Morbid Meals – Halloween & Dia de Los Muertos treats for kids and adults

For Halloween I wanted to come up with some fun recipes for everyone’s holiday parties, whether they be Halloween or Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. However, I wanted to find new recipes beyond the old standards. So, here is my take on three new tricks to treat your guests.

Graveyard Guacamole Chips and Dip

Graveyard Guacamole

EXAMINATION

It’s the Great Guacamole Graveyard, Charlie Brown! Nah, that just doesn’t have the same ring to it. It does, however, taste really, really good.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

16oz can refried beans
16oz can chili with beans
1/2 cup salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken and/or pork
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
3 Haas avocados, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 lime, juiced
1 cup pepper jack cheese
1/4 head of lettuce, shredded
bag of tortilla strip chips (the long rectangular ones)
side of sour cream (optional)

Apparatus

  • 3-quart rectangular casserole dish
  • 3 small mixing bowls

Procedure

  1. In first mixing bowl, combine the refried beans, chili, and salsa.
  2. In second mixing bowl, combine shredded meat and buffalo wing sauce.
  3. In third mixing bowl, make fresh guacamole by mashing the avocados, then combining with lime juice and salsa.
  4. Layer the ingredients as follows into your casserole dish.
    a. First, the beans mixture, then a sprinkling of cheese.
    b. Next, the buffalo-sauced meat, then a sprinkling of cheese.
    c. Finally, the guacamole, and generously sprinkle on the shredded lettuce.
  5. Stick some tortilla chips into the dip to resemble headstones
  6. Serve with remaining tortilla chips and a side of sour cream, for the gringos who can’t stand the heat.

DISSECTION

If you want to add a little extra spookiness to this, find some Halloween-shape cookie cutters, and make your own creepy chips. Use the cookie cutters to cut corn or flour tortillas into spooky shapes. Bake in a 350°F oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until you have crispy critters. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

POST-MORTEM

This of course makes a great appetizer for a macabre Cinco de Mayo, or anytime you want to spice up a dead (man’s) party. Furthermore, this quite frankly is a balanced meal in of itself, worthy of any gruesome occasion.


White Chocolate “Sugar Skulls”

White Chocolate Sugar Skulls

EXAMINATION

Celebrations for Dia de Los Muertos just wouldn’t be the same without sugar skulls. A new tradition of making skulls, and even coffins, from chocolate is also emerging. Regular sugar skulls take special molds and years of practice (or maybe some meringue powder to help out). They also aren’t eaten when complete — licked maybe, but never eaten.

For our party needs, we’re going to make something a little more edible using white chocolate.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

12 oz bag white chocolate chips (roughly 2 cups)

Royal icing, in many vibrant colors, fine tip
Or if you can find them “Candy Writers” which are tipped tubes of pre-colored white chocolate candy.

Candy Writers

Apparatus

Procedure

  1. Heat water in the saucepan over high heat until it begins to simmer, then turn off the stove and place the top pan (or bowl) over the water.
  2. Pour your white chocolate chips into the top pan (or bowl). It will take about 5 minutes for all of the chips to melt.
  3. Spoon your melted candy into your skull molds. Allow the candy to harden in the molds, at least an hour. You can refrigerate it to speed this up but your candy will melt faster later. Wait it out naturally if you have the time.
  4. Carefully remove your candy from the molds. If there are any side bits to break off, use a sharp knife to carve them off.
  5. Decorate with the icing or Candy Writers and allow the your decoration to completely dry. If you are able to use Candy Writers, they need to be warmed up in hot water, but they are the smoothest way to decorate these. Since they are chocolate on chocolate, the decorations will stay longer than royal icing will on chocolate.

DISSECTION

You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but do this in small batches at 50% power.

Try to smooth the backs of the candy as best you can and don’t let any spread outside of the molds. You’ll have to break off any of these bits and it is hard to do that cleanly.

If your chocolate gets hard on you again as you work with it, it will become less and less easy to melt. The sugars reform bonds that get stronger each time. Turn the heat up on your boiler but only a little bit. If it gets too hot it could burn or seize up.

Also, like Gremlins, do not let your chocolate get wet. This will mess with the fats in the chocolate and then you’ll have nasty little blobs instead of smooth, silky candy. Never cover your melting chocolate with a lid, and do not let your water boil or you could get steam in your chocolate.

If the chocolate does seize up on you or get wet, here’s some tips that can help.

POST-MORTEM

Decorating these skulls with your kids is part of the fun. If they are old enough, they could help you with melting the chocolate. That is if you can keep them from licking the spoon.

You can find chocolate molds in almost every craft store these days, like Jo-Ann’s, Michael’s, etc. There’s also Amazon and eBay if you don’t have a local store with a large selection. For folks like me in Phoenix, ABC Cake Decorating Supplies has a HUGE selection of molds, and you can even buy them online. This is also where I found the Candy Writers which were perfect for the job.

If you want to try your hand at making real sugar skulls, the awesome folks at MexicanSugarSkull.com sell molds and provide recipes that make this traditional labor of love a little more accessible to the rest of us.


Blood Orange Sangría

Blood Orange Sangría

EXAMINATION

I never drink… wine. Ahem. By itself, that is. I do love a good sangría. This is my personal favorite version that I have made for years, for many an occasion. What makes it a special treat for Halloween? Why the blood oranges, of course. Blood oranges from Florida can be found in stores in October making it the perfect season for Blood Orange Sangría.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

1 cup blood orange juice (from 4 medium or 6 small fruit)
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 bottle red wine (like pinot noir or merlot)
1 cup brandy
2 small red delicious apples
1 can cold lemon-lime soda (optional)

Apparatus

  • citrus juicer
  • large pot
  • large pitcher or punch bowl

Procedure

  1. Peel and core the apples and chop into small pieces about 1/2 inch to an inch in size. Or if you have one of those wicked spiral slicers, those peel, slice, and core an apple quickly and beautifully. Add these to your pitcher/bowl.
  2. Cut your blood oranges in half and then slice one thin ring from each half. Add these to your pitcher/bowl.
  3. Juice the blood oranges, getting every last little drop. I find electric juicers work best, but there’s nothing wrong with using an old school juicer and some elbow grease.
  4. In the large pot, over medium heat, combine the blood orange juice and the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. To the juice, add the wine and brandy. Stir to incorporate everything well.
  6. Pour into the pitcher/bowl and refrigerate until well chilled, about an hour.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and add the soda. Stir well.

DISSECTION

You can make a virgin version with pomegranate juice or your favorite fruit punch instead of the alcohol.

If you want to make this when blood oranges are out of season, try to find Cara Cara navel oranges. They have a ruby pink fruit like grapefruit but they are remarkably sweet.

POST-MORTEM

Pour this sparkling Spanish drink into your favorite glass, with or without ice, and enjoy the best of an autumn harvest. ¡Salud, dinero y amor, y el tiempo para gozarlos!

Authors of SLAY – John Linwood Grant

‘AIN’T NO WITCH: CAROLINE DYE, HOODOO AND THE BLUES’
by John Linwood Grant

Hoodoo. Conjure-work. We’re going to the roots of root-work today, with music, material, and musings. My writing flowed this way from an interest in Cunning Folk, both European and African, plus the pleasure of early blues. I also have a love of Manly Wade Wellman’s character John the Balladeer, though that part only came to mind afterwards, when I was looking up early sourcebooks related to hoodoo (more below). The Memphis Jug Band was the real start for me, decades ago, with their “Aunt Caroline Dye (Dyer) Blues”, and it spread from there…

I’ve written about the Northern European tradition of Cunning Folk before. The hedge-wizards, wise women, and more, often – though not always – Christians, who could be called upon for protection against curses, hexes, and blights. Whilst Wicca, historical witchcraft, and voodoo or vodun, are fascinating in themselves, the real roots that interest me in the US are those of hoodoo.

“Because sometimes I’m waitin’ at the crossroads, but I does it how I choose,” said Mamma Lucy. “I ain’t one of your mamalois, voodoo girls or Sant-eria ladies, liftin’ their skirts when you come callin’, neither.”

I’m only a writer, exploring strange places. But you might find what follows interesting. Historically, as with many of the old Cunning Folk, the guiding principle for most hoodoo was belief in God and the Bible. Where Caribbean and New Orleans spiritual movements blended Catholic saints with African belief systems, a lot of hoodoo folk were Protestant in one form or another. Voodoo and hoodoo get confused, but they ain’t the same.

You might call hoodoo a dominant blend of African beliefs, with threads of European herb and symbolic lore pulled in as well. Much conjure-work links back to Ewe and Fon lore from West Africa. The lines got blurred, as people from different tribes and cultures were enslaved and forced together. They sought systems that might sustain at least a fraction of their origins and identity, including shared reference points. With time, some of these developed into beliefs and oral traditions that echoed the lost past but also reflected life in the States.

If this was a predominantly black road, it didn’t automatically exclude whites, because it slowly drew in folklore from European immigrants, especially Germanic ones. It came from the big slave plantations, but as the 19th century progressed, it spread into communities through freedmen and women and had value for many poor and disenfranchised people. It absorbed elements of Native American herbalism and became its own thing. Hoodoo. Rootwork is another name, from the use of medicinal or magical roots and herbs.

(Zora Neale Hurston, who we mentioned briefly last week, wrote a study of Afro-American folklore, including discussion of hoodoo, rootwork and conjuration in her 1935 collection of tales, Mules and Men.)

One written crossover example is The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, a magical text allegedly written by Moses, passed down as hidden portions of the Old Testament. A grimoire, a text of magical incantations and seals, the text circulated in Germany from at least the 1700s, passed through immigrants such as the Pennsylvania Dutch and entered both white general folklore and black Christian hoodoo.

John-the-Balladeer

The direct Manly Wade Wellman link slipped into my mind when I came across mention of Pow-wows, or The Long Lost Friend whilst researching conjure-work. This book crops up in a number of Wellman’s stories. This is another genuine ‘grimoire’ from the 1820s, by one Johann Georg Hohman, and was originally called Der Lange Verborgene Freund.

“Bind,” he said to someone over me. “Bind, bind. Unless you can count the stars, or the drops in the ocean, be bound.”

It was a spell-saying. “From the Long Lost Friend?” I asked.

Wellman, ‘Vandy Vandy’, (1953)

The Long Lost Friend is a collection of spells, charms and remedies for everyday use. Like the Books of Moses, it initially entered hoodoo through the Pennsylvanian Dutch and other groups of Germanic origin.

It crossed relatively easily into hoodoo because it also puts Christianity in the driving seat and emphasizes belief in the Bible as the core. ‘Pow-wows’ was added to later editions, in reference to real or supposed Native American practices.

“The book has remained quite popular among practitioners of Hoodoo… James Foster noted that many shops in Harlem and Brooklyn stocked The Long Lost Friend in 1957.”

Daniel Harms, The Long Lost Friend: A 19th Century American Grimoire (2012)

So, I was traveling 1920s Harlem in my mind a year or two ago, learning, and expanding my Tales of the Last Edwardian, when I saw someone passing through, one of the Cunning Folk who might resonate in her own time and place.

She was old like me, black like I’m not, and a foil to the industrialised, post-Edwardian scientific approach. Bare feet in the earth, and silver dimes around her ankles. A worn print dress on a strong, gangly frame. She used her brains more than she used out-and-out conjure-work, but she knew what she was doing if she had to lay a trick or turn a jinx.

I also knew that she held no truck with oppressive wealth and monstrous laws, that she was plain ornery, her heart with the voiceless.

‘She’ turned out to be Mamma Lucy.

Caroline Dye: A Mighty Fine Vision
If you write about hoodoo from around the early 20th Century, you can’t avoid the blues – which is a good excuse to mention some tracks here. You also can’t avoid Aunt Caroline Dye (not Dyer- the track at the start was named through an error or pronunciation or transcription).

Despite her association with hoodoo, Caroline Dye was a psychic, a fortune-teller – there’s less evidence of her performing the slower root-work, laying tricks or setting up actual spells. And typically, there were more claims made for her and her skills than she made for herself. People went to her for readings, and they went in their thousands, hopefuls looking for answers.

She was born to enslaved parents in Jackson County, Arkansas – or in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There are different versions, both of her origins and her death. The earliest suggestion of her birth is 1810, which seems unlikely, and the more accepted one is in the 1840s. As Caroline Tracy, a name which seems to have come from her family’s original owners (a phrase which should never have had to be typed), she married Martin Dye of Sulphur Rock, sometime after the American Civil War.

Called “one of the most celebrated women ever to live in the Midsouth”, she is said to have died September 26th, 1918 (which would have made her 108 years old – or, more likely, in her seventies). She was buried in Jackson County.

Caroline Dye was supposed to have the ‘second sight’ even when she was young, but became famous for being a seer after the Dyes set up home in Newport, Arkansas, around 1900.

Despite the dates above, others such as Catherine Yronwode of luckymojo.com have compiled evidence that suggests Caroline Dye may have been around longer. One of the problems is that there are mentions of her in music which suggest she was alive in 1930, when Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band recorded their song about her. This details Dye’s hometown as Newport News, in Virginia, but the song’s music and a verse was lifted from the band’s 1927 song Newport News Blues, so that was probably just convenient (or locally popular).

Some have spoken as if she was around until 1936-37. This may have been the general remembrance of a notable figure. It may even have been complicated by the tendency for famous ‘names’ in fortune-telling and hoodoo to be adopted by later practitioners. So there may have been a second ‘Caroline Dye’, no relation but using her reputation.

Aunt Caroline and the Blues
Dye was “the gypsy” in the 1914 song “The St. Louis Blues,” according to W.C. Handy, who wrote it. He later names her directly, in his 1923 song “Sundown Blues.”

For I’m going to Newport
I mean Newport Arkansaw
I’m going there to see Aunt Car’line Dye
Why she’s a reader
And I need her
Law! Law! Law! She reads your fortune, and her cards don’t lie.
I’ll put some ashes in my sweet Papa’s bed,
So he can’t slip out, Hoodoo in his bread

In 1937, Johnny/Johnnie Temple named her again in his “Hoodoo Woman” song:

Well, I’m going to Newport,
just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
Well, I’m going to Newport,
just to see Aunt Caroline Dye

She’s a fortune teller, hooo, Lord,
she sure don’t tell no lie
And she told my fortune,
as I walked through her door

And she told my fortune,
as I walked through her door
Said, “I’m sorry for you, buddy, hooo, Lord,
the woman don’t want you no more”

Aunt Caroline Dye also crops up in “Wang Dang Doodle,” (1960) by Howlin’ Wolf and Koko Taylor. This is a curious song about rowdy merry-making. It borrows from black oral history, including lesbian nicknames of earlier times. The original reference to Fast Talkin’ Fannie, for example, used a word other than Talkin’.

Tell Peg and Caroline Dye / We gonna have a time…

Dye would read futures and make predictions. Her most commonly quoted method was using cards, as in Handy’s lyrics. It’s said that she wouldn’t help in romantic matters, though, and told people that they should sort their own love lives out. She did offer to find lost people, lost cattle and other items through reading her deck, or through her visions.

“Going to go see Aunt Caroline Dye” became a common saying among black people of the time, and as she grew famous, she became respected by many whites as well. She reportedly died a landowner with a substantial fortune.

In the 1960s, Will Shade spoke of her having wider powers. He said of her:

“White and Colored would go to her. You sick in bed, she raise the sick. Conjure, Hoodoo, that’s what some people say, but that’s what some people call it, conjure.”

Interview by Paul Oliver, Conversation with the Blues

“Seven Sisters ain’t nowhere wit’ Aunt Caroline Dye; she was the onliest one could break the record with the hoodoo.”

A Mojo Number
The Seven Sisters were supposed hoodoo women in 1920’s New Orleans. As usual, controversy surrounds their nature. Some say they were genuine sisters, others that they were just seven black women working together, and it’s even been claimed that they were one woman in different guises. The name also crosses concepts of seventh sons and seventh daughters being special. As with Caroline Dye, they were well known for their psychic abilities or clairvoyance.

They tell me Seven Sisters in New Orleans that can really fix a man up right
They tell me Seven Sisters in New Orleans that can really fix a man up right
And I’m headed for New Orleans, Louisiana, I’m travelin’ both day and night.

I hear them say the oldest Sister look just like she’s 21
I hear them say the oldest Sister look just like she’s 21
And said she can look right in your eyes and tell you just exactly what you want done.

They tell me they’ve been hung, been bled, and been crucified
They tell me they’ve been hung, been bled, and been crucified
But I just want enough help to stand on the water and rule the tide.

It’s bound to be Seven Sisters, ’cause I’ve heard it by everybody else
It’s bound to be Seven Sisters, I’ve heard it by everybody else
Course, I’d love to take their word, but I’d rather go and see for myself.

When I leave the Seven Sisters, I’ll pile stones all around
When I leave the Seven Sisters, I’ll pile stones all around
And go to my baby and tell her, “There’s another Seven Sister man in town.”

Good morning, Seven Sisters, just thought I’d come down and see
Good morning, Seven Sisters, I thought I’d come down to see
Will you build me up where I’m torn down, and make me strong where I’m weak?

Number Seven has its own significance in hoodoo work, as have the other odd numbers.

Conjuration
As to hoodoo itself, apart from mid-century and later commentaries, it’s interesting to read earlier writers. One source is Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858 – 1932), an African-American author, essayist and activist. Chesnutt was born in Ohio, his parents being “free persons of color” from North Carolina.

His position was odd – Chesnutt was legally white in some States, black in others. In a shameful time of Jim Crow laws in America, many state had a ‘one drop’ rule, which meant that even if you had only a single grandparent or great-grandparent who was black, you could be discriminated against. North Carolina adopted ‘one drop’ legislation in 1923.

Chesnutt’s paternal grandfather was known to be a white slaveholder, and he would have had other white ancestors. Despite his outward appearance, he identified as African American, and apparently never chose to be known as white.

Here are a couple of passages from his essay Superstitions & Folklore of the South:

Conjuration

The origin of this curious superstition itself is perhaps more easily traceable. It probably grew, in the first place, out of African fetichism (sic), which was brought over from the dark continent along with the dark people. Certain features, too, suggest a distant affinity with Voodooism, or snake worship, a cult which seems to have been indigenous to tropical America. These beliefs, which in the place of their origin had all the sanctions of religion and social custom, become, in the shadow of the white man’s civilization, a pale reflection of their former selves. In time, too, they were mingled and confused with the witchcraft and ghost lore of the white man, and the tricks and delusions of the Indian conjurer.

The only professional conjure doctor whom I met was old Uncle Jim Davis, with whom I arranged a personal interview. He came to see me one evening, but almost immediately upon his arrival a minister called. The powers of light prevailed over those of darkness, and Jim was dismissed until a later time, with a commission to prepare for me a conjure “hand” or good luck charm, of which, he informed some of the children about the house, who were much interested in the proceedings, I was very much in need.

I subsequently secured the charm, for which, considering its potency, the small sum of silver it cost me was no extravagant outlay. It is a very small bag of roots and herbs, and, if used according to directions, is guaranteed to insure me good luck and “keep me from losing my job.” The directions require it to be wet with spirits nine mornings in succession, to be carried on the person, in a pocket on the right hand side, care being taken that it does not come in contact with any tobacco.

Modern Culture, volume 13, 1901

His collection The Conjure Woman (1899) is available on-line, and also includes the full essay.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11666

Passing Fictions
Finally, there is one problem with writing fiction about hoodoo. It’s difficult to get right, and yet sometimes difficult to get wrong. People did make up ‘spells’ to suit them. And there are so many variants – styles of traditional conjure-work can be personal to a practitioner, or peculiar to a geographical area. The terminology varies across the States, and some branches came from passed-down pamphlets, others through family word of mouth. I always try to use versions of recognised conjure-work where I can, preferably form direct folk sources.

But it’s always interesting, anyway.

So Mamma Lucy is around in a number of my stories – ‘Hoodoo Man’; ‘Iron and ‘Anthracite‘, ‘Whiskey, Beans and Dust’, and ‘The Witch of Pender’, plus a few others. I hope she trusts me well enough to keep spinnin’ them tales…


Bio: John Linwood Grant lives in Yorkshire with a pack of lurchers and a beard. He may also have a family. When he’s not chronicling the adventures of Mr Bubbles, the slightly psychotic pony, he writes a range of supernatural, horror and speculative tales, some of which are actually published. You can find him every week on greydogtales.com, often with his dogs.

PR: Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads

Tagline: Once you’ve done the most unforgivable thing, what will you do next?

Unsafe Words
by Loren Rhoads

In the first full-length collection of her edgy, award-winning short stories, Loren Rhoads punctures the boundaries between horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction in a maelstrom of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Lisa Morton provides the book’s introduction.

Ghosts, succubi, naiads, vampires, the Wild Hunt, and the worst predator in the woods stalk these pages, alongside human monsters who follow their cravings past sanity or sense.

“With Unsafe Words, Loren Rhoads has created a lyrical kaleidoscope of a collection, whose shifting genres reveal ever-evolving visions of shining beauty and immense darkness. I loved it.”

— Brian Hodge, author of The Immaculate Void

“Loren Rhoads is the writer you want to hold your hand on the long, strange walk into hell.”

— Meg Elison, author of the Road to Nowhere series

“Rhoads has a gift. She takes you deep and, when you come out on the other side, you’re just glad you’re still alive.”

— J. Scott Coatsworth, Captain Awesome of Queer Sci Fi

“If you’re already familiar with Loren’s work, you know that you’re in for an evocative, rich mélange. If you’re just now discovering her…prepare yourself.”

—Lisa Morton, in the introduction


Loren Rhoads is the author of the In the Wake of the Templars space opera trilogy, co-author of a succubus/angel duology called As Above, So Below, and editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. She’s also the author of a nonfiction travel guide called 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. In Unsafe Words, the 1st full-length collection of her edgy, award-winning short stories, Loren Rhoads punctures the boundaries between horror, dark fantasy, & science fiction.

Unsafe Words

#scifi #horror #darkfantasy

Comic Review: The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm
☆☆☆☆

As one of H.P. Lovecraft’s inspirations, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood is a classic tale that isn’t known by many. Algernon may be more famously remembered as the writer who influenced writers rather than for his own work. The man himself was an interesting person I would have liked to been friends with. A member of The Ghost Club and a mystic develing into occultism, Rosicrucianism, and Buddhism, he also loved the outdoors.

His story, The Willows, mixes his two loves. The outdoors and creepy shit. He does what rarely is done well. He takes on the realism of camping and being amongst the trees, making you feel you are there with him and adds the fear we all have about the woods. What is the shadow in the woods? What is that sound? Is it simply nature or is there something supernatural watching from a wooded perch?

In The Willows, two friends on a canoe trip down the River Danube encounter ominous masses of menacing willows, which “moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible.”

In this comic edition of The Willows, the story is told through pictures and presents a visual representation of the willow monsters that will haunt your dreams. Put together by Nathan Carson and Sam Ford, this edition is either a must-have collectible for Willows fans or an introduction for those who have not read the original story. 

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I am very picky on artwork. Because of the time period and the nature aspect, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the art. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Sam’s work and will look for his other endeavors in the future. There is a slight steampunk look to some of the work, but at the same time, I feel he recalls the time period well. Although I am not sold on all of his people depictions because sometimes the humans don’t look the same in one frame versus the other, his creature and animal renderings are phenomenal. I especially enjoyed the full page art pieces he did such as the undine army and the branches being an optical illusion. The facial expressions on the main character are the best I’ve seen. His demon and supernatural cells are the stuff of nightmares. I was supremely happy with the comic in general.

I’d say the story representation was done well. I feel from reading the original story that there were portions that dragged and I wondered where they were going. Being cut with Nathan’s modern mind helped move the story along at a great pace and contributed to allowing Sam the freedom to create the demons he needed to in the art.

Overall, I’d say this is going in the win column for comic adaptations of classic horror works. They kept the original story and built an even better representation of it. I’m giving this comic a strong 4 stars. ☆☆☆☆ 

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

Book Review: Rabid by Kris Rimmer

A Review of Rabid by Kris Rimmer by Patricia Watson

Kris Rimmer’s Rabid is set in modern Mississippi. It opens with a violent, gruesome death that brings two brothers back together for a funeral. Their widowed mom sends her two city boys camping to share grief and renew their brotherly bonds.

Mortal dangers are everywhere during their trip. Adam, home for the funeral on college break, and Toy, not yet in high school, must rely only on childhood memories of their abusive alcoholic dad to survive. Plenty of bad luck, apparitions, and horrible events complicate every step of their adventure. A run-in with rabid creatures is only a part of their troubles.

