Hereditary, Hauntings and How to End a Ghost Story

paymonI went to see Ari Aster’s feature debut Hereditary on Friday, and it’s been unpacking itself in my head ever seen then. I feel like jotting my thoughts down, and I should offer fair warning that this post will be a bit on the spoilerish side.

The story kicks off with the central family mourning the death of a grandmother. This primes the audience to expect the spirit haunting the family to be human, and a human spirit would imply human motivations. Ghost stories often use their spirits to represent traumatic memories, unfinished work, lingering resentment and so forth; in the case of Hereditary, the backstory includes multiple cases of family strife, which will presumably drive the grandmother’s restless spirit.

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Infogalactic and the Child Abuse Cover-Up

Ella DraperThe woman to the right is Ella Draper. If you keep up with online conspiracy theories, you may well be familiar with her. If not, here’s a short introduction (I encourage you to read the judicial document for more).

Ella Draper is a UK citizen who, alongside her boyfriend Abraham Christie, abused the two children she had with a previous partner. The judge presiding over the case stated that “torture is a strong word but it is the most accurate way to describe what was done to the children by Mr Christie in collaboration with Ms Draper.”

And yet, despite this sordid affair, Ella Draper maintains a support base. Why? Simple: she and her immediate circle managed to con a particularly gullible segment of the conspiracy theorist community into believing that Christie and herself were framed, and that her children were actually abused by a cult of Satanists with connections to the local authorities of Hampstead.

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Legends of Hollywood Horror Collection

 

LegendsHollywoodHorrorA while back I bagged myself a copy of the Legends of Hollywood Horror Collection from Warner Archive. It’s an interesting little set, with six 1930s horror films from Warner Brothers and MGM. That was a period when Universal had more or less cornered the market in terms of Hollywood horror, and it’s interesting to see what the studio’s rivals were up to.

The set has six films: Doctor X, The Return of Doctor X, Mark of the Vampire, The Mask of Fu Manchu, Mad Love and The Devil-Doll. Aside from The Devil-Doll, which I wrote quite a bit about here, I hadn’t previously seen any of those films. I knew of them — the vintage books on horror films I read as a teenager lent me a degree of familiarity — but until now, I haven’t had the chance to see those films. So, I’ve spent the past week-and-a-bit filling in some gaps in my knowledge of old-school horror.

Here’s what I thought…

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H. G. Wells, Cosmic Horror and “The Plattner Story”

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A short while back I wrote about H. G. Wells’ “The Plattner Story” for my Amazing Stories series. I hadn’t read this particular Wells story before, and it’s stuck in my mind since my short write-up, I thought I’d devote a bit more space to it.

Here’s the thing: “The Plattner Story” strikes me as a work ahead of its time. It’s a ghost story that edges into science fiction, and in the process, verges on a kind of proto-Lovecraftian cosmic horror. It depicts a weird extra-dimensional world which has a few similarities to conventional notions of the afterlife, but is largely Wells’ own creation — making it all the more disturbing, as it is ultimately unclear as to what is happening. This is similar to how Lovecraft gave new life to old horror concepts by transplanting demons and devils to the alternate dimensions of science fiction, creating his own pantheon apart from traditional demonology.

It’s well-known that Lovecraft was influenced by The King in Yellow, an 1895 collection by Robert W. Chambers, but it’s news to me that H. G. Wells made his own contribution to the proto-genre of cosmic horror just two years after Chambers’ book was published. Perhaps it’s time this lesser-known H. G. Wells story got a bit more recognition as a part of horror history…?

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How I Spent May 2018

DorisMay18Well, the big thing for me this month was working on my Bernice Summerfield story for Big Finish. Even though it’s a short story, it turned out to suck a chunk of my energy away from other projects. I still managed to get a bit of additional writing in on the side, though.

I’ve had some pretty big changes going on in the background and I’m taking stock of my future projects. I’m still chipping away on my book Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Speculative Fiction in the Culture Wars, and my second, rather shorter book project is nearing completion. It won’t be long ’til I’ve written enough Amazing Stories retrospectives to fill a book. What with my guest appearance in Bernice Summerfield: In Time and all, that’s quite a few books.

Right, best stop blogging about myself then, as that’s a topic that I can guarantee nobody will want to read a book about.

Articles published this month:

Article topics for June and beyond:

June18andbeyond

 

On Amazing Stories Issue 16 (and the Amazing Annual)

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My latest Amazing Stories retrospective is available to read. This time I’m looking at the two issues that were out in July 1927: the standard monthly instalment, and the one-off annual. Our guests this time include H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and some other people who aren’t as well-remembered!

I notice that I’ve picked up a few followers after winning the Bernice Summerfield contest, so if you’re a newcomer… yeah, this is how I spend my time. Reviewing science fiction magazines from close to a century ago. Hey, there are worse hobbies.