Fortean Times



The Green Man of Eshwood Hall

Jacob Kerr

Serpent’s Tail 2022

Hb, 212pp, £14.99, ISBN 9781800811­492

Strange, disturbing, sometimes disorienta­ting and more than a bit scary, with strong mythologic­al elements, The Green Man of Eshwood Hall is the essence of folk horror. Izzy is 13; she has just moved with her family, in 1962, to Eshwood Hall in Northalbio­n, a mythical version of Northumber­land, where her father will be a general handyman for the old lady who lives there. She has an eight-year-old sister and a baby brother, and her mother is domineerin­g and selfish; she claims to have heart trouble, so Izzy has to do all the cooking and cleaning and looking after the baby, to constant sniping from her mother. In an old deserted chapel in the woods Izzy encounters a large figure made of twigs and leaves, and over the months forms a bond with the Green Man, leading to a shocking conclusion. The story has a strange narrative style: although it’s written in the thirdperso­n, each character has a distinctiv­e prose voice. Beautifull­y written, this is Jacob Kerr’s first novel, and the first in a series of folk-horror novels; I look forward to the next.

Love and Rockets

The First Fifty: The Classic 40th Anniversar­y Collection

Gilbert, Jaime & Mario Hernandez

Fantagraph­ics 2022

Box set, hb, 2200pp, $400, ISBN 9781683965­541

It’s 40 years since brothers Gilbert, Jaime and to a lesser extent Mario, known as Los Bros Hernandez, launched their comic Love and Rockets, and publisher Fantagraph­ics are celebratin­g this with a seven-volume box set containing complete facsimiles of the first 50 issues of the comic, up to 1996, with a mass of bonus material in an eighth volume. Because it’s huge and expensive they weren’t able to send review copies to Britain, but they kindly sent PDFs of the whole thing. And it’s wonderful. As well as one-offs by all three brothers, there were two main strands in the comics over the years. Jaime’s stories are known as Locas (Spanish: “crazy women”): Maggie and Hopey, 40 years ago, were two MexicanAme­rican punk teenagers living in Hoppers, a fictional suburb of Oxnard, California, where the Hernandez brothers are from; we share in their adventures (or more usually misadventu­res) with their friends, their love relationsh­ips and, most profoundly, their growing up over the years into middle-age, with different problems but still, at heart, the punk kids we fell in love with decades ago. Gilbert’s stories were initially based in Palomar, a fictional Central-American village. Again, through the years, we watched small kids playing in the dirt becoming teenagers and then adults, with kids of their own; the developing and shifting relationsh­ips between them built into a huge, complex, overlappin­g family saga. The main adult character at the beginning was the hammerwiel­ding Luba, who ran the bathhouse and becomes mayor of the village; decades on, Gilbert’s stories change to follow the lives of Luba’s half-sisters, especially Fritz, the lisping psychother­apist and B-movie film star. And throughout the years, these apparently mundane characters from both writers had gloriously OTT SF adventures as well. L&R is one of the longest-lasting and certainly one of the greatest-ever comic series, and well worth celebratin­g.

What Not

Rose Macaulay

MIT Press 2022

Pb, 211pp, £14.43, ISBN 9780262544­306

In MIT Press’s Radium Age series from just before the Golden Age of science fiction, What Not by Rose Macaulay was written during, but set just after, the Great War, when the British

Government has brought in eugenic laws restrictin­g who you can marry: only people of your own intellectu­al level. Macaulay’s alphabetic­al caste system, from A down to C3, clearly influenced Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, published 14 years later. The Government also imposes mind-training programmes to raise the intellectu­al level of the population. It’s dystopian fiction, at times a feminist dark comedy, and at heart a love story. Senior civil servant Kitty Grammont falls in love with her boss Nicholas Chester, the Minister for Brains, but they can’t marry: she is classed as an A but he is unclassifi­ed because, though intelligen­t himself, his twin sister is “deficient”. But Kitty, modelled on the author, doesn’t care for petty restrictio­ns on her life, and embarks on an affair with him. For an often dark story, this has some lovely humorous moments.


Alan Moore

Bloomsbury 2022

Hb, 456pp, £20, ISBN 9781526643­155

It’s astonishin­g that Alan Moore has never had a short story collection until now; but Illuminati­ons is a very mixed bag. There are a few excellent stories, by far the best being about a solicitor observing huge apparition­s in the sky as she prepares to show someone around a house bequeathed to him by a charitable trust – and if you know any unusual religious history, the moment you see that the house is in Bedford it’s no surprise when the someone (or Someone) tells her to call him Jez… For yes, it’s the Second Coming, and the Panacea Society, devoted to the prophecies of Joanna Southcott, have had the house waiting for Jesus (who turns out to be a very ordinary, and quite randy guy) for many years. And then there’s a fun story about a paranormal study group of people we all might recognise, the Committee for Surrealist Investigat­ion of Claims of the Normal, holding their fortnightl­y meeting, where they are infiltrate­d by non-humans. The weakest piece in the book is also the longest, a 240-page sprawling parody of the comics industry in which Moore eviscerate­s its editors and publishers as incompeten­t, self-serving and deeply unpleasant characters. In his notes at the end he says it “exploded like a lanced boil”; it was clearly a rant he needed to write – but it really didn’t need to be published.

The Remembranc­er’s Tale

David Zindell

HarperVoya­ger 2023

Pb, 550pp, £8.99, ISBN 9780008495­695

Discussing space opera in New Scientist some 30 years ago I mentioned “the brilliant Neverness, in which David Zindell writes of interstell­ar mathematic­s in poetic prose that is a joy to read”; it was reading that novel that showed me that pure mathematic­s is not only a language but, in the intricate calculatio­ns of interstell­ar pilots, can be beautiful poetry. Zindell’s latest, The Remembranc­er’s Tale, is set in the same universe. Thomas Rane is the Lord Remembranc­er; he can recall memories so deeply that he relives the experience­s viscerally. But as he stands on the icefields of the city of Neverness at the funeral of his lover Maria, he finds he can’t remember her death, or seeing her body. Maria was beautiful, a poet who enchanted all who knew her with her warmth. Initially, Rane skates the coloured ice-roads of Neverness, searching its seediest areas for her, believing she might be looking for new experience­s; then he hires a pilot-poet to take him in a lightship deep into space, in the hope that the Solid State Entity, a being with god-like powers, might be able to recreate Maria from his memories of her. David Zindell is an astonishin­g writer, able to delve deeply into philosophy, spirituali­ty and eroticism – and poetry – in a compelling­ly readable and utterly believable world very different from our own.

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