Category Archives: Ogmios/David Ward

Stranger Than We Can Imagine Reviewed


Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century
John Higgs
Signal, 352pp

The twentieth century is the one about which we know the most, due to explosions in innovation, technology, mass literacy, and documentation. We know about the century in its broad strokes: the child of the industrial revolution, the breakdown of Empire, the horrors of war at an unfathomable scale, the rise of economic powerhouses, the spread of capitalism and consumerism, the rise of America, and the appearance of massive foreign interventionist policies. But what else happened? Most histories focus on the worlds of economy, war, and diplomacy, to varying effect. Many aspects of the twentieth century are swept under the rug by historians, not out of a lack of interest, but in a desire to reign in their scope – an unfortunate and necessary result of composition. But twentieth-century histories have to be ambitious; there has never been a more well-documented century in the history of the world. John Higgs’s Stranger Than We Can Imagine moves the focus away from the typical historical centre stage and offers some delightful (and terrifying) insights into a century we think we know. Read the rest of this entry

David Ward On… Being a Dork Dad

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

Several years ago, I was faced with an issue that I never thought would ever happen: my kid fell in love with princesses. This came from neither of her homes; her mother and I were pretty dead-set against the world of Disney princesses. It came, as many other interests do, from her peers, namely a good friend at her daycare. While I didn’t go out of my way to stomp on this interest (I am a firm believer that people should enjoy whatever they wish), I felt there was a better way for her to have fun and still avoid the “Oh, Prince Charming is coming into my life” perspective so endemic to so many insipid films, media, and toys.

“Ok, kid. You like princesses? Cool. Try this.”

And I put on Star Wars.


Princess Leia 1

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David Ward On… Serendipities by Umberto Eco


I figured I’d take the opportunity to do my “On…” column on one of my favourite books this time around, and, strangely enough, it has nothing to do with visceral horror! I’m writing about an old and treasured favourite: Serendipities by Umberto Eco. I know Eco isn’t for everyone. One friend of mine once said he could never finish a book by him because he constantly had to refer to the dictionary. While he’s not that bad, some of his books are a little dense. I wanted to write about a favourite and much more accessible title. Outside of his fiction, I’ve re-read his essays more than any other type of his works – some of his academic and theoretical books make my brains drip out of my ears. Read the rest of this entry

David Sandford Ward travels to Hell in Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels


The Cenobite bites it. The Order of the Gash lays smashed and shattered upon a mound of bones and blood, confined forever to a sea of dust and ash. This is the worst-kept secret about this novel, which has been under discussion and hinted about for decades: Pinhead dies. I can understand Barker’s choice to do this; he’s quite literally killing his darlings.

Touted as Barker’s “much-anticipated return to horror” (a comment, by the way, that also found its way on to the jacket of his last novel for adults, Mister B. Gone – perhaps it was due to a change in publisher?), The Scarlet Gospels is the closing chapter in the lives of two of Barker’s longest-lasting creations: Pinhead and Harry D’Amour. Admittedly, Harry doesn’t have quite the same cultural resonance as the BDSM angel of death from Hellraiser, but he’s a contemporary of, if not older than, Pinhead. D’Amour first made an appearance in Barker’s novella The Last Illusion (found at the end of The Books of Blood VI and later adapted by Barker for the screen as The Lord of Illusions, starring Scott Bakula as D’Amour), and then he crops up again in Everville, the Second Book of the Art. Pinhead, on the other hand, and despite the innumerable excrescences that comprise the Hellraiser sequels, only appears in one Barker story: The Hellbound Heart and its film, Hellraiser. Read the rest of this entry

David Sandford Ward On… Rivers

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.


