Monthly Archives: August 2012

Dark Roots

World Fantasy Convention 2013 to honour old masters and their hair-raising tales

OK, so it’s over a year away but the next World Fantasy Convention is still worth getting

Arthur Machen

excited about as more details emerge. Organisers of WFC2013 have announced that one of next year’s themes will be a tribute to late-Victorian fantasy author Arthur Machen whose 150th birthday falls in March. Organisers plan to have several events on the programme featuring Machen’s work as well as that of some of his contemporaries in the genre. To quote from the WFC2013 website:

Machen worked as a clerk, teacher, actor and journalist while writing stories of horror and fantasy rooted in the myths of his homeland. H.P. Lovecraft named him as one of the four “modern masters” of supernatural horror fiction (alongside Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany and M.R. James). Probably best known for his classic 1894 novella ‘The Great God Pan’ (which Stephen King described as “Maybe the best [horror story] in the English Language”) and the short story ‘The White People’, Machen’s novels include The Inmost Light, The Shining Pyramid, The Three Impostors and The Hill of Dreams.

I haven’t yet read Machen but last year read several of Blackwood’s works and am

Algernon Blackwood

currently devouring M.R. James and his definitive collection of ghost stories. Prose style has changed dramatically over the last century to be sure, but many of these stories hold their power to grip and frighten. Blackwood’s The Wendigo or The Willows definitely requires the hall light being left on all night. And as a longtime H.P. Lovecraft fan, it brought a smile to my face when reading James’s The Treasure of Abbot Thomas to find a character chillingly describe the unwanted embrace of a tomb-dwelling demon: “legs or arms or tentacles or something clinging to my body.” The seed of the Cthulu Mythos? Many of these stories do seem to have the

M.R. James

elements of what Lovecraft would use to make himself a master of horror in the 20th century: half-remembered legends, ancient sleeping evil, and blundering professors and sceptics waking it all up. Authors have always built upon what has gone before, either consciously or unconsciously. Even these late Victorian and Edwardian scribes were indebted to the likes of Poe, Polidori and Shelley. I’m pleased to see the old masters of weird tales get the attention they deserve and frankly, they’re still a damn good read.

You can visit the World Fantasy Convention website at: www.wfc2013.org