E.R.Burrroughs, R.E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, Lin Carter or George R.R. Martin and a bit of pseudo sexism?

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, reviews on January 10th, 2014 by Craig

The winners are in each category:

Story teller

R.E. Howard
Leigh Brackett
Lin Carter
George R.R. Martin (modern)

Ability to inspire, to thrill and excite
R.E. Howard
Leigh Brackett
Lin Carter
George R.R. Martin (modern)

Consistency in plot, writing

Leigh Brackett
George R.R. Martin
R.E. Howard
Lin Carter
E.R.Burrroughs (modern)

I don’t want to seem like a George R.R. Martin basher because he is a very good writer and translates well on to the screen – I just don’t like modern fantasy very much. I can read Tim Powers for example but to me its pygmies sitting on the shoulders of giants. I probably don’t like the modern world either and it reflects on my liking of all things modern including writing.

I’d like to use  Brackett as the floating point, the only female among these writers.  I enjoyed the Martian Brackett more than her Skaith novels. I thought that they were very good, and at times really great. Having looked her up on wikipedia I fond she was an athletic tomboy and that’s no surprise. Ultimate respect to a woman working and excelling in a man’s world. I would have loved to meet her and I’m fairly certain she would have pasted me at volleyball.

In The Sword of Rhiannon, Brackett’s archaeologist Matt Carse enters the forgotten tomb of the Martian god Rhiannon and plunges into the Red Planet’s past. Vast oceans cover the land, legendary Sea-Kings rule from terraced palaces, there are heroes, anti heroines, slaves and loads of minor characters carrying swords and scowls around: In short, all the required elements for the juvenile mind. The language is at times superb, the pacing is great, the plotting accurate and my only criticism is really quite simple: Despite being an athletic tomboy Brackett was not a man. Ah ha you say – Politically incorrect, knuckle dragging chauvinist reveals inner soul. How can I state this offensive garbage when Brackett was more thoroughly steeped in the mores of American society – a friend of Bradbury and a lover of E.R. Burroughs – closer to the source of all this sword and sorcery fantasy than I will ever be?

The answer is quite simple and I rest my case with a paper called ‘Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Text’ in ‘Text & Talk’ Ed. Sarangi, Srikant.

The paper explores differences between male and female writing in a large subset of the British National Corpus covering a range of Genres in both fiction and non fiction. They found significant differences between male and female writing

I’m sure you don’t want to go too deeply into the paper but in simple terms the total number of nominals used by male and female authors is virtually identical but females use many more pronouns and males use many more noun specifiers. Also females exhibit greater usage of features identified by previous researchers as “involved”. Males exhibit greater usage of features which have been identified as “informational”.

It comes down to this: A female is likely to use ‘she’ and ‘her’ significantly more than a male writer. She’s also likely to go into reasons and emotions while a man, simple little fellow that he is, is likely to just tell you something straight.

On a more personal and intuitive level (I have intuitions) I noticed that while Brackett was superb in her description of certain aspects of war and savagery, when it actually came to fighting she lacked the Conan factor. I cannot recall a single example of Brackett reveling in the slaughter of hapless enemies or the delight in skewering someone on a sword.

This genuinely may have something to do with the functional parts of male and female anatomy and the influence this has on the more elevated thoughts in the unconscious. So, as a simple bloke if I was ever cast into one of these fantasy worlds and handed a sword I have no doubt that rather than swirl it above my head and shout ‘tally ho where is the heroine?’ I would lie down on the ground and cry in abject fear. However, in reading a fantasy novel I want the opponents to be ruthlessly slaughtered. Brackett just doesn’t want this, most likely because she’s a decent person and a girl.

In any case, Brackett – excellent genre authoress but not Howard or Burroughs.

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David A. Riley The Return

Posted in Hell, Horror, reviews on November 9th, 2013 by Craig

Mr. Fosset, making a brief appearance in this work by David A. Riley says “Dark, bleak, nihilistic stuff. Not the kind of thing to take to bed for a good night’s sleep.” Admirably summarizing this new work by a veteran author who many horror aficionados will have encountered in the legendary Pan Horror series and subsequent ‘best of’ collections. There is a reason why I mention’ best of’. Riley has produced some fine short stories and I was curious as to how his undoubted skill as a short story author would translate on the wider screen

The answer is very well. Fans of Grudge End, a horrible place full of horrible places, will lap this up. “Even in bright daylight the five-storey building looked dark, forbidding, and sordidly utilitarian.” – a good description of Riley’s bleak uncompromising prose – sparse, economical and clinically scary.

Riley has produced one of his marvelous anti-heroes in Gary Morgan. I won’t go too much into plot because a large part of this work is dependant on a slow build up of dark energies contained in the utterly mundane. Gary is not what he seems and the reader will be surprised that at the conclusion of this story you’ll find yourself drawn to a real sympathy with the character.