The funeral, the wildlife encounters, and cave scenes gave a good creepy feel to the work. Mr. Rimmer has said in book blurbs he is a fan of Stephen King. His admiration for King shows in the American boyhood adventure turned bad aspects of this book and the internal monsters that haunt the characters.

The author did keep me turning pages with fingers crossed. His story had regular disastrous surprises, with nice dollops of gore to add to the misery. I would have enjoyed a bit more of the native humidity, and perhaps a few mosquitoes for local flavor. It is the deep South after all. This book is a short, easy read. I finished it one run. It’s an entertaining book to stow in your beach bag.

The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat

The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat
by Sumiko Saulson

I was so fortunate as to have Serena in my life for twenty-five long years, but honestly, it wasn’t enough. I had always imagined that we would grow to a ripe old age, making art in the Bay Area as so many folks around here do.  Serena’s multiple talents took her around the globe, however. She was a singer/songwriter in multiple projects, ranging from her personal project, the catwave band Protea, to performing with Apocalypse Theater, Stagefright, Starchasm, Manul Override, and others. A fashion designer, professional model, painter, and author, she performed burlesque with the Black Widows, and Scry of Lust. For nearly eight years, she lived in Paris, and she traveled to Egypt, where she recorded vocals in the King’s Chamber.

When I interviewed her in 2019, she said this of her writing:

“I’ve often viewed writing as my first real discipline, even though I was already painting. It is a calling, I suppose–unless what I answered was just somebody in the next room blowing their nose. It started out with a play I wrote in iambic pentameter, a 5-heartbeat/10-syllable-per-line rhythm, and staged at Bannam Place Theater in North Beach with the NOMA troupe we put together. I also won a poetry contest at my school. This is was [sic] when I was 17, and that was when saying “groovy,” “keen,” and “grass” was only barely ironic. I’m not sure why I love writing so much. Authors bring friends, rivals and all manner of events into being through the living power of thought. That’s certainly a part of it. Writing has an emotionally and energetically regulating quality, too. It tunes my mood, turns my switch, and makes me feel like a badass witch!”

Her novels included Evangeline and the Drama Wheel, a cosmic sci-fantasy about a cat-human hybrid named Evangeline in a cybergoth band, and Ghosts in Bones, a touchingly candid fictionalized account of a woman who struggled with anorexia nervosa that often mirrored Serena’s battle with the disorder.  Her poetry chapbooks included, You Send Forth Constellations, Paper Wings, and Consciousness Is a Catfish: stealthily grim, subtly spiritual poems. She had short stories in Wickedly Abled, Scry of Lust 1, and Scry of Lust 2.

DeTraci Regular, a friend and colleague, speaks highly of Serena:

“What I’d like to mention is her incredible generosity. She would do all the work of setting up an event and then invite others to essentially just show up. I’d never done a poetry reading before she invited me, despite having written for literally decades. She was so gracious and beautiful at these events, serving as the ‘hostess’ and making sure others got attention while also participating. In all the times I saw her, I never saw her be mean or petty with anyone, and I also saw her be especially gentle with those who really needed it. This was in juxtaposition to her amazing sharp-edged, intensely truthful writing and her many other talents, all of which pulled no punches. And of course she was wonderful with our ocelots and other cats. They trusted her and she trusted them. She was a true original, unlike anyone else I’ve ever known, and I’m grateful for her presence in our lives.”

Serena was an adoptee, and thrilled when she reconnected with her birth family about five years before she passed away. She is survived by her adoptive mother and her brother, Marc Rovetti.

She loved all things feline: cat ears, cat plushies, cat beanie babies, Hello Kitty, and Grumpy Cat.

Serena was very close to her cats and was predeceased by two of them: Isis and Selket. Selket passed away in February, just before shelter-in-place. Her loving concern for her elderly cat, who had feline leukemia, touched many people’s hearts, as seen by their support for the many fundraisers to support Selket. She also raised money for manuls, also known as Pallas Cats, a pet cause of hers. A vegetarian and an avid animal lover, she raised even more money for Isis Oasis, an animal sanctuary in Forestville, CA. Her 2015 event, ManulFest, a day-long music festival at Isis Oasis featuring Gitane Demone, held a special pride for her. It raised money for manuls in Southern California, as well as for Isis Oasis, which is home to ocelots, bobcats, alpacas, and other exotic animal rescues.

Serena’s Cat-Themed Fashion Show on CatSynth TV:

She has left behind an incredible body of work, which includes her books, also available on Lulu, her music on ReverbNation (Protea and Starchasm), and Bandcamp (old Protea and super recent Protea), and her latest on Bandcamp.

With wholesome, girl-next-door pin-up model looks, Serena enjoyed a substantial modeling career. including work in fashion, fetish, and commercial modeling. In fact, if you buy wigs from Spirit Halloween Store in October, you might see her smiling face modeling a Cleopatra haircut wig. Her many eye-catching tattoos, which covered most of her arms and legs, and often equally colorful hair made her a popular alternative fashion model. They contrasted with her. Serena turned 52 five months before she died. At 52, she was still a stunner and highly sought after as a professional model.

Serena was the founder of the Oakland Temple of Bast, where she served as its priestess among colorful murals depicting the cat goddess Bastet and other members of the Egyptian pantheon. Her service to them also led her to become a priestess at Isis Oasis. She worked as a life coach, and many of her self-help videos can still be found on her YouTube Channel, along with videos of her book readings, and musical performances.

As a visual artist, she not only painted, but also created unique fashions adorned with her feline artwork. She even published a Tarot deck featuring feline images.

Another friend and colleague of Serena’s, Bram Stoker Award-Winning horror author Rain Graves, had this to say of her:

“She sang beautifully, and was in a lot of different groups throughout the years. Ephemeral Orchestra, Apocalypse Theater, Stagefright (Sumiko’s band), and Protea were among her many projects and collaborations. She loved collaboration of any sort. It was fun for her to create with others. It helped her inward shyness, which was hidden by the ruse of extrovert. She was more introvert than many knew. Even when she modeled. She knew how to find the light.

When I was starting out as a writer of dark fiction and poetry, around the same time we met, she had written a few things already. They were very esoteric, brilliantly cerebral, and fluid. Evangeline and the Drama Wheel was among these, a little bit later. It was intelligent and stream of consciousness; ahead of its time. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of it, except other writers.

It was also autobiographical. Almost everything she created was, though tweaked and fictionalized to protect her friends and those she modeled characters after. “

French ‘Mau Bast’ Excerpt 2 – Chapel of the Chimes ‘Garden of Memory’ 2019 – -Manul Override

Book Review: Punk Facation ‘Zine

Punk Faction by David Gamage 

Review by VooDo Lynn

Punk Faction was a self-published ‘zine in the 90’s for the hardcore scene in the UK. This book is a compilation of those original ‘zines. Back then, ‘zines were the internet for people, before the internet took off. It provided you with a plethora of important and varied information in your genre, by people who were living it. These books compiled things like reviews of albums and movie directors, letters to the editor, poems, opinion pieces, road journals, and last but not least, articles ranging from vegetarianism, political pieces, the environment, and more.

This publication is from the UK and I am located in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, USA, so there were a lot of bands mentioned that I never heard of, but that’s ok. I enjoyed learning about new music. I read album reviews and interviews with bands ranging from the local Jailcell Recipes, Goober Patrol (which included a recipe for Goober Straws, in case you were interested in the cuisine at the time) and Funbug to the Ramones, Garbage, Mr. T Experience, Rancid, and Green Day.

I read poetry by Steven Jesse Bernstein and “On a Cold Winter’s Morning” by Steve Gamage which painted a very vivid sense of solitude. There were random quotes printed throughout the publication including Milton and Gandhi. Brat Pack director, John Hughes, had a review of his better-known films and Quintin Tarantino had an overview of his success and strategic abandonment of co-creators he left in the wake of said success. There are one-page blurbs on skating, the use of mercury in dentistry, animals in circuses, and my favorite titled one- “I’m Too Sexy for a Job.”

We now come to my favorite part of the book, the articles. Wow, were there some good ones in here. Some of the topics are what you would expect from this type of publication and were not discussed or accepted as it is now, such as cannabis (which isn’t what you would think it’s about), self-publishing, factory farming, and the aforementioned vegetarianism. And then there were the surprises. Topics that were completely unexpected and frankly, those were the things that drew my attention the most.

I read an article on sleeping well and the link (or lack of) between pornography and sexual violence. I learned about hunt saboteurs–something I never even knew existed before now. There was a surprisingly comprehensive and condensed history of the origins of comic books given in an article titled “In Defense of Comic Books.”

My favorite article is “On Dreams.” It starts off on a philosophical note by talking about what dreams are and what their purpose is, if any. The article is well-cited and I read quotes from Cicero, Hildebrandt, and of course, you cannot have a discussion about dreams without mentioning Jung. It then moves into dream interpretation.  I was particularly interested in reading about a scientist that dreamed up an experiment to prove a theory of his, that he then replicated, which ended up working, ultimately winning him a Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, there is no author given, which is sadly the case with many of the articles and blurbs in this book.

I learned a lot from this book. It was kind of fun traveling back in time and reading all this. The only complaint I have is that because of the format of this book–which is basically reproductions of the already photocopied material–I found certain pages to be hard, if not impossible to read. And that’s ok. It is to be expected and what I consider to be an integral part of the ‘zine experience.

Thanks to the internet and YouTube, I was able to enjoy some of the music from previously unknown bands. I read great interviews with bands, including some of the snark I’ve come to expect and appreciate with these types of interviews. I learned some new things about the world and most importantly, I was made to think. This was a great read for me. I love learning about new things, I love art, and I love the DIY attitude and philosophy. If you are feeling like doing a little time travel, you’re into hardcore music, or you are a fan of DIY publications, then this is the book for you.

And remember “…think globally, but act locally…”

Book Review: The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer

The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer

 Reviewed by Willo Hausman

The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer provides a basic description of what it is to write for the stage, followed by 16 of the author’s plays.  At the start, Dan provides us a glimpse into his own personal journey from penning movies to plays, as well as support and advice on how to make progress as a playwright. The book includes many easy-to-digest theater tips, mainly gleaned by interviews from individuals working in the industry.  These insightful contributors are involved in low-to-moderate budget theatre companies and they provide pertinent and passionate insight on how to follow your inspiration and get your creation up and running.

First up is Dan, an accomplished writer of poems, stories, films and yes, plays.  His many accolades and awards are mentioned at the end of the book.  Based in England, all the wisdom offered in The Dead Stage fits just as easily in any location.  Dan provides basic details on how to best get your work selected amongst many submissions.  He offers good points for a novice, encouraging the short and simple route, especially at the start.  Not too many characters and an easy set.

This clear wisdom is followed by valuable tidbits from various theater folk.  To quote a favorite few:

Matthew Spencer (ACTOR): Be brave!

Kate Danbury (Director of the London Horror Festival):  A director must be artistically creative, but a producer must be creatively strategic. And Kate has a taste for the macabre.  We like that!

Ellie Pitkin (THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE BLACKSHAW THEATRE, LONDON).  An aspect of comedy is important to her.  Best to use simple staging, as they’ve had to use unconventional spaces to put up performances.  Casting a celebrity helps get a new work into production.  With fringe theater (not mainstream) it’s easier if you have fewer actors in the cast.

Andrew Crane (BLACKSHAW THEATRE TECHNICIAN):  He likes to be challenged by complicated light and sound cues, but don’t have too high of an expectation on how they are executed.  Depends on the space. Small theaters can be limited in how much technical savvy they can provide.  The bigger spaces have more to play with and usually a higher ceiling, which means better lighting.

Jill Young (ACTOR/DRAMA TUTOR/DIRECTOR): She had an interesting take on teaching and the two important qualities of scripts to use as tools.  Either ‘complete imaginative fiction’ or ‘100% graspable fact’. With the first, students can learn to let their creative play side fly without restrictions.  The second enables them to become a specific character.

Tom Slatter (ACTOR): In terms of changing dialogue a director once told him (and this makes absolute sense): “If one actor struggles with the line, it’s the actor.  If a hundred actors struggle with the line, it’s the line”.

Almost all of the interviewees started out as actors and state that it’s challenging to get new plays read in the theater world, but it is doable. Dan says the easiest route is adaptations of famous (already proven) stories or ideas, but don’t give up on originals.  It is possible!  Keep your first plays simple and direct and not too high budget with crazy stunts that can’t be done in a smaller theater.  Once you are in the door and have a few pieces under your belt, you can explore more epic production styles and start using a few settings, with complicated expensive props and people flying through the air!

Dan’s sixteen stage plays complete The Dead Stage.  Most had a slant of the shadow side, and a touch of dark comedy, which I’m sure is amicable with this group. I will comment on a few of the pieces that initially stood out to me.

BEIGE

Dan’s favorite.  I liked it too.  A dark comedy.  A husband stabs his wife and then as he prepares to ‘off himself’ Samurai-Style to avoid prison, she begins talking from ‘beyond the grave’ and they continue the same sort of bickering they shared when she was alive.  Comes off as more amusing prattle than serious.  I could see this garnering laughs.

A QUESTION OF AUTHORSHIP

Four writers who have all been involved in various theories of who ‘really’ wrote the infamous Shakespeare plays meet up with Arthur Miller in Heaven, where he confronts them to get to the bottom of who really penned the plays.  One by one the writers are omitted from being a possibility till the real William Shakespeare is left.  I have always found all the controversy over these glorious plays a bit of a shamble; why not just give credit to the actual talented man who created them.  Huzzah!

CRIPPEN

A re-telling of a true-crime story.  I find the language stilted though the subject matter and characters are intriguing.  Belle, the actress, is so one-dimensionally mean.  A vain woman and a fun role for an actress to play since she’s so darn nasty. Anyone would want her murdered.  There’s a great creepy scene at the bathtub in this play.  I liked the silent scary visuals.  Marcie and Florie are two silly gabs; I like their gossipy in-tandem speaking style. A touch of comedy.  The play picks up a bit in the court scene finale as we learn interesting unknown aspects; otherwise it’s not my favorite, too solely literal, without much of a definite mood attached.

ELOISE

An old man bemoans the loss of his wife and while reminiscing decides to join her in the afterlife. A nicely direct and poignant piece.

KILLING GARY

A serial killer is interviewed a detective and reveals her strange motives.  Cute.

ONE FOR THE ROAD

A man at the end of this life converses with Death as he finishes this last drink, finding clarity with the inevitable.

FRIENDS LIKE US

A Halloween session with an Ouija Board between 4 friends stirs up a whole lot of drama without needing to contact spirits from the other realms.  Interesting tool to use for truth-telling and exposing secrets, which is the innate purpose of this long-standing ghostly tool.

All in all The Dead Stage is a great device to enlighten playwrights who are fresh to the business, containing good simple easy-to-absorb insight.  I’d only put 4 to 5 of the best plays in this volume though and print all 16 in their own separate book.

Graphic Novel Review: Calcutta Horror by Alessandro Manzetti

Calcutta Horror by Alessandro Manzetti
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

As a comic fan and adoring the genius works of Poppy Z. Brite such as Wormwood, Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, and the ever terrifying Exquisite Corpse, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this graphic novel.

Although this is not my favorite art style, I did find a few of the pieces genius that I would happily hang on my wall. The reimagining of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is a masterpiece. The drawing of Death and a few other pieces piqued my interest. Unfortunately, the majority of the artwork felt unrefined and disjointed to the rest of the book.

I have not read the short story, but I could feel Brite’s touch throughout. It’s difficult for me to say how much of this text was Manzetti’s but I did enjoy the wild ride he took us on in creating this hybrid book. It’s interesting and weird, and almost like you’re on an acid trip. He takes you on a truly savage ride through the streets of Calcutta from the viewpoint of a strange, possible deranged dude. The imagery in the words was what I liked best. Phrases like, “…Blood poured down on the ground like a spool of scarlet silk…” and “…they were no longer people…conduits to a blank universe, the void which Kali ruled…” kept me thinking for a bit. Even weeks afterward, I would think back fondly on one of his phrases. This is the thing that books should do, infect your normal world with bits of their brilliance.

This book is pretty graphic. Not advised for anyone under age, with a queasy stomach, or delicate sensibilities to try it.

For me, the biggest issue I had with this book was the type font and size. It was just too damned small and light. I have perfect vision and I had to pull out a magnifying glass after a few pages because of eye strain. If that was fixed and the art was a little more even, I would have given it a better score because the text was pretty frightening.

This is a 3 ☆☆☆ on the scale. For those who love abstract art and gory, hellish descriptions, this will be a fine read for an afternoon.

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

Free Fiction Friday: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Author Loren Rhoads gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.


Azaziel fights the ash wraith. Excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas

Summoned by a sense of terrible wrongness, Aza dropped through a hole punctured through the columbarium’s roof. Animate powder fogged the heavy air. The room clattered as the metallic urns danced in their niches. Some urns had already smashed through their glass partitions, adding sharp fragments to the swirling filth.

A pair of bodies lay crumpled near a stained glass window. Sweat pasted a coating of ash to their skin. More ash obscured the colors of their clothing. These mortal warders were dead, lungs clogged with bone grit and ash. Noc, the Cambodian cook, lay where he fell, his shirt wrapped around his face in an impromptu mask.

The woman had been Dolores Gutierrez. She lay curled around a book-shaped urn that held the soul of Willy Goldenstern. Aza could feel the boy defying the evil which tried to pry him out and carry him away on a wind of damnation.

Other souls also barely held out. Despite their makeshift containers, each was battered by the growing whirlwind of fouled remains.

Aza wondered how the other angels could have overlooked this possibility. Even if the niches in the columbarium around him weren’t hallowed ground in and of themselves, they were surrounded by it, ideally presenting a safe haven for the loose souls. But no one seemed to have considered removing the urns spaced throughout the structure that had contained the unredeemed dead. Perhaps there simply hadn’t been time.

As the General of Hell drew closer, his influence called to the dust of once-damned flesh. The mausoleum hallway hissed with the sound of whispering voices as the damned entreated the children to join them.

A shape swept up to meet Aza, coalescing into a twisted starfish of soiled gray. Nebulous and solid by turns, the ash wraith struck, attempting to suffocate the angel as it had the mortals.

In the cemetery outside, Aza could have dispelled the wraith with a few powerful strokes of his wings. In the narrow confines of the columbarium’s hall, he had no room for that. Instead, Aza approached the creature, speaking a banishment to drive it back.

The wraith fled around the corner of the columbarium’s corridor, before melting into the wall of niches. It rattled among the urns, trying vainly to open them before its destruction.


Don’t miss out on a chance to chat with the author April 11th, 2pm PST on Facebook

African American Multimedia Conference, Feb 13-17 THIS WEEKEND!

AAMMC 2020 Schedule

Workshops, Panels and Book Signings

“In order to rise from its own ashes,
a Phoenix first must burn.” ― Octavia Butler

African American Multimedia Conference Presenters:

Sumiko Saulson, Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Rappin 4Tay, Kevin E. Myrick, Karen Junker, Crystal Connor, Simon Says, Scott Saulson, V’Launce Davis, Lil Twain, Precious Chambers, Lil 4Tay, Franchesca Saulson, Amy Holloway, Kevin Craig West, Meosha Bean

Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Free!)

Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, California, 94703 | 510.644.4930

Pre-Conference Kick-Off with Silent Auction!

Free and Open to the Public, Food and Beverages served.

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm           Sexy Sci-Fi Sisters Book Chat and Signing Event with James Tiptree Award Winner Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, Linda Addison, and Sumiko Saulson

Friday, February 14, 2020 (Free!)

San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street, 12-5pm

12:00 pm     Registration

12:30 pm     Welcome Speech by Linda Addison

12:45 pm     Remembering and Honoring Our Elders Past

1:15 pm       Narrowing the Digital Divide

2:15 pm       San Francisco Pioneer Awards

2:45 pm       Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror Short Preview

3:15 pm       Dollars to Diversity: Hollywood’s New Black Blockbusters

4:15 pm       Meet the Authors! Book Signing and Book Chat with

Saturday, February 15, 2020 (Free!)

Melrose Branch, Oakland Public Library, 4805 Foothill Boulevard, 2-5pm

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Nisi Shawl

2:15 pm       Creating Diverse Sci-Fi & Horror Characters and Worlds (Nisi Shawl)

3:00 pm       So You Want To Be a Rapper or a Rock n Roll Star? (Rappin 4-Tay)

3:45 pm       Krishna Awards for Black Excellence in Multimedia

4:45 pm       Closing Statements by Crystal Connor

Sunday, February 16, 2020 (Free!)

Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA, 1-2pm

1:00-2:00 pm         Scary Sisters Horror Book Chat and Signing Event with Bram Stoker Award Winner Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, and Sumiko Saulson

 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

81st Avenue Branch, Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Avenue, 2-5 pm

Kids 12 and Under

2:00-5:00 pm         Art Circle: Afrocentric Coloring Time!

PG-13

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Amy Holloway

2:15 pm       Why Do People Tell Stories about Monsters?

3:00 pm       Making Beautiful Music, Movies, and Books

3:45 pm       Beyond Us Short Film Festival & Talk

4:45pm        Closing Remarks by Kevin E. Myrick

Pride at the AAMMC! Sunday, February 16, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       Reframing the Other – Writing the Other for Black and Queer Authors (Nisi Shawl, Sumiko Saulson)

3:45 pm       Writing While Black, Queer Edition: (Sumiko Saulson, Nisi Shawl)

Pride at the AAMMC! Monday, February 17, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       A Nu Way: Creating Magical Melanated Spiritual & Safe Spaces (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)

3:45 pm       Manifesting from the Margins (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)


Self-Publishing – A Three Class Series at Eastmont

By Sumiko Saulson

Eastmont Branch, Oakland Public Library, 7200 Bancroft Avenue, Suite 211

Monday, February 10, 2020, 5-7 pm Preparing Book Interiors

Monday, February 24, 2020, 5-7 pm Exteriors, Covers, and Ads

Black Goth Takeover at Club Vantablack ($10)

Stork Club Oakland 2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California

Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 9:00 pm – 1:30 am
Performances by M-Lamar, Stagefright, Protea and In Retrograde

Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror ($10 per night)

Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

Curator & Horror Host Crystal Connor
Sunday, February 17, 2020, 7 pm – 10pm, Special Guest Kevin Craig West

Monday, February 18, 2020, 7 pm -10pm, Special Guest Meosha Bean

Film Fest: Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror

Spoiler alert: The Black Guy Doesn’t Die First!

‘Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror,’
a collection of films curated
by award-winning horror author
and HorrorAddicts.net Staff,
Crystal Connor,
will screen Feb. 16-17

by Sumiko Saulson

“Suffering from multitudes of negative stereotypes, minorities have not traditionally fared well in horror movies. While these negative interpretations still exist, things have begun to improve. Thanks to creators of color, and voices from other marginalized communities, we are now the heroes of our own stories … and no longer are we the first to die,” says Crystal Connor, curator of “Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror.”

“Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror” takes place Sunday, Feb. 16, and Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, over the President’s Day Weekend at Artists Television Access, 992 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-824-3890, from 7 to 10 p.m. on each night. It is a part of the Bay Area Black Independent Film Festival (BABIFF), which is one of Iconoclast Production’s February offerings, along with the African American Multimedia Conference.

During the two-day film festival there will be two special guest filmmakers: Kevin Craig West, flying in from New York, and Meosha Bean, flying up from Los Angeles. Organizer and horror video blogger Crystal Connor is flying down from Seattle. We are still raising money to cover travel and hotel funds for these participants. Email the organizer at sumikoska@yahoo.com if you are willing to help.

Sunday, Feb. 16

7:00 p.m. Special Guest Kevin Craig West

Award winning actor-filmmaker and proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA. When not on camera or stage, he enjoys producing, directing, writing and coaching. He also enjoys sharing his talents as a teacher-artist and has worked with many arts in education groups including Theatre for a New Audience, Only Make Believe and Symphony Space. Kevin is the owner of the production company, MoBetta Films, an advisory board member of WAM Theatre as well as Lake Placid Film Forum, former president of Upstate Independents and has served as assistant director of FilmColumbia Festival.

