Midnight Echo 8 cover and ToC revealed

Midnight Echo, the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association has revealed the cover and full Table of Contents for issue 8.


A Visit With Friends by Joe R Lansdale
The Girl from the Borderlands by Felicity Dowker
Blissful Ignorance by Matt Wedge
Hello Kitty by Jason Nahrung
Jar Baby by Michelle Jager (with artwork by Glenn Chadbourne)
The Boy With the Hole in his Heart by Caysey Sloan
They Don’t Know That We Know What They Know by Andrew J McKiernan
Squirrely Shirley by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (with artwork by David Schembri)
Always A Price by Joanne Anderton (AHWA Short Story winner 2012)
Blood Lillies by Shauna O’Meara (AHWA Flash Fiction winner 2012)
Tooth by Kathryn Hore
Pigroot Flat by Jason Fischer


Gallows & Blooms by Andrew Alford
Insatiable by Stuart Olver
Coming Home by Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca


Allure of the Ancients; The Key to His Kingdom – story by Mark Farrugia, illustrations by Greg Chapman

Special Features

In the Art, The Dark: Glen Chadbourne
Facts, fiction and fevers by Gary Kemble (non-fiction)
An Interview with Jack Ketchum
An Interview with Lee Battersby

Regular Features

A Word from the AHWA President – Geoff Brown
Tartarus – Danny Lovecraft (poetry column)
Pix and Panels – Mark Farrugia (comic column)
Black Roads, Dark Highways #3 – Andrew McKiernan (column)*
Sinister Reads (all the latest releases from AHWA members)

Pre-orders for the limited print edition are now being taken.


Dredd – movie review

Dredd is the second attempt to make a movie from the incredibly enduring 2000AD comic strip, Judge Dredd. The last attempt, with Sylvester Stallone in the title role, was such a smouldering pile of crap that I refuse to say any more about it. Does the new version make up for that? Actually, yes it does.

Dredd is the story of a future Earth where nuclear holocaust has reduced the vast majority of the planet to radioactive wastelands full of mutants, generally referred to as The Cursed Earth. The surviving, unaffected members of humanity live in massive, sprawling cities that cover thousands of square miles, called Mega-Cities. The biggest of these, covering the vast majority of the east coast of the US and home to some 800 million people, is Mega-City One. Most people live in Blocks, mega structures of some 200 stories each. As you can imagine, people crammed in those kind of numbers into that kind of space means crime and violence are everyday dangers. The only line between the people and utter chaos are the men and women of the Hall of Justice, known as Judges. They are judge, jury and executioner, dispensing justice and sentence wherever they go. Of all the Judges, Judge Dredd is the Judgiest. An absolute law man, with a perfect working knowledge of every aspect of Mega-City One’s fascist and brutal justice code and a black and white eye for resolution.

This is a world and a society that has grown incredible detail over the decades, so to tackle the subject in a single 90 minute film is daunting, to say the least. The makers of this film, however, were smart and, after some opening sequences through Mega-City One, they locked two judges in one block and the rest of the film played out there. It’s the story of one particular crime boss, known as Ma Ma, and her control of the new drug Slo-Mo. When you take Slo-Mo, you perceive the world as passing at 1% its normal speed, which gives the filmmakers an excuse for some awesome and beautiful super slo-mo sequences. Also some truly brutal ones, but we’ll get to that.

Judge Dredd is saddled with a new rookie judge, Anderson. The rookie failed her test to become a judge, but only just. She does, however, have a pretty powerful psychic ability and the Chief Judge tasks Dredd with taking her out for a day’s assessment to see if the slight fail can be ignored if Anderson’s psychic abilities prove her to be a good judge on the streets. On investigating a triple homicide in Peach Trees Block, they find themselves trapped in Ma Ma’s web and the crime boss seals off the block with war protocols and orders everyone inside to find and kill the judges. Thus begins a Die Hard-esque fight for survival while Dredd and Anderson try to stay alive and dispense justice.

Seeing as I’ve been a fan of Judge Dredd since before my age hit double figures, I was scared about how faithful to the comics this film would be. I have to say, they did a pretty bang-on job. I’ll list quickly a handful of things that deviated from the comics which I wasn’t so happy about. The Lawmaster bikes the judges use looked very different and I didn’t care for that change (though the Lawgiver guns were excellent). The appearance of Mega-City One was quite well done, but there weren’t nearly enough blocks and roads and other signs of density. When we got big aerial shots of the city, the blocks were far too spread apart and that killed what was, to me, one of the best and most horrible aspects of Mega-City One, being the absolutely crammed nature of the city with massive highways criss-crossing the bristling blocks, hundreds of feet in the air. But these are small gripes.

