At the Boundary of Normal: History and Horror – A Guest Post by Andrew Knighton

Today we have a guest blog post by Andrew Knighton, author of The Sound of Stones from Alt Hist Issue 9.

At the Boundary of Normal: History and Horror

History and horror have a lot in common. Not just through their ability to bring darkness into fiction, but through the way they make us feel. It makes them a perfect combination of genres.

The Essence of Horror

Horror stories are all about events at the edge of normal reality. A clown who tips over from unsettling into sinister. Shadows in the woods that move from more than just the wind. A stranger in the street who is stranger than we ever imagined.

As explained in an article at Filmmaker IQ, while grounded in reality and relevance, horror also requires us “to face the unknown – to understand it and make it less scary”.

The Essence of Historical Fiction

Historical fiction also lies at the boundary between the familiar and the unknown. The life we see is like ours but different. People live, love and work much like ourselves. They have families and faith, feelings and furniture, the same range of sublime and the mundane as us. They may even live in the same places we do, share our religion, nationality or politics, depending upon the book and the reader.

Yet life in historical fiction is also different. When people sit down to dinner the food is not quite like ours. The clothes are different. The houses are different. They live in our reality, but made unfamiliar by time.

With both placing us at the edge of our reality, it’s almost inevitable that history and horror can work well together.

Foreshadowing Through Difference

One of the most obvious ways in which a historical setting can support horror is through foreshadowing. The different beliefs of people in the past can be used to bring in ideas that we no longer find plausible, such as monsters in the forest or the existence of demons. Ordinary conversations can refer to elements of the supernatural, setting them up to emerge later in the story.

The different reality of the historical past can also be used to foreshadow danger. Medieval Europe was rife with inter-personal violence, in the streets as much as the battlefields. The Aztec empire was the site of brutal human sacrifices. Hunger and disease plagued humanity from the dawn of time. Such themes can be used to create a sense of dread even before the supernatural enters. In a story like Charlotte Bond’s The Poisoned Crow, the dread of violence and forced marriage sets the tone from the start.

Creeping in Through the Unfamiliar

Unfamiliarity can misdirect the reader as much as it prepares them. A malformed stranger and a beast growling in the forest may make us fear that the moment of horror has come, only for them to be unmasked as a leper and a wolf. Tension is built and relieved for a greater shock later.

All the while, the feelings provoked by history and by horror accentuate each other. By facing both at once, we get a deeper sensation of something familiar and yet unfamiliar, something not quite right. David Tallerman’s The War of the Rats deliberately toys with combining the unusual and the mundane. A rat infestation is made worse by the trenches of World War One, becoming something truly horrific. The combination of the ordinary and the awful makes the story more unsettling than if it were set in the modern world.

Horror and history play similar tricks on our minds. They play those tricks particularly well when they get together.

About the Author

Andrew is a Yorkshire based ghostwriter, responsible for writing many books in other people’s names. He’s had over fifty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His historical short story Honour Among Thieves is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find stories and links to more of his books at andrewknighton.com and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon.

Alt Hist Issue 8 – eBook on Kindle publishes on 31st October 2015

Just a reminder that Alt Hist Issue 8 will publish on 31st October 2015 for Kindle – the pre-order price is cheaper than the published price will be – so go and grab a copy now. eBooks from other retailers and Print issues will be available about a week later.

Stories include:

  • Demons and the Deep Blue Sea by Andrew Knighton
  • Dewey Defeats Truman by Mark Devane
  • His Last Day by Richard Buxton
  • The Retreat Proceeded Orderly, at Least    by Kenan Orhan
  • The Fullness and the Hollowness by Jonathan Doering
  • Small Miracles by Jonathan Doering

Pre-order now via Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Alt Hist Issue 7 is here!

The latest issue of the bestselling historical fiction magazine

I am pleased to announce that Alt Hist Issue 7 has now been published!Alt Hist Issue 7 eBook Cover

You can purchase eBook and Print copies from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble

And eBook copies from:

Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks

Alt Hist returns with the seventh issue of the popular magazine of historical fiction and alternate history. This is the biggest issue of Alt Hist so far and this time we have seven wonderful short stories for you—including two parts of the popular Battalion 202 series and stories from Alt Hist favourites Priya Sharma and Andrew Knighton. If you like historical fiction, then you are sure to love this issue of Alt Hist.