7:15 p.m. ‘The Groundskeeper’

Kevin Craig West stars as “The Groundskeeper” in this short film by Nichole Eckenroad, taking place in Pearl River County Lunatic Asylum, Mississippi, in 1920. Run time: 11 minutes

7:26 p.m. ‘Distractions’

A suspenseful short – in this Twilight-Zone style parable about distracted driving, Dick just can’t stay off the phone. Run time: 6 minutes

7:32 p.m. ‘I Hate Being Black’

Drama short – a conversation amongst buppies about the struggles associated with blackness. Run time: 11 minutes

7: 44 p.m. ‘Orphaned’

After being missing for almost a year, Allen McAvoy returns home to find a family falling apart, and his adopted brother Steve taking care of his wife. The death of his adopted parents sparked his disappearance, and now everyone wants answers, including his biological sister. As a fight over the family inheritance brews in the background, both brothers are thrust into a world where their loyalties to one another and their country are ferociously challenged. Will they be able to mend their own small world, or be a part of the destruction of the world at large? Run Time: 85 minutes

9:00 p.m. ‘Colors in Darkness’

“Colors in Darkness” is an experimental award-winning documentary by Sy Shanti that’s entirely composed of stock footage, stock images, stock sounds and self-recorded interviewee videos of African American authors, writers and content creators discussing the genre of Horror in books, TV and film. Run time: 1:01:51 minutes

Monday, Feb. 16

7:00 p.m. Special Guest Meosha Bean

Meosha Bean is an award-winning actress and filmmaker, voted best upcoming director in 2012 at the New Jersey Film Festival. Owner of MVB Films, established in 2003, her projects include “Dark Rises” (2013), which has an all-star cast, and “Miss Pepper” (2013), a short film that gained almost 30,000 views in one week upon release. Join her for a series of shorts and Q&A.

“Mr. Nightmare: Nightmares That Read into Reality” is directed by Meosha Bean. Run time: 3:12 minutes

“Nightmare at the Cinema: Scary Stories”: We all enjoy going to the cinema to watch a good movie, but let’s not forget about the creeps that go to the movies to watch us instead. Director is Meosha Bean. Run time: 4:55 minutes

7:30 pm ‘Danger World’

In “Danger World” by Luchina Fisher, a 13-year-old girl and her grandpa struggle to survive in a zombie-infested world. Run time: 18:41 minutes

7:50 p.m. ‘White’

In “White” by A. Sayeed Clark, it’s another 120-degree day with five more days to Christmas and hot is the only season left in New York City. Global warming has become a tangible threat and everyone is creating new ways to protect themselves from the sun. Bato and his wife Gina are expecting a baby, but they weren’t expecting it so early. Although they planned to have the baby at home, Gina now requires the services of a clinic for the premature delivery. With no money for the clinic, Bato enters into a race against the sun, the birth, his community and even his own identity to save his family. Run time: 15 minutes

8:05 p.m. Intermission

8:20 p.m. ‘Penelope’

“Penelope,” dreamed up by Maris Wilson, is a modern-day witch – a Venefica, to be exact. Today, in the middle of an isolated forest, she must endure the mystical rite of passage that determines whether her abilities will be used for good or for evil. Run time: 7:29 minutes

8:28 p.m. ‘Wake’

“Wake” by Bree Newsome tells the tale of a repressed woman who murders her domineering father, then, using a local folk magic called “root work,” she conjures a demon to aid her in creating the man of her dreams – but soon finds herself in a waking nightmare. Run time: 21:29 minutes

8:50 p.m. ‘Gorenos’

In Clarence Williams’” Gorenos,” a young man becomes haunted by a supernatural entity in the wake of his 18th birthday. Influenced by films like “Scream,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Paranormal Activity,” Gorenos is a fresh and self-aware entry into the horror genre that boasts a hip and diverse cast of new and established talents. Run time 1:21:29 minutes.


Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, (he)r monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. (S)he is gender non-binary. Support (he)r on Patreon and follow (he)r on Twitter and Facebook.

African American Multimedia Conference, Feb 13-17

AAMMC 2020 Schedule

Workshops, Panels and Book Signings

“In order to rise from its own ashes,
a Phoenix first must burn.” ― Octavia Butler

African American Multimedia Conference Presenters:

Sumiko Saulson, Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Rappin 4Tay, Kevin E. Myrick, Karen Junker, Crystal Connor, Simon Says, Scott Saulson, V’Launce Davis, Lil Twain, Precious Chambers, Lil 4Tay, Franchesca Saulson, Amy Holloway, Kevin Craig West, Meosha Bean

Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Free!)

Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, California, 94703 | 510.644.4930

Pre-Conference Kick-Off with Silent Auction!

Free and Open to the Public, Food and Beverages served.

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm           Sexy Sci-Fi Sisters Book Chat and Signing Event with James Tiptree Award Winner Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, Linda Addison, and Sumiko Saulson

Friday, February 14, 2020 (Free!)

San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street, 12-5pm

12:00 pm     Registration

12:30 pm     Welcome Speech by Linda Addison

12:45 pm     Remembering and Honoring Our Elders Past

1:15 pm       Narrowing the Digital Divide

2:15 pm       San Francisco Pioneer Awards

2:45 pm       Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror Short Preview

3:15 pm       Dollars to Diversity: Hollywood’s New Black Blockbusters

4:15 pm       Meet the Authors! Book Signing and Book Chat with

Saturday, February 15, 2020 (Free!)

Melrose Branch, Oakland Public Library, 4805 Foothill Boulevard, 2-5pm

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Nisi Shawl

2:15 pm       Creating Diverse Sci-Fi & Horror Characters and Worlds (Nisi Shawl)

3:00 pm       So You Want To Be a Rapper or a Rock n Roll Star? (Rappin 4-Tay)

3:45 pm       Krishna Awards for Black Excellence in Multimedia

4:45 pm       Closing Statements by Crystal Connor

Sunday, February 16, 2020 (Free!)

Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA, 1-2pm

1:00-2:00 pm         Scary Sisters Horror Book Chat and Signing Event with Bram Stoker Award Winner Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, and Sumiko Saulson

 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

81st Avenue Branch, Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Avenue, 2-5 pm

Kids 12 and Under

2:00-5:00 pm         Art Circle: Afrocentric Coloring Time!

PG-13

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Amy Holloway

2:15 pm       Why Do People Tell Stories about Monsters?

3:00 pm       Making Beautiful Music, Movies, and Books

3:45 pm       Beyond Us Short Film Festival & Talk

4:45pm        Closing Remarks by Kevin E. Myrick

Pride at the AAMMC! Sunday, February 16, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       Reframing the Other – Writing the Other for Black and Queer Authors (Nisi Shawl, Sumiko Saulson)

3:45 pm       Writing While Black, Queer Edition: (Sumiko Saulson, Nisi Shawl)

Pride at the AAMMC! Monday, February 17, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       A Nu Way: Creating Magical Melanated Spiritual & Safe Spaces (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)

3:45 pm       Manifesting from the Margins (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)


Self-Publishing – A Three Class Series at Eastmont

By Sumiko Saulson

Eastmont Branch, Oakland Public Library, 7200 Bancroft Avenue, Suite 211

Monday, February 10, 2020, 5-7 pm Preparing Book Interiors

Monday, February 24, 2020, 5-7 pm Exteriors, Covers, and Ads

Black Goth Takeover at Club Vantablack ($10)

Stork Club Oakland 2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California

Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 9:00 pm – 1:30 am
Performances by M-Lamar, Stagefright, Protea and In Retrograde

Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror ($10 per night)

Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

Curator & Horror Host Crystal Connor
Sunday, February 17, 2020, 7 pm – 10pm, Special Guest Kevin Craig West

Monday, February 18, 2020, 7 pm -10pm, Special Guest Meosha Bean

Book Review: Buffy, Return to Chaos by Craig Shaw Gardner

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Return to Chaos
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

Buffy fans out there who are craving more Buffy, this will be a fair read. Not a masterpiece, but a good tale that flowed okay.

In Buffy universe context: No Spike, no Angel. Oz and Willow are together, as are Zander and Cordelia. Willow is the nerdy, giggly Willow we remember, so that is fun. Giles is Giles.

It seems like a normal time in Sunnydale when Willow and Giles come up with some weird computer program that can spit out possible dangers based upon what I’m not sure. It seems like they feed in past situations and magic book content and get a printout of what evil is coming. Sort of a much-less cooler Weird Science scenario. No Barbie, no missile. A printout. But the printout seems to confuse matters more than help. Meanwhile, an old Druid and his three young nephews, also Druids, come into town.

The three young guys are interesting and provide the Scooby gang with some playmates. Oz is interested in them because they may be able to cure or at least tame his werewolf nature. Zander likes them because they treat him like one of the cool guys he always wants to be. Buffy even gets to experience a little romantic chemistry with one of them. However, I tend to think of all of the guys as one entity. None of them really stood out as his own person. They came as a package deal. Three for the price of one sort of thing. 

The Druids coming to town was an interesting concept. There was never really anything like this in the show. The new vampire “Eric” was interesting but we didn’t see him too much. I wished there was more of him. I found the older Druid uninteresting. He was trying to do this top-secret mission and captures Willow and all, but his whole concept seemed out-dated and rudimentary. 

A side plot where Cordelia is under a vampire’s spell was weird and maybe not needed. Her ex-boyfriend, an undead quarterback who she affectionately refers to as a “muck monster” was odd and had no real resolution. An annoying cheerleader-turned-vamp was so annoying, I almost put the book down a few times. The vampire controlling the vampire (yes, it’s that confusing) could have been also combined with the annoying cheer girl because they were so similar.

There were a few interesting parts when the gang was together, doing what they do and making plans. I also enjoyed a particular spell occurring in the graveyard where Buffy is attacked by growing vines.

Overall, I missed Spike in this book because he could’ve added some much-needed comedy and coolness to the book. 

This is a 3 ☆☆☆ on the scale. For hungry Buffy fans, it will be a watered-down snack between the rewatching of the series. 

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

 

HA Movie Review: Crawl

Jaws meets Gatoroid in Alligator Eco-Terror Film Crawl

By Sumiko Saulson

Beautiful cinematography, over-the-top acting, and bad writing make the action-packed alligator horror-thriller Crawl seem like the bastard love-child of Steven Spielberg and Roger Corman.  Cormaneseque is an adjective coined to describe movies like the campy 2011 SyFy Made-For-TV Movie classic Mega Python vs. GatoroidCrawl manages to successfully blend the high-budget, high tension, fast-paced, action-packed jump scare a minute drama of eco-terror classics of the seventies like the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic Jaws with a decidedly Cormanesque plot.

Lush cinematographic values and convincing creature effects sell this frightening Florida monster masterpiece about giant, bloodthirsty, frighteningly coordinated packs of hungry gators hunting down college athlete Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her backstage parent and semi-absentee father, Dave (Barry Pepper). While the special effects and camerawork are all on-point, they don’t completely make up for what the movie lacks in storyline and dialogue.

Dave tells his daughter, competitive swimmer Haley, she is an “apex predator, all the way.” The personal tagline resurfaces several times as she dives in and out of increasingly risky situations. Like her father, Haley is an impulsive risk-taker. That is why, when she finds out that Daddy has gone missing in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane, against all reason and sisterly advice, she runs right out there to save dear old Dad.

Haley finds Dad trapped in a flood-devastated basement with giant alligators circling. The basement area is called a crawlspace, and that, along with the creepy crawly critters that are snapping and biting at Dad, serves as inspiration for the title Crawl.

For about the first half an hour, this seems like a regular eco-terror film with normal alligators and everyday heroes. It’s just then that Haley, Dave, and the gators get progressively surreal and badass. At first, it’s just sort of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed badassery, with Haley being Reeves and dear old miraculously still not dead Dad Dave as the Sandra Bullock damsel in distress badass. 

At this point, Sugar, an adorable fluffy family dog played by Cso-Cso, joins the cast.  From here on out, the film becomes a tense contest to see if Haley, the clear star, can escape with Dave and Sugar. We also cringe and wait to see if this adorable pup Sugar or badass, yet Refrigerator-Girl-Vibe-Dad Dave will die in a bold sacrificial act. Unlike the adorable dog, Dave is picking up injuries like Carl on the Walking Dead. The addition of the family dog slightly reduces the Dad-is-doomed cadence of the whole production.

Spoiler Alert… there is a gas station/liquor store robbery occurring during the trapped in the basement crawlspace scene. Without getting into the fate of America’s Dumbest Criminals, let’s just say, there is a speed boat involved in the heist. During the scene where Haley literally outruns alligators to capture the boat, the film escalates into territory so improbable and badass it’s bad, like Jaws 3D. The Jaws 3D level jump-scare to insanely unlikely outrunning of apex predators ration increases exponentially.

 Then, at some point, cinematic magic occurs. The film achieves an off-the-wall, roller coaster ride of improbability for the remainder of the film of such epic proportions that it seems more like the Evil Dead franchise or House in the Woods than a serious horror film. And guess what? Crawl really works as a parody of every eco-terror action-adventure horror ever. At this point, it’s achieved true greatness, where even the preposterous parts are so bad they’re good.  It gets more and more over the top until the Starship Troopers like ending, where you will swear that Haley is a superhero of some kind who stands for apex predator superiority, American ingenuity, truth, justice, and the American Way. Is it pandering? Or is it brilliant satire?

I give it Four of Five Stars 

(If it’s pandering and Five out of Five, if it’s the brilliant satire it at times, appears to be)

 

Guest Blog: Review of The Witch by Ronald Hutton

The Witch Reviewed by John C Adams

This non-fiction book is subtitled ‘A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present’.

I first came across the author and historian Ronald Hutton fourteen years ago when he appeared as a guest in ‘Tales from the Green Valley’, a BBC TV show featuring a year-long project to re-establish a working Elizabethan farm in Wales using genuine techniques. He provided good-natured expert analysis of the Christmas traditions of the time, and it was apparent that he really knew his stuff.

Last year, I was delighted to receive a copy of this book as a birthday present from my teenage daughter (make of that what you will). I was intrigued when I realised that the author was the same expert on pagan custom and history I’d enjoyed watching a decade and a half earlier. The starting point in reading my daughter’s gift was therefore that Hutton would demonstrate the same thoroughness of expertise and knowledge here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is divided into three sections – deep perspectives (on global, ancient and shamanic contexts in the history of witchcraft), continental perspectives (including the legacy of the Egyptians, the reception of witches in the Middle Ages and the early modern patchwork including the Shakespearean age) and, finally, a section on British perspectives on witches and their relationship with fairies, Celticity and animals.

It would probably be helpful for me to point out that Hutton’s book is a history of how witches (including shamans and service magicians, so the term here is used for both male and female practitioners) are perceived by the wider societies in which they reside, rather than a history of witchcraft itself. To that end, excellently researched and thoughtfully presented though it is, readers seeking a practical history of how witchcraft has been practised or even a how-to manual would be best advised to seek out other titles. On the other hand, as histories of witches and their treatment go, it is impeccably argued and detailed.

I’m a great believer in academics presenting their findings impartially and being careful to explain objectively the limitations of their sources, be honest about the extent of our current knowledge, and highlight areas where further research would help. This, as well as the diligence of decades of in-depth research, is where Hutton’s strength lies. He gets right down into the detail, lays it out and provides a justified conclusion, all in very cool, precise language which doesn’t force on the reader a particular point of view based on preconceived notions. Not all histories are created equal! Instead, Hutton goes where the facts take him and gives the reader space to reach their own conclusions as they make that journey with him.

For all the research and detail, this was far from being a dry read. It was fascinating and informative, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a reviewer and writer of horror fiction. Souls for the Master is available for free on Smashwords and for 99p on Kindle.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Book Review: The Place of Broken Things by Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti

Reviewed by Voodoo Lynn

The Place of Broken Things is a new book of poetry penned by Linda Addison and Alessandro Manzetti. They take the reader through a fascinating labyrinth of pain, remembrance, and longing.  Though the book may be short, the verses are filled with haunting imagery that burrows into your very being. It carries you to places like Angkor Wat, Provence, and imaginary Harlem. With each poem, you are transported to a new broken place where you learn about the suffering of each subject. The use of language is flowing and free, nothing about it seems forced. I even learned a couple of new words.

Throughout the book, the contrast between a cold and harsh modern reality and the deep, rich inner life of the characters is enthralling. Perhaps it’s not escapism so much as a philosophical lease on life. There are several references to religion. One of my favorites is in the poem “Cathedral Lane.” In it we are taken through the morning life of a homeless Native American in a large city. Many of the poems in this collection are set in busy cities which we tend to think of as dark and grey but here they take on a new and colorful life through the character’s eyes.  The homeless man is Navajo as the poem makes reference to a sun deity-Nandzgai and a night deity-Chahalgel. Although the man is destitute, he still manages to see the world in a beautiful, serene and timeless way, which is in stark contrast to his cacophonous and grimy surroundings. My favorite line is: 

“Somewhere in the distance the sun returns, sliding up from the horizon, as night retires he opens his eyes to greet the passing of Now from one sky god to another…”

One poem that stuck with me is ‘Animation’. It caught my attention right away because of the format of the poem itself was visually interesting. The poem’s setting is in an office and talks about, what reminds me of a Borg invasion in the Star Trek universe. The office is thrown into chaos as all the metal and wiring coalesces into a humanoid being saying “join us.” What follows is a futile attempt to escape, ultimately leading to assimilation. When the poem first starts out, it formed into two moderately sized diamond shapes. Then, as the escape ensues, the sentences expand outward, and then become smaller, like a triangle. It does it again. And then, finally, as the worker is captured and is being taken over by the metal and wires, the sentences become smaller until it ends in one word, “join.” Because of the physical shape of the poem, I felt like I was experiencing what the office worker felt. The actual description of the process of assimilation is succinct and very effective. The end description will always stay with me:

“Flesh body knitted with steel, eyes empty, weeping blood floats in front of me. Wire caresses my face, enters my ears, metal loops bind me to the walls…”  

It just sends shivers down my spine. With the current rise in A.I. and predictive programming technology in our everyday life, this poem takes on a whole life of its own and forces the reader to wonder, what if? 

The last poem I want to talk about is “She, on Sunday.” This one fascinates me. It talks about an older woman remembering her past, and her obsessive need to repeat certain memories and how she’s become trapped in a small room, perhaps in real life, perhaps in her own mind- I’m not sure. This poem is tied together by the author’s musical references throughout. They mention Yann Tiersen, I know this name. As it turns out he was responsible for the soundtrack to the whimsical film Amelie, one of my favorites. If you are not familiar with the film, there are a few piano instrumentals in it that express a deep sense of longing, which is a perfect companion to the poem. I strongly encourage you to YouTube this music and listen to it while reading to get the full effect. There is a strong connection to the character’s obsession with her memories and her obsession with certain music. The imagery throughout the poem is amazing. You get to see something so unassuming and ubiquitous and have it transformed into a surreal Escher-esque image. For example, take someone playing the piano and have it described to you as follows: 

“…moving cold fingers, pressing blurry fingerprints on the ivory keys, bleeding curves, lines and black and white mazes which vibrate following the coils of a music theme…” 

This poem also has one of my favorite lines in it: 

“…like women’s scents in the days when the incense of spring begins to burn…”

So lovely.

The Place of Broken Things is filled with such magnificent imagery and sadness, it is sure to satisfy many. There are over thirty selections to choose from, some written individually, and others are a collaborative effort between the poets- all are worth checking out. If you are in the mood to indulge yourself in darkness and pain, then I suggest reading this book and know that you are not alone. The Buddha said, “all life is suffering.” As it turns out in the end, that is something we all have in common.

Guest Blog: 25 of the Most Metal Films (That Aren’t About Metal)

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The world’s first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, took their name from Mario Bava’s classic 1963 horror film. In the years since, horror and metal have continued to have an ongoing conversation, from horror-themed metal bands (such as Cradle of Filth, The Great Old Ones, or Carach Angren) to metal-themed horror films.

My short story Requiem in Frost continues this tradition, telling the story of a Norwegian girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a black metal musician.

To coincide with its release, I’ve decided to make a list of movies that, to me, feel “metal.” However, I’m not going to limit this list to horror, and I’m going to avoid films that are specifically about metal. This is because every other list of “Most Metal films of all time” take it literally, all of them focusing exclusively on the same 10 or so movies to have explicit references to the genre. The internet can only withstand so many posts containing Deathgasm, The Gate, The Devil’s Candy, and Lords of Chaos. So instead, I’m going to focus on movies that feel like they capture the essence of metal.

Here’s my criteria: do the images in the movie feel like they could be metal album covers? Could you put metal on the soundtrack and have it feel right? Does the story feel like it could also be that of a metal concept album? Does it feel powerful and meticulously constructed in the way that good metal does?

Obviously, everyone will have their own view on what does and doesn’t belong on this list. These are my choices, and I’m sure that your own are perfectly valid. That’s why these are 25 of the most metal films that aren’t about metal—not the 25 most.

Black SabbathHere we go. Organized by year:

  1. BLACK SABBATH (1963): Let’s just get this shoo-in out of the way. It honestly doesn’t feel that metal to me, but the fact that it inspired what many consider to be the first metal band ever makes it retroactively metal.
  2. WIZARDS (1977): Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature establishes a world in which, following a nuclear apocalypse, humans have all died or become mutants, and fantasy races have taken over in the meantime. An evil wizard uses Nazi propaganda footage to inspire his troops; a robot finds redemption, and fairy tits jiggle. It’s a strange, over-ambitious film, but the subject matter and imagery would feel right at home in a strange, over-ambitious metal concept album. Bakshi’s Fire and Ice might also be a suitable pick, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t put it here.
  3. HEAVY METAL (1981): A token inclusion, this adult animated anthology feature contains aliens on drugs, women with big swords, and copious amounts of sex and violence. It’s rather dated, particularly in the treatment of its female characters, but there’s no denying it is as metal as its name.
  4. CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982): Look, the poster for Conan the Barbarian looks just like a Manowar album. It opens with the forging of a sword. It’s full of Vikings. It has to be on this list.
  5. LEGEND (1985): When you get down to it, a lot of metal is quite geeky, full of fantasy tropes and looming apocalypses—much like Legend. Plus, Tim Curry’s Darkness is such a perfectly iconic heavy metal demon that it would be sinful not to include it.
  6. HELLRAISER (1987): Clive Barker’s squirmfest is undeniably metal, if only for the aesthetic of the cenobites and for the film’s obsession with pain, pleasure, and Hell. Hellraiser was also a huge influence on the band Cradle of Filth, with Pinhead’s actor Doug Bradley making regular appearances on their albums.
  7. EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): The Necronomicon. Ash’s chainsaw hand. The bleeding walls. The soul-swallowing, flesh-possessing demons. Evil Dead 2 is as metal as it gets.
  8. THE CROW (1994): While it’s arguably more of a goth film than a metal film, The Crow is nonetheless filled with such metal-appropriate themes as coming back from the dead to avenge your frigid lover. It’s also one of the rare movies where both the protagonist and antagonist have longer-than-average hair. Kaw, kaw.
  9. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994): Also known as Cemetery Man, this underrated dark comedy stars Rupert Everett as the keeper of a cemetery where the dead come back to life after burial. It features a romance with a severed head, a zombie on a motorbike, and Death himself, as well as amusingly cynical quotes like “I’d give my life to be dead” and “At a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.”
  10. VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000): One of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and also one of the darkest. There’s vampires, giant flying manta rays, strange monsters, dark magic, zombies, and more. The first Vampire Hunter D film is good, but Bloodlust just gives the audience one incredibly metal scene after another, and it’s filled with shots that look like they could be metal album covers.
  11. LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003): Just look at this meme. I think that demonstrates pretty clearly just how metal these films are.
  12. HELLBOY (2004) & HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008): Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic Hellboy films follow a demon who fights Nazis, tentacled Eldritch abominations, faeries, and more. The fact that we have a demon as the hero of the story is pretty significant, but the films’ hellishly lush imagery also demand their inclusion. Particularly metal is the Angel of Death we meet in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  13. 300 (2006): I’m including Zach Snyder’s divisive “300” here because the whole movie just feels like a mosh pit to me, with its fetishization of big men with big swords fighting in big groups. It has stunning, brutal, beautiful violence, and plenty of images that feel like metal album covers. Lest you think metal can only be from Scandinavia, check out the amazing Greek metal bands Rotting Christ or Septicflesh, and the Mesopotamian metal band Melecesh. All three bands would feel right at home on the 300 soundtrack.
  14. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Another beautiful Guillermo del Toro picture, Pan’s Labyrinth is both a grisly fairy tale and a story of rebellion. The Faun and the Pale Man, both played by the incomparable Doug Jones, are stunningly dark creations, and this list would be incomplete without them.
  15. SILENT HILL (2006): Pyramid Head’s scenes. ‘Nuff said.
  16. MARTYRS (2008): Extreme metal is like extreme horror: enjoyment often requires a process of conditioning and desensitization. Just as you can recommend some extreme metal only to people with the ear for it, you can only really recommend Martyrs to people with the stomach for it. Somewhere out there, a goregrind band is writing lyrics about a woman’s skin being removed in honor of this grueling film.
  17. VALHALLA RISING (2009): Nicolas Refn’s surreal Viking picture stars Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, a man who resembles Odin and goes on a transcendent journey. It’s bloody, somber, drenched in pagan spirituality and black metal as Hell.
  18. HELLDRIVER (2010): This bonkers Japanese splatterfest contains a car made out of body parts, an eight-armed zombie holding eight assault rifles, a plane made out of zombies, and…look, it’s just nuts, okay? I might have also included similar Japanese bonkers films like Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, or Robogeisha, but I feel like Helldriver belongs here the most.
  19. DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011): Nicholas Cage escapes from Hell to take revenge on someMandy evil cultists by driving…angrily…in 3D. While being pursued by a demon accountant…who is also, yes, in 3D. There’s also a sex scene gunfight…which is, you guessed it, also in 3D.
  20. BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012 – 2013): While it isn’t nearly as good as the manga it’s based on, this anime film trilogy is nonetheless quite metal. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Berserk has big swords, big battles, and big demons, culminating with the infamously hellish “Eclipse” sequence. But really, read the manga instead.
  21. KUNG FURY (2015): This 30-minute long Swedish crowd-funded film manages to pack more metal stuff in it than most films can manage in a feature-length. In Kung Fury, a Kung-Fu Cop must fight Hitler, but accidentally goes too far back in time and ends up in the Viking Age, where Viking women ride dinosaurs and fight laser raptors. In other words, it’s amazing. You can watch it for free on YouTube.
  22. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): This movie contains a man playing a fire-spewing guitar on top of a stage that’s on a moving big rig, and if that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is.
  23. THE WITCH (2015): The Witch kicks off with the ritualistic sacrifice of an infant, and from there only continues to bombard us with Satanic imagery. Of particular note is Black Philip, the sinister goat who apparently terrorized the actors as much as he does the characters in the film.
  24. MANDY (2018): Nicolas Cage makes a bat’leth and fights a shitty cult in this surreal film that’s destined to be a cult favorite. Like some great metal albums, I can think of, Mandy starts off slow and atmospheric, lulling you with hypnotic beauty before exploding into an orgy of batshit violence. Also, like many great metal albums I can think of, it feels like it was conceived while on drugs.
  25. AQUAMAN (2018): Okay, hear me out. James Wan’s Aquaman makes Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman look as metal as possible, and he makes the rest of the film as metal as possible too. The scene where Aquaman bursts from the ground while riding a giant crab? Metal. The Lovecraft references? Metal. The Trench sequence with its creepy fishmen? Metal. Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress? Metal. The fact that Aquaman fights a giant tentacle monster that’s voiced by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? Oh, so metal. There’s even a cute scene with the cuddly metalheads at a bar. This movie is a treasure.

