This holiday season we want to give you the best stories out there and highlight some of our best authors. So we've asked some of our most published writers to send us one of their favourite stories to share with you and that's just what they did. Our first story was chosen by Liars' League alum Niall Boyce.
'Casting the Runes' by M. R. James
M. R. James is one of my favourite authors, and though it's hard to pick his best, 'Casting the Runes' comes out on top. It's a cracking ghost story - genuinely disturbing in parts - and re-reading it reminds me just how much I have learned from James.
He wasn't a full-time writer: by day he was an academic, and his supernatural fiction was mostly written to be read aloud to audiences as Christmas entertainments. Perhaps reflecting this, his prose is clear and conversational, and his plots are tight - there's barely a wasted sentence in his whole output.
He's also discovered the key to writing anything fantastical, which is that the real world has to be kept in sharp focus. To be convincing about the uncanny, you have to be convincing about the everyday. James uses his historian's skill with documents to construct plausible fakes throughout his stories, be they medieval manuscripts, or, in the wonderful 'Martin's Close', an entire court transcript from the seventeenth century.
The correspondence that starts 'Casting the Runes' - rejection letters from an editor to an author who won't take 'no' for an answer - similarly rings true: it's also both funny and rather sinister. Without wanting to give too much away, the story is about the power of the written word - about the dark magic of ink on paper - and I suspect it was therefore very close to the author's heart.
Winter is the time for ghost stories, and 'Casting the Runes' is the very best. Print it out, or better still, buy a copy of the complete works of M. R. James. Take it home, get comfortable, turn off all the lights but one, and read it.
You can find M.R. James' story here:
And make sure to check out some of Niall's work featured below!
Niall Boyce lives, writes and edits in London. He has published fiction in all sorts of places, including Litro, Dark Horizons and Smoke. In 2011, his story '1963' will appear on a Doctor Who audiobook released by Big Finish Productions.
Stories Written: "Christmas Future" (read by Paul Clarke), "Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life" (read by Ray Newe), "A Call to Arms" (read by Annalie Wilson), "Blood Relative" (read by Claire Louise Amias), "The Love Machines" (read by Sarah Feathers), "Salvador Dali's 115th Dream" (read by Ben Crystal), "Viral" (read by Annalie Wilson)