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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The End of the Line - Subway horror story anthology

Last night I went to the launch of a collection of short chilling stories set on the London Underground and other subway systems around the world -
The End of the Line.

End of Line Launch Ticket flyer

The anthology's editor, Jonathan Oliver, felt that the Underground was a fertile place for Gothic and horror and wanted to rectify what he thought was a lack of stories that covered the darker side of subways. So he commissioned some of his favourite horror writers to create new short stories based in and around the Underground. Initially he was worried that he'd get the same story twenty times, but was pleased this didn't happen. Probably because the focus wasn't solely the London Underground (although I believe the majority of the stories do cover the Tube).

When the guest panellists were asked what it was about subway systems that inspired them to write, they gave the following responses:

Pat Cadigan, Jonathan Oliver and Adam Nevill - End of Line Launch

Adam Nevill felt the underground reflected a collection of fears, anxieties and frustrations, essential to good horror stories, but put them on a much simpler, everyday level. He said "It's a pressure cooker of discomfort that brings out the worst in people – lack of consideration, invasion of privacy".

Pat Cadigan believed what made the underground potentially scary was the feeling of "premature burial. Also on less packed trains, I become a magnet for crazy people", she said. "It's a fertile ground for horror".

Of the three, Christopher Fowler, was the only one who didn't naturally feel the frustration & anxiety on the Tube. He found it quite familiar and comforting as he used it to go to school.

We didn't learn too much about each of the writers' stories, but there was enough to whet the appetite. Adam's was based on a real experience he had on the Tube. "It was one of those days. A momentum of clusterfucks, that are quite common on the London Underground – delay after delay. I just wanted to get out of the station, but it was so packed with people not knowing what to do, I couldn't make my way out. I got the inspiration for a story where everyone was zombified, dead or slightly inanimate, but the announcements about delays continued one after the other".

Pat was originally going to write a story based on a TV drama she'd seen, where a man was trapped by a subway train, and it was only the train on his body that was keeping him alive. The minute it was moved he would die. She did some research on the internet, to see if something like that could really happen, but urban legend sites like Snopes, debunked the story.

So she had another idea in that somehow you could travel from one subway system to another. She liked the thought that there were parallel systems joined together, all running on the same tracks. (That reminded me of Mark Ovenden's subway system of the world map below).

World Metro Map by Mark Ovenden

Christopher had studied the London Underground a lot for his previous novels. You may of heard of his fictional detectives Bryant and May who most recently had to solve a mysterious murder on the Tube in "Off The Rails". He'd heard stories about the 'Blitz spirit' on the Tube, when during the war, other disasters & terrorist attacks. He'd always thought it was slightly cliched or 'over egged' until he experienced it himself how people behaved around the July the 7th bombings. "There was an orderly calm. I suppose that's why my story is at the end of the collection. It's kind of like a closure".

End of Line books

The authors also spoke of the horror films about the Tube which they enjoyed (or didn't) including Death Line, Creep, Kontroll, American Werewolf in London and surprisingly Sliding Doors "That so should have been a horror film", said Pat.

Thanks to Foyles for hosting the event and I'll certainly give a review of The End of the Line when I've had the chance to read it. It sounds like a great addition to the London Underground fiction on my bookshelf.

You might also like:

Neverwhere & Neil Gaiman

Meeting Julian Barnes - author of Metroland


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