 

JonathanFortinAuthorPhoto_SepiaJonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him online at www.jonathanfortin.com or on Twitter @Jonathan_Fortin.

 

Vile Vacations: USS Hornet by Kay Tracy

Originally posted on Jan 3, 2017


Kay sent this story of a personal vacation experience. Hope you enjoy this story as much as I have.

I have a short tale of my “night” aboard the USS Hornet, the retired aircraft carrier, and now, floating museum in Alameda California.I know a few folks who used to volunteer at the museum there and almost to a person, they have tales of seeing unusual “things” aboard that ship.

Thanks to my contacts, I was invited to do a science/aerospace lesson series for a youth overnight event a number of years back.   I gave my presentations, and activities had a light dinner with the youth group and settled in. We were regaled with tales of ghosts and unusual occurrences by some of the staff, but as a self-avowed “Science Nerd”  I was more than a little skeptical. The night itself was uneventful.

File:USS Hornet enlisted bunks.jpgThe next morning, was another story. I had finished the educational program, but we could not bring the vehicle to remove the equipment until the end of the museum hours.   Being a bit tired from two days and a night aboard, I settled into a bunk in the forward quarters overlooking the anchor chains for a short nap. I awoke to the feeling of my head at an odd angle as if I was wedged up against a wall. I reached my arm up to push myself down to a more comfortable position, only to find I was nowhere near the bulkhead or cabinet! I attempted to sit up in the bunk, with no luck,  It felt now as if someone were sitting on my shoulders! I took a breath, and, keeping my eyes closed, “calmly” said; “If I am in your bunk, I apologize. If you will get up a moment, I will get up and leave it to you!” The weight lifted, and I quickly opened my eyes and got up. I moved to a small table nearby and sat where I could see the bunk I had been in. I never saw anything move, or appear in that space, though when my co-presenter returned from fetching a soda, she looked at me and remarked “Are you alright? You look as if you have seen a ghost!” I never did “see” anything, but I can say what transpired is nothing that I can explain with science. I have since become a founding member of the Society for Unusual Manifestations.

Vile Vacations: My Stay In A Haunted Bed and Breakfast By E. A. Black

Originally posted Jan 31, 2017
Vile Vacations: My Stay In A Haunted Bed and Breakfast By E. A. Black

Several decades ago I stayed at the Kitty Knight House on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This B&B nestled next to the Sassafras River and it dated back to the Revolutionary War. I stayed there when I was in town for a theatrical stage crew convention. 

The story behind the haunting is as follows: After British soldiers sailed up the river they set the small town on fire, destroying most of it. Soldiers threw torches on the porch of the Kitty Knight House. The owner, Kitty Knight, swept the torches off the porch with her broom as quickly as the soldiers threw them. She made a deal. She’d provide the soldier’s food and shelter as long as they didn’t burn down her home. They agreed, and this house stood whilst homes around it were turned into cinders. The haunting involves Miss Kitty’s ghost wandering the halls in the dead of night, checking on her visitors staying overnight to make sure everyone was comfortable. The B&B itself is absolutely beautiful, decorated with Victorian furnishings. It includes a small bar and at the time I stayed there you could get a discounted dinner every Friday night. The rooms are beautiful, homey, and spacious in the ornate Victorian style I liked very much.

The first time I stayed it was mid-winter and the off-season rates were very attractive. My room overlooked the Sassafras River. What a view! I enjoyed a delicious meal and then headed to my room. That night I slept well until about 3 am when I heard a party going on in the room next to me. There was a lot of noise. I almost walked over to knock on the door to ask them to keep it down but I didn’t want to spoil anyone’s fun. I managed to go back to sleep. At about 4:30 AM, I heard heavy footsteps walking up and down the hallway. The party had ceased. Otherwise, it was dead quiet. I immediately thought of the ghost of the owner wandering the halls to check on everyone. I fell back to sleep. The footsteps were heavy and loud so I wondered why Miss Kitty wore combat boots. I wasn’t the least bit afraid. I felt very comfortable, secure and safe.

The next day, when I went down for breakfast, I told the clerk about the party and the footsteps. She told me I couldn’t have heard anything because I had been alone in the building all night. The footsteps! The party! None of it could have happened!

When I calmed down, I rationalized away the entire experience by believing I heard the kitchen staff cleaning up for the night instead of a party, but I want to believe I heard ghosts having a rip-roaring time.

Of course, I had to return.

My husband came along for the ride the second time I stayed there. Someone had turned on the overhead light in the dead of night while we slept. I was a very light sleeper and awakened the second the light turned on. My husband slept, snoring away. Since I was too exhausted to get up, I went back to sleep. The light was out when I awakened shortly before dawn. I later asked my husband later about the light and he said he had turned it off before going to bed. He didn’t get up during the night at all. So who turned the light on? And who turned it off as the sun was coming up?

I heard those footsteps in the hallway again and felt as safe as I did the first time. Sadly, I didn’t hear a party in the room next door. I wasn’t alone in the building since other guests were staying overnight. I haven’t been back since but I’d happily return there assuming the place is still open. It was exciting and gorgeous.


E. A. Black writes in a variety of genres. She writes erotica fiction as Elizabeth Black and horror and dark fiction as E. A. Black. Her new novelette Roughing It is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Her horror fiction has appeared in Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, Wicked Tales: The Journal Of The New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Teeming Terrors, and more. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

Guest Blog : Haunting at Ocracoke by Trinity Adler

Haunting at Ocracoke by Trinity Adler

I had a ghost experience. There, I said it. It’s true. It wasn’t a nightmare, not a daydream fantasy or drug hallucination, an actual ghost visitation and not just any ghost either, a famous one. The path was set when I listened to a friend’s recommendation for an inn on the North Carolina coast. My European roommate had visited the place on her first trip to the states. The picture she drew of the inn, cheap, romantic, near the beach ticked off every box on the list for a trip with my beau so we booked rooms for a weekend over spring break and headed for the coast.

After debarking the Ocracoke ferry at Ocracoke island we made our way to the inn. At that time, the island mainly attracted local fishermen. We had no trouble finding the small two-story building that greeted us with a plain painted sign, “Ocracoke Inn Vacancy.” 

The kindest description of the inn would be rustic. The old porch in front looked like an offering to the local termite gods. Its collection of tiny rooms did have private baths, although ours could open to share with the next room if needed. That room was unoccupied so the bolt locks stayed in place for our stay. The hot water was sporadic, and the place had no air conditioning to cool the sticky mid-Atlantic coast air. In summer our room would have felt like a sauna but in Spring it topped out at muggy. 

All of the other guests were fishermen. A few brought their wives. We could hear every sound through the paper thin walls. One of those ladies complained with no mercy to her husband about the accommodations. In the blush of young love, we overlooked the paint worn walls, the humidity, the water issues, the creaking floors and lumpy beds. We promised each other we would never be like the older, unhappy couples around us and would remember this inn as a wonderful romantic story to share with our kids someday. We spent our first day walking over the little island visiting the wild ponies and the beach. Before returning to our room we visited the mini grocery bait and tackle store to pick up some sandwiches and a bottle of cheap, peach flavored sparkling wine. We retired early.

Romance, beaches and wine did their work polishing the locale. We were lucky to be on the second floor facing the island’s little inlet so a breeze kept our room comfortable as we slept. I guess it must have been around one, maybe two in the morning when I woke up. I could see moonlight streaming through the window. The lightweight white cotton curtains rustled a little, casting shadows in the room. For some reason that seemed odd to me. At first, I thought, “Oh yeah, window’s open, it’s just the breeze.” But there wasn’t a breeze and next to me, my partner snored on in the night.

I took a breath and, for a moment, a short moment, I thought “Go back to sleep, nothing’s wrong.” Then I saw one of the bigger shadows move and fear overtook me before I could take another breath. In the moonlight by the window, the changing shadow became a threat. I could see a large man standing between the footboard of our bed and our window staring, just staring at us while we slept. I knew to the depths of my soul this person intended harm to us. 

I forced myself to pretend sleep. I didn’t dare move. I didn’t want the intruder to figure out I’d become aware of his presence. I thought he must have climbed up the old porch roof and come in through the window. Elbowing my fiancé under the coverlet for help didn’t work, he kept snoring. The man stayed still, watching us from his position at the foot of the bed. 

I had to keep my breathing at a regular rate despite my pounding heart and my throat tightening enough that I had to fight the urge to choke or cough. He kept watching us. I tried pinching my lover to no avail. My efforts to avoid the notice of the burglar failed. He began to move around the end of the bed, walking closer to me. 

Hot terror and panic flooded my body. I was experiencing an overwhelming feeling of malice directed towards the two of us in the bed. I knew these would be the final moments of my life. The man started to lean down over us. I couldn’t look at him now. I didn’t want to see that shadowy face up close. I couldn’t stay frozen waiting to die.

I shut my eyes and began screaming for all I was worth, at the same time I started pounding on my beau to wake him up. I lashed out towards the intruder with my other arm. I couldn’t seem to hit the man who menaced us. He must have been dodging my every blow. I kept thinking ” No, I won’t leave the world murdered. Not tonight! Not now!”. I continued doing my best to summon help loosing howls that could rival fire alarms.

My new love finally woke up. He sat up and began shaking me violently. Something made a bang like a door slammed. He kept urging me to wake up. Me? I’d been up an hour! He grabbed me and yelled “Wake up, wake up! You’re dreaming! Open your eyes and stop yelling! I’m here, I’m here”. I opened my eyes but I knew I wasn’t dreaming. I didn’t see the attacker anymore, only my lover. 

“Where is he?” I asked.

“There’s no one here. It’s just us.” 

“No, check the bathroom, the doors, the windows, under the bed. Someone was in here and he was going to kill us!”

“What? If someone’s here, I’ll find him!” 

My partner bounced out of bed and examined the door, locked from the inside. He checked the bathroom connecting door. The bolt sat where we left it, firmly in its place. He found nothing under the bed and he noted someone had painted over the screen locking it onto the window. A book had fallen on the floor by the bed so that explained the banging sound. We both went to see if someone was in the hall. 

If there was an intruder outside you wouldn’t have been able to find him. The only men in the hallway were fishermen zipping up their pants and looking for the woman who’d been begging for help a few minutes earlier. All the men on our floor were up and ready to save a damsel in distress. 

They were not amused when I had to apologize. I told them I thought someone was in our room. My partner said it was a nightmare before pulling me back to the room with “C’mon, let’s go back to bed. I’ll hold you. You’re safe, it was just a dream.” He got more than a few dirty looks before we went back into the room.

Holding me wasn’t going to work after my experience. I told him “Listen, I don’t want to stay here another night. We saw a couple of signs for a newer motel on the other side of the island, I’ll overdraw my bank account if I have too, but we’ve got to change motels tomorrow. I can’t stay here. I just can’t.” 

He agreed. In a few more sleepless hours we were down at the front desk asking the manager to check out. 

“Good Morning Miss. How was your room? The man behind the desk knew damn well my room was a horror. The fishermen were out the door by dawn and I’m sure if they hadn’t reported my screams they left notes about it for management. 

“You know good and well I had an intruder in my room last night.” I said.

The man behind the desk seemed very interested but not in a way that signaled surprise or that apologies were in the offing. 

“What kind of intruder Miss?”

I described the whole event starting with the man standing at the window watching the two of us at the foot of the bed up to his approaching the bed to lean over me. By the time I finished, a little crowd of guests there for breakfast had gathered from the line at the dining room nearby. They could hear my complaints. Most of them couldn’t resist eavesdropping on my complaints after the screaming overnight.

“Someone either has a way onto your porch roof and windows or they have keys to the rooms but I want a refund. I won’t stay here even one more night.” 

The manager was calm although his demeanor and smooth Southern drawl didn’t soothe my temper. If anything, it only heightened it.

“Happy to give a refund Miss. But ya’ll should know plenty of women have had the exact same experience you’ve described. This place here is known for the ghost. He’s been annoying lady guests of this inn for ’bout 200 years. You never heard of Edward Teach? Blackbeard the Pirate? Kilt’ right out in that inlet, right there.” 

He pointed towards the front porch overlooking the inlet and continued his explanation. 

“He ‘n his crew fought it out with the Queen’s men right in view of the inn. This place was likely one of the last buildings on land he saw from his ship when he got beheaded. He visits a few of the female guests in the inn every so often. Always was known for having an eye for the ladies. Doesn’t hurt anyone, just looking under the beds for his head.” 

The manager smiled as he finished. Some of the scattering of people behind us giggled about it. For me, this was beyond creepy. He seemed delighted at my story and thrilled there was a little crowd there to overhear it. I guess nothing helps fill a dilapidated old property like a resident ghost. 

All of the ghost talk made me angry again. “Blackbeard? Blackbeard’s ghost? Right. Terrifying women is how you keep this dust trap booked? You may do a good job with theater here but think about this, you could give someone a heart attack with tricks like that. Now, give me my money back!”

My boyfriend didn’t say a word, he’d dropped back a little way from the counter during my tantrum. I thought he was still numb from lack of sleep and more than a little embarrassed at my behavior but the manager opened the till.

“Yep, here you go Miss.” 

The money for our prepaid two night stay was returned. After we left, my new Yankee partner became effuse.

“That was amazing! I thought they’d throw us out and we’d have to sleep in a tent after waking everyone up last night. You rocked. I can’t believe you got our money back!” 

We checked out and moved across the island to the other inn, a newly built motel. We had one more day to stay at Ocracoke over spring break. We felt lucky there were rooms left at the newer place. The manager of the haunted place called ahead. The hotel owner was waiting for us at the Edward Teach Inn and we got the same room rate. Because of the ghost we were treated like celebrities at the new place. They wanted to hear every detail of the haunting. The new inn’s name was a little creepy after our experience, but this motel had solid locks, hot water and air conditioning. We left the Ghost to his preferred rooms over at the Ocracoke Inn. All I cared about was the Sunday ferry trip off the island.

Comic Review: Spike: Into the Light

Spike: Into the Light Comic
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

You know as well as I do that the major success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is all because of Spike. If he’s your favorite characters too, you’ll find this comic Spike: Into the Light an amusing little read.

Written by James Marsters himself (the actor who played Spike) this little comic has all the fun comedy we have learned to expect from the blond one.

In a time when Spike is trying to be a good boy, he travels to a different town called Greenville where he helps save a woman in an alley from two thugs. He then uncovers a demon trying to kidnap little kids, tries to recover some money he stole in his heyday, and replace some broken boots.

This story is supposed to take place near the beginning of Season 7 of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. So, you might want to watch the end of six before you start this read.

Now, the artwork is all very well in this book. I found the demon especially interesting and Spike was as we would expect him. I enjoyed the inner monologue Spike gives us in this comic and it was fun watching him try to be a good guy when all he wants to do was bust some skulls. Or drain some blood for God’s sake!

My only disappointment was that, I like Spike when he’s bad. Seeing people take advantage of him, breaking his boots and not paying for it, stealing his money, all these things happening and he just taking it…it was hard to watch.

Still, I’d say this comic was a success. Well done James, and I look forward to more if you have it in you.

This is a rare 4.5 ☆☆☆☆ ½ on the scale.

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

PR: Massive Movie Update!


Production Set to Begin on Next Installment of Hit Found-footage Franchise

Los Angeles, CA  — Pack your bags for another terrifying stay at the infernal Abaddon Hotel. HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE, the third installment in the hit found-footage horror franchise, has started production as of May 1 and will premiere exclusively on Shudder later this year.

Writer/director Stephen Cognetti and producer Joe Bandelli have returned for the new installment, along with many of the original Hell House LLC cast. The following castmates will reprise their roles: Ryan Jennifer Jones (Sara), Danny Bellini (Alex), Gore Abrams (Paul), Adam Schneider (Mac), Theodore Bouloukos (Robert) and Jared Hacker (Tony). They are joined by returning Hell House LLC II cast members Joy Shatz (Molly), Jillian Geurts (Jessica) and Brian David Tracy as the demonic former Abaddon Hotel owner Andrew Tully.

Shudder manager Craig Engler has talked about the franchise, recently. Engler said of the films: “the Hell House LLC franchise on Shudder has been hugely popular, and our worldwide premiere of Hell House LLC 2 last year was one of our most watched films ever.” Engler also said of the film’s debut: “we couldn’t be more thrilled to premiere the final chapter of this epically terrifying series exclusively on Shudder!”


West Hollywood, CA  – Shed of the Dead is a zombie thriller, from director Drew Cullingham (Umbrage). One part Shaun of the Dead and one part 28 Days Later, the film follows two slackers, who whittle their days away playing Dungeons & Dragons and painting figurines. As life pressures build up for Trevor (Spencer Brown) and Graham (Ewen MacIntosh), events take an unexpected turn, when the undead turn up in their little gardening spot. Now, it is a fight for survival, in a real zombie apocalypse – this May!

Shed of the Dead is bringing some of the most fearsome horror icons to the screen. Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame, along with Bill Moseley (3 From Hell) and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977) will be part of the action – some in undead form. As well, all three actors will be at: Shriekfest and Monsterpalooza to talk about this re-animated film.

This zombierific title will began a theatrical launch this May, through Indican Pictures. The first showing of the film will take place in North Hollywood, at the Laemmle Theatre, this May 17th. Another showing, across the pond, will begin this May 18th, in London (Sci-fi London). After a theatrical release, which will take place in at least four countries, Shed of the Dead will be available on DVD and Digital platforms this June 6th! There will be lots of opportunities for film fans to see this horror comedy shamble on both big and little screens, this Spring and Summer.

The official trailer for Shed of the Deadhttps://vimeo.com/327153102


West Hollywood, CA  – The Drag Queen horror film Killer Unicorn has just been acquired by distribution house Indican Pictures, at the Cannes Film Festival. Part comedy and all party, Killer Unicorn is the latest film from long time director Drew Bolton and writer Jose D. Alvarez. Set in the underground dance scene of Brooklyn, New York, this film brings a serial killer into the mix. As the local Drag Queens are targeted, survivors must use their special, very unique skills to save themselves and track down this stalker. Killer Unicorn will be in theatres this month, across the United States.

Writer Alvarez has talked about the film at several major magazines. At Billboard, Alvarez described the film as: “like John Waters topping John Carpenter, so equal parts scary, campy and queer.” This are two filmmaking icons that are hard to best. The writer also mentions that there are hidden references in the film: “so you will get some I Know What You Did Last SummerScream and Halloween.” All of these films will combine with a colourful Brooklyn nightlife, this June 14th.

On this date, Indican Pictures will show the film from coast-to-coast. The initial theatrical release will take place in: New York City, Houston and Los Angeles. This first showing will be followed by other cities, with Killer Unicorn to show on DVD and Digital platforms July 9th. For now, horror fans can view some of many over-the-top characters from the film, including Lady Havok, Isis Vermouth and Latrice Royale, before the film’s wide release, next week!

The official trailer for Killer Unicornhttps://vimeo.com/269006196


Los Angeles, CA TERROR FILMS has acquired worldwide rights to the chilling ride-share feature film END TRIP.

Aaron Jay Rome wears multiple hats in his critically acclaimed horror-thriller. Rome not only wrote, directed and produced the film, he also stars in the film as Brandon, a ride-share driver working for URYDE. On an otherwise quiet night, Brandon picks up Judd (Dean West). But unlike the usual pick-up and drop-off scenario, Judd explains that he recently went through a messy breakup and asks Brandon if he’d mind just driving around the city while they talk. Brandon agrees, offering an empathetic ear to Judd. As they continue to drive into the night Brandon and Judd appear to be forging a new found friendship. However beneath it all there is more to this ride-share than meets the eye and for one of them – this ride will be their last.

END TRIP has a large cast. The co-stars include: Ashley Lenz, Jaren Mitchell and Michelle West. Dean, who also produced the film with Rome, will next be seen co-starring in the Blumhouse & Universal horror film The Hunt.

TERROR FILMS has set the release date for Friday, June 21st, 2019. The film will roll out in North America on Prime Video and Vudu, initially. This release will be followed by another in the coming months, across multiple platforms such as Google Play, Vudu, TUBI TV, Roku and many more. International platforms iFlix and Horrify will also show the release, at a future date. A DVD release will take place later this year.  For now, film fans can check out the official poster and trailer, courtesy of TERROR FILMS and be sure to watch END TRIP when it hits platforms on June 21st. It may change your mind about using a ride share service.

The official trailer for END TRIPhttps://youtu.be/rEpIMvVeV7g


Press Release: The Sequels

Fanbase Press is thrilled to announce that the upcoming trade paperback of its four-issue series, The Sequels, will feature a foreword written by Andre Gower (The Monster Squad, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary).  The team is also revealing the brand new trade paperback cover, featuring the combined artwork of series cover artist Don Aguillo and interior artists/colorists Val Halvorson and Bobby Timony!

The Sequels is a creator-owned series that – in the height of ‘80s nostalgia – dares to question whether our grasp on the past is endangering our future.  It is written by Norm Harper (Eisner Award-nominated Rikki, The Naughty List) illustrated and colored by Val Halvorson and Harvey Award-nominated Bobby Timony (The Night Owls, The Simpsons), flatted by Deanna Poppe, lettered by Oceano Ransford (A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch, Eisner Award-nominated Rikki), and features cover art by Don Aguillo (Rise, Winter, Isugid Pinoy!).

“We’re extremely honored to have Andre’s contribution to the collected trade paperback,” says Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon.  “Given the thoughtful examination of nostalgia in The Sequels, Andre’s unique perspective and incredible impact to our collective nostalgia for the ‘80s make his contribution truly special.”

