c O N T E N T S
Along came a psychotic Spider: Alice Cooper
In the Name of the Devil
Australian Dark Culture Magazine Issue #2—September 2008 ISSN: 1835-9248 A Brimstone Press publication
Staff Editor-in-chief Angela Challis Managing Editor Graphic design
Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Staff Writer Gary Kemble
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Top 5 Prosthetics
2 Black mail
31 HorrorScope reviews
3 Undead backbrain
39 Four Colour Black
9 Waltzing Macabre
45 Dark Deeviations
9 Monster of the Month
46 Prize Pool
12 King of Horror
13 Page thirteen Pinup
48 Australia’s Dark Past
15 Morbid medicine
51 Horrors in Store
15 Black and white
52 Black roads, dark highways
21 Black Cauldron
57 AHWA: raising hell
28 Shades of grey
62 Criminal Noir
30 Dark Flix
64 Readers rant!
60 Soul Mates
Leigh Blackmore & Margi Curtis, Craig Bezant, Dr Carissa Borlase, David Carroll, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Dave Cunning, Bella Dee, James Doig, Stephanie Gunn, Talie Helene, Robert Hood, AD John, Gary Kemble, Troy King, Andrew McKiernan, Chuck McKenzie, Tony Owens, Josephine Pennicott, Vivienne Read, Miranda Siemienowicz, Mark SmithBriggs, Matthew Tait, Brenton Tomlinson, Kyla Ward, Rocky Wood, and Marty Young. Disclaimer The statements and opinions expressed in Black Australian Dark Culture magazine reflect the views of the individual authors. The publisher and its servants will not be held liable for these opinions. Publication of advertisements does not necessarily imply the endorsement by the publisher for the advertised product or service. Copyright and images All material printed herein remains the copyright of Brimstone Press or the attributed author. Unless stated, images are supplied by Morguefile, Dreamstime, and Stock Xchng agencies, or the relevant studio/publisher/ creator. Images are used with permission and remain the copyright of the image provider.
Black Black books Dear Eds, Kudos for the new mag—I have bought it from issue #1 and am very proud to see a great Aussie mag to rival some of the others on the market. I was especially impressed by HorrorScope and the fantastic, well-written, and extensive book reviews. Out of the list in issue #2, I have now ordered four of the books and am very excited about getting them! I feel as if we are a bit isolated in Australia with our horror/fantasy genre at mainstream bookstores and usually get my direction of what to choose from forums etc. (Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney is an awesome place for great titles, though). I am really happy to see that I now have a new place to look and will continue to do so. Please stick around; I hope to see many more issues! Carmen M.
Despite that minor error, I would like to tell you all that I am enjoying the magazine greatly and especially enjoy the Dark Deeviations section, discussng Witchcraft (or neo paganism) is great as many people do not understand much about it (for which we can blame Christian propaganda! *shakes fist* lol). It would be awesome if you could get the Lovecraftian mythos out there (as it is rare to meet others who know anything about him— quite scary actually!) Will you guys be covering the events like short horror film festivals etc.? Adios, Jake B. Ed. The Dragonball Z caption didn’t slip through the cracks. One of the more adventurous sub-editors thought he would have a laugh with a bit of obscure humour at the expense of two very fine Japanese entries into modern pop culture. Needless to say, we fed one of his eyeballs to our resident imp, Grik. That sub-editor won’t be inflicting his lame humour on anyone else for a while.
Greetings Black Friends,
How are we today? Me? well I am alright, I guess. I am enjoying reading your magazine (which I have been following since issue #1, might I add). However, I would like to point out that in one of the photos of the Supanova expo had a comment about a Dragonball Z contest. Whoever it was had ‘Ha-doken’ written down, which belongs to Streetfighter! (Jeebies, I am sounding like a nerd!) but the use of ‘kamehameha’ would have been more appropriate. Unless it was intentional, then I maybe looking like a numbnut right now...
I don’t normally subscribe to a mag that I have not read first, but with Black, I took a plunge into the murky deep and subscribed as the title grabbed me. “Black” (dark and disturbing was my first thought), and also the interview with the late, great Heath Ledger. As I flicked thru the mag, I knew it was going to rock and finally take a look into the darker culture of Australia, the taboo topics, and the awesome writers and film makers. I was hooked and was hanging out for the next issue.
Then the second issue arrived in my letter box and when I saw you did an interview with the Winchester brothers from Supernatural— yummo—an insight to the actors that play the brothers and about the show—freaken awesome. The interviews with Fiona Horne and Wendy Rule were fantastic. I would love to see more of the Black Cauldron. And in parting, all I can say is BRING ON THE NEXT ISSUE! Blessings, Melissa O.
My Bloody 13th Dear BLACK mag, Thank you for issue #2, which had a wonderful article on the TV show Supernatural. It is a wonderful TV show with some great horror aspects along with a gentler mix of brotherly interactions. I appreciated and enjoyed your printed interviews with the two stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki along with some great pics from the show. I also enjoyed the article on the recent SUPANOVA held in Sydney, which I also attended ... it was fun reading and seeing your coverage of the event. I hope you will cover the two new movies that Jensen and Jared have been involved with during their summer breaks—Jensen has starred in My Bloody Valentine 3D and Jared is in Friday the 13th. Both are due for release in Australia early next year. I would love to read something about these in your magazine. I am spreading the word and telling all my Supernatural friends about your magazine. Regards, Jenny
Have a comment on something you read in Black? Maybe a suggestion for articles you’d like to see in the magazine? Have a problem that only we can help with (we have friends in low places)? Then Black Mail us! Tell us all about it! We may even publish it! Share what’s on your mind at:
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Jewel is a gem Hey there, I wanted to thank you so much for your mini article on Jewel Staite. There aren’t many magazines out there that would mention her, let alone have an entire section for her. Also thanking you for the Supernatural interviews, walking into my local newsagent and finding Jared and Jensen waiting for me made my day. I thought that maybe the article on flash mobs lasted a little too long, but who am I to judge? I truly love your magazine and I think you should be proud that your mag is able to appeal to so many different types of people, not just ‘goths’ or ‘emos’ (this coming from someone who really doesn’t belong to any type in particular). For a future article, you should definately take a look at the upcoming film Repo! The Genetic Opera directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. I think it would definitely suit you guys, and maybe if it got some exposure in Australia, it might get a theatrical release! Just a suggestion. Please keep up the good work. Erin B. Ed. Thanks, guys, for the tips on the upcoming movies. We’ll be sure to check them out. We’ve already interviewed the very versatile Aussie talent Leigh Whannell for issue #4 regarding his involvement with Saw and Dying Breed, so we’ll definitely have some excellent film coverage next time around. Who knows, we may be able to catch either Jared or Jensen, too!
C u lt u r e
Ghosts on film Robert Hood
he Floorboards creak underfoot. Outside, a wind howls, symbolically signalling the presence of the restless dead within this old dark house. A woman in an old-fashioned dress drifts silently down the stairs toward me. Her face is hauntingly beautiful, though pale and stern. Now’s my chance. I raise the camera. Later, after I stop running, I examine the result: she’s become a pale stain against indistinct patterns of light and shadow.
Fortunately, ghosts have had better luck in motion pictures. In fact, movies and ghostliness seem to go hand-in-hand. Early pioneers such as Georges Méliès loved to make devilish phantoms the subject of their short films because it allowed them to experiment with ‘trick photography’. Méliès’ La Revenant [aka The
What is it with ghosts on film anyway? In general, ‘real life’ spectres don’t seem very photogenic. Ever since the first camera was invented, people have managed to capture what they claim to be supernatural images on film. A plethora of vague and controversial snaps exist to convince only those determined to be convinced (the most famous example being the 1936 pic of the “Brown Lady” ghost of Raynham Hall). Yet no matter how often ghosts get their portraits taken, the results tend to look a little like flash reflection, double exposure, or natural simulacra of some kind.
Apparition] (1903), for example, features an old man who experiences poltergeist activity and tries to embrace a beautiful young woman— who suddenly turns into an ugly crone. To Méliès and his followers, it was clear from the beginning that film was an ideal medium for making ghosts seem real. After all, movie images and ghosts are both phantasmal. As a result, ghosts haunt the history of cinema. There have been many classic ghost films over the years, from earlier haunted-house types
such as The Haunting (1963) to the modern, more viral spectres of J-Horror. In fact, it was J-Horror in the form of Ring and its aesthetic progeny that brought about something of a renaissance in the genre at the beginning of the millennium. Now there are cinematic spooks everywhere, more than at any other time. No longer diaphanous projections, current cinematic ghosts have become physical presences indistinguishable from the living, at least until they do something unnatural and turn monstrous, or they are raging phantoms that twitch and flicker like unsteady images on a screen. In an interesting ‘realworld’ aside, supposedly genuine ghosts have appeared in Alex Monty Canawati’s silent, black-and-white biopic, Return to Babylon (due for release later this year). The movie was shot on location in the estates of the deceased stars, and when he examined the film closely during post-production, Canawati noticed that phantom faces and odd morphing effects had inexplicably appeared throughout, though no one had tampered with the stock. You just can’t keep an old movie star from hogging the limelight, can you? Robert Hood is one of Australia’s leading ghost writers. He is haunted by his own tales.
The Chaos Crystal Jennifer Fallon brings her bestselling Tide Lords series to a heart-stopping conclusion. The Tide Lords have gathered, determined to find out how to kill an immortal. Before they can do this, however, they must find the Chaos Crystal. With every immortal on Amyrantha searching for the crystal, the stakes are high …
Procession of the Dead A dark and gritty urban fantasy. Quick-witted and cocksure, Capac Raimi arrives in the City determined to make his mark. As he learns the tricks of his new trade he looks set to become a promising new gangster. Then he crosses paths with The Cardinal, and his life changes forever.
Available December 2008 For the latest news about authors and books, visit www.voyageronline.com.au or sign up for the Voyager e-newsletter at www.harpercollins.com.au/Members/Newsletters
23/10/08 4:02:14 PM
T h e d a r ke r s i d e s of . . . r e d i p S a e m a c Along 4
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
ithout Alice Cooper, there may never have been bands such as KISS, Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, Slipknot, or Rob Zombie. Alice Cooper is the god of shock rock, having played the theatrically macabre character of â€˜Alice Cooperâ€™ on stage for almost forty years. The iconic hard rocker, who pioneered the concept of the rock concert as theatre, is back to his best with Along Came a Spider (SPV Records), his 25th studio album.
By Shane Jiraiya Cummings
In many ways, Along Came a Spider is both a return to Alice’s theatrical best and a legacy of his first (and legendary) solo album released in 1975, Welcome to my Nightmare. In fact, a thread could almost be drawn to Alice’s first band name in the late 60s, The Spiders, but he denies the web stretches back that far. “No, there’s no connection there at all. In fact, I didn’t even really think about that until after we were half way through the album. 6
The funny thing is that when the do the Along Came a Spider stage show next year, I’m sure there will be a giant spider web behind us that will do a lot of different things. When we were The Spiders, we used to have a glow in the dark spider web behind us, but that was as theatrical as we used to get—that was all we could afford!” Alice said. Although stopping short of calling this album his magnum opus, Alice said “it was time”
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
for an album like Along Came a Spider and its eponymous serial killer anti-hero main character. “I wrote the story a long time ago, and when I went back and reviewed the story, I thought the character was really complex. Spider has a lot of complicated personality problems. He’s not just a Hannibal Lecter, thinking he’s smarter than everyone. He’s also got problems—he can’t kill when he falls in love with one of his
victims and he has a religious epiphany right in the middle of his spree. And then at the end, you hear him go ‘we couldn’t have done any of this, we have been in this cell for 28 years’. So the audience is left with ‘well, was this whole thing just in his diary?’ In other words, did all of this never really happen?” Ambiguity is Alice’s playground. Unlike many storytellers of today, Alice trusts in his audience’s intelligence and allows them to fill in the imaginative blanks, which could go some way to explain his enduring appeal. “What you really want to do in any piece of art is to attack the audience’s imagination—literally make them use their imaginations. Don’t spell it out for them. Give them all the situations and let them figure out what happened because everyone will have a different story, and that’s good. That means I made them think a little bit. I would rather give them a story and let them mull it over.” Playing the role of Spider did not give Alice any empathy for serial killers, but it did give him a newfound appreciation of the dark side of human nature—and the need for the good to triumph over evil. “We all have a love affair with fictitious villains. We like our Hannibal Lecters, our Jokers, our Darth Vaders. None of those pieces of literature would be anything without those great antiheroes. At the same time, we absolutely hate the Charlie Mansons, the Jeffrey Dahmers— the guys that really did it. There is no way of supporting them but for some reason we like supporting our fictitious villains, probably because we know they don’t exist. So we can make them as dastardly, dark, and insane as we want to. When I was creating Spider, I wanted to invent a really interesting guy. I think you will feel guilty liking him. Here he is, picking out people at random and killing them, wrapping them in silk, and stealing their leg. How insane is that? Yet you sit there and think ‘for some reason, I like this guy’.” Alice has been used to playing dastardly onstage ‘other halves’ for nearly four decades, and he says good must always win, even when the bad guy’s name is Alice Cooper. “It’s a morality play. Alice is the villain and
he does all these bad things but what happens in the end? They go ‘ok, we need to cut your head off now’. They do a public execution of Alice—they either hang him or electrocute him, and what is the very next thing that happens? He comes back in white top hat and tails, sings ‘School’s Out’, and everything is okay. He comes back almost like salvation. You sort of forget that he was such as bad guy.” Alice believes the staged death of his evil twin needs to be “really, really graphically good” to get that true sense of justice for the audience.
Morrison’s, and I kept thinking, in order to be Alice Cooper, how am I gonna be this guy all the time? It’s going to kill me. When they all died, I finally realised there has to be a separation. There has to be a point where Alice lives on stage, I live off stage.
“When I do the hanging or the guillotine, I go with the best guys that build the guillotine, the best guys that know how to do the hangings, and know that this has to be so real that the audience will actually gasp. Once in a while, I get people who are actually crying. I see people bawling in the audience saying ‘no, don’t do that’ and I laugh because, c’mon, I’ll be back.”
“I am the total antithesis of Alice Cooper. I’ve been married 32 years. I’ve never cheated on my wife. I go to church on Sunday with my family. I teach Bible study on Wednesday mornings, sometimes. But when I go on stage, I get to be Alice Cooper, and I get to play this character who is the exact opposite of me. He is arrogant and vicious. It is kind of refreshing.”
He calls himself a “stone cold professional” when he sees the audience in distress, keeping his amusement to himself.
With such a flamboyant on-stage persona through which to express his dark side, Alice says he is “extremely stress free” in his down time.
“I kind of enjoy it—the fact that somebody cares about Alice so much that they are taking it so seriously. Half of the audience, I want them to be laughing their heads off. The other half are really involved in the story. I keep forgetting there are actually people who believe in wrestling.” Playing himself on stage wasn’t always so easy, Alice admits, particularly back in the late 60s when he was just starting out. “There was that real grey area when I was an alcoholic. Who were the first people I meet in LA? The Doors. So I had Jim Morrison as a big brother. And then Jimi Hendrix, and then Keith Moon, and then Janis Joplin. All of my big brothers and sisters were alcoholics, drug addicts—and extreme. They all died at 27 years old. My image is more extreme than Jim
“All of my ducks are pretty much in a row—with my wife, my kids, my family—everybody is in great shape and doing fine. Maybe that is what gives me the freedom to play Alice and really go for it. I think Anthony Hopkins is like that, too. He is basically a beach bum that can do Shakespeare. When he puts on the Hannibal Lecter thing, he becomes the scariest human being on the planet. He finds something in there that is part him, part Lecter, but I guarantee you, that night when he goes home, he leaves Hannibal Lecter on the set. You have to learn to do that.” Alice has been the inspiration for a generation of shock rockers like Marilyn Manson and Wednesday 13, but he insists there is no competitive rivalry between him and these younger performers.
“They’re all friends of mine. I have gotten to know them, and Rob Zombie, and people like that. If they were to come to me and ask how to get that longevity, I would say look at Ozzy [Osbourne], look at Iggy [Pop], look at [Aerosmith’s] Steven Tyler. The one thing we all have in common is that we all have a lot of great songs. Songs are the gasoline that runs us. If you don’t have those songs, you are going to be a puppet show and over very quickly. If you can get ten hit songs that are going to live for 20 or 30 years, you’ll be a legend.” n
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
Along Came a Spider, Alice Cooper’s 25th studio album, is on sale now.
The tenth stage
he genre of Grand Guignol takes its name from Le Théâtre du GrandGuignol, which operated in Paris from 1897 to 1962. The performances were characterised by graphic gory realism and sophisticated psychological playwriting—usually with moral detachment. While Hammer Horror films bumped Grand Guignol off the stage, this hugely influential genre is sneaking back into popular culture thanks to theatre companies like Thrillpeddlers, and Tim Burton’s cinematic adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd. Enter Melbourne cabaret duo The Tenth Stage, who have created a show around their three albums—the self-titled debut, Tales From the Crypt, and Grand Guignol. Chief lyricist Roberto Massaglia explains, “Grand Guignol is the equivalent of going to watch a horror
movie, but at the theatre. I wish there were more shows like that, but unfortunately there are very few. This form of theatre disappeared, but because of the aspects of storytelling in The Tenth Stage, we wanted to revive Grand Guignol. These days, especially in Melbourne, there’s a lot of musicals and very few plays. But I’m sure if there was a revival of this type of theatre, people would just run in flocks!” Exploring true crime territory, Australian horrors have proven just as fascinating as old world terrors. Roberto provides overview of the song Banquet for 8. “It’s a true story—very well documented. Eight people escaped from Macquarie Prison. They were surrounded by thick forest; they had to walk a fair way to reach inhabited areas. On the way, they didn’t have any food, so a guy called Alexander Pierce started killing. A couple of guys ran back because they were afraid of being eaten. Eventually, only two were left.
They were checking on each other, trying not to fall asleep in front of the campfire, because there was only one axe. When one fell asleep, Alexander Pierce axed him, and he ate him. He went back to the prison, he told the truth, and they didn’t believe him. Then somebody else decides he wants to run away with Pierce—because he made it, he disappeared for a few months. They don’t get very far because Alexander Pierce must have developed a taste for human flesh. This time they actually hanged him, dismembered his body, and apparently his skull is in some Philadelphia museum.” Roberto’s partner in cabaret crime, John Von Ahlen, chimes in, “The Tenth Stage is a history lesson—a musical commentary. There are enough atrocities in history; we’ll never run out of material. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but that’s a fact.” The Tenth Stage will be joining cabaret and burlesque performers at Euchronia—a NeoVictorian Year’s End Ball, to be held at Trades Hall on New Years Eve in Melbourne. With steampunk installation artists embellishing the hall and a battery of DJs cranking out new romantic, gothic fusion, electro, EBM, and industrial tunes—fill your dance card for the ultimate in anachronistic chic? Talie Helene is a freelance journalist, creative writer and musician, staff writer for Zero Tolerance Magazine, and news editor for the AHWA.
Monster of the month Chupacabra
iterally the ‘Goat Sucker’ (in Spanish), the Chupacabra is a nasty critter that haunts Latin American communities and drains livestock of blood. Eyewitnesses have been spotting the creature since 1990, and it has subsequently been reported as far north as Maine, USA, and as far south as Chile. The Chupacabra is supposedly a reptillian creature the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from the neck down to the base of the tail. Given the lack of concrete evidence, the creature is classified as a cryptid (urban legend). Despite it’s potentially non-existent nature, the Chupacabra has been blamed for dozens of encounters and thousands of lifestock deaths. Some alleged sightings of the Chupacabra have been traced to coyotes that had lost their fur coats (from mange).
Appetite for destruction By Gary Kemble
ou can draw a line from John Birmingham’s latest techno-thriller back through time, back beyond 9/11, the nuclear proliferation of the 80s, to Stephen King, sitting in front of his typewriter in the mid-70s, thinking about the oil crisis and Patty Hearst and staring at a homily tacked to the wall: “Once in every generation the plague will fall among them”.
“I think The Stand was a very important novel, at least in popular fiction terms,” Birmingham said. “The Stand was important for me personally because I think it was the first book I ever bought with my own money, and I loved it desperately. “I think I read it four times the summer that I bought it and I wanted to write that book. “I was really very jealous of Stephen King for having come up with it. “As a teenager, I made a number of ill-advised and ultimately humiliating attempts to write my own version of The Stand, which I’ve put in storage in State Library down in Sydney on open access so anybody can go see it. “Hopefully it will inspire baby authors because they’ll read it and go, Jesus Christ, this guy’s no good—he’s a complete dropkick.” And Without Warning—Birmingham’s homage to King’s apocalyptic vision—is proof that a teenage ‘dropkick’ can turn themselves into a world-class writer. Birmingham’s ripping read about a world writhing on the brink of destruction after a mysterious energy wave wipes out the population of the United States (and large chunks of Canada and Central America for good measure) couldn’t have come at a better time. 10
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
John Birmingham Appetite for destruction
With global warming, economic meltdown and the increasingly brutal ‘war on terror’ means doomsday is payday for writers with an appetite for destruction.
