Kate has had an interest in the Middle Ages since childhood, and has been working on medieval literature for over ten years since she began studying it at university. She received a PhD from the University of Manchester for her research on fifteenth and sixteenth-century Anglo-Scottish literary relations. Her research interests focus on medieval and early modern literature, with particular interests in historiography, memory, and literary confessions. She has taught at the universities of Manchester, Nottingham and Liverpool Hope, and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester.
Kate has recently published on the poetry of Sir David Lyndsay as well as the political uses of sanctity in medieval chronicles. She is currently writing a book on the use of memory in the formation of national identity in the aftermath of the Scottish Wars of Independence. She is the editor of the Older Scots volume of the Literary Encyclopedia.
I’ll be chatting to Kate about medieval and early modern literature and, of course, she’ll be sharing her Apocalypse Books selections with us.
Tune in on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
Given how odd the weather has been in 2016 so far (we had snow at the end of April… what’s that all about?), I’ve been thinking a bit about weird weather in fiction. So much so that I decided to devote a whole show to it: on Saturday May 7th, Hannah’s Bookshelf was all about bizarre and freaky literary weather. You can listen again to the show on the player below, but, as promised, here’s the list of books that were featured on the show.
Not to be confused with the 1980 John Carpenter film of the same name, James Herbert’s horror novel tells the story of John Holman, who is investigating a Ministry of Defence base in Wiltshire when an earthquake opens a crack in the earth. John’s car is swallowed up by the quake, but that’s not the worst part… the cracked earth is now releasing a sinister fog that turns people dangerously insane. John is the fog’s first victim – but he becomes the only man able to defeat the noxious cloud.
Okay… the deadly gas isn’t really ‘fog’ as such, so it’s not strictly speaking ‘weird weather’ (one book in and I’ve already cheated!), but it’s still a classic and deserves to be on the list. For me, the best bits of the book are the little horrific vignettes detailing the effects of the ‘fog’ on people up and down the UK. Stephen King described it as a work of ‘raw urgency’, and that seems a pretty fair assessment.
This may be the first time Baum’s beloved American fairytale has appeared on a reading list next to a James Herbert novel, but hopefully this isn’t too much of a controversial choice. (Incidentally, I’d love to know if anyone ever decides to use these themed shows as a reading list!) I doubt I need to explain why I’ve included The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on this list – the twister that carries Dorothy Gale to the Land of Oz must be one of the most famous bits of weird weather in literature. But perhaps not the most famous…
Surely this must be the most well-respected and well-read example of weird weather in literature? Shakespeare’s tale of the shipwrecked Prospero – and the enslaved creatures Caliban and Ariel – appears on GCSE, A-Level and university syllabuses, and is an absolutely fascinating read (or, better yet, watch) for so many reasons. I included it on this list for the eponymous tempest, magicked up by Prospero as an act of revenge/reconciliation on his brother Antonio, but also for its inclusion of another freaky weather phenomenon: St Elmo’s Fire. When Prospero asks Ariel if the tempest has been created as he ordered, the subservient spirit replies:
“To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement; sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join.” (Act I, Sc. 2)
(Bet you can’t guess which song I played after I talked about this…)
In a show dedicated to weather, I really wanted to include a book about my favourite weather: snow. And why not some sci-fi snow? Roberts’ novel begins with snow falling on London in September – which is slightly weird. But the snow doesn’t stop falling, and eventually the world is smothered under three miles of the stuff – which is a bit weirder. The book follows Tira, a woman from London who has managed to survive the apocalyptic snowfall, who is discovered by a group of miners from the newly rebuilt ‘civilization’ that sits above the snow. Told in an unusual style that mimics government transcripts, The Snow touches on issues to do with military law and censorship, but, as with several of the books on this list, it’s the eeriness of the weather that really stuck in my mind.
