Issue 1 (July 1988)
74 Pages in total

Fear Fiction:
The Prize – Shaun Hutson
– 5 Pages
Roger Galloway, a prominent editor for one of the top selling newspapers, dies from fright in his own home after confronting an intruder.  The following day a meeting is called in which the tabloid newspaper ‘The Mercury’ is to discuss its unrelated plummeting sales.  Frank Dean - the tabloid’s senior editor - informs the other top editors that the newspaper needs an incentive in order for the public to choose it over its rival papers.  Dean announces that he will be running a competition in the paper in which the prize is beyond anything that money can buy.  The first of these will be a miracle holiday, in which the newspaper will run an elaborate scam to convince the public that two young girls have been cured of their terminal cancer.  The scam is a success and the newspaper sales push ‘The Mercury’ up to the top position in circulation figures.  This is at the same time as Edward Wickes (a high ranking editor for another of the rival newspapers) dies of fright in a similar way to Galloway.  Having two similar deaths from The Mercury’s rival newspapers within such a short space of time is raising suspicions.  When Dean announces his idea for another prize to be won, the tabloid's senior news editor - Frank Bradley, is sceptical.  Dean’s next prize is that of immortality.  But this time the prize may very well be exactly what it implies.  But a much darker side to the prize is involved...

Hutson leaps into the short with a beginning few paragraphs that detail Galloway’s cryptically-insightful and stress induced recurring nightmare.  Once this surreal introduction is explained away as a mere nightmare, Hutson gets to delivering an elaborate premise that is very possibly too over-complex for such a short length of a story.  The tabloid’s principal editors are introduced in one quick meeting; each one given an ultra-brief mention without any real breakdown of their individual characteristics.  The short then meanders along a somewhat tiresome and dare I say predictable turn of events, until the easily foreseen conclusion is hurriedly reached, without any tension or suspense even remotely achieved.  The characters are all wooden and wholly undeveloped throughout the story.  Even in a short of this length, at least some characterisation should be brought into play, however small or seemingly irrelevant it is to the plot.  Indeed, the whole premise comes across as weak and haphazardly constructed.  The finale is nothing short of a disappointment, with the only saving grace being the signature Hutson gore that accompanies the final unveiling of the newspaper’s evil secret.  Indeed, both the beginning few paragraphs of the short and the final gory conclusion have definite echoes of passages from the author’s uber-gore-laced novel ‘Assassin’ (1988) that was published around the same time.

Eye Of Childhood – Ramsey Campbell – 5 Pages
Mary is a strange little girl.  In art class she paints exactly what she wants; and the paintings often end up looking like quite surreal representations of what she was expected to paint.  Sitting next to her in class is Karen – the closest Mary has to a friend.  Their teacher - Mrs Tweedle, is getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of imagination and effort put in by her class.  Her disappointment seems to centre around Mary’s lack of effort in her own work.  But there’s something that’s causing the girls to worry within the school.  How can the sounds of Mr Waddicar hobbling along the corridors be projected elsewhere when Mr Waddicar is nowhere to be seen?  And the gang of four-year-olds that terrorize the school each day are becoming more ambitious.  Karen is afraid of where things are leading to.  And the change in Mary’s mood is perhaps the most unnerving development of them all...

Utterly surreal from the very outset, Campbell has produced a short that wanders almost aimlessly from one character and developing event to the next, without any real sense of direction or purpose.  Confusing is certainly the understatement of the year with this short.  The narration jumps from one girl’s perspective to the other, with barely a break in the text.  The characters are each fuzzy and undefined in their delivery, whilst the school itself remains wholly un-described and vacant of any definition.  Campbell injects hints of where the storyline could be going, with the unveiling of Mary’s interest in what appears to be a book on witchcraft.  The conclusion is obviously devised to be a haunting revelation of Mary’s darker personality as well as a twist on the hobbling sounds of Mr Waddicar that haunts the school corridors.  However, in the hazy mist of the short’s haphazard storyline, the entire thread of the plot seems to have been lost amongst the many attempts at misdirection.  The ending merely leaves the reader feeling even further confused with the story, as if a huge chunk of text had gone astray before it was printed.  This short remains one of the most bizarre submissions for Fear Fiction.

The Dandelion Woman – Nicholas Royle – 5 Pages
Flood is a young woman who works at one of the few remaining DataCash bank units.  Flood is by no means popular with her colleagues or indeed with anyone outside of work.  Her parents have long since died, leaving her alone in her eight-room maisonette.  However, Flood has a secret talent.  She always knows the exact time.  Not only that, but she can observe the minuscule effects of time all around her.  Whether it’s the slow changes in the grain of wood or the aging on someone’s face - Flood can see the changes.  But Flood’s life takes on a dramatic change when a young man named Mattar comes into her life.  They marry and then consummate their marriage that very night.  However, when all the lights are out, Flood can no longer see the effects of time all around her.  Suddenly she is losing her ability to track time.  But even worse is when she starts noticing the aging effect first on Mattar and then on herself.  How can she live with death constantly creeping up on her?  And how can she allow Mattar, the man she loves, to deteriorate in such a horrific way?

