The Dead Days: Prologue

The Book Of Dead Days cover.
Image credit

Welcome to the Dead Days.

What are the Dead Days? They’re the time between Christmas and New Year, when the year is ending but it hasn’t quite yet, when the excitement of the holiday season has given way to a sense of waiting, not unpleasant but not entirely comfortable either. They’re the time that feels extra, that no one quite knows what to do with. They’re now.

The idea comes from Marcus Sedgwick’s excellent novel The Book of Dead Days, which follows a magician as he tries to find his way out of a Faustian pact that will claim his life at the turn of the new year. I would definitely recommend this book, along with the rest of Sedgwick’s rather copious oeuvre, to any fan of the Gothic – his varied works feature vampires, underworlds, reincarnation, premonitions and secluded frozen landscapes. So if you haven’t encountered him yet, have a look through his books: you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.

Sedgwick describes the Dead Days as ‘a strange, a quiet interlude, somehow outside the rest of the year, outside time itself’, and here at Sheffield Gothic we’ll be using this time to think about these ideas of liminality and thresholds that are key to the Gothic and so apparent at this time of year. We’ll be bringing you a new blog post for each of the Dead Days, so be sure to check back and find out what we have to say!

But for now, curl up, try to keep warm, and let the long dark night stretch out ahead of you . . .

Megan Stephens is a first year PhD student in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, funded by the AHRC through the White Rose Consortium. She is looking at minor character deaths in contemporary fantastic film and television, thinking about the presence or lack of mourning and the value of different lives (and she promises she isn’t as morbid as this makes her sound!).