I am writing this on the first day of 2013 and, like many others around the globe, I am pondering what’s in store for the next 365 days. No doubt there are going to be millions of column inches devoted to forthcoming genre books, events and films plastered all over the internet in the coming weeks, but even so I am going to add yet more words to tell you, from a personal perspective, about some of the things I am looking forward to in 2013 (and I am more than sure that there will be a whole load of surprises undreamt of forthcoming during the months ahead).
Peter Cushing’s Centenary
The most important thing for me is that this year sees the centenary of the birth of the late, great actor Peter Cushing, the man who arguably came to define both the genteel glory of the English gentleman and the epitome of the celluloid destroyer of evil in its various guises (as well as playing a few nasty characters himself). He also came to define a certain era of horror filmmaking, an era which is now sadly long gone and much lamented. In particular he came to be associated with the Hammer Films studio, to such an extent that whenever anyone mentions the name of Hammer it’s more than likely the words Peter Cushing will follow very quickly on its heels. But, if one cares to look deeply into his filmography, it’s immediately apparent that he was far greater than the man who vanquished vampires and demons. He was a classically-trained actor, who brought a certain gravitas to every role he took on, whether it was Van Helsing in Dracula (1958) or The Brides of Dracula, Dr. Who in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD or Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars Episode IV:A New Hope. He applied a distinct charm and manner to whatever character he was playing. Over and above that, he was a hero to many, both young and old, and responsible for launching a thousand genre careers of those of a certain generation – many of the writers I’ve worked with cite him as a major influence (along with the rest of the ‘triumvirate’: Christopher Lee and Vincent Price).
One such writer influenced by this quintessentially English thespian is Stephen Volk. Those who know their horror history will surely recognise that name – Stephen was the creator/screenwriter of Ghostwatch, the faux ‘reality-TV’ show (and subsequently mislabelled a ‘hoax’) set in a haunted house in London and broadcast on Halloween 1992. It caused something of an uproar, even leading to questions in Parliament, but it also brought into sharp focus the blurring of the lines between reality and televisual reality, and how we perceive them as consumers of television ‘product’. He also worked with the late Ken Russell on Gothic, with William Friedkin, the director most notable for The Exorcist, and wrote the screenplay for The Awakening, a recent well-received British ghost film.
So what does Stephen Volk have to do with Peter Cushing, you may ask, apart from the latter being something of an influence? Well, in May 2013, Spectral Press is publishing Stephen’s heartfelt tribute to the man, called Whitstable, the seaside town Cushing lived in with his beloved wife Helen. Although it’s a tale devoid of supernatural elements, the monsters which Peter fights are all too real, and the frail actor, mourning the loss of Helen, simply relies on pure strength of character and moral fortitude to get himself through the dire situation he finds himself confronted with. It’s one of the most powerful stories I have ever read, and it moved me in a way which few other written pieces have. The novella has already garnered some excellent notices from the likes of Mick Garris (director of the TV mini-series of Stephen King’s The Stand and Bag of Bones), Tony Earnshaw (author of An Actor and a Rare One: Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes) and David Pirie (author of A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema), as well as writers such as Gary McMahon and Simon Kurt Unsworth. It comes wrapped in an absolutely gorgeous Ben Baldwin cover and contains an afterword by Mark Morris. The official publication date is 26 May 2013 (which just happens to be Peter’s birthdate) in an edition of 100 hardbacks, of which nearly two-thirds are already spoken for, and an unlimited paperback. (If you are desirous of a copy of the hardback, please contact [email protected] to reserve one.)
Genre fiction conventions
Naturally, we are hoping to launch the book at some event or other around the time that the book is due to be published, perhaps at alt.fiction. One such event we are definitely looking to attend will be the first Fantastiq Film Festival, to be held in the Quad, Derby, between August 9 and 11. One of the themes of the Festival is the life and works of Peter Cushing, so Stephen and I hope to be involved in some capacity. I am not entirely sure what the programme will be at this point, but there is a Facebook page which will keep you all updated on what is bound to be the first of an exciting annual series of film festivals.
Sadly, there’s no FantasyCon this year, but instead there will be something even bigger – World Fantasy Convention. This will be held over the weekend of October 31 – November 3 2013 at the Brighton Hilton Metropole Hotel. There’s an impressive list of guests due to be appear already, including Richard Matheson and Richard Christian Matheson, Alan Lee (conceptual artist on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit), Brian Aldiss and Tessa Farmer, with the whole event being held together by the Master of Ceremonies, China Miéville. World Fantasy Convention has a broader appeal and, as noted above, is a great deal bigger than FantasyCon, attracting many hundreds of fans of genre as well as the usual writers, artists, editors and publishers. People come from all over the world, and it truly will be a gathering of the clans. This is only the third time the event has been held outside North America, the other times being London in 1988 and 1997. I am mostly going there as a punter this time, although there exists a possibility that I might launch a book or two if I can swing it. Whatever transpires, this will also be an opportunity for me to meet many writers who, up until now, have been virtual friends only. There will be a whole host of dealers and publishers to mingle with, and there will be awards. And drink. Lots of drink.
However, the ONE thing I am most looking forward to is reaching the big 5-0 in February. The wife and I are spending it in a cottage in the Scottish Highlands near Fort William for a week – it’ll be a nice relaxing break from the heady world of publishing and editing that my life has become. The cottage itself is within sight of Benn Nevis and a loch, which is exactly what I need to wind down and help regenerate my energy levels. Never fear though, Spectral won’t be far from my thoughts, and no doubt I shall be sneakily hatching all kinds of plans.
So – that’s what I am eagerly anticipating for 2013. What are you looking forward to? Whatever your plans are, I sincerely wish and hope that this year will be the year of years for everyone, and that much success and prosperity is on its way to you!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!