After the snow, I thought it might be time for some sun. First published as The Burning World, this early novel by Ballard followed The Wind From Nowhere (1961) and The Drowned World (1962), and was itself followed by The Crystal World (1966). This quartet of ‘catastrophe novels’ deal with the causes and effects of intense weather and natural phenomena that erode and destroy human life as we know it. The Drought is set during a years-long drought, brought about after rain ceases to fall (so it’s really the rain that’s weird, rather than the sun). Charles Ransom has been living at a gradually drying lake with an assortment of neighbours but, after a decade without rain, he finally decides to do what so many other people have already done and head towards the ocean. As with much of Ballard’s work (particularly the early novels) plot and characterization often take a backseat to the surreal landscapes and ‘strange beauty’ of the apocalyptic vision, and it’s an odd, unsettling, but really quite dazzling read.
No list of fictional weather would be complete without at least one Gothic text. No genre does overdramatic weather and punishing natural elements with such enthusiasm as the Gothic. Almost every Victorian penny dreadful I’ve edited begins with a storm, and the image of a sharp bolt of lightning breaking through the clouds on a perilously dark night is pretty much the genre’s catchphrase. So it’s only fitting I ended the show with a spooky bit of late Victoriana – I was spoilt for choice, but decided to go with Bram Stoker’s short story because it has a great description of hailstones (and, after the weird April hailstorms we had this year, I thought this was fitting). ‘Dracula’s Guest’ (probably) began life as an early chapter of Dracula, but it wasn’t included in the published novel. An unnamed narrator travels from Munich to Transylvania, unaware that his journey is occuring on Walpurgisnacht. When a storm breaks, and he violently assaulted by hailstones, the traveller is driven into a tomb for shelter… and now he must spend the night with something not quite of this world.
To hear more about all of these books and my reasons for choosing them, you can listen again to my Weird Weather special here:
Sara has been working on seventeenth-century women’s lives for ten years. She was awarded a PhD from Loughborough University in 2010 for her work on women’s reproductive health (including menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage). She works as a lecturer in English at the same university.
John was born in Liverpool, England in 1978. His writing career began in 2003 when he collaborated with his wife Leah Moore on a proposal for a six issue mini series entitled Wild Girl. The proposal was accepted and the series was published by Wildstorm in 2004/05. Since then the duo have written many classic characters including Doctor Who (in The Whispering Gallery with artist Ben Templesmith), Sherlock Holmes (in two original mysteries for Dynamite Entertainment), and Dracula (their adaptation of which is now on several university reading lists). They currently write the series Black Shuck and Storm Warning for 2000 AD.
John’s interests in fortean phenomena, esoterica, folklore, philosophy, theology and horror have led to his writing articles and reviews for numerous magazines and periodicals including Fortean Times, Strange Attractor, The Daily Grail and SteamPunk Magazine. 2008 saw the release of his first full length book 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool, published by The History Press. His Lovecraftian Liverpool tale On The Banks of the River Jordan was published in 2014 in Ghostwoods Books’ Cthulhu Lives! anthology. This year sees the release of more short Weird Fiction stories from John appearing in several anthologies.
I’ll be chatting to John about comics, writing, weird history and more – and, of course, he’ll be sharing his Apocalypse Books selections.
Catch us on Saturday, 2-4pm, on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
Missed the show? You can catch it again here:
Tune in this Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. My guest this week will be the fantastic Gwyneth Jones.
Gwyneth Jones was born in Manchester, educated by the long-suffering nuns of the Sacred Heart, Blackley and at Notre Dame Grammar School Cheetham Hill. She is the author of many fantasy, horror novels and ghost stories for teenagers using the name Ann Halam, and several well regarded sf and fantasy novels and stories for adults: notably the Bold As Love series, and the Aleutian Trilogy. She has won the Arthur C. Clarke award (for Bold As Love); the Children of the Night award (for The Fear Man, as Ann Halam); the Tiptree award (for White Queen), two World Fantasy awards (for the story “The Grass Princess”, and for the collection Seven Tales and a Fable), the Philip K Dick award (for Life) and the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim award. She lives in Brighton with her husband, four intelligent goldfish and two cats called Ginger and Milo; she likes old movies, practicing yoga, and staring out of the window.
