In the early morning hours of Jan 2nd 2021, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched:
Anything for Jackson
Plotline: Satanist couple kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spellbook to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning more than they bargained for.
Who would like it: Fan of the occult, possessions, creature features, ppl who love monsters, and everybody who loves endings that keep you guessing
High Points: The strong storyline and original plot
The Earl & the Fairy
by Mizue Tan, illustrated by Asako Takaboshi
In 19th century London, a man is beaten almost to death by a criminal. Meanwhile, Lydia, the last fairy doctor receives a letter from her father to come to London to see him. As Lydia boards the boat, she is kidnapped then later kidnapped again… But which man means her harm?
Can she escape from a pretend Edgar Earl and find safety with her father in London? Or is the fake Earl no fake at all? Does he truly need her help as a fairy doctor to find his fairy legacy? And will her fairy
friend Nico (who looks like a cat) be able to assist in finding the fairy sword?
This was an enjoyable manga that reminded me of Jack the Ripper but it’s slanted much more mystery than horror. However, it was interesting and I liked that some of the story took place on boats. Also loved soaking in the 19th century feel.
Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specialises in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au
What’s your lens?
By Geneve Flynn
There are rules of craft and objective reasons why a story works and why it doesn’t. Without interrogating which lenses we see through, it can be easy to assume that what makes a story goodis universal.
However, writing and editing is very much subjective. There are stories that resonate with me that ring false for you. So much of the reading experience isn’t just the text on the page, but all the stuff you bring to it as a reader. What you’ll imagine will be different from what I imagine, simply because your life experiences, your lenses, are different from mine.
Foravid readers, a good chunk of our experiences are based on what weread. The problem is that muchof what’s been published historically has been limited in diversity. When weonly see stories that show the world through a monolithic lens, wecan start to think that’s the only way to read and write.
That can be particularly harmful fora writer, even more so for an editor. There’s a risk of guiding and limiting a narrative to characters, settings, and storylines that are familiar.
When award-winning author and editor Lee Murray and I got chatting at the biennial Genrecon convention in Brisbane, we realized that there were few stories that truly reflected our experiences. We’re both of Asian descent, both women, both writing horror—where were those stories?There was an absence of perspective that we wanted to answer.
We went digging and unearthed a wealth of fiercely talented Southeast Asian horror writers, and set about putting together an anthology. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women was published thisSeptember through Omnium Gatherum, and to our great delight, the reviews showed that the anthology was doing exactly what we hoped.
“The unique anxieties experienced by Asian women were so masterfully penned here that reading it really was an eye-opening experience.”Gingernuts of Horror
“The preconceived notions of both the authors’ identities and of the limitations of the horror genre itself will be smashed to pieces, to the delight of readers.”Library Journal
One of the benefits of fiction from diverse perspectives is that it makes usacutely aware of our own perceptions. It helps usexamine how weexperience a story. There’s an opportunity to become cognizant of the lenses we carry withinus, and to magnify them, or switch them out for something new.
Black Cranes and otherpublications like it, written by and centering diverse voices, are holding up lenses thatshow readers, writers, and editors new ways to see. They’re expanding the boundaries of what’s possible, and that can only be a good thing.
Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.
Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.
An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.
Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.
Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.
At the end of the Taisho era in Japan, a small tea house draws patrons to Hiruko. He is a Baku-he or “Eater of Dreams.” It is said Hiruko can enter a nightmare and release the victim from suffering. He can put people to sleep with the wave of his cane and accompany them into the nightmare.
The stories in this manga are very odd and don’t seem to make much sense. In one case, a boy walks into the tea house and asks for help. It turns out he is a weather vane. I’m confused about how a weather vane could walk into a tea shop and how do weather vanes have nightmares?
Another tale features a girl who always writes the same thing in her dream. She asks him to change it, but when they get to the part where he can, she ends up writing the same thing. There is a secondary character in the tea house who sometimes asks Hiruko what happened and his explanations don’t make much sense either.
There are also repetitive chapter beginnings which are common in mangas that were serialized in magazines. I always think it is better for the editor to cut these out when composing the manga book.
I absolutely love the art in this manga. It’s a very interesting sort of steampunk/cosplay mix with long art deco lines. The styling of the Baku-he is awesome.
In the back, there is a short letter from the author. The best thing is a full-page illustration/explanation of Hiruko’s cane by the friend of the author. It’s hilarious and informative. It makes me wonder what sort of manga would come from the author and best friend collaborating.
Overall, I’d say, check it out for the art, but don’t hold out much hope for the story.
If you think a ninja’s life is all about throwing stars and black pajamas, think again. For Chinese-Norwegian born Lily Wong, it’s a mixed bag of fighting domestic abuse, family dynamics and this little issue with the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob. No big deal.
Lily Wong is a heroine for modern times. Gutsy, humorous and bad*ss, she takes on injustice wherever she finds it, using her skills to defend women against those who would enslave them. Loads of action will keep readers turning pages faster than Lily can break a knee cap. There’s even a little romance thrown in to round out the story.
There’s more to Lily than martial arts, however. Author Tori Eldridge brings personal struggles to the table as Lily faces issues of being mixed race, loss of a loved one and how to preserve non-traditional values with a domineering grandmother. Despite her prowess with martial arts, Lily is far from being an inaccessible character. Flawed and conflicted, she’s easy to identify with.
I enjoyed being exposed to new concepts like the kunoichi, a female ninja. Unafraid to touch the hard topics of racism and human trafficking, Eldridge doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her series, The Ninja’s Blade. Lily will go to any means to protect those who would otherwise be victimized. If you are looking for a fast-paced action read with plenty of social value, Tori Eldrige’s Lily Wong series will not disappoint.
Tori Eldridge is the bestselling author of The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong series), nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel and named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories have been published in horror, dystopian, and other literary anthologies, and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori’s screenplay The Gift earned a semi-finalist spot for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.
Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection. Look for the third book in the Lily Wong series in September 2021.
Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net
The National Psychic Academy: A place for psychically gifted youth to expand their powers, be hit on by frisky co-eds, and meet talking bunnies. Poor Ai doesn’t even believe that he has psychic gifts. How can he be expected to survive at a school where his brother is a hero and his talking bunny keeps pushing him into embarrassing situations?
This manga is rated 13+, and reads like a schoolboy locker room chat. With many racy shots, young girl’s bathing, naked little fairies, and several “accidental” boob grabs, this book seems written by a young boy, for young boys.
The bunny, who claims to be Master Boo, speaks like Andrew Dice Clay and seems to want to pick up girls more than help Ai learn his skills.
“Now watch an’ learn as I pluck a coupla young, unsuspecting, ripe tomatoes.”
Ai’s brother, Zero or “The Vanquisher of the Dark Overlord”, is over the top with his two-page intro where the artist paints him like an old-time comic book hero, metal codpiece, cape blowing in the breeze. It gets worse later, when Zero fights off a bully, using the clothes vanishing technique and tells the bully,
“That’s terrifying coming from a fool with his wee wee hanging out.”
Ai’s roommate was portrayed as the “stupid foreigner”. I think he is supposed to be Middle Eastern and the way they treat him I find offensive. He wears robes, sleeps like some sort of Kama Sutra pretzel, has a symbol on his head, and is always doing dumb things.
If you’re not a male pre-teen, you’ll probably hate this one. For me, it was slightly entertaining because of the few magic fights involved, but not worth reading more volumes.
Extras: None. But you do get to see a preview of the next volume. Featuring… another accidental boob grab! -.-
This story was originally published in Black Cranesedited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn
‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’
by Elaine Cuyegkeng
She dreams of death and rebirth on her mother’s table.
The smell of antiseptic: chemicals, artificial cherries and other-fruit. The specimen on the table. Herself, slipping a needle under the specimen’s skin to obtain samples for reconstruction. Finally, the disposal of the body while the new one grows inside her crimson egg, kicking her little amphibian feet. Later, a telepathic matrix imparts an (edited) library of the Prodigal’s memories. This reinforces the desired traits, knitted carefully into the genome.
In twelve days and twelve nights, there will be a single, perfected being: waking in the specimen’s old room with only a vague, uneasy sense of displaced time. There will be no official record, no trace of the original (save for the genetic profiles, buried deep in her mother’s libraries).
Everyone dreams those strange, mundane dreams of themselves performing their daily rites. The genetic alchemist’s daughter is no different; why should she be? But still, Leto Alicia Chua Mercado wakes as if she were a child waking from a nightmare. Leto thinks: there are fragments of bone and marrow in her pyjamas, in her blankets, her bed. For a moment, her hands are viscous with ruby red.
The Genetic Alchemists
Leto is her mother’s daughter, and so, when she wakes, blinking out crimson dreams in the pre-dawn, the day’s business is the first thing that occupies her. Nothing in Leto’s creation was left to chance; the same is true of Chua Mercado Genetic Alchemy.
Below, the family’s laboratories gestate the fruits of several lucrative contracts. Tiny mermaid embryos, for a techno-prince’s private aquarium. A new variant of winged cat: Bengal Beauties, with jade eyes and leopard spots, jewelled peregrine’s wings. Luminous Moths, ordered by an exclusive fashion house for their silk. There are the Prodigals, the human specimens who will be delivered to their families’ holdings, waking in the original’s old room as if from a dream.
And finally, there are the little Seraphim, tiny embryos swimming in their exo-wombs. The bulk of these are still ordered by foreign CEOs—grateful for the assurance of a rarefied offspring, grateful to be spared the inconveniences of caring for pregnant wives. One day, Leto’s mother hopes, the world will be full of them. There will be no Prodigals, no broken creatures in need of repair.
(Leto feels a tenderness for them. She doesn’t know why—perhaps it’s their shared origins. The fact she knows, and they don’t.
Leto’s mother scoffs at that. You’re not a specimen. You’re my daughter.)
But Leto has always been what she is: the girl with all the gifts, Ofelia Chua Mercado’s irrefutable proof. All the world had seen Leto in her womb, the tiny crimson egg Ofelia created. It made Ofelia’s fortune and her infamy. How the Manilero elite were scandalized! Ofelia had created Leto without the help of a husband, without the blessing of the Holy Apostolic Church (or any church), simply because. Priests cried about the dissolution of the family from their cathedrals, pastors from their multi-million-dollar pulpits. But hereditary heads of state, foreign billionaires, Hollywood queens—all of them came clamouring for Ofelia’s service.
Leto’s mother waits for her at the breakfast table. She is a slender woman, not beautiful but magnificent. She has a cruel mouth, a hard face, a hooked nose as if she truly were the witch the more poetic among the Manila elite call her. Her black hair falls in rivulets down her back. No matter the demands of the day, Ofelia Chua Mercado insists on taking this time: the time to sit down and have a meal with family. She didn’t create a daughter just to neglect her. She prides herself on having better husbandry of children. On the table are buttered toast, salted duck eggs, slices of chilled fruit.
“Today’s clients will need careful handling,” Ofelia murmurs, handing her daughter the day’s dossiers. “I know you’ve managed them before, but darling, today, I need you to resist the urge to gloat.”
Leto opens the dossiers. She understands the moment her eyes fall on the client’s name. She doesn’t smirk; she knows it’s unladylike.
Ever since she was a tiny thing, old enough to be presented in a sad little classroom with portraits of saints, every single one of her classmates had hated her. They called her soulless. They said: You don’t have a papa. And yet, over time, so many of them ended up on Leto’s table. She carefully explained all the reasons why their families elected them for the procedure. She feels that they’re owed an explanation, but she can’t help feeling some satisfaction. She had never disappointed her mother.
“Not one Prodigal,” Ofelia says, sipping her tea, “but three. Can you imagine that, darling? Imagine if they’d come to us from the beginning. It would have spared them so much trouble.”
It’s an old, old story. It is the puzzle that so many familial dynasties have tried to resolve. How does one halt the decline that seems to seep in the third, fourth generation? Sixteen, eighteen, twenty years old, and their beloved offspring showed signs of delinquency, addiction, general malaise, rebellion, depression, of all things. They showed poor scholarship. How does one save a child from themselves? Eighteen years of Mandarin lessons, ballet or music, and Catholic school didn’t fix them. The Church and the promise of heaven can’t fix them.
Manila might have been horrified by Ofelia, the woman who made a daughter. But as the decades passed, one by one, they crept to Ofelia’s door, and begged her for her help. They turned to her genetic alchemy and, over the years, a whisper network has formed between desperate, gossiping mothers, patriarchs over games of golf and exquisite lunches.
Leto feels her fingers itch. Thinks of the discarded original, turning to ash in the furnace while a new, tiny creature emerges whole from Leto’s artistry. All her fellow heirs have hated her: have always hated her. But here she is anyway, granting them a gift unbidden. They will never even know.
Her mother rises and kisses her cheek. “Good hunting, my sweet girl,” Ofelia murmurs, and Leto blushes.
Her mother knows her, inside and out. Better than she knows herself.
When Leto goes to meet clients, she brings her mother’s wares as if they are the trappings of their self-appointed office. In her arms, she brings a winged cat with snow-white plumage, her little feet ending in owl’s talons and one blue eye alongside jade (feline specimens with heterochromia fetch three times the price). A speckled serpent with a forked tongue wraps himself around Leto’s neck like a regent’s gold necklace (base specimen: Atheris hispida). And finally, after a moment’s consideration, Leto carefully selects amber earrings made from the chrysalises of Luminous Moths. She picks up a rose as white as a funeral, a present for the Dowager. She paints her mouth with a neutral pink (edging towards a baby pastel); lines her eyes with modest shadow (Industrial Revolution—a shade popular among her peers). She takes her little slate and programs the nanites in her hair; they colour it a deep black with only the faintest streaks of a foreign autumn.
Leto understands what the heart wants: it wants a useful young woman, modest and helpful, who will solve all their problems with a flick of her manicured fingers. Leto meets clients because her existence says: you could have a helper, a dutiful, reliable heir. The child you need, if only you had asked for our services from the beginning. She revels in clients’ gritted teeth and fingers pressed into their palms—how they hate being proven wrong! She sits herself at the little table, waits for the client to arrive.
And when the Dowager slips into Chua Mercado’s rooms, dressed as if for a funeral (or a cocktail), Leto can’t help it. She rises up and kisses the Dowager’s cheeks like a fond niece. The Dowager closes her eyes; she smells, very faintly, of very fine, expensive whiskey. She shudders; or perhaps, it’s poor Leopold that terrifies her, the gorgeous speckled band winding himself around Leto’s neck, or Anne-Marie, the snow-white cat purring in her arms. Here is Leto, an unnatural thing, decked out in unnatural things. But the Dowager needs her help.
“I have three daughters,” the Dowager says with a rasp. “And they will all be the ruin of me.” Her elegant hand trembles as she sits in the client’s chair. Outside, Leto smiles; inside, a frisson of schadenfreude ticks upwards in spite of herself. She knows the Dowager’s daughters: they are just like every other classmate who’s ended up on her mother’s table.
“Why don’t you tell me what you need, Tita?” Leto asks. Like the witch in the story. What do you need? What do you lack? What price are you willing to pay?
The Dowager is Eva Maria Romano Iglesia—scion of a saintly house, married to a handsome media pastor in her baby-faced youth. She was a woman alone of all the multi-million-dollar pastors: having inherited the position after his untimely death. She preached in Chanel and pearls, wasp-waisted dresses with billowing skirts, and spoke of love and deference to husbands and fathers. She spoke of the sanctity of the family, this woman with no husband, and adoring crowds of women threw money at her. She was the most vicious of Ofelia’s detractors, when Leto and the exo-womb were unveiled. She called Leto soulless. She called Ofelia a fallen woman, creating a child outside the sanctity of marriage, outside the bounds of God’s intended methods.
But now two tiny granddaughters are dead. A son-in-law is set to be buried tomorrow, and the daughters are locked in their rooms in the family compound.
“I need you and your mother to give me the daughters I should have had from the beginning,” the Dowager says. She almost spits. How it humbles her, to be abandoned so by the God who showered her in gold but gave her delinquent children on which to build her church.
“Our congregation needs us,” the Dowager whispers, clutching her Chanel pearls. An entire congregation of lost souls—expensive women with husbands who loathe them, girls who became pregnant too early. They all find solace in the Dowager and her family of perfect women. What happens when the image that gives them so much comfort comes crashing down?
Leto is never really interested in all the clients’ reasons why this has to be done. She’d rather hear from the specimens themselves. Console them on their deathbeds.
“We’ll need to stagger them out,” Leto says. “One by one, to accommodate schedules for other clients.”
“I want it over and done with, as soon as possible.”
“I understand,” Leto says evenly. And nothing more.
(Really, Leto just wants her to anguish over it, just a little longer.)
Silence settles between them. Leto feels the Dowager acquiesce. No one else can help her. She can’t disappear three young women and gain their replacements, their better selves, on her own. She can’t create a replacement daughter, and raise her, not at her age.
The Dowager is old. She is running out of time.
“No one will know?” The Dowager’s hands tighten around her cane.
“No one will know,” Leto says softly. “From head to toe, down to their cells, they will be exactly the same.”
Leto takes the pale white rose, as perfect as a faerie dress. They named it Blanca Nieve. It smells like a perfumed night. She gives it to the Dowager. Places it carefully on the table, along with a lacquered box containing its food. Ten little nightingale corpses.
“People need to see you leave with it in your hands,” she tells her. “So you’ve had a reason to come to us. Feed it with ten nightingales. You won’t be disappointed.”
The next day, a funeral for the Dowager’s son-in-law is held in her stained-glass church. The cathedral arches are snow-white with roses, and they spill down the steps of the church, singing with bell-like voices.
No one even sees the bones.
She starts with the youngest. Why not?
They take her from the family compound. They place her, fast asleep, on Leto’s table in the lab. Faith is a delicate snow-white beauty: long limbs, a small head, the fair skin that Manileros prize so much. It’s at odds with Faith’s reputation.
Leto waits, and watches as the specimen slowly blinks herself awake. The upsurge in fear when she realizes that she’s strapped to the table. When she realizes that she’s not alone.
Leto doesn’t see what she does as revenge, as former classmates have accused her when they have woken up to find themselves in her lab. She sits with the specimens, waits for them to wake up. It feels wrong to her, simply destroying the originals without explaining why their families requested the procedure. She hopes that a vague memory of that conversation settles into the client’s cells. When they perform the process, create the new, perfected specimen, the Prodigal will not relapse.
“Faith?” Leto says. Her words come out muffled behind her mask. The girl stops struggling; she recognizes Leto’s voice.
“Oh God,” says Faith, and the pretty girl laughs. “All the stories they said about you are true.”
Leto’s hairs prick up at the back of her neck.
When they were children, Leto was the witch’s daughter. Now, as adults, she is her mother’s right hand, her coolly competent heir and that is where her story ends. All the specimens returned to the client families have had their memories edited: they know nothing of her mother’s labs. But her classmates know nothing of Prodigals, of Leto’s part in the process. They know nothing of the Procedure. It’s in their parents’ interest: that their children know nothing. They’d rather forget the unpleasantness and have their baby back (they never really will).
“Do you know why you’re here?” she asks Faith. Faith laughs and pulls at the straps.
“I killed my sister’s husband,” Faith rasps. “We did it together, you know. Me. Charity. Harmony. We pushed him off the balcony.”
They’d said it was an accident. Pat del Rosario—beloved husband, beloved son-in-law—falling over the balcony in the family’s multi-million-dollar compound. Thank God, the Dowager had board positions on various media boards: his death was announced without mention of murder or suicide. They had locked Faith in her room until the funeral and she had appeared with the rest of the family, her stony face easily interpreted as a perfect mask of dignified grief.
“I did it knowing you’d show up,” Faith whispers.
“You knew nothing of the sort,” Leto says. Her voice is even, but under the table, her hand shakes.
Faith has no reason to believe Leto would show up. She has no reason to believe in her mother’s lab. Leto is not a fairy tale, the way the Prodigals she perfects are fairy tales. They emerge perfect and whole under her fingers, blessed with cool-eyed competence, the smothering of their genetic demons.
“Do you even want to know why?” Faith asks.
“I know you want to tell me,” Leto says.
It doesn’t matter what they tell her; the procedure will go ahead anyway. But it’s as if she’s a confessor tending to a penitent on their deathbed. How can she say no?
You’re not a specimen, Ofelia had told Leto. You’re my daughter.
But still, the fact remains: Leto was created to prove the viability of her mother’s product, the efficacy of her mother’s services. Ofelia edited Leto’s genes. She edited them for beauty, for genius, for musicality, an affinity for maths and languages, all those things that the ultra-rich crave in their children. They like to feel as if their genes have given rise to better stock, better product.
Leto was engineered for obedience, which meant she was inclined to recognize her mother’s authority in all things. Her mother had been frank about this: there was no point in raising a child who spurned all her gifts. From the moment Leto stepped inside a classroom, she had excelled, surpassing her peers. It gave the elite of Manila something to consider, even as they called her soulless. When their beloved babies grew up, showing signs of rot by the time they reached their teens, they turned to Ofelia Chua Mercado and her helpful, perfect daughter. Who swap out imperfect specimens for better ones. Or at least, they edit the genetic code, so they are more inclined to conform to their parents’ expectations. They’re like fairy godmothers, granting obedience as a gift.
Faith had failed from the beginning. Even when she and her sisters were little, when the Dowager paraded them around as her little saints, Faith was infamous for her rage. There was a party, when a group of boys held her down to take her photo (wasn’t it sweet? Babies and their games!). She’d pushed one of them down the stairs, and he broke his leg, right there on the Dowager’s immaculate floors. When they were all older, there was another incident, another more grown college party, when she’d taken out someone’s eye.
The Dowager said: they’d hoped she’d grow out of it. That time and patience and their guidance would temper her. It honestly surprised Leto that it’s taken Faith this long to come to her table.
(Leto’s mother said, scoffing, that they should have edited Faith’s anger out of her, long ago. Leto had wisely kept quiet. She doesn’t blame Faith, the way her mother did. But she knows what traits are desirable and what aren’t—they don’t like rage in little girls.)
And now there’s a dead body that they’ve had to cover up with bribes and ritual, and a snow-white funeral.
“He killed Charity’s babies,” Faith snarls. “Did Mommy tell you that? He killed her girls.”
It was in the dossier—a sad obituary in the Manila Times of the Dowager’s twin granddaughters. But babies often die for strange, unknown, and unknowable reasons. Especially when they’re so small.
“He put stuffed toys in their crib,” Faith says. “It’s a SIDS risk: everyone knows that. They kept telling him to stop; he laughed and kept doing it. Look, she loves her little teddy. What’s the harm? Everyone said: Men don’t raise children, it’s not in them. You can’t expect them to understand. It was Charity’s responsibility: after all, she was their mother.
“Charity couldn’t stay awake forever. She tried. We all did. He found reasons to keep us away. And one day she found him standing over their crib with a pillow—and her baby girls were dead.” She closes her eyes. “A house full of people who were supposed to love them, and they all said she was hysterical. They didn’t believe her. Poor Charity. He barely cried.”
“Why would he do that?” Leto asks.
She really shouldn’t have asked. All Faith wants is to unburden herself.
“He wanted boys,” Faith says. “It’s not as if he hid that. He was so disappointed when they came out! And Charity was so happy—his disappointment was such a small thing to her, at least in the beginning. That she loved something he didn’t.”