Without Warning may not be a laugh-a-minute for its protagonists, but Birmingham certainly had a hell of a time putting them through it.
“If you look at the last time these end-of-theworld-type stories were popular it was in the 1970s when you had similar social and political conditions,” Birmingham said. “There was concern about potential economic and political decay in the West, you had a reasonably carnivorous-looking geo-strategic challenger in the old Soviet Union and ... of course, we have our own scary unique conditions today with the economic meltdown in the US and all the ongoing kerfuffle with fuckwits like Bin Laden. “Someone actually emailed me or PMed me at [his blog Cheeseburger Gothic] the other day and said, how did you organise the meltdown in the American financial system, it fits in really well with your book. I said I didn’t do it, nobody saw me, you can’t prove anything. “The interesting thing is my American publishers, I wiped them all out in the book but they love it, they absolutely love it, to the point where they’re flying me over in February for a very expensive tour.” Birmingham said a recent meeting with the managers of Borders book shops confirmed the fact that this is a definite trend, as evinced by books such as The Road and Max Brooks’ World War Z and films such as Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead. “They were saying that escapist literature is very, very popular at the moment and they think the reason is people are just turning away from the world of real things because real things just aren’t all that fun at the moment,” he said.
“There’s an enormous amount of fun because the book’s got pirates and ninjas and soldiers and assassins and spies and heaps and heaps of explodey goodness,” he said. “But there’s also a thought experiment in the middle of it which is, what would the world be like if America wasn’t there? “And the reason I was asking that was because, since the invasion of Iraq there has been this tremendously violent upwelling of antiAmerican feeling, and I can understand where a lot of it comes from but I also think a lot of it’s just toxic and irrational. “The book for me was an opportunity to work through that old Chinese curse: be careful what you wish for, it may come to pass.” Without Warning kicks off in March 2003, with US forces preparing to invade Iraq. “2003 was specifically chosen because I would mark that as the period when all of the sympathetic and even positive feelings people had about America after 9/11 just turned back on themselves and went bad,” Birmingham said. “So from a thematic point of view, that was a very good place to start it. “There’s also certain narrative reasons for doing it, like you have a quarter of a million Americans fully armed and in uniform out of the US, so they don’t get swept up in the wave, and also by putting it there, it allowed me to use a lot of real-world material. “One of the things I really loved about The Stand, as I did about almost all of King’s books actually, is despite the fact that they were
fantastical and unbelievable in many ways, he filled them full of real-world artefacts. “You read a lot of novels, particularly genre novels, and people watch TV shows or they read newspapers for instance and they’re made up. Of course, the novels are made up, but why make up the name of a newspaper that your character’s reading? Why not just have them read a proper newspaper? “It settles the reader into the story and gives them a great sense of familiarity, and when you’re dealing with fantastic things I think that’s really important. “And so, having put it in the week before the Iraq war, why on Earth would I make up a US President? If you want a venal, bumbling, cloth-eared arrogant dimwit as your US President—you have the perfect candidate sitting in the White House already. Just let him do his stuff.”
Shark attack One particular real-world artefact stands out—Greg Norman’s $70 million super-yacht. “I saw an article about his yacht five or six years ago when it pulled into Sydney and I thought gee, I wish I had a big boat like that, and through the wonder of fiction, I could,” he said. “The wonder of fiction and the wonder of Google actually, because one of the great things about the modern world is that you just need to pull up the Google images page and you can see what the inside of Greg Norman’s yacht looks like. “It means that when you describe certain rooms or corridors you get that great Freddy Forsythe effect where they’re real. “If you’d been lucky enough to be on Greg Norman’s yacht you will recognise it in the
pages of Without Warning. “Again, it’s just another way of helping ground the reader in what would otherwise be a kind of unbelievable story.”
Secret document Rather than King’s super-flu or Brooks’ zombie apocalypse, Birmingham has opted for a bizarre “energy wave”, which turns the good people of North America (and anyone else who strays too near) into puddles of green goo. Birmingham said the inexplicable nature of the phenomenon made the book easier to write in some ways because, being inexplicable, he doesn’t have to explain it. “I actually know what the wave is, and when I sat down to write the book, I wrote myself a little secret document which is hidden away where no-one will ever see it, just explaining to me what the wave is, and what it does, and where it originated, and that means that if I go through the story I don’t sort of have contradictory effects, I can always go back to my secret document. I just test what I’m writing against it,” he said. “But having said that, the wave is what Hitchcock used to call a MacGuffin—it’s just the thing at the start of the story that sets everyone’s narrative train in motion. “Once it happens, it almost just sits in the background. It’s not like a 1950s movie where you have a lot of guys in lab coats and a sexy big-haired science chick who does a lot of
reading, standing next to them, in front of the wave going, ‘Hmm, yes, let’s flick the machine that goes ping at it and see what happens’. And then all of a sudden, through the power of science or X-rays or something, they suddenly reveal what it is and it’s all solved. “The energy wave slams into the world, takes away all the Americans and a lot of Canadians and Mexicans as collateral damage and then no-one can figure out what it is and so it’s actually narratively in those terms not that important. Its job is done within the first couple of pages of the book.”
With the lot While Without Warning is a homage to King, Birmingham has dedicated the tome to “the Burgers”—the writer’s comrades-in-arms who have rallied to the cause via Cheeseburger Gothic (http://birmo.journalspace.com). “The Burgers actually helped a lot because a lot of them are ex-military and some of them are ex-police or serving cops or military so I found with them that I could throw research questions at them on certain topics,” he said. “For example, there’s a bit in the book where Caitlin, the assassin, fills a sports bag full of weapons. “I could have done three weeks worth of work to figure out what sort of weapons a sexy blonde killing machine would put into a sports bag, but I figured these guys would know, so
King of Horror
Just after sunset Rocky Wood
tephen King’s literary popularity was built on two pillars—novels such as Salem’s Lot and gritty horror short stories, collected in Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. King has written short fiction his entire career, despite the slow demise of the art form. In 2006, he accepted an offer to edit Best American Short Stories and while reading hundreds of tales for the project, “got excited all over again and I started writing stories in the old way.” The result is Just After Sunset (Hodder & Stoughton, released 11 November), the latest King collection and his first since 2002. He says, “I wanted to call it Unnatural Acts of Human Intercourse, and the publisher had a hissy-fit.” What a shame! The oldest story is ‘The Cat from Hell’, a 1977 tale that King had unaccountably held from previous collections. Comparing the writing style there with ‘The New York Times at Special 12
Bargain Rates’ or the atmospheric ‘Willa’ illustrates King’s progress over three decades. Indeed, some tales are quite literary in nature and may not suit the hard core horror fan. What is clear is the eclectic mix of short fiction King wrote over the last five years. The stories that left an impression with me are ‘The Things They Left Behind’, which attempts to exorcise our common 9/11 angst; and ‘Stationery Bike’, a mystical journey full of symbolism that blurs the boundary holding us inside reality. Both are beautifully written morality tales—in the way of King’s best fictions. Lest you think the horror-meister fell asleep this past half decade, the author’s own favourite in the collection is ‘A Very Tight Place’, which he rates as ‘flat-out gross’! Imagine being trapped in an overturned PortA-Loo in the heat of summer (and yes, it does get worse).
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I put a message on the blog, ‘What’s in the bag?’, and I think 80 or 90 comments later on, I knew exactly what she needed to put in the sports bag. “That probably happened again and again, and then there were individual Burgers who have strange, arcane knowledge sets or contacts with people with strange, arcane knowledge and that was a big help. “There’s a guy called Madoc who put me in contact with some people in the nuclear industry who were able to talk me through what happens when everybody in a nuclear power station suddenly disappears and that saved me an enormous amount of time, because I would have spent five or six weeks digging that information up myself. “And then occasionally I just throw questions at them like, what do you reckon I should devote my time to over the next couple of weeks, character development or explodey goodness? “They’re fun discussions but you actually do get some worth out of them because its your readers that are replying, so I’ve come to rely on them quite a bit.” For those who have a craving for more destruction, don’t worry - Birmingham is in the process of penning a sequel, tentatively titled After America. n
There are no shortcomings here—‘The Gingerbread Girl’, ‘Ayana’, and ‘Mute’ could all appear in the literary mainstream but each contains the heart of the King tale—great characterisation and compelling story. ‘Rest Stop’ is a confronting lateral view of domestic violence and highlights two more King staples— normal human behaviour as the true horror, and his fascination with dual personality. ‘Harvey’s Dream’ taunts the characters and reader, mixing a glimpse of mundane life with the dread terror of loss. Hard core horror fans will love ‘N’. King calls it “a riff on Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, which is one of the best horror stories ever written.” As a bonus, the story has been turned into a 25-episode graphic tale, which can be viewed at www.nishere.com along with a video interview. Although all 13 tales except one have already been published, it’s unlikely anyone but a King fanatic would have read more than one or two. The original venues were generally obscure and only ‘Graduation Afternoon’ (published in the first issue of Black) has received Australian circulation. Just After Sunset is another great addition to the King fan’s bookcase but also amply serves those who love short fiction!” Rocky Wood is a Melbourne-based freelance writer. He is the author of Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished.
Page Thirteen Pinup
Screaming for a new queen! Black’s first Scream Queen hopeful is Natasha A., a proud and happy goth living in Bendigo. Natasha runs a multimedia business that creates horror and arthouse short films, animations, and digital art. Her current project is a short film about two gothic vampires. Natasha says she loves to dabble with “the dark side of life”, which to her is “all things gothic and horror-related” To show her devotion to the dark, she has a huge collection of horror props and decorations. If you have the beauty and flair to outshine Natasha—or Heaven forbid, our resident Scream Queen Ms Bella Dee (main image)—send a high resolution photo of yourself marked “Page Thirteen Scream Queen”, to Black magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a hardcopy photo to PO Box 4, Woodvale WA 6026. Please, no nudity (although coquettish glimpses of flesh welcome!).
0e Dreaming at Conflux 5
Local aboriginal kids perform the ‘Welcome to country’ at the opening ceremony.
onflux 5 is an annual science fiction, fantasy, and horror literary convention held in Canberra. This year’s Conflux, which took place last month, attracted the who’s who of SF authors and editors, and plenty of fans. The Australian Horror Writers Association had a significant presence at the con, with a dedicated stream of horror panels (where three to five speakers discuss a topic for the audience’s entertainment) on subjects ranging from zombie apocalypses, and the creepiness of the Aussie bush, through to colonial ghost stories and a retrospective awarding of Australian Shadows Awards to the best works of the previous 200 years. Notable dark fiction authors and editors at the convention included Keri Arthur, Robert Hood, Jason Nahrung, Leigh Blackmore, Richard Harland, James Doig, Andrew J. McKiernan, and AHWA President Dr Marty Young. They joined guests of honour Jack Dann, Mark Shirrefs, Cat Sparks, Gillian Polack, Bruce Gillespie, and Liz Gorinsky. BLACK’s editors Angela Challis & Shane Jiraiya Cummings and several regular contributors also joined the festivities.
AHWA’s Dr Marty Young, Jason Nahrung, James Doig (front row) and Andrew J. McKiernan and wife Kylie (back row) share some laughs before the Conflux opening ceremony.
Photos: Tom Bicknell & Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Leigh Blackmore, Keri Arthur, and Robert Hood reckon Aussie dark fiction is on the rise.
This grim fellow was awarded to a dead author at the ‘60 Minutes of Fear’ panel.
Morrigan Books’ editor Amanda Pillar in the dealers room.
Author Richard Harland is all too happy to stop for an autograph.
Robert Hood regales the audience with some very sick stories from the Voices anthology. Cat Sparks, Amanda Pillar, and Robert Hood launches Morrigan Books’ latest anthology Voices.
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Leigh Blackmore launches his poetry collection Spores from Sharnoth & Other Madnesses.
e Dr Marty Young, James Doig, and Shane Jiraiya Cummings debate the best of the classics at the Australian Shadows Out Of Time panel.
Jiri Baum, known for his unique choice of costumes at SF conventions, thought gold was the colour of choice at Conflux.
Authors Leigh Blackmore and Trudi Canavan chillax at the mass signing.
The winners of the AHWA short fiction competitionâ€” Benjamin Hayes, Alice Godwin, and Crisetta MacLeodâ€”display their booty with AHWA President Dr Marty Young (centre).
Not everyone was as riveted by the programming as was hoped.
Bill Congreve (seated) and James Doig haggle over some top quality indie press books.
Author Peter M. Ball signs autographs.
James Doig reads a creepy old story in the 60 Minutes of Fear panel, while fellow panellist Andrew J. McKiernan looks on.
James Doig, Robert Hood (back), Andrew J. McKiernan, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, and Leigh Blackmore revel in scaring the audience during the 60 Minutes of Fear.
Brimstone Press books and a little magazine named BLACK darkened up the dealers room.
Amanda Pillar sells her wares to Nyssa Pascoe.
Richard Harland gets in touch with his inner fairy.
No glove, no love Dr Carissa Borlase
o glove, no love is not just a popular slogan in public health, but damn good advice.
If more people knew about the pain and hideous mutilation caused by sexually transmitted infections—STI being the new politically correct term for venereal diseases— the thought alone would be enough to put them off sex altogether! The most disfiguring STI is Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV). The first signs of infection include lumps or painful open sores on the genitals or anus, accompanied by swollen lymph glands around the groin. If left untreated, the sores enlarge and spread, destroying and distorting the normal genitals. The penis, testicles, or labia become unrecognisable masses of torturous, painful tissue. Large weeping ulcers can spread over the lymph glands, especially in the groin. This blocks the lymphatic flow, which then leads to massive swelling of the testicles or labia—a condition appropriately called elephantiasis.
LGV is caused by three strains of the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis (also responsible for Chlamydia). It spreads by direct person-toperson contact, not only during penetration, but also via direct skin contact with the infected lump or ulcer—which may be small in the early stages of infection … and difficult to notice in the dark! Even condoms do not offer absolute protection against this sexual infection. Although the bacteria can be killed with antibiotics, and the patient cured, the genital mutilation and elephantiasis caused in advanced stages of the disease are irreversible. Perhaps public health authorities should hand out torches with condoms? However, some STIs are more subtle. Syphilis is the grand master of the delayed kill, lying dormant in its victims for years, slowly destroying them from the inside, sending them insane. Syphilis was the venereal disease in modern European history. Its famous victims are rumoured to included King Henry VIII, Al Capone, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Vincent van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde.
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Syphilis has three distinct stages. The initial infection occurs by direct contact with a syphilis sore on a sexual partner. • In the primary stage, a single sore marks the spot where syphilis entered the body. The sore (called a chancre) is small, painless, and heals without treatment. The victim may never know s/he has been infected! • The secondary stage occurs several months later. It begins with a rash on the hands and feet, and develops into what seems like a bad flu: fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, patchy hair loss, and fatigue. The victim recovers spontaneously, unaware that the syphilis bacterium (Treponema pallidum) lurks within their body—waiting to find the next warm body … the next victim. Syphilis is patient. It can wait 10 to 20 years before erupting again with devastating consequences. • This is the feared tertiary stage, occurring in 15% of all cases. Soft, painful, tumour-like growths called gummas destroy the skin, joints, liver, and bones. The testicles can be destroyed utterly. The bacteria attack the heart causing heart failure. Finally, the victim falls into insanity. Dementia is accompanied by paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and finally … a mad, agonising death. Carissa Borlase is a medical doctor with a healthy sense of black humour. She currently resides in Helsinki, Finland.
T o k y o
Eihi Shiina Look into
G o r e
By Gary Kemble
P o l
To k y o
ice l o P Gore
i c e
ook at me when you close your eyes,
If you can do that, I can take you away from where you are Even translated from Japanese, it’s beautiful. But it takes on a strangely disturbing quality when you remember that this is Eihi Shiina, she of the black latex glove and syringe in Miike Takashi’s 1999 shocker Audition. It’s difficult to reconcile the softly spoken Shiina with the unhinged Asami, just as it is with the katana-wielding kick-arse mutant cop she plays in Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Tokyo Gore Police. Yet here she is, in Brisbane for the Brisbane International Film Festival, reciting poetry from her book No Filter Only Eyes. Shiina began as a model, doing magazine shoots and working the catwalks in Japan and Europe. “But I always always liked movies, and I also admired the idea that people work together to create something that can have some kind of influence on people regardless of where they are,” she said via a translator. “I was just lucky to have this offer to star in a major role in Audition, and now all I think about is acting—I have put my modelling career aside.” Audition may have sent people running from cinemas or reaching for the barf bags when it was released, but to Shiina it’s still basically a love story. “When I had the opportunity to talk to Miike, we just had a general discussion about love and how I perceive all these relationship kind of things, and I could feel that what he is feeling I can share,” she said. “We didn’t really discuss the role of Asami in particular, but because I felt I could share something with him I decided to take the role.
Just a lonely girl “I am aware that Audition is a very violent film. However, in the background, there’s this woman whose thirst for love is very strong ... she’s a lonely girl, and I could feel that sense in the girl, so I know it’s a splatter movie, but I don’t perceive it necessarily as that. “The character of Asami entails two different phases. One is a very pure woman in love; however, the other one is a very sadistic woman in love. It was a challenging thing to actually separate the roles and act differently. But it was a role I really wanted to play well, to portray that psychological complexity. Even though it was challenging that was the part I really valued.” 18
We could try to explain snail girl, but really, what’s the point?
She said sticking needles in people’s faces and cutting off limbs with piano wire didn’t bother her. “Actually, I wasn’t revolted by doing that. I felt sorry that it must have really hurt, but because I wasn’t on the receiving end, I thought, why not enjoy it?” she joked. And Shiina said that despite knowing what was coming, it was a real shock to see the final cut of Audition on the big screen. “I was just acting the role, assuming those different characters, and I was just trying whatever I thought was appropriate. But when I saw it on the screen edited, the clear difference between the former part of the movie and the latter part, I was really shocked. I was caught by surprise.”
Slicing limbs, taking names Since Audition, Shiina has snared frequent movie roles, but nothing that has thrown her back into the international spotlight. Until now. In Tokyo Gore Police, she plays Ruka, a
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police officer working for the Tokyo Police Corporation, battling bizarre creatures called Engineers, which have the ability to turn wounds into weapons. Line up the film’s title with the fact that the director has a background in SFX and was inspired by films such as Starship Troopers and Robocop, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. If in doubt, the New York Asian Film Festival sums it up well: “possibly the goriest, craziest, most eye-blowing, chunkspewing, urine-spraying, vagina-chomping, head-exploding sci-fi movie of all time.” And then some. “When (US-based movie distributor) Media Blasters first contacted me about this role, they were looking for somebody to produce a Japanese movie with American funds,” Shiina said. “I thought it was a really good opportunity to work for an overseas film and also it was a first time for me to star in an action movie. “I am extremely honoured to have this international attention due to the success of Audition. It’s been a long time since that Continued page 20.
Ben Cho’s Shock Corridor
o t this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival, Ben Cho rolled out the welcome mat for genre film
which I’m happy to go out there and tell them why these are terrific.”
George Romero’s Diary of the Dead rubbed shoulders with Michael Haneke’s altogether differently disturbing Funny Games. Jon Hewitt’s serial killer flick Acolytes stalked Olivier Assayas’ sexy thriller Boarding Gate. Miike Takashi’s surreal Sukiyaki Western Django squared off against Joko Anwar’s political thriller Dead Time: Kala. And of course, the enticing Eihi Shiina jetted in to unleash the blood-soaked insanity of Tokyo Gore Police.
“Take a film like Dead Time: Kala, which is an Indonesian genre film by one of the region’s most exciting new directors Joko Anwar. If you walk down the street and ask ‘who’s Joko Anwar’ probably 9 out of 10 people are going to say ‘I don’t know’, if not 10 out of 10.”
‘Why the fuck did you screen that?’ He says he watched “dozens and dozens, if not hundreds” of films before narrowing it down to his magnificent seven. “You’ve really got to find films that, when you get accosted on the street by a total stranger, you’re ready to fight to the death to champion that film. You get people who come up and say things like, ‘Why the fuck did you screen that, I didn’t like it’—and fair enough, everyone has their own opinion. But I think you’ve really got to be behind a film 110 per cent, and I’m so proud of each of the seven films in there. “In their own way, they’re very different films, but each has their own really strong foundations
He said it was thrilling to be able to introduce genre film fans to new and exciting talent.
“But by putting something like Dead Time: Kala next to something like Diary of the Dead, and nine people out of 10 people who like this kind of film-making would know Romero, they can go ‘oh wow, I really dig this and this kind of film has these kind of elements that I dig from this kind of film-maker and he’s new, I’ve never heard of him, I should go out on a limb and see something different’. He said there were similar synergies between Tokyo Gore Police and Sukiyaki Western Django. “A lot of people know Miike and dug Sukiyaki Western Django and they can say, ‘here’s another Japanese cult film that’s absolutely fucking insane’ and they can kind of test the waters with other stuff,” he said. Shock Corridor is named after the Sam Fuller film, which Cho described as “a mind-bending, insanely rollicking genre film”. “We tried to get something different for
y o Ben Cho and Eihi Shiina out on the town at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
G audiences so they weren’t just seeing seven fucked up horror movies, or seven porno films. They were seeing an interesting variety of stuff.”