We’ll be talking about Gwyneth’s books and writing and, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for Apocalypse Books. So please join us on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University and a founding member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. He is the author of various books, including Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film (UWP, 2014), Digital Horror: Haunted Technologies, Network Panic and the Found Footage Phenomenon (co-edited with Linnie Blake; I.B. Tauris, 2015), Horror Film and Affect: Towards a Corporeal Model of Viewership (Routledge, 2016) and Horror: A Literary History (editor; British Library, 2016, forthcoming). He is the editor of the Horror Studies book series run by the University of Wales Press.
Join me this Saturday, 2-4pm, for Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester 106.6FM. My guest this week (in my second transatlantic interview!) will be Scott Thompson.
Award winning author, Scott Thompson, grew up in Georgia, USA, and it is the South that has inspired his stories. Through fiction he explores love, friendship, and family, and how tragedy and life events affect these relationships. Scott’s favourite poem is ‘A Rolling Stone’ by Robert W. Service. In this poem of freedom and exploration Service writes ‘I want to see it all’, and that sums of Scott’s life: he wants to see and do everything. This seeking has brought him to more than a few adventures that find their way into his fiction. What he’s discovered through his exploration is that there is more magic in the universe than we can imagine. But he truly believes that we’re offered glimpses into heaven almost daily if we’ll take the time to look, and through his book, Eight Days, he explores some of the glimpses that make it worth living.
Scott lives near Atlanta with his family. His work can be read in regional magazines, in his short stories, and in his first novel, Young Men Shall See. He’s also a founding editor at Grand Central Review.
I’ll be talking to Scott about his writing and his inspirations and, of course, he’ll be sharing his selections for Apocalypse Books.
Catch the show on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
On Easter Saturday, I decided to do a spring edition of Hannah’s Bookshelf (on North Manchester 106.6FM) – after all, the clocks were changing, the birds were singing, and I’d even had my first sighting of a Flymo. And what says springtime more than flowers? So the show was devoted to books with the names of flowers in the title. As promised, here are details of the books I featured on the show.
(Admittedly, by the time I was doing the show, it was pretty overcast, and I left the studio to howling winds and rain. But I didn’t let that deter me.)
Got any good suggestions for books with floral titles? Add them in the comments below!
Clare Allan’s debut novel tells the story of the eponymous Poppy, a young mother who is sent for mental health treatment at the Dorothy Fish day hospital, through the eyes of a fellow patient, N (the narrator). Poppy is dragged into a Kafkaesque world of bureaucratic nonsense, as she’s forced to prove she’s mad in order to prove she’s sane. We’re led through this somewhat surreal labyrinth by N, our unreliable but utterly compelling narrator, to the powerful and unsettling conclusion.
People often seem surprised when they find out that this is one of my favourite novels – I guess it isn’t really my usual thing, but I love Emma Orczy’s tale of the dashing defender of French aristos. Set in 1792, the novel tells the story of a mysterious man known only by the little scarlet flower that serves as his emblem. Although it’s a bit weird to be rooting for the let-them-eat-cake aristocracy, it’s the love triangle between the foppish Sir Percy Blackeney, his Marguerite and the masked superhero that really captivates.
In case you didn’t catch it on the radio, the author’s full name was Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orci. I apologize if my pronunciation was bit off.
Well… it wouldn’t be my radio show if I didn’t mention a werewolf or too. Andrea Cremer’s YA werewolf trilogy (which includes the sequels Wolfbane and Bloodrose) tells the story of Calla, the young alpha female of the Nightshade pack. Calla is a Guardian, sworn to serve the Keepers in their ancient battle with the Searchers… but is her world all that it seems? I really enjoyed this series – particularly the gradual unfolding of Calla’s dilemma. While it appears in the first book that this dilemma will be a love triangle, there’s a lot more complication to come in the sequels.