“Annulment was an option, you know.” It’s not that she objects to what Faith did; it’s that she should have been clever about it. She starts thinking of ways to snip the rage out of her, or at least temper it. They can modify memories to reinforce caution.
“Annulment isn’t part of our brand,” Faith says. “It’s not an option for us. Can you imagine the scandal? Lola would kill us first. Mommy would.”
That, Leto thinks, unfortunately is true.
“I’d have been more careful about it than you,” Leto says. Faith laughs.
“We were past careful,” Faith says. “After he killed the girls. After they all said Charity was hysterical and not thinking clearly. They even blamed her: Lola, Mommy, our aunts. We shut them up when we threw him down the balcony.”
Leto starts prepping her needle. She needs to draw blood; their work is easy, really. They have such a rich source of DNA.
“So what are you going to do?” Faith asks. “Replace me with a soulless little drone? A more palatable version of me?”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Leto says. “I can’t make or remove a soul. I’d make a version of you that wouldn’t have gotten caught.”
It’s not quite what Faith’s mother would have wanted. It’s not what Ofelia Chua Mercado would have wanted. But there is no one here to gainsay her decision.
She’s not sure why or how she decided this: that Faith is entitled to her anger. But here she is.
“It’s alright,” Leto says, and she is back on familiar ground. “It’s alright. You won’t even remember this happened. The you that wakes up won’t even remember this.” And if the new Faith doesn’t remember and the old Faith is simply erased, does Faith even suffer?
She lets Faith see the tiny little selves, swimming in their little crimson eggs, before she puts her to sleep. It seems to calm Faith: watching tender little creatures made from her bone and marrow. Leto dresses the new specimen herself when she emerges, perfect and whole. The new Faith will be little more calculating, a little less given to rages. If the new Faith does need to act on her rage, she will take better care not to get caught. The Prodigal is returned to the family. The Dowager sends back a message, saying: Faith is much improved. Leto imagines the Dowager breathing a little easier even as Faith is counting her grudges and biding her time. Counting down the days, until it’s all done.
Leto schedules the next two procedures. She takes her time.
She was the last person Leto had thought would end up on her table.
The middle sister: kind-hearted and soft, the kind of girl who deflected other people’s faults. The fairy tale girl people say they want but, in reality, isn’t equipped to keep a dynasty together. Still, she had that fairy tale wedding, married the boy her family picked for her. The Dowager was very clear about her specifications: they want their sweet girl back, before she went wrong.
“Really,” Leto told her mother wearily, over chai tea and congee for breakfast, “they want a Charity who doesn’t remember how much her family failed her. They want a Charity who won’t make them feel guilty, every time they look at her.”
“If that’s what they want to believe,” Ofelia said. She shrugged her elegant shoulders. It’s cheating, but it’s not quite cheating, is it, if a Prodigal is exactly the same, just slightly improved? It’s the improvements they focus on.
Leto didn’t tell her mother about what Faith had said. It’s not that she believes Faith, exactly, but…
When Charity wakes up, when she sees Leto, she looks almost resigned. There’s no shock. Ice pricks at the back of Leto’s neck. Charity should be shocked. Charity should cry for help. Why doesn’t she?
“I knew something was wrong,” she says. “When Faith came back… She wasn’t herself.”
Leto doesn’t answer.
“Poor Faith. Did she feel anything? Was it fast?”
“What can you possibly know about the procedure?”
Charity laughs, a sad little laugh that almost sounds like affection.
“We all talk about it, you know,” she says. “All our old classmates, all our old friends.”
None of you were ever my friends. Leto digs her nails into her palms. She is not…she is not supposed to be the monster in anyone else’s story. She’s more than that unveiled creature in the womb, more than the girl in the schoolroom, more than the witch’s baby everyone decided they should hate.
“I’m frankly surprised that you don’t know. I would have thought that your mother would have told you. We could never match you in scholarship, but we’re not stupid. Sometimes an old classmate would show up and…they weren’t quite themselves. They would remember things—but in slightly different ways. We heard about the oldies’ little whisper network. They say there’s a little dungeon somewhere—where all the bodies are kept. There’s a little lab where you clone tiny little creatures to replace us. That you sell our souls yourself.”
Leto’s heart is beating fast.
There is no reason. There is no reason why Charity and her friends should know. The specimens’ memories of her mother’s workshops are wiped. The Prodigals are returned to their rooms, and they don’t remember—they don’t remember anything of their time as tiny little creatures in blood-red eggs, their hatching.
If what Charity says is true and there are whispers of the process, and Leto’s part in it… How could she not know that she has turned into a story she has no control over? How could her mother not know? She feels like she’s back in that dreary little room again: her classmates whispering poison, spinning stories she has no control over.
Charity watches her face. “Do you remember?” she asks. “Do you remember anything—from before?”
Charity closes her eyes and sighs, as if she is very tired and ready to go to sleep. She opens them again, and her eyes fix on Leto. “I wouldn’t tell your mother about this conversation if I were you.”
“We tell each other everything,” Leto says.
“Do you?” Charity asks. “Do you really? Do you ever wonder about the little gaps in your memory—”
She doesn’t have to pay attention to this. She doesn’t.
“Look at me,” Charity says, her voice soft and urgent. “I did everything my mother wanted. I married a boy she wanted. I gave up the idea of a master’s degree in science. And still—look at where I am right now.” Leto twitches, remembers her dreams of little feet, a crimson world.
“I wasn’t expecting to have to destroy everything I was when I married,” Charity whispers. “I wasn’t expecting to destroy everything I loved. That wasn’t the bargain I thought I made. Do you remember your Bella Norte?”
When she was fourteen, Leto had engineered little bees who sang like bells and were nocturnal. As sweet and docile as Charity. She’d been frankly surprised that the Dowager had purchased a specimen from Chua Mercado Alchemy. A birthday gift for her middle daughter, who later became obsessed with beekeeping.
“They never really caught on,” Leto says. That was the trouble with new patents.
“Do you remember?” Charity asks. “Do you remember making them for me?”
Leto just stares. She’d done nothing of the kind. She made them, Charity ordered them, and that was the end of it. Charity sighs, softly.
“I kept beds and beds of nocturnal flowers to feed them. I did everything you told me to, even when you stopped answering my letters.
Nocturnal roses, honeysuckle, lavender. Leto can’t even remember why she made them: only that she did.
“Mommy and Lola never approved. Pat wanted me to stop: they were dangerous to me and the baby. Who knew what they were picking up while they were dancing in the dark? Who knew how reliable the patent was, how docile they really were? I went on a trip to the States; I came back to find most of my hives burned. Lola said: But it’s such a little thing. Mommy said: You have babies now. You won’t even notice they’re gone.”
Charity closes her eyes. “And then the girls turned out to be girls. We didn’t even want to know—he was so sure God would give us what he deserved. I took their blood. I cut their hair. I wanted something to remember them by, just like I kept the bees to remember you.” She breathes in, breathes out. Looks over at Leto, whose face is carefully blank.
She would have no reason. Her mother would have no reason to remake her. Leto is perfect, has been perfect, since the beginning. She was engineered for beauty, for intelligence, reliability. There is nothing that Leto wants, outside of what her mother needs.
“They were right,” Charity whispers. “Oh God, they were right.”
Leto doesn’t answer. She preps her needle.
“Listen to me,” Charity says, before she slips off to sleep under Leto’s needle. “You’re not so different from us. Someone should have told you that from the beginning. I’m sorry we didn’t.”
Charity is easier, in many ways. They keep the base genetic profile. They edit her memories. Faith did it. Harmony did it. Charity just watched. Leto goes through an entire album of memories, editing things out, snipping inconvenient ones.
When the new Prodigal wakes in her room, she is more certain of her mother’s authority, of her mother’s love and adoration. The need to defer to her authority. She won’t remember that conversation with Leto, in the lab below.
Leto should talk to her mother. She should talk to her, but something stops her, every time. Leto stays in the lab, watching over the dreaming specimens. Cinderella, over the turtledoves that shake gold and silver over her. She thinks of the ashes of every discarded specimen, feeding her mother’s roses. Faith, Charity, an endless, endless parade of names before them.
And she wonders, she wonders. How many of them were her? How many dreams has she had, of a crimson world and kicking feet? Can she count all the times she might have been remade? She wouldn’t even know when it began, what had been the starting point. She walks into the garden at twilight, where the apiaries of little Bella Norte are kept. Their little feet brush against her cheek like a kiss.
Do you know more of me than I do? she asks them.
The eldest daughter escapes.
She must have seen the writing on the wall, Leto muses to herself when it happens. The Dowager is beside herself. It would not have happened, it would not have happened, if Leto had done all three of them at once like she had asked.
You should have known better than to let the other girls out, is all Leto thinks. Ofelia lets the Dowager know, calmly, that matters are being handled and shoots Leto a look. Leto understands: she wants Leto to fix it. The foundations of the world her mother is building depends on Chua Mercado’s reliability, their reputation. She needs to undo the damage she’s caused.
But Leto spends some time in the garden, among the specimens and patents that never quite caught on. She spends some time with the Bella Norte bees, waking in the moonlight, settling on Leto’s dress like golden dust.
You made them for me, said Charity. Why would Leto do that? What did she owe her?
She considers that Charity and Faith may be right, that her mother has been wiping her memory, altering her like a story that she can’t quite perfect. She should be terrified. She should be outraged, but all she feels is hollow. She wonders if anger was edited out of her too.
“I don’t know what to do,” she says, honestly, to the Bella Norte bees, as if they could answer her.
They track Harmony down in a shabby little street in Binondo, in a shabby little room. Leto insists on going herself. After all, it was her mistake.
At that, something inside Ofelia seems to untwist and loosen. She kisses Leto on the cheek. She says: She knows Leto will make it right. Everyone makes mistakes. We all learn from them. We make ourselves perfect.
Leto lets herself into the shabby little room, and there is Harmony, waiting.
The survivors of Charity’s bees surround her, drinking sugar water. Harmony is tall and striking, even with her hair slick with the humidity and the lack of care over the past few days. Charity was the sweetheart, Faith was the baby, but Harmony was meant to be their mother, all over again. It must have galled the Dowager, when Harmony picked her sisters over her mother. That was not the natural way of things.
Leto isn’t sure what edits to make to improve those outcomes.
“We all know you’d come for us, you know,” says Harmony. She doesn’t move. The bees settle around her, as if she is their saint.
“So I’ve heard,” says Leto. Harmony raises her eyebrow.
“What do you remember?” Harmony asks, point blank.
Leto says nothing.
“What do you remember?” Harmony asks. “How many times did she make you over, so she could start all over again, a clean slate?”
Leto thinks of the ashes in her mother’s garden. Whether any of them are made up of her former selves. She wouldn’t know when her mother started. She wouldn’t even know where to begin.
“I know about Charity’s daughters,” she says, her voice hollow. “I know about the bees.”
Harmony sighs, and her shoulders slump over.
“We didn’t know,” she says, “if she’d remake you, over and over again. Just to make sure you couldn’t remember. Do you remember? Making the bees for Charity? Do you?”
Leto feels breathless. A little bella norte lands on her cheek.
“She cried when you stopped answering her letters,” says Harmony. “When we passed by each other and you acted as if you didn’t know her. And later—when classmates came back, from rehab, from sabbaticals, from tours, not quite right, well, we all wondered.”
It’s like a knife to her ribs. She doesn’t—she can’t feel anything.
Harmony gives her a box.
“I’d do it again you know,” she says, between her teeth. “I would pick Faith and Charity, every time. Every time. Hollow me out, empty me of all the inconvenient things my mother wants gone, and I’d still make the same choice.”
“What’s inside?” Leto asks.
But she already knows.
The Dowager sends payment: all three Prodigals, successfully remade. She even gifts Leto with the survivors of Charity’s bees. They have no use for them, and the girl is getting married again in the fall. Another fairy tale wedding. Then: one for Faith, and one for Harmony. She’s already signed contracts for little Seraphim to be made.
“Well done,” Ofelia says, and kisses her cheek. Another death, smoothed over. Because these girls wanted something outside what they should want.
What does Leto want? Nothing except her work. There’s nothing that her mother left her.
So she creates a second variant of the Bella Norte, from the daughters of Charity’s bees. They have Faith’s anger; Charity’s love; Harmony’s loyalty. And inside, inside, they contain slivers of memory, two baby girls avenged by their mother and aunts.
Leto’s daughters have no debut: they are not presented to the world the way Leto was. Instead, she lets them fly wild.
That year, the Dowager and her congregation will be haunted at night time by bees that sing like wind chimes, that smell of baby’s breath, and build cathedrals inside her church. At her wedding, Charity will turn to look at them, and she won’t know why she feels joy and heartbreak. Faith will wonder as she lets them settle on her shoulders and Harmony will feel a strange peace, even as the bees murder her mother’s congregation.
They’ll say it’s a miracle, that the three of them are left alive.
Elaine Cuyegkeng is a Chinese-Filipino writer. She grew up in Manila, where there are many, many creaky old houses with ghosts inside them. She writes about eldritch creatures, monsters with human faces and the old, old story of art and revolution. She now lives in Melbourne with her partner.
Elaine has been published in Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, The Dark, Rocket Kapre, and now, Pseudopod! You can find her on @layangabi on Twitter.
Lee Murray is a three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominee, HWA Mentor of the Year, an Honorary Literary Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and New Zealand’s most awarded writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Find her website here at LeeMurray.info.
Lee, your stories are populated by such well developed characters I think they must be fragments of real people you know, reassembled. Which of your stories/characters best represents you?
My character Lucy in my Black Cranes story “Phoenix Claws” is actually me, once upon a time, and my husband is Finn, the partner who loves yum cha brunch but not chicken feet, although he isn’t a plumber and I never took accounting. Also, unlike Finn and Lucy, a new couple who are learning to navigate a relationship with the conflicting demands of blended cultures, my ‘white ghost’ husband and I have been married for more than thirty years.
But the family tradition highlighted in the story exists: I was subjected to it and, to my horror, I have unwittingly perpetuated it. My other story in Black Cranes, “Frangipani Wishes,” is based on true events, never explicitly revealed to me, but somehow understood, in a strange form of familial osmosis. It is one of my saddest memories, and I’m still remorseful that I was the wrong generation, a girl with no power and no real understanding, that I did nothing to intervene. Would I, could I, if it were happening now? I don’t know, and I guess that makes me complicit.
I also wrote myself, or parts of me into my Path of Ra series (Raw Dog Screaming Press) which I write collaboratively with my New Zealand colleague Dan Rabarts. In those stories, Hounds of the Underworld, Teeth of the Wolf, and Blood of the Sun, my character (Penny / Pandora Yee) is a Chinese-Māori woman who I believe shares many of my traits: she’s a stickler for rigour, doesn’t like to break the rules, and tends to overthink things. Like me she is still finding her way as an Asian New Zealander. She’s a scientist (as I was), who struggles to be acknowledged in her field. And Penny loves her family fiercely and would do anything for them, despite them occasionally being as annoying as hell.
I love how you have woven parts of yourself into your work. Two adjectives I would use to describe your writing is ‘powerful’ and ‘dark.’ What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?
Early on in my writing career, I learned that I wanted my work to address the things that frighten me, and as an anxious piglet sort who tends to overthink things, there is a lot that keeps me awake at night. If I’m lying in the darkness for hours ruminating on them, then why not write about them too? In my stories, for adults and for children, I’ve addressed global issues like the impact of technology, climate change, the importance of conserving our environment and especially our endangered species, and the very real fear that New Zealanders have of a catastrophic volcanic event. More recently though, my work has tended towards personal themes like loss, loneliness, isolation, persecution, erasure, and otherness, and horror, and in particular monsters and monstrosities, have become the lens through which
I explore those themes; they’re a staple of my work.
Tell us a bit about your heritage and your experience of ‘otherness’. Has this influenced what you write?
Recently a colleague asked me this question in an interview, so I’ll tell you what I told him: I was one of the first Chinese-Pakeha (European) children to be born to a bi-racial couple New Zealand. Not the first, but one of the first. In school, the only other Chinese children were my brother and two cousins. We ate weird food and had slanty eyes, so we got called all the usual things. “Ching-Chong Chinaman!” “Chink!” Yellow Peril!” “Wog!” “Hey, do you know Bruce Lee? Come here and I’ll show you.” Hey, you wing the wong number?”
But our cousins were full Chinese. My brother and I were only half. Which was somehow worse. Apparently, the titer of our blood was important and being only half Chinese meant we were lesser: we weren’t proper New Zealanders and nor were we properly Chinese. Our own family rejected us. My brother and I were five and six-years-old and we were other. I remember my Chinese aunt demanding that I choose whose side I was on. If there was a war with China, what side would I pick? Who did I love most: my mother or my father? How could I answer? Even then, I knew it was an unfair question.
As for whether my heritage and my otherness has influenced my writing, let’s just say that it’s beginning to. More and more those Asian ideals that I’ve grappled with all my life are creeping into my work. Perhaps it’s because I’m suddenly aware I’m fifty-five and long past the age most people ‘find themselves’. Surely by now I should have come to terms with my identity. So what if I’m all grown up and still there is no literature that reflects my Chinese-New Zealand experience? If I want to see that happen, then maybe it’s up to me to roll up my sleeves and make it happen. And perhaps that feeling is what prompted Black Cranes. And the fact that Geneve and I both arrived too early to a conference session, like the good conscientious Asian girls we’ve been raised to be.
The two of us got to talking in the lobby while we were waiting. Where were all the Asian horror writers? Where were Asian women’s experiences being highlighted? We could see a gaping hole in existing horror literature, but would our colleagues feel the same way? Was the timing was right, and would anyone would want to read an anthology of Asian horror? We had no idea. The response from our Black Cranes contributors confirmed they had been waiting for the opportunity, or perhaps they’d been waiting for something and couldn’t quite put their finger on it. And nor could Geneve and I have predicted the positive response to these wonderful stories, even though it’s only been a month or so since the book’s release. We couldn’t be prouder of these writers and their stories.
What has your experience been as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? How has this changed over time, or not?
I’ve been a full-time writer for fourteen years now, and for most of that time I’ve seen myself as a writer first, and then a New Zealand writer of mainly dark speculative fiction, so perhaps that is also the way I’ve been perceived. It’s only very recently that I’ve been brave enough to envisage myself as an Asian writer, perhaps because for so long my I’ve felt I had to hide that part of myself, make myself smaller, as if being born Chinese in New Zealand was something I should be ashamed of. Now I feel like I need to change that, to push back at that erasure, both from external sources, and also due to my own complicity.
What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
Geneve summed up those depictions when she wrote the back cover blurb to Black Cranes. We’re a slew of tired tropes: the tiger mums, the sly fatales, the submissive, the studious, and the conscientious. But I think you said best, Angela, in our Black Cranes online launch panel, when you said we need to see authentic diverse nuanced representations of Asian women in fiction. That is exactly what we need: characterizations which reveal us as the complex, richly layered shapeshifters we can be. Portrayals which speculate on futures for Asian women which go beyond the tropes and the traditions. Beyond the petals and the perfidy.
Oh, I love your phrase “petals and the perfidy.” Perhaps that will be another anthology—hint hint? How about other readings? Do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?
Everyone who appears in this book, including Alma Katsu and Tori Eldridge. Please check out the work of our Black Cranes contributors. There is a reason they appear in this anthology. As for other writers whose works have resonated for me, at a certain level, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by the works of writers like American Pearl S Buck (The Good Earth, 1931), Xinran (The Good Women of China, 2002), Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club, 1989), and Jung Chang (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, 1991), literary works likely not intended as horror but which read that way for me.
Yet my interest in those texts was tempered; I saw them as pertaining to me, but only in a detached and distant way. I recognized certain notions that had filtered through the generations and settled on me here, but also that the New Zealand context had subverted and changed them in various ways. It would have been wonderful to have explored these ideas in my reading, but when I was growing up, the Asian-New Zealand diaspora was largely ignored in literature—and still is.
Even now, I know of no stories which reflect my experience as a half-caste Chinese-New Zealander other than my own work. Perhaps, it is significant that I first saw myself in John Wyndham’s science fiction novel, The Chrysalids, as someone grossly flawed and banished to the fringes, only in New Zealand, where the only other Asian children I knew were my siblings or my cousins, there were no telepathic allies with whom to share my otherness. Finding this shared experience now with my Black Cranes colleagues has been extremely uplifting, and also a little sad.
Can you tell us briefly about your last project and what you’re working on next?
Thank you for asking. As well as Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, this year’s projects included my debut short story collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories, which released in July from Things in the Well, Australia, and Blood of the Sun, the final book in the Path of Ra, a supernatural crime-noir trilogy co-authored with Dan Rabarts, which released from Raw Dog Screaming Press on 4 November 2020.
As far as my plans go, I’d like to carve out some time to work on a poetry project, some scripts, and another Taine McKenna novel. I also have ten short story commissions on the go, and since I’m a slow writer, barely able to complete 500 words a day, I think that’s enough to keep me going for a while.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, Lee. I have a lot of respect for you both as an individual and as an artists. I’m very happy to share you here today, and look forward to chatting again next Tuesday on the next Skeleton Hour! Remember, you can register for the online event on Facebook here.
Japan is not known for holding back when it comes to throwing around buckets of blood on screen. Not just limited to horror, the country’s samurai and revenge films are some of the bloodiest on record, and because there are often swords involved, it’s not just limited to splashes of red from bullet-wounds either. Lady Snowblood(Toshya Fujita) is a perfect example of this, featuring copious amounts of the red stuff gushing in geysers from slashes and stabs. But the film is much more than just a blood-fest, and is an interesting window onto Japanese society in the beginning of the Meiji Era, when the country was beginning to examine western ideas, moving from the feudalistic, pre-industrial country of old, into a nation that had changed almost indescribably by the era’s end.
The story is one that has been told times before. Yuki, born in the first years of the Meiji Era (I believe 1873, give or take a year, according to my rough estimations), is raised to be an assassin who will one day track down her mother’s four abusers. The film follows the now named ‘Lady Snowblood’, as she follows the four trails, taking out each one in turn, until the final bloody climax. Based off a manga of the same name, it spawned a sequel, a spinoff, and had its legacy largely cemented in western culture when Quentin Tarantino used it as primary inspiration for Kill Bill (2003). It’s a kind of narrative we’re still seeing today, with a female assassin raised from birth for the sole purpose of murder, and anyone who hasn’t seen the stylish 2017 film The Villainess (Jung Byung-gil, South Korea), which in turn was inspired by the Luc Besson film La Femme Nikita (France, 1990), would do well to check it out for a fun, modern example of the narrative.
Lady Snowblood has enough filmmaking technique going for it to make it a good watch on its own, and attention to the use of colour as part of its thematic expression is just part of it. Red is obviously a large feature in the film, and not just because of the severed hands and blood-splattered faces. After several flashbacks to Yuki’s birth, red light spills into the night, colouring the snow crimson. The women in the prison at her birth are all dressed in red, the floor of the palace in the finale is red, the kimono of the daughter of one of her targets is red; the symbolism is obvious. She is born to blood, which is said as much “poor child, you were born to vengeance”, and it is in red where the story ends. She can never escape it.