From Japan, with love
If that wasn’t enough, Cho scored a coup by enticing Tokyo Gore Police star Eihi Shiina to Brisbane.
“A lot of my friends who loved Audition, the Miike Takashi film, were always like, ‘man that was so good, what happened to the girl who was so fucked up and intense and perfect’,” he said. “It was a really great performance and then, yeah, she was in some films or TV series or whatever but for most people we didn’t really know what happened to her. So I googled, and I saw this poster for Tokyo Gore Police and I said, wow, that’s the kind of film I want to see. “And after seeing it I was like, this is great. And I thought it would be really cool if we could get her out to the festival because it’s a newly rebranded genre film section, and to me Eihi Shiina—with that black latex glove and the needle, just looking like she’s going to tear you to pieces—is one of the icons of genre cinema. “I thought if we could get an icon associated with this type of cinema that would be so fucking cool. “I really have to give a big thanks to the Japan Foundation who really made it happen for us. We talked to her management and her agent and went through a bit of negotiation and it was very, very, very 50/50. “But at the very last minute, they all said ‘yep let’s make it happen’ and I was saying, ‘I don’t want to get excited until I see her on Australian soil, I don’t want to get all amped until I see her in person’.
Ben Cho: horror film fesitval promoter extraordinaire.
“We were happy it worked out, and we heard from her that she had a really good time.” n
P o l i c e
T o k
film was screened for the first time, I am quite amazed at all the attention I get at film festivals all over the world, but I also wanted to star in something so that people do not associate me just as the Audition actor. I thought this role in Tokyo Gore Police would take me to the next level, so that’s why I decided to take it.”
As with Audition, Shiina said she was not bothered by Tokyo Gore Police’s ultra violence.
“I try not to set any limit for taking any role as long as I can feel for the character. “If I can understand the psychological situation then I will take the role, and in that sense I would have no limits in acting in a brutal role,” she said.
G ‘They are dangerous men’ o r e
So, are there any similarities between Miike and Nishimura? “I would say they are both dangerous men because I don’t necessarily understand what’s going on in their minds,” she said. “Having said that, they are geniuses and they have no hesitation, no inhibitions. They have a clear concept of their ideal world, and they can communicate their idea with me very well—that’s why I have a very good understanding of the roles they are expecting me to play. So I find it’s very easy to work with them, and it’s fascinating.” Not surprisingly, Shiina is a horror movie buff
and is keen to win over Japanese film-goers. “With Tokyo Gore Police, I would like to change the attitudes of people towards horror films in Japan, so if I could be the pioneer in this field to actually instigate more awareness or appreciation of this kind of film then I would be extremely honoured,” she said. You wouldn’t know it to look at her CV, but Shiina favours ‘mystery’ horror films over splatter flicks, in particular the work of Kiyoshi Kurosawa. “Some of my favourite movies of his are Doppleganger (2003), Cure (1997) and Sakebi (2006)—and I love the worlds he creates. “I really love his sensitivity. He can create something very surreal yet very cute and also brutal, and that sensitivity everyone has is portrayed really well by him. So I really admire his creativity, and I think he’s also a genius director.” But she’s not too fond of Western adaptations of Japanese horror films such as Ring, The Grudge and Dark Water. “Adaptations of Japanese horror films do not necessarily achieve the sensitivity of the originals,” she said. “I think Japanese horror movies have really attacked that sort of sensitive part to create the chilling feelings, but once it’s made by Western directors, they don’t necessarily achieve that sensitive point, and they completely change the imagery of the film.” “I also love writing and taking photos—at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival, there was this film
called Dog Food, and I wrote the screenplay for that,” she said, “and I thought it would be nice to produce a children’s book for adults, so that’s why I published No Filter Only Eyes.” So what’s next on the agenda for Shiina? Poetry? Photography? Nope—more of what we all truly love her for. “There is a possibility of having Tokyo Gore Police sequel—I would expect it will be more gore.” Bring. It. On.
P o l i c e
Now this is a handful!
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The COlour of Darkness entice witches to Sabbat revels where they gathered to worship Satan. Margi Curtis & Leigh Blackmore
he colour black has both positive and negative connotations. In fashion, black is seen as desirable— always in style. In popular sub-culture, black is worn as a badge of resistance against mainstream values. Black can also arouse unsettling feelings—fear of the night, the unknown, and secrecy. “Where there is fear, there is power!” is a saying amongst witches. Black can invoke bad luck, evil, silence, and chaos. In Australia, black culture is also closely associated with indigenous art and writing. This is no coincidence, as racism and negative connotations associated with the colour black have ancient roots going back to Western culture’s earliest history. Black often occurs in magic and witchcraft. In historical witch hunts, like the Salem witch trials, there were many accounts of a “Man in Black”—not to be confused with the legendary ‘Men in Black’ of UFO lore! The Man in Black was a devilish figure who would
Modern practitioners of the craft place worship of the Goddess and veneration of nature as central. Yet, Evan John Jones & Doreen Valiente in Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed (1990) describe the Man in Black as an integral member of a coven whose duty it is to maintain a connection between parent and branch covens. His token of office is the raven’s feather. In ceremonial magic, a polished black mirror is used for scrying, a method of inducing visions. A famous medieval grimoire (probably written in the eighteenth century) known as the Black Pullet addresses the creation of magical amulets and talismans and the power to produce the Black Pullet—a creature that lays golden eggs. In alchemy, black symbolises putrefaction, called Nigredo—a necessary stage in the purification of matter. This symbolism is akin to that of the Death card in the Tarot, where death is interpreted as transformation. Modern esoteric musicians such as Boyd Rice and Coil use the term “Black Sun” in their music, in reference to this mysterious alchemical process.
The Hindu deity Krishna’s name means ‘the black one’. Many goddesses are imbued with qualities of blackness or darkness, among them the Dark Mother, the feminine ‘ground of all being’, also named as Hecate, Persephone, Medusa, Ereshkigal, Ixchel, Kali, Black Isis, or the Black Madonna. An appreciation of dark deities can help redress the psychic imbalance that often exists in our modern ‘lite white’ culture. The following books focus on the mysteries of darkness rather than their prevailing negative stereotypes: • Nocturnal Witchcraft: Magick After Dark (2002) by Konstantinos—for those who want to work with the symbolic realm of shadow, illusion, death, and rebirth, including mysteries of the Underworld. • Mysteries of the Dark Moon: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess (1992) by Demetra George—which promises to change forever your experience of the dark! Leigh Blackmore is a writer, occultist, and O.T.O. initiate who works with the Western ceremonial magic traditions. Margi Curtis is a writer and witch in the Reclaiming Tradition of the Craft.
The future of science fiction and fantasy is here. Ticonderoga Publications’ award-winning Australian books are now available online or at all good bookstores.
C u lt u r e
In The Devilâ€™s Name S a t a n i s m
s p e c i a l By Gary Kemble
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r e p o r t
Satanism special report
hink you hate Christmas? Tinsel, shiny baubles and other dross cluttering our supermarkets from September onwards. Saccharine sweet carols, guilt trips, truces you’re forced to make with family members with whom you’d rather not share a turkey. But what about Satanists? What do they do when the big fat guy in the red suit makes his rounds? I decided to find out. But first, let’s clear the air: If you’re anything like me, the term ‘Satanist’ conjures images of bad 80s horror movies and Today Tonight exposes about cemetery vandals and animal sacrifice.
from Pagan Reconstructionism, Traditional Witchcraft and Vodoun to forms of NeoPaganism, Ceremonial Magic, and Goddess Worship.
If someone says they’re a Satanist, chances are they’re a non-theistic Satanist. That is, they don’t believe in or worship Satan as a god, but emulate the image of the fallen angel as the powerful adversary on which they base their lives. Pretty cool, when you look at it that way. Everyone loves an underdog. Warlock Marquis HK, 39, has been a member of the Church of Satan for 15 years and cofounded the Satanic publication The Sentinel with associate Atronach over a year ago. He said the moment he read Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible he knew it was the philosophy for him.
We’re sure there is some profound ritualistic meaning to all this, but to some of the unlearned staff at BLACK, this looks like a bunch of guys dressed like the muppets.
“There are many benefits, for me personally performing a ritual and seeing a working manifest itself is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world—one of power!” he said. “The rewarding feeling of accomplishment at the completion of projects and endeavours, and of course being a hedonistic philosophy, we pride ourselves on indulging in the finer things in life—art, literature, music, film, sex, fine food, and quality alcohol to name but a few.” Perdita Carnivean discovered LaVey’s writings in about 1984 in a cache of books her household inherited from a deceased male witch. “Initially I was too scared to read them—having only discovered ‘the occult’ that year,” she said. “Eventually, in about 1988, I finally read LaVey’s The Compleat Witch (now called The Satanic Witch) and then realised that his ideas were interesting, entertaining, and effective. What a lot of people don’t realise about LaVey is that he has a terrific sense of humour.” Carnivean said Satanism now fills a niche in her polytheistic approach to life, which includes a variety of Pagan beliefs and practices ranging
“Church of Satan-style Satanism fulfils my cynical, misanthropic, no-nonsense, practical side, while other forms of non-Christian religion provide other things I need or want,” she said. “I also like how LaVey’s magical methods have been pared back to simple rituals, which on first glance sometimes appear like they may be too un-complicated to be effective—if you’re used to the usual fare offered in ceremonial magic books or courses—but then you come to realise that LaVey’s rituals have been designed to provide the shortest way between what you want and getting it. They are about results in the real world, not about surrounding oneself with occult paraphernalia and retreating from the world into a fantasy of Renaissance-style High Magic. LaVey reminds us that magic is a means to an end not an end in itself.” So, if Satanists are really a form of atheists, what was LaVey’s big idea—why draw heat by naming your church after the world’s number one bad guy? Marquis HK said it’s because LaVey valued curiosity and independent thought—he wanted followers who could distance themselves from ‘the herd’.
“When Anton LaVey founded the philosophy, he was seeking individuals who weren’t content to blindly accept what was thrown at them, and who had the motivation and desire to think for themselves,” he said. “Indeed, if I wasn’t that way inclined myself, I would have never picked up The Satanic Bible. Satanists question everything with logic and reason.”
Satanic panic Carnivean, a practising witch since 1985, said she did not know how the Church of Satan survived the ‘Satanic Panic’ era in the USA, when media reports connected Satanists with ritual abuse. “I don’t know how they avoided being lynched, because of the connotations associated with the word Satanism,” she said. “Although I have been a fan of LaVey’s since the 80s, I did not actually join the Church of Satan until about 2003, so I was not in touch with the American members, or any members, back in the Satanic Panic era. “And of course, I do not need to say that Satanic Panic is all complete bunkum and 23
Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan.
no evidence has ever been found in either the USA or the UK of so-called satanic ritual abuse. “Hey, it’s the Christian church’s priests and brothers who are constantly getting busted for abusing people, not Satanists! “It’s been like this for hundreds of years—look at the witch trials—who was abusing who? “It is not LaVey’s fault or problem if loonies find the name of his movement, Satanism, scary—I don’t think it was much of a problem in the 1960’s when the Church of Satan began. “I agree that the word has certain connotations that make people worried—but that’s because of the bad reputation Satanists received at the hands of our Christian detractors—pointing the false finger at us in an attempt to take the heat off themselves, I guess!”
Marquis HK admitted that one of the worst things about being a Satanist was the realisation that you will always be pre-judged “when you drop the s-word”. “Either by some guy wearing a ‘good guy badge’ or someone who refuses to understand out of fear or ignorance,” he said. “Though we don’t mind distancing ourselves from what we call ‘the herd’, as realists we accept that the mere name of our philosophy sparks controversy. “Therefore some members have to keep it in strict confidence according to their profession. That’s right—we’re your doctors, lawyers, technology designers, professional athletes, chefs, soldiers. You could be interacting with a Satanist on a regular basis and never know it.”
Making a sacrifice There are many misconceptions about Satanism, but one of the most common is that they engage in animal sacrifices. Carnivean said that in over 20 years of involvement she has never come across anyone in the occult ‘sacrificing’ animals. “The whole ‘sacrifice panic’ is annoying—and it shows a fundamental lack of understanding, indeed a wilful lack of understanding and research on the part of people mouthing off about it,” she said. “The main characteristic of ancient Paganism (and many traditional religions today, including Samaritan Judaism) is animal sacrifice. “This does not entail any unnecessary injury Continued page 27.
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Satanism special report
The Nine Satanic Statements ◊
Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates!
Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours. Man has become the most vicious animal of all because of his divine spiritual and intellectual development!
Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years!
The Nine Satanic Sins ◊ Stupidity ◊ Pretentiousness ◊ Solipsism
The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth ◊
Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
When in another’s lair, show them respect or else do not go there.
If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy.
Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
Do not take that which does not belong to you, unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
Do not harm little children.
Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they do not stop, destroy them.
◊ Self-deceit ◊ Herd Conformity ◊ Lack of perspective ◊ Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies ◊ Counterproductive Pride ◊ Lack of Aesthetics
The Devil’s Code 25
It’s a kinda magic ... P
erdita Carnivean and Warlock Marquis HK offer an insight into the world of Satanic magic.
Carnivean: In LaVeyean Satanism there are two types of magic—High Magic and Low Magic. In the context of LaVey’s writings ‘High Magic’ refers to ‘Ritual Magic’ and ‘Low Magic’ to ‘situationmanipulation magic’. Ritual magic is performed in a similar way with which many contemporary magical practitioners would be familiar: there is a general circle format, an evocative setting, deities are asked to assist, tools are used and the practitioner needs to concentrate and be specific about their goal. The point is—unlike a lot of other types of modern magic—to actually achieve a result, not to just revel within a magic ritual, that being enough of a result for many people. In addition, the LaVeyean High Magic system has only three types of ritual: rituals for Compassion, for Lust, and for Destruction. In each of these rituals, the practitioner needs to get fully involved emotionally with the purpose of the ritual. For example, in a recent Lust ritual, I needed to become physically lustful—LaVey says that if you can’t achieve an orgasm over the person you are lustful toward within a ritual designed to attract that person, then you don’t deserve to have them! So what one is meant to do in these sorts of rituals is to evoke as best as possible the real-world scenario of the desired result and become immersed within that—essentially fantasy— world as if it is real. So this is the method I follow when I do LaVey-style High Magic. If I want to attract someone sexually, I need to be actually desirous of them, otherwise I need to analyse whether I should be doing a Compassion ritual instead, for example. It depends on what I want the person for. LaVey liked to pare back human needs into simple categories—desire, hunger, anger. He believed that humans are simply clever animals, which we are—and so when you take on his type of system, you have to do a lot of analysis of yourself and of the situations you find yourself in, and then try and work out what kind of ritual approach is the best one, or if ritual actually is the correct approach to a problem or situation. I need to stress that a lot of LaVeyean Satanists do not do a lot of ritual, certainly not a lot of group ritual because effective ritual needs intense concentration and that’s not easy to achieve in a group, unless you are very close. As for the Low Magic, which really is the type 26
of magic I like best these days, and in my opinion, is actually more difficult than the more formal ritual magic—which is just a case of following procedure. LaVey’s Low Magic also involves a three-fold category, the witch or warlock (yes, LaVeyean male witches are called warlocks) need to assess themselves first because they are their own tool in this type of magic. You need to assess your effect on other people—because this is really about interacting with other people and getting them to conform to your will—you need to be well-informed about your appearance, your sound, your smell—the subtle and not-so-subtle animal cues that people give to each other all day without thinking about it. LaVey believes there are three general categories that people fit into: Sex, Sentiment, and Wonder. What this means is that people will view you and classify you (semi or subconsciously) in one or a combination of these categories. You need to work out which category you fit into and then take it from there. It’s about becoming a ‘package deal’ and people thinking they have you all worked out, when they actually don’t. LaVey believes that there are predictable responses different types of people have to the Sex, Sentiment, and Wonder categories, and you need to assess yourself in regards to those categories and assess your quarry and how their type is known to react to those qualities. Basically it is about acting. For example, I seem to come across as a mixture of sex and wonder, I don’t think I project any sentiment. Depending on who I am dealing with and what I want from them I may have to modify my ‘normal’ projection to one that they will be responsive to. For example, an arrogant, macho he-man would be more receptive to a coy ingénue who appears to think everything he says or does is ‘really amazing’; a submissive male would be more likely to shiver with delight if I were to come across as very stern, dominating, and no-nonsense—neither of those are the ‘real me’, it’s a case of me assessing a quarry and then putting on an act. Is it magic? Well Aleister Crowley defined magic as the art and science of causing change in accordance with your will—he never specified a particular way to achieve this change, just that you do achieve it. In my opinion, while LaVey’s Low Magic system is not a ritual procedure, it is still ‘magic’.
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
Marquis HK: When we perform rituals, we’re releasing emotive energies, which in turn tap into a hidden force in nature (Satan), which then projects our desires and causes changes in the real world in accordance with our will when unleashed in the ritual chamber. The more focused we are and intense our emotions, the more likely we are to hit our targets—often with devastating results. I’ve performed blessings and compassion rituals for those in need who are close to me and destruction rituals and curses on enemies and those who have wronged or irritated me. When you unleash the pent up emotion out of your system and you no longer care, that’s when the magical consequence manifests itself. Sceptics may argue that it is mere coincidence, however if all these ‘coincidences’ keep occurring upon unleashing a blast of infernal fury, does that not constitute a successful working whichever way you look at it? You’ve still achieved your objective, so go figure. I recently performed a powerful rite on Winter Solstice called The Rite of Ragnarok. The Rite of Ragnarok involves summoning the Norse gods Loki and Fenris to overthrow Odin, to destroy an old order that has become moribund and counter productive to make way for a new order of pleasure and prosperity. This can be applied on a personal basis to put an end to a chapter in your life that has been holding you back in one way or another to make way for a new era of excitement and success, which may come in the form of new projects, business opportunities or whatever the case may be. It is a powerful rite performed to the beat of marching military drums and thunder and lightning. The celebrants march into the chamber in single file where they stand in total darkness for five minutes before commencing the rite. n
Satanism special report to an animal any more than what happens in regular butchery. It just involves the slaughter of an animal—for food—in a particular way. “Animal sacrifice is about sharing a meat meal with your deity, it is a meal shared between humans and deities. Sacrifice means ‘to make sacred’, it is not about injuring an animal like some sort of psycho, that’s just being an ignorant idiot. “Needless to say however, Satanists do not perform animal sacrifice of any sort because we tend to find animals to be as worthwhile as humans, sometimes more so.
“The whole concept of Santa Claus originated from a 3rd Century monk by the name of Saint Nicholas who was renowned for his generous charity work to the under-privileged. “Though I don’t believe in the religious aspect of Christmas, I still partake in the celebrations with my family as I was brought up with it and have been doing so all my life, so I just look at it from a good will perspective. “Fortunately though, I don’t come from a strict
“Satanists believe that innocent creatures like animals are natural ‘magicians’ because through their honesty and innocence they achieve their goals without adding on a whole lot of pompous justifying theory. That doesn’t mean that we are vegetarians though!” Carnivean said the misconception endures because it is more exciting than the reality. “I have been approached (by the media) once to comment about it, but when the reporter started to realise that she wasn’t getting anything sensational that fitted her description of what a ‘Satanist’ was, she lost interest,” she said. “It’s is actually very boring for Satanists to be asked about what, if anything, is loony behaviour by disturbed teenagers.”
Yuletide, schmuletide Loony behaviour, dead animals ... it must be time to talk about Christmas again. Marquis HK isn’t a big fan. “Christmas is another ancient pagan tradition hijacked by Christianity, which in turn, used it to celebrate the birth of their fictitious Saviour,” he said.
“Ladies, your sacrifice to Satan wil be thiiiiiis big.”
religious background, so I’m not expected to get dragged off to Mass!
Carnivean said although she enjoyed Christmas as a child, now she hates it.
“Well apparently no one knows when Jesus was actually born and so it was useful to place his birthday near the Roman Saturnalia (actually the 17th of December) and the (in the northern hemisphere) winter solstice (around the 22 – 23 December),” she said.
“Now I just resent it because of the expectation that I must supply countless presents for people when I can scarcely afford to,” she said.
“This is a clever placing of Jesus in proximity to celebrations of the birth of the Sun God to encourage people to believe in his divinity—a modern celebrity publicist couldn’t have done better!
“I also deplore the fake cheeriness—why can’t people just be cheerful all the time?”
“Christians are well known for taking the bits of ancient paganism that they liked, such as calendrical festival times like the Spring Equinox for their Easter and the Winter Solstice for their Christmas, along with pagan sacred sites over which they built their churches, and applying them to their new religious ends—that being the Christian religion.