Series Synopsis:

Remember the ‘80s? Avery, Gwen, Russell, and Dakota will never forget.  As children, they each experienced unique adventures . . . saving the life of a sentient robot, partying with an intergalactic alien, battling the likes of vampires and werewolves, and defeating a nightmarish monster to protect imagination itself.  Now, 30 years later, they’re directionless adults, still obsessed with their pasts. When a mysterious figure brings the group together to cope with their experiences, will they be prepared to live out the “sequels” to their childhood adventures?

Issues #1-4 of the comic book series are being released digitally through ComiXology, and the series’ collected trade paperback will be released on July 22, 2019The Sequels trade paperback is currently available for pre-order at www.TheSequelsComic.com and through the Fanbase Press website (www.fanbasepress.com).  Pre-orders made by May 1, 2019, will receive an exclusive set of prints (representing each of the four covers) illustrated by Don Aguillo and signed by the entire creative team.

Founded in 2010, Fanbase Press celebrates fandoms and creates new ones! As a comic book publisher and geek culture website, Fanbase Press produces new and distinctive works, as well as daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts, that span the pop culture spectrum and give voice to the themes, ideals, and people that make geekdom so exceptional.

Fanbase Press’ previous titles – including the 2018 Eisner Award-nominated Quince, the 2019 IPPY Award-winning A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space, the 2014 Bram Stoker Award-nominated Fearworms: Selected Poems, The Margins, Hero Hotel, The Gamma Gals, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums – are available online at www.fanbasepress.com and on Amazon, as well as digitally through ComiXology.

As a special note, Andre Gower’s latest project, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary, explores the relationship a dedicated audience (including celebrities and filmmakers) has with The Monster Squad. This documentary takes an in-depth look into the film’s conception, response, cult status, and revival. Through interviews with the cast, crew, screenwriters, directors, academics, and original reviewers, as well as through never-before-seen footage, it turns the lens on an audience of self-proclaimed misfits who have kept The Monster Squad alive for more than thirty years.  More information may be found at www.thesquaddoc.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@thesquaddoc).

Book Review: Mountain Sickness by Frank Martin

Frank Martin is working on relaunching this book series with new graphics and comics included.
We’ve re-posted this review from 2017 to feature his book again and show this new artwork.
To find out more about Frank’s project, go to: www.frankthewriter.com

Mountain Sickness by Frank Martin

review by David Watson

Telluride is a small remote town in the Colorado Rockies and it’s a playground for the rich and famous. People come from all over to ski here and the city’s economy is dependent on tourism. It wasn’t always that way though, it started as a mining town but the mine was considered dangerous and closed down. Since then, Telluride has been a winter paradise until a mysterious plague starts to affect the guests.

Telluride isn’t an easy place to get in and out of, so when disaster strikes there is nowhere to run to. It starts with normal people turning into raving lunatics; it ends with them changing into flesh-eating zombies. To make matters worse, the town is being rocked by a blizzard and the locals and tourists alike will have to work together to survive and keep the zombie virus from spreading. If you ever wanted to know what the zombie apocalypse would be like in a blizzard than Mountain Sickness by Frank Martin is your chance to find out.

My first thought when I saw this book was: “Zombies in a snowstorm, sounds like fun.” I can’t think of any other zombie books or movies that take place in a cold climate so I found this idea appealing. My one complaint about this book is that it takes a long time to get into the action. There are so many characters being introduced in the beginning that it’s hard to keep track of everyone. Once we see the first person sick with the zombie virus the story gets good real quick.

It’s not just the setting that makes this zombie story different, it’s also how the people are before they change. The victims fly into a rage before they become zombies and in the beginning, they start as fast-moving zombies. One of my favorite scenes was when one of the ski resort’s employees named Chris goes to find his girlfriend as the people are turning into zombies. He finds her close to death and her dying wish is for Chris to save a boy named Ryan. Chris starts looking for Ryan and as he does he sees himself as a man who has never committed to the life he truly wanted and now he has to fulfill his girlfriend’s dying wish. This made me fall in love with the character Chris and as we see him try to rescue Ryan, he finds another survivor on the way, a 13-year-old girl named Stephanie.

Stephanie is another character in this story I fell in love with. In the beginning, she is a normal teenage girl but we see her become a different person as she deals with the loss of her family and is forced to become an adult as society collapses around her. One scene I loved has Stephanie walking up to someone changing into the living dead and knocking them out with one punch. Seems unbelievable but the zombie didn’t see it coming. The most interesting part of this book is seeing how all of the characters change as they realize that if the zombies don’t get them then they will probably die in the blizzard. The setting and the characters make Mountain Sickness  a must read.

 

 

Comic Review: Mary Moon Volume 1

Mary Moon Comic
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

I’m reviewing an old comic Circa 2012 that I picked up at a used bookstore. Mary Moon is a story about a gal who gets bitten by a werewolf and a vampire at the same time, making her some sort of hybrid were-vamp.

This Volume 1 by Black Mirror Comics seemed somewhat like an indie publication and does have a few typos. However, they seem very passionate about their story and there’s even information in the back about how to subscribe to them. Now, I haven’t looked up the website to see if it’s still in service, but here’s my review of this issue.

First off, the art is rather well done. Much better than I would expect from an indie comic company. I enjoyed most of the images. There are a few that are a little out of whack, but overall it’s done well.

This story is an interesting idea. What if you were bitten by a vampire and a werewolf at the same time? Would you be a cross between both of them, or would one be a more dominant feature in your blood?

In Mary Moon’s case, she experiences these beings separately. She’ll be a vampire, she’ll feed on blood, and be stated. Then her werewolf being emerges, feeds on flesh, and is sated. They don’t seem to mix the bloodthirst and the flesh thirst, but hopefully, the victim will stick around long enough to feed bother her beings.

All this being said, about halfway through the book we find her in the emergency room being cared for by doctors. This is where the story falls apart for me. She is supposedly in Transylvania, being cared for by medical professionals there. However, the people in the hospital look like Americans. They use a lot of technical American speech almost as if it’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The primary doctor in the story is so angry, he yells every single thing he says as if that is how his demeanor is. But it’s really strange because he’s overly dramatic at some points. Also, the way he’s painted is like he’s the devil or something when he’s just trying to save this woman’s life–we think. Not only that, the medical procedure is pretty flawed. When she’s bleeding internally, she goes into cardiac arrest and flatlines. They don’t try to revive her in any way shape or form. The doctor just says, “Wrap it up. Time of death is…” For a doctor who was so angry about getting the patient fixed as soon as possible and yelling orders to every nurse, attending, and orderly around, he just drops her when she flatlines?

Besides this 7-10 page scene in the book, the rest of the story is rather well done and interesting. The vampire and wolf art is pretty good and the storyline is enjoyable. I’d give this comic 3 ☆☆☆ out of five, and remember, I am a tough critic.

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

Guest Blog: From Beast to Man and Back Again

From Beast To Man And Back Again by John C. Adams

Evolutionary impulses drag us back to when we came. Whether we like it or not, they’re always there. There’s only so much we can do to fight against them. We both hope and fear that the natural human impulse to regress will take over. Even worse, in horror fiction, modern science seems to be getting in on the act.

In the 1984 film The Company of Wolves (dir: Neil Jordan), the childhood tale of Little Red Riding Hood is given a modern makeover. Red drifts into the forest and meets a handsome stranger, whereupon Granny’s advice goes right out the window. Well, sexual appetite does that to you. It’s a shame that Red can’t remember the cautionary element of Granny’s werewolf tale, as Angela Lansbury is quick to point out: not to trust a man who’s too proud to piss into a chamber pot. Let’s just say that in Granny’s tale the young bride’s new husband answers the Call of Nature in more sense than one.

The prime mover of sexual appetite is as good a reason to junk steady adult advice as any.

Fairy stories and folk tales abound with examples of spontaneous changes in shape from man to beast and back again. Those old tales are so central to our cultural identity, developed over hundreds of years in writing and for much longer before that via the oral tradition, that it’s no surprise that they are still cropping up in films and TV today.

If it’s natural for us to long to return to our genetic origins, it’s no surprise that modern science isn’t slow in embracing the opportunities to engineer this for us. And big business being what it is, the profit motive lies right at the heart of it.

In Graham Masterton’s novel Flesh and Blood, the Spellman Institute of Genetics is conducting experiments to implant human genetic material into pigs. Animal rights activists have plenty to say on that subject and are lobbying for a US-wide law banning testing on animals. The pig research (Masterton says his wife always called this book ‘the pig novel’) becomes a cause celebre for them. The pig, Captain Black, is as terrifying as you’d expect:

“His body was awesome enough, but his face made Nathan swallow in discomfort. It was more like the face of a giant werewolf than a hog: it was covered all over in thick glossy black hair, with a hideously flattened snout. Two curved incisors rose from his lower jaw, and strings of drool swung with every step he took.”

Mankind just can’t seem to help themselves from meddling in the mix of human and animal DNA when there’s a commercial excuse for it. But in the 2009 film Splice (dir: Vincenzo Natali) the insanity of experimentation mixing human with animal DNA reaches new heights when two leading scientists splice the DNA of a bird with that of a human. Yikes!

As a species, we are so prone to egotism that we want to be the ones to push the boundaries of creation. Like modern-day Dr. Frankensteins, it’s all about power over the hideous monstrosities we generate.

Like any form of meddling, the best lesson of all is just to leave well enough alone. If only it were that simple…

John C Adams is a horror and fantasy writer. ‘Souls For The Master‘ is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Short Bio

John C Adams is a Contributing Editor for the Aeon Award and Albedo One Magazine, and a Reviewer with Schlock! Webzine.

You can read John’s short fiction in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, and many others. 

A non-binary gendered writer, John has also had fiction published in The Horror Zine, Devolution Z magazine and many other smaller magazines.

John’s fantasy novel ‘Aspatria’ and futuristic horror novel Souls for the Master are both available on Kindle and via Smashwords.

John lives in rural Northumberland, UK, and is a non-practising solicitor.

Press Release: Play or Die

Samuel Goldwyn Films has announced that the company has acquired North American rights to the horror movie PLAY OR DIE, directed by Jacques Kluger. The film stars Charley Palmer (DUNKIRK), Roxane Mesquida (“Now Apocalypse”), Marie Zabukovec (INTERRAIL), Thomas Mustin (RAW), and Igor Van Dessel (RACER AND THE JAILBIRD). PLAY OR DIEwill be available through On-Demand and on Digital platforms July 2.

In the story, Lucas and Chloe are two passionate gamers. They decide to participate in Paranoia, a very exclusive escape game. After solving the first riddle, they make it to the location of the finale in an abandoned mental hospital, hidden deep in a frightening forest. There, four other participants are waiting for them. Together, they soon realize that only one of them will get out alive.

PLAY OR DIE was directed by Jacques Kluger and co-written with Amiel Bartana. The film is based on the best-selling novel “Puzzle” by Franck Thilliez and published by Fleuve Editions. The film was produced by Jacques Kluger (Kluger Partners), Nexus, and Nadia Khamlichi & Gilles Waterkeyn (Umedia).

The deal was negotiated by Meg Longo on behalf of Samuel Goldwyn Films and Gregory Chambet at WTFilms – on behalf of the filmmakers.

Press Release: American Horrors Channel

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – The multi-award winning and former Guinness World Record holders Groovey TV are in talks with the American Horrors Channel to develop exclusive content in the form of a 13 episode season that will air later this year.  This series is intended to stream exclusively on the American Horrors channel, available on Roku & online at www.americanhorrors.comGroovey TV is known for its guerilla style and hilariously sarcastic approach to its content. 

“I believe Groovey is a talent that will thrive at American Horrors. His interviews are fun, involving and always interesting to watch.” Said Hart D. Fisher, co-founder of the American Horrors 24/7 linear streaming horror channel. “Groovey’s tongue is a sharpened instrument capable of impaling an elder vampire, let alone a raised in the shadows horror creator, he always draws the best out of his subjects, from all areas of pop culture, for American Horrors, we’re going to narrow Groovey’s focus to the pulpy horror exploitation culture we all know & love.”

Groovey the founder of Groovey TV had this to say, “To be in the development stages of creating an exclusive content television series with Hart Fisher and American horrors is beyond exciting and really a dream come true. My childhood self is high fiving the crap out of me right now!

More details about Groovey TV on American Horrors will be released as the situation develops.

About American Horrors:
American Horrors brings the viewer the scariest world premier feature films and shorts, in house produced original programming (Gorecast, American Horrors, True Crimes, The Horror Show) as well as in depth interviews with their favorite horror creators, cutting edge filmmakers, darkest musicians and exclusive never before seen on broadcast TV music videos by the bloodiest acts in heavy metal, rock n roll & rap! American Horrors is the world’s greatest uncut 24/7 linear streaming horror channel and is available on Roku & online at http://americanhorrors.com/!

About Groovey TV:
Groovey TV is a closely affiliated group of artistic ass kickers that bring the rain without spilling their beer all the while covering the music, movies, games and events that are undeniably rad. Multi-award winning and former Guinness World Record holders “Most TV Interviews in 24 Hours” which was 70 and was held from 2014 to 2016.  The Groovey TV YouTube channel currently has 2 million views and 800 videos.

Press Release: POV Horror

TERROR FILMS is hellbent on ensuring that you can find their films literally everywhere! On the heels of their recent partnership announcement with VOD streaming site Popcornflix, the digital indie genre distributor is at it again as they prepare to launch seven of their found footage films on the popular subscription streaming service – POV HORROR.

The release will include a mixture of titles. To begin the partnership the wildly successful Hell House LLC and politically charged Savageland, will debut on this platform. Next, the stalkeresque thriller The Documentary will be available. The slate will also highlight films from international filmmakers such as The Blair Witch Project spoof The Claire Wizard Thesis (from Australian filmmaker Ishak Issa), the critically acclaimed Be My Cat: A Film for Anne (from Romanian filmmaker Adrian Țofei), the paranormal thriller The Follower (from French filmmaker Kévin Mendiboure), and the never-before-seen Documenting the Witch Path (from Swedish filmmaker Carl Sundström). The official poster has been included here, for Documenting the Witch Path, with the official trailer set to release soon. This documentary follows three young filmmakers in search of a haunted lake where innocent women, accused of witchcraft, were drowned in the 17th Century.

TERROR FILMS’ President Joe Dain had something to say of this partnership. Dain said of the film slate and working with POV HORROR: “we are thrilled to be working with POV Horror. In this very competitive market, we rely on platforms such as POV Horror to help us continue to grow our digital footprint and introduce our ever-growing and diverse library of horror films to new audiences.” A larger audience can see the best TERROR FILMS has to offer on POV HORROR, this April!

POV HORROR will release Savageland on April 28th, followed by more TERROR FILMS horror all summer long!

Terror Trax: CADAVERIA

CADAVERIA

Cadaveria, vocals
Marçelo Santos, drums
Peter Dayton, bass
Live guitarist: Enrico Toselli
CONTACT:
http://www.cadaveria.com
https://www.facebook.com/cadaveria
Twitter: @cadaveriaofficial
Album/Song/Tour
We are excited about right now Far Away From Conformity, remixed and remastered:
http://www.cadaveria.com/web/shop/far-away-from-conformity-cd-digipack-2017/

What singers or bands inspired you growing up?

Venom, Mercyful Fate, Sepultura.

Who are your favorite artists today?

Tool

What non-musical things inspire your music?

Cinema, poetry, life.

Is there a place where you go to be inspired?

My soul.

What’s been the greatest achievement of your band?

To release five studio albums, a double DVD and many music videos, to play lots of gigs all around the world and to be 100% independent.

Where was the coolest place to play? Where did you enjoy yourselves the most?

Mexico always welcomes CADAVERIA with a great enthusiasm and we love Mexico back.

What are your favorite horror movies?

Profondo Rosso, Nosferatu, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

What was the scariest night of your life?

When I discovered I have a cancer.

If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would be your opening band?

I would like to tour the US.

What are you working on now for future release?

I’m writing some lyrics for CADAVERIA sixth album.

Final thoughts / Anything you want to tell the listeners?

Enjoy every single moment of your life.

 

 

Logbook of Terror: Suicide Forrest

Suicide Forest by Russell Holbrook

A fictional representation of a real Cursed Location – Aokigahara Forest

I’m in a forest, all alone. I came here to die, because it was time. I’d heard it on the wind, the soft whisper of my destiny. I saw my path carved out in rivulets of blood that flowed in meandering streams over the bark of the towering trees; The trees that blocked out the cursed sun with their looming, wooden arms.

This is my new, eternal home. I spread out my favorite blanket in a tiny clearing. I swallow twenty-three morphine pills. I wait. I quickly consume seven shots of whiskey. I smoke a cigarette. I wait. The pills and the alcohol stir within. My body weighs me down. When I turn toward a sudden sound of snapping twigs, the motion makes me feel like I am underwater. I nearly tip over. I light another cigarette and drop it in my lap on the third drag. I watch the cherry burn a hole in my favorite green cargo pants. When I feel the lit tobacco burning the flesh of my thigh, I stop staring at the cigarette, pick it back up, and take another drag. The sharp burning sensation in my thigh congeals into a dull throb. I hear a bird above me. I smile.

Life seems so perfect and serene right now. I ask myself why I would want to leave something so nice. I don’t get an answer. I ask again. Still, no answer, no reason, just a knowing that I need to take my own life. I yawn. Now is the time, before I lose all consciousness and control of my motor functions. I pull the small, black pocket knife from my satchel. It is the same knife my father used to slit his wrists, and the same tool used by his father before him. The blade is caked with rust and dried blood.

“No matter what, it can never, ever be washed,” my father had said when he passed the knife down to me. The crust made the knife difficult to open but, after a momentary struggle, the blade was extended. I am staring into the blade’s filthy surface, seeing no reflection, no light, only dark and hopeless, bleak serenity. The wooden handle is black. It is worn smooth from being jostled around in the pockets of three generations of Tessier men, three generations of killers. I think about the knife, about all that it has seen, and about all that it has done: all the flesh it has carved, all the screams and agony it has evoked, all the wonderful horror it has created. I think of the anguish of my victims’ families, and that of my father’s victims, and those of his father before him as well. In my mind I hear their tortured cries. I giggle with nostalgic glee. I sway and nearly topple over. Then I plunge the blade into the center of my left arm. With inebriated determination, I move the knife through my skin and meat, from the crook of my elbow to my wrist. I stare at my arm, watching the blood bubble and ebb and flow from my skin. And then, unexpectedly, I no longer wish to die. I still have so much to do, so much beauty to create. I wish I could take it back, fold the knife back up, put it back in my pocket, and go home. Live a few minutes in reverse to change the course of destiny. I wish and I wish and I wish. Then:

Suddenly I stop: I know it’s too late. My father taught me that we all have expiration dates, both personally and professionally, and that we need to know when to bow out. I remember that this is my time. I lay back and listen to the soft sounds of the forest. I let go.

I’m dead in a forest, all alone. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. I watched beasts take apart my carcass. Birds pecked out my eyes. It felt magnificent to be melding back into nature, becoming one with all life, becoming food, giving comfort and nourishment to creatures in the wild. As I once used my body to take life, now I use it to give life. And I am in the forest and the forest is in me, and forever and ever and ever we shall be.

Guest Blog: Otherworldly Vampires by Brian Mckinley

Otherworldly Vampires by Brian McKinley

This is, admittedly, a catch-all category for vampiric creatures of several varieties with the common element being that they originate from a non-human source. Demons, ghosts, spirits, gods, and even fairies are found here. Yes, I said faeries, so we’ll start there. Most of the cutesy, Tolkien-esque fae of our modern folklore come to us thanks to people like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and a general romanticizing that took place throughout the Victorian age. In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. In my post on “Irish Vampires,” I discussed the Leanan-Sidhe and Baobahn-Sith as well as the White Ladies. Our final example of vampiric fae comes from Germany and it’s perhaps the most surprising.

The Alp is also considered a demon in Germanic lore, but in a lot of ways their fae and demons are closely related. A creature described in many ways due to its ability to shape-shift, its one consistent feature is the white hat, or cap of concealment, it wears because it is the source of its power. The Alp is known for creeping into beds of women at night and drinking blood from the nipples. It also enjoys breast milk if the woman is lactating. The crushing weight of the alp on the chest causes horrible nightmares to the victim. These dreams even had a name: alpdrucke or elf dream. That’s because the alp is the basis for the English word elf. The resemblance can be seen a bit more in some of the alp’s more mischievous attributes.

In addition to its’ bloodlust, they were also known to be responsible for knotting people’s hair while they slept or re-diapering babies with soiled diapers. Not even livestock were safe from the terror of the alp, as it was also known to attack horses, geese, and rabbits—crushing them to death under its weight. This fearsome creature was rather easily warded off, however, by such methods as keeping your shoes beside the bed and pointed at the door while you slept, protective wards, prayers, and pentagrams, or keeping a mirror on your chest while you slept. If you could manage to steal the hat off its head, the alp would lose all its power could be killed by putting a lemon in its mouth.
That’s right. A vampire destroyed by citrus, you heard it here. The alp has a female counterpart called the Mara, the basis for the term nightmare. It attacks men in their sleep, also crushing their chests and drinking their blood, but the Mara’s attacks tend to be more fatal. However, you probably noticed a similarity between the Alp and another famous pair of demons: the succubus and incubus. Which brings us to my next sub-category of otherworldly being vampires: demons, ghosts, and spirits.

The Greeks gave us the Lamia and the Empouse. With the upper bodies of women and lower bodies resembling snakes, the Lamia lived in deserts and cemeteries, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of infants. Later Greek storytellers gave the Lamia a tragic backstory, saying that the first Lamia was a queen of Lybia. Her beauty attracted the attention of Zeus who took her as a lover. Par for the course in these stories, Zeus’ wife Hera became terribly jealous and punished Lamia by destroying her children. In some versions, Hera tricks Lamia into eating her own children. This drove Lamia insane with grief and she went on a horrific murder spree, killing the babies of her people. Additionally, she lured men into secluded alleys for sex and drank their blood. Over time, her terrible crimes transformed her into the hideous creature that her name became synonymous with. However, by aligning herself with the Empouse—more on them in a second—she learned to shape-shift and disguise her appearance with illusion, as did her progeny.

The Empouse were the vampiric demon spawn of the witch goddess Hecate, who acted as her attendants. Red-haired, they possessed the legs of mules and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. As with many other varieties I’ve described, they possessed the ability to appear as beautiful women in order to seduce men, who they would drain of their life energy during sex before consuming them. Luckily, if a man was able to resist the allure of the Empouse’s disguise, it was easy to run away from them as their legs made them very slow. The half-woman, half-beast theme appears in several types of vampires, including the original Mermaids who dragged shipwrecked sailors below the waves and drank their blood.

Similar to the demon women in Greece and India, the Japanese have the Yuki Ona (Oo-key Own-a), or “snow woman.” Appearing as a beautiful woman in a white kimono with pale skin, the Yuki Ona only hunts in the winter where her appearance gives her the perfect camouflage. Like the Lamia or Empouse, it is known to lure men into sex so it can drain their life energy, but just as often is said to simply lead travelers astray until they succumb to the elements or freeze them with her icy breath. On occasion, they are also said to appear to parents in search of a child, appearing to hold it in her arms. When the parents come to claim it, of course, the snow woman freezes them. Unlike most of the others, however, legends do say that if a potential victim is able to plead for his life pitiably enough to melt the cold heart of the Yuki Ona, then she will spare him.

Then there’s the K’uei (GUAY) of China, which looks like a translucent, dark humanoid with black hair and dark eyes. It is created when a person’s lower soul doesn’t leave his body because he led a dishonest life or committed suicide. The K’uei feeds on the emotions of evil people and is somewhat harmless by the standards of most vampires. Agile and intelligent, it’s also a somewhat cowardly creature and, as long as it’s left alone to feed, it generally doesn’t harm anyone. Should they be interrupted while feeding, the K’uei usually resorts to using its magic to curse that person. They love battlefields and the chaos of war, but holy artifacts and holy ground will repel them. There are several types of K’ueis in Chinese lore who all feed on different things, including the Hsi-Hsue- Keui (Zi-Zu-Guay) whose name translates to “suck blood demon” so you can guess what that one feeds on.

This same idea appears in Japan as the Gaki and in India and its surrounding regions as the preta. The souls of those who were exceptionally greedy or evil in life return, condemned to consume blood or other, even more repugnant, substances. In many stories these creatures are invisible while in others they take the form of monstrous humanoid figures with sharp teeth and claws, but a narrow neck; gaunt and starved like the Native American cannibal spirit, the Wendigo.