It’s also no coincidence for her to take the name Snowblood, as the translation for ‘yuki’ is ‘snow’ (according to Google), a name given to her by her mother, just before passing after giving birth, after looking outside to the falling snow. Indeed, the purity of the colour white contrasts with the blood in many scenes. Our introduction to ‘present-day’ Yuki takes place in the snow, which ends in a violent bloodbath, and the film ends in the snow also. Yuki also wears a white kimono for much of the film, which, when contrasted with a red sash, demonstrates her attire as a reflection of herself. A pure woman forever destined to spill blood, for no other reason than that is what she was born to do. It might also reflect the death of her mother’s husband, whom the group killed before abducting her mother, who was wearing a white suit at the time.
Perhaps of most interest from a cultural point of view, however, is how the film examines the growing western influence in the country in relation to the antagonists, especially Gishirō. Both he and Okono (two of the four being hunted) use pistols, the only two characters to do so. Okono’s policemen, which she uses to try and stop Yuki, are dressed in a western-inspired uniform, with gold buttons and shiny billed caps. Her relative rank and influence is coming as a direct response to assimilation of western technology and culture, whereas Yuki carries a parasol, dresses in a kimono, and uses a katana, as she has done all her life, all seen as traditional icons of Japan’s history.
As mentioned before, Yuki’s ‘father’ was wearing a suit when killed. The film explains that government officials wore white when visiting the towns to draft young men for the war effort, and so the four villains of the story were running a scam to say that young men would escape the draft by paying them (they would then promptly vanish with the money). This plays into an excuse to rob and kill Yuki’s ‘father’, as a result of paranoia and hatred of men dressed in white. But, that he was wearing a suit specifically shows that the new era of exposure to western influences can unstable a nation’s people. A symbol of western society, it is seen as inherently threatening to a traditional way of life. By getting rid of someone dressed in attire of the world beyond their borders, which had been closed off for so long, the four align themselves as friends of the people, helping to persuade them to take up their scam. Thus their hypocrisy deepens as they themselves adopt similar dress in the later segments of the film. They will align themselves with anyone who help to further their own rank and influence.
The finale at the masquerade ball is also interesting, as it is set up for dignitaries from all over the globe. From the ceiling are hung flags from countries all across the world, from the UK to Belgium to Greece, and Japan’s white flag and red circle is not exactly hung right in the middle of the room. The chandelier is definitely in the style of an aristocratic European mansion, some of the guests speak English, and once again, Yuki is attacked with a pistol. Yuki must go into this new world, still upholding a tradition of the past, straddling the strange, mixed ‘netherworld’, to accomplish her mission. That the villain’s final plunge from the balcony causes him to fall into, and drag down, the Japanese flag, is perfectly apt. Draped in the colours of white and red (just like Yuki herself), Japan’s past has taken revenge for exploiting the incoming influence of the West for personal, nefarious gain, and not for the unilateral gain of all.
Thus, not only is Lady Snowblood very entertaining, stylish, and well shot, but is very much a story which could only be told about this country and about this period of its history. Through the bodily dismemberments and fountains of blood is a reflection of a nation’s exposure to radical change, and the chaos that this can bring about when some seek to exploit it for ill-gain. If horror fans are looking for a little change of pace to their usual demonic possessions and serial killings, this bloody tale of revenge should certainly be sought out and savoured.
Free Fiction Friday from June, 2015
by Grey Harlowe
It was their last chance to get dinner; the restaurant scene in town closed in an hour. Max and Claire had been arguing Mexican versus pizza, Paige wanted seafood and Boyd was ambivalent about any option. He was thirty seconds away from just heading home when they stumbled into a Chinese diner, keeping a low profile next to an arcade.
“Let’s try here,” said Max, triumphantly.
The diner had low lights and an old fashioned bar. The four coworkers, who’d worked late at their small office, sat on its round stools eating. The staff, indulgent types, left them alone.
As the meal wound down, Paige cracked a fortune cookie. Boyd, who hated them, moved to stop her. She giggled.
“Superstitious?” she asked.
“No, that’s why I don’t read these. And who’s ever heard of anything this silly actually telling someone’s future?”
Rolling her eyes, Paige opened her tiny white scroll.
“Good health will be yours for a long time.” She smiled.
“Can’t beat that,” Max said, smiling back. Everyone knew the ex-lovers had been considering reconciliation, delayed while Paige endured a cancer scare. The final tests weren’t back, but it appeared she’d dodged mastectomy.
“Indeed,” said Claire. “I’m next.” Slowly, she recited, “A new wardrobe will accompany great change.”
“Like you need improvement,” Paige said. They all nodded. Claire was often mistaken for a model. “Do yours, Max.”
Max hesitated, then read, “You will be successful in your work. Hmm. Maybe Chuck will lay off soon.” Their boss had been giving Max a hard time. Rumor was, Chuck was unhappy with Max’s pitch to a big overseas client. Chuck was impatient for their product, eco-friendly playground material, to go international.
Pressured by his friends, Boyd opened his cookie.
“You will soon be crossing the great waters.” He was greeted with cackling laughter.
“Ouch,” said Paige. “You don’t think that means—”
“What does it sound like? Is there ambiguity there?” Max teased. “No wonder you hate these cookies, bro.”
“Helpful,” said Boyd, trying to stay brave. The reason he avoided fortune cookies was to avoid tempting fate.
He drove home apprehensive.
It turned out, he’d had cause to be afraid.
The next morning at work, he arrived to a grim scene. Paige was in the breakroom, staring at her coffee mug. Max and Chuck were facing off in the doorway of Chuck’s office, clearly having had a harsh exchange. Eventually, Max stormed out. Boyd could hear someone crying in the bathroom. It sounded like Claire.
“What’s going on?” he asked Paige.
“Well,” Paige said, “Claire’s pregnant. I’m surprised we didn’t notice, but she’s been…dressing to hide it.” Paige looked at the wall. Both recalled the ominous ‘new wardrobe’ fortune.
“Gets worse,” she continued. “Claire admitted affairs with both Max and Chuck. Paternity’s up in the air. Max is dealing, but Chuck’s pissed enough he fired him.”
Boyd gulped. He wasn’t shocked; Chuck was a territorial guy.
“How’re you dealing?” This couldn’t have done Paige’s intended reunion with Max any favors.
“Fine, I guess,” she said. “Doc’s office called. My tests are normal.”
It became surreal. Claire fled the bathroom, tears streaming. Paige followed Claire downstairs. Boyd and Chuck soon heard the women arguing in the street, alongside Max’s voice. Then tires squealing. Screams. Paige would enjoy her ‘good health’ an eternity.
After the funeral, Claire disappeared. So did Max, to search for her. Chuck told Boyd that Boyd would take over their new European account, which Max had been successful at securing in the end. Boyd was to leave immediately, courtesy of a trip on the client’s cruise line.
Crossing the great waters after all, Boyd thought bitterly.
The third day out, Max surprised Boyd beside his deck chair. He looked livid. About his firing, his lost women, or both, Boyd decided.
“I’ve felt so guilty,” Boyd said “Mine was the only nice fortune. Here I am, crossing the water.”
“Don’t feel guilty,” said Max, blood in his eye. “Fortune didn’t say you’d be crossing back.”
Grey Harlowe’s fiction has been featured on Every Writers Resource and Microhorror.com. She is the 2014 winner of the Saugus.net annual ghost story competition, and has also been published in the journal, The Last Line.
Contrary to what the cover and write up leads you to believe, the star of this manga is not Princess Resurrection. The true star is Hiro, an abandoned boy who is resurrected to be a slave for the princess. Poor Hiro wakes up in a morgue unaware that he is now undead and wanders to the Princess’s house.
Princess Resurrection is nonchalant and uncaring of his life or what becomes of him. As the daughter of the king who stands above all monsters, I guess she has the luxury of being jaded about death. She wields many weapons such as stakes, swords, jackhammers, and her favorite, a chain saw. Despite the many monsters she massacres, her dress is never damaged. Now, this is a girl we can look up to!
So, let’s see… we have a hell-bent princess, an undead boy, a robot maid, is there someone missing? Ah yes! Let’s add a rebellious werewolf girl into the mix.
These books are great. No matter how many times Hiro is “accidentally” killed by the Princess’s weapons or the robot maid says her only word “Hooba”, this story never gets old.
What you’ll find in Volume 1:
Hiro wakes up dead and finds the Princess battling a horde of werewolves.
Insane hospital employees attempt to make Hiro their savior and then try to kill him.
Werewolf girl saves Princess Resurrection from a battalion of squidmen.
Extras in the back include a four-page spin-off comic and two pages of translation notes explaining the significance of certain scenes along with a sneak peek at Volume 2.
Favorite quote: “You think Hiro’s alright?”
“He only drowned for one night. There shouldn’t be a problem.”
What you’ll find in Volume 2:
The Princess’s evil little sister visits and infects the house with triffids.
A sexy vampire girl wants Hiro for her own and attempts to steal him from the Princess.
The Princess battles another horde of werewolves.
The robot maid finds an android who she cares for.
The Princess kills an eyeball squid creature with a jackhammer.
Extras in the back include a five-page spin-off comic and two pages of translation notes explaining the significance of certain scenes along with a sneak peek at Volume 3 which looks to include a mummy army.
Favorite quote: While most of the crew is fighting for their lives against triffids, the maid is cleaning up. “It’s a little noisy upstairs… Oh well. I need to vacuum!”
The art in this manga is not pretty and frilly, but it is very well done. Monster art, gory blood, fighting, and a girl who cuddles her weapons? What more can a horror manga fan want?
Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month we’re listening to the Dark Wave artist Dissonance. Cat Hall has a new maxi-single that’s perfect for fans of bands like GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS & INFORMATION SOCIETY. Precipice is a techno-moody piece that is very personal to Hall. Music helps us heal from the tragedies in our lives, and for Hall, it’s been a form of catharsis. After a serious health battle, she’s come out on the other side to share her emotional experience in these three pieces. With remixes by Joe Haze, Diverje, Junior Kain, and Machines with Human Skin all add layers to the composition. Reminiscent of Tubular Bells or early Depeche Mode, Precipice is music to sit with and contemplate. Each element woven together, whether it be effects or harmonies, all evoke feelings of loss and yet are ultimately hopeful.
Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you and yours are well. I’d love to hear what kind of music is getting you through this tumultuous time. If you want to hear what I’ve been listening to, you can check out my #SpotifyWrapped. If you’re not on Spotify yet, you might want to change that in 2021. Getting a report on your listening habits can be…creepy, but also a great trip down memory lane. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings…
R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her at www.queeromanceink.com writing about Hope, Love and Queeromance.
Not merely stories, but an assemblage of shared experiences
And teamwork presented by Omnium Gatherum
Alma Katsu leads the proceedings
Of what follows and what to expect
Asian, women, and horror
Tales of identity, expectation and neglect;
Obligations, traditions, duties and more
Scientists, warriors, princesses, spirits
We can be many things
But we cannot be defeated
A haunting foreword sets the tone
For Elaine Cuyegkeng to kick off with a bang
Pandora’s box of gene editing
Or more attuned to a boomerang;
Snipping out traits and replacing preferential ones
Rarefied offspring too good to be true?
There’s always a price to pay
Specimens or daughters? Are we a ‘what’ or ‘who’?
Nadia Bulkin marshals an uprising
With Indonesian history and folklore
A princess’s people retrieving her throne
A fight and reclamation at its core;
Who is monster and who is human?
Questions Kapre in his chronicle
Rin Chupeco’s unique love story
Depicts a tale heartwarming and ironical
Beauty, cosmetics, enhancements galore
Two tales from Angela Yuriko Smith
How far would you go to be yourself no more?
Sci-fi abounds; this isn’t myth
White on the outside, yellow within
Patchwork eyes and warring factions all over
Whom do we belong to if we don’t belong at all?
Gift recipient or pushover?
Grace Chan makes a two-fold mark
With hunger and fury, suspicion and doubt
Gabriella Lee’s rites of passage
Aspects of womanhood poured out;
The legend of the nine-tailed fox
Of trickster entities and lotus feet
Rena Mason presents womanhood again
As past, present and future accrete
Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn
In their dual roles of editor and writer
Lend duality with contrasting themes
From heartbreak to horror, and lighter;
Caring for an ailing parent,
A mind-blowing take on pets,
A litmus test of acceptance,
Words – their shining assets
Set the clock ahead with Christina Sng
As we time travel to a zombie apocalypse
An ode to women in the military
Fury is not one to be eclipsed;
The fury of sacrifices to accommodate
Meeting the expectations of others
Hollowed versions of ourselves
Emptied out; unconsidered druthers
With stories of folklore and legend
From the common to the esoteric
Across geography and culture
From charming to barbaric;
Returning to one’s roots
Or imagining a far-fetched world
From the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore
China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand;
Asian women from wherever they might be
Scattered across place and time
Breaking notions and stereotypes
That living is not a crime;
There’s no single type of woman
No all-encompassing concept of Asian
The multifaceted identities of horror
And the stories of women who experience their own versions.
Ranata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.
At 1:15 am pst on Dec. 13th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and dog in lap picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Viewer discretion is advised.
Plotline: A collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself.
Who would like it: Fans of anthologies, short films, collections, international films, horror lovers, gorehounds, tech geeks, sci-fi fans, indie horror movies, and people who love jump scares
High Points: This was a super strong anthology, loved about 80% of the films
Grace Chan (gracechanwrites.com) is a speculative fiction writer and doctor. Her family migrated from Malaysia to Australia before her first birthday. Her writing explores brains, minds, technology, and narrative identity.
Her debut novel, Every Version of You, will be published by Affirm Press in 2022.
Her short fiction can be found in Clarkesworld, Going Down Swinging, Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, Verge: Uncanny, and other places. She was shortlisted for Viva la Novella VII. Her short story, The Mark, was nominated for the 2019 Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story and the 2020 Norma K Hemming Award.
Her other interests include salt-and-vinegar anything and secretly filming her friends’ post-NYE karaoke highlights. She is terrible at conveying sarcasm. In a decaffeinated state, she may cease to exist.
Grace, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Of Hunger and Fury and The Mark, both have such strong messages built into the story structure. What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?
This is still something I’m figuring out, which is part of the fun.
I’m fascinated by both the expanse of the universe and the expanse of our minds. I like writing about the unconscious—that can often take a dark, horrifying turn. I like writing about how technology, especially medical technology, might impact identity, relationships, and culture. I’m excited about works that centre more characters and narratives that aren’t so often centred, and I hope I can contribute to that in some small way.
You have a lot of work published from the likes of Clarkesworld and Aurealis. Which of your stories/characters best represents you?
I think I put a kernel of myself into every story…and then I craft a new character around that. Emma Kavanagh, from The Mark, is a character whose perspective and pain is silenced by society. I drew on the experience of women of colour, of being unheard and unseen, because your voice isn’t the right one for the room.
With Fiona/Fen Fang, from Of Hunger and Fury, I wanted to explore how an individual can be compressed between two cultures. I’m an amalgamation of my Australian upbringing and my Malaysian Chinese heritage, and I’ve gained a lot of strengths from both. But there are also restrictive, sexist pressures from both cultures—in different ways. As diasporic women, it can be especially exhausting. I’ve also put a bit of myself into Lian, the rational, ambitious main character from my novelette, Jigsaw Children, and a bit of myself into Tao Yi, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Every Version of You. I think writing allows us to explore parts of ourselves that don’t often see the light: weaknesses, strengths, dreams, fears, and so on.
I think the state of being culturally split is something that often gets overlooked as characters are often a single race in fiction. What are some of your experience of ‘otherness.’ Has this influenced what you write?
My heritage is filled with movement. I was born in Malaysia. So were my parents and most of my grandparents. My great-grandparents migrated to Malaysia from Guangdong. My parents and I migrated to Australia when I was a baby—my father came first, like a scout, and my mother came with me a few months later.
Although my parents are both tertiary educated, displacement and hardships made things difficult. I went to the local suburban primary school, where you could count the number of Asian kids on one hand. At the time, I didn’t think much of the fact that I looked different. But in hindsight, there was always a sense of being an outsider, and needing to prove my place by being a model citizen.
Like many other writers, I fell in love with the local library as a child. I devoured the YA section, but hardly ever found people like me in stories. When I first started to write, my characters were white Australian girls: Emma Smith, Hannah Brown. I remember my dad joking, “Why don’t you call her Emma Tan, or Hannah Chong!” I thought he was silly. I disliked my boring, common, Chinese name, and thought I could never be a writer unless I changed my name to a Western one.
As I’ve ventured into the workforce, I’ve become disillusioned to the myth that dominated my childhood: that compliance to the model minority mould leads to success. My eyes are gradually opening to systemic inequalities in our workplaces and society. It’s a personal and broader journey, fraught with complicated emotions.
I don’t think I purposely set out to write characters who are ‘other’. I don’t purposely make my characters ‘Asian’, or ‘different from the norm’ in any specific way. I just want to write characters that I’m interested in, who have compelling stories. I often find that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the most interesting ones. Many of the best stories are hidden in the quieter minds, in dark corners and buried places.
Wonderful points beautifully said. What has your experience been as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? How has this changed over time, or not?
I’ve only started to publish in the last couple of years, so I’m very much still in the process of finding my voice. I do feel that being part of a diaspora gives you perspective and power in writing. You’ve always lived with a sense of travelling, of not belonging, and you get rather good at putting yourself into other people’s shoes…or into alternate timelines entirely!
I’ve gravitated towards darker themes in a lot of my writing. I think it can be a way to acknowledge the darker, more difficult aspects of existence—and perhaps to find commonality and catharsis. It’s also just feels really good to be able to challenge people’s preconceptions and to throw out stereotypes. Asian and women characters are so frequently flattened into two-dimensionality. It’s exhilarating to be able to write slippery, multifaceted, three-dimensional characters that terrify, rage, grieve, crack dry jokes and dreadful puns, and forge their own paths, fiercely.
What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
I don’t think I have enough knowledge to comment on dark fiction specifically, but I certainly feel that Asian women in fiction are exoticized, sexualised, stereotyped and/or silenced, which is reflective of society. In White Tears/Brown Scars, Ruby Hamad describes the archetypes of Dragon Ladies and Exotic Orientals. Asian women as perceived by the dominant culture are either controlling and unpleasant, or passive, supportive, and decorative.
I want stories about Asian women who are both good and bad, who drive their own narratives, and make up their own minds. I want stories about Asian women who get to adventure, fight, run away, fall in love, not fall in love, destroy their enemies, plot wicked plots, exact revenge, save the world, or be wonderfully ordinary. There are a lot of such stories in SFFH (and, of course, in Black Cranes!). I hope they continue to receive more attention.
I do as well! On that note, do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?
Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling was a reading experience like none other. It took me fifty or so pages to get stuck in, but I became utterly immersed in a world of fox spirits, ghosts, ghost-sex, scholars, trickery, and monsters. It’s playful, eerie, and whimsical, with laugh-out-loud humour alongside horror.
I’ve also enjoyed: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. Her Body & Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado. Mother of Invention, edited by Rivqa Rafael and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Elizabeth Tan’s short story collections, Rubik and Smart Ovens for Lonely People.
All those just went on my list. How about your last project and what you’re working on next? Can you tell us about these projects?
My tentacled, symbiotic, monster story, Mother of the Trenches, will appear in Unnatural Order published by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. I had a lot of twisty fun with that one, and I’m excited for it to venture out into the world.
I’m also delighted to share that my novel, Every Version of You, will be published in early 2022 by Affirm Press, an independent Melbourne-based publisher! It’s a near-future science fiction novel with a Malaysian Chinese Australian protagonist, and it uses virtual reality and mind uploading to explore themes of identity, change, migration, love, and loss.
Chinko-ji Temple cemetery aka Rokudo-san cemetery aka Rokudochinnoji cemetery 595 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0811, Japan Telephone: +81 75 343 6555 Founded: 836 AD Size: a fraction of an acre Number of interments: hard to say, since Japanese are cremated and their ashes interred beneath their headstones marked with only their family names Gates are open: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The buildings open only occasionally. Check with the Tourist Information Center downtown for opening hours if you want to see the paintings of Hell and the Spirit World. Admission: free Important to know: The mosquitos in June were fierce, even in the heat of the afternoon. You may want to invest in insect repellent before you visit.
The city of Kyoto was founded in 794. For centuries, it served as the capital of Japan, until the emperor moved his court to Tokyo in 1869. It’s been called the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, but may only have as many as 2000 of them, 1600 of which are Buddhist temples along with 400 shrines dedicated to Shinto, the native religion.
Kyoto’s largest festival of the year takes place in August, when the city observes the Bon Festival, the Japanese celebration of ancestral spirits.
The book Introducing Kyoto by Herbert E. Pluschow reports “The Bon Festival begins on August 8 with a visit to Chinko-ji Temple. The location of Chinko-ji (also called Rokudo-san) marks one of the largest grave areas that existed since Heian times. Formerly, it extended from Kiyomizu-dera Temple all the way downhill to Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple and as far north as Chion-in.” Kyoto, a Cultural Guide, adds, “This area was known as ‘the land of the dead,’ a place where the bodies of those who died without family were often abandoned.”
So perhaps there were no monuments to move, no graves to disturb. The area is suburban now, full of houses. Of the massive graveyard, only a fragment remains at Chinko-ji.
The small Buddhist temple of Chinko-ji (also known as Rokudo-san) stands in the Higashiyama neighborhood, just south of Kyoto’s Gion neighborhood. The temple dates to the 9th century. As far as I can tell, the graveyard does not date that far back.
The plaque at the gate says, “A Rinzai-sect temple of the Kenniji school, founded in 836, and commonly known as Rokudo-san. Kyōto’s Bon Festival, Buddhist observance honoring the spirits of ancestors, begins with the tolling of the temple bell. The area is called ‘Rokudo-no-tsujii,’ or ‘the place where this world and the other world meet.’ Reference to this belief appears in Konjaku Monogatari, Tales of Times Now Past. The well behind the Main Hall was believed to have been used by Ono no Takamura (802–852) to commute between the two worlds.”
In fact, the temple still has a statue of Chinese scholar Ono no Takamura, a calligrapher and poet who served Emperor Saga in the early part of the ninth century. Takamura was so eloquent in his descriptions of Hell that it was believed he was an emissary from Enma, the King of Hell. Legend holds that at night Takamura would climb into the well at Rokudo Chinkoji, descend to the underworld, and help Enma judge the dead. In the morning, he’d climb back out, then go serve the Emperor.
Chinko-ji remains a place to pray for “the souls of commoners.” Rokudo-san, the temple’s popular name, refers to the roads to the six Buddhist realms to which a soul may go: 1) Jigoku (Hell), 2) Gaki (the land of the hungry spirits), 3) Chikushou (the land of the beasts), 4) Shura (the land of fighting), 5) Ningen (the land of humans, or our world), and 6) Tenjo (Heaven). Rokudo no Tsuji (the intersection of this world and the next ones, where the six roads begin) is believed to be in the small open square inside the tori gate from the street.
Japanese Buddhists believe that the souls of the dead inhabit mountains, which were Paradise. The bottoms of valleys were Hell. The mountain above Chinko-ji is called Mt. Amida, the Buddha of eternal light who rules Paradise. Some souls were so weighed down that they couldn’t climb uphill and were condemned to roam the earth, causing suffering. The Bon Festival addresses itself to these unhappy souls, which are welcomed back to earth at temples considered gates of Hell.
The welcoming bell is inside this building.
At Chinko-ji, people welcome their ancestors back by ringing the temple’s bell, called “Mukae-gane” or the welcoming bell. Unlike most temple bells in Japan, where you draw the clapper back to strike the bell, this one requires you to push the clapper forward. Legend says that the bell can be heard in every corner of hell and was once heard as far as China.
