I turn on Facebook today and see that Mark Samuels has passed away. I'd been thinking of Joel Lane recently, as it must be ten years since Joel passed, in what appears to be a similar manner to Mark. Sad and a shock in each case (and it feels uncanny today). On my shelves I always place their books together.
So, it's a blow to lose another stridently independent figure from British horror, who also wrote and spoke well, and with authority, about the field. I think Mark wrote some fine weird fiction too, particularly during a period when horror exuded an appalling smell in publishing houses. There wasn't much encouragement from publishing, or the book trade, for literary horror and writing it could feel like a desperately futile endeavour. PS Publishing, Tartarus, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, Conrad Williams, Reggie Oliver, Mark Morris, Tim Lebbon, Joel and Mark, and others in a loose group, or scene, were a shining pyramid to me back then, as I slowly and painfully emerged from my own London cellar in the early noughties.
I can't claim to have had a meaningful friendship with Mark, and I hadn't seen him in around 15 years; I think we were more akin to friendly peers who often met through shared esoteric and literary interests. This was during my early years in London, and we attended the same literary walks with Nicholas Granger Taylor's London Adventure Society (Mark's guided Machen walks were superb). We attended the same events at Treadwells and the BFS for a few years too, until around 2009, I think.
This was a key period in my own glacial development, when I met horror writers with similar aesthetic goals for the first time. I also met Michel Parry and Mark on the same afternoon, and he's also gone now. Banquet for the Damned had been published and I was laboriously writing and rewriting Apartment 16, so meeting other writers, like Mark, and listening to them was always consoling and encouraging. They had an effect, at the right time, and it was exciting to share ideas, books, and a little camaraderie. It was the first literary scene I'd encountered. A special time too that felt as if it belonged to another time, or an earlier century.
The White Hands and Glyphotech' were my favourites within Mark's body of work and I wrote one of my (personal favourite) stories as a tribute to his idiosyncratic creative vision - 'White Light, White Heat' - for the Snuggly Books' collection, 'Marked to Die'. I have no idea what he thought of it.
I'd I like to imagine that Mark has now found the kind of wondrous and numinous realm that he and Machen strived for.

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