Alt Hist Issue 7 features the following stories:

  • “The Vivisectionist’s Daughter” by Jason Kahn
  • “Cold Flesh” by Andrew Knighton
  • “The Independence Day” by Pavel Nikiforovitch
  • “Heff in Dearborn” by Michael Fertik
  • “Battalion 202: The Sheep and the Goats” by Jonathan Doering
  • “Set Britain Ablaze” by Jonathan Doering
  • “The Red Vortex” by Priya Sharma

Interested in Alt Hist but want to try before you buy? Get a Free Issue

I am pleased to announce that you can now get a free issue of Alt Hist – our first issue is now available free in eBook format from the following retailers:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Alt Hist Issue 1 CoverThe first issue of Alt Hist features six short stories. Click on the links to read the first part of each story:

“The Silent Judge” by David W. Landrum
“Easter Parade, 1930” by Rob McClure Smith
“Holy Water” by Andrew Knighton
“Lament for Lost Atlanta” by Arlan Andrews
“The Bitterness of Apples” by Priya Sharma
“Travelling by Air” by Ian Sales

Alt Hist Issue 1 also includes an interview with Brandon H. Bell, co-editor of Aether Age, and information about the alternate history anthology Columbia & Britannia.

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Alt Hist Issue 3 eBook Published

Alt Hist Issue 3 Published as an eBook

The latest issue of Alt Hist: the Magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History has now been published in eBook form. We have free previews of each story available over at the Current Issue page – simply click on the title of the story and you can start reading.

I hope you enjoy reading Alt Hist Issue 3; as ever I welcome your feedback. If you’re interested in getting a print version of the Issue then that will be available at the start of December – so stay tuned for further news.

Alt Hist Issue 3 FRONT COVERAlt Hist Issue 3

For eBooks format please visit Smashwords or Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk for Kindle versions.

The third issue of Alt Hist includes two stories about the American Civil War, one about the great Tesla, a tale of post-war revenge set in Dublin, and a compelling story about the early years of the space race.

Full list of stories and authors:

Praise for Alt Hist:

‘The second issue of Alt Hist magazine builds on the solid basis of the first issue, bringing a collection of historical fiction and alternate histories from a broad cross-section of history. There are some wonderful stories among them.’
SFCrowsnest, www.sfcrowsnest.com

‘engaging and well-written short stories with a historical setting that portray actual events or events that could have happened’
Fantasy Book Review, www.fantasybookreview.co.uk

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Alt Hist Issue 2 Published as eBook and Print Book

Issue 2 of Alt Hist is currently being published in eBook and print format. For an eBookformat please visit Smashwords orAmazon. A print version of Alt Hist Issue 2 is available at Amazon.com, and will soon be available at Amazon.co.uk and through major bookselling websites and wholesalers.

We’re also waiting for the issue to be published in other eBook channels such as Apple iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. More news on these when we have it.

You can read a very nice review of this issue at Locus Online.

For more information on Issue 2 go to http://althistfiction.com/current-issue/

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We love to hear your feedback

Just a reminder that there’s lots of ways to provide your feedback on Alt Hist – especially if you have purchased a copy of issue 1. Please let me know which stories you liked or didn’t like and why. Also if there’s anything you would like us to think about changing such as the format of the magazine, then please leave a comment.

You can rate and leave comments at various places as well as this blog. For instance our distributors Lulu, Smashwords and Amazon US and Amazon UK all allow readers to rate and review.

It would be great to hear from you – especially with Issue 2 currently in the works. We also have a few stories already accepted for Issue 3, so hopefully that won’t be too far off either.

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50% Off Alt Hist Issue 1 Until End of December 2010

I have now made available a 50% discount off the first issue of Alt Hist. This discount is available as follows:

Print copies via Lulu at £3.50/copy or equivalent US pricing

Ebooks in various formats available via Smashwords use the coupon code XE57C to buy at the discounted rate of $3.50

Kinde ebook available from Amazon for $3.49 (may take a couple of days to see on the Amazon site).

Please enjoy Alt Hist Issue 1 responsibly during the holiday season.

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Get your Alt Hist Now!!!

Get your copy of Alt Hist Issue 1 before everyone else hears about it! Alt Hist is now available in print format and ebook format, and readers of this blog will be the first people to hear about it!

Print copies are available via Lulu and ebooks available via Smashwords right now!

Over the coming weeks other ebook retailers will start getting the book, so don’t worry if you want to get it via your Kindle or iPad, we have a solution for you!

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