The building housing the bell stands on the right side of the temple complex. Just past in stands a hall with a statue of Enma and his emmisaries.
Straight ahead from the gate, on the north side, stands the main hall of the temple, which houses a statue of the Buddha Yakushi, who has the ability to rescue the suffering from Hell.
Some of the Jizo
The well that Takamura used to visit Hell still exists behind one of the temple buildings, but it was closed the afternoon when I visited. During Bon, people used to buy pine branches from the temple and lower them down into the well, so that the souls of the dead could grab on.
On the western side of the shrine, a plastic roof shelters a large statue of Jizo, the Buddhist guardian of travelers, children, and the dead. He’s surrounded by 200 smaller Jizo.
Behind the Jizo shrine stands the pocket graveyard. I didn’t open the gate and walk in, even though my family was alone at the temple when we visited. It didn’t feel respectful and I could see as much as I needed from the gate.
The graveyard with sotoba
However, as I stopped to pay my respects to Jizo and take some photos, the sotōba – the wooden blades marked with the posthumous names of the dead – rattled like chattering teeth in a sudden breath of wind.
I was glad when other people came into the temple grounds with us.
A great blog post with photos of the temple at O-Bon and the tale of “ghost-raising sweets”
I’m co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. Angelus Rose, the final book, came out in February 2020. I am the editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. I’m also author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel–and a space opera trilogy.
As is de rigueur for this time of year, we look back at some of the genre connected people who passed away in 2020. Some connections are tenuous, some very solid. A few names, everyone knows. Many, I didn’t even know until I set out on this journey.
By the way, there be spoilers here. Act accordingly.
Veronika Fitz (3/28/36-1/2/20) German actress with a nearly six-decade career. Her only genre performance that I could find was a bit part in The Haunted Castle (1960). Oh, well. We had to start somewhere.
Robert Blanche (March 30, 1962 – January 3, 2020) American actor, played Sgt. Franco on the American television program, ‘Grimm’, from 2012 to 2017.
Edd Byrnes (July 30, 1932 – January 8, 2020) American actor, best known to the generation just prior to mine for his role as Kookie in the television mystery show, ’77 Sunset Strip’. Played a psycho killer in 1973’s Wicked, Wicked, a film notable only for its use of a split-screen for its entire running time. Brian de Palma had used the technique of showing two scenes at once in parts of his film, Sisters, that same year. Too much of a good thing, in this case.
Buck Henry (December 9, 1930 – January 8, 2020) American actor, writer, director. Creator of the classic ‘60s TV spy spoof ‘Get Smart’, frequent first season contributor to ‘Saturday Night Live’, and doomed swinger in the 1982 dark comedy, Eating Raoul.
Ivan Passer (10 July 1933 – 9 January 2020) Czech director of 1988’s Haunted Summer, one of several films about the 1815 gathering in Switzerland that produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s Vampyre.
Mike Resnick (March 5, 1942 – January 9, 2020) Award-winning American science fiction writer and editor. Author of The Official Guide to Fantastic Literature (1976).
Carol Serling (February 3, 1929 – January 9, 2020) The widow of Rod Serling, who guided the Twilight Zone brand through decades of reinvention and adaptation into other media, including the magazine of the same name.
Neda Arnerić (15 July 1953 – 10 January 2020) Serbian actress, Venom (a.k.a. The Legend of Spider Forest, 1971)
Patrick Jordan (10 October 1923 – 10 January 2020) English actor who spent most of a long career as a character actor on the BBC, but did manage to squeeze in a bit part in the 1959 kaiju classic, The Giant Behemoth.
Robert Sampson (May 10. 1933 – January 18, 2020) American actor who appeared in the TV shows ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’, and as Dean Halsey in 1985’s Re-Animator.
Terry Jones (1 February 1942 – 21 January 2020) Welsh actor and writer and founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Played Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a performance that required him to run away from several scary things. That rabbit’s dynamite!
John Karlen (May 28, 1933 – January 22, 2020) American actor. Ah, yes. Willie Loomis himself, who foolishly awoke vampire Barnabas Collins on the classic horror soap opera, ‘Dark Shadows’. In the second half of the 1960s, everyone I knew ran home from school to plop down in front of the television in order to find out what devilment Barnabas was up too, all because Willie had been tempted by the rumors that the undead main character had treasure buried in his coffin with him. He ought to have known better. Nobody puts chains around a coffin to keep people out. The chains are obviously there to keep the occupant in. Duh.
Robert Harper (May 19, 1951 – January 23, 2020) American actor devoured by the inhabitant of ‘The Crate’ in 1982’s Creepshow.
Monique van Vooren (March 25, 1927 – January 25, 2020) Belgian actress who essayed multiple roles in Andy Warhol’s 1973 film, Flesh for Frankenstein.
Jack Burns (November 15, 1933 – January 27, 2020) American actor and comedian, best known for his partnership with Avery Schreiber in the comedy team of, you guessed it, Burns & Schreiber, and for being Barney Fife’s replacement on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. Did make one appearance on the late ‘60s supernatural TV show, ‘The Ghost & Mrs. Muir’.
Norbert Moutier (1941 – 27 January 2020) French director of 1983’s Mad Mutilator and 1993’s Dinosaur from the Deep.
Marj Dusay (2/20/36-1/28/20) American actress who had a lead role in the 1969 TV movie, Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon, a pilot for a supernatural investigations series that was not picked up by the network. She appeared in virtually every television series made in the United States during her very long career, including in one episode of the short-lived Tucker’s Witch in 1982, also a supernatural investigations show.
Nicholas Parsons (10 October 1923 – 28 January 2020) English actor. Okay, blame the Beatles for this, or maybe Elvis, but it seemed that every rock & roll band in the ‘60s made an effort to break into movies. The Spencer Davis Group tried their hand in 1966 in a fab little feature called The Ghost Goes Gear. Gear being a synonym of the time for fab, or george, or groovy. As opposed to grotty. Clear as mud? Parsons played the band’s manager, a nobleman whose manor house was haunted. I recommend sticking with A Hard Day’s Night.
Dyanne Thorne (October 14, 1936 – January 28, 2020) American actress, ‘star’ of Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S. (1975). Naughty, naughty Ilsa, performing all those awful experiments on her barely clothed female prisoners in her own personal Nazi concentration camp. Camp being the operative word.
Mary HigginsClark (December 24, 1927 – January 31, 2020) American author of numerous suspense novels than danced around the edges of being horror.
Andrée Melly (15 September 1932 – 31 January 2020) English actress in The Brides of Dracula in 1960 and the cheapjack retread of William Castle’s 1963 remake of The Old Dark House called The Horror of it All in 1964. Her image from Brides was also picked for the Old Maid in a 1964 monster card game in which she is misidentified as Dracula’s Daughter.
One of several things that Milton Bradley got wrong. Sounds like meat for a future column.
Katsumasa Uchida (19 September 1944 – 31 January 2020) Japanese actor, played an Interpol agent in 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Lila Garrett (November 21, 1925 – February 1, 2020) American writer who scribed a dozen episodes of the 1960s supernatural TV series, ‘Bewitched’.
Luciano Ricceri (26 April 1940 – 1 February 2020) Italian production designer for the 1966 dark comedy, The Devil in Love.
Lovelady Powell (May 9, 1930 – February 2, 2020) American actress who appeared in one episode of ‘Dark Shadows’ in 1966 and in the 1972 horror thriller, The Possession of Joel Delaney
José Luis Cuerda (18 February 1947 – 4 February 2020) Spanish producer, The Others (2001), with Nicole Kidman.
Gianni Minervini (26 October 1928 – 4 February 2020) Italian producer of the 1976 Giallo, The House of the Laughing Windows
Kirk Douglas (December 9, 1916 – February 5, 2020) American actor not generally known for genre work, but he did star in a not-well-received musical TV version of ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ in 1973.
F. X. Feeney (September 1, 1953 – February 5, 2020) American screenwriter on Roger Corman’s 1990 adaptation of the Brian Aldiss novel, Frankenstein Unbound.
Raphaël Coleman (30 September 1994 – 6 February 2020) American actor in the 2009 remake of It’s Alive.
Orson Bean (July 22, 1928 – February 7, 2020) American actor who was all over television in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and who made one appearance on ‘The Twilight Zone’.
Robert Conrad (March 1, 1935 – February 8, 2020) If you love steampunk, this is one of the guys who created it. Conrad was the star of ‘The Wild Wild West’, still after fifty years my favorite TV show of all time. Only one episode is truly horror related, ‘The Night of the Man-Eating House’. Hurd Hatfield from 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is the guest star.
Paula Kelly (October 21, 1942 – February 8, 2020) American actress in the borderline horrific science fiction films, 1971’s The Andromeda Strain and 1973’s Soylent Green. Spoiler alert: It’s People!
Ron McLarty (April 14, 1947 – February 8, 2020) American actor whose first film role was as the real estate agent in 1977’s The Sentinel, which was based on the Jeffrey Konvitz horror novel of the same name.
Mirella Freni (27 February 1935 – 9 February 2020) Italian operatic soprano who sang in several genre-related operas over her illustrious fifty-year career, including Gounod’s Faust and Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame (AKA Queen of Spades).
Marjorie Redmond (December 14, 1924 – February 10, 2020) American television actress, likely best known as Sister Jacqueline in ‘The Flying Nun’ (yes, a ‘60s TV show about a nun who, you guessed it, could fly), with stopovers along the way in ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Munsters’, as well as an episode of the spin-off (sort of) from Rod Serling’s ‘Night Gallery’, ‘The Sixth Sense’ in 1972.
Raphael Romero Marchent (May 3, 1926 – February 13, 2020) Mexican director, Santo vs Doctor Death (1973) and Curse of the Black Cat (1977).
Zoe Caldwell (14 September 1933 – 16 February 2020) Australian actress with one appearance on the TV version of radio’s classic series, ‘Suspense’, in 1960. She’s best known for her stage performances in Macbeth and Medea, both of which have horrific connections. In fact, in early 1983, she brought her touring company of Medea to Knoxville, Tennessee, while my wife and I were students there. Yes, we saw it, and, yes, it was very, very good. Mitchell Ryan, late of ‘Dark Shadows’ and Dame Judith Anderson, who co-starred with Vincent Price in the great film noir, Laura, in 1946, appeared with her. There is a filmed performance of that production on YouTube.
Frances Cuka (21 August 1936 – 16 February 2020) English actress in 1980’s Watcher in the Woods with Bette Davis, and one episode of the ‘Hammer House of Horror’ BBC series.
Sonja Ziemann (8 February 1926 – 17 February 2020) German actress, Ghost in the Castle (AKA Spuk im Schloß, 1947)
Flavio Bucci (25 May 1947 – 18 February 2020) Italian actor, Suspiria (1977)
Bob Cobert (October 26, 1924 – February 19, 2020) Soundtrack composer on numerous genre films and TV shows, including the aforementioned ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ with Kirk Douglas; House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971); and The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973), the forerunners of the ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ TV series. Also, The Norliss Tapes (1973), 1974’s TV Dracula with Jack Palance, and the 2012 Dark Shadows feature film with Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.
José Mojica Marins (13 March 1936 – 19 February 2020) Brazilian actor best known as Coffin Joe in a trilogy of films, 1964’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, 1967’s This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse and The Embodiment of Evil in 2008, with numerous other spooky film and TV appearances along the way.
Peter Dreher (26 August 1932 – 20 February 2020) German artist who enjoyed painting skulls. He called this series of creepy images ‘Totenschädel‘.
Claudette Nevins (April 10, 1937 – February 20, 2020) American actress, The Mask (1961). Not the one with Jim Carrey. This one is in 3-D, which would be much too much to tolerate from a Jim Carrey movie.
Nicola Cuti (October 29, 1944 – February 21, 2020) Comic book writer, editor and artist who wrote well over two hundred scripts for the horror comics line published by Charlton Comics in the 1970s, and co-created with artist Joe Staton the classic comic book super-hero, E-Man.
Boris Leskin AKA Boris Lyoskin (5 January 1923 – 21 February 2020) Romanian actor who had a small role in 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss with Nicolas Cage.
Russ Cochran (July 3, 1937 – February 23, 2020) A former physics professor who quit academia to collate and reprint the EC Comics of the early 1950s, preserving for new generations those gruesome yarns from crumbling issues of Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror. And some other stuff, Disney and Hopalong Cassidy comics and the like.
Ben Cooper (September 30, 1933 – February 24, 2020) American actor who made appearances on TV’s ‘Suspense’, ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’.
Michael Hugh Medwin, (18 July 1923 – 26 February 2020) American actor with one genre performance, in 1949’s Queen of Spades.
R. D. Call (February 16, 1950 – February 27, 2020) American character actor with appearances in ‘X-Files’ and ‘Supernatural’, among many, many other television shows.
Dieter Laser (17 February 1942 – 29 February 2020) German actor, Human Centipede (First Sequence), 2009
Frank McLaughlin (March 18, 1935 – March 4, 2020) Comic book artist and art director for Charlton Comics whose first credited work was on a story in the kaiju comic, Reptisaurus, in 1961.
Max von Sydow (10 April 1929 – 8 March 2020) Swedish actor and long-time collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman, he played chess with death in 1957 in The Seventh Seal and died trying to drive Pazuzu out of Linda Blair in The Exorcist in 1973.
Gary B. Kibbe (January 9, 1941 – March 9, 2020) American cinematographer on the John Carpenter films Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Village of the Damned (1995), Escape from L.A. (1996) and Vampires (1998), and one episode of HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt’, 1992’s ‘King of the Road’ starring Brad Pitt.
Suzy Delair (31 December 1917 – 15 March 2020) French actress in the 1942 dark comedy L’assassin habite… au 21 (The Murderer Lives at Number 21).
Roy Hudd, (16 May 1936 – 15 March 2020) English actor who played a morgue attendant in 1968’s The Blood Beast Terror, which starred Peter Cushing.
Stuart Whitman (February 1, 1928 – March 16, 2020) American leading man, star of many theatrical and television westerns, mysteries and adventure yarns, with one episode of ‘Night Gallery’ on his resume. He also co-starred with Psycho victim Janet Leigh in 1972’s Night of the Lepus, generally considered one of the worst movies ever made. I will not take an opposing position on that question.
Giovanni Romanini (27 December 1945 – 20 March 2020) Italian cartoonist, illustrator of the dark and often horrific Italian comic book series, Satanik, in the early 1970s.
Lucia Bosè (28 January 1931 – 23 March 2020) Italian actress who had a small role in Jean Cocteau’s 1960 film, Testament d’Orphee.
David Collings (4 June 1940 – 23 March 2020) English actor who played Bob Cratchit in 1970’s Scrooge.
Melinda O. Fee (October 7, 1942 – March 24, 2020) American actress who played Mrs. Webber in 1985’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddie’s Revenge.
Stuart Gordon (August 11, 1947 – March 24, 2020) American screenwriter and director on 1985’s Re-Animator, the 1991 version of The Pit and the Pendulum, 2001’s Dagon, and two episodes of the ‘Masters of Horror’ TV show.
Juan Padron (January 29, 1947 – March 24, 2020) Cuban director of Vampiros en La Habana (1985) and Mas Vampiros en La Habana (2003).
Barbara Rütting (21 November 1927 – 28 March 2020) German actress in early ‘60s adaptations of a couple of Edgar Wallace’s horror-thriller novels, Der Zinker (The Squeaker, 1963) and Das Phantom von Soho (1964).
Krzysztof Penderecki (23 November 1933 – 29 March 2020) Polish composer of Die Teufel von Loudun (The Devils of Loudun), a 1968-1975 opera based on an episode of mass demonic possession in 17th Century France. Yes, it took him seven years to write an opera. How long does it take YOU?
Hilary Heath, AKA Hilary Dwyer (6 May 1945 – 30 March 2020) British actress in 1968’s The Witchfinder General and 1969’s The Oblong Box, both with Vincent Price in Edgar Allen Poe inspired films, 1970’s Cry of the Banshee, also with Price, and in the 1970 version of Wuthering Heights, which starred future James Bond Timothy Dalton.
Vincent Marzello (July 4, 1951 – March 31, 2020) American actor in 1990’s The Witches.
Olan Montgomery (April 12, 1963 – April 4, 2020) An American actor known for playing a newsman for four episodes during the third season of the Netflix series, ‘Stranger Things’. He died of COVID-19.
Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 5 April 2020) British actress who made her mark in film history by portraying the redoubtable Pussy Galore in the third James Bond film, 1964’s Goldfinger, after having spent two seasons practicing her judo throws on bad guys in the BBC series, ‘The Avengers’. She co-starred with Christopher Lee and Nastassja Kinsky in 1976’s To the Devil a Daughter, based on the Dennis Wheatley novel.
Lee Fierro (February 13, 1929 – April 5, 2020) American actress who played the mother of the little boy eaten by the shark in Jaws in 1975.
James Drury (April 18, 1934 – April 6, 2020) American actor who spent nine seasons starring in the ninety-minute television western, ‘The Virginian’. Before that, though, he was a crewman on the spaceship C-57D in the 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet, which was loosely based on Shakespeare’s marginally horrific last play, The Tempest, and did have folks killed by something called ‘the monster from the Id’. So, yes. It counts as horror, at least a little.
Allen Garfield (AKA Allen Goorwitz; November 22, 1939 – April 7, 2020) American actor who specialized in playing officious minor authority figures whose bark was always worse than their bite. Except, of course, when he starred in 1978’s Sketches of a Strangler, in which he put the bite on several actresses in a manual way. He was also in the 1996 remake of the classic French horror film, Diabolique, with Sharon Stone.
Mort Drucker (March 22, 1929 – April 9, 2020) For decades, Hollywood actors only knew they’d finally ‘arrived’ when this Mad Magazine artist and master caricaturist included them in one of his movie or television parodies. Drucker started out doing war comics for DC before signing on with EC, Mad’s publisher, shortly after they shut down their comic book line (see the Russ Cochran entry above) in favor of putting all their eggs in the Mad basket. The first one of his I remember seeing must have been in one of the reprint collections Mad issued a time or two a year. It was the parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Psycho. To this day, there are frames from that film I see in my mind’s eye, not in cinematic black and white, but in Drucker’s distinctive style as he recreated them for the magazine.
Nobuhiko Obayashi (9 January 1938 – 10 April 2020) Japanese director, House (1977)
Margot Hartman (August 15, 1933 – April 11, 2020) American actress, Curse of the Living Corpse (1964). Janet Leigh should stay out of showers, and poor Margot should stay out of tubs for the same reason. How is a lady supposed to stay clean?
Danny Goldman (October 30, 1939 – April 12, 2020 American actor in 1974’s Young Frankenstein. He was the obnoxious medical student who drove Gene Wilder to stab himself in the thigh with a scalpel.
Joel M. Reed (December 29, 1933 – April 13, 2020) American schlock director of Blood Sucking Freaks (1976) and other exercises in questionable taste.
Brian Dennehy (July 9, 1938 – April 15, 2020) American tough guy actor, who discovered in First Blood that he wasn’t nearly as tough as Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo. He didn’t do much better as the fire chief in 1977’s Ants!
Gene Deitch (August 8, 1924 – April 16, 2020) Czech-American animator on Where the Wild Things Are (1975), and creator of one of my childhood favorite cartoon series, ‘Tom Terrific’, who appeared periodically with his sidekick, Manfred the Wonder Dog, on the Captain Kangaroo show. Ah, the good old days.
Jacques Rosny (25 March 1939 – 18 April 2020) French actor who had a small role in Roman Polanski’s 1976 psychological horror film, The Tenant.
Hector Garrido (1928 – April 19, 2020) American illustrator who painted hundreds of paperback book covers in all genres, including horror.
Shirley Knight (July 5, 1936 – April 22, 2020) Oscar-nominated American actress whose only genre work I know of was an episode of ‘The Outer Limits’ in 1963, co-starring Martin Landau.
John Lafia (April 2, 1957 – April 29, 2020) American director of 1993’s Man’s Best Friend, one of several lethal dog movies from around that period
John Ericson (September 25, 1926 – May 3, 2020) German-American actor, the leading man and personification of the Great God Pan in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao in 1964, and the German officer whose invading force was driven off of Britain’s shores by empty suits of armor animated by apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in the 1971 Disney live-action feature, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Richard Sala (June 2, 1954 – May 7, 2020) American comic book creator on 1995’s The Ghastly Ones and Other Fiendish Frolics from Manic D Press, and IDW’s 2005 Dracula, among others.
Marty Pasko (August 4, 1954 – May 10, 2020) Canadian comic book writer who primarily worked in the super-hero genre for DC and Marvel, but who began his career with a script each for Warren Publication’s Eerie and Vampirella magazines in the early ‘70s.
Jerry Stiller (June 8, 1927 – May 11, 2020) American comedian and actor, father of Ben. He appeared in one episode of ‘Tales from the Darkside’.
Frank Bolle (June 23, 1924 – May 12, 2020) Italian-American comic book artist who, among many other things, illustrated horror stories for Atlas Comics, the precursor to Marvel Comics, in 1956 and 1957.
Fred Willard (September 18, 1933 – May 15, 2020) American comedy actor, perhaps best known for his work in the series of Christopher Guest comedy films of the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with This is Spinal Tap. He did make a memorable appearance as the rascally realtor in the 1979 TV miniseries Salem’s Lot who gets caught with his pants down, both by the cuckolded husband and by vampire Kurt Barlow.
Cindy Butler (October 15, 1955 – May 26, 2020) American actress, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1984). Neither one, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson, worth seeing, and even less worth going to see.
Richard Herd (September 26, 1932 – May 26, 2020) American character actor whose genre career began with 1980’s Schizoid and culminated in a videotaped performance of patriarch Roman Armitage in 2017’s Get Out, with a stop in the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ TV series along the way.
Anthony James (July 22, 1942 – May 26, 2020) Twitchy American actor, sort of the poor-man’s Anthony Perkins, who played the chauffeur in the 1976 classic Burnt Offerings with Bette Davis.
Dan van Husen (30 April 1945 – May 2020) German actor who, among many other minor horror roles, played the warden in 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. If forced to choose between this among his films, or Killer Barbys vs Dracula from 2001, I think you know which way to jump.
Andrée Champagne (July 17, 1939 – June 6, 2020) Canadian actress, Playgirl Killer (1967). Not Canada’s finest hour.
Joanne Lara (June 3, 1952 – June 9, 2020) American actress notable, if that’s the word, for being the title character (‘Maria’) in an episode of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, and for playing a bit part in It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive.
Joe Johnson (June 25, 1957 – June 10, 2020) American actor, victim of a misapplied power tool in The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Dennis O’Neil (May 3, 1939 – June 11, 2020) American comic book writer who worked for both Marvel and DC but is best known for his long association with the artist Neal Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and on the various Batman titles, many stories for which he included a supernatural element. ‘The Secret of the Waiting Graves’, the Batman story in Detective Comics 295 from January of 1970 concerns a couple whose time ultimately runs out after several hundred years, for example. O’Neil also worked with artist Steve Ditko on Beware… the Creeper in the 1960s and with Mike W. Kaluta on The Shadow in the early 1970s.
Ian Holm (12 September 1931 – 19 June 2020) Distinguished English actor who, long before he was Bilbo Baggins, played a murderous android in 1979’s Alien.