Even stranger than demons and ghosts are the strange and unique vampires that don’t fall into any neat category. The monsters like the famous goat-sucking Chupacabra of Mexico, which has taken numerous forms over the centuries but preys almost exclusively on livestock, to the Nabeshima (Nob- BAY- she- ma) of Japan. That one is a magical cat with two tails which can shape-shift into a specific person its victim knows in order to get close. Then it strangles its victim unconscious and drinks their blood.

Back in Africa, the Sasabonsam (Sa-so-BUN-sum) snatches up passers-by from the branches of cotton trees where it hides. A bat-like creature the size of a man with huge wings and a body covered in hair, it pulls its victims up into the trees where it tears their heads off and drinks their blood. These fearsome beasts are sometimes commanded by witch vampires I mentioned earlier, making them even more dangerous. Then there are less terrifying specimens like the Spanish hellhound called The Dip, which has black hair and glowing red eyes and … a lame leg. Don’t ask me why that’s scary…

Another amusing creature from Japan is the Kappa, little green child-like turtle people who live in lakes and ponds and can be appeased with cucumbers…and blood! Normally, they attack livestock who come to the water to drink, much like alligators and crocodiles. However, these most Japanese of monsters are also sticklers for courtesy and if one comes out of the water to attack a human, the person should quickly bow to it. The kappa will pause to return the bow, at which point the water will pour out of its bowl-like head and render it powerless. As mentioned before, you can also give them cucumbers, even going so far as to write your family name on a cucumber to gain protection for all the members of your family. Far from mindless, ravenous killers, they are also reputed to be skilled in medicine and teaching and is known to honor contracts made with it.

Two of the strangest, though, have to be the Filipino Aswang and the Australian Yara-Ma-Yahoo. The Aswang is another vampire that hides in a human guise during the day and then transforms—this time into a bird—in order to hunt. It flies to the house of its intended victim, usually a child, and perches on the roof directly over the spot where its prey lies sleeping. Then it sends its long, tube-like tongue into the house. Using a barb on the end of its tongue, it pierces a small hole in the flesh and sips its meal. When the Aswang has finished, it then flies back to its home where it will breastfeed its own children. You can come up with your own joke for that one.

For me, though, the prize for oddest vampire goes to the Yara-Ma-Yahoo and not just for its name. Like the Sasanbosam, it’s an ambush predator that hides up in a tree, but that’s where the similarities end. Described as a very short, red-skinned man with an enormous head and suckers on its hands and feet, it hides from the sun and generally attacks at night. Once it grabs its prey, it sucks their blood through its hand and foot suckers. Then it swallows the body whole. But here’s the best part: Sometime later, it vomits the person back up, completely whole and alive! They say that if it happens to you enough times, though, you get a little shorter each time until you become the same size as the vampire, and then your skin turns red, and then you become one yourself.

Well, that’s enough for this time. Join me next time when I unearth the Animated Corpses of folklore!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Guest Blog: Vampire Witches by Brian McKinley

Guest Blog by Brian McKinley

To be clear, I’m not talking about Wiccans or other modern pagans who identify as witches nowadays. In the ancient world, all through medieval times, and up until very recently, the witch was a figure of black magic and malevolence. They often symbolized everything that a culture considered evil or taboo including things like blood-drinking and cannibalism. Most “living vampires” of folklore fall into this category.

In Ancient Rome, the Strix, sometimes also called Striga, were vampiric witches who primarily preyed upon children. They have their roots in Ancient Greek myth, where it was said that the original Strix was a couple condemned for cannibalism and transformed into large owls. Unlike witches of many other cultures , these were considered to be owl creatures who could take human form. After gathering together in a large coven and celebrating, they would fly into the night to spot unprotected children they could attack. In human form, they were often described as an old, haggard woman.

Later, in Romania, this idea may have morphed into the Strigoii: a living male witch with red hair, blue eyes, and two hearts who would send his soul out at night to drain animals and people of their life-energy. Strigoii were the seventh son of a seventh son and, when one died, it would return from the dead as a Strigoii Morti. In this form, it was a blood-drinker who was repulsed by the scent or presence of garlic—which may be where Bram Stoker got this piece of vampire lore.

In the Ghana and Tongo regions of Africa, there is the Adze: a strange creature whose natural form is that of a firefly or a ball of light, but who often takes possession of the body of a tribal sorcerer. Witches of this type are believed to have the power to astral project, speak to the dead, and use spirits to harm crops, livestock, and other people. These creatures are attracted to the blood of the tribe’s most beautiful children, but can be staved off with offerings of coconut milk and palm oil. There is generally no reliable way to detect an Adze, but it can be captured outside of its human form and destroyed.

Legends on the Gold Coast tell of the Obayifo, a born witch vampire whose draining of its victims is a long and painful process that can take days or even weeks. The Obayifo leaves its body to accomplish this during the night, but can also transform itself into a variety of animals with the help of a magical elixir.

Then there’s the Axeman (Ax-amen) is another African witch vampire with some unusual traits. For one, it takes the form of a bat to scout villages—one of very few folkloric vampires to actually have a bat connection—and find its victims. In this case, that victim is someone sleeping with a foot exposed so that it can cut a very small hole in the big toe and drink the blood. That’s right, even vampires can have a foot fetish.

In a similar vein, the native people of Central and South America had the Tlaciques (Tal-a-kays). Always female, these living witch-vampires came about as a spontaneous condition that occurred shortly after the onset of puberty with almost no warning. The Tlaciques drank the blood of infants, family members, or enemies four times a month while their family often protected their secret out of shame. They could detach the top half of their bodies and transform into various animals, like turkeys or vultures, or balls of light to travel and hunt. It was even said that they had the ability to hypnotize their prey into committing suicide. In contrast to the standard witches’ coven, the Tlaciques were thought to be territorial and organized exclusive hunting areas with others of their kind in order to minimize the chance of their detection.

Like many of the witches described earlier, the Bruja (Bru-ha) of Spain also lead a double life, appearing as an ordinary woman during the day while meeting with her coven every Tuesday and Friday night. This girls’ night out consists of devil worshiping and the practice of black magic techniques like the evil eye and the transformation into animals like ants, doves, geese, and rats. Like most vampiric witches, Bruja preferred to attack children and lone travelers to drain them of blood. One interesting element was that protections against attack by a Bruja included the use of garlic, which is not as common in vampire folklore as Hollywood would have us believe. Male versions were not unheard-of and were called Brujo. Unlike most folkloric vampires, there’s no known method of destroying a Bruja, only wards and ways to discourage attack.

Finally, the strangest of the bunch, the Malaysian Penangglan, also known as the Tanggal. A seemingly-normal woman by day, by night it detaches its head from its body and flies off into the night, dangling its entrails! In some versions, it achieves flight by flapping its ears and lungs like wings. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Well, obviously someone did, but it wasn’t me.

Anyway, its victims are, predictably, usually young children, from which the Penanggalan drains blood to keep itself young. Often in stories, the Penangglan takes the role of a midwife in her human guise in order to scope out potential victims. There’s no traditional way to destroy a Penangglan, but it can be deterred by garlic and by placing thorny branches on the roof of the home which will catch the creature’s dangling intestines. Since the creature requires a large vat of vinegar after it feeds—because it has to shrink its’ bloated, swollen entrails, of course—another remedy is to find the Penangglan’s house while it’s out and spill its vinegar. Because of course then it can’t squeeze back into its’ body, right? Brilliant.

At which point I guess it just, what? Lies there and glares at you? Slinks away and becomes someone else’s problem? What kind of solution is that? This is one of many reasons why I have a hard time taking the Penangglan seriously as a threat, though it didn’t stop this idea from spreading into several other Asian cultures including the Philippines, Japan, and India where you can find variations on the flying-head-with-entrails theme. In some of those versions, at least, there are ways to kill the head once you’ve disposed of the body and vinegar.

That’s it for this round. In my next post, I’ll explore vampires with otherworldly origins.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Brian is no longer a typical Vampyr and, for this reason, lives in hiding and writes from a secret location. The real “Brian” lives a life of danger and excitement; he loves Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and gangster movies as much as he loves chicken fried steak. And he really loves chicken fried steak! He’s a reader, a role-player, and a dreamer. He’s lived many lifetimes and is eager to share as many of them as possible with his readers.

He’s the author of Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony and Drawing Dead: A Faolan O’Connor Novel which won the Author’s Talk About It 2016 Horror Novel Contest.

Guest Blog: Irish Vampires by Brian McKinley

Irish Vampires by Brian McKinley

Ireland is not particularly known for its vampire legends. Strange, in a way, because the Emerald Isle gave birth to two of the best-known and most influential vampire authors in history: Bram Stoker and Sheridan LeFanu. The authors of both Dracula and Carmilla, respectively, were both born and raised in Ireland and likely owe some of their literary creations’ characteristics to stories they heard growing up.

The most famous of Ireland’s vampires is a specific woman known as the Dearg Due (dar-ag dua) or “red blood sucker” said to be buried in Waterford, Ireland. The story is told of a beautiful young woman who, forced to marry a cruel and abusive clan chieftain, committed suicide. At the anniversary of her death, she rose from the grave with a blood lust. She began with her father and former husband, but her rage and thirst could never be sated. She sings to men in their sleep, luring them from their homes and draining the blood from their bodies.

In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. The first of these is called the LeananSidhe (Lee-awn She). They appear as beautiful women, often invisible to everyone but their intended victim, who seduce men and try to cause them to fall in love. If successful, the Leanan-Sidhe will drain him of life energy during sex, similar to a succubus, and feeds small amounts of her blood to him so that he is inspired to write love poetry to her. Slowly, he is drained to a husk. If, however, the man does not fall in love with her, the Leanan-Sidhe will strangle him and drain his body of blood. In some versions of the legends, resisting the seduction of the Sidhe causes her to fall in love with her intended victim and serve him as a slave.

Rather than simply drink the blood like most vampires, this creature has an element of the vampiric witch to her. She keeps her victims’ blood in a large red cauldron, which is the source of her ability to shape-shift into animals, become invisible, and remain youthful. The Sidhe in this creature’s name is a word traditionally associated with the fae in Irish folklore and refers to the ancient burial mounds Celtic people used for centuries. These mounds were often believed to be gateways between the land of the living and the dead. Some early beliefs about the origin of the fae mention not Arcadia, but rather the underworld.

A variation on this theme is the Baobhan Sith (Bavaan Shee). Technically a revenant, created when a woman died in childbirth and the body rose as a fae—again we see references to the underworld origin of fae—this vampire was unusual in that it would attach itself to a specific family and live among them normally. In fact, prior to the arrival of Christianity in Scotland, it was considered a sign of status to have one in the family. Most likely a precursor to the Banshee, the Baobhan Sith warned of impending death by wailing and, if a group of them came together to wail, then the death would be of a great person. After Christianity took hold, however, the Baobhan Sith took on a more evil role.

Described as a beautiful, tall, pale woman in a green dress (which hid cloven hooves), this vampire would appear to lone shepherds or travelers as a woman they knew or lusted after and lead them away to dance. Once the man was exhausted, the Baobhan Sith would attack and drink his blood. They could also transform into crows and, like most fairies, it was vulnerable to iron.

Similarly, people from Great Britain to Brazil to Eastern Europe and the United States all tell tales of White Ladies whose appearance boded death on the nights of the full moon. Originally ghosts of noblewomen who had been murdered or died an otherwise tragic death, and later associated with any local tragedy, they could be seen wandering cemeteries, crossroads, and the castles and manors where they died. Dressed in period finery and carrying chalices filled with poison, it was said that they would call out with hypnotic voices, inviting any who heard them to dance to music that didn’t exist. Those who accepted the invitation would be drained of blood, their bodies found the next morning by the side of the road. The White Ladies’ very touch was icy cold and could drain the life energy of the living. These ghostly ladies, like their fae counterparts, were vulnerable to the touch of iron but could also be warded off by crucifixes or priestly blessings. Another variation on this theme is the Lady in Red, more often a prostitute or jilted lover killed in a fit of passion and often to be found haunting theaters, hotels, and brothels.

Heard about any that I missed? Please let us know in the comments below!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.

Brian is no longer a typical Vampyr and, for this reason, lives in hiding and writes from a secret location. The real “Brian” lives a life of danger and excitement; he loves Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and gangster movies as much as he loves chicken fried steak. And he really loves chicken fried steak! He’s a reader, a role-player, and a dreamer. He’s lived many lifetimes and is eager to share as many of them as possible with his readers.

He’s the author of Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony and Drawing Dead: A Faolan O’Connor Novel which won the Author’s Talk About It 2016 Horror Novel Contest.

 

Free Fiction Friday: Bad Cold by J. C. Eickelberg

Bad Cold
by J. C. Eickelberg

“I can’t stand this cold,” Beth said, sounding as miserable as she felt.

“You’ll get over it fast,” Isabel said. “You always do.” Her roommate said this, dressed for a night out. Beth watched her finish getting ready for a fun night.

“You look amazing. I wish I could join you.” Beth sat wearing old sweats and a headband holding back messed up hair. “I’m not going to give anyone this cold.”

“I’ve seen you go before with a cold.”

“Not like this one. I can barely hear. Can’t smell anything. Szechuan chicken didn’t even touch this congestion.” She blew her nose, filling a tissue.

Isabel wished her the best and left.

“God. I want this cold to be done,” Beth grumbled. “My heads gonna burst.”

“No, it’s not,” a little voice said.

She passed it off. Five nights of less than adequate sleep was making her loopy. This was as much from lack of sleep as all the meds she’d consumed.

“Drink more water,” the voice said.

She didn’t want to drink more water. If she did she’d have to pee more often. At this point she was just too tired to get off the couch. Constant sniffling kept tissue boxes present wherever she went in her apartment. Sudden sneezing made for a strong need for her current closest friend, a box of tissues. Sneezing receded, but the tissues remained ready. She took a deep breath. She released a great load of snot. The pressure was suddenly gone. Relief washed over her.

Reaching for a trashcan, she felt something unusual. Beth was disgusted enough by the amount of snot she produced. This current load felt a lot more dense than others.

“Yuck,” she declared at the mass in the tissue.

“You think it was pleasant in there?” came a response. Beth looked at her hand. In the tissue was a greenish yellow slug looking back at her. “I’ve seen nicer places than your nose.”

She screamed and threw the gelatinous mess in the trash. She nearly gagged running to wash her hands.


J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

BHH: Review of the movie Voodoo Black Exorcist

Voodoo Black Exorcist

A Review by James Goodridge

Voodoo Black Exorcist (VBE) made in 1974 has a pedigree of grind house no doubt. I even have a vague memory of seeing it down on the “duce” (Time Square) in NYC back in the day, which is why the DVD caught my eye in a 99cent store one spring evening a few years ago.

A Euro-Spanish production directed by Manuel Cano was originally titled Vudu Sangriento–I would bet a bag of those orange circus peanuts nobody but me is fond of the title. It was changed to capitalize mainly on the break-out success of the Exorcist (1973) mixed with the black exploitation wave that rushed into neighborhood and grindhouse theaters. Funny thing, though, most of the black actors are in the background. With the screenplay and story by Santiago Mocada, filmed in various parts of the Caribbean, VBE is a story of lost love.

Shown in sepia flashback of a hundred plus years ago, this film tells the story of Shango Voodoo Priest, Gata-nebo (Aldo Sambrell), who is having an affair with Dambhalla (Tanyeka Stadler) who is the mulatto wife of a white man. Swooning in the midst of love making on a beach, they are caught. The woman’s head is lopped off by a machete. The priest is stuffed into a coffin and buried alive. Eons later his coffin is dug up in the name of scholarship to be transported to a place of study via a cruise ship. Just so happens the wife of the facilitator is a dead ringer of Gata-nebo’s love. The movie stumbles through a series of aboard-ship murders and decapitations climaxing in a show down of good versus evil on shore.

Now, if you get a gauzy feeling watching the movie, it’s okay because VBE is a retelling of various mummy movies that came before it. The scenes of voodoo sacrifice bring to mind the writings of George Bataille. This is the type of movie you throw on your entertainment system first as a warm up if you’re having a grindhouse night at home. For 99 cents I got my entertainment’s worth.

Unintended funny parts of this movie are Ms. Stadler in brown-face (you mean to tell me they couldn’t get Pam Grier, Lola Falana, or even transgender actress Anjita Wilson, who was B-movie famous in Europe at the time do this movie?) and a police inspector asking a police officer is he okay? To which the officer replies that he just got his uniform today as a rookie, which doesn’t look like a uniform. But again, it’s a B-movie so bless Cano for his effort.


aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

Movie Review: Tales From the Hood 2

Tales from the Hood 2
by James Goodridge

Tales from the Hood 2 (TFTH2) is the long-awaited sequel to Rusty Cundieff’s original movie which was a milestone in the sub-genre of Black Horror. Films such as Son of Ingagi and Abby preceded it. Produced in association with Universal, Spike Lee’s 40 Mule Company, and Netflix, it was showcased on Netflix in 2018.

TFTH2 is an anthology broken up into five stories.

“Good Golly” directed by Cundieff is what I would call a cautionary tale aimed at millennials to not forget the past within context. Audrey (Alexandra De Berry) is in mindless rapture in a hunt for a gollywog—a jet black stereotyped image of—a doll. In England, these things even found their way onto television as a kids show. Bringing back fond memories for her of the one Grandma use to let her play with, Audrey tries to work the mysterious curator of the “Museum of Negrosity” into selling the doll. Rebuffed her, her friend Zoe (Jasmine Akakpoo) who as a young black woman is totally devoid of or has rescinded what little black consciousness she has, returns later at night to steal the doll with the help of her boyfriend Phillip (Andy Cohen). All hell breaks loose when Zoe and Phillip engage in a little slave master/slave, joking around, enraging an evil force in the museum, which in this writer’s opinion you can’t blame it. Not to give the punch line or ending away for those who haven’t seen it, all I can say is otherworldly bulk cases of Similac are to be had. A nice Easter egg is a doll from the original TFTH can be seen at times.

“The Medium” directed by Darin Scott takes aim (in a supernatural way) the struggle to rise above the negatives by doing the right thing. Redemption. Three would be thugs kidnap a reformed pimp, Cliff Bettis (Creighton Thomas), demanding he turn over his fortune, which he pleads is going to go back into the community. Killing the tenacious Bettis, the crew come up with a plan B which is to kidnap television psychic, John Lloyd (Byan Batt), a knock off of John Edwards. The end game is a séance scene that’s funny yet creepy.

“Date Night” also directed by Scott is predictable, you see the end coming half way through. Quick paced, it’s like the old horror 800 numbers from the 80’s you would (I’m showing my age) dial to listen to a flash fiction story.

“The Sacrifice” directed by Cundieff is—I confess the first time—a horror movie that brought tears to my eyes. Mainly B-horror movies are like comfort food for me but this short pulled at my heart. A combination of horror and the horror of the American experience for Black folks historically is what Cundieff had the fortitude to film. I give him a nod and a fist bump. Henry Bradley (Kendrick Cross), a black Republican of means in a red state throws his support behind a white populist mayor William Cotton (Cotton Yancey), who’s making a run for the state house and looking like KFC’s Col. Sanders which is a little over the top. Interpose this with flashbacks to the night Emmit Till (Chirstopher Paul Horne) was murdered. Creepy and visceral are how I feel towards Horne in that he reminds me of my youngest son in looks. Till’s haunting is taking a toll on Bradley’s pregnant white wife Emily (Jillian Batherson) and throwing Bradley into an alternate reality. The climax has Till, the four little girl victims of the 16th Street church bombing in ’63, Medger Evers, Chaney, Goodman & Schwerner, and Dr. King confront Bradley with a choice.

“Robo Hell” which opens and closes the movie, segwaying the stories, has Portifoy Simms (the iconic Keith David) locking horns with tycoon and MAGA 45 wannabe Dumas Beach (Bill Martin Willaims). Dumas’s company has invented a Robo Cop type robot.

All in all TFTH2 is watchable and let’s hope it’s not cursed as the urban legend tale making rounds, happened to the original Tales from the Hood.


aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

Guest Blog: A First Time For Everything by John C Adams

A First Time for Everything

by John C Adams

From the age of eleven onwards, there’s pretty much a steady stream of things you’ll be doing for the first time. In all types of society, the public role of the rite of passage is an important sociological aspect of the transition to adulthood. Yet it still remains the case that most of the more interesting rites of passage involve sneaking around behind your parents’ backs…

Sometimes, the rite of passage occurs in early puberty rather than when we stand on the cusp of adulthood. And they don’t always have to be traumatic. They can be about connecting with your true self.

In Richard Matheson’s delightful little short story Blood Son Jules has always been certain that he doesn’t belong. That’s because he has a strong personal certainty that he fits in somewhere else entirely. His difficulties are that his parents and schoolteacher just can’t understand. Sound familiar? Well to many of us it probably is but Jules is a plucky little lad and as time moves on he just becomes more determined to find a path to those he can call his own. Good for him!

“One Saturday when he was twelve, Jules went to the movies. He saw Dracula.

When the show was over he walked, a throbbing nerve mass, through the little girl- and -boy ranks. He went home and locked himself in the bathroom for two hours.

His parents pounded on the door and threatened but he wouldn’t come out.

Finally, he unlocked the door and sat down at the supper table. He had a badge on his thumb and a satisfied look on his face.”

It takes a few more years until Jules finds a bat at the zoo and begins to see a way through to making the identity he longs for, and strongly associates with, reality. In Jules’s case his rite of passage is the time-honoured first bite.

Most of us can recognise the importance of the rite of passage in forming our sense of belonging to the group. But thinks that sometimes we have to step outside the mainstream to find that sense of belonging.

The onset of puberty involves first times for girls too. In Stephen King’s novel Carrie, Carrie White doesn’t get a visit from the curse until she’s sixteen. That’s very late and theories abound as to why puberty was delayed so long. What could there be in her upbringing to explain her physical rejection of womanhood? It’s right there in the form of her appalling mother, of course. As soon as Carrie realises that she isn’t bleeding to death after all her first thought is one of anger at everything and everyone who has singled her out and made her different. In Carrie’s case her primary defence mechanism to deal with the pain of her mother’s behaviour is to embrace the darkness:

“She thought of imps and familiars and witches (am i a witch momma the devil’s whore) riding through the night, souring milk, overturning butter churns, blighting crops while They huddled inside their houses with hex signs on Their doors.”

Carrie White is a master class in how anger can spill over when an individual is rejected not just by their mother but then by society as a whole. It’s no surprise that the ensuing prom night doesn’t end well.

The real danger lurks for society whenever the emerging adult is denied a sense of belonging to the tribe and that this lies beneath the importance we attach to rites of passage ceremonies.

In some cases, the choice to belong or not (the fundamental ability to fit in) isn’t ours to make. Sometimes, an uneventful transition to college and the adulthood that lies beyond just isn’t meant to be. In Stephen King’s novel Christine, Arnie Cunningham and his best buddy Dennis are working their way through high school. All’s right in their world: Dennis is a football star set for college. Arnie is keen on mechanics and hopes to persuade his university-lecturer parents to let him skip college and do something vocational instead. Both Arnie and Dennis have part-time jobs that pay well and are saving hard for the usual things – college and a first car. It’s all going so well until they drive past a broken-down 1958 Plymouth Fury with a For Sale sign. From the outset the car seems to cast something like a lovespell on Arnie, as Dennis is well aware:

“I thought about LeBay saying, Her name is Christine. And somehow, Arnie had picked up on that. When we were little kids we had scooters and then bikes, and I named mine but Arnie never named his – he said names were for dogs and cats and guppies. But that was then and this was now. Now he was calling that Plymouth Christine, and what was somehow worse it was always ‘her’ and ‘she’ instead of ‘it’.”

Dennis’s share of the tale is shot through with the pain of watching his best friend’s life implode. Central to that is watching the subversion of many ‘first time’ rites of passage by the dark force that is Christine: buying your first car and doing it up, asking a girl out, taking things all the way. Stuff that Dennis is still able to enjoy but from which Christine is able to exclude Arnie.

It is natural, bearing in mind the importance of getting rites of passage right, that we are afraid of being unable to take charge of our own transition to adulthood. Isn’t that what growing up is all about, after all?

Rituals appear in all forms of society and feature in human lives for thousands of years. The details may differ but the purpose remains the same at every point in history. Ignore them at your peril!


John C Adams is a Contributing Editor for the Aeon Award and Albedo One Magazine, and a Reviewer with Schlock! Webzine.

