© Aphelion Magazine
The last short story I had published appeared a few days before Halloween. I’m pleased to report that a new story of mine has just appeared in print too and has done so in time for the next big event on the festive calendar, Christmas.
This is appropriate since the story, called The Lights and attributed to my pseudonym Jim Mountfield, takes place at Christmas. However, as Jim Mountfield is the name that I put on my horror stories, it won’t surprise you to hear that this is a dark take on Christmas. In fact, The Lights owes as much to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Wicker Man (1973) and the gothic (and often macabre) fiction of Angela Carter as it does to, say, Bing Crosby crooning about treetops glistening and children listening to sleigh-bells in White Christmas (1954).
Incidentally, The Lights is set in a small town in the Scottish Borders, the region where I grew up, and involves a character becoming obsessed with an idealised, fantasy version of Christmas that increasingly takes root in his imagination – in contrast to the modest, mundane, small-town Christmas that’s the reality around him. Ironically, the story appeared in print just as this news report, about Christmas getting a little more modest and mundane in the Scottish Borders, surfaced on the BBC news website. The Borders’ council, apparently, has admitted that the Christmas trees it provides for the region’s high streets have ‘shrunk by a third compared to previous years’.
The Lights is featured in the December 2019 / January 2020 double issue of the webzine Aphelion and can be found here. During the reformatting process from the original document to the website, I’ve noticed, the spaces around the dashes in the text have disappeared, making them look like hyphens (-) rather than proper dashes ( – ). However, my partner has read the story and assured me that this didn’t make any difference to her comprehension and enjoyment of it.
As an extra bonus, another short story of mine that was published in Aphelion earlier this year, Closing Time at the Speckled Wolf – attributed the pen-name Rab Foster, which I use for my fantasy fiction – has been picked by the webzine’s editors as one of 2019’s best. It appears again in the same issue as The Lights and can be accessed here.