I was at alt.fiction last weekend, an excellent little sf/fantasy/horror convention in Leicester. On Sunday I attended the launch of The Mammoth Book of Body Horror edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane. My story, Sticky Eye, appears in the book. I was told it was to be a signing event, but it turned out to be more of a panel. Novelists David Moody and Simon Clark – both excellent company – were also in attendance.
The panel was hosted by Alasdair Stuart, who made a fine fist of pretending to be Ramsey Campbell, who was unfortunately absent. Towards the end of our allotted hour, Alasdair asked the panel what their favourite body horror story was. I might have mentioned either of Stephen King’s stories, Survivor Type or Grey Matter, or pretty much anything of Clive Barker’s, but at the last moment I remembered a story that had horrified me so greatly that I had to put down for a while the book in which it had been anthologised.
All I could remember was that Bob Shaw had written it (now I’ve been able to check, I can reveal that it’s called Love Me Tender), but I fiercely remembered the impact it had upon me. It appeared in Ramsey’s New Terrors anthology in 1980. Remembering that jaw-dropper of a story also reminded me of the time I met Bob Shaw, back in the early 1990s.
I can’t quite remember why he did it (perhaps I’d asked him for any writing mentors or contacts in the neighbourhood, perhaps he was sick of me pestering him and wanted to direct my attention elsewhere) but it was Ramsey who gave me Bob’s phone number, which contained the same area code as my own. I can remember being taken aback by the idea that any writer – particularly one as prominent as Bob Shaw – would choose to live in Warrington, but I was delighted that I might be able to pick the brains of a well-respected novelist without forking out for a train ticket.
I was quite nervous when I called Bob but was immediately put at ease by his charm, and his gentle Belfast accent. He told me he’d be in the Ring O’Bells pub on Church Street and that I would know him by the trim of his beard which he wore, he said, because he fancied it gave him a ‘conquistadorial air’. I went along and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and met him a couple more times after that, but I never mentioned Love Me Tender, mainly because I was unconvinced that someone so convivial could write something so terrifying.
Time passed, I moved to Morecambe, then London, and it was while I was there that I heard that Bob Shaw had died, in 1996. Christopher Priest’s obituary of Bob Shaw can be found here.
So… what’s your favourite body horror story?