“Overall though Christmas is a turkey—kind of ironic how it revolves around one!”
“It is in fact the summer solstice here in the southern hemisphere and winter solstice in the north and has belonged to pagan culture for time immemorial.” Australian Satanists may take the opportunity to indulge at a summer solstice ritual/gathering. But Marquis HK doesn’t rate the more traditional approach.
timing of Christmas was a cynical exercise.
The Sentinel, Satan’s journal Down Under
She said Satanists, via the solstice, seek to reach back in time to their pagan ancestors and evoke seasonal celebrations of a pre-Christian era.
“Christmas on the whole is a financial burden, an opportunity for big business to cash in on the guilt ridden herd, and do they what!” he said.
“These might involve anything from a big feast to a more formal group or solo ritual. A lot of Satanists probably do not do anything,” she said.
“Many people are left paying off credit card debts for the rest of the year and seeking financial counselling.
She said that while she does not begrudge Christians the right to celebrate the birth of their founder, there is no doubting that the
“It was a matter of taking the existing festivals and ritual sites which people were already using and just transferring the Christian deity to those feast days and sacred sites.” n
Images courtesy Church of Satan.
Satanism special report
The Sigil of Baphomet T
he pentagram generally has four points attributed to the Four Elements—Fire, Water, Air, and Earth— and a fifth to Spirit. Satanists celebrate matter over spirit. The pentagram often worn by CoS members as jewellery often has Hebrew letters attributed to each point on the pentagram that spell out Leviathan (the sea monster referred to in the Old Testament). The image of a goat’s head made to look like a five-pointed star, with two points upward, symbolises matter over spirit and reminds Church of Satan Satanists to ‘live this life here on Earth to the fullest’ because there may not be any other lives after death. The goat is a traditional animal of witches, symbolising lasciviousness. In ancient Greece, the goat was the animal of Aphrodite, goddess of sexual love. Some of her incarnations also involved goats, Aphrodite Epitragidia—is Aphrodite of the
C u lt u r e
Buck Goat. Goats frequently flank goddesses from the Ancient Near East too. The Greek god Pan—pretty much the basic visual model of The Devil—is half goat. Christians see themselves as sheep with Christ as their shepherd, whereas Satanists might see themselves as goats—more independent and less fearful and herd-like than sheep. n
Shades of Grey
House of Ill Repute Vivienne Read
nyone who’s ever said “Excuse the mess … my house looks like a brothel” has obviously never stepped inside one. While there are certainly people whose sexual fantasies include cockroaches and threadbare carpets—and there are definitely some sex industry businesses unwittingly catering to that particular fantasy—travelling dignitaries and rock stars would feel at home in many of the brothels I’ve encountered. Chunky wooden beds with floral doonas; elegant four-posters draped in richly-coloured silks; crimson-walled dungeons lined with leather accessories. Comfort; fantasy; luxury. Try believing brothels are dirty and seedy while you’re lying on satin sheets in a rotating bed, taking in 360° views of a Manhattan skyline mural! Insane claims are often made against sex industry businesses. Brothels have been blamed for everything from attracting 28
perverts, to lowering property prices, to housing indentured sex slaves. In a recent prostitution debate in WA, a woman claimed her experience of living across the road from a brothel included “waking up daily to condoms littering my front lawn”. Ahem. Does she honestly believe brothel workers were walking across the road after each job and depositing their used condoms in her garden? Puh-leeze. In reality, brothels are probably the most discrete businesses in existence. Nobody, staff or client, wants to be seen entering or leaving the premises. Nobody’s going to park their car out front for all to see or hang around the entrance enjoying a post-coital cigarette. Visiting a brothel is a covert operation, often executed with military precision. Nonsensical arguments like that of Mrs Condoms-On-Her-Lawn demonstrate the lack of legitimate problems caused by sex industry businesses. Oh, I don’t doubt that she had a
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
problem with the brothel across the road … but the problem was all in her head. If there had been any actual impact; like traffic congestion, noise, or a stonking great billboard out the front; I’m sure she would have mentioned it. Let’s be honest. What really does her head in is the thought of what’s happening inside. She knows that behind that windowless facade, people are having sex. And not just any sex— paid sex, perfunctory sex, maybe even kinky sex. Oh, the horror! But she also knows she’d come off looking like a raving loony if she complained about people having sex behind closed doors, so she sticks to the tired old anti-brothel script, banging on about violence and paedophiles and perpetuating the seedy, cockroach-infested drug den myth with which we’re all so familiar. In a future issue, I’ll take you on a guided tour of a brothel and introduce you to its inhabitants, so you can see for yourself how far removed the stereotype is from the reality. But for now, I just want to assure you that the bogey man does not live in your local bawdy house … and if he did, I’m sure he’d be too busy enjoying the show to bother the neighbours. Vivienne Read has a background in HIV prevention, with a focus on social inclusion, equity, and empowerment of communities marginalised by their sexual preference or practises.
ymon never knew he could fly. In fact, the revelation shocked him. The sky was the domain of birds and insects.
How he came to be flying and how it was possible, he didn’t know. His last memories were of crawling onto his mattress of hay in the stable and turning in for the night. Nevertheless, the lush green pastures beyond the walls of his lord’s castle passed barely two feet beneath him as he floated on the eddies and hidden currents through the morning air. He could feel the wind against his face, teasing at his free-flowing brown hair. It made him stretch his arms out wide, spreading his fingers. He imagined his arms transforming into giant wings. Beyond the green fields were vast carpets of yellow wheat, swaying in the gentle breeze while they grew fat for the fall harvest—and beyond the sea of yellow, nestled at the foot of a white-capped mountain, sat a dense forest of trees, a mixed shade of orange and browns. It was odd, though, for Symon couldn’t recall seeing the forest, nor the prominent snow-covered mountain before, yet he had spent his entire twelve years in and around the castle grounds.
He tried to focus, tried to hold his head steady, but it kept lolling to the side. A rush of pain bloomed outwards. Shards of needling agony ripped through his arms, legs, and body. Symon cried out. He couldn’t move. His vision cleared a little. He was no longer flying. He was bound to a sturdy wooden chair in a dank, stone room. He could see a man and boy standing in front of him, their faces almost glowing in the red cast of torch light—and then it all came rushing back. The dungeon. The tunnels beneath his lord’s castle. Agonising pain.
But the white mountain peak was Symon’s destination. He could feel it. It drew him on.
His punishment pronounced by the lord in person.
A patch of wild flowers, blends of purple and blue petals, formed a large circle over which he slowly drifted. Symon breathed in deep, hoping to enhance the moment by inhaling the intoxicating perfume.
The torturer. Yes: The bent figure before him who dressed in a dirty leather smock and had eyes like the black pits of hell.
Burnt hair and cooking meat. Jolted by the unexpected stench, Symon cried out involuntarily. The disparity of the moment unsettled him. It began to rain: a downpour that soaked him in seconds. The frigid water made him gasp. An explosion of whiteness blinded his vision. “He’s awake.” That voice. It sent a shudder through him.
Death by torture.
As Symon blinked the water from his eyes, he watched the torturer hold out the empty wooden bucket to his helper—a younger version of the master of pain. A sob escaped Symon’s lips. “You see, boy,” the older man turned and said to the younger, “a little at a time. We can continue now he’s awake again.” Balmair, the lord’s prize horse. It was Symon’s duty as stable boy to care for the animal. The lord had returned late last night from his ride. It had been long after dark. Tasked with wiping down and feeding the chestnut coloured equine, Symon had simply led the animal to its stall and added some hay, not bothering to tender anything else.
Transcendence By Liam Rands
The day had already been long. He had already swept, raked, and cleaned out all the stalls in the stable, and fetched and re-filled the water troughs from the well in the courtyard. The rest of the day he spent in the fields. If he had known the horse could turn lame from a chill, he would have wiped the beast down before going to sleep. Now the horse was crippled. The lord raged over his loss. That’s when they’d dragged Symon from his bed and brought him here at early light. “I want a turn,” said the boy. “You promised, father.” Symon wanted to scream. He looked down at his naked body, seeing the blue-black marks, red welts, and open angry wounds slashed across his chest, stomach, and legs. Tears slid down his cheeks. The apprentice pointed at Symon and laughed. “Look, he weeps.” “Hush, Lorn.” The older man frowned. “We do not make light of their predicament.” The younger bowed his head. “Fetch me the plate from the fire.” The torturer pointed behind Symon. Lorn scurried away to do his father’s bidding. He returned a moment later, holding a glowing red disc before him by a pair of metal tongs. Symon felt the waves of heat flowing from the disc and jerked at the leather binding his wrists and ankles. Too tight to break. He wanted to howl from despair. “Easy.” The torturer squeezed Symon’s shoulder. “To struggle will only bring you more pain. Accept your fate, child.” “Where do I start?” Lorn asked. The older man pointed. “Place it against the sole of his foot.” Symon’s feet were still numb. The torturer had already ripped and torn his toenails from their beds. Symon prayed that he wouldn’t feel anything. The plate touched his flesh. There was a hiss as his skin seared. Pain overrode his senses, and Symon shrieked. A wave of brilliant white smashed against him. It was shocking; he never knew he could fly. From below, a sea of yellow wheat waved to him. Nearby, a forest so close that Symon could make out details of individual trees. Above, the white-capped mountain called to him. He stretched his arms out wide. The breeze was soothing. A dazzling shaft of sunlight bathed him in its warmth. A sense of peace brought a smile to his face. Symon lifted his head to the light, and let the breeze carry him on. n
The Final Taboo
or me, horror films have always been fun. The type of thing you’d watch with your mates and squirm, squeal, and laugh with devilish delight at a few spilt intestines, some badly timed blood packs, and the odd bit of nudity. The kind of escapist reality where you cheer on the bad guy, chuckle guiltlessly at the unfortunate victim, and know there is no way in the world it could ever happen to you. But in recent times a new brand of ‘realist’ horror film has emerged that has taken the joy out of the experience. Born in a social climate of terrorist acts and high school massacres, these films are brash and nasty, replacing elaborate over-thetop gore with a sadistic reality. They are films such as Funny Games, The Strangers, and King of the Hill. Films where the revenge-driven killer is replaced by a far more sinister amoral ‘bored’ bad guy, and the victims are ordinary men and women targeted at random for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These films make you feel like you’re watching a real life murder. There are no character arcs or startling back story revelations. You’re simply a passive observer of a crime that begins when the killer enters the victim’s life and end’s when the person is dead. The violence is unflinchingly realistic, and the whole experience leaves you uncomfortable and dirty. Many will argue that the realist thread is a natural horror progression; born in a social climate of terrorist acts and high school massacres by a breed of filmmakers commenting on how detached society has come from violence; others that they are a bi-product of an audience that is impossible to scare. But are they needed? As an audience member, I don’t want to feel this way. Just because I laugh and cheer at people getting hacked by Jason, doesn’t mean I’m not sickened when it happens in real life. Like many horror viewers, I take my scares with a good dose of tongue-in-cheek. I don’t need a reminder of how cruel our world can be. I read about it every day in the paper. Horror films, at their core are a form of entertainment—and while many of these ‘realist’ horrors are exceptional works of art—exactly how much entertainment can you get from watching a family sadistically beaten and butchered? Yet as box office receipts keep ticking over, it begs the question, just how far will the audience allow it to go? Will we see a return to the cheesy, date night slasher (like the period following the video nasties of the 1970s) or will the desire to be more shocking than the last film mean we see snuff films on the ‘now showing’ lists of our local Cineplex? Logic would suggest the former, but in a climate where films mirror the values of society, it’s a damn scary thought.
Liam Rands lives in Sydney with 3 cats and a house full of books. During the day, he works in I.T., which pays his bills and allows him time to write at night. After writing seriously for about 5 years, Liam has sold around 20 stories.
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
Mark Smith-Briggs is a Melbourne based journalist with a background in screenwriting and cinema studies.
B o o k , F i l m , G am e , C o m i c , & M u s i c R e v i e w s Eihi Shiina (Audition) plays Ruka, a cop who specialises in hunting down “engineers” —genetically modified humans who have the ability to turn injuries into weapons. Machine guns and chainsaws just won’t bring them down—it takes the specialist skills of Ruka and her lethal katana to do the real damage. She’s also still dealing with her father’s death (the aforementioned exploding head) as well as some suspected corruption within the recently privatised police force.
Tokyo Gore Police (2008) Dir. Yoshihiro Nishimura. Stars Eihi Shiina. [Horror/Science Fiction]
ences—Robocop and Starship Troopers—but that won’t fully prepare you for the visceral assault you’re in for.
It’s hard to review a film when you’ve got nothing to compare it to, and that’s where I find myself with Tokyo Gore Police. You could start with director Yoshihiro Nishimura’s influ-
Put it this way. There’s an exploding head within the first minute or so, followed by graphic wrist-slashing, chainsaw work, and delicate swordplay. And that’s just the entree.
But forget about the plot—this one’s all about the blood and guts. Tokyo Gore Police is a lot of fun, and gore hounds will appreciate the effort to which Nishimura goes to provide a veritable sushi train of imaginative kill scenes. This isn’t top-shelf horror, it’s the stuff they keep under the counter. Gary Kemble
Dir. Jody Dwyer. Stars: Leigh Whannell, Nathan Phillips. [Horror] The cannibalistic convict known as Alexander Pearce (aka The Pieman) was hung in 1824 for eating his fellow escapees. This gruesome tale from Tasmania’s past was enough to form the basis for this delightfully twisted Australian horror flick staring Saw’s Leigh Whannell and Wolf Creek’s Nathan Phillips. Dying Breed’s plot brilliantly interweaves the Pieman legend
with the hunt for Tasmania’s elusive Thylacine. Zoology student Nina (Mirrah Foulkes) sets off with her boyfriend Matt (Leigh Whannell), his old mate Jack (Nathan Phillips), and Jack’s dutiful girlfriend Rebecca (Melanie Vallejo) to photograph the supposedly extinct Tasmanian tiger. Unbeknownst to them, they are about to come face to face with the Pieman’s descendants—and they’re hungry. Nathan Phillips and Leigh Whannell are brilliant in this film. It’s easy to believe these two were
Invasion (2006) This superb Invasion of the Body Snatchers-themed TV series finally gets a DVD release after being unfairly dumped by freeto-air two years ago. With morally ambiguous characters and a terrific mix of suspense and drama, this is one of the best genre shows you never saw. Iron Man (2008) A charismatic Robert Downey Jr. leads a suburb cast in this pleasing Marvel adaptation that trades wiz bang action for a multi-layered storyline. Even those unfamiliar with Iron Man comics will find plenty to like in a film that both works as both a standalone story and a set up for the forthcoming Avengers adaptation. The Signal (2008) An electrically transmitted signal turns society into a bunch of homicidal killers in graphically brutal psychological horror. As confronting as it is challenging, this film is extreme in every sense of the word. Tell Me Something (2007) A disgraced detective tracks the killer of a series of gruesome murders in this slow-burning Seven-style thriller from South Korea. A compelling mystery, sinister tone, and intricate twistdriven plot lift this above many of its genre contemporaries. Black Christmas (2008)
old school chums. Like Wolf Creek before it, Dying Breed’s strength lies within the verisimilitude of its characters. Melanie Vallejo and Mirrah Foulkes also turn in great performances that lift this film out of the schlock horror pile.
Dying Breed (2008)
Snapshot DVD reviews
My hat goes off to the writers, who steer clear of the cannibal movie clichés, keeping the story fresh and the audience on the edge of their seat. This truly is one of the creepiest Australian horror films of the last ten years. It’s like a mixture of Deliverance, Picnic at Hanging Rock and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact, there are some great Deliverance references in here, like the crossbow and when Jack hums The Duelling Banjos in the local pub. Dying Breed is a great little film. It’s lacklustre ending may aggravate the discerning horror fan but there’s plenty here to give you the heeby jeebies. AD John
A group of sorority girls are hacked to death by an escaped maniac on Christmas Eve in this re-imagining of the Canadian classic. Adhering to a strict 80s slasher formula, this offers plenty of blood-soaked deaths to appease most splatter fans. The Orphanage (2008) A mum explores the ghostly mysteries of an old orphanage in an effort to find her missing son in this suspenseful Spanish thriller. While there’s plenty to like, an underlying feeling of familiarity with the story holds this one back from greatness. 10,000 BC (2008) A young tribal warrior must unite a series of tribes to rescue his people from a savage invading force in this big budget popcorn action flick. Visually spectacular yet lacking in story, this plays more like a hollow Apocalypto than the sprawling epic it could have been. The Scorpion King 2 (2008) The Scorpion King’s rise from boy to champion is told in the darkest chapter to the Mummy franchise. Despite some creepy passages—such as the CGI laden trip into the underworld—a poor script and some woeful acting do little to lift this above “for diehards only” fodder. In the Name of the King (2007) A forgotten royal leads his people in a war against invading creatures in this average Lord of the Rings clone by Uwe Boll. By far Boll’s best film to date, this one is actually watchable thanks to some impressive fight scenes which distract us from a lack of any real story.
13 Bullets by David Wellington Horror: Allen & Unwin Ghostlines by Nick Gadd Crime: Scribe Unquestionably, Ghostlines is an effective and intricate crime thriller/mystery. Down-and-out journalist Philip Trudeau, reduced to working “filler” stories for a local newspaper, reluctantly investigates the routine death of a young boy at a railway crossing. But the mundane story leads him into a mire of corruption, greed, and murder focussed on the possibility of art theft. The novel is a quietly engaging one, with a clean, open style and a humanistic reality to its characters that is its main driving force. The mystery element is well-structured and intriguingly revealed, though to my mind it takes rather too long for the novel to begin to unravel its growing air of dark undercurrents. To me, its late-blooming use of the supernatural—whether seen as a product of Trudeau’s physical and emotional fragmenting or not—seems somewhat artificially superimposed on the story. Arguably, the novel would not fall apart without it, which in an ideal crime/supernatural hybrid would not be the case. Still, such quibbles aside, Ghostlines is an enjoyable novel, though more likely to please those looking for a standard mystery than a reader after something darker and more hard-edged. Ghostlines won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2007. Robert Hood Stone Cold Calling by Simon Clark Horror: Tasmaniac Publications Five young folk trek into the wilderness in search of a valuable meteorite, only to discover something nasty residing within the aforementioned rock. Bloody chaos ensues. While this is a well-produced publication, and the tale competently written, there’s little freshness or originality here. While the introduction enthuses over the author’s decision to avoid “bloat” by keeping this tale at novella length, I felt the tale would actually have benefited from being expanded to novel length, as the wham-bam ending tacked onto what had up until that point been a beautifullycrafted piece of escalating tension felt very forced. Not a bad publication, but perhaps one best suited for Clark fans. Chuck McKenzie Moon Called by Patricia Briggs Paranormal fiction: Hachette Livre (Orbit) Mercy Thompson is the requisite tough heroine who has come to embody paranormal fiction; in this case, she’s a “walker”, able to shapeshift into the form of a coyote. Other staples of the genre are the presence of werewolves, vampires and fae. Unlike most of the other paranormal fiction books, this one is reliant on plot, and Mercy is a well-written and believable character. The world is easy to understand and compelling and the storyline is well-plotted and -paced. Worth the read, even if you normally don’t like the genre. Stephanie Gunn
In the 1980s, the world is aware of vampires as real creatures, but twenty years later, society has come to think them extinct. Of course, this isn’t true. And whose fault is it? Lawyers!