Philip Latham (17 January 1929 – 20 June 2020) English actor, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Joel Schumacher (August 29, 1939 – June 22, 2020) American director, notorious for taking the campy surrealism of Tim Burton’s two Batman films and twisting the franchise in his own two sequels into a surrealistic campiness that was a definite step down. Viewers can make up their own minds as to whether he redeemed himself by directing Gerard Butler in the film version of the Phantom of the Opera musical in 2004. This deponent sayeth not.
Joe Sinnott (October 16, 1926 – June 25, 2020) Legendary comic book artist, favored inker over the pencil work of King of the Comics Jack Kirby, and prolific illustrator of 1950s horror tales for the aforementioned Atlas Comics.
Stuart Cornfeld (November 13, 1952 – June 26, 2020) American producer, The Fly (1986)
Taryn Power (September 13, 1953 – June 26, 2020) American actress, daughter of Golden Age of Hollywood megastar Tyrone Power, Junior, and granddaughter of silent movie star Tyrone Power, Senior. She appeared in the Ray Harryhausen classic, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and not much else. This apple did, it seems, fall far from the tree.
James Holloway (d. June 28, 2020) American illustrator for many monster-laden Dungeons & Dragons related publications, including Dragon Magazine.
Johnny Mandel (November 23, 1925 – June 29, 2020) American music producer, orchestrator and conductor, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
Dan Hicks (July 19, 1951 – June 30, 2020) American actor, Evil Dead II (1987) and Darkman (1990).
Billy Tang (1951 – 7/2/20) Chinese director, Dial D for Demons (2000)
Yoon Sam-yook (May 25, 1937 – July 2, 2020) Korean screenwriter, Suddenly in the Dark (1981)
Ronald L. Schwary (May 23, 1944 – July 2, 2020) American producer, Meet Joe Black, the 1998 remake of the classic Death Takes a Holiday, previously filmed in 1934 and 1971.
P.H. Aykroyd (February 5, 1922 – July 4, 2020) Canadian father of Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd, author of “A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Seances, Mediums, Ghosts and Ghostbusters” with Angela Narth
Ennio Morricone (10 November 1928 – 6 July 2020) Italian soundtrack composer, The Thing (1982), as well as numerous gialli. The spaghetti western scores he is most famous for comprise a small percentage of his total, voluminous output. Tell me you didn’t just whistle the opening bars to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Go ahead. Not that I’ll believe you. Wah-WAH-wah…
Charlie Daniels (October 28, 1936 – July 6, 2020) American musician, The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The Devil should have known better than to bet a golden fiddle against the soul of a Saltine-American bluegrass champion. Stupid Devil.
Raymundo Capetillo (1 September 1943 – 12 July 2020) Mexican actor, Bestia Nocturna (1986).
Kelly Preston (October 13, 1962 – July 12, 2020) American actress, Christine (1983).
Sonia Darrin (June 16, 1924 – July 19, 2020) American actress best known for playing the snarky porno dealer in the 1946 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film noir classic, The Big Sleep, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. That was pretty much the pinnacle of her brief career, but she did manage to squeeze in a bit part in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943.
Jacqueline Scott (June 25, 1931 – July 23, 2020) American actress, Macabre (1958).
John Saxon (August 5, 1936 – July 25, 2020) American actor, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I had no idea he was living maybe twenty miles from me when he passed away. I’m not sure what I would have done had I known, but I’d like to think if I’d run into him at some point, I might’ve asked to shake the hand of a man who had sparred with Bruce Lee. That’s something not a whole lot of folks can say they’ve done.
Dame Olivia de Havilland (July 1, 1916 – July 26, 2020) British actress born in Japan, the woman no less an expert on the topic of feminine pulchritude than Errol Flynn always considered ‘the one that got away’. They made some damn good movies together, starting with 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, far and away the best film version of that legend. Alas, Errol died in 1959, and a few years later Olivia joined the brigade of past-their-prime actresses in the psychological horror film fad of the early 1960s. Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte was the 1964 entry in that sweepstakes, and it’s a doozy, with Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Mary Astor, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Morehead along for the ride.
Jan Skopeček (19 September 1925 – 27 July 2020) Czech actor, The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (1981)
Gianrico Tedeschi (20 April 1920 – 27 July 2020) Italian actor, Frankenstein: Italian Style (1975) and Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot (1979).
Alan Parker (14 February 1944 – 31 July 2020) English director, Angel Heart (1987), starring Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro as the Devil, based on the novel by William Hjortsberg.
Wilford Brimley (September 27, 1934 – August 1, 2020) American actor and commercial spokesman, owner of one of the few mustaches more impressive than mine, and one of the poor fools isolated at the top of the world with an interplanetary shapeshifter in 1982’s second version of The Thing. Okay, the 1951 original scared the hell out of me when I was eight and caught it on Night Owl Theater early on a Saturday morning, but I totally get why many folks consider John Carpenter’s remake of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story ‘Who Goes There?’ to be superior. I don’t agree, but I don’t totally disagree. Either way, Brimley’s performance is suitably creepy, albeit brief.
Daisy Coleman (March 30, 1997 – August 4, 2020) American actress and advocate for her fellow victims of sexual violence, she made Texas Death Trippin’ in 2019 before committing suicide a year later. Regardless of the film’s quality, it’s such a terrible waste of a human life and potential that I find the situation far more horrific than the film could possibly be. People suck.
Ben Cross (16 December 1947 – 18 August 2020) English actor who essayed the role of Barnabas Collins in the revival of the TV classic, Dark Shadows, in 1991. He also appeared in an episode of HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt’, and played another vampire in 1989’s Nightlife opposite Maryam d’Abo.
Lori Nelson (August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020) American actress, Revenge of the Creature (1955). Clint Eastwood has a bit part as a marginally competent lab assistant. Lori gets carried off into the Florida swamps by the escaped Gillman in this first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, until she’s rescued by leading man and former Mr. Shirley Temple John Agar. Like the first one, this is also in 3-D.
Joe Ruby (March 30, 1933 – August 26, 2020) American television producer and co-creator of Scooby-Doo. Darn those meddling kids!
Peter Licassi (April 1, 1959 – August 27, 2020) Actor, Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988)
Sidney Noel Rideau (December 25, 1929 – August 27, 2020) New Orleans TV host of ‘House of Shock’ (Dr. Morgus).
Bob Fujitani (October 15, 1921 – September 6, 2020) American comic book artist of Irish-Japanese ancestry. He illustrated numerous stories in all genres for a variety of publishers in the 1940s, including some horror. He had a long run on the peripherally horrific series, The Hangman. The Hangman appeared in MLJ’s Pep Comics as well as in his own title. MLJ was the original name of the publisher now called Archie Comics, by the way.
Dame Diana Rigg (20 July 1938 – 10 September 2020) British actress who, like Honor Blackman, graduated from female lead of the BBC’s ‘The Avengers’ to Bond Girl status in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. Unlike Blackman, she got 007 (George Lazenby) to put a ring on it. Too bad arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld machine-gunned her out of the British spy’s life before the wedding night. She went on to play the daughter of crazed Shakespearean actor Vincent Price in 1973’s Theatre of Blood, probably the best specifically Vincent Price movie ever. Partisans of the Dr. Phibes films are free to disagree, but they’re still wrong.
Barbara Jefford (26 July 1930 – 12 September 2020) British actress who manages to get herself garroted in her wheelchair in The Ninth Gate (1999). How rude!
Michael Chapman (November 21, 1935 – September 20, 2020) American cinematographer, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). The second version of the classic Jack Finney story first published in Collier’s Weekly magazine in the 1950s. The tale of how I and two friends saw this film at the old Tennessee Theater in downtown Nashville is the stuff of legend, and if you and I ever run in to one another in a bar or pub somewhere, and you buy me a few drinks, I will tell you all about it. The saga involves a 1956 Chevy, a double-boom wrecker and a multiple Hugo Award winning science fiction author, so I don’t think I’m too out of line in assuming that you’ll be obliged to admit in advance that it’s worth the price of a few drinks to be told. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.
Ron Cobb (September 21, 1937 – September 21, 2020) American production designer and concept artist, Alien (1979). And what a great job he did! I’ve got to tell you folks, I saw this film the first night of its release, and I was the only person in the audience who knew about the chest-burster scene. You have not lived until you’ve been in a movie theater with four hundred strangers going absolutely berserk over what’s happening to John Hurt, while you’re sitting back and laughing at the whole bloody thing.
Xavier Loyá (December 31, 1934 – September 22, 2020) Mexican actor, one of the partygoers trapped in the apres-opera drawing room in the Luis Buñuel classic, The Exterminating Angel (1962). He was also in Santo vs the Vampire Women the same year. A very versatile fellow, apparently.
Juliette Gréco (7 February 1927 – 23 September 2020) French actress, Jean Cocteau’s Orphee (1950).
Yūko Takeuchi (April 1, 1980 – September 27, 2020) Japanese actress, Ringu (1998).
Maud Hansson (5 December 1937 – 1 October 2020) The Swedish actress appeared as a witch in the 1957 Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal.
Armelia McQueen (January 6, 1952 – October 3, 2020) American actress, Ghost (1990).
Henryk Boukolowski (January 11, 1937 – October 4, 2020) Polish actor in the 1972 short film, Beczka Amontillado, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, ‘A Cask of Amontillado’. For the love of God, Montressor!
Margaret Nolan (29 October 1943 – 5 October 2020) English actress, went from a bit part in 1964’s Goldfinger with Sean Connery to a bit part in 1968’s Witchfinder General with Vincent Price. Not exactly a step up, but neither was it a step down. Call it a lateral move.
Osvaldo Ruggieri (January 8, 1928 – October 10, 2020) Italian actor, Werewolf Woman (1976).
Rhonda Fleming (8/10/23-10/14/20) Zaftig American actress known as the Queen of Technicolor for how the process loved her red hair, green eyes and fair skin. She made mostly westerns and a few films noir, as well as the first (and best) version of The Spiral Staircase in 1946, based on the novel by Ethel Lina White. She gets her pretty neck wrung by serial killer George Brent well before the denouement. Am I beginning to sense a theme here?
Spencer Davis (17 July 1939 – 19 October 2020) Welsh musician and actor. Way up there, near the top of this list, I mentioned The Ghost Goes Gear. Here it is again. See the previous entry. Davis discovered his lead singer, Steve Winwood, later of Traffic, when the fourteen-year-old was playing jazz in a club in Birmingham, England. The Spencer Davis Group made some very good records. Movies, not so much. Unlike Herman’s Hermits, who made three films, they had the good sense to quit when they weren’t too far behind.
Gianni Dei (21 December 1940 – 19 October 2020) Italian actor, Patrick Still Lives (1980).
Wojciech Pszoniak (2 May 1942 – 19 October 2020) Polish actor, The Devil (1972).
Marge Champion (September 2, 1919 – October 21, 2020) American dancer who, with her husband, Gower, was perpetually prominent in the MGM musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and who modeled for Walt Disney on his feature films, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (1940). Not specifically for characters in the scary parts of those pictures, but close enough for inclusion here.
Richard A. Lupoff (February 21, 1935 – October 22, 2020) American speculative fiction author and genre historian. I can’t say that knew Dick Lupoff, although he was a member of a couple of Yahoo groups I belonged to when that was still a thing. We might have commented on the same threads, I don’t recall. I wish I had interacted more with him when I had the chance, for he was a treasure. He was one of the editors and contributors to both All in Color for a Dime and The Comic Book Book, two of the seminal histories of one of the crucial media by which our genre has been disseminated, and both of which volumes included important chapters regarding horror in the comic books. Future columns on horror comics will no doubt contain information gleaned from one or the other of those two volumes.
Jacques Godin (September 14, 1930 – October 26, 2020) Canadian actor, The Pyx (1973) with Karen Black and Christopher Plummer.
Ricardo Blume (August 16, 1933 – October 30, 2020) Peruvian actor, Sobrenatural (All of Them Witches, 1996)
Sean Connery (25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020) Scottish actor. There is a no-doubt apocryphal story that Connery was contacted when Gordon Scott decided to hang up his loincloth and retire as the cinematic Tarzan. Connery had played one of the villains in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure in 1959, Scott’s penultimate appearance in the series. Sean had done such a good job that he was supposedly asked if he’d be willing to don the loincloth himself. According to legend, he told Tarzan producer Sy Weintraub that he was committed to star in some spy picture, and that once that was finished, he’d consider the offer to play the Lord of the Jungle. As everyone knows, Connery went on to play James Bond another six times after Dr. No, won an Oscar for The Untouchables in 1987 and never got around to playing the apeman. Weintraub was forced to go with the villain from Scott’s last Tarzan picture, Jock Mahoney, as his next jungle lord. The two pictures Mahoney starred in are considered among the best of the Tarzan films. A pity Connery got so tied up with Bond. He might have made something of himself, had he dispensed with the vodka martinis, Aston-Martins and Bond Babes, doffed his tuxedo and run off into the jungle wearing a scrap of deerskin instead. Ah, well. Fortunately for horror fans, he had already appeared in the Disney live-action Halloween staple, Darby O’Gill & the Little People, in 1959, as scary a picture as the Mouse Factory ever produced.
Rachel Caine (April 27, 1962 – November 1, 2020) Author of, among other works, the Morganville Vampire series of young adult novels.
Elsa Raven (September 21, 1929 – November 2, 2020) American actress, The Amityville Horror (1979).
John Fraser (18 March 1931 – 6 November 2020) Scottish actor in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), with Catherine Deneuve.
Ken Jones (d. November 6, 2020) American actor, Phantasm (1979).
Sven Wollter (11 January 1934 – 10 November 2020) Swedish actor, The 13th Warrior (1999).
Philip Voss (20 August 1936 – 13 November 2020) English actor, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). Voss’s last work was as Mason in the British TV series, ‘Vicious’, with Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Derek Jacoby.
Daria Nicolodi (19 June 1950 – 26 November 2020) Italian actress, Dario Argento’s Profundo Rosso (Deep Red, 1975) and Paganini Horror (1989).
David Prowse (7/1/35-11/28/20) English bodybuilder and actor. Yes, yes we all know about Darth Vader, but everyone eulogizing Prowse seems to have forgotten that he also played the monster in two Hammer films, The Horror of Frankenstein in 1970 and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell in 1974. And in 1980, he was in Nashville for a Star Wars convention I attended. I was standing in the back of one of those big hotel ballrooms, in front of a pair of double doors, listening to Peter Mayhew talk about being Chewbacca. I was twenty-two years old, six-foot-one, 210 solid pounds, young and impressive and in the best shape of my life, with all my teeth and a lot more wavy, blond hair than I possess now. I frequently enjoyed the company of attractive ladies, and they seemed to enjoy my company, as well. I was feeling, in other words, pretty good about myself.
And then, something huge moved into the room behind me. It was like being in the gravity well of a small planet. I turned and looked up and up and up at David Prowse, not in the Vader costume, but a head taller and a twice as wide across the shoulders as me on my best day. I felt very, very small and insignificant, indeed. We smiled and nodded, and then he was gone. I never spoke to him at that convention. I’m not sure I would have been able to.
The weekend was not ruined for me, I’m glad to say. That evening turned out well. Remember those drinks you were going to buy me? Add a few more, and you’ll hear the epic saga of a gold-plated droid, an AMC Hornet, and a crimson crustacean.
Richard Corben (10/1/40-12/2/20) American comic book artist. I first noticed his distinctive air-brushed style in the black and white Warren magazines, Creepy and Eerie, around 1970. His best-known work was probably in the Heavy Metal magazine in the late 1970s, for which he created the perpetually naked, bald and musclebound hero, Den. Den’s origin story was adapted to animated form in the Heavy Metal movie in 1981. He also did a lot of horror genre work for underground publishers Last Gasp and Rip Off Press.
André Gagnon (2 August 1936 – 3 December 2020) Canadian soundtrack composer, Phobia (1980)
Eduardo Galvão (April 19, 1962 – December 7, 2020) Brazilian actor, appeared in one episode of the 2002 television series ‘O Beijo do Vampiro’ (A Vampire’s Kiss).
Barbara Windsor (6 August 1937 – 10 December 2020) English actress, played Jack the Ripper’s second victim Annie Chapman in 1965’s A Study in Terror. The poor lass was well and truly dismembered before Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) could put a stop to Jack’s spree of spontaneous vivisection.
Hanna Stankówna (4 May 1938 – 14 December 2020) Polish stage and screen actress from the lovely city of Posnan, where my wife and I enjoyed a delightful lunch and some damn good beer some years ago. Her only genre role, as far as I can tell given my non-existent ability to decipher titles or plot synopses in her native language, was Lokis. Rekopis profesora Wittembacha (Lokis, the Manuscript of Professor Wittembach), from 1970.
Peter Lamont (12 November 1929 – 18 December 2020) British art director and production designer, Aliens (1986), as well as a slew of James Bond films.
Jiří Hálek (9/10/1930-12/18/2020) Czech actor, The Cremator (1969).
David Giler (January 10, 1943 – December 19, 2020) American film producer & screenwriter, Alien (1979).
Pero Kvrgić (4 March 1927 − 23 December 2020) Croatian actor, Nausikaya (1995).
Guy N. Smith (21 November 1939 – 24 December 2020) Prolific British horror author.
Josefina Echánove (September 29, 1927 or July 21, 1928 – December 29, 2020) Mexican actress, Amityville 3-D (1983).
Corrado Olmi (24 October 1926 – 29 December 2020) Italian actor in the dark comedy The Devil in Love (1966) and in the classic Giallo, The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971).
Dawn Wells (October 18, 1938 – December 30, 2020) American actress. Like most families in the 1960s, we only had one television. While my parents were pretty indulgent as far as allowing my brother and I, and later our sisters, to watch whatever we wanted to, Dad did draw the line a few times. One of those instances was whenever Gilligan’s Island came on. He considered it the dumbest show ever, and objectively, at this considerable temporal remove, it’s only the existence of My Mother, the Car that argues very much against that assessment. So it was that I rarely watched it in first run. However, it ran, and still runs, in syndication, so I caught up with it as I raced into puberty in the early 1970s. And I was Team Ginger, all the way. I never got why anyone would prefer Mary Ann, and still don’t. I didn’t dislike her. As a character, I thought she was fine. As fine as the material allowed, anyhow. She seemed very sweet, and she was pretty in a cornfed sort of way, but for pure prurient interest, it was Ginger for whom I lusted. Oddly, in the case of WKRP in Cincinnati, I’m all about Bailey instead of Jennifer, which is the exact opposite dynamic. Wonder why that is?
Never mind. When Dawn Wells died, yesterday as I write this, from COVID-19, I was shocked and more than a little saddened. She lived in my hometown of Nashville for some years, and lent her support to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, a worthy cause if there ever was one. Ginger is the last surviving castaway, and that makes me feel more than a little old. Dawn’s only forays into horror were a couple of truly wretched B-flicks, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Return to Boggy Creek (1977). Probably just as well she didn’t make any more, but I’m glad there were enough to include her in this list, even if she never was the object of my desire.
Robert Hossein (30 December 1927 – 31 December 2020) French writer, director and actor, The Wax Mask (AKA Maschera di Cera, 1997)
And there it is. Hopefully, the list I compile at the end of 2021 will be shorter. ‘Twould be a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.
Mitch slid onto the vacant seat beside the woman in the red hot dress.
“And who do I have the pleasure of speaking to?”
She smiled. “I’m Sasha.”
He was sizing her up—an easy 9 out of 10—with her smooth supple skin and generous curves in all the right places. Mitch had no shortage of women throwing themselves at him and thirsting over his social media selfies. He was a music executive in his early thirties who could still pass off as a decade younger. A charming smile, tousled hair, and the right touch or words allowed him to get away with much more than a lesser mortal could.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” started playing and the lights coming back on signaled it was the bar’s last call. The patrons didn’t need to head for home, but it was time to leave.
Sasha’s dark hair flowing down her back was mesmerizing. Mitch wondered how nobody else was being transfixed by her. Was she too intimidating, or were people too drunk to care?
He followed Sasha like a dream as she led him to the nearby Maxx boutique hotel.
A faint yet familiar scent permeated the room…the sweet vanilla notes of his last girlfriend’s favorite perfume. Anna. Her name was enough to send a shiver down Mitch’s spine. He briefly recalled the night his hands had closed around her throat when he had had enough of her teary-eyed episodes where they had broken up and made up for the upteenth time. She sure left a beautiful corpse at the morgue.
When Sasha turned around, it was too late: her face had turned into Anna’s. She grabbed him by the throat as soon as the door shut behind them.
“Now we can be together forever,” she said, delivering an icy kiss of death that drained the life from Mitch’s body.
Her words were the same last words Mitch had said to her and all the other young girls he discarded once he had deflowered them.
Author Bio: Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her microfiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets. Her website is www.jesschuabooks.com
PLANNER INCLUDES 13 months of monthly and weekly spreads Monthly goal and recap sheets Weekly check-ins and note pages Writing challenges, planners, and instructions. Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers. Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners. Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses. Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.
Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her micro-fiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets.
NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?
JC: I was possibly five years old when I first started learning about ghosts. I’ve been savoring taking my own sweet time exploring the genre since then.
NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?
JC: Hmm, it’s hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites include Psycho, The Shining, Pet Sematary.The Stepford Wives (1975). Alien, Silence of The Lambs, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
I recently added some Asian horror movies (like Third Eye and 23:59) onto my Netflix queue and look forward to checking those out.
The Ring (Japanese; 1998) was very creepy, too! I watched a little bit of it long ago and will need to finish watching it someday…
NTK: Do you have a favorite horror television show?
JC: I was very drawn in by Bates Motel and Kingdom (South Korean). I found the latter’s portrayal of zombies refreshing.
NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?
JS: Psycho was a slim book that packed a punch. I enjoyed the pacing and range of human emotions in Pet Sematary.
Aside from novels, I enjoy short stories in this genre as it allows me to check out different worlds and characters in a short amount of time.
NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?
JS: I’ve been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe since I was sixteen. His haunting tales of the macabre stay with me long after I’ve finished reading them.
I almost have the full collection of out-of-print books by the late Singaporean writer Damien Sin, so he’s definitely another one of my favorite horror authors. I appreciate the originality and authentic, local flavor of his writing.
NTK: What inspires your writing?
JS: The highs and lows of the human psyche and human behavior.
NTK: If you were to meet a reader for the first time, and they asked for a recommendation from you about one of your works, what is the one book or story you would recommend to them?
JS: I would probably recommend a dark fiction chapbook that I’d like to compile in the near future. It’d be a convenient way for a new reader to check out my writing style and ideas.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?
JS: I think a 50-50 approach is fun to take. The characters sometimes have free will within a set idea that I have beforehand of what I’d like them to experience or be like. Visualizing the scenes they’re in is always a creative and analytical exercise.
NTK: What is your favorite monster?
JS: The Pontianak (a malevolent female spirit in Malaysian and Indonesian folklore), King Kong, or Godzilla.
NTK: As an Asian writer in the horror community, how has your experience been?
JS: As a writer of mixed ethnicity (Chinese-Eurasian) who has lived in different countries, it’s sometimes difficult to find the right balance in a story or piece of creative work. It can become very anxiety-inducing to think about whether the characters or story is inclusive enough to readers of different cultures and backgrounds. I try to stay focused on the plot and characters, and if race or geographic setting is integral to the story, then I do my best to write about it in an authentic way.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?