Orwell’s ‘savage and bitter book’ (according to Cyril Connolly) tells the story of Gordon Comstock, a man who ‘declares war’ on money (or rather, on the dependence on money). He quits his job as a copyeditor, moves into a grotty bedsit, and spends his time working a dead-end job and writing poetry (unsuccessfully). Gordon has a relationship with Rosemary, which is hindered by his lack of money – but also by the fact that he is a pretty unpleasant guy and behaves appallingly to her – and the romance of the ‘penniless’ existence soon wanes. Keep the Aspidistra Flying has its faults, but it’s still an interesting and challenging read.
It’s also interesting to look at the parallels between this book and 1984. Though they are very different books in a lot of ways, the two works share certain underlying themes that contribute to an overall sense of satire and critique that runs throughout Orwell’s work.
Another historical novel now… Dumas’s novel opens in 1672, and the murder of Johan and Cornelius de Witt by an angry mob. After this intense opening, the story takes place in the following eighteen months, when a competition to grow a black tulip is taking Haarlem by storm. A young man named Cornelius van Baerle looks like he might be about to achieve success, but he is abruptly thrown into prison. As Cornelius’s story unfolds, the connections between this and the murder of the de Witt brothers start to become clear. In the end, the elusive tulipa negra comes to stand for something bigger than itself, and the story of the competition is revealed to be a political allegory.
Okay… maybe one more werewolf before I finish… Although people might be more familiar with the TV adaptation (also written by McGreevy), Hemlock Grove was first published in 2012 (though it was already optioned for TV before this). The novel is set in a small town in Pennsylvania, where the closure of the local steel mill has created a vast gulf between the poor unemployed inhabitants and the rich Godfrey family who ‘own’ the town. The Godfrey family – glamorous matriarch Olivia, spoilt son Roman and disabled ‘monstrous’ daughter Shelley – have a dark secret, and are threatened by the arrival of the Rumanceks, a Romany mother and son who have secrets of their own. Throw into the mix a rogue werewolf picking off the town’s teens, rumours of sinister genetic experimentation at the Godfrey Institute, and the arrival of a monster-hunter, and… well… all manner of horror breaks loose.
To hear more about my thoughts on Hemlock Grove and the other floral-themed books featured in my springtime show, you can listen again here:
From magical places steeped in mysticism to evil foreboding places of unspeakable terror, the forest is a place of secrets, a place of knowledge, a place of death, and a place of life. But it is also a vulnerable place easily lost to the chainsaw and the drill. Our fascination with what may lie within the woods is an enduring one. Bewilder us, scare us, entertain us. Take us on a journey… into the woods.
What we want: Edgy, dark and weird fiction. Any interpretation of the theme is welcome – and we have no preconceptions about what ‘into the woods’ might mean. Any genre considered: dark fantasy, (sub)urban fantasy, Gothic, horror, sci fi, steampunk, cyberpunk, biopunk, dystopian, slipstream. We’re looking for original and fresh voices that challenge and unsettle. (And, please remember, we do not publish misogyny, misandry, homophobia, transphobia or racism.)
Submission Guidelines: Electronic submissions as .doc, .docx or .rtf attachments only. 12pt font, 1.5 or double spaced. Please ensure name, story title and email address are included on the attachment. Email submissions to Hic Dragones. Submissions are welcome from anywhere, but must be in English.
As it was International Women’s Day earlier this week, and we celebrated with a special afternoon show on NMFM, I thought I’d continue with one of the things I talked about on air on Tuesday. I’ll be running through some of the best books by women that have been selected in Apocalypse Books. I’ll be featuring some great Manchester women (both in terms of the selectors and the selected), and giving a flavour of some of the great titles listed in the Library at the End of Days.
Tune in on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online if you’re further afield.