One very old and weak female is kept alive on a trickle of blood from enthralled doctors in an abandoned hospital because nobody can prove she has actually committed a crime. Indeed, the courts rule it to be a crime if she were killed! A random stop at a roadside breathalyser introduces us to Laura Caxton, and starts a bloody and vicious trail of events that lead toward the old matriarch, but takes a telegraphed twist on the way. The tale is carried forward by the strength of the sub-plots, the subtle twists within them, and the subsequent reweaving of the characters’ lives. Caxton and the intrepid vampire killer and US Marshall, Arkeley, Caxton’s impromptu partner, continue in the face of mounting self-doubt to solve the reasons for the increasing body count. This is definitely a horror novel but could also be classed as a police procedural, as the Trooper and the Fed pursue their quarry. A good read until an abrupt and clumsy ending, which leaves the reader disappointed. Brenton Tomlinson Cry for Help by Steve Mosby Crime: Hachette Livre Is it really your distant friend emailing/texting you to say they’re okay? Mosby creates a killer who preys on solitary women, tying them to beds and leaving them for dead, sending messages to friends and family while the bodies unknowingly rot. Strange perspective choices shift between a first-person account of Dave Lewis, associated with the latest killings, and third-person accounts of Detective Currie and others involved in the case. But this book is written brilliantly, tense in all the right moments, especially since Lewis must follow the killer’s instructions while another friend is dying. The killer’s motives are a little muddled, but who needs a true motive? Craig Bezant Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner Crime: Hachette Livre Lisa Gardner has concocted a heady brew of serial killers, child abuse, and spider fetishes that has something to disturb just about any reader. FBI agent Kimberly Quincy not only has to chase down an arachnophilic serial killer with a penchant for offing prostitutes, but deal with the demands of pregnancy and marital tension—they obviously breed them tough in Atlanta. The scenes where the killer is ‘grooming’ a young apprentice are harrowing yet not overly sensational. This is a slick, well-paced yarn that builds to a climax that is in equal parts moving, creepy and satisfying. Highly recommended. Tony Owens Spores From Sharnoth and Other Madnesses by Leigh Blackmore Weird Poetry: P’rea Press
Play Dead by Richard Montanari Crime/Thriller: Random House When a killer plays games with the police hunting them, there’s usually high entertainment in sacrifice of realism. But this gritty offering fares better than most as a barely-cold case opens a gateway to the ‘Seven Wonders’ of bodies the killer wants to leave throughout Philadelphia. The gothicinfluenced killer has the persona of the sadistic magician named Mr. Ludo. Each victim is imprisoned in Faerwood, a ‘living’ mansion of secret passageways and rooms, until it’s their time to participate in his deadly magic acts. The resulting carnage is wonderfully disturbing, and a part of me felt guilty in that I wanted to see more ‘magic’. Montanari twists crime nicely. Craig Bezant
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Poetry is the form of expression that comes closest to the sense of awe and dread that the best fantasy and horror writing strives to evoke. Some of the best fantastic verse was composed by the great Weird Tales writers H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, and they are acknowledged as clear influences in this excellent collection of poetry by Leigh Blackmore, one of Australia’s leading talents in weird fiction. Here, we have forgotten temples on distant shores harbouring nameless evils; wicked magicians conjuring monstrosities from crumbling, aeonsold cities; half-human, flesh-eating creatures dwelling in twilight amongst us; and the spores from a distant planet moving silently through space spreading an awful contagion. One can say of Blackmore as Lovecraft once said of Clark Ashton Smith: “none strikes the note of cosmic horror so well.” James Doig
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Doors Open by Ian Rankin Crime: Hachette Livre Who loves a good-old art heist? The lure here is that it’s not attempted by professionals - three art lovers want to ‘liberate’ priceless paintings kept in storage. On Doors Open day, they have access to such a warehouse. To stage a bungled robbery, they enlist a cliché art student to recreate the paintings. But needing more help, Mike, a rich man bored with life, enlists gangster Chib Calloway. Chib agrees because he has a massive debt, a Hell’s Angels’ collector hot on his heels, police not far behind. With a slow build-up to the heist, the following spiral of tension and bad luck make for an adequately enjoyable read. Craig Bezant Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow Paranormal fiction: Hachette Livre Jill Kismet is a Hellbreed-marked Hunter on the trail of a murderous Were and Hellbreed. While interesting at times, this book is marred by a lack of world-building. The mechanics of the world and its supernatural inhabitants are never explained fully, leaving too many places for the reader to fill in the blanks. In addition, there are too many mingled storylines, especially in terms of flashbacks, making for a confusing read at times. There’s nothing new here, but it’s still a generally enjoyable read if you enjoy paranormal fiction.
Creeping in Reptile Flesh by Robert Hood Horror: Altair Australia Books Breaking with convention (put a strong ‘hook’ story first), Creeping opens with a titular novella that’s in danger of alienating readers who are not of baby boomer vintage and passing familiar with three decades of left-wing politics in New South Wales. Combine large whacks of political exposition with the amorphous workings of an undead electorate, and we have social horror that is valid enough, but damn obscure. Once we lumber over this intellectual hump, the collection thankfully picks up pace. The central theme for Hood is menacing decay, both bodily and environmental, and this focus showcases his ability to move from old-fashioned confessional-style horror, complete with tentacled tropes, to rather wonderful absurdism. There are moments when the small press quality of the book shows in loose threads—still hungry for a final line edit—but small flaws are easily overlooked. While an uneven anthology, it is well worth pushing through for stories popping with Hoods’ quirky comedy rhythm. Talie Helene Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead by Jonathan Maberry
Non-fiction: Citadel Press (USA)
The Dust Devils by Sean Williams
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a zombie outbreak were to actually occur?
Young Adult fantasy: Harper Collins Following on from the author’s previous foray into YA fiction with The Changeling, Sean Williams picks up the tale with our young hero Ros seeking redemption for misdeeds committed in the fictional world of The Broken Lands. Previously, we were left in the lurch with Ros seeking Adi’s clan so that he could return her ghost—a constant companion—before she is presumed dead and disappears forever. Ravaged by the desert winds and harassed by sand bandits, Ros at last comes to the cradle of Dunetown, where a hapless youth named Yury and his feeble sidekick Scarlo offer a way out for them all. A short novel that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readership, The Dust Devils is Sean Williams tapping into the naive youngling in all of us. The villains presented here are the stuff of nightmares, and hold up to the strangest dangers being presented in fiction today. But more appealing is the landscape itself, a scarred wasteland where not only Dust Devils lay in wait for the hapless traveler. The book bristles with a faint gothic undertone reminiscent of his grandest Space Opera, yet holds down the narrative of action and magic to supersede its predecessor.
In Zombie CSU, author Maberry begins with a hypothetical zombie-attack scenario, and from there takes us step-bystep through the actual procedures police would follow in order to secure the crime scene, process evidence, identify the perpetrator, and make an arrest. Every aspect of the process is clearly explained, with ‘the zombie factor’ (how adding zombies to the mix might affect the investigation) tackled as an aside. In addition to the serious procedural details, Maberry has included liberal doses of lighter fare such as examples of zombie artwork, opinions from zombie ‘authorities’ (such as Max Brooks, Kim Paffenroth, Rocky Wood, and Brian Keene), lists of ‘best’ and ‘worst’ zombie movies, and a running debate on the ‘Fast Zombies vs Slow Zombies’ issue. Fun and informative in equal measures, Zombie CSU is likely to become something of a classic in the horror reference sub-genre. For me, it’s up there with Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, and is similarly a book any genre reader will no doubt return to again and again. Chuck McKenzie
Matthew Tait The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom Sadistic Killers by Carol Anne Davis Non-fiction: Wakefield Press For a non-fiction work on some of the worst individuals who unfortunately have graced this planet, Carol Anne Davis has put together a comprehensive collection detailing many gruesome cases in this one, easy to read volume. Covering killers in Britain, the United States, and Australia, and using her knowledge in criminology and past experience as a true crime novelist, she presents case files with short and brutal clarity. I was disappointed with the way she painted many of these people with generalised comments that crept into her explanations, and there seems to be occasional missing facts that are covered by assumptions. As this was put together from factual reports, biographies, autobiographies, and other records, I would have assumed many of those details were revealable through more diligent research. Beyond the case files from the three main countries, the book contains interesting sections on the rare female sadistic killer, notable killers from other parts of the world, an intimate and revealing interview with a consensual practitioner of BDSM, and a report into one doctor’s efforts in treating these outcasts of society. An extremely interesting and informative reference book about some truly horrific individuals. Brenton Tomlinson
Horror: Hachette Livre (Sphere) A failing screen-writer leaves the Big City, and on impulse, purchases an old Victorian House in the country. The house was once a Birthing House where, over the years, many children had been born and died. The house is old, it has a history and―it seems―the house has a ghost ... but this isn’t just the novel’s plot, this is the author’s bio! Christopher Ransom’s first novel, The Birthing House, brings back a tradition of horror storytelling rarely seen in mainstream novels for many years: the truly creepy story. All of the facts mentioned above make their way into the story―the Birthing House and the ghosts play an integral part―but where Ransom excels is with his prose. It is finely-honed and very atmospheric, bringing to life the sounds and smells of the house and taking you deep into the mind of the main character, Conrad. Just as much psychological horror as it is a ghost story, The Birthing House is a welcome return to the haunting depth of King’s The Shining and Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. I definitely enjoyed being creeped-out by this novel and very much look forward to Ransom’s next offering. Andrew McKiernan
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L: Change the World (2008) Dir. Hideo Nakata [Crime/Horror] L: Change the World is a spin-off from Shusuke Kaneko’s successful manga-based Death Note films. Familiarity with these is not vital for understanding L: Change the World, but it does help clarify why the semi-sequel will only ever be a minor footnote to the franchise. Death Note’s appeal lay in an intricately worked-out struggle between two highly intelligent opponents, Light Yagami and a mysterious genius named L. L: Change the World follows L’s activities during the final days of his life, as he seeks to thwart a viral apocalypse masterminded by eco-terrorists. The sort of fantastic intellectual contest that lies at the heart of Death Note is absent here. More straight thriller than fantasy/horror, L: Change the World was clearly made to showcase the endearingly eccentric crimefighter, L. Kenichi Matsuyama does a superb job of extending the character, the story focusing on him almost totally and placing him in a variety of hitherto unexplored, more humanistic situations. Yet despite good performances, a sizeable budget, and some well-executed SFX, the film never rises to the heights of the highly original Death Note. Instead, it comes over as a more-or-less standard thriller.
Sukiyaki Western Django Dir. Miike Takashi. Stars Ito Hideaki, Masanobu Ando, Shun Oguri [Western] A good Western walks the line between imitation and imagination. In a tale reminiscent of Pale Rider (1985) —which in itself is reminiscent of High Plains Drifter (1973) and Shane (1953)—Hideaki Ito plays a mysterious gunman who rides into the middle of clan war.The Genji and Heike both try to woo the gunslinger but he has plans of his own and it isn’t long before the simmering dispute descends into a bloody frenzy of gunsmoke and sword play. Miike has blended old and new, with the clans decked out in a Mad Max mish-mash of traditional and modern fashion. Yoshitsune (Yuseke Iseya), leader of the white clan, is a little like New Wave icon Adam Ant (only cool). Adding to the otherworldly feel, the all-Japanese cast speak their dialogue in phonetic English. It’s a little jarring at first, but you soon get used to it.
For myself, however, I rather enjoyed this extension to L’s life and am glad that director Hideo Nakata (Ring), perhaps unwisely, undertook to make it.
Like any great Western, compelling characters carry the day, and Sukiyaki Western Django has plenty. Kaori Momoi is superb as ‘Bloody Benten’ Ruriko, Teruyuki Kagaw makes an excellent bumbling Sheriff, while Yoshino Kimura—the love interest Shizuka—sets the screen on fire. And don’t forget Quentin Tarantino. Yes, that Quentin Tarantino, who turns up as grizzled gunfighter Ringo. Sukiyaki Western Django is just the thing for those who like their spaghetti Westerns spiced up with a dash of wasabi.
Spiral (Series 1) [Crime] Spiral is a dark French police drama that combines all the right elements to deliver one of the most entertaining, enthralling, and totally addictive crime shows since the first series of CSI. This series follows a recently dubbed public prosecutor named Pierre Clement who teams up with police captain Laure Bathaud and magistrate Judge Ruban to investigate a string of felonies that slowly unravel throughout the four episodes of the first series. The crimes vary from a women found brutally murdered in a dumpster, to the killing of an infant by an unstable nanny, to the clubbing and partial cremation of a businessman. Every crime is complex and every character is not who they seem to be. This series takes the audience on some great twists and turns and will keep the most experienced armchair detective guessing.
Mirrors (2008) Dir. Alexandre Aja. Stars Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart. [Horror] From the director of French splatter fest Haute Tension and 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes, we are expecting big things from a man once dubbed part of the ‘Splat Pack’ of directors. But what Alexandre Aja delivers in extreme and bloody special effects is lost in a forgettable movie.
What I love about Spiral is the fact that the camera never cuts away from the drama no matter how gruesome the crime. The style of shooting is also brilliant, changing from CSI post-effect driven shots to Paul Greengrass type hand-held sequences. The drama is taut, thrilling and immensely captivating—a must have title for the serious crime genre fan!
Ex-cop Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) takes a job as a security guard in a burnt out abandoned New York department store, decorated with grand mirrors that seemed to have survived the blaze untouched—a creepy premise that is never used to full potential. After cremated ghosts of the past appear in the mirrors, Ben is drawn into the history of the store. It is here the movie turns from haunted house movie to detective horror story and it gets silly. What unravels is an intricate and unstimulating back story with a few loud noises thrown in to maintain the tension. This fails. The complexities and inconsistencies of the plot leave the second half of the film too ridiculous to appreciate. Even Sutherland’s laboured and tired performance makes you think he didn’t understand what direction the movie was taking. On reflection, you may enjoy the gore, but you’ll see right through a transparent storyline.
Inland Empire (2007)
Saw V (2008)
Dir. David Lynch. [Surrealist Noir]
Dir. David Hackl [horror]
A lavish interior, a woman, darkness, lamplight, muttered conversations in quiet Polish, people in rabbit suits, applause, gunfire … the latest cinematic offering from infamous surrealist David Lynch defies logical description as completely as any of his earlier works.
Jigsaw is back ... or is he? The Saw franchise certainly is, and with a running tally of more than $US1 billion in box office receipts, you can see why.
Inland Empire follows an actor whose marriage begins to decay when she takes on a role in a film with a dark history. If you are able to accept the irrationality and the persistent, deliberate disorientation of the structure, the delicately circular development of the imagery is subtly and beautifully done. It is impossible to tease out what is real, imagined, acted, or experienced. In the end, what emerges is a symbolic display of life and representation, of faking it, of relationships and power. There are some horrifically bleak moments, pushing the film well and truly into the dark realm. Inland Empire is a tidily structured, visually beautiful film. It is doomed to infuriate audiences who expect to be able to make sense of the action, and at almost three hours, there’s no doubt it needs a good trim, but if you start with a strong coffee and turn off your rational mind you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Miranda Siemienowicz
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Hackl is on familiar ground, having worked on Saw II, III and IV. Coming to Saw V after missing the previous three instalments, the differences between V and James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s original dark delicacy are stark. Jigsaw’s games aren’t as inventive, so there is minimal tension. Instead, Hackl relies more on cheap tricks for scares (the dog jumping out of the fire escape—that kinda thing). And like many horror franchises deep in sequel territory, the acting seems to have become progressively more wooden—Jigsaw’s puppet, Billy, offers one of the more convincing performances. The back story, about how Detective Mark Hoffman’s life became entwined with Jigsaw’s, seems as though its main purpose is to fill in the gaps between the ‘games’. Saw V is like a cross between a half-baked detective flick and a demented reality TV show (So You Think You Can Survive?).
No more Mr Nice Guy By Gary Kemble
ustralian comic book artist Ben Templesmith likes to tell lazy journalists his ideas come from some kid in Botswana, but in reality he has the Corrections Department of Colorado to thank for his latest offering, Welcome to Hoxford. The four-issue mini-series, which hit comic book stores in August, details the harrowing adventures of a new inmate at the Hoxford Correctional Facility and Mental Institution. “It deals with rapists and paedophiles and cannibals and people like that, and they’re the nice guys,” Templesmith said. “There’s a lot of blood in it,” he added, wry smile touching his lips, “and it’s the first prison shower scene I ever drew.” The grim world of Hoxford opened up for Templesmith after his publisher, IDW, asked him to adapt a werewolf horror script. “Generally speaking, I think werewolves are one of the lamest of the classic ‘monster’ type things, so I wasn’t keen,” he said. “But then, separately I was handed a letter the publisher had gotten, from the Corrections Department of Colorado. 36
“Apparently another of my books (30 Days of Night: Red Snow) had been deemed unfit to enter one of their fine establishments—an inmate was trying to bring one in to read—as it ‘promoted hatred between nationalities’. It was a book set on the Eastern front of WWII with Nazis and Russians so no surprises there. “I thought it was funny as hell and it got me thinking—and the ideas for Hoxford began to gestate. Werewolves and a prison.” Templesmith says that although any good artist will tell you their best work is the thing they just finished, in the case of Hoxford, it isn’t an empty platitude, because he’s had more time than usual to work on it.
Elvis the mythical fairy Maggot-riddled corpses and truly terrifying vampires slide from Templesmith’s pen and blood red gets a good workout, yet he says he doesn’t consider his art ‘disturbing’. “Not to me, at least, though I guess others may consider a hillbilly version of Elvis as a mythical fairy buggering a goat to be pretty bad,” he said. “Yes I’ve drawn that.” At Sydney Supanova, Templesmith joked that he draws the things he draws because his
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parents were burned alive in a horrific car smash on a deserted country road (in actual fact they’re still alive and well, living in his hometown of Perth). “I don’t know where anything comes from,” he said. “The correct answer is a small child in Botswana is where I get my inspiration and ideas from. You ring him up, give him five bucks, and he gives you an idea.” While his background in commercial art means he’s just as capable creating ‘good worker’ dinosaur stickers as vampires, he says he has the luxury of being able to draw what he likes. “I had a normal, perfectly boring stable upbringing, so I’ve got no idea where my tastes come from,” he said. “I will say it’s the people who draw all the cutesy, sickly sweet sort of things like Mickey Mouse—man those guys internalise all their anger and frustrations—not I! Don’t turn your back on those ones!” As for the role of horror in society, Templesmith says “real horror”—paedophilia, murder, terrorism et al—is used to stifle debate, fan hysteria and steer opinion, in the US at least.
“Creative horror just seeks to remind us there are unknowns out there and to entertain us by abusing our more primal fears in some fashion,” he said.
Big break Born in Perth in 1978, Templesmith originally wanted to be a paleontologist, but then discovered comics.
“Basically he was on the same page as me—not that I considered it a right of mine to dictate anything on the movie, which was a separate beast to the book, certainly story-wise, but even visually. It was his show,” he said. “I was just lucky he had such respect and experience with such visuals.” He says he was very happy with the end result.
He graduated from university in 1998 and started working as a freelance illustrator, before catching his first lucky break in 2002— following in the footsteps of “his idol” Ashley Wood to work on Hellspawn.
“I thought the look of 30 Days was quite distinctive and did take the comic book into account, which only 300, Sin City and maybe one or two others have really ever done in cinema,” he said.
Later that same year, he teamed up with writer Steve Niles to create 30 Days of Night, a tale about a gang of vampires attacking a small town in Alaska.
“Hopefully, there’s more of that, where the
artist actually counts, not just the writer.” 30 Days is now in its ninth printing, and is available in 30 countries and eight different languages. He says while the film adaptation has increased awareness of his work, he has little interest in targeting mainstream projects that would be more fodder for Hollywood. “The success of 30 Days of Night means I can do anything I want, financially via the publisher/niche market following I’m lucky to have, so I prefer to concentrate on small odd/quirky projects I just love doing for no other reason than they make me happy,” he said.
They pitched the idea to a few comic book publishers, all of which passed—except IDW. “The first issue was 3,000 copies, which is sweet fuck all in terms of making any sort of money,” he said. “They paid me for the first issue and said, Ben we can’t really afford to pay you to do any more but we will print it for you if you actually want to do it for free and finish it off. “I said are you kidding, I’m getting a comic book published, that’s cool.” A revelation after Buffy’s urbane, wisecracking vampires, Templesmith took the monsters back to basics. “I made them slightly more savage and beastial,” he said. “Horror isn’t so much about the scary these days, not when we have science disproving so much of the superstitions we held so firmly—and were so scared of at times—in the past. “Personally, I think I just made them slightly more interesting in the way that they’d do you in the way a savage dog attack would, or a shark attack, so it had more to do with that level of instinctual fear perhaps.”
Bidding war Meanwhile, the publisher had collected Templesmith’s character designs and other preparatory work into a pitch book, and did the rounds in Hollwood. Templesmith, Niles, and IDW ended up on the right end of a three-way bidding war for the movie rights, which eventually went to Senator International, with horror guru Sam Raimi attached to produce. “And then it was in production hell for about three years before anything really happened beyond people constantly rewriting the movie script,” Templesmith said. “And then David Slade came on board with the studio and he decided to actually make the film, as opposed to dicking about and not actually doing anything.” Templesmith says while he had no official say in the film adaptation, Slade was a fan of the comic before it became hot property in Hollywood. 37
Crime in Snowtown Whether it was 30 Days or one of his many other projects, Templesmith’s art opened the way for him to work with acclaimed writer Warren Ellis. In 2005 the pair released the first instalment of Fell, a crime noir story set in the fictional, decaying city of Snowtown. Templesmith, who grew up reading Ellis’ work, says it was a great honour to work with him. “I can die happy now I’ve worked with him,” he said. “Warren’s mind is like the Ganges river. You just don’t know what might float on by next.” He says while some projects required him to stick hard and fast to the script, Ellis gave him a lot of freedom. “I’m lucky
because he ... can trust me enough that you can have an interrogation scene, two guys talking for eight pages, with nothing but bare room and he didn’t give any panel descriptions really,” he said. “I just had to make it interesting for eight pages of dialogue. Heavy pages, with two guys sat at a table, with nothing else.” Despite the scheduling issues that have plagued Fell, Templesmith says there is more on the way. “I have it on good authority that he likes me,” he said. “Because if he doesn’t like an artist he ... probably won’t do more than four issues. “The only reason Fell doesn’t happen is that he is very busy, and he had a hard drive crash which had all his notes and stuff lost.