JS: I’d like to continue working on short stories and reading the horror anthologies on my bookshelf. One of my stories will be published in a Gluttony-themed anthology and I have some Singapore-based ghost stories in mind. Southeast Asia has a rich variety of paranormal lore which have stayed with me, even though I’ve lived halfway across the world for over a decade now. Thanks for checking out my interview–and best wishes for 2021!
Next Tuesday editors and authors from the new horror anthology, Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women will be featured on the next Skeleton Hour, the Horror Writers Association’s monthly horror literature webinar series. Please join Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, Rena Mason and myself for this event. You can register for the online event on Facebook here.
Leading up to this event I’ll be posting interviews with some of the Black Cranes so you have a chance to know them a little better ahead of time. Think of questions you want to ask because I believe there will be an opportunity for Q&A in the chat. Today we get a closer look at one of the minds that brainstormed this beautiful book into being—the warm and lovely Geneve Flynn.
Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specializes in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.
Geneve, thank you so much for taking the time to share your work in more depth. What are some of your favorite themes to explore?
I have a background in psychology, so I like thinking about what drives a character and why they make the choices they do. One of my favourite themes is that everyone has a hidden side, especially girls and women, because so much of our lives and our identities are about making others happy, putting others first, about shrinking ourselves. Everyone has a face for the public, and a face that no one sees. That’s the side I want a peek at.
Oh, I like that and I absolutely agree with you. How much of you as creator is hidden in your characters and stories?
I think there’s a bit of me in all my stories. When you’re able to take a deep breath and write authentically, exposing all parts of yourself – the palatable and unpalatable, that’s when a story comes alive.
In my story “The Fledgling,” I write about a mother’s guilt at failing her children because she’s trying to hold down a career. “Little Worm” explores the dilemma of individualism vs filial duty. It’s a question of who cares for aging parents and the expectations laid at the feet of women in families, especially Asian women, who are often seen as the caretakers, the dutiful daughters, the ones whose first and only prerogative is the family. This is something that’s looming for me at this point in my life, and it was an uncomfortable story to write, but it was honest.
As I’ve matured, I find I’m very much okay with knowing that the monsters in my stories also have a bit of me in them. This goes back to the hidden side of human nature. I think as you get older, you become much more comfortable with allowing that side out, and allowing it to live. I take a certain glee in celebrating the monstrous side.
The monstrous side is my favorite side, I think. As you say, it’s where I am myself. Tell us a bit about your heritage and your experience of ‘otherness.’ Has this influenced what you write?
I’m Chinese, born in Malaysia. When I was young, my family moved around because of my dad’s work. We lived in South Korea for eighteen months, in a visitor’s compound with one wonderful Canadian teacher for all the kids. I’d gotten a taste of a western education, and when I returned to the very strict Malaysian schooling system, I was miserable. I’d forgotten a lot of Malay and Chinese, so I spent my days struggling to understand what I was learning, terrified that I would be caned because my grades were dropping.
We emigrated to Australia when I was about eight years old. The school system was a lot better, but being one of only a few Asian kids, I came up against a lot of casual and not-so-casual racism. It’s waxed and waned over the years, flaring with political campaigns against Asian immigration and multiculturalism, and media reports of Asians “taking over” certain areas with property development.
My experiences have influenced what I write in that I can easily tap into that sense that the world is an unpredictable, unsafe, and sometimes hostile place. As a young woman, whenever I walked past a group of people, I never knew if I was going to be catcalled, told to “go back to your country,” or left alone.
How has this affected you as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? Has this changed over time, or not?
When I first started writing, the majority of what I’d read was by white, male writers. The very idea of writing Asian characters, Asian mythology, and Asian settings didn’t even occur to me. And when it did, I shied away from it, thinking that no one wanted to read stories like that.
I thought of myself first and foremost as a horror writer, and it’s only with Black Cranes that I’ve embraced being an Asianfemale horror writer.
As I’ve attended more and more writing conventions, I’m also delighted to continue to discover the breadth of perspectives in fiction. The hunger for diversity in publishing has definitely changed.
I’ve only identified as an Asian female author relatively recently as well, and I appreciate you sharing that. It’s empowering. What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
I remember reading the Chung Kuo dark sci-fi series by David Wingrove back in the 90s. The premise was a world where the Han Chinese have become the dominant race. While it was sprawling and ambitious in worldbuilding and scope, the depictions of Chinese culture and women were problematic. The Chinese were seen as a monolithic people, stuck in a cycle of stagnation and tradition. Women and girls were largely sexual objects, wives, and mothers.
On screen, there are countless examples of Asian women as highly eroticised, almost doll-like creatures. They’re passive, adoring girlfriends, dragon ladies, or martial artists. And very rarely the main character.
Comics were where I first saw a major Asian female character. My folks owned newsagencies (kind of like corner stores where you can buy newspapers and magazines), and I misspent a lot of my youth reading comics. Seeing Jubilation Lee, an Asian female mutant, in a storyline with Wolverine in the X-Men was pretty special. I was a bit bummed that the writers gave her storyline to Rogue in the movies.
A recent portrayal that I love is from the Netflix horror series, Kingdom, which is set three years after Japan invades Korea. Seo-bi is a female healer, caught in the midst of a mysterious plague outbreak. She’s brave and smart and driven to find out what’s causing the outbreak. She has no interest in romantic relationships. She’s not a wilting flower, needing rescue. Her story doesn’t revolve around a man’s.
These are the characters I want to see and read. Complex, determined, capable women, who drive their own stories.
Do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?
Well, obviously, all work by our wonderful Cranes. I loved Alma Katsu’s The Hunger. I found the examination of the American belief in manifest destiny fascinating. I’ve also enjoyed exploring more diverse works because there’s often that sense of being the other. Chikodili Emelumadu’s writing is wonderful, and I just finished Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, and The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle.
Oh, yes. The Hunger was brilliant. Can you tell us briefly about your last project and what you’re working on next?
I co-edited the anthology with fellow Australian editor Louise Zedda-Sampson, and we were thrilled with the quirky, scary, and inventive stories that came across our desks.
In terms of writing, I’m working on a story about Ching Shih. She went from a prostitute in a floating brothel to the most successful pirate in history, commanding 80,000 sailors at the height of her power. How did she do that? Of course, I have a monstrous answer.
Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specializes in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.
Natsume is an orphan who sees spirits called yokai. In Japanese folklore, Yokai are a class of monsters that are mostly portrayed as humans, but can shape shift into other forms. In Book of Friends, they are interchangeable as demons or spirits.
Not only can Natsume see them, but he has been tortured by them all his life. One day, Natsume meets a demon named Nyanko who is trapped in a lucky cat statue. Nyanko can also change into his natural form which is a giant cat three times the size of Natsume. It’s pretty scary when he stands over Natsume while he sleeps, wondering if he should eat him. Gives new meaning to waking up with a cat on your chest!
Nyanko tells Natsume his grandmother used to play games with demons. She saw the supernatural too and for reasons he is yet to understand, she locked hundreds of demon promises in a book called the Book of Friends. Whoever owns the book may call the demons and they have to obey their orders. Nyanko follows Natsume and kind of helps him because he wants the book himself to control demons. Natsume tells Nyanko he can have the book when he dies.
Just like any good hero, poor Natsume doesn’t want to own demons. He just wants to get rid of them so they stop trying to kill him. By calling the demon’s name, stuffing the paper with their name on it in his mouth and clapping, the demon promise is released from the book and therefore, the spirit is free to live their life without fear. However, if Natsume tears, burns, or in any other way destroys the page with their name on it, the demon will tear, burn, or die in whatever means the paper did.
During Natsume’s quest to free the demons, he meets many different, strange spirits. They remind me of the minister creature at Beetlejuice’s wedding. One spirit he meets (and eventually frees) is Tsuyukami, the God of Dew. Once worshipped by many, he has only one worshipper left, an old lady with little time to live. As his worshippers dwindle, Tsuyukami gets shorter and smaller until he is now just the size of Snap, Crackle, and Pop. He peeks around Natsume’s bowl one morning and asks him to be free.
Each spirit is different and I enjoyed finding out who Natsume will meet next! Some are sweet, like the one who used to be a swallow bird, and just wants to see the man who picked her off the pavement and put her back in her nest, but others are horrifying. This is a fun read for anyone into demons or spirits.
This manga is available at Amazon, for Kindle or print.
It’s never one thing that inspires me to write any story, and the same was true for “The Ninth Tale.” With the popular resurgence of a modernized Huli Jing, (Pinyin – húlijīng) or Fox Demon/Spirit portrayed in anime and video games with a blending of cultures and added superpowers, many of the original stories get muddled and lost to younger generations. Because of my mainly Chinese heritage, which I grew up knowing little about, I wanted to write a classic folktale-style story using the Chinese mythos versus the versions from other countries like the Japanese Kitsune, or Korean Kumiho.
In Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of myths, fables, and stories written in the mid 1600s to early 1700s, the majority of the works about the Huli Jing, Songling depicted the demon, and all women for that matter, as villains and the explanation behind men’s troubles. I knew I needed to take that and crush it. So I placed the character, traditionally seen and feared as a powerful woman, and set her in a time when the sexist practice of foot binding was at its peak yet nearing its end with changes occurring in the country’s political climate. Her complete disdain and disregard for the practice along with her sympathy for the women forced or encouraged to do it sets a character trait I wanted for my Huli Jing in the story.
I’ve always been fascinated by the contrast between the reverence for, and fear of women in East Asian mythos compared to the treatment of East Asian women by their male counterparts throughout history. I’m certain my curiosity began with the first stories I ever heard from my mom about powerful Thai female ghosts who’d enact their rage and vengeance upon their spouses.
Another component I wanted to incorporate in the story was East Asian interpretations for colors I’d mostly seen used in movies. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was introduced to Zhang Yimou’s films. JU DOU was the first, and I was mesmerized by the story, but most of all by the colors that cued my emotional responses during different scenes (although I didn’t realize they were having that effect on me at the time). Culturally, I grew up knowing that different colors symbolize different things, and Yimou had tapped into this ingrained knowledge visually. It took me years and several of his movies to figure out what he’d done. Not until HERO was it so obvious and profound. So I was taken aback when I watched SHADOW this past year in its beautiful but bleak monochrome hues. Where were the colors? The lack of them made me suspicious of all the characters. I felt dread and impending doom and not much else. Then it hit me during The Black Cranes Skeleton Hour panel that every character in the movie is a shade of bad, or black, hence the monochrome hues. Yimou had done it again but with the absence of color—genius. PAINTED SKIN, taken from one of the stories in Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, loosely adapted by filmmaker Gordon Chang, uses colors this way in his acclaimed film as well. But could I pull it off in a written story? I had to try.
Red or vermillion is a popular color in Chinese culture, symbolizing luck, joy, and happiness. It also represents celebration, vitality, and fertility in traditional Chinese color symbolism. Think of the red envelopes handed out for Chinese New Year and on other celebratory occasions, and the “power” tie color businessmen wear with suits. Chinese brides wear red to ward off evil. The color also represents the summer and the element of fire. Red is the only color that has two different and almost opposite meanings, as it can also represent jealousy and anger.
—In “The Ninth Tale” the Huli Jing sets off on her journey and is excited and feeling happy, so I emphasized that with the scarlet leaves. I pictured her pale skin glowing red underneath the canopy as she headed out of the forest to complete her celestial ascension.
Yellow is an imperial color in traditional Chinese color symbolism, representing power, royalty, and prosperity. It also represents the late summer season, the central direction, and earth.
—As the Huli Jing meets the farmer in his wheat fields, the yellow represents the future prosperity she would bestow upon him and his family for revering her. (Although banned, Fox Spirit worship is rumored to exist to this day in parts of northern China.)
Gold symbolizes wealth and riches in Chinese culture as well as most other cultures.
—In the very beginning of “The Ninth Tale” the Huli Jing acquires a pair of slippers embroidered with a gold chrysanthemum. A double meaning, since gold represents riches and the chrysanthemum represents nobility. I also used the color gold when describing the farmer’s wheat fields because good crops are representative of wealth.
Blue represents the element of wood, and symbolizes freedom, the heavens, immortality and advancement.
—When the Huli Jing in “The Ninth Tale” meets Xin, her rival, the young woman is pale and underwater with a blue hue to her skin, hinting at Xin’s character being carefree. That she’s feeling indestructible, and wanting advancement.
Green is similar to blue, but also represents harmony, wealth, growth, cleanliness and purity from contamination.
—In the story, the Huli Jing is often flying and dancing in the air with evergreen branches behind her, showcasing the Fox Demon’s ability to remain unfazed by the ordinary around her.
Black represents water, and also symbolizes destruction, evil, cruelty, and sadness. Hei is Chinese for black, but it also stands for bad luck, irregularity, and illegality.
—When the Huli Jing visits her lover Zhang, it is always at night, under the cloak of darkness, and his black hair, and dark eyes, and all the shadows and absence of color in his room portend his “deception” and the evil of his character in the story.
White represents the metal element in traditional Chinese culture, and also symbolizes purity and innocence. It’s also commonly associated with death, mourning, and funerals in China.
—From the white light that comes from the Huli Jing when she’s injured, emanating from her celestial self, to their glowing faces in the moonlight, I used a lot of white toward the end of the story to symbolize death and the Huli Jing’s ascension to the heavens. I also used the silver blade to represent the metal element of white.
In the end, I felt I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do when I’d thought of how I’d wanted to write my Huli Jing story. I’ve never really paid much attention to what colors might mean in stories that I’d read, but I know now that I’ll take a closer look and scrutinize whether or not the author wants me to feel a certain way with the colors they incorporate into their stories.
Rena Mason is an American horror author of Thai-Chinese descent, and a three-time Bram Stoker Award® winner of the The Evolutionist and The Devil’s Throat, as well as a 2014 Stage 32 /The Blood List Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest Quarter-Finalist. She has short stories, novelettes, and novellas published in various anthologies and magazines and writes a monthly column.
She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The International Screenwriters’ Association, and the Public Safety Writers Association.
An avid scuba diver, she enjoys traveling the world and incorporating the experiences into her stories. She currently resides in Reno, Nevada but plans to relocate to the Pacific Northwest in 2021. For more information visit her website: www.RenaMason.Ink
or follow her at:
Stage 32: Rena Mason
In the works, she’s co-editing and reading submissions for the next HWA anthology Other Fears slated for publication with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2022. She’s excited to be participating in an anthology that will amplify diverse voices in horror and for her role in representing the long line of great horror from the HWA Presents publications. Her next novel is near completion, and she is also writing some nonfiction, short fiction, and a screenplay.
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Womenwas inspired when two editors of Asian heritage arrived way too early for a panel at a conference in Brisbane. Geneve Flynn and I both laughed that we should fall so deeply into the conscientious Asian girl trope, and that set us to talking. We’d both been raised in predominantly Western cultures. How was it our behaviour was so influenced by our Asian heritage? Did we know any other Asian women writers? Where were the Asian horror writers? And where was the vehicle for our stories? Our voices? Although Flynn and I had communicated online, and I’d enjoyed some of her fabulous stories published by a mutual publisher, I hadn’t met her previously. I liked her immediately, finding her well-read, articulate, funny, humble (and of course, conscientious). Before we’d even entered the panel session, the cogs were turning, the two of us already sifting possibilities for the anthology we would co-edit.
Fast forward a year, and Black Cranes is a reality, the anthology comprising stories from many of our favourite authors of dark fiction, a hard-hitting foreword from Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger and The Deep, and published by boutique small press Omnium Gatherum behind a glorious Greg Chapman cover. In the short time since the book’s release, Geneve and I have been overwhelmed by the response to Black Cranes, not the least coming from Asian women writers of dark speculative fiction:
“As haunting and versatile as the Chinese erhu, the stories in Black Cranes pluck and bow the strings of the Southeast Asian experience with insightful depth and resonance.” —Tori Eldridge, author of the acclaimed Lily Wong novels, The NinjaDaughter and The Ninja’s Blade.
“A varied and fascinating collection of monsters, full of dazzling landscapes and writers to watch.” —E. Lily Yu, John Campbell Award winner and author of On Fragile Waves.
But my experience with Black Cranes has gone deeper than just the chance to work with some amazing writers. Two of my own stories appear in the anthology, inspired by my personal experience as a third-generation Chinese New Zealander. ‘Phoenix Claws’ is a contemporary comic horror focusing on that moment when a prospective partner meets the family, an awkward occasion, especially when the relationship involves a blending of cultures. Will the parents like them? What if that person unwittingly stomps on an important tradition? In ‘Phoenix Claws’ an unwritten litmus test of suitability involving chicken’s feet multiplies the awkwardness of that meeting.
‘Frangipani Wishes’ is a story sucked from my marrow, one of those tales that was never told to me, but somehow I knew it anyway. Perhaps I heard it whispered on frangipani scented winds while on visits to Hong Kong. Because of, or perhaps in spite of their source, these stories forced me to address my ongoing struggle with my Kiwi-Asian identity and the powerful expectations of self-erasure experienced by many Asian women. And in the case of ‘Frangipani Wishes’, a story pieced together from secrets, I experimented with a new-to-me prose-poem format to capture those shadowy origins. Here’s a short excerpt:
Some things you knew already. Some things you knew before you were born; they were revealed to you in the rhythm of your mother’s heartbeat and in the echoes of her sighs. Later, you heard it in the closing of doors, in the scuff of a suitcase, and the low hum of a ceiling fan.
the bitterness of smiles / the perfidy of eyes
That was back when you lived with your bones squeezed sideways into the spaces between the floorboards of your father’s villa, cowering from the sharp tongues of lesser wives and the cruel taunts of your half-sisters. Back when you were waiting to live, when you lived and waited, comforted by the soft scents of your silly frangipani wishes. Embroidering silk dreams, you waited, listening for the hundred-year typhoons that whipped across the harbour, tugging at rooftops, flattening shanties, and stealing away souls. Because only when the winds raged and the waters of the harbour thrashed, only when the villa rattled with unease, only then were the ghosts quiet. Only then, were you able to breathe.
* * *
Since the moment you were born, generations of hungry ghosts swirled around you, teasing the air, your breath, your hair. Not your fault, although First Wife and Little Wife and the entanglements who dwelled in your father’s villa, those living repositories of secrets, they blamed you still. They whispered behind their hands, hiding smiling teeth, muttering, uttering, chattering. Your mother had unleashed them, they said, spawned them as she spawned you, let the starving ghosts escape into the night. A hundred dragon’s teeth could not drive out such demons. Nor a thousand dragon teeth ground to powdered dust. It was as well she was gone.
Your mother might be a ghost herself; you didn’t know. No one had thought to tell you, although they said other things—mean, sunken, tortured things. Things with thin bony limbs and slender necks. Swollen bloated-bellied things which wormed their way beneath your ribs, pushing aside your lungs, where they took up residence: pulsing, and pulsing, and pulsing… You learned to live with them, the tortured, swirling wisps of ghosts and the ugly, swollen pustules lodged under your heart, while you waited for the tempests, while you waited to live, in your father’s villa on the hillside.
A cousin came to the villa. He worked in the textile business and came to weft and weave words with your father. A distant cousin, although not so distant. Little Wife called for you, she liked to see you underfoot, so you squeezed your way up to where the living roamed, hauling yourself from the damp crawlspace, through the gaps in the floorboards. Scrubbed and pretty, you served Distant Cousin tea in the salon, hands trembling with reverence, since he was your father’s guest. You served the sweet red bean cakes that were everyone’s favourite. You nibbled on the crumbs, caught the rifts of conversations, and a waft of sultry sandalwood. After that, Distant Cousin stayed on, stopping to play mah-jong with your father and his friends, their voices murmuring, and the tiles clattering long into the night.
the harbour / glints / in his eyes
Hello, little cousin, he whispered as he passed you days later in the hall, setting your insides aflutter, like the wings of the skylark Little Wife kept in a domed teak cage in her room. Just in time, you remembered to drop your head respectfully and hide your smile behind your hand.
* * *
Ongoing conversations with my Black Cranes contributors made me realise that my dance with themes of otherness and identity was just beginning, their insightful comments inspiring me to dig deeper into my own history. But how would I do that? And would there be any interest in that work?
No one wants to know. Maybe I should just keep quiet.
In May 2020, New Zealand journalist Karen Tay wrote in Stuff: “To be invisible in this world is to have your stories erased or reduced to the margin, which is how it’s largely been for many generations of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand. But in the past decade, New Zealand’s Chinese diaspora – from Kiwi-born Chinese, whose families arrived as long ago as the earliest Pākehā, to recent immigrants – is taking back the power by writing their own stories. They are no longer striving to keep their heads down and completely assimilate. Instead, these writers are sharing their own truths unapologetically and unequivocally…redefining on their own terms, one story at a time: the immigrant narrative.”
Could I add my own voice to those narratives described by Kay? Take back my power? Perhaps a longer prose poem narrative in the style of ‘Frangipani Wishes’?
Cogs turned again.
I consulted New Zealand’s archive site Past Papers, peeking into the lives of Chinese New Zealand women over the past century: a badly beaten Chinese woman falls from the second floor of a Taranaki tobacconist; in Taumarunui, a half-caste Chinese slices the throat of her new-born with a cleaver; in Wellington, a sixty-year-old hangs herself in a scullery. What experiences drove these women to commit such acts against themselves and their families? Could I also incorporate some of those stories alongside my own? I thought of Rena’s charming story ‘The Ninth Tale’ in Black Cranes, a chilling folkloric tale highlighting the Chinese mythology of the fox spirit—and was inspired again. I would write a series narrative prose-poems inspired and informed by real life narratives of New Zealand-Chinese women, connecting them through the various lives of the Chinese shapeshifting nine-tailed fox spirit, húli jīng, 狐狸精, as that creature attempts to ascend to the heavens.
Still, I wasn’t sure.
“Above all,” wrote Alma Katsu in her foreword to Black Cranes, “Asian women are supposed to be submissive. Obedient, invisible, without wants of her own, and so content to devote herself to making others happy. This is the expectation I found the hardest. But I found the mere expectation soul-crushing. That anyone could expect another person to negate themselves voluntarily.” Katsu goes on to demand that we “use the power of story to push back on these stereotypes. To show the damage they cause. To show that we’re made of flesh and blood.”
So, with Katsu’s words in my head, and encouraged and supported by my Black Cranes colleagues, Geneve Flynn, Christina Sng, and Rena Mason, I submitted the proposal to New Zealand’s Grimshaw Sargeson Trustees, and was thrilled to be awarded a 2021 fellowship to work on my project, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud.
“This is something very special,” the award convenor confided when she called to give me the good news.
Nor am I the only Black Cranes contributor who’s been inspired to continue the discussion opened in Black Cranes. Angela Yuriko Smith, publisher at Space and Time, was already focused on promoting marginalised voices, but it is clear her resolve has sharpened, both in her own writing and in her vision for the iconic magazine.
“I’ve been diving into all kinds of Thai myths and folklore, ghosts, spirit houses that they actually erect and bring items to, and it’s absolutely fascinating,” Rena Mason wrote in one email to me after the anthology was released. Determined to promote Asian and other marginalised groups and brimming with new project ideas, the three-time Bram Stoker Award-winner is currently working on the HWA’s anthology Other Fears, her first foray into editing. With the HWA anthology also addressing concepts of alienation and otherness and due for release in late 2021, I feel proud that she is continuing this important work.