My one main gripe about a change from the comics was around Judge Anderson. In the comics, Anderson of Psi-Division is the best and most powerfully psychic judge in the division. In the film, there was no Psi-Division and Anderson was painted as a mutie, who was lucky enough to have a strong psychic mutation and none of the weird and horrifying physical disfigurements normally associated with denizens of the Cursed Earth. Within the comics, psionics and mutants are not the same thing, and it bothered me that they went that way in the film. And it was also a shame that there’s no actual Psi-Division in the film version, as that reduces by a great deal the stories that can be explored from the comic book’s history.

Anyway, on with the film. As the friend I went with said, “That was the most violent hour and half I’ve ever sat through!” And she’s right. The comic books are very violent, but, being comic books, there’s a certain remove from the actuality of what’s going on. When that is translated into a live-action film, with an R rating and no holds barred on showing what’s happening, the violence is sudden and brutal and unrelenting. But it’s a perfect example of violence in context. The film was far better for it. A place like Mega-City One is a very violent environment, where death and brutality are around every corner, every minute of every day. Life is cheap. That’s explored a lot in the comic books and the film doesn’t shy away from it. Bodies dropped from great heights with realistic impacts, shoot-outs with realistic injuries and so on, often shot in super slo-mo due to the nature of the drug in the story, makes from some very confronting viewing. But it also makes for a strong correlation between comic book and film. When you see someone getting shot in the face in super slo-mo, you’re seeing a filmic version of the single frame in a comic book where the bullet hits its target. As a homage to the style of 2000AD, I enjoyed the way this film was made.

The story itself was pretty much by the numbers. There were no sudden twists and turns, no surprises. The story played out in a fairly linear way and, while we could never be sure exactly who might survive and who might not, the film was more spectacle than deep narrative. The real narrative lay in the place, the people, the situation itself, not in how it played out. As a film, that works just fine when taken for what it is, but it did mean the film felt more like the pilot for a TV series than a standalone movie. And, in all honesty, if they made this into a series, with the production values of this film, I would be one happy monkey.

Dredd doesn’t explore deeply the nature of its dystopian future, which is a shame, but it shows it clearly. It lacks the depth and richness of social commentary it could have had, but it is a perfect example of a genre film. Gritty, relentlessly violent and realistic, this is simply a drug bust gone ballistic set in Mega-City One and it’s brilliant for that. I just hope it’s the first of many films and the subject matter can get deeper and more interesting with subsequent ventures.


Review: Terra Magazine Issue #1

Terra Magazine, Issue #1
Edited by Jason Franks
ISBN: 9781921872167
Publisher: Black House Comics

Terra Magazine, from Sydney-based Black House Comics, is a throw-back. A return to comics of a different era. Without political or social agenda, they were made to entertain; to shock and to thrill and to make you laugh. In many ways, Terra Magazine reminds me of that. Of EC Comics and early 2000AD.

In Terra Magazine‘s first issue, editor Jason Franks has assembled a varied collection of artists and writers. And an even more varied collection of genres. The almost Frazetta-like cover by Jason Paulos, the first thing that will catch your eye on the news-stands, is a brilliant evocation not only of the first story (see below), but also of the pulpish nature of the entire comic/magazine.

From the opening “Gourmand Go in ‘Memorial Soup’“, written by Franks with artwork by Harry Purnell, we are thrust immediately into deep space. This is exactly the sort of tale I remember reading in old 2000ADs; a ship crewed with human mercenaries, stuck drifting due to a busted Fission Drive, their distress signal picked up by the biggest, ugliest, meanest looking cockroach-lobster aliens in the galaxy. But you just know there is going to be a twist. While not exactly unpredictable, the story is fun. The writing is clear and concise and the artwork crisp and quirky.

Next up, we’re off to feudal Japan for “Kensuke“. Written again by Franks, but with artwork by Tom Bonin, this story couldn’t be more different than the opener. What struck me most was the total change, not only of genre, but of the feel of the artwork. While Purnell’s art for “Gourmand Go…” consisted of crisp line-work and lettering, Bonin’s approach in “Kensuke” is much rougher, sketchier, offering up a style more in line with the setting. And the story? Samurai warriors. Martial arts monks. Court intrigue. Concubines. Ninjas. Need I say more?

