Helen’s Story reviewed


Helen’s Story by Rosanne Rabinowitz. PS Publishing 2013

A retro-review by Peter Coleborn

I read Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan a long, long time ago and sadly I can’t recall the details. Having just read Helen’s Story I think I should find my copy and re-read it. This is because Rabinowitz takes Machen’s novella as her starting point and looks afresh at one of the characters in Pan – Helen Vaughan – and tells her story. The good thing is, you can read Helen’s Story without prior knowledge because the writer so ably immerses you in her tale, dipping into the now and the then with consummate ease.

Helen lives in London, an artist of massive canvasses, painting landscapes that tell her story, attempting to capture everything that happened to her, attempting to find a way to join her companion – a creature that morphs into whatever shape or gender it chooses, including a certain being that is – well – Pan. She stages showings in her studio, using some of the raw responses the paintings cause in the viewers to embellish, enhance and further her work. Among the audience is a man who bears an uncanny history with hers.

Helen’s Story is so well written the novella flows effortlessly through the reader’s mind, subsuming him or her into this exotic and very erotic tale. Helen Vaughan is a strong character yet at times suffers from self doubt – a result of her strange upbringing, in a house with a cold scientists, in boarding schools in which she is the outcast, and in the woods with the creature who becomes her life-long companion, even if it neglects her for decades at a time. Helen is a timeless woman, born in the 19th century, her appearance evolving to remain youthful. The final scene in Helen’s studio is a set piece in which she and the audience become subsumed into her work, chasing the elusive companion.

This novella is another exemplary publication from PS, beautifully produced and designed, from the gorgeous cover art (by Erika Steiskal) right through to the final endpapers. Helen’s Story is a tour de force of one woman’s fight to understand her nature – and is quite simply a masterpiece. I’d place it in the same class, the way it mixes the real and the myth, as Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce and Among Others by Jo Walton. I saw a post online that the book is now out of print. Let’s hope some other publisher picks it up so everyone can read and enjoy it




Worlds of the Unknown

Spectre Press logo

Worlds of the UNKNOWN is a new magazine that endeavours to emulate the feel of three magazine now no longer with us: the pulp magazine Unknown / Unknown Worlds, the golden years of the digest magazine Fantastic, and the short-lived digest magazine Beyond Fantasy Fiction. So far Spectre Press has produced two Volumes of Worlds of the UNKNOWN.

Spectre Press UW1and2

Volume 1 contains stories by Adrian Cole, Andrew Darlington and Mike Chinn, with artwork by Bob Covington and Jim Pitts, Issue 1 also includes an essay by Mike Ashley about Unknown. The cover art is by Jim Pitts.

Volume 2 contains reprints of Theodore Sturgen‘s ‘IT’ from Unknown; Arthur Machen‘s ‘The Bowmen’ plus one other of his stories to mark 100 years since World War 1; many more original stories; and an article by Jon Harvey about Beyond Fantasy Fiction.  The cover is by Bob Covington who also provided a four-page comic called ‘The Angels of War’.

Both issues are available for £10 plus £1.50 each p&p in the UK. Copies can be obtained by Paypal, using the email jon.harvey @ talktalk.net, or a cheque made out to Jon Harvey, at 56 Mickle Hill, Sandhurst, Berkshire, GU47 8QU.

The publisher (Jon Harvey) is currently organising Volume 3, which contains stories by Andrew Darlington, Marion Pitman plus tales first published in Beyond Fantasy Fiction. Jon states:

 I am looking for more stories in the vein of the three magazines mentioned above.  I am also looking for artists to illustrate various stories and covers.  I have used artists such as Bob Covington, David Fletcher, Fergal Fitzgerald, Russ Nicholson and Jim Pitts in the first two volumes, but I need more artist to help ease the load.  Authors and artists, please contact me at jon.harvey @ talktalk.com.  All copyrights will remain with you, plus original artwork.

If you are interested in a catalogue of Spectre Press publications or you wish to discuss contributions to WOTU magazine, please contact the editor:

jon.harvey @ talktalk.com