As far as a sequel Black Cranes anthology is concerned, COVID has put a stop to unexpected conversations with new friends in convention centre lobbies for the moment, nevertheless, the cogs are turning…
Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning author-editor from Aotearoa-New Zealand (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows), and a three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominee. Her work includes military thrillers, the Taine McKenna Adventures, supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and debut collection Grotesque: Monster Stories. Her latest anthology projects are Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, co-edited with Geneve Flynn, and Midnight Echo #15. She is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, HWA Mentor of the Year, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021. Read more at leemurray.info.
Welcome to 2021 and our first theme month of the New Year! Because we here at HorrorAddicts.net strive to recognize and highlight as many different voices in horror as possible, we are excited to welcome you to Asian and Pacific Islander Horror Month. This month we will be featuring Asian authors, their books, movies, and experiences.
From Japan’s Kaiju (Godzilla) in 1954 to the gothic manga worldwide craze of the 90s and 00s, the world has been in love with Asian Horror and its monsters for decades. Yurei haunt us from every corner, shinigami invade our nightmares of the afterlife, and the recent unique fad of zombies in film terrifies us. Whether you’re a fan of more popular media such as Ringu, Train to Basan, and Death Note, or looking to expand your knowledge through more obscure and little-known stories of the culture, this month we’ll bring you all sorts of Asian-infused delights.
We hope you will enjoy the thrills, chills, and insight this month will bring you!
It’s one thing to discuss Victorian Memento Mori but it is quite another thing to sew several memorial pillows and a quilt out of t-shirts and sweatshirts for friends and family – especially during the Holidays. In 2020. In Pandemic Times. 😦 Enjoy the music as I stuff, pin, sew, and sew some more while discussing the pros and cons of making this kind of sentimental gift when you don’t really know how to quilt or have all that much Eagles green thread.
Join the conversation on our HorrorAddicts.net Facebook Group and Thank You for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage!
Yes it is Freaky Foods December and no it isn’t Halloween but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve a pumpkin! Out of practice farm girl Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets out the sharp objects to get good and messy first in gutting a pumpkin then using that puree mushy to bake some easy box muffins. Seeds will be saved for planting, too! How do you think we got pumpkin pie back in my day? Sit back and enjoy the festive sounds of the season calorie free while I set the blender smoking in the quest for some kind of gross but tasty holiday treats. Messy kitchen and black clothing mishaps included!
Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage! Join the conversation on our HorrorAddicts.net Facebook Group or tell Kbatz what YOU want to see in 2021 in our Online Survey!
Carol Of The Bells by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Artist: http://audionautix.com/
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100270 Artist: http://incompetech.com/
How to win: Comment on the vid about how much a planner fanatic you are or what you plan on writing in the coming year. Why do you need the Spooky Writer’s Planner? Comment on the vid on YouTube, Facebook Watch, Instagram, or HorrorAddicts.net to be entered into the giveaway drawing. Entries close on Jan. 6th, 2021. Winners will be announced via HorrorAddicts.net on Jan. 7th.
PLANNER INCLUDES 13 months of monthly and weekly spreads Monthly goal and recap sheets Weekly check-ins and note pages Writing challenges, planners, and instructions. Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers. Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners. Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses. Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.
Loren Rhoadsserved as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden: Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her short stories have appeared in the books Best New Horror #27, Strange California, Sins of the Sirens: Fourteen Tales of Dark Desire, Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, and most recently in the magazines Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Space & Time.
Emerian Richis the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.
In our round table interview, these talented ladies spoke of their newest creation, The Spooky Writer’s Planner.
NTK: What inspired The Spooky Writer’s Planner?
LR: I am a planner junkie. To be honest, I have trouble deciding what to do next, especially if projects have multiple steps, so I really need a planner to take the stress out of deciding how to move forward on a project. I kept buying new systems, hoping to find one that would tame my chaos, but no single system ever had all the forms I wanted or needed. I tried cobbling together a bunch of different systems, but it was ugly and frustrating.
ER: I wanted a planner that fit my needs better than any of those on the market. I’m kind of a planner fanatic. I buy several every year to try and “Frankenstein” one planner that will fit all my needs. I was talking to Loren about this and she has the same problem, so we join forces to create this one. We figured, even if no one else finds it helpful, at least we’ll have our perfect planner in our hands.
NTK: How did the planner come about? What started this awesome collaboration?
LR: I turned to Emerian and asked if she would consider designing the perfect planner for me. Once we got talking about the project, she realized that she could make a planner that was perfect for her, too. So, then we started sending our favorite planner pages back and forth, talking about what worked for us and why. That part was really fun.
I think she was startled by just how many planners I’ve tried over the years, though.
NTK: Who came up with the name?
LR: I credit Emerian for that. We went back and forth between Spooky Author’s Planner and Spooky Writer’s Planner, but I think she made the right choice to make it more inclusive.
ER: I think it was a collaborative brainstorm.
NTK: What are some of the problems you’ve encountered with other planners? Did you address these specifically when creating the Spooky Writer’s Planner?
LR: Other author planners that I’ve experimented with focused on things that weren’t useful to me. The one I started with last year spent pages on choosing editors and logging finances. The one I used in the middle of the year spent an enormous amount of time on figuring out how many hours you have to write in a week, then on choosing projects you can finish in those hours. Which required a much better understanding of how long projects take to complete than I have!
So, we stripped our planner back to what we really need as authors: a place to track submissions, a form for developing characters and one for world-building, weekly lists of deadlines, a way to track big projects, a game for collecting rejection slips as a way to inspire us to take chances on pitching to new markets, a system to celebrate successes… I am so bad at tracking things that I sat down earlier this month to figure out how many pieces I’ve had published in 2020. It was way more than I thought! I kept coming across interviews I’d forgotten I’d done. I need a place where I can log all of that and be able to track it better.
ER: Planners usually don’t address the needs of a writer’s life. They don’t account for charting progress or keeping track of submissions. So, often, a writer will have a planner and then other books or sheets to keep track of all that. With this planner, writers will have all that information all in one place. Easy to track and most of all, easy to access. We’ve also made the planner customizable. If you want a print book, we have that, but if you only use certain sheets or certain spreads, you can get the digital copy so you only print what you use.
NTK: There are inspirational quotes and tips included in the planner. How did you choose them and how did you come up with them? Are these tips and quotes personal to you?
LR: Years ago, I belonged to a writers group called the Red Room Writers Society. One Christmas, they gave us each a little red leather-bound book called a Commonplace Book, for collecting quotes that inspired us. Every time I see something about writing, I copy it down in my Commonplace Book. I’m really thrilled to share some of my favorite quotes in the planner.
A lot of the tips came from a seminar Emerian and I did at BayCon a couple of years ago. The topic was “How to Get Out of the Slush Pile.” We talked about what you can do as an author to improve your chances with an editor. Emerian suggested we include some of that in the planner, which I thought was a great idea.
ER: The tips and tricks are things we’ve learned during the combined 50 years of publishing experience we have. We give tips on publishing, submitting, marketing, and social media. We’ve also got quick tasks listed. Only have five minutes? We give you ideas on how to use that time to benefit your writing schedule.
NTK: Is the planner available in print and digital forms? Where can Horror Addicts find it?
LR: Yes! Emerian wanted a book-style planner. I wanted to be able to print pages as I needed them and keep them in a three-ring binder. So, we each got what we wanted! The paperback version is available on Amazon. The digital download is for sale on Etsy.
ER: They can find it on Amazon for the print version and Etsy for the digital version. We show the different types with pictures and examples, here.
NTK: Do you have any plans for future collaborations?
LR: I would love to work with Emz again. For a long time, I’ve been in awe of how many things she accomplishes and how incredibly creative she is. She was really a driving force in getting this planner done. I did a lot of the “fun” work, pulling together sample planners and daydreaming about the pages I wanted, but she did the hard imaginative design work. I kibitzed and proofread—which I love—but she had to make my suggestions real. She made the process really fun for me. I hope it was as much fun for her!
ER: I am so thrilled to be collaborating on this planner. Loren has been one of my favorite creators for years, even before I knew her, I admired her ‘zine Morbid Curiosity. Now that we’re friends, I’m still inspired every day by the way her brain works and the fun topics she comes up with, so you never know! PS… we’ve just been told we’ll be sharing a fiction TOC soon, so… stay tuned!
Second Life/Milkwood event: Edmund Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Second Life/Milkwood event: Blitz Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Facebook Group: Michael F. Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Facebook Group: Mark T. Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Facebook Group: (runnerup) Irene W. free fiction read from the HA library Facebook Group: (runnerup) Matthew R. free fiction read from the HA library
We will be in contact with you soon, but if you don’t hear from us, please email your info to us.
Congratulations and Happy Reading!
Did you miss your chance at winning? Not yet!
Coming up on December 30th, We’ll have a Facebook Watch & YouTube video with more chances to win.
Join Emerian Rich from HorrorAddicts.net Press on Second Life to chat about their new project the Spooky Writer’s Planner and find out why she and fellow writer, Loren Rhoads, decided to tackle such a big task. Emz will explain what makes this planner different from all the others and how it can make your life as a writer easier. One lucky attendee will win a digital copy of this brand new publication. Join us on Second Life at: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Milk%20Wood/71/62/22
In the cult classic black comedy, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, one of the random acts of violence perpetrated by these deadly nightshades was that a man was attacked by a BLT sandwich. What a horribly boring way to die. If I’m going to go out, I think that should be one killer BLT. Here’s my attempt at such a monster.
Yield: 1 sandwich
3 slices of favorite thick cut bacon, pancetta, and/or prosciutto
1/4 cup arugula, or your favorite lettuce
2 Tbsp Creamy Tomato Spread (see below)
1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 slices sourdough bread, or your favorite bread
Frying pan, skillet, or griddle
Grill the bacon over medium heat until fully cooked and is to your preferred level of crispiness. Set aside on paper towels to soak up the grease.
Butter both sides of each piece of bread and grill until golden on both sides.
Add shredded cheese to one slice of bread, allowing it to melt.
Layer the bacon on top of the melted cheese. Spread some Creamy Tomato Spread on the other slice of bread, and sprinkle on arugula. Put other slice of bread on top.
Cut in half and serve.
Creamy Tomato Spread
Yield: about a cup (for about 8 servings)
Serving Size: about 2 Tbsp per sandwich, to your taste
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or 2 garlic cloves, minced)
1/4 tsp dried basil (or 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped)
1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped)
1/4 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp hot sauce (optional, for a little kick)
6 oz can of tomato paste
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, herbs, spices, sugar, and salt together and mix well.
Add the tomato paste and yogurt. Mix until well combined and smooth.
Save in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. This will stay fresh for about a week.
If you have a panini sandwich press or the like, feel free to use it instead, but I’m partial to an old-fashioned grilled sandwich myself.
I’ve never been a fan of tomatoes on sandwiches. They’re messy and I don’t find their plain flavor terribly appetizing. This spread on the other hand brings all the flavor to the party.
This sandwich pairs wonderfully with a nice hot bowl of tomato bisque, to really show those tomatoes who’s boss.
For ice cream sundae treats in America we have King Cones and Drumsticks, but the rest of the civilized world has the Cornetto. In Shaun of the Dead, a couple of mates share a pair of Strawberry Cornetto cones which were bought while blissfully not noticing the zombies shuffling down the street. Good thing those Cornettos gave them the energy to fight off the zombies and defend the Winchester pub.
A Strawberry Cornetto is described as being “a crispy baked wafer coated from top to bottom with a chocolatey layer, combined with delicious vanilla-flavour ice cream and strawberry fruit ice, topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate curls.”
That means we could assemble some from a quick trip to the shop to fetch:
Sugar cones, Magic Shell chocolate topping, strawberry ice or sorbet, vanilla ice cream, strawberry syrup, and white chocolate chips. I will describe how to assemble your own sundae cones, but I will also provide recipes for most of the components.
If you want to make strawberry sorbet, strawberry syrup, and vanilla ice cream all from scratch, the recipes follow. If you just want to buy the constituent parts and assemble, feel free to skip past the recipes and move on to the assembly instructions at the bottom.
Find a contraption that will let you stand your cones upright in your freezer. I think an egg carton would work quite well. If you have fluted glasses that you can easily get the cone in and out of, they could work well also.
Cut pieces of waxed paper to fit around your sugar cones and provide about 2 inches of clearance above the top of the cones. This will provide a mold for the ice cream crown. Set the wax paper sheets aside for now.
Using a squeeze bottle, coat the inside of your sugar cones with the chocolate topping. Make sure the bottom of the cone on the inside has a nice well of chocolate. Prop your cones standing up in your freezer and chill until the chocolate is solid.
Spoon in enough strawberry sorbet into the cone to come up just under the edge of the top of the cone. Return to the freezer until the sorbet is solid.
Wrap the cones in the waxed paper and tape to keep them on. Spoon in soft vanilla ice cream, almost to the top of the waxed paper.
Using a squeeze bottle, drizzle on some strawberry syrup and sprinkle white chocolate chips on top. Return to the freezer and allow these to harden up. These will stay fresh in your freezer for about a week.
These sundae cones are very simple to assemble whether you make all the ingredients yourself or use off-the-shelf treats. On a hot day, especially here in Arizona, these are so wonderful.
I’ve never personally eaten a Strawberry Cornetto, and I know they are quite beloved in the U.K. and elsewhere. Please accept this humble sundae not as a replacement for a treasured treat, but for one crazy yank’s attempt to know such bliss.
Christie Crapeticio, known as “EmoWeasel,” is a San Francisco-based illustrator who draws comics, children’s books, horror art, and pattern designs. She went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. While attending school, she studied comic book art and children’s books.
EmoWeasel has been busy since we last spoke. Here’s what she’s been up to.
NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, EmoWeasel! I hear you have a new comic series. What is it about?
EW: The comic series is called Demon Eye. It is a war fantasy. Here is the small elevator pitch:
Cirsto is forced to return home from a war she created. Once home she gets to see her old friends and family and is reminded of who she has truly failed. They all hope they can get back to where they were, but Cirsto knows she can’t be what she was. Haunted by her past actions she knows she can never be the friend they once loved.
Now Cirsto must readapt to the old ways of life while being plagued by what she has become.
NTK: Who are the main characters?
EW: The main character is named Cirsto. She is a wolf-demon from the Clover pack. The other supporting main characters are Garien, Panda, Alek, and Jay. They are all humans.
NTK: What inspired this new series?
EW: This has been a dream project of mine since I was 13, so it’s been a project I’ve been working on literally half my life.
While growing up I never had a lot of friends, so I loved to either watch cartoons and stuff and that always sparked stories in my head.
One day when I was in middle school, I saw a show called Naruto and I just fell in love with it! I started to watch it and read it and almost studied it. And after seeing the show and loving how it was built, I decided to finally put my overactive mind into use and start building my own story!
Working on Demon Eye has been one of my biggest drives to follow my art dreams. It’s because of the comic that I went to school, the Academy of Art University, here in San Francisco.
NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it?
EW: Currently it is on Tapas.io, WEBTOONS, and my art Facebook page (@EmoWeasel). But it is getting printed into a comic book now! The book was supposed to be out on November 26, but due to printing problems, it will be available in my Etsy shop, Square shop, and Book shop on December 26. It will also be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble on January 26. (keeping the 26 theme for all the months.) (Laughs.)
It should be available for preorder on Etsy and Square around the beginning of December. For the preorders, you can get some special stuff! Like a signed book, two special dye cut stickers and a print! These specials will only be available for preorders.
NTK: You also have a new podcast. What’s it called and what’s it about?
EW: The podcast is a spooky! It is done like the old radio shows back in the day. It is called Koszmar, and it is a dream project by the creator, in both senses because she’s wanted to make this come true and it’s based off a nightmare she had.
“In this story, we join a Detective, a washed-up recovering drunk who is transferred to Shaker Heights to work on a string of murder cases to find the culprit. As the Detective draws the strings together, he’s haunted by a past he cannot shake. Will he survive the nightmare? Join us on our journey with the Detective to try and solve the riddle behind the Widow’s Creek Lullaby.”
NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it?
EW: It is on Spotify, apple music, and most podcast platforms.
NTK: What does the future hold? What new projects are on the horizon?
EW: So much is happening while nothing is happening at the same time. (Laughs.) I will be doing some fun short comics soon. One of the comics I will be doing is actually based off the podcast, so viewers will soon get to see the true horror that is the story.
Besides comics I am working my butt off the get my online stores looking pretty and also, I hope to finally get my art classes up and running. I will be doing comic classes, of course, and some fun crayon craft classes.
NTK: Thank you for joining us, EmoWeasel! It’s a pleasure as always!
EW: You’re welcome!
Addicts, you can find EmoWeasel on Facebook, and Instagram. Discover her work on her Etsy page. You can pre-order Demon Eye at her Etsy and Square sites. The book will be available December 26, 2020.
It’s your put earrings in your ears reminder! Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz is breaking out the tacky and gaudy orange bling for a little chat about jewelry making basics, where to get affordable beading supplies, cheats for those of us with dexterity issues, and the endless possibilities of making your own earrings, necklaces, or bracelets to coordinate with your style. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to add personality to your wardrobe – even if that’s just orange and black beads to go with Halloween pajamas in December! Terrible camera angles and talking Italian hands that spill the bead tray are included free of charge.
Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage! Tell Kbatz what you’d like to see with our Online Survey or join the conversation on our Facebook Group!
Join Emerian Rich from HorrorAddicts.net Press on Second Life to chat about their new project the Spooky Writer’s Planner and find out why she and fellow writer, Loren Rhoads, decided to tackle such a big task. Emz will explain what makes this planner different from all the others and how it can make your life as a writer easier. One lucky attendee will win a digital copy of this brand new publication. Join us on Second Life at: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Milk%20Wood/71/62/22
Welcome to the Spooky Writer’s Planner Event Calendar. We have many delightful events planned for your enjoyment and edification. Be sure to join us for interviews, tales of inspiration, excerpts, and parties galore! We would be most honored by your presence.
Do you write horror, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, paranormal romance, or fairy tales?
Are you a spooky blogger, macabre non-fiction columnist, or haunt travel vlogger?
Are you ready to stop dreaming and be a writer?
Are you an author who wants to take your career to the next level?
13 months of monthly and weekly spreads
Monthly goal and recap sheets
Weekly check-ins and note pages
Writing challenges, planners, and instructions
Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers
Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners
Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses
Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.
Authors Loren Rhoads and Emerian Rich share the tricks they’ve learned over the course of a combined 50 years in publishing, from working with traditional New York publishers, small presses, and as indie publishers themselves.
PRINT: The Spooky Writer’s Planner is perfect-bound with a glossy cover, printed on high-quality 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Everything you need is included in one handy book you can grab and go! Have book, will travel!
DIGITAL: The quick-download version gives you a digital copy so you can print the pages you want, print multiples of those you think you’ll use the most, leave those you won’t use, and create your own Frankenstein’s Monster of a planner! These pages are designed to be printed on 8.5 x 11-inch paper. You can put them in a three-ring binder, bind them with disks, or a spiral, as you choose. You can print different sheets on different colors.
At 3:37 am on November 8th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: May The Devil Take You, Too!
Viewer discretion Advised
Plotline: Two years after escaping from a demonic terror, Alfie and Nara try to continue their lives, but Alfie is still haunted by feelings of guilt and unnatural visions.
Who would like it: Everyone who loved the 1st movie, fans of occult films, possessions, gore hounds, Fx fans, and international horror movies
High Points:This was a really good sequel with a original story line from the 1st.
Overall: Love it…better than the 1st
Where I watched it: Shudder
Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains. Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.
When she’s not reviewing indie horror and science fiction films for HorrorAddicts she’s terrorizing her fans with new written horrors and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences.
Fat Planet When a popular fitness guru and his students are kidnapped by aliens, who worship food and physical heft, he tries to help them save their kind.
The Corpse GrindersWhen the owners of the Lotus Cat Food Company, who manufacture an exotic, high priced type of kitty chow, run short of cash, they find themselves in big trouble with their suppliers. The two disreputable partners soon turn to a new and plentiful source for product fresh cadavers! Grave robbing and unreported murders soon provide plenty of raw material for “the food cats crave” but there’s only one problem, cats all over town have begun attacking and killing their human owners, filled with a newly found taste for human flesh!
(They also have the sequels 2, and 3.)
Bad Taste This intergalactic fast-food chain has human flesh on the menu. When aliens snack on a small town, it’s up to Derek and friends to save the day.
Cannibal Collector A guy, who obsessively collects food for his own weird museum, refuses to consume his precious vittles and resorts to alarming acts of cannibalism.
Cannibal Girls Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin star in this Canadian horror spoof as a couple on a romantic holiday who settle into a quaint little bed-and-breakfast run by a trio of flesh-eating ladies who fancy them for tomorrows menu.
Originally posted on HorrorAddicts.net December 2014
When it comes to the holiday spirits, I’m not talking about the Ghost of Christmas Past, or that chain-rattling spectre of Jacob Marley. No, I speak of something even more frightening: Holiday Hooch!
As the song goes, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” One sure way to stay warm is with a little nightcap. It’s no surprise that many drinks this time of year are heated up. Hot buttered rum, egg nog, mulled wine, just to name a few. Hot apple cider and hot cocoa shouldn’t be missed either.
So in keeping with the intoxicating tradition, I am sharing three of my favorite drinks that will make the season, and your nose, bright. Just stay safe, my fellow Horror Addicts. We want to see you have a prosperous new year.
This drink is one of my own devising. Instead of mundane eggnog, I leave this as a treat for Krampus. When he visits my very naughty children, this tends to please him and he has yet to torture my kiddos. Clearly they have been very naughty if Santa is not only forgoing the coal, but sending Krampus to punish them. I like to think this drink encourages his mercy. They are just children after all, and I believe that children are our future. Oh, sorry. Almost broke into song there. My apologies.
About one quart
Roughly 5 to 6 drinks
1/4 cup (2 oz) Sanguinaccio Dolce sauce (or melted dark chocolate)
2 cups (1 pint) half & half
1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 oz brandy or bourbon
3 oz black spiced rum or coffee liqueur
dashes of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa powder
double boiler, or a large pot with a large bowl that sits snug on top
First, either prepare a small batch of Sanguinaccio Dolce sauce, or melt some dark chocolate in a double boiler, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat up the half & half and sugar, over high heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
In a blender, add the eggs and sanguinaccio dolce (or melted chocolate). Blend on low speed for about one minute.
With blender still running, slowly add the warmed half & half and blend for about 30 more seconds.
Add the alcohol and blend until the everything is frothy, about 2 minutes.
Some people like warm nog. If so, serve immediately. If you and your guests prefer chilled nog, put your blender carafe into the fridge and chill for at least an hour. When ready to serve, put the blender carafe back on the motor and blend for about 30 seconds to combine everything together again and restore the froth.
Pour into glasses and serve with dashes of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.
Slowly pour in the warmed dairy mixture
Blend until frothy
This recipe makes just about one quart, a perfect amount for the average blender. If you want to make a party punch bowl version of this, then multiply by however many quarts your punch bowl can safely hold. Just remember that this is an egg-based drink. It is not a good idea to let this just sit around at room temperature.
I used to make this with Kahlúa, as the coffee and chocolate flavors go together so perfectly. Then I discovered Tia Maria, and ditched Kahlúa like a bad habit. I personally find it to be smoother and less sweet.
However, my beloved wife hates coffee. In an attempt to alter this exalted recipe, I have found that black spiced rum adds a deeper spice to the drink as well as a darker hue to the beverage that is in keeping with a drink fit for Krampus. Of course, for a twist on the horror angle, you could try REDRUM. If you try that, let me know how it tastes.
