 2007 British Fantasy Awards, who also produced the dreamlike cover.

On to Dark Horizons, which this time contains six short stories and two articles, interspersed with a couple of poems and some line drawings. The cover is by Don Barker. There is also a brief dream-like vignette, What the Moon Brings, by H P Lovecraft. The articles are Roots of an Editor, an interview by Jan Edwards of Ellen Datlow, multiple award-winning editor of many fantasy and horror anthologies and magazines; and The Invisible Prince by David Sutton, a brief bio-bibliography of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, the 19th century writer of fantastic horror. Combined with the information about H P Lovecraft, this December BFS batch proved quite educational!

And so to the stories:

By Right of the Stars by Anne Gay. A desert-dweller with magical powers crosses a medieval world to right the wrongs inflicted on his people.

In His Charge by Nicki Robson (a runner-up in 2006 BFS short-story competition). A preacher who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck which killed all of his followers maintains an empty church nearby. For his followers haven't entirely left.

The Perils of Pentavir by Allen Ashley. A compilation of apparently random jottings on the significance of the number five, centred on the fate of the cradle of human civilisation, Pentavir: the former fifth planet located between Mars and Jupiter.

The Dullich Assassins by David Lee Stone. In which apprentice assassins have to qualify by killing one of their teachers in single combat. Written with more humour than drama.

Father's Day by David Turnball (another runner-up in 2006 BFS short-story competition). A latter-day Frankenstein struggles to rebuild and reanimate people from the wreckage of their civilisation.

The Children of Monte Rosa by Reggie Oliver. A man recalls a childhood holiday in Portugal during which his family meets a strange couple with a macabre hobby.

An interesting variety of themes and styles, all worth reading. I enjoyed the first one the most, although I suspect that the last will stick in the mind the longest.

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