It is these shifts in genre and style that make Terra Magazine so much fun. The very next story, “The Catamorph“, with a script by Chris Sequeira and art by Jan Scherpenhuizen, places us firmly back in EC Comics ‘Tales from the Crypt‘ territory. Two cops respond to a break and enter alarm from the posh-end of town only to encounter a — quite animated — Ancient Egyptian mummy, and so much more besides. The script and artwork are sort of timeless in this supernatural-noir tale. It could be the 60s, or the 70s, or any decade onwards. I tend to favour a late 80s setting – wait until you see the push button phone in the Police Office! Apart from these initial panels though, there isn’t much in the way of visual clues to tell us exactly ‘when’ we are… and I see this as a good thing leading forward for “The Catamorph“. As I said: timeless.

Shadowmancy: Episode 1, The Key in the Wall“, with a script by Jason Franks and art by Nicholas Hunter, continues on in a similar mode. The artwork is more modern, with sharp Manga-inspired lines, but the story is still straight out of something I would have read as a kid in the 70s and 80s. For me, a new and refreshing take on that nostalgia seems to be what Terra Magazine is all about. In “Shadowmancy…“, young Quay decides the follow his mysterious and often absent father, only to find himself the centre of a battle between powerful sorcerers at a secret academy. The panels in this segment are really well composed. The script is sparse and increasingly intriguing. Once begun, I just had to keep going through to the end … and this is where I was reminded of what might be Terra Magazine‘s single downfall.

The story sequences are just too darn short!

Of those reviewed so far, only “Gourmand Go…” has anything resembling a self-contained story. I’m hoping for more stories set on that deep space kitchen, but if not, that’s okay. Everything else, though? Yep! To Be Continued…

It might not be so bad if the stories weren’t all so good. So much fun. Maybe then, I wouldn’t have to worry about the wait between issues. But, tri-annual? I have to wait one third of a year before I get to see if Imperial Guard Kenuke gets away? Or whether detectives Vic and Doyle get any closer to discovering the Mummy’s secret? That’s quite a torturous wait for a reader, especially when the story crumbs are so small (but oh so tasty). “Shadowmancy...” was, to me, the most interesting story in terms of future development, but just for one more page, or another two pages, or three! I definitely feel it could have given more.

Gun Smoke Bud“, with a script by Jason Franks and art by Yuriko Sekine, is in a style I’m not overly familiar with. I’m guessing it’s manga inspired. The story is simple enough — Two Tokyo detectives investigate a Yakuza massacre at a shopping mall, their only witness? A young stoner — but it doesn’t give us much indication of where it might be heading in the future. And after the crisply stylised lines of “Shadowmancy“, the artwork didn’t do that much for me.

The final panelled story is Ben Michael Byrne’s “Prototype“. Written and illustrated by Byrne, “Protoype” is another short, self-contained, 2000AD style sci-fi story. Nothing serious, just good fun with the usual gruesome twist at the end. The darker, blockier artwork really suits the piece and it is quite different from anything else in the magazine. I can see this continuing with a new short, and comically-nasty, story each issue.

Which brings us to the final story, “Tusk” by Jason Fischer, which isn’t a comic at all. Still in keeping with the serialised nature of the magazine, “Tusk” plumbs the Golden Age of genre fiction with something that could have come right out of an early 70s issue of Analog. “Tusk” is straight prose — with a few Rhys James illustrations sprinkled throughout — of the sort that Mr Fischer has become well known for: tight, well written, original and more than a little bit gonzo. “Tusk” is The Planet of the Pachyderms with a healthy dash of Robert E Howard thrown in. A post-apocalyptic world run by a civilisation of war-like elephants. Talking warrior elephants, no less. Who enslave humans. And they wear ‘swords’ on their tusks! Count me in! Not only are the battle scenes tremendous, but there are hints of a much deeper story developing here. I very much look forward to reading more of “Tusk” in future issues.

So, that’s that. My non-comicaknowledable take on what I think is a really excellent debut. Terra Magazine is a great blend of exactly the sort of comics and tales that got me reading as a kid — a wonderful retro revival that, despite its obvious influences, still offers something new and refreshing for readers of both comics and of genre fiction. It should be available on your local newsagent and comic store now, or you can visit www.terramagazine.com.au Let’s hope Black House can keep the issues coming!

Tales to Terrify Call for Submissions

Horror podcast Tales to Terrify (now up to its 41st episode starring work from Tim Lebbon, and still going strong, with its first print volume forthcoming) is open to submissions. If you want to be part of this stellar show, read the submission guidelines at the site.

Previous shows have featured HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Margo Lanagan, Kaaron Warren, and a truckload of other talent, so you would truly be aiming to keep good company with your submission. Good luck!

(On a personal note, this is my favourite horror podcast. Period.)