Finally, let’s address the demon in the room. Yes, sanguinaccio dolce is my traditional chocolate sauce for this drink, and yes, it contains pig’s blood. Of course you can melt chocolate or even use chocolate syrup, in a pinch. I do understand if drinking a small amount of pig’s blood turns you off… in a drink made with chicken eggs. And booze. I have had more compliments on this drink when made with sanguinaccio vs. mundane chocolate. In the end, I leave it up to you.
This is delicious any time of year, but I inevitably get asked to make it during Yule and Christmas Eve parties. I hope it becomes a tradition at your home as well. For us it has been Dad tested, Krampus approved.
This twist on the traditional mimosa is named after Bela Lugosi and features the juice of blood oranges. It has become a favorite for a toast on New Year’s Eve, as well as for brunch on New Year’s Day.
2 oz champagne
3 oz blood orange juice
dash of grenadine (optional)
1 slice blood orange
In a champagne flute, pour blood orange juice and champagne. Add grenadine to provide extra color.
Garnish with a slice of blood orange.
It can be hard to find blood oranges year round, but they are in season during the winter. That makes a New Year’s toast with this drink the perfect time to enjoy it.
“I never drink… wine,” said the Count. I’m sure he would have added, “vithout bubbles.” No? How about this… “Bela Mimosa’s dead. Undead, straight to my head.” Admit it. You’re singing that right now. My work here is done.
Twelfth Night Lambswool (Hot Wassail)
In the Christian tradition, the Feast of the Epiphany is held on January 6, celebrating the birth of Jesus and the visit by the three wise men. The night before Epiphany is known as Twelfth Night, as it is the twelfth night of Christmastide, following Christmas.
For those that might follow an older path and celebrate Yule instead, Twelfth Night follows as well as the end of the Yuletide celebrations. However as Yule begins on December 20th, this means Yuletide Twelfth Night is December 31st, the end of the year.
In both traditions, there is a toast to good health and good harvest, called a wassail (from the Old English wæs hæl, which means “be you healthy”) which was raised with a drink of the same name.
Hot wassail is a cousin of mulled wines and ciders, but is instead usually made with mead or ale. Lambswool is but one ancient version of the drink which keeps the apple pulp in the drink.
750ml (or two 12 oz bottles) honey mead
12 oz hard apple cider
12 oz ginger beer (or ginger ale)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups no-sugar-added applesauce
In a large saucepan, combine the mead, cider, and ginger beer. Add the sugar, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and cloves. Cook over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar and meld the flavors together.
Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves, then add the applesauce. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour mixture into blender and puree together until the apples form a frothy head.
Serve warm immediately.
Yes, the traditional recipe requires coring and baking six apples (at 250°F for about an hour) then pureeing them. Normally I’m all about the traditional methods and freshest ingredients. However, we’re talking about making applesauce, which you can so easily purchase. For once, I say use the store-bought jar of applesauce. Just get the kind with no sugar added and no funny extra ingredients.
I love a good mulled wine, but I think a hot lambswool wassail may be the best thing to kill the chill of Twelfth Night.
They tell me this is Freaky Foodie Month here at HorrorAddicts.net, so I’ve wandered down into the kitchen area of the basement laboratory and cobbled together a tasty little treat that I hope will satisfy the palate of even the most discriminating connoisseur de frissons. And yes, there will be dessert. I call this offering:
Submitted for Your Approval – A Man with No Upper Lip
Rod Serling got his start as a writer by winning a radio contest, after spending a few years in the Pacific Theater jumping out of airplanes in order to expedite the extermination of Japanese soldiers. He gradually worked his way up to the new medium of television in time for what is considered its Golden Age, a period when every evening brought Great Dramas into the homes of millions of Americans. Serling wrote his fair share of those Great Dramas, including Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Both were later made into movies and are considered high points of that Golden Age.
This was all heady stuff for a decorated war veteran and one of early television’s cadre of angry young men, but Serling wanted more. He yearned for a vessel into which he could pour his social concerns about censorship, racism, and war, and maybe exorcise the psychological demons left over from his military service. Alas, comfortable and complacent Middle America wasn’t ready to have its collective face shoved into its sins, and so a more allegorical approach was called for.
The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959. For five years, Serling, along with collaborators Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, created a series of little morality plays couched in the more palatable tropes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales. And then, it was gone, cancelled by the suits, only to reappear in the realm of perpetual syndication, where it lives on even today. Sixties television devolved into an endless parade of sitcoms, many of them with a supernatural bent; westerns; shoot-em-up action dramas; variety shows; spoofs of comic books and spy movies; and body counts from the Vietnam War on the evening news.
Like the War, the Sixties slopped over into the next decade. Popular music continued on much as before, not yet sullied by the arrival of disco. The usual array of genres persisted on television. And the news was still just as depressing as ever. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Serling spent the second half of the Sixties much as he had the Fifties, writing dramas for a medium that had turned out to be too small for him. He wrote a successful teleplay about an airline high-jacking, and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that was as weighted towards modern concerns as the original story was towards the social ills of the Victorian Era. He created a high-brow western series called The Loner that only lasted one season, and lent his distinctive voice and stiff-upper-lip visage to a number of commercials.
At the end of the decade, he came up with a made-for-TV movie superficially similar to his last great success. Night Gallery was an anthology of three spooky stories, more horror-based than Twilight Zone ever was. Serling introduced each tale by revealing a painting inspired by it. Hence, the ‘gallery’ part of the title. The middle section, Eyes, starring Joan Crawford, was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was his first professional media job, and very nearly her last. Her final performance came a few years later in Night Gallery’s spin-off series, The Sixth Sense. More on that, and her, and him later in this space. Stay tuned!
Night Gallery was picked up for regular broadcast in 1971, one of a set of four titles that rotated weekly episodes as part of what was called a wheel series. The other show that survived Four in One’s only season was the fish-out-of-water detective show McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver. McCloud moved over into another wheel series with two other long-running mysteries, Columbo and McMillan and Wife. Night Gallery went into regular production as a weekly program. Win for Serling!
But not quite as much as before. More of the same, but less, I’m afraid. This is not to say that Night Gallery wasn’t a good program; it was. It just wasn’t The Twilight Zone. But then, what was? Not even a major motion picture and a couple of revival series have been able to recapture that particular lightning-bolt-in-a-bottle.
It might have helped had Serling been able to exert more creative control than he was allowed, but that was not to be. Still, Night Gallery is not a series to be brushed aside without due consideration. It adapted some of the great stories in the genre, including works by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, Algernon Blackwood and Robert Bloch, and by Serling’s old pal from Twilight Zone days, Richard Matheson.
Christianna Brand is not a name well-known to horror enthusiasts, I suspect. She was a mystery writer of some renown, but she only wrote enough horror tales to fill one collection, What Dread Hand?, published in 1968. One of the yarns therein, ‘The Sins of the Fathers’, first appeared, as far as I have been able to ascertain, in The Fifth Pan Book of Horror Stories. It was edited by Herbert van Thal four years previously. If you’re not familiar with this delightful series of anthologies, I urge you to haunt whatever used paperback vendors you have available to you and track down as many editions as you can get your talons into. I shall have more to say later on regarding the estimable Mijnheer van Thal, but for now, the dish upon the table is getting cold. And a little, um, congealed.
Sin eating is an old practice found in Wales and those English counties bordering Wales, in which a poor person would be hired for a nominal sum to dine upon bread and ale placed atop the corpse of a recently deceased sinner as it lay in state. The sins of the late reprobate would transfer, through the bread and ale, to the soul of the diner, preventing the lamented one from wandering the Earth as a vengeful spirit. The question remains, what of the sins of the sin eater, both original, and those acquired through gustation? What keeps that worthy in his grave? Therein lies the tale.
‘Sins of the Father’ was one of two stories presented in the second episode of Night Gallery’s second season, airing on February 23, 1972. It starred, among others, Barbara Steele, she of the vast, magnetizing eyes long familiar to horror aficionados from her performances in such classic terror films as Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Ghost. Frequent Oscar nominee and future winner Geraldine Page was along for the bumpy ride, as well, along with soon-to-be John-Boy Walton Richard Thomas, former Batman butler Alan Napier, and Michael Dunn, who had just recently completed a long run as master villain Dr. Miguelito Loveless on the classic spy-western show, The Wild Wild West.
Dunn scours the Welsh countryside on half of his master, who lies three days dead, covered in a feast of lamb and cakes and cheeses. The servant is in search of a sin eater, one who has not already succumbed to the plague and famine ravaging the land. With time running out, he finds his last option too sick with disease and hunger to travel the distance, but that sin eater has a son. The boy absconds with the food without taking on the sins of the dead man, but when he returns home, finds his own father dead. Where are that sin eater’s sins to go, but into the starving mouth of the next one in line?
Not so horrifying in the brief description, perhaps, but like any fine meal, there’s so much more in the presentation. Even better, every name mentioned above has a genre pedigree that dates back, in some cases, into the silent era. Lots of material for future installments.
I did mention dessert, yes? Well, Stanley Ellin is another mystery writer of historical significance who dabbled in the macabre. His first published short story, ‘Specialty of the House’, is one of those that really sticks to the ribs, so to speak. A restaurant that caters to a very particular clientele offers an occasional specialty that only the best customers get to sample, or participate in the preparation thereof. Creepiness is on the menu, served with healthy dollop of frisson on the side.
‘Specialty of the House’ has been reprinted in dozens of periodicals, collections and anthologies since it was first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in the May, 1948 issue. It was adapted to television during the fifth season of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents show and broadcast on December 13, 1959, and on the revival of that series on March 21, 1987. Robert Morley, whose turn upon the spit in Theatre of Blood also involves food, stars. That classic film deserves its own lengthy consideration, rather than a superficial glossing over here, so more on that later.
The first one is available for viewing here:
In the early Seventies, Vincent Price was among several stars who were part of an attempted revival of old-time radio in the modern era. His BBC program, The Price of Fear, featured an adaptation of the yarn on April 13th, 1974. It can be found on You Tube or in the Internet Archives. Worth seeking out!
So, there it is. Hope you enjoyed my little concoction. Would you like an aperitif? A little libation to wash it all down with? Don’t worry, there will be more coming, perhaps sooner than you think. Stay blood-thirsty, my friends. And, as always –
Simon Osborne was born in 1970 in Cornwall, UK, and started acting professionally in British TV at the age of 10. At the age of 17, he played Prime Minister Pitt the Younger in BBC TVs Blackadder 3. He appeared in many productions before and after but is best known for Blackadder. Later, he studied history and has spent a few years working in heritage in Wales, UK. His wife Penny also works in heritage and his son William is studying film at University in the UK. As well as being a behind the scenes blogger, Simon is now considering going back into acting.
NTK: Welcome, Simon! Thank you for joining me today!
SO: Thank you for having me, Naching.
NTK: How old were you when you decided you’d like to be an actor?
SO: I think about eight or nine when I first seriously did. A BBC series was being filmed in my remote Cornish village, and I thought ‘I could do that!’
NTK: Where did you start? Did you start in plays or did you go straight to television acting?
SO: Straight to TV professionally, but I had done amateur Pantomimes in my village first.
NTK: Could you explain what Pantomimes are for our American audience?
SO: I just thought of that! (Laughs.) They are sort of comic morality stories, usually of Medieval folk origins and often have musical numbers in them. Traditionally the young male lead will be played by a young woman, and an old woman part will be played by a man. Although a moral tale the main theme is fun. Sort of comedy musical fairy tales.
Peter Pan is one and Cinderella.
NTK: Did these pantomimes prepare you for acting on television? Or are the skills used completely different?
SO: It prepared me for performing, gave me confidence in my acting abilities and experience in live performance.
NTK: What was your first television role?
SO: I played the lead role in a sort of Horror story for British schools made by Thames TV. It was for children so not too scary.
NTK: Was that “The Shadow Cage?”
SO: Yes, it’s from a book of short stories by the late author Philippa Pearce. “The Shadow Cage” being the main story.
NTK: What is the story about? And what was your role?
SO: It starts in Victorian England. An old woman is accused of being a witch. One night her cottage is burned to the ground, and her with it. Skip to modern day and a farmer ploughing where the remains of the cottage are. He digs up an old bottle with some dried strange powder inside. This bottle ends up in the hands of the farmers nephew Kevin (that’s me!) Having this bottle causes dreams of Victorian England, the witch, and makes him walk around at night in the village followed by whistling spirits! Or are they?
NTK: Are you a fan of horror or scary stuff?
SO: Not always! I don’t like needless blood and things, but I definitely think much more atmosphere can be caused by tension and what you don’t see. I loved staying up late at night as a child to watch black and white horror films like The Mummy! I think being black and white added to the atmosphere, tension and enjoyment.
NTK: Was this the Universal Mummy or the Hammer version? Which do you like better?
SO: Probably Universal but would have watched them both! I think I found Hammer stuff scarier as a child. Both good.
NTK: Do you like mysteries?
SO: Yes, I am a huge Conan Doyle fan! I love Sherlock Holmes, but also his other darker stuff
NTK: What is your favorite work by Conan Doyle?
SO: Outside of Sherlock Holmes, I think Lost World.
NTK: What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes story?
SO: Hard one! I think Hound of the Baskervilles and Valley of Fear.
NTK: Did you ever act in a television mystery?
SO: I did an episode of a series called Rockliffe’s Follies where I was in a gang that took on a girl they believed was a witch that caused their leaders bike to crash! We didn’t win! (Laughs.) But I do have another Sherlock story—not acting— but I always wear Victorian style clothing. I visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street with my family some years ago. I was wearing lots of Tweed. I sat in Sherlock’s chair by the fire and found it hard to get away! I had to pose with my pipe with all the tourists that came in, as though I was Sherlock Holmes! They must have thought I worked there!
NTK: (Laughs.) Oh my gosh! That’s great! Do you have a favorite actor?
SO: So many, but I think love lots of old ones! Charlton Heston, and Leslie Howard for drama, Terry Thomas for Comedy, Doris Day, Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire for Musicals! Modern ones, I do like a lot of Brad Pitt’s performances, but also Idris Elba, and I love a lot of Kevin Costner’s work! Strange answers! (Laughs.)
I like Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes though.
NTK: You’ve worked with some fine actors, including the son of Sir Alec Guiness. He told you some interesting stories. Would you like to elaborate on that?
SO: Yes, Matthew Guinness, I never knew he was Sir Alec’s son until years later! Very talented and very funny! He knew I was interested in the supernatural and I was doing a project on it while I was away filming with him for a month as schoolwork. I was always interested in it as my grandmother Ruby who lived with us as I was growing up was born on Halloween. People always said she was a White Witch!
Matthew told me stories of things he had experienced while filming other TV and film stuff! One which involved an old woman who roamed around a manor house he was staying in at night, her cane banging on the ground as she walked but when looking to see her, she was never there! She kept two huge hounds. A little scared of this, Matthew locked himself in his room and fell into a deep sleep. When he woke he found he could hardly breathe. One of the huge hounds was lying on his chest! It wouldn’t move! Then the old lady’s cane was heard outside the room, the dog jumped up and was suddenly gone! Matthew ran and checked the door! It was still locked! He had lots like that.
NTK: Spooky! And so cool about your grandmother! Are you interested in seances and ghosts?
SO: A little! I had to with my grandmother! (Laughs.) I’m sure I’ve seen and felt things!
NTK: Ok, let’s talk about one of your biggest roles, Pitt the Younger on Blackadder. Fans of the show can read your blog if they’d like to see how you got the role and that link will be provided. What I’d like to know is if you have any funny stories to share with us. First, what was it like acting with Rowan Atkinson?
SO: Rowan was very friendly, quite quiet, but very, very funny! He could pull faces that only he could pull! He was always trying to make the rest of us laugh if we were on camera and he was off.
NTK: What about Tony Robinson?
SO: Tony was the first cast member I met! He was so friendly from the start, he really made me feel part of the Blackadder family right away.
NTK: And how was Hugh Laurie?
SO: Hugh was also very funny! He was always putting on voices particularly Dick van Dyke’s bad cockney accent! He would play the piano during breaks too.
NTK: You have a very famous speech in the episode in which you starred, “Dish and Dishonesty.” How did you feel when you first read those lines?
SO: I read it for the audition first. My first thought was that’s a nice big bit to do. I only realised I had a lot more as well as that when I got the full script in the post after I had been chosen to play the part
NTK: You delivered it beautifully! I can see why you got the part! Did you have an opportunity to meet Stephen Fry?
SO: Yes, he watched my episode being filmed as he was in the audience that night, but I met him in the BBC Bar afterwards! The BBC Bar was on the top floor of the Studios and it was always full of actors after filming
NTK: Oh wow! Did you meet a lot of actors there?
SO: Mostly just things I was working on. I did once go drinking one night in Glasgow with John Hurt! That’s another story though.
NTK: What was Stephen Fry like?
SO: Very nice, very friendly, very tall! (Laughs.) I met him standing at the bar! I am only 5 feet 6 inches tall. Stephen is well over 6 feet tall!
NTK: Blackadder is an historical comedy. Is this what got you interested in history? Or were already a history buff?
SO: I’ve always loved History! Georgian history is one of my favourites! I love Admiral Lord Nelson, who was exactly the same height as me! (Laughs.)
NTK: Do you have any supernatural history tidbits for us?
SO: The first world war was full of stories! The Angel of Mons, the phantom Piper, the phantom soccer player! Modern historians try and now poo poo these stories, but the men who were there said they happened. I am not a big fan of such historians. I will always believe the words of those who were there before I believe someone writing about it a century later.
NTK: What did you do after Blackadder? Did you continue acting? Or did you find a new career?
SO: I did a few things after but nothing as big as Blackadder! The last few years I’ve been working in Heritage (Historical sites) but I am thinking about getting back in to acting again.
NTK: By the way, did you know you have an IMBD page? It says you worked on things with the musician Sting. Is this true?
SO: Yes, I think it is about 3 different Simon Osbornes though. Not just me. I never worked with Sting but I did look after his cat once.
NTK: You did! How did that come about?
SO: Living in London in my early teens, we lived next door to an Irish Rock group called Cruella De Vil. They knew Sting and looked after his cat while he toured! One time he was touring, and they were too, so for about a week I had to look after the cat while both Sting and the group were away.
NTK: That is so cool! You have had a very colorful and fascinating life!! What do you have planned for the future? Anything our readers should know about?
SO: I may go back into acting, but for now writing the blog is making me remember a lot of my own history! I will be writing more behind the scenes stuff, fun History stuff, and my History—including other acting work, my travels, and my time in the British Army!
NTK: Thank you so much for chatting with me today.
SO: You’re welcome!
Addicts, you can find Simon on Twitter and on his blog.
Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month’s review has one helluva backstory. There’s a rock band, a romance, a drug problem, and a resurrection of sorts. I had to do a deep dive to give the album a full critique and what I found was a story that tragically has a lot in common with so many bands who have lost frontmen to the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll, however, the surviving members of Static-X are determined to make their own way back in an unusual but compelling way.
Static-X celebrated the 20th anniversary of their album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2019. The original lineup toured to commemorate the album…with a singer dubbed Xer0. Because Wayne Static died in 2014 of a deadly combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. News came out that the band was recording a new album using some of Wayne’s demos and compositions, a guest spot from Al Jourgenson of Ministry and would feature this new, unknown, masked singer, which has been a controversial move for some of their fans. The band, on the other hand, maintains that Wayne would have found it hilarious. (https://www.loudersound.com/features/static-x-the-story-behind-that-controversial-wayne-static-death-mask).
And man is this album amazing. What a testament to Wayne and a reminder of the magic the original line-up had together.
For those new to Static-X, their hit song “Push-It” has been a staple of the industrial rock/metal scene for years. On this new album, Project Regeneration, Volume I, there’s that same electronic-tinged in-your-face feel of their early work, but the melodic atmosphere of powerhouse bands like Korn, Rammstein, or even Rob Zombie can be heard in the mix. “Worth Dyin’ For” has a hooky chorus, and “Terminator Oscillator” is a hard-hitting tune with a chanting rhyme that is the metal fan’s version of INXS’s “Mediate.” My favorite track on the album so far—and that changes each time I listen because they’re all great—is “Something Of My Own,” a powerful, emotional jam that resonates with its lyrics about opportunities missed due to the loss of Wayne.
The hard rock/metal scene these days has matured from the days of nu-metal when Static-X first set up shop, but Project Regeneration, Volume I fits in nicely with today’s sound. The album is a great tribute to a band that obviously has a lot more to offer, and it’s one I will be jamming to for quite some time.
That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs…
R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her hope-filled posts at www.queeromanceink.com.
Fritters are a great way to use up some of the leftover meats you have from previous meals, or from any stash you might have lying around. Farmer Vincent’s Fritters were very special indeed, as he used some of his famous smoked meats. Don’t bother asking what kind of meats they were, however. His slogan was “it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s Fritters.” If you do ever venture down to try his fritters, I would recommend not staying at the nearby MOTEL HELLO. In fact, it is probably much safer all around to make these yourself.
Yield: 8 to 10 fritters
1 1/2 lb cooked and shredded meats of your choice
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
4 strips of bacon
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped, or 1 tsp onion powder
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk or water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
There are basically two ways to make fritters. One is to mix the meat filling into the batter and fry them like griddlecakes. The other is to make patties or balls then dip them in batter and deep fry. I provide directions for both below.
To prepare the filling
In a large mixing bowl, toss together your cooked meats, paprika, cumin, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, fry your bacon strips until they are crispy as you like them. Set the bacon strips aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
In the rendered bacon fat, sauté the chopped onions and garlic. When the onions are translucent, pour the onions, garlic, and grease into the meat mixture. Crumble the bacon into bits and add to the meat mixture. Mix well to incorporate.
To make the batter
In a medium mixing bowl, beat two large eggs, add the milk (or water), and then whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until you have a batter with no lumps.
To make the fritter-cakes
If you prefer the griddle cake method, then into your skillet, back over medium heat, add about 2 Tbsp of oil to provide a thick layer of oil to pan fry. Allow this to heat up.
Pour in some of your batter into your meat mixture bowl and mix thoroughly. You may not need all of the batter. The mixture should bind well and maybe be a little loose.
With a large spoon or ladle, measure out enough meat-batter mixture for two cakes. (You can do more if you have room in your skillet or make smaller cakes.) Fry the fritters until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Set the cooked fritters aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
OR – To make the patties for deep-frying
If you prefer the deep fry method, then into your skillet, over medium-high heat, add enough oil to provide at least an inch of oil to fry in. Allow this to heat up to about 325°F.
Divide your meat mixture evenly into either into balls or patties. Some meats don’t form one or the other easily, so this will be a matter of experimentation. By using cooked meats, however, you don’t have to worry about under-cooked food if they are too thick.
With a sturdy pair of tongs (or with your hands if you must), dip your meat into the batter and then gently place into the hot oil.
Cook each fritter until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Set the cooked fritters aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
I like fritters made both ways, and I know this is also a regional thing to prefer one method over the other. Personally, I prefer eating the deep fried patties but they tend to make a bigger mess in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary.
As for serving, the patties or fritter-cakes go well with mashed potatoes and gravy or make excellent sandwiches. The fritter balls are fantastic with honey mustard or sweet-and-sour sauce.