He says living in San Diego has had an impact on his work. “I get to know the American culture more and there is actually an American culture that we don’t know about because you only get to know how different things are when you live there for a while and get to work there,” he said. “But it’s probably good for the work because I can say and do things that Americans understand that I was completely unware of before, so I can actually speak to them, as opposed to doing it from Australia where I have absolutely no idea what living in America is actually like.”
“So he has to redo that so, and he also used me as an excuse when I was doing a movie stuff last year to go slack on that and concentrate on other things, which is fair enough.
But while living State-side has been good for his career, he says there is little appreciation in the US for comic book artists who dodge spandex-clad superheroes.
“But he wants to do more Fell. Fell will happen.”
“Globally, there’s probably less than half a million people that read comics in the Englishspeaking market,” he said.
Viva San Diego Earlier this year, Templesmith moved from Perth to the United States to further his career. “In southern California, there’s a big art market there for the stuff I do,” he said. “I want to try and get into some gallery shows. They have really good comic stores there so I can do a gallery show signing event thing. It’s a really cool place to be. “But aside from that I’ve got a Hollywood agent type thing, various irons in the fire. “Not that I’m there just for that, I’m also there to network and establish and build up relationships I’ve already got and so that I can then move away and live wherever the hell I want.”
“The population of America is 300 million people. And in America, the comic book readership’s probably 300,000. That’s not a very big percentage of readers.” He says the reason the figure is so low is that the prevalent view in the States is that comics = superheroes. “Everyone knows superheroes there. Superheroes are basically an American concept so comic books don’t get any respect. “I don’t do superhero stuff, but in America, the focus is still on superheroes. And they’re huge now in other media but comics are always thought of as superhero stuff. “So I don’t get no respect. I just wish they were considered mainstream, like the actual mainstream stuff, but they just think Superman. So you’re fighting a prejudice. “Comics on the whole are regarded as adolecent power fantasy, even if the majority of readers are now college educated 20-30 somethings.” He says Europe is another story altogether. “In Europe, it’s much more a cultural thing,
Eeek! and Eeek! Again
he EC tradition is not dead. The pulp and horror comics of the 1950s, epitomised in titles from EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, have cast a long shadow over subsequent generations. In the last few years, Jason Paulos has been producing a loving tribute to the genre, complete with all the gruesome deaths, animated corpses, and scantily clad femmes you’d be hoping for. Just recently, he has collected the first four issues of the wonderfully entitled Eeek! into a trade collection.
comics have respect as an art medium, because it is—it’s the forgotten medium, it’s words and pictures together. “They don’t have conventions, they have festivals and they do treat it differently.” He says that, unfortunately, Australians follow the lead of the US, rather than Europe. “I’ve done press here, they have no clue about comics except what they know from the old Batman live action Adam West thing—it’s all Bam! Pow!, instead of being some sort of sophisticated medium that has a variety of genres, many of which have been turned into films including my one, straight horror, but also things like Road to Perdition, 300, Sin City, History of Violence and Ghost World. “None of them involve superheroes but they don’t get no love. It would be nice if some of the success of movies based on comics flowed back to the comics.” n
Jason has been around the Aussie comic scene for a while, and his most famous work has been Hairbutt the Hippo, created in 1991. Hairbutt is a private eye constantly in trouble, much to the vexation of the love of his live, Toots O’Toolworthy. If a disreputable noir detective hippopotamus seems familiar, you may also be thinking of Hip Flash the Hippo, who has appeared in Image Comics in the US—but was created about seven years after Hairbutt. In a neat bit of synchronicity, Hairbutt was a regular in the local edition of Mad Magazine at one point, the only survivor of the EC purge in the Fifties. A more recent title by Jason is The Harlequin, an odd mixture of superheroics and the 1906 Parisian arts scene. But back to Eeek! It is a collection of short stories, with a wide variety of subjects and styles, from crime to jungle adventures, and a space ship for good measure. Connecting it all is a sense of fun and that retro-horror sensibility, perhaps best shown in the title of the story ‘Death Wears Hotpants’. Sometimes it’s done more or less straight—horrible things being done to horrible people, as the genre has been described. One such story is ‘In Too Deep’, as a pair of brothers screw over their crew mates—and each other—in a dive for buried treasure. Other times, Jason plays up the absurdities in a more modern manner, such as his tale of two Mormons, ‘Witness to Evil’ (with collaborator Bodine Amerikah). Not everything works as well as it might. Sometimes the endings fall a little flat, for example. Still, the fine artwork, giddying variety, and plentiful moments that are indeed effective, make the whole a pleasure to read. One unexpected guest appearance is of the Undertaker, along with his dog, Cryptoe. Created by veteran Australian comic guy Gary Chaloner, he first appeared in Cyclone Comics Quarterly, a beautiful and grim collection of stories from the mid-Nineties. There is a lot of history here (even more if you add in another collaborator in this volume, Daren White), which you don’t need to know about to appreciate Eeek! However, if you want to track down some of the great local titles of the past, they are a good place to start. David Carroll is a Sydney based writer, collector, and committee member of the AHWA.
Under the Blue Moon Festival 2008 Story & photos by Kyla Ward
f being a Goth is about anything,” said Josh Shipton, MC at the Under the Blue Moon launch party, “it’s sacrificing comfort for pleasure.” Something was listening. Over the next week, conditions ranged from 35 degree dry heat to tropical humidity to freezing gales: the full gauntlet of a Sydney spring. Under the Blue Moon began in 2004 as a “festivert” for shops on the Gothic Mile—the Newtown end of Enmore Road. Each succeeding year has broadened the experience with Viking protection rituals, art exhibitions, cemetery tours and an ever more impressive live music stream. Events soon spilled over from the central day. But this year, between the 27th of September and the 6th of October, something happened every single night. Under the Blue Moon is, undoubtedly, a triumph of co-operation, participation and community spirit. The festival association, co-directed by Stephanie Calkin (manager of Gallery Serpentine) and Natalie Harker have created an arena for so many disparate people, groups and ideas that the end result of this or any year can only be described as unique. “Blue moon n. an ideal time to do something you have never done before.”
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Coffin Culture By Kyla Ward
ason Nahrung owns a coffin. Nothing unusual about that: the vast majority of people in Australia will own, or at least occupy, one at some point. But Jason and his partner Mil keep it in their living room ...
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Corinthian costs somewhere in the range of $6,000.00. Particle board and craftwood are popular compromises, and at around $3,000.00, the Denman and Majestic look no less impressive. The lids can be flat, raised, domed, and double— with moulded edges. Handles and grooved hand-holds are options for handling. The mahogany and rosewood finishes (amongst other prestige timbers) can be enlivened with motifs such as crosses, roses, and the Chinese symbol for long life.
The Coffin Bar O’Malleys Irish Pub, Brisbane
“We use it as a coffee table. I’ve often thought of getting a pane of glass cut to fit on top of the lid, but for the moment a simple white cloth does the job. And yes, coasters are required.” A journalist and co-author (with Mil) of the novel The Darkness Within, Jason conceived a desire for a coffin after sharing a glass of chartreuse with members of the Vampyre Society on a trip to England. They invited me around to their flat where we all sat on the floor or in the few chairs in the living room around this beaten up old wooden coffin. Only one previous owner, they reckoned, but I took that boast with a dose of salt. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with that kind of sacrilege if I thought it was true. I’ve never forgotten the friendship that group of Goths offered to me, a stranger. And the coffin was the anchor for that memory. I was enamoured of the idea of having this symbol of death as a centrepiece of a living space; a kind of memento mori, I guess.
A coffin in Victoria must be lined internally with impervious material that is at least 100 µm thick and will prevent the leakage of body fluids. Such linings are usual however, representing an OHS issue for the funeral industry. Legislation in New South Wales specifies a coffin must have a securely fitting lid, and in South Australia, it must not release organochlorins when burnt. But beyond that and the essential shape, there is an amazing variety of colours, designs, and materials available. The range on offer at Simplicity includes the Earthcare model, which is made of ‘enviroboard’ and retails at $1,500.00. Cardboard coffins are already established in Britain and the USA and becoming increasingly popular here as an environmentally friendly and comparatively economical option. They come in timber-look, solid colours such as white and red, and plain cardboard. There is also a range of photo-quality graphic designs. A solid timber coffin such as the Rosedale or
Then there are metal receptacles deserving of the title sarcophagus. “The Sierra Pieta is twenty gage steel with brass fittings. It retails at $6,589.00 and is quite popular for underground interments. It has a magnesium rod set along both sides and what happens is the rod corrodes before the actual coffin—it’s called cathodic protection. The rod will break down first, then the metal, and only then the body.” Caskets made of copper and lead have a natural resistance to corrosion and are even more expensive. Simplicity Funerals is a national franchise. All their coffins are made in Australia and are representative of the market across the board. For Sydney, that means LifeArt for cardboard, Batesfield for steel and Key Industries for wood. Key Industries is a wood machining company that started in the 60s making licensed television casings for Sony. They moved on to coffins in the 90s as an area of growth. LifeArt are the new kids on the block when it comes to coffin manufacture. Their product underwent a rigorous testing procedure
“We actually have a second coffin that is made of chipboard. We line it with plastic table cloths and use it as an ice chest for our annual costume party. There’s a certain Halloween charm in telling guests to leave their drinks in the coffin. “Friends and casual visitors such as workmen generally think the coffins are quirky or cool. Some have wanted to lie down in them. What no one has ever done is mistake them for anything else, once they get a good look. A coffin looks like a coffin. If it doesn’t, yet still contains a body, it’s not a coffin but a casket.” “Caskets are more popular in Europe,” says Dianna Sophios of Simplicity Funerals. “A casket is a square shape and a coffin is your tapered body shape. And generally, a casket has a lid which you can open on hinges or have half-open.” As a funeral director, advising people on a coffin to suit their needs is part of Dianna’s daily job. The standard coffin size in Australia is 1m 88cm (or six foot two) which fits approximately 85% of the population. Coffins suitable for babies, for children, youth, and oversized adults are also generally available.
Kim, aka Miss Necrophilia, points out the many practical uses for a coffin around the house.
C u lt u r e before being introduced to the market six years ago. “It’s a very small industry, and it would only take one funeral to go wrong. We did things like load a coffin with sandbags to 200 kg, then put ropes on the handles and leave it hanging to show that the handles didn’t pull away and the coffin didn’t sag. Then because funerals sometimes take place in the rain, the coffin was left with water falling on it … coffins have to withstand being refrigerated as well. If you have a funeral scheduled first thing the next morning, to avoid moving the loved one unnecessarily, they place the loved one in the coffin and the coffin is then refrigerated. Of course, they were tested going in and out of the back of hearses so that they slide correctly. You really don’t want the funeral director to be standing there, shoving. And it was the same with the cremators, making sure they would work for that.” As well as costing less, a cardboard coffin also weighs less (approximately 14 kg compared to 35-40 kg for wood. But the real attraction of the LifeArt coffins are the graphics. One of their most popular designs is ‘Stately Tree’: a forest wrapping the entire surface of the coffin. A car engine graces the lid of ‘Open Road’ and receding tarmac rolls endlessly along the sides. By special arrangement with the NRL, coffins can be produced with the colours and logos of rugby clubs—and if that’s not sufficient, the factory will also produce one-off designs on request. Usually, funeral directors such as Dianna Sophios will make the arrangements. “When somebody requests something like a particular colour and we can’t accommodate them, the next option is Life Art because they are able to customise in the way we need them to. Sometimes we can arrange things with Key Industries. Just a couple of months ago, a woman came in who required a black coffin. I don’t know why, whether the deceased had requested it before he passed away or
what. But she wanted a black one, so I put in the request and we were able to get a black version made of their basic model.” What? Their coffins don’t come in black? People don’t demand them? “I’ve only ever encountered that one case. It might be because black is sort of the colour of death, and well, just too morbid for a coffin! I actually do have a black one in the back, but that was made especially for the Under the Blue Moon festival here in Newtown.” As Australia’s biggest annual gathering of Goths, Under the Blue Moon certainly merits its own coffin, and in fact, has two. One from LifeArt bears the festival logo; the other, a black craftwood coffin, was donated to the Gothic Auction. Amazingly, on the day it failed to reach its $600.00 reserve—though a number of the audience could be heard muttering about not being allowed. “Generally, the dark colours like mahogany and cedar are more popular for the men,” says Dianna, “and the light colours for the women. White is always very popular for women. It’s seen as pure, more feminine. Also, the rose and golden shades are popular. Myself, I want a purple one with glitter all over it. I just have this thing about glitter.” “There was a recent purchase made for a kindergarten teacher that had died. So the children weren’t frightened and would understand that they had lost their teacher, the parents got the kids to paint the coffin and sign little thank you notes. I thought it was fabulous because you don’t want children to be frightened of death, but you don’t want to put too much burden on them either. “There was another where a young girl had died and all her school mates just signed the coffin and wrote messages of love and that’s terrific. It gives them a chance to express how they feel. The DIY is very popular. More often than not the coffin gets delivered to the family home, they put it down on a drop sheet, and do it all up, and then the funeral home will collect it and store it until it’s used.
Who wouldn’t want to be buried in their team colours? LifeArt coffins cater to all your postmortem needs.
“And we recently did one at the request of a family that was like a piano with a keyboard and music. I really liked the piano one.” But in this area, as in so many others, some people prefer security to individuality. Where the coffin lids are screwed down with what is known in the industry as ‘thumbscrews’. The Sierra Pieta comes with a complete locking mechanism, including keys. In a time where bodies are donated to medical research instead of being stolen and photos and keepsakes are buried with the dead rather than jewels, is this a little excessive? “Frankly,” says Dianna, “some families are paranoid. But when a family has a vault or a crypt that’s reopened for each burial, it’s for their peace of mind.” Some coffins incorporate drawers specifically for keepsakes, and some include plastic archival capsules containing information such as the name of the deceased and the location of family. “I don’t know if you heard the story about the cemetery that flooded and all of the coffins ended up floating down the road. What they actually found was that when the coffin had these, they were able to identify who was buried in it and notify the family, and to have them reburied without any drama.” The floating coffin incident occurred in Folkston, Georgia when Hurricane Jeanne passed through in 27-28 September 2004. The rising floodwaters pushed coffins to the surface, shifting aside 1,000 tonne slabs. Apparently, cemeteries in New Orleans are fenced for this very reason.
Jason Nahrung and Mil Clayton chillaxing around their coffin table.
When Jason acquired his coffins, he didn’t approach a funeral home. He replied to ads in the Weekend Shopper, a classifieds section in the Brisbane Courier-Mail. “The coffintable came first. I got the midnight edition of the paper one Friday night and there it was. I rang at about 7.00 am and paid the man what he asked, which was quite a lot less than the going price for a business-ready coffin, I believe. I never asked the man I bought it from why he’d acquired it in the first place; he had it stored under his house’s internal stairs. From the few things he said and the soft layer of dust on it, I suspected that he simply might have got better.” It is illegal in all Australian states to re-use
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a coffin that has been in contact with bodily remains. However, coffin rental, of a timber shell in which to place a particle board or cardboard coffin for the funeral is actually offered by some companies as an adjunct to cremations. After the service, the internal coffin will be burned and the shell re-used. A less formal service is available at Ace Props in Petersham, Sydney. According to Ray, the proprietor, their three coffins go out regularly for the mortician sequence of Annie, Get Your Gun, a musical popular with community theatre groups. “I can’t possibly say where they came from. Let’s just say that the local cemeteries are rather full, they’re rather chocka, and I can’t say anything more than that. But I am giving you a good deal. And they’re been disinfected.” The coffins available from Opera Australia Props Hire were very definitely made in-house, specifically for Don Giovanni and Les Contes des Hoffman. But like those at Ace, their coffins go out to theatres, film, and television productions and parties. “People put ice in them,” says Ray, “and serve beer out of them. They’re waterproof, you know: they have to be because of the bodily fluids. There was this group who put on a Mafia night and that’s what they did. The other thing they used to go out for was closing down and end of lease sales. The departing tenants would hire a coffin and put it in their store window to emphasise the point. Yeah, the coffins are very popular, we have many hires for those.” But to really make an impression, you have to go that extra step. O’Malleys Irish Pub in Brisbane city features a coffin bar. A glass panel reveals the face of the Occupant, a fully dressed dummy with a surprise up his sleeve. With the help of an electric mechanism, from time to time he thumps the inside of his home to scare unsuspecting drinkers. According to general manager Bruce O’Neil, the idea is a spin on the tradition of the Irish wake. What none of this answers is that most fundamental of all questions, how does it feel to lie in a coffin? “The only time I’ve got in it was for a photo shoot,” says Jason, “and I wasn’t that keen. Time for that later.” For Dianna, it represents a real concern. “A lot of families request that there be a mattress in it or a nice cushion or, you know, for comfort. Like, even though the person had passed away, they still feel that the person needs to be comfortable.” “I’ve seen people come up and test the pillow,” says Natalie. “Our coffins are lined and the pillow is solid latex, so they are quite comfortable. I’ve gotten in myself any number of times, especially when we’re introducing the product to new funeral homes. We get the people in and say, okay, if you don’t think the cardboard’s durable enough, let’s try it out. Many funeral directors will not get into a coffin under any circumstance, so I end up doing it. Once I do it, they’ll say, oh, but Nat, you’re only light, and they’ll get the biggest funeral director they can find to come in and lie in the coffin, and they’ll lift it up and move it around.” Although Ray has never been inside one of his coffins himself, he’s quite sure other people have. “We get a lot of the Newtown people, the Enmore people, the lovely girls with the white makeup. And there have been some rather unusual things in them when they return them … rubber balloons and things like that.” Which just proves there’s a lot more life in coffins than is generally supposed. n
Feeling the Fear
or the life of me, I cannot remember believing in Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, or any of those sweet little lies that grown ups tell children to make them eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, and go to bed early with minimum fuss. Oh, I’m quite sure I did believe in them. It’s just that the actual memories elude me. How it felt to find a shiny coin tucked beneath my pillow and know it had been left by some winged, nocturnal sprite with a penchant for juvenile ivory. Or the untold delight of that certain December morning, surrounded by the magic of myriad gifts bestowed by a jolly, red-suited man and his troupe of airborne reindeer. But fear, ah fear. That, I remember only too well. My barefoot, seven year old self, trembling in the hall outside my bedroom door after I’d snuck downstairs to watch a scary late night movie. Giant, voracious rats hungry for living flesh, their whiskery muzzles stained fresh with blood, their sharp yellow teeth tearing easily through soft, human bellies. And I knew—beyond all shadow of a doubt—that one of those creatures was waiting in my room, in that warm and eager darkness beyond the door. I knew … and I was terrified. Even now, as I write these very words, the mere recollection is enough to raise gooseflesh along my arms and cause my heart to beat just that little bit faster. Not only am I able to bring to mind my once sincere and utter belief in monstrous, blood-thirsty rodents, but my body perfectly recalls the fear that it experienced at the time and generously offers an aftertaste. Which is … simply delicious. It is a truly exquisite sensation, fear. When experienced via the relative safety of nostalgia, movie theatres, and our own selfconscious imaginations, of course. I strongly doubt that seven year old Bella found much delight in the scrabble of huge, clawed feet making their stealthy way across the wooden floorboards, or felt any pleasure in the hasty, tear-fuelled retreat down the hall to her mother’s brightly-lit bedchamber. Ah, but the divine, delectable memory of it! For fear is not something to be spurned, my dearies. It reminds us that we are indeed alive, and that we wish to remain so. White-coated experts predictably speak of the twin impulses of Flight or Fight, but some hint at a third sibling—another F-word that Bella could not possibly name in such a fine, upstanding publication as this—which may go quite a ways to explaining our very adult attraction to being terrified out of our wits. Fear makes our hearts race with wild abandon and sends blood pumping hot through our veins. Our senses sharpen in anticipation, our pupils dilate, and strange chemicals surge uncontrollably through our bodies. What do we do with this thing that scares us, our frantic brains demand to know. Do we flee from it, do we put up our fists, or do we perhaps— Ahem. I’m quite certain you get the picture. So. Will you stroll with me? To the darkened alley way, with the shadows and whispers and Things That Cannot Be Real? Come, take my hand and squeeze in close. Hush now, Bella doesn’t bite. Not unless you ask her very nicely … Bella Dee is a Melbourne-based writer and fear facilitator, whose work is much in demand by the sort of people your mother always warned you about.
S tuff !
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The vampires are supposed to be extinct but FBI agent Arkeley knows there is one left. In an abandoned asylum, she is rotting, plotting, and biding her time in a way that only the undead can. Arkeley and his protege Caxton only have 13 bullets between them, the vamps, and the salvation of humanity. Prizes courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
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Just what does it mean to be a man now, in the future, the past, or other realities? The answer lies in these eleven stories, which includes Paul Haines’ award-winning novella.
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books: Without warning
Win John Birmingham’s latest thriller.
