Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ghost story competition

As I've mentioned before, I'm a great fan of the classic English ghost story writer Montague Rhodes James, and a contributor to the Ghosts & Scholars M.R.James Newsletter, which is all about MRJ and his contemporaries. I recently received issue 20 of the Newsletter and I was very excited to see that it includes details of a new competition, so I thought I'd post them here too!

Editor Rosemary Pardoe writes:
"Following the very satisfying level of interest in the 'Merfield Hall' and 'Game of Bear' story competitions, I'd been considering the possibility of a third competition when Dan McGachey came up with the suggestion that writers might like to produce sequels to MRJ's completed tales. All the people I've sounded out about this agree with me that it's a fine idea, but I want to extend it to include prequels too. Of course there have already been examples of sequels - David Sutton's 'Return to the Runes' in the second issue of G&S for instance - but there are still plenty of possibilities. What happened to the 'satyr' (or 'satyrs') after the end of 'An episode of Cathedral History'? Are the lanes of Islington still frequented by whatever it was that Dr. Abell encountered in 'Two Doctors'? What is left of the residue of the atrocities in 'An Evening's Entertainment'; and do Count Magnus and his little friend still lurk at a certain crossroads in Essex? As for prequels, I for one would like to know what sort of treasure Canon Alberic found, how it was guarded, and the details of his death in bed of a sudden seizure. And what exactly was James Wilson's belief system, which prompted him to have his ashes placed in the globe in the centre of Mr. Humphrey's maze: what is the significance of the figures on the globe - was Wilson a member of a Gnostic sect? Need I go on? I'm sure you can think of many more mysteries and questions that demand to be solved and answered.
I must emphasise that any competition entry which is just a revamp or parody of the plot of the chosen story is unlikely to be placed very highly. I'm looking for something more original than that. There is no necessity to confine yourself to Jamesian pastiche or to attempt to write in the James style. But there are no other rules aside from the usual ones: I will not look kindly on entries which have been simultaneously submitted elsewhere; the word count is entirely up to you (within reason!); and you can send your manuscript either in hard-copy or preferably as a Word (pre-Vista) or Rich Text file on e-mail attachment or CD-Rom*. The competition is open to everyone, not just Newsletter readers.
The winning story will be published in the first Newsletter of 2012, and there will be a £40 prize for the author, along with a one-year subscription or extension. If I receive enough good, publishable entries, Robert Morgan of Sarob Press has expressed considerable interest in producing a hardback book containing all the best ones (to be edited and introduced by me). This is exciting news, but it's up to you to make it happen. If there are not enough quality stories to fill a book, then the best runners-up will appear in the Newsletter (and receive a one-year sub extension) as with previous competitions.
The competition deadline is December 31st, 2011."

*Mailed entries to: Rosemary Pardoe, Flat One, 36 Hamilton Street, Hoole, Chester CH2 3JQ, UK.
e-mailed entries to:

If you are already familiar with the stories of M.R.James then hopefully by now you are rubbing your hands! If not, and you'd like to enter the competition, you need to lay hands on a copy of his Collected Ghost Stories. Many of them are available online too but personally I'd buy a copy to read and re-read (I'm on my third copy, the other two having fallen to pieces).

Do consider subscribing to the Newsletter too if you are interested in classic ghost stories - it's not expensive. It contains all sorts of interesting bits and pieces including previously unpublished work by the great M.R.James himself, news of related books, film adaptations etc and sometimes descriptions of visits to the scenes of his stories (I have contributed a number of those myself).