News: Midnight Echo Distribution Deal and Giveaways

The News:

AHWA and JournalStone Publishing (JSP) have entered into an exclusive joint marketing agreement. AHWA and Midnight Echo magazine will be the exclusive Australian distributor of the quarterly magazine, Dark Discoveries, while JSP and Dark Discoveries Magazine will become the exclusive USA distributor of Midnight Echo. This means the pre-existing high premium that potential readers of each respective magazine have had to pay to receive the other periodical in their respective countries will be eliminated, making both magazines much more affordable and accessible/available for all. Look for availability on both the JSP and Midnight Echo websites soon, where you will be able to purchase the magazines individually or in a bundled offering that includes both Dark Discoveries and Midnight Echo.

The Giveaways:-

Midnight Echo is holding a subscription drive in the lead up to the much anticipated release of issue #8, with a swag of prizes to be won. Just take out a 1- or 2-year print subscription between now and November 30 and you will go into the draw to win the following:-

The winners will be announced on December 1. Go here for more details or to subscribe.

News: AHWA Announces Aradale Asylum Retreat

Extracts from the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) website:-

LIMITED TO THIRTY (30) PARTICIPANTS. All welcome. The Australian Horror Writers Association has arranged a three-day/two-night stay at Aradale Mental Hospital (formerly Ararat Lunatic Asylum) for writers, editors, artists and any other creative-type people. It will involve having the days to create and the nights to investigate how to be scared stiff. There will be a ghost tour on the Friday night, and a paranormal investigation on the Saturday night (all equipment supplied).

When: THREE (3) DAYS – February 22-24th 2013

How Much: $395 PER PERSON all-inclusive three days

Includes: accommodation/full catering/tour/paranormal investigation.

Supplied: All meals, camp-beds. Please supply sleeping bag or bedding (if you are travelling from interstate, talk to us and we will be able to help with this).

***Email to confirm interest: ahwa@australianhorror.com***


Book Review: House at the End of the Street by Lily Blake

Atom, 2012


I’ve tagged this review as both a book review and a movie review, because this “novel” is in fact a hastily written movie tie-in that reads like the Cliffs Notes version of the script. There is no author name on the cover. When exploring the title pages one finds the following explanation: a novel by Lily Blake, based on the screenplay by David Loucka, from a story by Jonathan Mostow. Lily Blake’s name is also attributed to the Snow White and the Huntsman movie tie-in “novel”, which I’ve got here somewhere for review too. A quick Google turns up no photos or meaningful information about Lily Blake, so I can’t tell you anything insightful about this author (except that I don’t believe she really exists and is instead probably a personification of a gaggle of entities churning out these sort of movie promotional tomes).

I repeat: hmmmmmn.

The House at the End of the Street starts off in Twilightesque fashion with a teen girl (played by The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence in the film) leaving the big city and moving to a quiet country town. Elissa and her mother score an impressive house cheaply due to its grisly history – the couple who lived there previously were murdered by their mentally handicapped daughter, Carrie Anne, who then disappeared without a trace. In true Twilight fashion, Elissa is the focus of many boys in her new town, but her own interest lies with strange and brooding Ryan, Carrie Ann’s brother, who still lives reclusively on the property in a separate house. Then, to use the phrase on the back of the book, “unexplainable events begin to happen” (ugh). There’s a twist that is fairly obvious from  early in the tale, although to be fair, it probably works much better onscreen. There’s also a lot of gratuitous use of “spooky” kids and tugging on the heartstrings ineffectively, which I tend to get my back up about these days, as a parent. If you’re going to use kids in horror, use them well, and use them with respect.

Putting aside my sneery judgemental jabs at cynical money-grubbing exercises masquerading as literature…the book goes through its motions pretty much as you would expect it to. I would class it as YA, and teens would probably enjoy it. It’s a quick read, not atrociously written, but certainly with nothing inspiring between its covers. The prose is cold and simple (and there are quite a few typos – hence my “hastily written” comment earlier). Whoever did actually write it phoned it in and didn’t bother to hide the fact – and why would they. This accompaniment to the movie is what it is. I didn’t hate it. I read it all the way to the end. I did feel dirty afterwards, but I read it anyway. I’ll probably go see the movie, as it’s a competent enough teen thriller, albeit predictable and cliched. What came across as one dimensional in print may do a far better job onscreen with Lawrence and others injecting life into it. It’s very hard to judge a movie when it’s slammed between paper covers and dubbed a “novel”.

Don’t bother reading it, but if you like teen slasher flicks with a bit of a psychological twist, you might enjoy the movie. I’ll go along to see if I do.