2003: In Paris, an assassin wakes from a coma. In Kuwait, American forces are assembled for their invasion of Iraq. In the pristine forest of the Cascades, a lone hiker watches a plane fly into the side of a mountain. And just north of the Equator, a modern-day pirate, a rogue Tasmanian, is witness to the unspeakable. A wave of inexplicable energy has slammed into America. And destroyed it. In one instant, all around the world, from Cairo to Canberra, things will never be the same. Prizes courtesy of Pan Macmillan.
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A ustralia ’ s Dark
Neglected master of the macabre
rnest Favenc (1845-1908) should be better known to fans of horror and dark fantasy. Like too many other early writers of dark fiction, he is almost forgotten today, yet in his day he was celebrated as an explorer, journalist, historian, and novelist. Born in England, he emigrated to Australia at seventeen to make his fortune. He worked on cattle stations in North Queensland before getting caught up in the gold rush. In the 1870s and ‘80s, he led expeditions to uncharted areas in the Northern Territory and Western Australia and then wrote articles about his experiences for newspapers and magazines.
a remote part of Australia with huge gold reserves. It was typical of the type of “lostrace” fantasy that was popular at the time, but Favenc’s knowledge of the outback raises it above the average work of this kind. He also published a couple of short collections: Tales of the Austral Tropics (1894) and My Only Murder and Other Tales (1899)—both contain excellent supernatural horror stories. In
‘Spirit-Led’, an animated corpse decays in front of horrified onlookers in a scene more reminiscent of the Evil Dead than Australian colonial fiction. ‘A Haunt of the Jinkarras’ is another worthy read in which a dead explorer’s diary reveals the existence of a race of prehistoric anthropoids, complete with tails and very offensive body odour, in a remote outback cave. My favourite, ‘What the Rats Brought’, was published in a long-forgotten annual of short stories in 1903. A science fiction horror story set in 1919; it tells of a derelict plague ship arriving in Sydney and decimating the Australian population. It includes wonderful scenes set in Sydney with putrid bodies piled along George Street and death-carts rattling along the streets. Such is the carnage that giant, flesh-eating vampire bats from New Guinea and Borneo invade the country. There are many more stories like this in the dusty pages of the magazines where they first appeared. They’re patiently waiting to be collected in a modern volume of short stories so that Favenc can claim his rightful place as a Master of the Macabre.
In 1888, he published a history of Australian exploration—his first major work. Then in the early 1890s, he settled down to write fiction. His best known novel is The Secret of the Australian Desert (1895) in which a group of explorers discover an unknown race, descended from an ancient civilization, in
Travelogue: Hanging Rock, Victoria
anging Rock is a distinctive geological feature between the townships of Newham and Hesket in Victoria, around 70 km north-west of Melbourne. You probably recall the name from the infamous 1967 Joan Lindsay novel or Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock has attracted thrill seekers ever since the film’s release, presumably those looking to solve the mystery of the vanishing school girls. By the way, Joan Lindsay’s missing final chapter was published posthumously in 1987 under the title The Secret of Hanging Rock, where it was revealed the girls were transformed into lizards and crawled through a “hole in space” time warp, suggesting a link to Aboriginal mythology. With this bizarre ending, it is no wonder the original novel and film left the disappearance a mystery. Enjoy your travels—and if you do visit any cool or creepy places, be sure to drop Black a postcard!
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Ernest Favenc died on 14 November, 1908—how many more centuries must pass before we acknowledge this neglected writer of Australian dark fiction? James Doig—by day, Dr Jekyll of the National Archives in Canberra; by night, Mr Hyde of Australia’s weird history.
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most right-thinking folks understood that all horror was crap. But you know what, kids? As sales of e-books grew, so did the popularity of horror! And there were two very good reasons for this:
Story Time, 2058 A.D. Chuck McKenzie
kay kids, time for Gran’pa to tell you a story. What’cha wanna hear? How Petrol Became Cheap Again? How The Paperless Office Came To Be? How Horror Became The Best-Selling Genre On Earth? Really? Again? Well, okay. You kids sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin ... Once upon a time, back when Gran’pa was quite a young man (thirty-seven, thirtyeight), e-books really weren’t popular. Oh sure, there were e-books available, and some of them were good and some of them were crap, but there wasn’t much product around, and none of it was popular because nobody had invented a decent e-reader! Oh sure, there were e-readers available, but they were cumbersome things—physically and technologically. Nobody liked using them, so the range of e-books remained small. The publishers said there was no point releasing
e-books until a decent e-reader became available, thus ensuring a market for e-books. The e-reader manufacturers said there was no point developing a decent e-reader until plenty of e-books became available, thus ensuring a market for e-readers. And so it went, around in circles. Then one day, a certain Australian bookselling chain announced it was adding over 120,000 ebooks to its range. The publishers now decided they’d like a piece of that action and began to release more e-books. And the e-reader manufacturers decided they’d like a piece of that action and developed an e-reader. It was slim and opened up exactly like an oldstyle printed book and was easy to use, and folks began buying e-readers, and folks began buying e-books, and suddenly reading was a wholly digital affair. Of course, some genres sold better than others. Horror—as had been the case with print publications—sold poorly at first, because
Brains for Breakfast?
LACK’s resident staff writer Gary Kemble is working on a very special book that is due to be released by Brimstone Press around Easter next year.
Secondly, horror fiction was cheap. Recalling how difficult it had been for printed horror to compete with socially acceptable genres, horror publishers hit the digital marketplace running, aggressively undercutting the price of general fiction. Hell, even if most of the horror e-books were crap, at fifty cents a pop, who gave a damn? Readers began buying horror fiction by the virtual truckload, and suddenly, horror was the biggest-selling genre on Earth. And that’s the end of the story. Now scoot, you kids. If you behave, tomorrow, I’ll tell you about How We Achieved World Peace. Chuck McKenzie is a Melbourne-based author, editor, and bookshop manager.
coeur de lion — makers of fine Australian Speculative Fiction Enter the dark recesses of Australian manhood ... ‘c0ck is … sometimes playful, sometimes insecure, sometimes fatalistic. It is a diverse approach to a question that, in many ways, drives our society.’ HorrorScope
The book, with the working title Brains for Breakfast, will be the world’s first zombie coffee table book. The ever industrious Gary is compiling hundreds of photos and anecdotes from the world’s zombie lurches. If you recall the ‘undead revolution’ flash mob feature from BLACK issue #2, you’ll have a good sense of what the book will be about.
Travel an Australia beyond your wildest imaginings ...
So if you’ve been involved in a zombie lurch and have some fantastic high resolution photos of yourself and your mates in full zombie makeup, feel free to drop Gary an email at gary@brimstonepress. com.au, and you may find yourself featured as a member of the new millennium’s zombie horde. If your photos are selected, you may receive an honorarium payment or a complimentary copy of the book, plus due credit, of course. Brrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaainnnnnzzzzz!!!
Firstly, there was plenty of horror fiction available. Horror is, after all, the oldest of genres, dating back to when cavemen had shared tales of the unexplained around the campfire—which in those days covered pretty-much everything. And with publishers scrambling to release as much backlist as possible in digital format, it wasn’t long before 99.99% of all available e-books fell into the horror category.
‘Here is Jack Vance, Cordwainer Smith, and Tiptree/ Sheldon come again, reborn in one wonderful talent … you’ll purr and growl with delight.’ Harlan Ellison ‘A book to be treasured.’ Jonathan Strahan
for online sales and a list of Australian stockists visit www.coeurdelion.com.au 51
C u lt u r e
Killer Outback— Outback Killers
t is a widely rumoured fact that the Outback is nothing more than an enormous black-hole, sucking in tourists and backpackers to their doom. Giant razorbacks and baby-eating dingoes patrol the scrub. Man-eating crocs own every billabong. Unshaven killers in blue singlets and flanno shirts line the highways, thumbs outstretched for a ride, gaffer-tape and hunting knives tucked neatly out of sight in the waistband of their stubbies. But most of us sit safe along the coastal fringes with our air-conditioning and manicured lawns. We watch Ernie Dingo on The Great Outdoors, and one panoramic shot of the Olgas later, we’re all piled into the Commodore on our way across the Stuart Highway with nothing more than a slab of VB and our AC/DC collections to keep us company. Tourists from overseas are just as ill prepared. They see the advertisements and Steve Irwin documentaries on their cable channels, and before you can say throw another shrimp on the barbie, they’re packing their loud shirts for a hiking trek to Uluru. When they go missing a few weeks later, it’s the relatives back home who’ll be shouting where the bloody hell are ya? But what are the facts? Around 35,000 people are reported missing in Australia every year! A staggering number... and yet, 95% of those persons are found, usually within a week. And by found, I mean found alive. So, what of the other 5%? A good proportion of them are found too, it just takes a little longer. Often, this is
because they don’t really want to be found in the first place. In the end, statistically, only a very small number of people actually go missing in the Outback. If you do get lost in the Outback and you’re very lucky, you’ll picked up by a passing truckie or stumble across a small town or station. If not, you’d better hope someone back home notices you’re gone. If you’ve left enough clues, they just might be able to find you. If you haven’t, the alternatives are quite horrendous to contemplate. The human body can last around 3 weeks without food. Only 3 days without water. If you’re stuck in a stony desert topping 40ºC, you’ve got a little less than that—and dying from thirst is one of the most gruesome ways to go. First come headaches, dizziness, and stomach cramps. Your urine will become a dark, concentrated, and increasingly rare drizzle. Your skin will shrivel and wrinkle like old parchment. You might become delirious or suffer seizures. Your tongue will swell until it feels like a dry old sock shoved down your throat, and eventually, painfully, you will die. But don’t let me discourage you. Not everyone who goes missing in the Outback gets there by way of their own stupidity. There are still a few cases that can’t be classed as ‘Death by Misadventure’.
The murder cases? I’ll begin with Mark Jeffries—bushranger, serial killer, and cannibal. In the early 1820s, he escaped from a convict prison in western Tasmania. Known to have murdered and eaten at least four people, one of whom was an accomplice. He later kidnapped the widow of one his victims, and killed her five-monthold baby by bashing its head in against a tree. Jeffries was captured in 1825 and executed at the old Hobart Gaol a year layer. Then the 1976-77 murders of seven women in bushland near Truro in South Australia. In 1977, the alleged perpetrator died in a car crash along with a woman who most probably would have been his next victim. Thus, the Truro murders ended before the first body was discovered by bushwalkers in 1978. And who can forget the two ‘real life’ inspirations for the film Wolf Creek? For a time in the early 90s, no backpacker was safe. In Belanglo State Forest, the bodies of two male and five females were discovered in shallow graves. Ivan Milat was eventually arrested and charged with those murders in 1996. Once he was caught, the tourism industry ramped up the advertising, and before long, the Youth Hostels were full again. Then in 2001, along came the Peter Falconio case. The Falconio case has stayed at the forefront of the world’s collective image of outback dangers ever since. If there is one Bradley John Murdoch out there on the desert highways, how many stalk that huge expanse? 1 serial killer for every 500 square kilometres? 1 for every 1,000 backpackers or tourists? How do you protect against your fellow man in a situation like that? Do you ignore the desiccated hitch-hiker thumbing his way across our unforgiving landscape? Do you drive past the broken down 4WD and convince yourself they don’t really need your assistance? Is everyone out there a killer?
Generally those left over cases fall into one of two categories: Unsolved or Murdered.
I’ll leave you to ponder these moral dilemmas while you’re out there exploring Australia’s dark and dusty highways.
Of the unsolved cases, there is not much we can surmise without entering the realms of fantasy.
Andrew McKiernan is a Sydney based author and illustrator. His work appears here and there—like a slow sprouting fungus.
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
The End of the Line Why Lothian Books’ ‘Dark Suspense’ novels failed to resurrect Australian Horror By Shane Jiraiya Cummings
n early 2006, there was a hushed level of excitement amongst Australian horror buffs. The biggest publishing development in more than a decade—Lothian Books’ ‘Dark Suspense’ line of Aussie horror novels—was about to bear fruit, with the first four mass market novels to hit bookstores within months. All the signs were there for what would have been a ‘welcome home’ of sorts for the horror novel in Australia, with a major publisher committed to a dedicated and long-term line of books. But a spanner (or three) was thrown into the works, and what could have been a renaissance of Australian horror turned into a flash in the pan. Those fans and horror authors watching the drama unfold are still bewildered by what happened, two years on.
The publishing game boils down to risk management. Editors crunch the numbers, calculating print runs and author advances based on similar, previously published books. Historically, with the very notable exceptions of authors such as Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker, horror has struggled to sell well in Australian bookstores. This is wholly due to some dodgy marketing, a lack of understanding of the genre from publishers, and the tide of exceptionally bad Stephen King clones that flooded bookshelves in the 80s and early 90s.
knowledge) been an imprint of horror fiction in Australia, and very little horror publishing as such. I collected data on past sales of Australian horror novels—it wasn’t very encouraging—and presented every argument I could think of to encourage this to happen. As you can imagine, I was very excited. No one had been this open before. The last time I had a discussion with a major publisher about publishing Australian horror (some decade or so before), the publisher had said, ‘I’m not interested. No one has done it before. Too risky. If one of the other publishers does it, and it works, then I’ll think about it.’ Publishing isn’t about bravery, clearly.”
In the 2000s, the horror genre, as established Robert Hood by marketing matrices and category analysts, had become the pariah of fiction genres. Consequently, almost all publishers now release horror books under labels such as ‘Thrillers’, ‘Paranormal fiction’, or ‘General fiction’.
Once the brains trust at Lothian Books approved the line, they chose to proceed with four novels per year, with the first four to be published in the middle of 2006. The ‘H’ word was a stumbling block, though, as Robert says, “The imprint would not be described as ‘Horror’ but as ‘Dark Suspense’—this on the advice of many wise people, including author Garth Nix, who said, ‘It can look like horror, it can be horror, but don’t call it horror. Booksellers won’t be interested.’”
So when Lothian Books’ senior editor Teresa Pitt announced an open call for horror novels in 2005, she was flying in the face of publishing tradition. Lothian, perhaps best known for their children’s books at that time, were gambling on unknown authors writing in a nearly-extinct popular genre. A bold move, but Teresa had help from Robert Hood, one of Australia’s leading horror authors, who was recommended to her as an adviser by Lothian author Gary Crew.
Publishing bravery According to Robert Hood, the mood while putting the line together was optimistic.
“Peter Lothian, however, wasn’t daunted. He actually said he was willing to try it and work to build the market. He didn’t expect huge profits at the outset. Besides, he liked niche markets.” Robert said.
The lucky four Martin Livings
“Teresa [Pitt], with great openness and insight, thought it was a good time for it—I think she was looking to try something that might be made to work that no one else was attempting.” Robert said. “We talked about why there had never (to my
As to be expected with a new line of previously untested authors, initial sales were likely to be low.
Despite a short (three month) open reading period in late 2005, Robert and the Lothian team were surprised to receive around 60 horror manuscripts. “I can’t be specific, but there were really good novels among them that were rejected
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
based on a somewhat conventional view of what constitutes a horror novel. In the end, we tried to ensure that the four novels, while being within the genre, were representative of a wide range of ‘types’. I think we achieved that very well. “The line-up included a werewolf thriller (Carnies by Martin Livings), a full-on naturalistic and physically confronting gorefest (The Mother by Brett McBean), a bit of outré weirdness with an experimental structure (Prismatic by ‘Edwina Grey’ [a conglomeration of David Carroll, Kyla Ward, and Evan Paliatseas]), and a supernatural romance (The Darkness Within by Jason Nahrung [and Mil Clayton]). There was a terrific ghost story/sex thriller that I think would have done well but which divided opinion rather too much. Another was a strong vampire novel that had lots of potential but needed work. There were many manuscripts that were well on the way—I often wonder what has happened to these.” David Carroll
Robert, as one of the few published horror novelists in Australia, was keen to have a manuscript of his own published (given the lack of opportunities elsewhere) but felt that “to publish my novel would be seen as a dubious conflict of interest as I was on the committee—so at the last minute, my novel was disqualified. That was okay. There was always next year.” Or so he thought.
Takeover madness While the four selected novels were being developed by Teresa Pitt, disaster struck in the form of a corporate takeover. Rampaging US publisher Time Warner acquired Lothian Books. Although assurances were given to keep Lothian’s publishing schedule and staff, a second corporate takeover swept all those promises away. European giant Hachette
Dark Suspense: The End of the Line Livre tightened its grip in Australia by buying out Time Warner. In just a matter of weeks, ownership of Lothian Books changed hands twice, and everyone, including the authors of the Dark Suspense novels, were left scratching their heads. Out of the dust, a serious blow struck the Dark Suspense line. Senior editor Teresa Pitt was sacked in the ensuing corporate restructure. Prismatic co-author David Carroll said this takeover period “was a trying time.” “We fully expected the book to simply be dropped at any moment, and we were upset at the sacking of Teresa Pitt, who created the horror line to start with. But apparently they decided it would be easier to just release what they already had rather than cancel them outright,” he said. Fortunately, the Dark Suspense novels were not axed, but as often happens in publishing, without the editor to champion the books, the line limped into bookstores.
“Teresa had a genuine enthusiasm for the project, and I’m certain that if the books had remained at Lothian with her, the company would have been behind us one hundred percent, pushing these books wherever they could. But when Lothian was bought out, it was clear that our new publishers [Hachette Livre] weren’t as keen on the books as Teresa had been. Which was absolutely fair enough, of course; they didn’t commission the books, they just inherited them,” said Carnies author Martin Livings. Or as Brett McBean, author of The Mother said, “The Dark Suspense line was Lothian’s baby, but Hachette was the hesitant, put-upon foster parent. They published the books (and I’m grateful they did), but that was about it.”
A self-fulfilling prophecy Three of the four novels (excluding Jason Nahrung’s The Darkness Within) were branded under the Dark Suspense banner and slated for a release date of June 6, 2006 (6/6/06). In the weeks before the first three novels were published, the death blow for the series was finally struck.
preserve of small press and Lothian made a bold play. Our hope was that our four books of the series would lever open a door for other writers of ‘dark suspense’. It seemed a shame that didn’t happen.”
Judging a book by its cover Despite the collusion of factors against the success of the Dark Suspense novels, the authors agreed that their books were surprisingly popular with readers.
As Robert puts it, “Why was the imprint cut? Simple. The books weren’t selling well enough. Yes, you heard correctly—books that weren’t even edited yet, let alone published, were not selling very well. What this meant, of course, was that pre-orders were low—a situation that Lothian had anticipated and had planned to Evan Paliatseas actively work on changing.” Low pre-sales was the ideal excuse for Hachette Livre, who could legitimately wash their hands of Lothian’s horror experiment, albeit in a way that fulfilled the prophecy of doom that horror does not sell. Given the chance, and more importantly, marketing support, who knows where the horror genre may be today had the Dark Suspense line succeeded? Martin was happy to see his book make it to print, but he believed more could have been done by Hachette’s sales and marketing team. “To Hachette Livre’s credit, they really got the Dark Suspense books out there into all the major bookstores. But the marketing for them was virtually non-existent,” he said. Although David said, “we were told that with the takeover, the new owners wanted to get back to what they were known for, so as not to dilute their brand”, his Prismatic co-author Evan Paliatseas was not convinced, believing the lack of marketing support was “cowardice by the new management, in essence.” The bottom line, according to Jason Nahrung, was that, “Australian horror has long been the
“I think Carnies sold pretty well. It covered its advance, which I wasn’t expecting, considering that horror traditionally doesn’t sell terribly well, plus it got little or no publicity from the publishers,” Martin said. In the novels’ favour, the three books released in June 2006 were given stark but striking themed covers.
“I also think, setting aside the question as to whether that really is a skull on the cover, that the spines were wonderful. Magenta on black really stands out in a bookshelf. And choosing ‘Grey’ for our pseudonym got us into some interesting company: in one shop in Canberra, we were next to Kate Grenville,” Kyla Ward, the other third of ‘Edwina Grey’, said. Perhaps capitalising on the paranormal romance sub-genre’s surge in popularity, Hachette Livre chose to hold back the release of Jason Nahrung’s The Darkness Within, which had strong supernatural and romantic leanings, until early 2007. Although contracted as a Dark Suspense novel, The Darkness Within was published as an independent paranormal fiction title. “Hachette gave the novel an excellent cover and wide distribution within Australian bookstores. It was a hell of a thrill for Mil and I to see it in shop windows in Melbourne on release, and in the airport when we flew home from the launch at the Continuum science fiction convention in 2007. The original print run was 4000 copies and it sold more than half, I believe, in the first three months. It is
still kicking around on book shop shelves, and a German edition is due out in December,” Jason said.
Dark Suspense: The End of the Line be a bitch.” However, he sees potential for the uniqueness of the Australian horror ‘voice’.
