Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.
Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.
An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.
Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.
Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.
At the end of the Taisho era in Japan, a small tea house draws patrons to Hiruko. He is a Baku-he or “Eater of Dreams.” It is said Hiruko can enter a nightmare and release the victim from suffering. He can put people to sleep with the wave of his cane and accompany them into the nightmare.
The stories in this manga are very odd and don’t seem to make much sense. In one case, a boy walks into the tea house and asks for help. It turns out he is a weather vane. I’m confused about how a weather vane could walk into a tea shop and how do weather vanes have nightmares?
Another tale features a girl who always writes the same thing in her dream. She asks him to change it, but when they get to the part where he can, she ends up writing the same thing. There is a secondary character in the tea house who sometimes asks Hiruko what happened and his explanations don’t make much sense either.
There are also repetitive chapter beginnings which are common in mangas that were serialized in magazines. I always think it is better for the editor to cut these out when composing the manga book.
I absolutely love the art in this manga. It’s a very interesting sort of steampunk/cosplay mix with long art deco lines. The styling of the Baku-he is awesome.
In the back, there is a short letter from the author. The best thing is a full-page illustration/explanation of Hiruko’s cane by the friend of the author. It’s hilarious and informative. It makes me wonder what sort of manga would come from the author and best friend collaborating.
Overall, I’d say, check it out for the art, but don’t hold out much hope for the story.
The National Psychic Academy: A place for psychically gifted youth to expand their powers, be hit on by frisky co-eds, and meet talking bunnies. Poor Ai doesn’t even believe that he has psychic gifts. How can he be expected to survive at a school where his brother is a hero and his talking bunny keeps pushing him into embarrassing situations?
This manga is rated 13+, and reads like a schoolboy locker room chat. With many racy shots, young girl’s bathing, naked little fairies, and several “accidental” boob grabs, this book seems written by a young boy, for young boys.
The bunny, who claims to be Master Boo, speaks like Andrew Dice Clay and seems to want to pick up girls more than help Ai learn his skills.
“Now watch an’ learn as I pluck a coupla young, unsuspecting, ripe tomatoes.”
Ai’s brother, Zero or “The Vanquisher of the Dark Overlord”, is over the top with his two-page intro where the artist paints him like an old-time comic book hero, metal codpiece, cape blowing in the breeze. It gets worse later, when Zero fights off a bully, using the clothes vanishing technique and tells the bully,
“That’s terrifying coming from a fool with his wee wee hanging out.”
Ai’s roommate was portrayed as the “stupid foreigner”. I think he is supposed to be Middle Eastern and the way they treat him I find offensive. He wears robes, sleeps like some sort of Kama Sutra pretzel, has a symbol on his head, and is always doing dumb things.
If you’re not a male pre-teen, you’ll probably hate this one. For me, it was slightly entertaining because of the few magic fights involved, but not worth reading more volumes.
Extras: None. But you do get to see a preview of the next volume. Featuring… another accidental boob grab! -.-
Lee Murray is a three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominee, HWA Mentor of the Year, an Honorary Literary Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and New Zealand’s most awarded writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Find her website here at LeeMurray.info.
Lee, your stories are populated by such well developed characters I think they must be fragments of real people you know, reassembled. Which of your stories/characters best represents you?
My character Lucy in my Black Cranes story “Phoenix Claws” is actually me, once upon a time, and my husband is Finn, the partner who loves yum cha brunch but not chicken feet, although he isn’t a plumber and I never took accounting. Also, unlike Finn and Lucy, a new couple who are learning to navigate a relationship with the conflicting demands of blended cultures, my ‘white ghost’ husband and I have been married for more than thirty years.
But the family tradition highlighted in the story exists: I was subjected to it and, to my horror, I have unwittingly perpetuated it. My other story in Black Cranes, “Frangipani Wishes,” is based on true events, never explicitly revealed to me, but somehow understood, in a strange form of familial osmosis. It is one of my saddest memories, and I’m still remorseful that I was the wrong generation, a girl with no power and no real understanding, that I did nothing to intervene. Would I, could I, if it were happening now? I don’t know, and I guess that makes me complicit.
I also wrote myself, or parts of me into my Path of Ra series (Raw Dog Screaming Press) which I write collaboratively with my New Zealand colleague Dan Rabarts. In those stories, Hounds of the Underworld, Teeth of the Wolf, and Blood of the Sun, my character (Penny / Pandora Yee) is a Chinese-Māori woman who I believe shares many of my traits: she’s a stickler for rigour, doesn’t like to break the rules, and tends to overthink things. Like me she is still finding her way as an Asian New Zealander. She’s a scientist (as I was), who struggles to be acknowledged in her field. And Penny loves her family fiercely and would do anything for them, despite them occasionally being as annoying as hell.
I love how you have woven parts of yourself into your work. Two adjectives I would use to describe your writing is ‘powerful’ and ‘dark.’ What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?
