It’s that time of year again when 2023 Awards seasons rolls around. I have several works eligible in Horror and Fantasy categories for short fiction, Collections and Novelettes for the Aurealis Awards, Stoker Awards, British Fantasy Awards, Ditmar Awards, Australian Shadows Awards, Nebula Awards, Hugo Awards, Otherwise Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards & World Fantasy Awards.
If you’ve read any of these works and enjoyed them, please vote for them.
If you’ve not yet had a chance to read them, links are on this website!
The likho is part of Eastern Slavic fairy tales. Although not as frequently mentioned as the witch Baba Yaga, the likho assumes many guises from an old woman clad in black or a male goblin-like being. The common feature in both is the likho has only one eye.
In the pre-Christian era, the likho was associated with death and villages conducted rituals during epidemics. An idol with only one eye was burned to banish the servant of Death and the epidemic. Over time, the likho became a being of bad luck and malevolence.
The lihko is often associated with Slavic water spirits like the rusalka and vodyanoy who deliberately drown their victims. But unlike these water spirits, the likho leaps onto its victims to strangle them. Desperate to dislodge the likho, the mortal wades into waterways trying to drown the likho but its grip can’t be broken and the victim inadvertently drowns. In Slavic folklore, death by mysterious drowning was attributed to many of these different supernatural beings.
Caution against calling unnecessary attention to the likho and its misfortune is clear in the Russian proverb: “Don’t wake the likho up when it is quiet.”
Nidhogg (Old Norse Níðhöggr, “He Who Strikes with Malice”) is one of several serpents or dragons in the Nine Worlds. The most famous serpent is Jormungand or the Midgard-serpent but Nidhogg is a dragon trapped beneath the Yggdrasil and constantly gnawing at its roots and corpses. Nidhogg is a force for chaos by destroying Yggdrasil, he will pull the Norse cosmos into chaos and away from balance.
Nidhogg presides over part of Helheim called Náströnd (“The Shore of Corpses”) where perjurers, murderers and adulterers are devoured by the dragon. The potential for Christian influence is apparent here as the concept of the afterlife with moral retribution is not inherent to Norse mythology.
Nidhogg has a prominent role in Ragnarok, the epic battle and destruction of the Nine Worlds and the Norse cosmos. In the Poetic Edda, the poem ‘The Völuspá’ describes how Nidhogg will fly free from beneath Yggdrasil after Ragnarok.
The roots of Yggdrasil keep the Nidhogg trapped until Ragnarok when shaking of the Nine Worlds weakens of Yggdrasil and allows Nidhogg to start chewing and tearing his way free from the underworld with the coming of Ragnarok.
In Ancient Greek mythology, the sirens are vaguely described by various sources but are usually interpreted as being large birds with the heads of women.
In the classic Ancient Greek legend The Odyssey attributed to Homer, the hero Odysseus’s ship is attacked by sirens who sing from the cliffs with the voices of women. The witch Circe had forewarned Odysseus and his crew to block their ears with wax so not to hear the siren’s song. Odysseus was tied to the mast as he insisted on hearing the sirens but safely tied, he couldn’t be taken from the ship. According to Circe, the sirens would fly down from three cliffs, attack crews and take men back to their roosts to feast on their victims.
The painting John William Waterhouse (1891) and depicts the sirens as described in ancient Greek mythology.
During the medieval period, the siren became confused with the mermaid and was often depicted in many Bestiaries as a half-fish, half-woman or a chimera of both with wings.
English artist William Petty was one of the first artist to depict the siren as a naked woman in Ulysses and the Sirens (1837) but a darker interpretation than later artists with Petty depicting the sirens an rocky isle atop the corpses of sailors lured to their deaths.
Following the tradition of William Petty, a second siren painting by John William Waterhouse (ca. 1900) The Siren depicts the Petty-style completely different interpretation of the siren. Here, the siren is a beautiful naked woman playing a lyre and sitting on the rocks to lure sailors into the ocean to drown before they reach her.
This transformation of the siren from the classical Greek version into the one we know today as the deadly seductress is a fascinating re-shaping of folklore and mythology over time.
AsylumFest 2023will be held October 27 – 29 in Mayday Hills located within Beechworth, Victoria.
Mayday Hills operated from 1867 to 1995 and was one of the largest mental health facilities in the state, with over 1200 patients and 500 staff at its peak. Today, it is a heritage site that hosts various cultural and artistic activities – including ghost and history tours and of course, AsylumFest!
This Halloween weekend, I’ll be appearing at Asylumfest horror convention held at the historicMayDay Hills Psychiatric Hospital in Beechworth, Victoria, Australia. I’ll be participating as an offical representative of the Australasian Horror Writer’s Association and competing in the live reading and judging for the May Day Hills Ghost story competition.
I’ll also be on a panel talking with Australian dark fiction authors Carol Ryles and Aaron Dries about the importance of diversity in New Horror, the emergence of more diverse characters, writer, actors and directors. The continued growth of diversity and representing traditionally marginalised voices is a strong movement that will hopefully continue to flourish. We’ll be talking our own horror works as well as those published in the past for more recently and where we think the world of New Horror is headed.
