Author Archives: The Teeming Brain
Here’s a treat for fans of classic occult horror in the vein of Dennis Wheatley (author of the iconic/legendary novel The Devil Rides Out):
Teeming Brain columnist Stuart Young has edited a volume of five stories in this vein for Hersham Horror Books. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Hersham Horror Books presents five original stories from the minds of Peter Mark May, Thana Niveau, John Llewellyn Probert, David Williamson, and Stuart Young. The fourth anthology in our PentAnth range brings you five more satanic and demonic tales that hearken back to an age when Dennis Wheatley was the king of horror.
Here are the contents:
- Introduction by Stuart Young: “Devilish Inspirations”
- “The Abhorrent Man” by Peter Mark May
- “Little Devils” by Thana Niveau
- “The Devil in the Details” by John Llewellyn Probert
- “The Scryer” by David Williamson
- “Guardian Devil” by Stuart Young
Here is some praise:
“Featuring five stories based around the sadly neglected sub genre of Black Magic and Demonology from some of the best writers working today, Demons and Devilry captures the very essence of what makes for a great horror read. . . . A brilliant anthology, one which manages to perfectly balance stories of a lighter tone with more dark and heavy tones. If you are looking for some demonic fun, then this book is the ideal book for you.” — Ginger Nuts of Horror
“If Demons and Devilry sounds like your particular chalice of virgin’s blood, then you’ll find plenty to satisfy here. Despite the old-school theme, these tales aren’t dated or stale, they’re contemporary homages to the cause of all things arcane and infernal. And with such a stark appearance and title, it’s also a fun book to brandish in public. Dig out the black candles and enjoy.” — Matthew Fryer
“I’m a sucker for stories about demons and devils; they just draw me in and captivate me for some reason. . . . Every story in Demons & devilry is written well and flows at a nice pace. The authors go to great lengths to convey a lot of story in such a small space, and they each do a first-rate job. And as with Hersham’s previous titles, the quality of writing is superb. Each tale is carefully crafted and each writing voice unique. . . . An excellent collection of stories.” — Shattered Ravings
Also of interest: a blog post that Stu published about his experience of editing the anthology, bearing the ominous title “Why I Hate Editing (aka I’ve Edit Up to Here).”
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We’re very pleased to see that At Fear’s Altar, the numinous horror collection by our own Richard Gavin, has received an excellent review from Publishers Weekly. A couple of months ago we passed along some strong praise from other reviewers. Now PW has this to say about the book:
Literate horror fans who have yet to encounter Canadian author Gavin (Charnel Wine) are in for a treat in this collection of 13 stories that evoke familiar genre themes in creative ways. The lyrical prose is often at a higher level than usual presentations of otherworldly demons and malevolent forces (fireworks are “tadpoles of sulphurous light squiggling down and dissolving just above the black lake water”). Gavin has a knack for original plotlines.
— “At Fear’s Altar by Richard Gavin,” Publishers Weekly, January 28, 2013
The remainder of the review singles out several stories for specific mention.
So, in short, fans of literate horror with a deep heart of philosophical and spiritual darkness should take note. And don’t forget that Richard himself offers a suggested reading list of classic high-quality horror stories that actually horrify in his latest column.
The Mask Behind the Face, the collection of metaphysical horror fiction by Teeming Brain contributor Stuart Young (see his column Sparking Neurones), was short-listed for the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection in 2006, and the title story — about brain disease, psychedelics, and the far outer and deep inner reaches of consciousness — ended up winning the award for Best Novella. Now its publisher, the UK-based Pendragon Press, is offering ten copies for free.
Here are the details:
Ten copies of Stuart Young’s The Mask Behind the Face up for grabs if you can answer the following question: who wrote the introduction to this collection?
First ten folk to join the Pendragon mailing list by this Friday and confirm their answer via email to Chris at pendragonpress dot net will receive a copy — unfortunately, I’ll have to invoice folk from overseas postage costs.
Note that the promotion launched just today, so “this Friday” means Friday, January 18. For the form to join Pendragon’s mailing list, visit the Pendragon Press site and see the right sidebar.
As for the novella that forms the book’s centerpiece, be advised that it’s a stellar piece of work offering a deeply personal and emotional take on its mind-bursting central subject. Here’s some enthusiastic praise from several people you’ve heard of:
“Emotional, brilliant and scary as hell.” – Brian Keene
“This is horror fiction as it should be: real, confrontational, yet simple, honest and intimate.” – Gary McMahon
“Wow, what an impressive story … ambitious, in fact downright audacious.” – T.E.D. Klein
“No one can accuse Stuart Young of avoiding the big issues — with insight and verve, he tackles head-on the existence of God, the mystery of human consciousness and the transformative effects of psychedelic drugs.” – Mark Chadbourn
We’re extremely pleased to announce the addition of Ryan Hurd to our writing teem. He will contribute a recurring column titled “Visions, Dreams, and Visitations.”