You can read John’s short fiction in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press and many others. A non-binary gendered writer, John has also had fiction published in The Horror Zine, Devolution Z magazine and many other smaller magazines.

John’s fantasy novel Aspatria is available to read for free on Smashwords, and on Amazon. John’s futuristic horror novel ‘Souls for the Master’ also is available on Amazon.

John lives in rural Northumberland, UK, and is a non-practising solicitor.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

 

 

Movie Review: Pooka! On Hulu

Review: Pooka! On Hulu

Reviewed by Sumiko Saulson

Stars: 4 of 5

Pooka is a strangely haunting Christmas horror tale about an out of work actor, Wilson Clowes portrayed by Nyasha Hatendi.  Hatendi is an African American actor born in the USA but raised in Zimbabwe, the USA and the UK who is fluent in three languages – English, French, and Shona. He gives a nuanced performance as mentally troubled and alcoholic washed-up actor Wilson Clowes.

Wilson is very much down on his luck when he gets the offer of a lifetime – a job voicing the adorable dark-furred, giant-eyed new holiday sensation Pooka! A child’s stuffed animal that speaks and movies like a Furbie or Teddy Ruxpin, the gimmicky holiday toy speaks in either a naughty or a nice voice, telling the child sweet or entirely wicked things. It seems to be a reference to Santa’s naughty or nice list, but pooka is an alternate spelling for púca, a type of Celtic woodland fey creature.

Although the film never explicitly says that Pooka is the creature from Irish lore, it looks and acts like the creature and bears its name. Púca are spirits that can be either beneficial or harmful to humans they encounter, they are like gremlins – full of mischief – but are also known to help farmers by assisting with chores. They have the power of human speech, and can take on human form, imitating them as changelings.

The toy manufacturer encourages Wilson to really get into character and put his all into Pooka. He dresses in a giant Pooka costume and acts in commercials in addition to voicing the toy, and he eventually becomes complete obsessed with the thing and the costume. It initially seems that he is having some sort of nervous breakdown, but as the toy skyrockets to fame and becomes the seasonal “it” thing, it becomes increasingly obvious that something dark and very supernatural is going on.

Then, Wilson meets a girl. Melanie Burns (Latarsha Rose) and her son Ty (Jonny Berryman) meet Wilson in a Christmas tree lot in one of those made-for-television magic moments seen in Lifetime movies and Tyler Perry films about black family love. The scene is so evocative of those types of films that one momentarily forgets this is a horror film and is drawn into the melodrama revolving around Melanie, Wilson, and Ky. Melanie, a spiffy black businesswoman, is a real estate agent and a single mother who has left Ky’s abusive father. Will she fall in love with the hard-luck case in spite of his relative poverty? Will he be the perfect stepfather for Ky? Will true love conquer all?

Then you remember, no. Of course, it won’t. This is a horror movie. And that’s about when Wilson starts to hallucinate all the time, rant and rave, and completely fall apart. The more Wilson declines, the more Pooka rises, so that the actor’s career is on an upswing as he enters his nervous breakdown.

Since the costume and Wilson act and interact separately and together, it is not clear at times whether the evil emanates from the creature or the actor.  The actor is contractually forbidden from letting anyone know that he is the one and only Pooka, and he lives with the costume, acting increasingly psychotic and dangerous.

A series of violent episodes occur between Pooka and Wilson’s roommate, a stranger in a bar, and finally involving a woman he has begun dating named Melanie and her child Ky. Ky loves Pooka and Wilson at first – but then Wilson begins acting more and more like Ky’s abusive and absent father, a man Melanie broke up with for being abusive.

Then, a malfunction makes the creature act bizarre, saying the line “look at all the pretty lights” repeatedly for no reason. Is Wilson making Pooka malfunction, or is it Pooka making Wilson malfunction? That is a question that isn’t answered until the end of the movie, when the meaning of the phrase “look at all the pretty lights” is revealed. But when the toy is taken off the market, Wilson plummets further and further into madness and becomes increasingly dangerous.

The movie deals more than passingly with the subjects of domestic violence and child abuse, but remains primarily in the horror mode despite brief excursions into the Twilight Zone and Lifetime holiday movies about broken families. In a way, the Oyxgen/After School TV Special romance between Melanie and Wilson is what is most brilliant about the film. One can’t help but cape for the man and his nascent romance with the likeable Melanie before it all goes to hell.

An episode of the holiday-themed web horror anthology Into the Dark, Pooka is currently running on Hulu as a single horror film. Although it started as a webcast, the production values of it are television quality, and it comes off as a PBS or BBC quality production in terms of pacing, acting, direction, and technical quality.

BHH: Maman Dragonne

Maman Dragonne
by James Goodridge

I’m on a journey as a writer of Speculative Fiction’s sub-genre, Occult Detectives. So, I’ve made it my business to make a study of authors to bolster my knowledge.

Venturing deeper into the occult literary traditions, led me to the work of Seabury Quinn (1889-1969), creator of his character Dr. De Grandin. A reading of Quinn’s short story “Pledged to the Dead”—which was published in the October issue of Weird Tales — gave me immense interest in Quinn’s depiction of “Maman Dragonne.”

Dragonne would be considered in fiction a “flat character” because she really doesn’t appear in the first quarter of the story (at least in human form), but becomes increasingly important to the plot even though she has little in the way of dialogue. The story begins with a frantic young lady’s urgent need to see Dr. De Grandin, barging into his just-concluded dinner party. A guest, Dr. Trowbridge, is a somewhat of a Dr. Watson type sidekick. Dr. Trowbridge’s other job is to move the narrative along. It seems the lady’s fiancé, Ned Minton, has got himself into paranormal intrigue during a visit to New Orleans. One moonlit night as Minton walked pass St. Denis Cemetery, then onto Bienville St a japonica is dropped from a balcony, in front of his feet. Julie d’ Ayen is guilty of the aerial flirt. Her searching for an eternal love takes a bizarre turn, with Minton being stalked by a three-foot cottonmouth snake “Grand ‘tante” as Quinn wrote,

“Protector of Julie d’ Ayena mulatress aged black magic ‘conjon’ woman in turban and cambric apron, Maman Dragonne is not to be trifled with. Practitioner of Obeah from the Congo. Julie should have many loves but her body should not know corruption nor her spirit rest until she could find one to keep his promise and return to her with word of love upon his lips. Those who failed her should die horribly, but he who kept his pledge would bring her rest and peace spoke Maman Dragonne.”

Julie d’ Ayen and Maman Dragonne aka Grand ‘tante roam St. Denis Cemetery. Now, I don’t want to give the rest of the story away for “Pledged to The Dead” can be found in the public domain. 1937 was not an exactly a time in any medium for positive depictions of people of color as characters (in the story you’ll find the use of the word “darkie”) and I don’t know in depth about what Quinn’s views on race were during his lifetime but in a roundabout way, Quinn transforms Dragonne from a flat to round character and gives her strength as a person of color. Evil? Yes, but strong none the less. She is splendid in her silence which elevates the horror in the story.

**Sources: The Project Gutenberg www.gutenberg.net, http://www.pgdp.net


 

aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

BHH: From Gagool to Akasha: Black Characters in Horror Fiction

From Gagool to Akasha: Black characters in Horror Fiction

by Sumiko Saulson

Black representation in horror fiction is about both characters and writers: we need more black authors, directors, screenwriters, and people behind the scenes to make sure that our communities are envisioned through our eyes. Yet, there is undeniable value to black heroes and villains envisioned by white and other non-black authors. The 2017 remake of Stephen King’s IT is a prime example of how betrayed black audiences feel when representation is diminished by erasing or minimizing the presence of an important black hero like Mike Hanlon. Outrage over whitewashing doesn’t disappear just because the character was written by someone who isn’t black. And anger about black actors portraying characters like Rue in The Hunger Games and Akasha in Queen of the Damned suggest overwhelmingly, racism among audiences. The success of Black Panther demonstrates both the need for black characters and the factual ability of black characters envisioned by white writers to be handed over to black production and writing teams.

Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s authoritative work on the subject is called writing the Other. It deals with the ins and outs of writing characters unlike oneself.  This is crucial as many of the black characters in Victorian fiction are hopelessly stereotyped characters of black witch doctors and high priestesses like Gagool, the evil old hag who advises the twisted dictator King Twala in the Alan Quartermain story King Solomon’s Mine by H. Rider Haggard. Haggard was one of the better known writers in the Lost Word genre. Modern takes on mysteriously hidden societies can be elevated, like the 2018 movie Black Panther’s take on Wakanda by black director Ryan Coogler and writer Joe Robert Cole, or feature terrifying evil white overlords against spunky black heroes, like Jordan Peele’s award-winning 2018 horror film Get Out.

That doesn’t mean we can easily get away from the vast number of old noble savage and evil mammy crone stereotypes that have historically plagued black heroes and villains in horror. No conversation on the subject would be complete without mentioning Stephen King, as sometimes he gets it right like in the Dark Tower or IT, but other times the obvious Uncle Tom stereotypes take over like in The Green Mile. His willingness to forge ahead and fill literature with black characters despite of criticism, and relatively thick-skinned response to black critics, is laudable, although it cannot replace black voices. It speaks volumes when compared to choices like the erasure of an Asian male character to insert a white female character in the 2016 Dr. Strange movie. The producers and directors copped out, saying they didn’t cast an Asian female in the gender-swapped role because they were afraid of a Dragon Lady stereotype. The writer’s inability to write a person of color who isn’t a one-dimensional trope should NEVER be an excuse for deleting POCs from movies.

Speaking of white washing, the Netflix Death Note movie’s predominately white cast marred the already lackluster film’s reputation so much that stand-out performances by Willem Dafoe as Ryuk and the hotness that is Lakeith Stanfield as L could not salvage it from its overall mediocrity. However, they did prevent it from being a complete train wreck like DragonBall Z: Evolution or Gods of Egypt, and elevated it above the snooze fest that was Iron Fist.

Like a lot of black people, I had mixed feelings about the obvious pandering involved in casting Lakeith Stanfield, who some may also recognize from his performances as one of the terrifying black abductees in Get Out.  Like Tilda Swinton in the role of Ancient One, Stanfield turned in an amazing performance in a less than amazing film and was forced to kowtow on behalf of its producers, making excuses for their whitewashing, in exchange. It is cringe-worthy, and the producers and directors of these films need to do a much better job. There should be a diversity of roles for older women, and black men, and no one should be forced in this kind of position in the first place.

Stephen King isn’t the only famous modern white author who has persisted in writing black characters despite criticism, and in the case of Anne Rice, who is notoriously thin-skinned and hates critics and editors, it is a labor of love forged from her connection to New Orleans. Once she told me that if I had been born in New Orleans, I would never have to suffer the lot of San Franciscans who treat me as though I am not a beautiful woman, because a girl who looks like me in NOLA would be damned near haughty about her mulatta looks. I laughed – Californian politics frown upon embracing one’s light-skinned privilege. The Feast of All Saints was the first book I read that had terms like quadroon and I was quite shocked and horrified when I read it as a young lady and found out everything about blood quantum, words like octoroon, the quadroon balls, and how interracial relationships were treated during and just post slavery that my politically correct African American mother and white Jewish father hid from. My parents just told me that mulatto was a slave word and we don’t talk about such things.

It wouldn’t be until years later, during college, that I was re-introduced to the same subject by African American authors like Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker.

The Anne Rice villain Akasha was someone that I and my mother both related to, my mother more so than I. She tapped into the deep well of African American identification with Egyptian culture, and although some Anne Rice fans throw a fit about black identification with the character and the casting of Aaliyah, I am of the firm opinion that Aaliyah and the soundtrack are the only redeeming qualities of a train wreck that infuriated Anne Rice so much that fans are asked to please refrain from mentioning That Movie on her Facebook page.

Anyone who has read Prince Lestat knows that Anne Rice isn’t personally unhappy about black folks relating to Akasha. In the book, her son Seth is a peaceful science-loving Egyptian intellectual who goes way, way out of his way to maintain his dark skin despite the pallor that descends upon vampires. His love of his ethnic background and his pride in his dark skin are a symbolic love note to all of the black readers who nearly fainted when they read about the beautiful, wicked and cruel Queen of the Damned, Akasha.

Black folks love Akasha like we love Candyman. Sometimes black villains have more autonomy than black heroes do. We love Killmonger because he has the freedom to lash out against oppression in a way that the tight-laced T’Challa cannot. Being a good person concerned with all of mankind means turning a blind eye to injustice all too often. That’s why so many of us get a kick out of identifying with characters that have completely lost it and gone on a rampage. We are sick to death of the Allan Quartermains of the world and don’t want to play nice, turn the other cheek, and be like Martin Luther King, Jr. anymore. We want to rage and burn it all down like Killmonger in our secret heart of hearts. Because we are all so sick of that martyr Mother Abigail, John Coffey role we could scream.

It is the Noble Savage stereotype with an American twist that makes it so that so many black heroes in white literature are martyrs. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the source of the term Uncle Tom, is about a black slave so faithful to a white Christian savior that he literally lets racist slavers beat him to death without fighting back. The evil surviving white slavers converted after they killed good old Uncle Tom. None of us really want to go out like Uncle Tom, so we start daydreaming about being like Killmonger, or Akasha, or Candyman.

Black heroes who aren’t martyrs are still present in white horror fiction. Michonne in The Walking Dead, the black L in the Netflix Death Note, Bonnie Bennett in the Vampire Diaries – but they are disconnected from black community. Michonne becomes a part of Richonne and Rick’s white kids replace her dead white son. Bonnie’s black grandma dies and she’s dating white boys and fading into the generally white-dominated and not particularly multicultural casts. The black audiences flee to The Originals, where New Orleans and Marcello make for steamy, black centered episodes, even when the improbable happens such as a white character switching into a black body.

The Originals was a truly multicultural program in a way that the Vampire Diaries never was. Truly multicultural programs have enough representation for each minority that there isn’t just the one black witch standing there at the end. The Originals had a Latina teen witch, Davina, who has relationships with other Latino community members even though she is Marcel’s adopted daughter. Black and Latino witches and warlocks populate the tale throughout, and not just one family line of them.

We have come a long way since King Twala and Gagool with characters like Shuri, Queen Ramonda, and T’Challa. Yet, we still have a long way to go. The twisted witch doctor in the video game Diablo III crawling on her knuckles like a subhuman; shades of Gagool. The mixed bag of horribly triggering content that plagues talented actresses like Gabourney Sidibe and Angela Bassett, shades of Gagool. We still haven’t gotten away from the tropes that haunt the black community and we cannot without vigilance on the part of every writer who tackles characters of color.


sumiko armband

Sumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

BHH: Interview with DAWN filmmaker Alex Fernandez

Interview with DAWN filmmaker Alex Fernandez
Interviewed by James Goodridge

  1. For those people out there seeing this for the first time tell us about DAWN the web series:

Alex Fernandez’s Dawn is the story of Eva Santiago who was born in a poor village in Peru in 994 A.D. At age 8 she began to learn witchcraft eventually becoming a full fledge witch. But when her family died from a deadly plague Eva vowed that it would never happen to her. It set her feet on a path in search of immortals. After 2 years of searching she found what she was looking for losing her soul and becoming a vampire. For 800 years she was a cold blood hearted killer. Until one day she was offered a chance from GOD by the Archangel Gabriel to become a warrior of GOD. She accepted and took on the moniker of “DAWN’.  That is what makes the Dawn character and series so unique is the fact that she is a vampire who works for GOD. We are currently in the second season. Eva Santiago/Dawn is played by Victoria Amber. 2019 will also see the release of a Dawn short film titled SURGE OF DAWN. A crossover film that brings Dawn into the world of another superhero Surge from the Surge of power films.WE also have comic books based on DAWN. We are currently on the fourth book of Dawn.

2.You won a few awards tell us about them ?

I have been blessed and honored to have won a few awards for not only Dawn but as well some of my other works. It is always nice when you work really hard your craft and get recognized by your peers. But more important than any award is a message from a fan or a letter that says they have been inspired by my shows or that they love it.

Hip Hop Film Festival

2017 Winner

Hip Hop Film Festival Award

Best Sci- Fi Series

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

 

International Euro Film Festival

2015 Winner

Official Trophy

Best Web Series

Body Jumpers (2012)

 

LA CineFest Film Festival

2018 Nominee

Los Angeles CineFest Award

Semi – Finalist

Alex Fernandez’s Silent Stories (2017)

 

Urban Action Showcase And Expo

2018 Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

2017 Winner

Angels of Action

Best Web Series

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

2016 Winner

Angels of Action

Best Web Series

Alex Fernandez’s Dawn (2015)

Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Alex Fernandez’s Dawn (2015)

2015 Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Body Jumpers (2012)

  1. Is there a director past or presently in the horror movie genre you admire?

My favorite director of all time Alfred Hitchcock happens to also have directed one of the most important horror films of all times PSYCHO. For me without a doubt he was truly not only the master of suspense but also a master filmmaker. Rear Window is still my favorite film of all time. He was a director that was way ahead of his time and a director that will be studied long after we are all gone.

  1. I see a lot of passion in your work. Do you ever think you’ll lose that passion ?

I need film like most people need water. It is something that I not only have passion for but its something that i absolutely love. I don’t think it will go away till the day I leave this world. As long as I am able I will continue to tell stories. My earliest memories of me as a child at 4 years old and me sitting in the theaters watching films. Even to this day I make sure I watch a movie everyday.

  1. What else do you have out there and where to find it?

Body Jumpers Resurrection Season 1 www.youtube.com/TheBodyJumpers


 

aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

Monique sat in bed beside her window, trying to keep her eyes open. Tomorrow during the chilly dawn, her jailers would drag her out of bed to put her in the cage. Yet instead of sleeping, one of her few refuges, she sat waiting. For what?

 

Just when she’d resolve to wrap up in a blanket and surrender to sleep, a soft cooing sound echoed outside her window. She knew the sound well. It was she and Angelique’s code signal, for whenever they decided to sneak away.

 

“Grab your bag and climb out!” Angelique hissed. “Do it! And hurry up!”

 

Monique snatched up her cloth bag and climbed out of the window. “Now what?”

 

Her wild-eyed friend grinned. “Now we fly!” Grabbing Monique’s hand before she could protest, she half-dragged, half-led her to the forest beyond her hut.

 

“Have gone insane?”

 

“Shh!” Angelique cautioned her again.

 

Through the forest hidden, under the brush, was an airship. The green balloon over it added to the camouflage. It was crudely built without the intricate carvings of Haitian ships, but looked to be in working order.

 

“But how?”

 

John’s mahogany face appeared at starboard side and waved them up.

 

“We can’t do this!” Monique protested. “If they catch us they’ll kill us!”

 

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life in a cage?”  Angelique shot back. “Come on!” She clamored up the ladder with her friend at her heels.

 

“We can’t fly this thing!” Monique protested, all the while clambering the ladder onto the deck.

 

“Yes we can,” John said proudly. “I built her and Angelique can fly as well as I can!”

 

So she was telling the truth!

 

“I’m a ship captain! But I can’t marry the woman I love, because I have no money—and the color of my skin!” All the while he and Angelique were hoisting the sails.

 

Monique followed them inside to the helm, burning with excitement in spite of herself. She’d never actually walked inside an airship. In the center of the deck, was concentric hatch directly below the gathered edges of the balloon. Angelique opened the hatch to reveal a box of copper and brass, and another hole in its center, and depressions on either side.

 

She pumped the depressions and steam flowed from the box filling the balloon, while Monique and John began turning the cranks on the propellers and flaps. The ship began to rise, and Monique thought her heart would burst with joy.

 

“Here we go!” John shouted. The ships wings flapped, the propeller whirled, tearing and blowing the foliage and lifted from the ground.

 

The airship sputtered forward. “Give her more steam and turn the propellers faster!” The women grunted turning the propeller faster. “Angelique trade places with me!” Angelique took the helm, as he and Monique turned the propellers. The airship picked up speed.

 

The mulatto woman grinned. “My parents thought they could marry me off to an old man. Won’t they be surprised?”

 

“Where will we go?” Monique asked.

 

“There’s an island across the ocean, Santo Domingo,” said John. “Haiti’s armies freed the slaves there too.”

 

The glory of a parvenu life thrust upon her was slowly taking hold. She was free—free of her mother. Free of a lifetime of cages. Free to love who she chose. The Loa Erzulie had answered her prayers after all!

 

But Simone was still lost to her. A weight of sadness pressed against the walls of her new-found liberation. And there were other doubts as well. “What if they don’t want us there? How do we know it will be any better?”

 

A shadow crept from the helm, jerking Monique away from her objections—amber-colored ghosts that instantly became creatures with the head of a bat and four arms.

 

“It’s Madam Cecile’s sorcery!” John shouted. “We must have been spotted!”

 

More shades reared up at them, claws ready. They paused, clearly confused. The three friends were most certainly not French soldiers. The ghosts turned away and attacked the airship dash in earnest, ripping and tearing.

 

Another one zoomed over their heads and struck the helm and it exploded in flames. They screamed—trying to fight the creatures off and fly the ship at the same time. They began losing altitude. The ship was sinking.

 

Below them, a thick, wavering mist blocked their path. The friends eyes were drawn to it. . . they could see images dancing within the fog. . . dancing to the beat of drums that suddenly echoed in the night about them. A cooling breeze wafted toward them . . . One image came into focus. . .

 

The Loa, Erzulie.

 

Their terror vanished.

 

Without another thought they flew into the fog.

 

And out the other side.

 

The flames snuffed out and the turbulence of the airship dissipated out as they flew out of the nosedive. “Let’s land there!” Monique shouted, pointing to the beach below. As the three friends coasted into a smooth descent, their eyes widened. They recognized the Haitian shoreline.

 

“We never left home!” John exclaimed.

 

“Wait a minute,” Angelique said slowly. “When we left Haiti it was midnight. Look at the sky!” A  bright noonday sun beamed downed on them.

 

They stared at the turquoise blue waters, as if the ocean held answers. “This cannot be,” John breathed. “Have we traveled backwards in time?”

 

“Non, c’est impossible. . .” Monique breathed. “The only thing we can do is start walking. Maybe when we find town we’ll find our answers.”

 

They covered the airship with seaweed and debris as best as they could. After their strange trip they were a little afraid of it. But the friends still thought it best to protect it in case they needed to escape.

 

When they reached town they discovered they’d left Haiti only to return. But to an alien Republic.

 

They didn’t recognize the township. What was even more incredible was that in this Haiti, the revolution had taken place a month ago. No one knew them here. So, they gave a vague descriptions of a small hamlet they’d traveled from, and no one they meet seemed to care much. Monique found a job cooking for a rich, elderly woman named Michelle. John and Angelique took a job working in the sugar fields she owned.

 

Later, Monique questioned her employer about the customs of her “new home” and found out that class discrimination did not exist in Haiti—informal or otherwise. There were no restrictions upon homosexuality either. Michelle was incredulous that any Republic would have such rules. “We were once slaves, n’est-ce pas? Why would we oppress one another?” The older woman sucked her teeth, and shook her head. “That must truly be a terrible place you came from. No wonder you ran away.”

 

Monique pressed her lips together and said no more. It was my home and I loved it dearly. Now Haiti is here, yet lost to me. Perhaps forever. . .I wonder what unpleasant truths this new world holds?

 

##

 

“We’re going to stay, Monique,” said Angelique. “John and I can be together here.”

 

“What about your mama and papa?”

 

Angelique looked away. “I love them and wish them happiness. But I love John more. Perhaps one day I’ll look for them.” She shrugged. “Perhaps not.”

 

“Both my parents are dead,” the young man added. “Angelique is all the family I have now.”

 

The three were sharing a meal in the tiny house she and John had rented together. The couple had married the same week they’d landed.

 

“You should stay too,” Angelique suggested.

 

Monique had saved a little coin and was determined to search the island until she found Simone. “No, I have to find her. I have to know if she’s happy.”

 

“What will you do, cherie, if you meet her and she is happy. . . with you,” asked John. “We still know so little about this strange world, n’est-ce pas?”

 

Monique smiled. “We will become the best of friends—the three of us. I will wish her well.”

 

“And I will be back.”

 

She left the next morning to find her destiny. In the days to come, some happy, others melancholy, she thought often of the airship they’d left behind on the beach. . .

 

And whatever became of it.

THE END


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 2 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 2 of 3

Monique watched the airships ready for take-off through the bars of her cage, hanging beneath the cliff. She still bore a black eye—the latest bruise from her mother. Only this time she’d fought back: punching and scratching. She’d done no more than was needed to fend Isabelle off and stop her beating. Still, two more weeks were added to her sentence.