Hope to see all horror film and writing fans at the Traders Hall and check out the Australasian Horror Writers trade table. Also check out another exciting horror panel on The New Gothic!
Let’s travel in time together, a thousand or so years back, and meet Viking women in their hearth-lit world.
How did these medieval viragoes live, love and die? How can we encounter them as flesh-and-blood beings with fears and feelings – not just as names in sagas or runes carved into stone?
In this groundbreaking work, Lisa Hannett lifts the veil on the untold stories of wives and mothers, girls and slaves, widows and witches who sailed, settled, suffered, survived – and thrived – in a society that largely catered to and memorialised men. Hannett presents the everyday experiences of a compelling cast of women, all of whom are resourceful and petty, hopeful and jealous, and as fabulous and flawed as we are today.
I was surprised by the sense of adventure that began the book. An engaging storytelling style that promised the Viking escapade and grandeur we all imagine.
The first story struck me hard. The tale of “Melkorka: Concubine and Slave” an Irish princess taken as a slave during a Viking raid. The hopelessness and loss of autonomy was immediate and powerful. Interspersed with this fictional tale were the academic facts and knowledge of slavery in the Viking Age.
My next favourite was a complete opposite to the opening tale. One of the most fascinating parts of Icelandic sagas, “Bergthora: A True and Stalwart Wife” which tells the story of a feud between two powerful women of influential households and the escalation of relation for slights that couldn’t be allowed to stand. The men are the ones who bear the brunt of the feud and in the end tragedy can only occur.
My third favourite “Breeches-Aud: Cross-Dressing Women” is the fictionalised tale inspired by a famous archaeological burial of a Viking warrior. Recent investigations have shown the burial is that of a biologically female warrior buried with the Viking warrior customs which showed the possibility that some Viking women were actively involved in warfare.
Throughout Viking Women, Hannett pauses in the stories to explain the historical and cultural context. These tales provide a sense of real characters, lives and empathy to these amazing Viking women.
Hannet has brilliantly navigated the complex tales of Icelandic Sagas to uncover the lives of everyday women in the Viking Age. Some women are extraordinary and wield the power of their household status while others are powerless and stripped of identity as slaves. This remarkable book spans the academic and historical fiction genres with aplomb. Hannet is to be congratulated.
A highly recommended read for anyone interested in Viking Age history and culture. This is an amazing book that binds history and fiction in a skilful, entertaining and exciting way. Looking forward to the next book!
The Upiór is present in Slavic and Turkic folklore and resembles the vampire. The Upiór is depicted as a ravenous and insatiable creature with vampiric features. Belief in the Upiór may have spread across the Eurasian steppes through migrations with its origins in the regions surrounding the Volga River and the Pontic steppes.
An Upiór is created after the death of those who practised sorcery who undergo transformations in their graves and can assume animal forms. The Upiór is described as having an enlarged cranium and an elongated tail and also capable of flight.
Upiór can assume any form including human forms. Individuals under the sway of an Ubır are tormented by a ceaseless hunger and progressively become frail. An Upiór deprived of sustenance becomes aggressive and eventually driven to consume carrion and human blood.
Upiór are blamed for causing epidemic outbreaks, distress and madness in humans and animals.
In suspected Upiór cases, the grave is exhumed and nails driven into the coffin. This practice, reminiscent of contemporary vampire narratives, is widely regarded as effective.
In 2012, the discovery in Bulgaria of an 800-year-old skeleton with an iron rod stabbed through its chest, led to speculation of a vampire burial.
Upiór and Vampires
Immortality and Feeding off Life Essence:
The Upiór and the vampire both possess an insatiable hunger – whether blood, life essence, or energy. The Upiór is voracious and devours not only the flesh but also the life force of its victims leaving them weakened and dying. The vampire is also known for its hunger for human blood in order to prolong its existence.
Shape-shifting and Manipulation:
The Upiór is also a shape-shifter, which allows it to assume various forms including animals. Vampires are sometimes suggested to take the form of bats or wolves to enable them to blend into the night. This shared attribute with the Ubir suggests a link between folklore.
Dread and Vulnerability:
Both the Upiór and the vampire evoke a sense of dread and vulnerability in their victims. The ability of both Upiór and vampires to deceive the senses, blend with humanity and consume life energy strikes a common fear of violation that transcends cultural boundaries. The shared fear of deceitful danger hidden beneath a facade.
The Rusalka is related to water-dwelling nymphs and appears in the form of a beautiful woman. Water nymphs, unlike mermaids, have legs and can walk on land.
Rusalki are found in rivers or lakes they come out of the streams at certain times a year to dance and walk in the woods especially in summer months. In prehistory, they’ve been associated with fertility, but by the 19th century, they represented aggressive water sprites who would seduce young men to a watery deaths.
The origin folklore of the rusalka is unclear, but they are always women and usually virgins who had an untimely death near water. The restless soul became a rusalka because they were un-sanctified or they’d had a violent and untimely deaths. Rusalki are almost always associated with women betrayed by their lovers. They remain in the region to haunt the area of water where they died.
Rusalki often come out of the water and climb into a tree or sit on a rock, singing or combing their hair. Rusalki have green or golden hair which is always wet and their pale skin may take on a greenish hue.