Tag Archives: supernatural

Scream to the Shadows: Retro Horror Tales from Asia

Tan Kaiyi reviews Tunku Halim’s latest work, Scream to Shadows calling it a collection of tales full of shocks and gore!

Scream to the Shadows is a retrospective collection of Tunku Halim’s career. These 20 spine chilling tales give a great introduction to one of the leading horror writers in Asia. Over a span of two decades, Tunku has written dark stories in the form of novels and short stories—most notably Dark Demon Rising and the Rape of Martha Teoh & Other Chilling Stories

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Will a Literary Paranormal Pop-culture evolve in Taiwan?

 

Ghost stories have always captured our attention… now we find them wander into the speculative genre. We find these stories in literature from giants like Rabindranath Tagore  with his haunted palace in The Hungry Stones to modern online writers like  Xu Yunfeng, Taiwanese writer Ho Ching-yao and Singapore’s own Russell Lee. 

Recently in Taiwan, an attempt is being made to popularise this genre and assimilate it into pop culture.  An exhibition on ‘Taiwanese Paranormal Literature and Contemporary Art’ is afoot in Taipei City till September 15 th. The curators tell us the aim of the exhibition: “We hope to help restore the paranormal to its former position of importance in Taiwanese culture.” Read more

Short Stories: The Rescuer by Rebecca Otowa

TBASS

I figured I must have fainted and dropped the phone. Probably I got a bump on the head, and that was the cause of the change in my eyesight. I hurried to pick up my phone before anyone could step on it. I saw my arm reaching out—but somehow my hand couldn’t pick the thing up. I tried several times, thinking I had bumped my hand as well as my head and numbed it, like when you hit your funny bone. The feeling was different, though. Not a flash of painful sensation in my elbow or tingling in the wrist. Just—nothing. I was puzzled. How could I have hurt myself so badly that I didn’t even feel any pain?

Thinking I’d go and find some help, I stood up slowly, my feet on either side of the smartphone to keep it from being stepped on. That’s when I noticed that there was no one nearby. Turning carefully, I saw that a small crowd had congregated in front of a train which had stopped on the other side of the platform. The light and the colours were still blinding, but the sounds from the scene came up only gradually. I began to hear exclamations, and one or two women screaming breathlessly. Suddenly, a brilliant flash of white rushed past me—two men in white uniforms, with a stretcher between them piled with blankets. A group of policemen followed closely behind. Like the light and the colours, the movement of the men was so intense it made me dizzy. The policemen hustled the crowd aside while the men in white jumped down in front of the train and busied themselves with something there. Read more

Something’s Wrong in the Garden: the Uncanny and the Art of Writing by Marjorie Sandor

Editor’s Note: Frontiers for writing.

Marjorie Sandor, writing for Mastersreview, explores the ‘uncanny’ and what writers can do with it.

I’m eight years old, and my parents have gone out for the evening, leaving my older brothers in charge. This explains why I’m parked in front of the television set, watching a movie well beyond my tender years: The Innocents, based on Henry James’ unsettling ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.

A good twenty minutes into the film, the governess is in the garden, all in white and snipping white roses, still aglow with her good fortune in landing this gig at a big country house. The camera comes to rest near her voluminous skirts, on a small garden-statue nestled in the shrubs. It’s a cherub, but it looks deformed somehow, and there’s something hideous about its smile. That’s when, from out of its mouth, there issues a plump black bug. The bug dangles briefly on the cherub’s lip, waves its little legs, and drops out of sight.

A weird, sickish feeling wells up in my chest, both awful and exciting. It’s that insect, coming out of what appeared to be solid plaster. I don’t have words for the way I feel.

There is a word. I just don’t know it yet.

Uncanny. Look it up in a standard collegiate dictionary, and you’ll get a brief, unhelpful definition.

Seemingly supernatural. Mysterious. [orig. Sc & N. Engl.].

But the slippage has already begun. Seemingly.

Scholars have traced the word back as far as 1593, and found it wobbling from infancy. In fact, the Scots/Gaelic word from which it emerges, canny, meant not only what you’d think—“safe” and “cozy” and “prudent”—but also “sly of humor,” and “having supernatural knowledge.” You might go to “a canny man” to have a spell cast on an enemy, or to have one reversed. So you might say that from early-on, “canny” secretly contained the seed of its own “un.” A shadow-word just waiting to emerge.

Maybe it’s that wobble in the parent-word that invites uncertainty into stories of the uncanny. James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, a story of “general uncanny ugliness and horror and pain,” is the pinnacle of a century of great ghost stories in which homely spaces—country houses, city apartments, private gardens and cozy libraries—become sites for the suppressed—and disowned—past to return. Consider the tales of the late 18th century Scottish writer James Hogg. His Country Dreams and Apparitions are set in country villages and croft-houses, and are full of the homely dialect of his time and place. Ghost stories, yes, but with hanging endings, a sense of unfinished business both in language and action. They speak to crimes we’ve buried. To the human compulsion to confess—or bear witness.

Around the same time, in Germany, the künstmarchen, or art fairy tale, is coming into being. E.T.A. Hoffmann, Ludwig Tieck, Heinrich von Kleist and others are writing long tales in which something extraordinary happens in a familiar world. The locales are usually urban—the coffee houses and market squares of university towns and cities—and rich with recognizable place-names, known figures, and scrupulous attention to domestic detail. Then something strange happens to the protagonist. Something seemingly supernatural. From that moment forward, his perception—and ours—is fundamentally, violently, shattered. The experience of seeing differently isolates him from his oh-so-rational friends. Neither he nor the reader can fully resolve whether he has imagined all of it, or it’s simply that no one else is “aware.”

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