 

Longing pierced her soul, as she gazed at the puffs of steam streaming from the ships on their way to patrol, and the wooden wings flapping. Suddenly, the first one was airborne—flying past the slender rocks that separated the triangular stacks of boulders at the edge of her village. The sound of palms on drum-skins beat in refrain to the ships’ wings, as if the drums were were the reason they could fly.

 

One. . . two. . . three … and now they soared into the distance. Monique stared at them until they were lost to her gaze. She gripped the bars of the cage. Suspending prisoners outside during the day, and letting them return home at night, was supposed to be a kinder punishment than perpetually confining captives indoors.

 

I’m still a prisoner. Being outside just makes it worse.

 

The rumbling of her belly and the shaking of her cage let her know it was time to eat. In the next moment, two women hoisted her cage up from under the rock and shifted it to the ground. Their narrowed eyes and pursed lips revealed what they thought of her. The strange one who lusts for the flesh of her sisters. The bad daughter who beats her own mother. 

 

One of the women reached into the folds of her dress and produced a skeleton key. A few moments later her dearest friend, Angelique, sauntered over.  She was a plump young woman, her skin the color of ripe bananas with a thick head of hair. She carried a basket and there was a blanket under her arm. The delectable smell of diri kole ak pwa, brown rice with red kidney beans topped off with red snapper, tomatoes and onions, drifted toward her.

 

Angelique smiled, her teeth flashing against her cafe au lait skin. “Let’s find somewhere nice to eat.”

 

Angelique was a mulatto Affranchis: a wealthy descendant of the union between slave owner and slaves. Birth determined the Affranchis social position, and intermarriage between them solidified this caste solidarity. Some of them had even owned slaves, before General Toussaint had emancipated all living in Saint-Domingue.

 

Angelique knew how the ships were put together, what made them tick and she could fly. So she said. She and Monique’s mutual interest in airships had brought them together and they’d quickly become friends—in spite of their dissimilar backgrounds. How she’d come by her knowledge of airships was a mystery. But she’d shared all she knew with Monique and swore her to secrecy.

 

She was also in love with John, the dark-skinned son of former slaves. Because of his social status Angelique’s parents, who followed the old ways of class solidarity, had forbade any courtship between their daughter and John. Tradition meant she must obey her parents’ wishes or suffer the same fate as Monique.

 

“But I’m going to marry him anyway,” she’d whispered. “See if I don’t.”

 

Monique secretly thought Angelique made half of her stories up, although she never said so. Still, she tells pretty tales, non?

 

Monique followed her past the cottages to a meadow, took the blanket from her friend and spread it on the grass. “If you don’t stop being so nice to me, they’re going to get someone else to bring me lunch.”

 

The young women sat down, unpacked the food and began to eat. “I bet you wish now you’d just taken the punch instead of fighting back, eh?” Angelique said, her sympathetic eyes belying the coldness of her words. “Next time will be probably worst you know. Isabelle has always been ill-tempered. She’s so angry with you. She had her heart set on grandchildren.”

 

Monique frowned. “I can’t help the way I am. Just like you can’t help loving John. . . Your parents will never let you marry him. They’re going to pick out a man for you.”

 

Her best friend grinned slyly. “So they believe.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

Angelique bit into a piece of fish and didn’t answer. For awhile they ate in silence.

 

“Do you miss Simone much?”

 

Monique’s eyes filled with tears. “Wi. . . It is an ache.”

 

“So you love her?”

 

“Wi.”

 

“What is it like. . . loving a woman?” Although they’d been best friends for years, they’d never discussed this.

 

Monique shrugged. “Like your love for John, I suppose. For me, it is as natural as breathing.”

 

“Well, perhaps after tonight you will met another woman and fall in love.”

 

“Loving someone, whether man or woman, is not like picking vases from the well. If one is empty, you just pick another one, n’est-ce pas? Love is not like that. . . What makes tonight so different?”

 

“Stay awake and find out.”

 

Monique shook her head. “I can’t go fishing. I need my sleep.”

 

“Who said anything about fishing? You must pack a bag and stay awake.”

 

“Poukisa wap fè sa? What are you up to?”

 

Angelique laughed like a child but would say no more.

 

Monique gazed at her friend with exasperation and affection on her brown face. “Why do I always listen to you?”

 

“Because I’m your best friend! Who else would you listen to?”

At that moment, two women plopped on the grass to their right, close enough to hear what the friends were saying. They fell silent and finished eating.

 

##

 

To be continued… Feb 8th, 2019… stay tuned!


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

Black Horror History: Black Occultist Rollo Ahmed

Rollo Ahmed Black Occultist
by James Goodridge

Born in 1899 to an Egyptian father and Guyanese mother, Abdul Said Ahmed aka Rollo Ahmed had a considerable presence in the occult community of London during the 1930’s. He is not well known in the United States, but I came across the enigma of a man, while researching lesser known black historical figures for my book, The Father Gill Affair, which is an occult detective story set in New York during the roaring twenties featuring characters Madison Cavendish and Seneca Sue—vampire and lycanthrope investigators of the strange and mundane. In the story, I took the liberty of portraying Ahmed as less of a dark occult person and rascal than he was in reality and in a more sympathetic light.

Dennis Wheatly’s The Devil Rides Out ignited the public thirst for witchcraft and the occult, like the roaring twenties an escape from the residue of WWI’s bloodletting and the global financial and political uncertainties yet short-lived for WWII would be just down the road. Following the books success, Wheatly’s publishers wanted a follow-up but this time a non-fiction book on the subject. The author felt it wasn’t his place to write the book, so he introduced his publishers to Rollo Ahmed who Wheatly used as a consultant. Ahmed’s knowledge of the black arts from around the world and its history made him an expert with first-hand personal experience. He’d had encounters with Voodun, Obeah, werewolves in the Caribbean, and other tales. He was also a teacher of Raja Yoga which he counted Wheatly and the author’s wife as students.

Published in 1936 The Black Arts (reprinted later with the title The Complete Book of Witchcaft 1968/1970) was then and is today a definitive text on the occult world. Sectioned off into twenty one chapters, the topics covered are, early black  magic, ancient magic of the East, Egyptian magic, Jewish necromancy, magic in Greece and Rome, sorcery and magic in the dark ages, the church and the practice of black magic behind its doors, witchcraft , vampirism and werewolves in Europe, alchemist and sorcerers from the 13th to 18th centuries, symbols of magic, Sex-rites ,Primitive races and magic, sorcery in North and South America, Yogis and Fakirs of India, black magic in the British Isles, Necromancy, Black mass, Elementals, modern black magic and methods to counter act sorcery. The subject matter is still strong for this day and age.

Some people felt Ahmed was a man with strange powers as one of Wheaty’s friends swore one night that they encountered a dark “imp” standing beside Ahmed while they had a conversation with him. Others were of the opinion that he was a sly con artist. An alleged member of The Left Hand Path, Ahmed was a fixture in London’s bohemian scene during the 30’s in his fez and white burnus could count “The worlds most wicked man” Allister Crowley as a friend. It’s during this time that Ahmed had to be fitted with a set of false teeth, the result of trying to capture a demon. Ahmed also published his auto biography I Rise: The life story of a Negro. It’s a rare book that’s out of print which he dedicated to actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson. Ahmed relays his life of negative racial encounters in 1930’s London. Situations such as, landlords refusing to rent him rooms and apartment, even just a room for shelter on a cold night, harassed by the police Ahmed was jailed several times for fraud. By the 1950’s Ahmed seems to have been reduced to in stature to hiring out his services to elderly women to tell their fortunes while living with his wife Theodora (who had her own Lycanthorpe encounter as a child in Germany) in Harpsichord house in Hastings. After that, he fades from the occult scene.

Charlatan or not, a man of his occult world knowledge should be more acknowledged. There is hope that horror writers will see Rollo Ahmed as a genre character in the same light as classical pianist and down low occultist Philippa Schuyler or Harlem magician Black Herman. Ahmed’s time has come.

 

British Voodoo: Black Art of Rollo Ahmed http:// sas.space.sas.ac.uk15976/ was used along with other sources as reference.


aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

Movie Review: Sorry to Bother You

Review: Sorry to Bother You on Hulu

Reviewed by Sumiko Saulson

Stars: 5 of 5

Sorry to Bother You is a dark comedy sci-fi horror film currently available on Hulu wherein we gradually learn that Oakland, California resident Cassius “Cash” Green, who seems to be living in the present, is actually in a future dystopia where those in debt sell themselves into slavery by signing up for a lifetime of servitude with a company called WorryFree. Cash is played by hot newcomer Lakeith Stanfield. Stanfield made his debut in on the indie film circuit 2013 and subsequently appeared in serious biopic films like Selma, Snowden, and Straight Out of Compton, but is becoming a fixture in horror films. He appeared in Purge: Anarchy, Get Out, and played the hero L in the controversial Netflix live-action take on Death Note.

Sorry to Bother You is saturated in blackness with Tessa Thompson as the love interest Detroit, Terry Crews as the financially beleaguered uncle, Jermaine Fowler and Omari Hardwick and as supporting cast members, and Danny Glover in a near-cameo appearance as Langston, the guy who teaches Cash to use his “white voice,” and Forest Whittaker as a human/horse hybrid called an equisapien. Directed and written by Boots Riley. Asian American actor Steven Yeun plays Squeeze, the overly woke union organizer who makes a play for Cash’s performance artist girlfriend Detroit after Cash begins to sell out.

The film handles issues regarding capitalism, usury, and the internal struggle many Americans face when deciding whether or not to maintain personal integrity or sell out to protect and feed one’s family with humor, grace, and a dark edginess reminiscent of the original Robocop, Johnny Mnemonic, Tank Girl and other black comedies in capitalist future dystopias.

I wouldn’t categorize it as horror if it wasn’t for the equisapiens. About halfway into the film, Cash’s descent into the dark wells of corruption takes a turn for the terrifying. It starts out with the selling out, of course. The telemarketer’s uncle is in debt and considering selling himself into a lifetime work contract that is essentially slavery to get out of it. Cash, a telemarketer, discovers he has an opportunity to save his uncle. All he has to do is join forces with WorryFree and become fine with selling other people into slavery. To complicate matters, his girlfriend has joined forces with Squeeze in protesting the poor wages at the telemarketing company they work at and boycotting WorryFree as their indentured servitude contacts are slave labor. Will he uphold the beliefs Detroit and he seemingly hold dear, or protect his family?

All of these questions are still being answered when things take a turn for the Weird Fiction neck of the woods.  While questioning his own morality, Cash attends a party hosted by the CEO of WorryFree and uncovers a terrible secret: equisapiens! They are genetically engineered horse people WorryFree intends to use to get around labor laws that restrict their complete and other disregarding human rights for contract employees. Only, there is some suggestion that these equisapiens might actually be contract employees! Now, we’re stepping into the Twilight Zone, or maybe an Outer Limits episode where Forrest Whittaker is an equisapien instead of a voice announcer.

The movie has a slower pacing like most Sundance Film Festival circuit indie art films do. It had a very short run at the major theaters before bouncing to Hulu. But it is thoroughly enjoyable and I strongly recommend checking it out.

BHH: Outcasts by Valjeanne Jeffers 1 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 1 of 3

On the island of Saint-Domingue, in the dead of night, thousands of slaves crept silently along the path through the trees and wiry brush to Bois Caïman. In the clearing the Houngan Dutty Boukman, a huge, self-educated slave with a fierce countenance, and Mambo Cecile Fatiman, a mulatto slave woman, waited to led them in ceremony. They petitioned the Loa for protection, for deliverance from slavery’s lash—calling upon the darkest spirits of their Ancestors to help them in their battle.

They prayed for freedom.

“Bon Dje nou an ki si bon, ki si jis, li ordone vanjans!” Dutty shouted. “Se li kap kondui branou pou nou ranpote la viktwa! Se li kap ba nou asistans. . .! Koute vwa la libète kap chante lan kè nou!”

“Our God, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs! It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory! It’s He who will assist us. . .! Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts!”

There was a clap of thunder … lightning flashed in the dark sky. A swirling rush of wind stirred the trees.

Cecile’s green eyes rolled back in her head. Enraptured she began to dance wildly. She’d been possessed by the Erzulie Seven Kout Kouto—the most deadly embodiment of the Loa, Erzulie Dantor. She sang and the slaves—beating upon the drums in rage—sang with her:

 

“Seven kout kouto, seven kout ponya

Prete mwen ganmèl lan pou mwen al vomi san

Prete mwen ganmèl lan pou mwen al vomi san

San mwen ape koule!”

“Seven stabbings of knives, seven stabbings of daggers

Lend me the ganmèl, so I can vomit blood

Lend me the ganmèl, so I can vomit blood

My blood is running!”

 

Seven days later, Dutty led his people in revolt against their slave masters … burning plantations to the ground. For this rebellion, he was captured and beheaded by the French; his head was publicly displayed with a placard reading: “Boukman, Chef des Revolutions des Escalves,” Boukman, Chief of the Slaves Revolution. The French thought killing Dutty Boukman would frighten the Black slaves— thus halting the tide of revolution.

 

But the fires of liberation Dutty and Cecile ignited were not the first, nor would they be the last.

 

##

 

Monique, a tall, young woman with chocolate-colored skin, a long face, and slender build, made her way through the tall brass structures of Saint-Domingue, past red flowering Hibiscus blooms toward the fields. She was dressed in a wrapped skirt and bustier, her braided hair coiled in twisted beads atop her head. She wore a brass-handled musket on a holster about her waist. A grip of interwoven cloth and metal encased her fingers and entire arm up to her shoulder to minimize kickback from her pistol. She carried a water flask in one hand and her breakfast of a partially-eaten boiled plantain in the other.

 

She stopped at a well on the outskirts of her township. Monique finished the last of the plantain in one bite, and dropped the peel in the cloth trash-bag beside the well: a conveyor belt made of cloth and woven wire. Half the belt lay above the soil; the rest, on her left and right, was buried underground. Monique knelt before the clunky machinery attached to two metal legs above the conveyor belt. She turned the crank, the belt jerked and scuttled forward: carrying copper vases full of water, screwed to caps on its underside.

 

Monique twisted one of the vases off, filled her flask and turned it up her full lips: drinking deeply. She poured more water into the flask, and reattached the water vase back onto the belt. Refreshed and ready, the young woman made her way to the field on the edge of town. There she found thousands of men and women, aged sixteen to sixty, preparing for tomorrow.

 

When they would go to war with France.

 

After Dusty’s rebellion, General Mountainous L’Ouverture had led a revolution from the island of Saint-Domingue—allying himself with Napoleon to end bondage in his homeland. Now, ten years later, the mad French emperor had made a clandestine deal with plantation owners to enslave them once more.

 

Napoleon had promised Toussaint and the island of Saint-Domingue that bondage was forever ended on their island. But, he secretly supported the white planters’ greed—their greed for wealth earned on the backs and from the blood of slaves. He sympathized with their loss of financial gain from the cane, coffee and cocoa plantations.

 

So the Emperor betrayed his promise. He didn’t care that slaves were treated worse than dogs, that they were not paid for their back-breaking labor, that the lash and torture was used to keep them submissive.

 

Napoleon would attack at dawn. They would be waiting for him … beside their brass cabins, in the tall grass and in the fields.

 

Monique merged with the crowd of warriors on the field, wearing embroidered grips like hers on their shoulders. “Bonjour …” she greeted them and a volley of salutations greeted her in return. She saw women, who had fought under Toussaint, moving through their ranks, offering tutelage and support. These women were among his most trusted generals and would fight alongside him, helping him lead the Saint-Domingue warriors to victory.

 

She pulled her musket from its sheath and began practicing with them: aiming the revolving muskets with brass grips. She aimed and fired at a clay target blowing the figurine to bits. The muskets had three barrels that rotated and fired. Other warriors were practicing with copper-bayoneted rifles that  fired bullets and, if the solider run out of ammunition, the bayonet as well.

 

There were also those perfecting their use of the whirling-bird machetes: a brass and copper rendition of the Black-capped Petrel bird. These men and women wore gloves made of heavy cloth, interwoven with pounded-brass to protect their fingers, as well as top hats with scopes to enhance their sight and track their birds’ flight. Directions were dialed on the Petrel bird’s belly. Once aimed and fired the whirling-bird flew to the target, and transformed into a deadly machete.

 

During the first war, President Toussaint had contacted the Black American scientist Benjamin Banneker to help him in his fight against Napoleon. All of the weapons were Banneker’s ingenious inventions.

 

The airships too were of Banneker’s wondrous design— and powered by both science and sorcery. The ships were cylinder shaped and overlaid with a metal filigreed. A propeller at the stern had a crank that would be turned by human hands. Carved flaps on the port and starboard sides enhanced their buoyancy, as did the steam-filled cigar shaped balloon above it.

 

Monique paused in her drill for a moment, gazing at the ships. She’d always found an excuse to be near them. She would scrub the port and starboard or, if she was denied this pleasure, pick vegetables in their shadow. Once Monique had crept up a ladder onto the deck to peek through one of the round windows at the ships interior. She still remembered the gleaming buttons and stern.

 

This treat had earned her a switching from her mother, Isabelle. Women were strictly forbidden from operating ships or gazing at their interiors. The village elders had reasoned, and rightly so, that if women engaged in these activities it might led to dissatisfaction with their own lives.

 

Women were expected to work the fields with men, and to fight alongside them in the battlefield. This was as it should be.

 

But the bulk of the domestic responsibilities also fell on female shoulders, such as caring for children, cooking and housekeeping. Monique had no children of her own, although she was twenty and one years. Still, she was required to help other women care for their young, in provision for the coming day when she would become a mother herself.

 

The day she whipped Monique, Isabelle told her daughter she had plans for her which didn’t include piloting an airship. “We worked hard enough when we was slaves, n’est-ce pas? We, women had it the worst!” Isabelle spat. “The white slavers took our children— took us if they had a mind too. They’d rape us right in front of our men. Just for sport. My man, your father, he was killed by slavers.”

 

“Now, we free to be women. We free to care for our own children. Our own men.” She cupped Monique’s chin in her small hand. “That’s what I want for you, cherie mwen. A husband. Children.” Her eyes hardened suddenly. “And if I ever see you look a woman the wrong way— if I ever see that—I’ll cut your eyes out myself.”

 

Monique couldn’t say for sure what had prompted her mother’s threat. But she suspected it was because she’d never shown any interest in men. Isabelle was no fool.

 

She tore her eyes away from the airships and pulled her weapon from her holster. She took aim at her target, a clay figurine. All at once, elation and longing swirling about in her bosom. She looked forward to the dawn, looked forward to hiding in wait for the French—surprising them, when they thought the island would be sleeping.

 

And what comes, what must come, afterward. I must have her.

 

The young woman’s eyes found her lover, Simone, standing only a yard away—Simone with her dark skin, wide laughing mouth, large eyes, small breasts and rounded hips; Simone who could dance better and shoot better than anyone she knew: male or female.

 

Simone felt her lover’s gaze travel down her body and looked over her shoulder. Their eyes met and Monique found it suddenly hard to breathe. Desire like molten honey flowed from her breasts to her pelvis. She tore her brown eyes away, lest the love that burned within them be revealed to her fellow warriors.

 

##

The people made their way to the Hounfour. They had spent days in preparation for the ceremony, when they would petition the Lwa once more for victory over the slave masters.

 

Monique had scrubbed her body clean and wore a head wrap and skirt. The young woman thought of her offering: rose perfume bought with her last money and the sweet potato cakes she’d baked to petition Loa Erzulie Freda.

 

But will it be enough? Will she answer my prayers?

 

She watched the Houngan trace the crossroad in the air, the crossroad where all spiritual energy met. This, she knew was in preparation for the Loa, Papa Legba’s, entrance. Everyone had already laid their offerings on the altar. . . rum, tobacco, perfumes, machetes. . . Monique’s offering of among them.

 

Songs were sung first in French; then a litany was sung in African and Creole. Behind her, young women holding candles danced. Along the walls men beat the drums with brass sticks.

 

The dance began.

 

A young man twisted into their midst. . . his face and contortions enraptured, his eyes rolling back in his head. The drums accentuated his movements as he skillfully spun with leaps and pirouette. He shuddered and dropped to his knees. . . his torso shaking back and forth in rhythm to the drums.

 

He rose slowly and they offered him his cane, straw hat and pipe. For he was now being ridden by Papa Legba: the honored one who is called before all others and is always the last to leave.

 

Papa Legba, the one who stands at the crossroads of life and death.

 

Minutes later, another older man gyrated violently in their midst: his face both enraptured and angry. He snatched the machete from the altar and began thrusting it in the air in quick, short jabs. The acolytes stepped back to give him room, rejoicing in their hearts, for they knew that  Papa Ogun—a Loa of war— was now among them.

 

The French dogs will fail! We will not return to chains, non!

 

The Lwa spoke in a growling, rumbling voice: “Gren mwe fret!” My testicles are cold! The ancient demand for rum.

 

The Houngan snatched rum from the altar, poured it on to the ground and struck a match to it. . . they watched in awe as Ogun washed his hands in the fire without his flesh being burned. More Lwa flew among them possessing their favored. . . riding their human horses.

 

Moments later, Monique felt her coming. All her anxiety and worry vanished. A cool breeze pervaded her spirit. . . For Erzulie was not only a fierce and warlike Loa, but one of love.

 

All love—not just that of a man and woman, n’est-ce pas? Monique’s eyes rolled back in her head. As Erzulie Dantor possessed her, she wept and danced. . .

 

##

 

Monique fired: hitting a French soldier in the head. Next to her, a warrior dialed and aimed his whirling-bird. The mechanical bird flew straight at a Frenchman chopping and hacking at the doomed man’s arms. . . Every able-bodied man and woman on the island was here—fighting on the field. Those that couldn’t fight were behind the battlements pouring metal into bullet molds.

 

Napoleon’s forces outnumbered them and the emperor had brought his own airships: huge, cigar shaped vessels, with sails billowing on the port and starboard, and conical balloons above them.

 

Monique risked a glance at the Mambo, Cecile Fatiman, standing before Saint-Domingue airships, chanting. Bullets whistled past the Mambo’s head but she paid them no mind.

 

Thunder rumbled, the balloons filled with air and the ships rose, their curling flaps creating wind, the airships’ propellers twisting the red and yellow Hibiscus blossoms beside them. Sailors at the airships’ helm steered them to attack—firing upon the French with triple brass muskets. Other men, wearing goggles and vests, fired with rifles from the stern, their muscles glinting in the sun.

 

Cecile watched calmly as the larger French ships laid siege to the Saint-Domingue vessels with cannons. In the air, as on the ground, the black warriors were heavily outnumbered. Now the Voudon priestess spoke her final mantra. . . Amber shadows rose from inside the hull of ships twisted free—the vengeful ghosts of slaves, mutilated and tortured to death. The spirits flew toward the French transforming into four-armed bat-like creatures. They covered their enemies biting and clawing, attached themselves to the enemies’ hull pulling the crafts apart, as the men screamed. . .

 

On the ground, scores of French soldiers lay dead or dying. Napoleon’s forces fell back retreating before black warriors, bellowing, “The ancestors are with us!”

 

The celebration that night was unlike any before. General Toussaint L’Ouverture declared their country the free Republic of Haiti!

 

##

 

Amid the screaming and shouts of victory, Monique caught Simone’s eye in the crowd. A slow smile lit her face and Monique nodded. The two women slipped away to a waterfall beneath the rocks: the sanctuary where they had first declared their love.

 

“Ou fè m fou pou ou,” You make me crazy for you, Monique whispered.

 

“Ou se lanmou kè m,” You are the love of my heart, came Simone’s breathless reply.

 

They shared a kiss, coming together in tender, hot embrace. . . their touch like butterflies, as they undressed one another and sank to the wet rocks in a symmetry of desire and surrender. An hour later they curled up together and slept.

 

##

 

Simone was screaming. The sound thrust Monique into awareness. Someone was shouting: “Demeplè! Unnatural!”

 

The women were beaten and kicked. A blow to Monique’s head knocked her unconscious.

 

The next few weeks were a nightmare. Monique and Simone were beaten again and confined to separate cages at the edge of town beneath the rocks, while the town elders debated her fate. Many said they should be killed. But finally an agreement was reached.

 

The women would be imprisoned for six weeks. Simone was shipped away to relatives living on a remote part of the Island to serve out her sentence. They would never see other again.

 

##

To be continued… Feb 5th, 2019… stay tuned!


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site