The Ghastling

The Ghastling is an indie literary magazine full of “Tales of the Macabre, Ghosts and the oh-so Strange”, commemorating the penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era. It is edited by Rebecca Parfitt.

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Rebecca has worked  in publishing for nearly a decade – first in London and now in Cardiff, Wales. She is also a published writer of poetry as well as short stories herself, and has co-edited a collection of new Gothic fiction, A Flock of Shadows. Until today, she has published five issues of The Ghastling. The featured short fiction from authors all over the globe centres around a certain aspect of Gothic fiction. The latest issue was published in February 2017 and is all about female protagonists:

“This issue is full of women. Women lost, disappeared, heroic, misguided, spurned, hauntes, wicked, put-upon, neglected, misunderstood, bedraggled, ghostly and preoccupied. Womanhood is a deep and unsettling focus of so many Victorian narratives. (…) And it is so good to receive stories that place the woman at the centre of life – not the bystander, not the aid, the prize, the rescued fallen, or the love interest, but the force – whether she be good or bad, I don’t care, the more flawed and complex the better. New forms of female ghost are emerging.”
Rebecca Parfitt in her Editorial to The Ghastling, Book No. Five

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The fifth issue of The Ghastling comes with eleven short stories by indie writers, all of them beautifully illustrated. Sometimes the illustrations are authentic Victorian ones, sometimes they come from contemporary artists …

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… just like for this short story by the Irish Claire Savage, for which the Dutch artist Anouk van der Meer contributed some illustrations that add to the atmosphere evoked by the writing. Claire’s short story, “The Flame Keepers”, is also my favourite in this issue. It introduces the reader to a small town called Fairy Glen, where people mysteriously disappear in the woods …

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I really don’t want to give away too much of the contents, but since I also admired Claire’s poetic style of writing, here is a little taster:

“Magic – real magic – was in the cool gusty breat of the North Wind; in the tickle of a twisted branch on the back of the neck – in the swirling of cherry blossom petals as they danced across the whispering water of lakes and rivers and streams. It lived deep within the ancient, towering oaks and elms and firs; flowed through their roots and burrowed far below where footsteps dared to tread. Magic floated on the wings of the raven; was in the contented sigh of a sleepless stoat or hare – it saturated the earth and filled flames of molten fire – it was in the hillsides and the brughs, where – of you were lucky or perhaps unlucky enough – you might here the muffled pipes of secret fairy revelries and enchantments.
Magic was the sadness of the rain, the earth’s embrace and he songs of the stars. It was the cold smile of the moon and the melting heat of the sun – it was night and day and the hours in between and after and before.”
Claire Savage’s “The Flame Keepers”

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Kristy Kerruish’s story, “The Conjurer”, takes the reader to Victorian London and a conjurer’s tuppenny show.

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The tragic death of a medium is the subject of Renee Anderson’s story “Medium Black”. Apart from the story, I am absolutely in love with the picture on the left!

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Prices for The Ghastling vary from £10 to £16 (including shipping), depending on where you order from. I highly enjoyed delving into the different stories, all of them being individual and unique takes on the subject-matter, and I am positive I will order the next issue, too, if possible along with the previous four.

~ Lisa v. D.

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