A thoroughly enjoyable read and I would ignore Mr. Fossett and start it late at night.. You’ll finish before dawn…I hope

Published by Blood Bound Books splendidly illustrated by Andrej Bartulovic and available from Amazon


The Return

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Filthy Creations #7 review

Posted in Hell, Horror, Published Works, reviews on July 8th, 2013 by Craig

Filthy Creations #7, edited and illustrated by author and illustrator, Rog Pile begins with The Wicket Man by Franklin Marsh a peculiarly English tale of a game of cricket gone spectacularly bizarre. As always Franklin Marsh drives with enthusiasm and humour to a dark but incredibly funny conclusion. The Architect’s Table by Penni McLaren Walker is a subtle and disturbing story of a draughtsman whose PC breaks down in the middle of a job. He has the fortune to find an old drawing board and for a while revels in the old days when pencil and paper were the thing. Unfortunately, the paper that goes with the table produces some brilliant inspirational drawings and some rather awful consequences. A well written tale from a relatively new author.

D F Lewis provides two short shorts -All Endings Are Happy and The Final Climax both excellent examples of the absurd.

Shapeshifter by Charles H Gallagher gives pointers to those weary people who wish to take their life. The sad vacuum of the living may be bad enough but perhaps worse awaits. In Mycelium by Robert Mammone, Tommy discovers a fairy ring in the forest but like some relationships, mushrooms can be poisonous. In this case, tragedy awaits the whole family when the mushrooms get mean.

Filthy Creations #7 presents the second episode in two new serialisations: Sendings (a.k.a Moloch’s Children) by David A Riley. And also The Death Tableau. by Craig Herbertson.

This is perhaps the best Filthy Creations to date not least because of the superb illustrations by Rog Pile.

Filthy Creations #7 costs £3.00 including p&p but is free for review.


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Filthy Creations 7

Posted in Hell, Horror, Published Works on July 5th, 2013 by Craig

Filthy Creations7 edited and illustrator by the notorious author and pencil man,  Rog Pile presents the second episode in a major new serialisation:  Sendings (a.k.a Moloch’s Children by David A Riley.

Also this issue, part two of  my novel, The Death Tableau.

Filthy Creations 7 cover

Both David A Riley and I had our first stories appear in the now legendary . Pan Books of Horror and of course David has gone on to establish himself as a major force in the horror world

Short stories in this issue:

The Architect’s Table by Penni McLaren Walker
Mycelium by Robert Mammone
Shapeshifter by Charles H Gallagher
All Endings Are Happy and The Final Climax by D F Lewis
The Wicket Man by Franklin Marsh

There are nine mono illustrations plus a colour cover by Rog Pile.

Filthy Creations 7 costs £3.00 including p&p but is free for review. Go to this link to immediately purchase this small but beautiful magazine which has already sold out its first run:


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Screaming Dreams

Posted in Hell, Horror, Published Works on June 5th, 2013 by Craig

Delighted to announce that Screaming Dreams are going to publish their classic “The Screaming Book of Horror” in some dandy new formats.

The collection featuring numerous stunningly good horror writers also includes my story ‘The Iron Cross.’

Further developments to come.

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The Ninth Black Book of Horror – Encouraging review

Posted in Hell, Horror, reviews on April 21st, 2013 by Craig


Very encouraging review of The Ninth Black Book of Horror here



Posted in Hell, Horror, reviews on January 3rd, 2013 by Craig

terror tales of the cotswaldsAs one would expect from a cast of award winning authors and new contenders to that title, this offering from the Terror Tales series edited by Paul Finch is well worth a look. Beginning with Alison Littlewood, who sets the superior tone of most of the collection, we have ‘In The Quiet And In The Dark’ where young Steph comes from out of town to Willow Cottage, Long Compton and instantly hates it. The horrible prospect of the coming term at a new school is mitigated by a chance meeting with new friends and the fond hope of a `liaison’ with Kix, a handsome enigmatic youth who seems to take a shine to her. The young people have a strange way of talking and Steph wonders about their connection to the stone circles…. It’s a well written piece echoing many of the motifs that follow – strong, character based tales which include such delights as the flesh-eating fiend of St. John’s, the vengeful spirit of Little Lawford and the satanic murders at Meon Hill. Stuff to freeze the cockles of the horror fan’s cold heart.

As a man with a fairly old fashioned taste in horror I was struck at times by the high quality of the prose which sometimes competed with the terror invoked. This may sound contradictory but there were moments when I had to do a little too much thinking for my tastes. However, the modern horror fan will have no such quibbles and there was enough variety to please the most discerning.

Highlights for me were Reggie Oliver’s Charm a delightful tale of the degeneration of a Hooray Henry – impeccably told – and Thana Niveau’s ‘The Scouring’   a savage psychological drama about the White Horse Of Uffington. Thana, who never fails to inflict a suitable degree of pathos in her awful tales,  is one of the best new female writers in the genre.

Ramsey Campbell in ‘The Horror Under Warrendown’ and Paul Finch in ‘Bog Man’ both pack a powerful punch in tales that seem perhaps to evoke a darker sense of ancient history than some other contributors: No surprises really given their maturity and scope. John Llewellyn Probert in ‘A Taste of Honey, A Horror of Stone’ also scores a big winner as he contrives to extract the maximum possible horror from a simple piece of yellow Cotswold stone. It would be churlish to dismiss the other stories, all strongly written and conceptually perceptive.