As indicated by such a title, Ryan is an expert on dreams and consciousness. He is founder of DreamStudies.org, a website dedicated to sleep, dreams, and consciousness research. He is also a frequent contributor to Business Insider and Reality Sandwich. His books include Lucid Immersion Guidebook: A Holistic Blueprint for Lucid Dreaming (2012) and Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night (2011). As an educator, Ryan has presented to a wide range of audiences, including invited lectures at Stanford University, the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the Rhine Institute. As a qualitative researcher, he has presented and published papers on sleep paralysis, lucid nightmares, and the application of dreaming for uncovering researcher bias and novelty. He has a MA in Consciousness Studies from John F. Kennedy University, as well as a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in archaeology, and is a board member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Other professional memberships include the American Anthropological Association and the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness.
The first installment of Ryan’s column is now available, and in keeping with its December 24 publication date, it’s a seasonally appropriate offering: “Horror for the Holidays: Santa, Krampus, and the Dark Divine.” Whether you’re already familiar with the Krampus or have never heard of this dark companion of Santa Claus who haunts European Christmas lore but, in Ryan’s words, “was curiously scrubbed out from our cultural repertoire when St. Nick came overseas to the New World,” you’re sure to find this piece a darkly illuminating addition to your holiday reading.
From a lecture titled “Solitude and Leadership,” which William Deresiewicz delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009:
Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now — older people as well as younger people — you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.” Notice that he uses the word lead. Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.
So why is reading books any better than reading tweets or wall posts? Well, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, you need to put down your book, if only to think about what you’re reading, what you think about what you’re reading. But a book has two advantages over a tweet. First, the person who wrote it thought about it a lot more carefully. The book is the result of his solitude, his attempt to think for himself.
Second, most books are old. This is not a disadvantage: this is precisely what makes them valuable. They stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today. Even if they merely reflect the conventional wisdom of their own day, they say something different from what you hear all the time. But the great books, the ones you find on a syllabus, the ones people have continued to read, don’t reflect the conventional wisdom of their day. They say things that have the permanent power to disrupt our habits of thought. They were revolutionary in their own time, and they are still revolutionary today.
— William Deresiewicz, “Solitude and Leadership,” The American Scholar, Spring 2010
Image: “Man Reading at Lamplight” by Georg Friedrich Kersting, 1814 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The most influential composer ever to draw English breath, Benjamin Britten did more for music in three active decades than all of London’s musicians in three centuries.
… “So many of the great things in the world have come from the outsider,” he reflected, “and that lone dog isn’t always attractive.” Like J.K. Rowling (and Mozart, perhaps), he was doomed to live out the greater part of his life under the burden of early success. Britten’s added tragedy is that he always craved an acceptance he could never achieve. To offset that despair, he decided to improve the state of music, and royally succeeded.
Benjamin Britten converted the former “land without music” into a powerhouse of innovation and enterprise whose musicians stand tall in the world, free of his shadow. He deserves to be embraced in his centenary year with universal gratitude and warmth, uncomplicated by any moral quirks and shortcomings. Great as much of his music is, the man has proved himself greater still.
— Norman Lebrecht, “Glorious Legacy of a Crabby Loner,” Standpoint, November 2012
Image by Yousuf Karsh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Here are some wise and lovely thoughts on the deep value of memorizing poetry from NYU English professor Catherine Robson, author of Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem.
It may be tempting to lament the passing of an era when one and all were seemingly united by a joint stock of poetic knowledge stored inside their heads, but the once-mandatory exercise was not universally beloved. For some, standing tongue-tied in front of mocking classmates and a threatening teacher when the words wouldn’t come was a hated and humiliating ordeal. For others — perhaps for the majority — it was just something to get through, a practice that meant little at the time, and still less later on.
But there’s a world of difference between being forced to memorize a poem and choosing to do it off one’s own bat. The pleasures of this exercise are many: It can be amusing or moving, challenging and satisfying, simple or profound. And sometimes it provides much more than pleasure.
Clint Eastwood’s 2009 movie, Invictus, dwells upon the strength that Nelson Mandela drew from his memory of W.E. Henley’s poem during 27 years of captivity. And one of the most devastating chapters in If This Is a Man, Primo Levi’s account of his experiences in Auschwitz, records the moment when the author recites the Ulysses canto from the Inferno to a fellow inmate and understands for the first time the terrifying implications of Dante’s words. There are memoirs aplenty about the degradations of life in the Soviet gulag, in which survivors give thanks for the saving grace of Pushkin’s poetry committed to memory in happier days.
When everything else has been taken from you, a memorized poem remains. It is there to remind you of who you once were, who you are now, and who you might be. It is there to remind you that there is a world beyond the self, a world in which someone once joined word and word and word to make something that had never existed before, a world in which the possibility for change, for seeing differently, is always there. It is there to remind you that you are not alone. When you recite a poem, you are in conversation with another.
You don’t need to be in desperate circumstances to appreciate the power of the memorized poem. You don’t even need a power cut. Go on, try it. Consider beginning with a poem written in the first person—perhaps Thomas Hardy’s “I Look Into My Glass,” Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility,” or those famous 16 lines by Henley. And then ask yourself: Where does the “I” of the poem end and your “I” begin?
— Catherine Robson, “Why Memorize a Poem?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 26, 2012
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