Nicholas Royle’s short is certainly an intriguing tale combining a very clever concept with a depressingly morbid plot.  From the start the reader first begins puzzling over the surreal (Poppy Z Brite-esque) choice in character names.  It’s almost as if there should be some hidden meaning behind (or a link with) the names and the slow process of time.  However, if there is a link it's lost on me!  The puzzling intrigue is maintained throughout the course of the downbeat storyline.  A definite air of a peculiar OCD is projected from the character of Flood, which gives forth an interestingly voyeuristic element to the storyline.  The tale spirals towards what seems like an emotionally charged conclusion with a truly morbid finale.  However, Royle backs away from this, instead concluding with a final air of symbolic understanding.  All in all, this is a cleverly conceived idea with a truly downbeat atmosphere that unfortunately ultimately leaves the reader feeling somewhat unsatisfied if not simply perplexed.

Pro-Files:
John Carpenter –They Live!
– 4 Pages
“With Prince Of Darkness in his pocket, the Kentucky Kid is home again and ready to prove THEY LIVE!  John Carpenter spoke to FEAR’s Kim Newman about his past films and future hopes.”

John Skipp & Craig Spector – The Scream: A Tale Of Two Splatterpunks – 4 Pages
“John Skipp and Craig Spector hit the big time with their first novel, a vampire story called LIGHT AT THE END.  Next novel, THE CLEAN-UP, brought a cult following in the States.  Now THE SCREAM (Bantam, in September), brings the new Splatterpunk horror wave to Britain.  What’s Splatterpunk?  Philip Nutman tracked down the answers in New York.”

Ken Penry – Censorship Or Classification? – 2 Pages
“Censorship – a subject which always has and always will evoke strong feelings.  Some believe it essential if an acceptable level of public morality is to be maintained, others regard it as an infringement of personal and artistic freedom.  David Keep spoke to the BBFC’s Ken Penry – the man with the scissors.”

Ramsey Campbell – Toward Ancient Images – 2 Pages
“In the first of a two-part interview, John Gilbert talks to the greatest living influence in horror fiction – Ramsey Campbell.”

Neil Jordan – Neil Jordan In High Spirits – 3 Pages
“Do award-winning novelists make good directors?  In the first of two articles Stan Nicholls looks at the career of Neil Jordan, creator of THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, MONA LISA, and the soon-to-be-released movie HIGH SPIRITS.”

Peter Straub – When Lightning Strikes – 3 Pages
“In full flight on his latest novel, Peter Straub, in America, talked to FEAR’s Stanley Wiater about what makes him tick and what makes him take stock.”

Stephen Gallagher – Whim Of Iron – 3 Pages
“Self-confessed writer of straight novels with horrible things in them, Stephen Gallagher spoke to John Gilbert about his work, and what he found in The Boathouse – his latest book.”

Phenomena:
Tales Of The Busy Auteur (How To Make A Movie: Part One)
– 2 Pages
“The movie business is one of the most powerful industries in the modern world.  It builds images, creates role-models and turns make-believe into reality.  But how is it run?  How do you put a film project together?  And who makes the money?  In the first of a four-part investigative series about the world of films, John Gilbert gives an overview of the creative process.”

Book Reviews:
Lightning – Dean R Koontz
1998 – Richard Turner & William Osborne
The Awakeners – Sheri S Tepper
Swan Song – Robert R McCammon
Oktober – Stephen Gallagher
The Influence – Ramsey Campbell
The Scream – John Skipp & Craig Spector
Sepulchre – James Herbert
Fiend – Guy N Smith
Spellbinder – Collin Wilcox
The Wyrm – Stephen Laws
Tread Softly – Richard Kelly (aka Richard Laymon)
Valley Of Lights – Stephen Gallagher
Watchers – Dean R Koontz
Deliver Us From Evil – Allen Lee Harris

Film Reviews:
Beetlejuice - Directed by Tim Burton
The Unholy – Directed by Camilo Vila
The Monster Squad - Directed by Fred Dekker
The Hidden - Directed by Jack Shoulder
Bad Dreams - Directed by Andrew Flemming
Retribution - Directed by Guy Magar
Werewolf - Directed by David Hemmings
Creepozoids - Directed by David DeCocteau
Masters Of The Universe - Directed by Gary Godard
Dead Of Night - Directed by Deryn Warren


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