“I would remind publishers that some of the All four Dark Suspense novels received biggest selling authors write horror: Stephen critical acclaim and positive reviews. The King, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, and Clive novels were nominated for Barker. Also, trends may come and go, every Australian speculative but the public are always hungry for good fiction award—the Australian scary stories. I would add that Australian Shadows Award, the Ditmar horror has a wholly unique flavour (a Award, and the Aurealis little like pork, actually) that can’t be Award—with Prismatic found in American or British winning the latter. The novels writing. We have our own way would have undoubtedly of looking at the world, our own scooped these awards if not humour, our own landscape and Brett McBean for Will Elliott’s excellent history to draw from.” dark fiction debut in the Jason was more cautious about the same year, The Pilo Family Circus. success of a horror novel line today.
The lessons learned Robert believes, nearly three years on, that a major publisher could find more success than Lothian Books with a line of ‘Dark Suspenselike’ horror novels. “I think a dedicated line of mass-market Australian horror novels is totally viable, more so than ever. The horror scene is more vibrant than it was then and more visible to a wider public (through various books and anthologies, BLACK magazine and the various Aussie horror films that have been doing well worldwide). The Dark Suspense books showed that it could work to a degree without much promotion or patience from the accountants. I also think the standard of manuscripts submitted would be even higher now, especially if some advance notice was given to potential writers. But it all depends on the publishers having the will to make it work... and the patience to work toward building a strong market,” he said. “[A new horror line would be] vastly better if it maintained itself for years instead of as a one-off run and built up a product name and continual marketing budget,” Evan agreed. From his Dark Suspense experience, Brett reckons, “writing is hard but publishing can
So when they accepted it, it was a complete shock. So I think the big lesson I learned is, don’t be afraid to try. The second lesson I learned was that I wasn’t nearly as good a writer as I thought I was: my editor taught me that one! And the third lesson? Books don’t sell themselves. Getting them onto the shelves isn’t the last step, it’s the first. Getting them off the shelves? That’s the hard part!” “The people at my day job took me seriously after [the novel was published]. Which may or may not have been a good thing—I notice they don’t ask me what I did on the weekend any more,” Kyla said.
All of the authors are currently working on their next projects, “As the economic conditions worsen, Jason Nahrung so the future of local horror there might be a turn towards darker looks dark (but in a good way). escapist fare in literature, but the Martin is working on the sequel to Carnies, word horror is a problem. Would a series of provocatively titled Bitches; Jason’s agent books united only by a sticker labelling them is shopping around an Australian vampire Australian horror work? Somehow, I don’t novel to publishers; Brett has completed a think so, because each story would appeal to dark coming-of-age novel and his short story different readers, but those readers might be collection Tales of Sin and Madness is due turned off the whole set by the one story they out soon; and Kyla is working on a paranormal don’t like. Obviously, die hard horror readers romance, David on his next column for BLACK, would revel in it, but there aren’t enough and Evan is hanging out for the next deadline of them—I’d be happy to be proven wrong announcement. on that score—to support such a scatter-gun approach.” And at the end of the day, four good novels were published, and in the wash-up, that wasn’t a bad result for Australian horror. n
The Dark Suspense legacy
While history may prove the Dark Suspense line to be a mere blip on the literary radar, the books are currently the benchmark for horror fiction in Australia. Regardless of whether a new publisher picks up on the lead started by Lothian Books, Martin was philosophical about his publishing experience and its impact on his career. “When I submitted Carnies, I never expected it to get picked up. I purely did it to have the experience of submitting a novel to a publisher, something I’d never done before.
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
Dr Marty Young
An October to Remember
he hollowed-out pumpkins and their jack-o-lantern laughs have fallen to rot now that Halloween is gone, but October was a big month for the AHWA. To begin, there was Conflux 5: Dreaming. This is one of the main speculative-fiction conventions in Australia, a near regular on the calendar. This year, the AHWA hosted an official horror stream at the con, complete with eight panels of topic discussions on various aspects of the horror genre involving some of the luminaries in the field, folks such as Robert Hood, Richard Harland, Leigh Blackmore, and even international bestselling author Jack Dann. From Ghosts of the Past through to the Horror of the Apocalypse, we covered it all. Cons, doc? Aw, c’mon … Have you ever attended a con? Do you know what really goes on there? We don’t all wear Star Trek
costumes and run around sharing Vulcan hand greetings, y’know. Conventions are a chance to meet and chat with some of the top authors in the field. They’re an opportunity to take part in discussion with professional writers on various aspects of writing, editing, and getting published. It’s a chance to make contacts in this business, which for those serious about establishing a career in writing, is invaluable ... and they’re fun. So yes. Cons. Next, California-based The Writing Show (www. writingshow.com) hosted the hugely successful 4th annual Halloween Ghast Fest. This podcast event kicked off the week before Halloween and featured one horror short story per night by selected AHWA members. These podcasts are freely available from The Writing Show’s website. This year saw Alison Pearce, Chuck McKenzie, David Conyers, Rick Kennett, and yours truly involved in the show, with Australian
horror’s cornerstone Stephen Studach as MC. Lay back, close your eyes, and listen … Is there a better way to enjoy a thrilling story? Halloween also saw the birth of Midnight Echo, the official magazine of the AHWA. The tales you read here in Black are a peek into a thriving underworld of small press publications, and Midnight Echo is the new beastie in the bonnet. Issue 1 was edited by Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond—two of Australia’s long-serving tenants of darkness. All up, there are 16 juicy morsels of horror to delight you, including tales by respected Australian horror writers Stephen Dedman, Paul Haines, Martin Livings, and Deborah Biancotti, as well as the short story winning entry by Alice Godwin from the AHWA Flash & Short Story competition 2008. Midnight Echo will be published twice a year and will have different editors every issue. Go to www.australianhorror.com and ah-hah! Now you have no excuses for not being able to find top quality Australian (and international) horror fiction! Your homework: go to the AHWA website (www. australianhorror.com), find the Midnight Echo page and get yourself a copy of Issue 1. C’mon, you knew I was going to say that! Dr Marty Young is the president of the AHWA. He is also a research scientist, writer, and editor. In what little spare time he has, he investigates Australian colonial horror stories.
ounded in 2005 by Robert N. Stephenson of Altair Australia Books for the Australian Horror Writers Association, the Australian Shadows Award is a literary prize devoted to dark fiction Down Under. What makes the award so special? It is judged by experts who know the dark stuff inside out. The award is unique in that it compares short stories against novels and anthologies, with the ability to scare or creep the reader out seen as the deciding factor. The trophies, by dark fantasy artist Brom, are also pretty damn cool.
n Brom’s Angel of Darkness
WA author Lee Battersby won the inaugural award for his short story “Father Muerte and the Flesh”. Other winners were Will Elliott for his demonic clown novel The Pilo Family Circus and Terry Dowling for the short story “Toother”, about a serial killer with a flair for dentistry. was awarded to the 2006 Australian Shadows winner.
There is a distinct shade of black over this year’s awards. The judges are Black’s managing editor Shane Jiraiya Cummings; Black columnist, bookstore manager and author Chuck McKenzie; and Brett McBean, author of the horror novel The Mother. Aussies who have had a dark fiction short story or novel published in 2008 are eligible to enter their work for consideration (entry is free). If this sounds like you—or you have read something dark and delicious published by an Australian this year—visit www.australianhorror.com (click on the Australian Shadows link) or contact the Awards Director Kirstyn McDermott. Entries close December 31. n
Artificial demand Five kick arse prosthetics
nspired by Eihi Shiina’s turn as a mutant arse kicker in Tokyo Gore Police, where all sorts of bizarre appendage weapons crop up in the darndest places, BLACK staffers compiled a list of our all-time favourite crazy-awesome prosthetics used to replace missing body parts.
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Cherry Darling, Planet Terror’s go-go dancer by day and arse kicker by night. Coming back from losing your leg to mindless zombie freaks is tough, but compensating for the loss by attaching an M4 assault rifle (and later, a minigun) is full of awesome.
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
Ash Williams, hero of the Evil Dead franchise and Marvel Zombies arse kicker is so damn hardcore that he chainsawed off his own hand when it “went bad” after being infected by evil. What does one do with a handless stump? If your name is Ash and you have Deadites looking to devour your soul, you stick a chainsaw on it, take up your boomstick in your good hand, and you begin kickin’ down doors and bustin’ heads. Hail to the king, baby!
Cenobites, from Clive Barkerâ€™s Hellraiser books and films. Led by the notorious Pinhead (below), the Cenobites are demonic devotees of pain with many disturbing and useful disfigurements that serve to gross out and attack their victims.
Hellboy (left), star of his own comic and movie franchise, is a wise-cracking demon in the service of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. His greatest asset, aside from his kick arse gun The Good Samaritan, is his invincible stone hand, known as The Right Hand of Doom. His hand once belonged to a malevolent demon prince and has become the key to the impending apocalypse. Thatâ€™s a lot of pressure for one guy to handle.
Edward scissorhands, Tim Burtonâ€™s tragic and touching Frankensteinian creation, may lack the balls and all gusto of guys like Hellboy and Ash, but his prosthetic hands are ultra cool. Having scissors for hands has its upsides, especially when a spot of gardening is in order. However, having a scratch or holding hands poses a real challenge.
Soul Mates By Kathryn Gossow
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
didn’t always look this bad.
But that was long ago. All I have left is the memory of Her rotting flesh. I feel its stain like a warm balm against the Invasion. The Invasion rips at me like a blunt nail.
My first memory, when I was new, long before the Invasion, was the sun’s heat pouring into my very grain. Then I felt Her. She ran Her fingers along my doorframe. Her touch tingled through my frame. She walked deeper into the room, admiring my freshly painted cream walls. Her face was bright and clear of care as she noted the winter sun stretching through the window. The sun bled into Her skin.
I had stood alone in the early days. Horses trundled carts back then and stirred up the dust road. I miss the dust’s feather touch. The hard blue road, the cars, and the other houses came after The Boys were gone, after Edward Dear left. Those houses, short, squat things rising faster than the moon could complete a cycle. I did my best to ignore them, and yet, it was sad to see them smashed and dismantled.
I daydream crushed legs and bleeding heads beneath my rubble.
It was then I knew. I can’t explain the knowing, how it comes to be, but I knew I was for her, and she was for me. She dreamt me and so I am. Edward Dear came next. My long stairs held steady beneath the thump of his heavy boots; they revealed none of today’s rattles. His grin was wide, his eyes sun creased, and his stumpy fingers smeared with cream paint. The Boys came later.
In their place, growing like a disease, tall featureless brick boxes with many kitchens and many bathrooms. The people come and go—there are so many—I want to sink away and vanish in a mound of white ant dust.
Her didn’t go anywhere much. I enfolded her. Protected her from the fast cars and sprouting brick boxes. I kept her inside me, like she should have kept The Boys in her womb. When she stood at the door admiring the sunshine, I encouraged her inside. Reminded Her of my sanctuary and comfort. I had Her to myself, but try as I did, I was unable to erase the sadness that devoured Her. I sank into the ground. Her back stooped and bent. My windows stayed closed, and the air grew stale and musty. Her breath became short and painful.
“You Boys,” she’d say from Her kitchen, “get outside.” Oh, how I remember the clamour of those bare feet smoothing away the splinters. The Boys were dripping honey sandwiches and vegemite smears.
p The War took The Boys. At first, we thought they would come Home. Her and Edward Dear bought a new fangled machine—a radio. They listened, waiting. In the waiting, Edward Dear kept me bright and ready. But the War took The Boys anyway. Before the War, I remember Christmas trees wilting in summer heat, the steam of hot food rising to tickle my ceiling, cosy nights with windows closed—and music. Oh, the music. The sweetness of those voices together. Not like the music of the Invaders. It rattles and shakes me with its violence. I feel I might crumble. I feel I would like to crumble. I daydream crushed legs and bleeding heads beneath my rubble. After The Boys, there was sadness, but Her looked after Edward Dear so that Edward Dear could look after me. The day Edward Dear didn’t come home ended all that. I don’t know where he went. I only know a stranger came to the door. He hesitated long moments before he knocked. His voice shook as he rolled his hat nervously in his hands. “A fall at work,” he said. Her went to find him. I wanted Her to stay. But she needed Edward Dear to look after me. I never saw him again. My paint splintered, my pipes began to clatter and bang, and the white ants crept in like growing mould.
Her breath and mine, shallow and old. Then Her stopped moving. Fell to the floor and stayed there. Her flesh changed. Grew liquid. It was my greatest wish come true. I began to absorb her. Take her being into my wooden floor. It took a long time. Too long. Before we could finish, people came and stole Her. Washed Her smell away with caustic liquids. They took away everything that ever belonged to Her, Edward Dear, and The Boys. They painted me slap dash and dripping. They left me with cheap fittings and fixtures. Inside, the plumbing still clatters. Now, I have the Invasion. At first, I thought it was one of The Boys come back at last. But it was a different boy. Then he brought others. They treat me reprehensively. They get angry and kick my walls. Solidly, I kick them back. Bruise their toes. They smashed a window, too. Patched it up with boards and tape. Unhealed, it still aches. They plug their electrical machines in my sockets. Machine after machine, thumping music, televisions, computers, fans. More than I can handle. In the lounge room, just next to the bedroom door, I feel the wires sting and sizzle. I could soothe them … blow them cool … but I let them smoke. The smoke is a soft pillow. The heat burns a black stain. Invisible. Hidden from the Invasion. I shall enjoy their cooking flesh.
Kathryn Gossow lives among the gum trees, with one plum tree, lots of avocado trees, and one very odd chicken. She pays her mortgage by working for the Queensland Government and would write more except she has to fight her children for computer time.
Where monsters lurk Josephine Pennicott
onsider this scenario. You’re a clinical psychologist. You have access to the identities and private addresses of some of the worst paedophiles in Australia. You have enough money to hire a hitman and a good idea of how to go about arranging such a thing. You’re tormented by memories of some of the more shocking crimes you’ve heard in interviews. It’s the ones against children that affect you the most because you really love children. You know that the monsters aren’t a figment of glossed-up television shows and crime novels. The monsters are real. They have excuses, wit, cunning, ego, and emptiness in their hearts. You know this because you’ve been in the cells with them, and your daily routine is dancing with the sort of fiends that the rest of the population only experience vicariously—if they’re lucky.
So do you hire the hitman? Do you follow the brewing rage that consumes you? Or do you transmute the darkness and write two best selling books? I was lucky enough to catch the vivacious Dr Leah Giarratano (best-selling Australian author of Vodka Doesn’t Freeze and Voodoo Doll) speaking at Better Read Than Dead bookshop in Newtown (Sydney). If you ever get the chance to hear her, I highly recommend it—I was literally chilled as she spoke. In fact, I was so transfixed by her accounts of life as a trauma psychologist, I forgot to take notes and what I did write was virtually illegible. “Let me take you inside the mind of a reallife psychopath,” she began, telling us about a prisoner interview she had been invited to witness. This was no ordinary offender. There was standing room only in the small cell, and Leah
was the only woman present. It wasn’t until she saw his black eye that Leah realised who this man was. She recognised him because the entire prison was talking about this man who had murdered his three children. He kept his little girl alive for three days, inflicting numerous depravities upon her. What he had done to his children was so horrendous that the people coming to see him weren’t shown his files to ensure they wouldn’t have any preconceptions about him—or perhaps try to kill him. He’d been bashed by inmates (hence his shiner), and it was rumoured that the guards turned their backs to let it happen. This man was just one of several that Leah talked about that night in her breezy, enthralling manner. Straight from central casting, Leah is not only intelligent, warm, and articulate but looks like a rather funky rock star. You could easily imagine her starring in a television series, and so it was no surprise to hear that a major network is chasing her for a new crime show. Leah is a reminder to us all that monsters do live and lurk amongst us. Signing off with a bloody Quill and a timely warning from Leah: lock your doors! Josephine Pennicott is a crime writer who has published three dark fantasy novels and won both the Scarlet Stiletto and Kerry Greenwood Prize.
1 in 5 people in Australia will experience depression in their lifetime. If it’s not you, maybe it’s someone you know. Find out about depression, what to do about it and how to help someone at www.beyondblue.org.au or phone 1300 22 4636. For counselling or urgent assistance call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978 216081
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Special offer! As an extra special treat, the next 60 subscribers will receive a FREE horror DVD from Icon Home Entertainment’s Insomnia range. Titles include The Descent, Shadow Puppets, The Hitcher, Severance, Dark Ride, and Altered. New subscribers also go into the draw to win $1000. So what are you waiting for? Get a regular supply of BLACK, a free DVD, and the chance to win some cash! Hook up a subscription at:
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fter another exhilarating episode of Dexter a few nights back, I went for my usual midnight run. I like running at night; it allows me time to think, and it’s at a time when all the fun things come out to play. On this particular night, I was stuck on the notion of Dexter as a hero. Sure, he’s giving the dark streets of Miami a good tidying, but he’s such a flawed person that it’s hard to see him as a hero. He describes himself as hollow, faking every emotion and relationship of his life. He even has to wear sunglasses at a funeral so that people can’t see his lack of soul. This poses the question—why do we love him so much? It stems from our own inner darkness. Dexter’s Dark Passenger has been reared over many years by careful tutelage from his step-father Harry—a
disillusioned and disgruntled police officer who saw Dexter for what he really was.
deepest, and darkest desires bubbling to the surface to lead us into temptation?
The Dark Passenger is an insatiable force inside Dexter, a need that can only be quietened by killing. Dexter needs to kill to satisfy the Passenger, and killing is the only time he ever really feels anything. How can someone with this homicidal psychopathy inside him be such an adorable character? It’s absolute genius, I tell you.
Dexter is at peace with his dark passenger, coexisting quite contentedly with it. It’s this symbiosis that we find so enthralling in our Dearly Devilish Dexter. That someone so charming, funny, smart, and normal looking can have such an intense evil inside him and still be intoxicatingly alluring. Now isn’t that something for us all to strive for?
And these dark passengers seem to be popping up everywhere, from everyone’s favourite bunny from hell in Donnie Darko to William Hurt’s character Manny in Mr Brooks. All these characters serve as a catalyst to the main character, pushing him to the darker edge of his psyche. Are these just evolved forms of the devilish conscience sitting on our shoulder, or are they something more sinister, our wildest,
Nathan Elder Nathan admits to having had his own dark passenger, but ditched it when the ATO refused to accept it as a dependent on his tax return
A New Millennium: Back to Frank Black
t the end of the twentieth century, people were worried—worried whether the world would end due to divine intervention or technological malfunction. Some authors and artists used the phenomenon to their advantage, while others dismissed it, laughing at others seconds after 2000 was ushered in. One television show in particular used the countdown towards 2000 to their advantage and explored the nature of humanity at a time many felt would be its last. That show was Chris ‘X-Files’ Carter’s award winning series Millennium (1996-1999), which followed the journey of criminal profiler Frank Black. As a latecomer to Millennium, I sadly did not experience the weekly anticipation of each episode on the small screen. However, thanks to the magic of DVDs, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the series in its entirety, and in doing so, came to the conclusion that it was one of the most underrated, intriguing, and smartest television shows of the 1990s. In many ways, it foreshadowed the crime-centred series that now dominate our television programs. Millennium struck the perfect balance between supernatural
and non-supernatural horror, religion and science, light and darkness. Watching Frank Black (perfectly portrayed by veteran actor Lance Henriksen) working on case after case of violence was mesmerising. Why? Well, each case was as unique as the next and unashamedly tackled topical themes and issues yet explored—while Frank desperately tried to live a normal life with his lovely wife Catherine and daughter Jordan, in addition to questioning the true motives of the clandestine Millennium group for whom he reluctantly worked. The supporting cast was equally captivating: from the loyal Detective Bob Bletcher and spiritual Lara Means, to the Mephistophelean Peter Watts and devilish Lucy Butler. It was a fascinating odyssey for fans of the series, and all three seasons brought new trials and tribulations, challenges and jubilations. Sadly however, the series was cancelled and despite a later appearance in a season seven X-Files episode (predictably titled ‘Millennium’), the character and world of Frank Black never truly felt finished. Like a jigsaw puzzle missing the final piece or a half sewn tapestry, Millennium lacked closure. Here’s your chance to add the final touches to a work of art. A website called Back to Frank Black (www.backtofrankblack.com), hosted by
BLACK A u s t r a l i a n D a r k C u l t u r e M a g a z i n e
a large community of Millennium fans at www. tiwwa.info (short for “This is Who We Are”—the unspoken motto of the Millennium group) is seeking to petition a film based on the series and “to see a new show or project using a dearly loved character”. Millennium fans are investing a phenomenal amount of time and effort to convince Twentieth Century Fox to fund such a project, and they need support from the wider community. From banners and buttons, to posters and personalised letters, our determination knows no bounds. We believe the time is right for Frank Black to return, as do those who actually worked on the series (such as X-Files luminary Frank Spotnitz). I implore readers of Black to sign both petitions and resurrect Frank Black so that he may be rightfully recognised as one of the forerunners of fictional criminal profilers and receive the fitting end denied to him in 1999. As the epithets of the series state: we shall wait, we shall worry, but we know the time is near. All we need is you! Benjamin Szumskyj
In sto re Decem s ber
The best Australian horror stories in one book. dark fiction
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Published on Oct 31, 2008