“Rivers” is a song from Skinny Puppy’s fifth studio release, Rabies. It’s not a goth-industrial hit; you won’t hear it on the dancefloor at goth nights (and you never did); most non-Skinny Puppy fans have never heard of it; but it is absolutely brilliant. Early Skinny Puppy was characterized, generally, by two sorts of sounds: one included thumping percussion, eerie repeated synthesizer tracks, disjointed broken sampling, and Nivek Ogre’s voice; the other included atmospheric synth pads that sometimes included samples from horror films (these were found both sounds – take “Icebreaker” from Bites). Both “Rivers” and “Worlock” from Rabies are both firmly Skinny Puppy songs on an album that is essentially a Ministry album with a Skinny Puppy mask (no great surprise: Ministry’s frontman, Al Jourgensen, was a producer). A lot of people gush about “Worlock” – with good reason. It’s a fantastic song, and one is pretty much guaranteed to hear it at a Skinny Puppy concert. This is far less likely, if not impossible, with “Rivers”. Read the rest of this entry

David Ward On… Hellblazer

My column on all things Hellblazer is going to start in the middle. Why? Because beginnings reek of convention, something that strikes me as anathema to John Constantine. So I’m going to skip over scores of brilliant writers and artists, some of whom are my favourite in the field, and go straight for Mike Carey, who took the reins of Hellblazer from Brian Azzarello in 2002. He starts with a dead man. Read the rest of this entry

31 Days of Horror: Through the Woods – Emily Carroll


Through the Woods
Emily Carroll
McElderry Books

As a child, I remember being terrified when I first heard the story of Bluebeard (“Be bold, be bold…” still runs a shiver down my spine). It may have been the first time I ever heard a truly scary fairy tale—something that toed the line between a fairy story and gruesome horror. Not much later, I was introduced to the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, which, as lovers of fairy tales and myths we all discover, are absolutely nothing like the sanitized versions we know from Disney and the children’s section of most bookstores. Some prefer the gruesome ones; some prefer the nicer ones; some prefer a balance. Fairy tales, like most fictions, are totally subjective, but I definitely fell for the darker, bloodier stuff. “What do you mean, they cut her toes off to fit in that slipper?” More after the jump.

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Doctor Who S08 E10: In the Forest of the Night


“The forest is mankind’s nightmare.”

… says the Doctor, looking around a newly forested Trafalgar Square. Over the course of one night a massive forest has grown up everywhere. Not just London, not just the United Kingdom, not just Europe – everywhere. The Earth is covered in forest, from top to bottom.

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31 Days of Horror 2014 – Byzantium


When I sat down to watch Neil Jordan’s masterful 2012 vampire film, Byzantium, I was filled with more than a little apprehension. I gave up on the “beautiful” vampire some time in the late 1990s when Lestat, protagonist of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, was busy entertaining self-indulgent and mediocre conversations with God and the Devil in Memnoch the Devil (a largely forgettable novel). “That’s it!” I thought, and throwing the book to the ground, I vowed to never again indulge in the onanistic drivel of most teen goths. Don’t even get me started on the Twilight franchise.  More on Byzantium after the jump.

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H.R. Giger – 1940-2014

One of my earliest memories is staring, with abject horror, at an image of a large, slick worm with razor-sharp teeth thrusting out from the page through a man’s burst and bleeding chest. My father owned an illustrated version of the Alien script, and it was full of photographs from the film. I knew I shouldn’t have been looking at that book; it was a taboo. This was my introduction to the creations of Hans Rudolf Giger, the Swiss surrealist painter who died yesterday, tragically, in hospital after falling down a stairwell.

Giger AlienGiger spent most of his life bringing nightmares to life with intensely disturbing subjects and landscapes that gave pleasure through their utter wrongness. You’d find landscapes of dead babies, flesh-like deserts, gateways to terror, and creatures of unknowable horror made even more disturbing by their all-too recognizable genitalia. His paintings, particularly those framed in his biomechanoid phase, reminded me of industrial music: layers and layers of strangeness that could be viewed on macro- and microcosmic levels. There was also a very dark sense of humour in a lot of his work; through the twisted and brutalized forms were comical faces and situations – from Timothy Leary’s open, laughing mouth and brilliant, maelstrom-wrought eyes to a porcine, lascivious Aleistar Crowley wearing a dunce cap. Every time I look at one of my Giger books, I spend a lot of time looking at every painting. I discover something new each and every time.
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