Twenty Years of
Ghosts & Scholars

by Rosemary Pardoe

(from Formidable Visitants, Pyewacket Press, published by Roger Johnson for the 1999 Ghosts & Scholars M.R. James Weekend)

As far as G&S is concerned, I'd much rather do it than write about it! How can I possibly remember now what motivated me to start the magazine all those years ago, and what has kept me going ever since? It's easy to analyse what currently motivates me: it's pure inertia, interspersed with occasional periods of black depression, and mercifully more frequent periods of unadulterated enthusiasm. The latter have never (yet!) failed to reawaken in me the original excitement of the magazine's birth.

How did it begin? I had already been editing small press magazines for well over ten years by the time I started G&S, having discovered SF and horror fandom in the late sixties, around the end of the great era of Gothique. I quickly realised that I wanted to do something similar, but the less said about my earliest efforts the better. By the late seventies, however, I had co-founded the British Fantasy Society, edited several issues of its journal and then gone on to take charge of its Fanzine Library. The Fanzine Library's newsletter developed into Wark magazine, which specialised in reviewing the fantasy, horror and supernatural small press. I no longer have any copies of this, but I'm told that, around number 13, I was announcing the forthcoming release of a one-off journal entitled Ghosts & Scholars.

I had been an M.R. James enthusiast for some years by 1979, but didn't think there were any other authors who produced similar material. People eventually disabused me of this idea, introducing me to the likes of Swain, Munby and Malden, but by then it was too late. The first G&S was already in preparation. I had begun it to encourage new writing in the field and soon there was too much material on hand for the planned one-shot. More Ghosts & Scholars followed, and by the time it was mailed out I had accepted the fact that G&S would continue for the foreseeable future. The first numbered edition was G&S 3.

Originally it was an annual magazine, of about forty pages. Not until 1993 did G&S go twice-yearly, and the increase in size to around sixty pages didn't happen until issue 20 in 1995. As early as 1980 I was producing related single-author and single-subject "special booklets", although I gave those up in 1997 to concentrate more on G&S. The first of the "specials" was David Rowlands' Eye Hath Not Seen, marking the early days of a remarkable friendship. It was Hugh Lamb who originally put me in touch with David, shortly after the initial G&S had come out. I then accepted a story of David's for More G&S, and thus began a correspondence which has continued on a more or less weekly basis ever since. Soon he took up my invitation to become G&S's "assistant editor (fiction)", and over the years his help in reading and commenting on story submissions has been invaluable, not least because I am a notorious ditherer. Often it has been his 'casting vote' which decided the fate of a tale, and he has also been a wonderful sounding board during fraught times. What makes our friendship so remarkable is that David and I have never met! Over the years we've made numerous attempts to rectify this situation, but events have always conspired against us. In fact, certain rumours have circulated from time to time suggesting that David is a figment of my imagination! The test will come at this convention since he and I definitely both plan to attend. Will we finally meet? I don't think I'll believe it until it happens!

In the past twenty years I've edited twenty-eight issues of G&S, containing new fiction by many authors who have become household names in our field. I wouldn't want to claim that I 'discovered' any of them, for they discovered themselves, but I like to think that I provided the requisite combination of encouragement and constructive criticism to set them on the right road. The right road, for G&S's purposes, is to find their own voice but to do it within the Jamesian genre (which is not to say, of course, that I think they should restrict themselves only to this genre). G&S has also published for the first time some of MRJ's unfinished story drafts, and disinterred some undeservedly forgotten antiquarian tales by his contemporaries. Non-fiction over the years has included scholarly articles on many aspects of MRJ's life and works, and on other writers in the Jamesian Tradition. Additionally there have been two outgrowths from the G&S empire: the Ghost Story Society, which I co-founded with Mark Valentine and Jeff Dempsey, and the Everlasting Club Ghost Story APA (Amateur Publishing Association), both still going strong.

What does the future hold for me and Ghosts & Scholars? Readers of recent issues will no doubt have noticed that my own particular interest is currently in examining MRJ's antiquarian sources, with an emphasis on looking at the other projects he had on hand when each of his stories was written. This can provide new insights into his fiction, and there is much to be discovered. I hope to encourage this and, at the same time, to publish more new and original stories which will help to move the Jamesian genre forward. I certainly don't expect G&S to cease any time soon; sometimes I think it will outlive me! Yet there will be changes. A couple of years ago G&S got its own web site, and I discovered the immediacy and opportunities of that medium. Eventually, I think the journal will become an Internet-only zine, publishing the same range of material but in a more versatile format and with the capacity to reach a far wider audience. I'm expanding the web site all the time with this eventual aim, but - fear not! - it'll be many years yet before you need to take the plunge into cyberspace to continue seeing G&S.

Copyright (c) 1999 Rosemary Pardoe

back to top

back to Ghosts & Scholars Archive

back to Ghosts & Scholars Home Page

Bar by Syruss