Saturday, 26 November 2011

REVAMP! - Down with Vapid Vampires!

          Revamp is an on-line horror fest, the idea of two writers, Die Booth and L C Hu, aka the Mad Doctors of Literature.
          Tired of modern horror clichés, such as the swoony, teenage, angst-ridden vampire, Hu and Booth wanted to encourage a return to the older, folk-lore rooted horror story, and they posted their stories on-line and invited others to submit tales of vampires, were-wolves, ghosts and zombies.
          For a whole year, from Hallowe’en 2010 to Hallowe’en 2011, lovers of spooks and things that snarl in the night were able to dip into the site, sure of finding a good story.
          Now an anthology of the Revamp stories is available, both as a paper book and as an e-book.  I haven’t space to mention every story, but I was struck by the vivid exactness of detail that characterises all of them.  The writers understand that a monster of any kind is far more frightening if it’s present as part of a time and place we can picture ourselves in, and for that, precise observation is needed.
          This exactness, this clarity of imagination can be seen, for instance, in Die Booth’s Found – a lovely take on the classic Jacob’s story The Monkey’s Paw, and one which doesn’t suffer by comparison.  Anyone who has been in a Northern English city, with sooty, rainy streets, and poky little houses, can walk inside this story (and be chilled by it.)
          Tessa Brown, with exact detail, sets a scary ghost story on a train, and an equally scary zombie story in a biodome.  This last may not be a place most people are acquainted with, but the writer’s casual allusion to the office, the plants, show that she has imagined herself squarely inside it – and that clarity of the writer’s vision enables the reader to step inside it too.
          I very much enjoyed Booth’s Tangled Thread, for its contrasting voices.  It begins as a Victorian ghost story, and I read it while holding my breath and waiting for the false note.  It never came: Booth is pitch perfect.  If I had read this story without knowing anything about it, I would have taken it for a period story reprinted from an old magazine.  The second half of the story is told by an American street kid, in a voice that couldn’t be more different.
          Strong narrative voices appear elsewhere.  I enjoyed Michele Rimmer’s The Maggot, and loved her cool Brummie narrator (an undertaker), who addresses her one-night stand as ‘Bab’.  (I come from near Birmingham and have been called ‘bab’ a few times!)
          In L C Hu’s Natural Beast, we have an icily correct aristocratic narrator who plans to murder his brother in rather the same tone he might plan the redecoration of his rooms.  (And which is the greater beast, this story asks, the wolf or the man?)  Hu also has a chilling tale of a nascent serial killer, narrated by the killer’s mother.  The subtle glimpses of the family’s life, and the mother’s detached tone, tell us more than the words themselves.
          Many of the best stories take the horror themes and spin them, taking a sidelong, unexpected view – and the desire to reconnect with folklore is surely present in Booth’s Fourth Ape, which echoes with the tale of Bluebeard, but has its own originality.

Liebster Blog Award
            Other readers will choose other favourites from among the stories, but this is an excellent collection, with skill, wit, originality and quite a few shocks, scares and creeps!
          And you may have noticed that the blog has won an award!  Of which, more next week.

      And Blot, you ask, where is Blot?
Blot is missing.  He may be shut in a garage somewhere.  I am searching the virtual neighbourhood and banging cans of tuna with a spoon.  I hope he'll be back by next week.


Katherine Roberts said...

Blot is with the unicorn, sulking. So I have awarded him a special Leibster of his own...

(and my security letters for this post spell "uncatti" - weird!)

Juliet said...

Ooh, this sounds like a good Christmas suggestion!

madwippitt said...

If you need help finding Blot the wippitty ones will be happy to apply their keen pointy noses to his trail and drive him out of hiding ... they would prefer to be rewarded with real tuna rather than the virtual stuff however. Or caviar ...