Interspersed with fascinating historical snippets of truly terrible history (I just love this stuff) there is something here for everyone. I haven’t yet read any of the other collections in this series but certainly aim to redress that.

Available from most sources and also http://www.grayfriarpress.com/catalogue/cotswolds.html which is well worth a look in any case


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Soap 7 review – over a decade late

Posted in Hell, Reviews, SF Dystopia, SF Influences on January 3rd, 2013 by Craig

The wonders of the internet. While trying to trace a pirate download of my SF story “Soap 7″ I discovered that  it had a very favourable review in 1991.

You can read it in the The Mouth of Sauron (III) June 1991 one  the now virtually defunct zines of the time.


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Heaven Maker – the strategic game

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, Hell on January 2nd, 2013 by Craig

Anyone purchasing ‘The Heaven Maker and other Gruesome Stories’ might be interested to know about this website



“Heaven Maker is a stunning, high-octane, sci-fi strategy game, developed and published by Smite Entertainment”

My computer slows  down and dies when I try to go anywhere near it but I’ve no doubt the least electrical device owned by young people can operate it easily enough. I’m still kind of stunned to think that a paragraph from The Heaven Maker inspired the artist, Theo Stylianides, and as a consequence no doubt the entire virtual universe – especially as this is the kind of thing I would have killed for as a kid:  http://sttheo.cgsociety.org/gallery/894055/

As a bumbling scrawler myself  I take my hat off to Theo Stylianides but readers should be warned that the universe of my Heaven Maker is very different from his, and much more prosaic and earthly.

What is interesting though is that I originally conceived of The Heaven Maker’ as a novel and tried very hard to write an accurate description of Hell and the angels of Hell – I found that impossible and now along comes this – perhaps an indication that certain ideas are better served by other media- brilliant.



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The Ninth Black Book: Editor Charles Black – reviewed

Posted in Hell, Horror, reviews on December 12th, 2012 by Craig






John Llewellyn Probert – The Anatomy Lesson
Craig Herbertson – The Mall
Simon Bestwick – Salvaje
Gary Fry -Pet
David Williamson – Ashes To Ashes
Anna Taborska – The Apprentice
Sam Dawson – Life Expectancy
Paul Finch – What’s Behind You?
Gary Power – Ben’s Best Friend
Thana Niveau – The Things That Aren’t There
Tom Johnstone – Bit On The Side
Marion Pitman – Indecent Behaviour
Kate Farrell – His Family
John Forth – A Song, A Silence
Marc Lyth – The Man Who Hated Waste
David A. Riley – Swan Song

Well, it’s horror on horror here with no punches spared and several right on the jaw. The Ninth Black Book edited by Charles Black is not for the squeamish. It begins with John Llewellyn Probert’s The Anatomy Lesson and I almost wish it didn’t. The author is at his most sickeningly nasty when he deals with medical subjects and this story of a twisted anatomist meeting another ‘entertainer’ is only marred by the impossibility of identifying with the main protagonist when the denouement arrives – which is in itself a testament to just what a damned good horror writer John Llewellyn Probert is.

The Mall takes a step into the commercialized Hell of Christmas while Gary Fry’s  Pet deals with a rather incestuous family and their…pet.  Simon Bestwick’s Salvaje is a well constructed story of the facisistic franquistas picking on the wrong girl. David Williamson, veteran of Pan Horror come out with a good tale of a man falling to bits in Ashes To Ashes and demonstrates that the later Pan Horror authors definitely still have the mojo. Anna Taborska in The Apprentice gives us an accomplished effort with a man who is clever at making bread and dishing out unwarranted violence. A short story I particularly liked is Sam Dawson’s Life Expectancy, which has an old phone bringing a bleak message to a poor lady.

As one might expect Paul Finch’s What’s Behind You? is a definite highlight. What I like about Finch is that he often tries to stretch the boundaries of the form and, in this case, one is vaguely lulled into a pattern before a moment of real psychological horror creeps up on you, after which, the denouement shocks again with its unexpectedness. Would make a very good short film.

Gary Power’s Ben’s Best Friend provides a warning leaflet about picking your friends carefully, a good story of external terror but for me Thana Niveau’s The Things That Aren’t There  is a standout piece of brilliant childhood horror that really captures the essence of inner terror reminiscent of the kind of fear that Ray Bradbury so eloquently unveiled in his early work.

Tom Johnstone’s Bit On The Side and John Forth’s A Song, A Silence are enjoyable, creative and well told but as with Marion Pitman’s Indecent Behaviour seem to lack a little credibility – although in the latter, being haunted by a hand was rather neat. His Family by Kate Farrell provided a sickly disquieting image of hospital life but I felt the ending was almost unnecessary. Marc Lyth’s  The Man Who Hated Waste is short and humorous.

Finally, the veteran, David A. Riley, provides us with Swan Song, another highlight of this edition. Riley’s work has the bleakness of P.K. Dick and he is the master of the almost Ballardian antihero. No holds barred here in a grim unrelenting tale of three old nasties about to have a last evil fling – with unexpected and awful consequences.