the different ages of horror

Maynard Sims


Horror is in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t that right? Something like horror anyway. Perhaps it’s called fear where you come from; perhaps the resilient might think of it as unease. Or terror, fright, scary, call it what you will. When you are 15 there are a whole bunch of things that seem to conspire to make life as unpleasant as can be. By the time you get to a creakingly old 55 life can be just as tiresome, but for the same reasons? Many 15 year olds are fearless but full of terror. Many 55 year olds are terrifying but that’s a whole other story.

1. A 15 year old finds to his horror that his erection can sometimes feel permanent. In front of class to read his essay – wham. In the morning while eating breakfast with his parents – bam. Whenever a girl appears – thank you ma’am.
A 55 year old would love to feel his erection at all. Keeping it semi permanent is a constant fear. Terror at losing the plot mid sentence is a regular companion.
Same state of physical arousal but different perspective of horror.

2. A 15-year-old fears they will never have a boyfriend or girlfriend, never meet that special one. A 55-year-old wishes they had never had met…
The fear of being buried alive.

3. A 15 year old finds most things terrifying because every situation is new. A 55-year-old worries they will never find anything feels new again…ever.
The horror of everlasting life?

4. A 15 year old finds it horrifying that they might have to spend another 5 or more years learning stuff that they already find boring. They hate having to work at school and listen and pay attention.
A 55 year old is scared that they didn’t pay enough attention at school, and it’s too late now, and anyway, they could be dead in another 5 or more years.

5. A 15 year old finds war frightening, and poverty terrible, and inequality horrible, and they are going to do something about it.
A 55 year old finds war frightening, and poverty terrible, and inequality horrible, yet knows there is nothing they can do about it.

6. To a 15-year-old fan of horror there are endless possibilities for fictional horror. A walk alongside a misty river at dusk, a bare graffiti scarred urban street, a silent graveyard at midnight. Every situation seems to resonate with significance as the essence of horror stories lives inside every mood, every place they visit, every thought they have.
A 55-year-old fan of horror can just about remember the moods that used to evoke those feelings of dread. Nowadays there needs to be good characters, a plot, a storyline, and something new to get the juices flowing.
A vampire’s curse?

7. To a 15 year old any social situation holds unspoken horrors. My hair might be messed, my clothes might not be cool, I might not know what to say – I’ll definitely not know what to say. A social situation? I’ll spill my drink, get food in my teeth, insult people unwittingly, tell unsuitable jokes, be the only one not telling unsuitable jokes.
Actually a 55 year old feels pretty much the same – they just care less about it.
Haunting fears.

8. A 15 year old finds it terrifying when they have to say something, and they find it scary when they can’t think of anything to say.
At 55 you know it doesn’t really matter what you say as long as you say something, and only then do people realise you haven’t actually got anything to say.

9. At 15 you find your body horrible – too fat, thin, tall, short, hair too long, short, face spotty, pale, everything.
At 55 you think the same but with good reason.
Frankenstein lives…

10. At 15 you are scared of the first kiss, will you do it right, will they laugh. At 55 you’re scared that kiss might be your last, and will your partner find out…

If you’re 15 you can’t ever imagine being so old as to be 55.
If you’re 55 you can barely remember what it was like to be 15.

Two ages, one horror.

what a year 2014 is

A Special Anniversary – March 2014

2014 is a very significant year for me. Not only does it mark the 40 year anniversary of my writing partnership with Mick Sims, but it’s also seen the re-launch of Enigmatic Press, a small publishing house we created in 1997 to bring the much-missed Enigmatic Tales to the world.

From the outset Enigmatic Tales was a labour of life. Our way of giving something back to the horror genre that had been our world for over twenty years. We decided if we were going to produce a small-press magazine then it would have to be a quality product. I decided it would have to be perfect bound – the only problem being we had no money and couldn’t afford to use a commercial printer. “No problem,” I said. “I’ll produce it myself.”

The next few months saw me turn my spare bedroom into a work shop, making jigs from MDF for accurate trimming and folding, a press to clamp several hundred pages together so they could be glued and reinforced, and finally cut into magazine sized batches. Covers were printed and folded. The next week or so saw me spending my evenings in a glue-fuelled stupor gluing the magazine together, but finally the first edition was complete and, to our gratification, sold out.

By the time Issue 2 was ready to go we could afford to use a commercial printer, which was a bit of a shame as I’d quite enjoyed the glue-highs, but was probably better for my health.

Enigmatic Tales survived for another nine issues, with increases in page count and production values. Somewhere along the line we acquired Arts Council funding which allowed our survival as our bank accounts were being hammered, especially when we introduced Enigmatic Novellas, a series of eleven longer stories from some of the best writers in the genre at the time.

