Monday, 15 July 2019

He Recalls the Inventor of the Death Ray

Some time later, I would see the footage
Of Harry Grindell Matthews and the Death Ray.
He flickered, silent, moving newsreel-fast
Pressing switches, checking dials on his device.
A lightbulb flashed. An object fell from the sky.

He told me, as a boy in wartime
He played in Clydach on the hill
Near the aging inventor’s home.
He wondered at the powered fences
Soaked up all the stories,
Imagined a world the man had designed:
Beams of flashgordon light
Swatting bombers from the night,
Skywritten warnings and news of war.
British Tommies in Welsh-built rocketpacks
Swooping into Berlin and abducting
Werner Von Braun from his home before
The Yanks and the Russians even get involved.
By the time the time the Japanese capitulate
To rayguns and riveted rocketships
Built of Port Talbot steel and Swansea copper
We have already built fleets with dragons inside them
Breathing blackandwhite trails of sparks and smoke and fire,
En route to the Moon, or Venus, or Pluto,
Englishmen at the helm, but made in the Valleys.
This boy’s own promise of a golden age
Made in Wales.

(Thanks to Dr Rhys Jones for reading this poem so beautifully.)

Sunday, 14 July 2019


Last night I travelled standard class
On a shabby windowless aeroplane,
With stained and battered seats and
An in-flight movie screen of the old style.

I had arranged to meet my father’s ghost
In a far-away departure lounge.
He was of course vague and distant,
As he had been in life. He said nothing new.

I flew home on the same plane,
On the same day, in the same class.
I paid no attention to the movie,
Nor even noticed what it was.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Gwendolyn Kiste: Confronting Ghosts

Not pictured: awesome book. Pictured: awesome hat.
Gwendolyn Kiste is a rapidly rising star in the realm of literary horror. Her 2017 short fiction collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe was nominated for a 2017 Bram Stoker Award. I was lucky enough to meet Gwendolyn at this year’s StokerCon, where her book The Rust Maidens won the 2018 Stoker Award, in the First Novel category, which is the one category where you only ever get the one shot. Gwendolyn is a really great person, and she was a source of a great deal of energy and light at StokerCon. When her name got called at the awards dinner, I cheered harder for her than I did for anyone.

Gwendolyn is rapidly moving towards the category of "prolific" and already has a new, limited edition chapbook out, The Invention of Ghosts, but I really wanted to talk with Gwendolyn about The Rust Maidens.

The Rust Maidens is an exceptional work of fiction, and it ties into pretty much every one of my favourite horror subgenres and themes. In the book, we follow the story of Phoebe, a teenager in the 1980s and a middle-aged woman in the present day, as she tries to unravel and come to terms with the mystery of the Rust Maidens, a group of teenage girls living in depressed city of Cleveland, Ohio whose bodies begin to turn into industrial decay from the inside out.

If you haven’t read The Rust Maidens and want to, here’s the inevitable spoiler warning. Anyway, this is Gwendolyn and me, talking about the beauty of body horror, the monstering of teenage girls, healing in exile, and the spiritual consequences of Bad Reputations.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Children in Concentration Camps: a Filmic Survey

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

(Note: I suppose I should include a spoiler warning here, but to be honest, anything that means you don't have to watch this is a blessing and you should thank me.)

But what if, right, what if it was a kid who wasn't Jewish that died in the Holocaust? What if a kid who wasn't supposed to died? Like one of your kids? Wouldn't that make you realise? Wouldn't you understand what you were doing then? Wouldn't that make you sorry?

Because if the state of the world tells us anything right now, it's not like we're able to feel anything for anyone else's children.

Feel the compassion. No, not compassion for the Jewish people, because they're the collateral damage of history, right? No, you have to feel, really feel for the family of the Nazi whose own kid accidentally gets gassed. Feel for him. Feel the sympathy. feel the sincerity.

Feel the all-consuming performative middlebrow middle-class smugness.

God, I hope the people who made this thing (and yeah, all right, that includes John Boyne, who wrote the book) are so proud of themselves.

That's all you get.

See also: The Reader (2008)

Monday, 1 July 2019

The Question in Bodies #24: Jennifer's Body (2009)

Jennifer's Body: most underrated teen horror movie of the last two decades, or most underrated teen horror movie ever? Bold claims, probably. But it's definitely underrated.

Spoilers in this post, as ever. 

Sunday, 30 June 2019

The breadth in our hearts

(For Gela and Frances, on their wedding, 29/6/19)

The thing that is most magical of all
Is that after having spent so long
In worlds of the heart
Where everything is narrow –
Where our horizons are constrained –
Where all the spaces that we had to live in
Are defined by other people's boundaries –
The thing that is most magical of all
Is that within you, within me, within us
There is a breadth of love that covers everything,
A space to be ourselves;
A space to take each other on.
In you and I, there is a breadth in our hearts
Enough to make a hope, a life, a family
In a shape that we have chosen,
A space for us to be only, forever ourselves.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Why I Have Not Been Seen Upstairs Recently

Since you broke your leg, they said,
We became aware of the missing stair
And it is important to make sure you know
That from now on everyone will remember
To take care to step over the missing stair.
Obviously, it would be too expensive to fix,
And we do not want anyone to think that
We think any less of them because
They have let their house go to ruin
From lack of care because of one missing stair.
By the way, they said,
We haven't seen you upstairs recently.
Is everything OK?