When political changes at the Arts Council led them to withdraw their funding, the death knell for Enigmatic Press started to toll. And quietly EP went to its grave – or so we thought.

Back in ’97 the Internet was a much more primitive beast that it is today. Now in 2014 independent publishing has grown to an unstoppable juggernaut with the world and his wife self publishing e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks and, in some cases, hardbacks.

The world has changed. Where self-publishing was sneered at ten years ago, now it’s celebrated and a number people are making money from their efforts.

The other day I took delivery of the proof copy of the first Enigmatic Press title for 2014, Let Death Begin by Maynard Sims, and what a professional looking book it is: perfect bound, tidily trimmed pages, matte-finished cover. A beauty achieved by spending a couple of hours in front of my computer: a couple of hours that allowed me to produce a paperback copy of the book and an electronic version for Kindle.

If only the technology had been available in 1997.

It made me wonder how Enigmatic Press could have flourished.

But now I have another bite of that particular cherry, so watch this space.

Len Maynard of and

ideas are easy aren’t they?

Some ideas for stories never die do they?

Our new thriller Let Death Begin is one of those. Len Maynard wrote the raw draft for the story way back in 1992 when we dared one another to write outside our beloved supernatural arena. We both produced a very short thriller novel, which was unusual for us because up until then we were known for short stories and novellas, many of them ghost stories.

Trouble was both “novels” – little more than novella length really – were not very good. So both manuscripts stayed locked in a drawer until recently when we dusted them off. What we read was nowhere near as bad as we had remembered. With a great deal of work – okay completely rewriting them – we have two “pacy and engaging” (ARC views not mine) thrillers.

Let Death Begin is about East End villains and corrupt cops. It was originally called The Killing Room, and such a room does feature in the plot. Now the story is novel length and completely updated and revised. It is a mystery thriller as there are plenty of twists and turns in the story.

That happens a lot – the idea that comes and hangs around. Sometimes the plot needs time to germinate in the mind until it is ready to be born. Other times the idea is little more than an interesting beginning with little meat on the bones of the plot to get to anywhere near an ending.

With our short stories we have always had a solution to that. If one started a story and got lost along the way they handed it over to the other for them to finish it. Not as easy as it sounds of course because a story has to have a voice and that voice has to be consistent. Now we have been doing it for while we have a joint voice that makes the process smoother. Our first professional sale was 1974 and so 2014 marks a significant anniversary for us.

That way of working isn’t so easy with a novel of course. The threads are more complex. The plot more involved. The story told over a much greater length. Generally with novels we have found that one writes and one edits and revises. So the narrative voice is consistent.

Sometimes an idea comes fully formed. The beginning, middle and end all present themselves in the mind and the writing takes care of itself. More often though it is a beginning that shouts at the brain and from there it is a process of adding the rest. Sometimes we do that as we go along, other times the whole book is mapped out in outline. When we go the first route and let the narrative drive itself we find the characters have a very loud voice in where the plot leads.

With Let Death Begin that has changed. Because the original was so old Mick Sims has taken up the original story and significantly revised it. The original story is the same but with plot elements added and deleted. The characters are Len’s and their actions are unchanged, to a large extent, but the plot has altered. We have been able to work like that because we have a Maynard Sims style now that is natural to both of us.

We have decided to try the self publish route – alongside our traditionally published novels – and have used Enigmatic Press for the purpose. ( The covers have been professionally produced for us and I have to say that the Createspace paperbacks look and feel really good. The process is simple and the end result is excellent. Putting on Kindle is a piece of cake as well.

In the book James is shot by a clown. Sara’s house is broken into and some letter stolen. James is an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation as his current life collides with his past. Soon he is fighting to stay alive. It’s a character led thriller.

Titles are strange things. The original title The Killing room had already been done by the time we rewrote so we had to come up with something different. As the book was so much changed anyway it was an easy choice to make to alter the title.

I always find it interesting where story titles come from. Sometimes the title is created from within the story itself, when the subject just has to be paraded like that. Sometimes I’ve had story ideas when listening to music and the title has come from a line in the song. Examples of that from my own stories include ‘Between The Dead Men And The Blind’ a line from 40,000 Headmen, ‘Soaking Wet Without A Boat’ a line from a Monkees B side (remember those? the group and 45 singles), and ‘Slightly All The Time’ which is the title of the Soft Machine track from Third (my favourite piece of music bar none). Oh, and another one of ours – Flame was a follow up novella to Moths so the title was an easy choice. And then there are oblique titles which are intended as hints or suggestions about a theme. I’m guessing there are loads more ways titles get chosen.

Let Death Begin by Maynard Sims is available now on Amazon as paperback and Kindle ebook.