Early on in my writing career, I learned that I wanted my work to address the things that frighten me, and as an anxious piglet sort who tends to overthink things, there is a lot that keeps me awake at night. If I’m lying in the darkness for hours ruminating on them, then why not write about them too? In my stories, for adults and for children, I’ve addressed global issues like the impact of technology, climate change, the importance of conserving our environment and especially our endangered species, and the very real fear that New Zealanders have of a catastrophic volcanic event. More recently though, my work has tended towards personal themes like loss, loneliness, isolation, persecution, erasure, and otherness, and horror, and in particular monsters and monstrosities, have become the lens through which
I explore those themes; they’re a staple of my work.
Tell us a bit about your heritage and your experience of ‘otherness’. Has this influenced what you write?
Recently a colleague asked me this question in an interview, so I’ll tell you what I told him: I was one of the first Chinese-Pakeha (European) children to be born to a bi-racial couple New Zealand. Not the first, but one of the first. In school, the only other Chinese children were my brother and two cousins. We ate weird food and had slanty eyes, so we got called all the usual things. “Ching-Chong Chinaman!” “Chink!” Yellow Peril!” “Wog!” “Hey, do you know Bruce Lee? Come here and I’ll show you.” Hey, you wing the wong number?”
But our cousins were full Chinese. My brother and I were only half. Which was somehow worse. Apparently, the titer of our blood was important and being only half Chinese meant we were lesser: we weren’t proper New Zealanders and nor were we properly Chinese. Our own family rejected us. My brother and I were five and six-years-old and we were other. I remember my Chinese aunt demanding that I choose whose side I was on. If there was a war with China, what side would I pick? Who did I love most: my mother or my father? How could I answer? Even then, I knew it was an unfair question.
As for whether my heritage and my otherness has influenced my writing, let’s just say that it’s beginning to. More and more those Asian ideals that I’ve grappled with all my life are creeping into my work. Perhaps it’s because I’m suddenly aware I’m fifty-five and long past the age most people ‘find themselves’. Surely by now I should have come to terms with my identity. So what if I’m all grown up and still there is no literature that reflects my Chinese-New Zealand experience? If I want to see that happen, then maybe it’s up to me to roll up my sleeves and make it happen. And perhaps that feeling is what prompted Black Cranes. And the fact that Geneve and I both arrived too early to a conference session, like the good conscientious Asian girls we’ve been raised to be.
The two of us got to talking in the lobby while we were waiting. Where were all the Asian horror writers? Where were Asian women’s experiences being highlighted? We could see a gaping hole in existing horror literature, but would our colleagues feel the same way? Was the timing was right, and would anyone would want to read an anthology of Asian horror? We had no idea. The response from our Black Cranes contributors confirmed they had been waiting for the opportunity, or perhaps they’d been waiting for something and couldn’t quite put their finger on it. And nor could Geneve and I have predicted the positive response to these wonderful stories, even though it’s only been a month or so since the book’s release. We couldn’t be prouder of these writers and their stories.
What has your experience been as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? How has this changed over time, or not?
I’ve been a full-time writer for fourteen years now, and for most of that time I’ve seen myself as a writer first, and then a New Zealand writer of mainly dark speculative fiction, so perhaps that is also the way I’ve been perceived. It’s only very recently that I’ve been brave enough to envisage myself as an Asian writer, perhaps because for so long my I’ve felt I had to hide that part of myself, make myself smaller, as if being born Chinese in New Zealand was something I should be ashamed of. Now I feel like I need to change that, to push back at that erasure, both from external sources, and also due to my own complicity.
What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
Geneve summed up those depictions when she wrote the back cover blurb to Black Cranes. We’re a slew of tired tropes: the tiger mums, the sly fatales, the submissive, the studious, and the conscientious. But I think you said best, Angela, in our Black Cranes online launch panel, when you said we need to see authentic diverse nuanced representations of Asian women in fiction. That is exactly what we need: characterizations which reveal us as the complex, richly layered shapeshifters we can be. Portrayals which speculate on futures for Asian women which go beyond the tropes and the traditions. Beyond the petals and the perfidy.
Oh, I love your phrase “petals and the perfidy.” Perhaps that will be another anthology—hint hint? How about other readings? Do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?
Everyone who appears in this book, including Alma Katsu and Tori Eldridge. Please check out the work of our Black Cranes contributors. There is a reason they appear in this anthology. As for other writers whose works have resonated for me, at a certain level, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by the works of writers like American Pearl S Buck (The Good Earth, 1931), Xinran (The Good Women of China, 2002), Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club, 1989), and Jung Chang (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, 1991), literary works likely not intended as horror but which read that way for me.
Yet my interest in those texts was tempered; I saw them as pertaining to me, but only in a detached and distant way. I recognized certain notions that had filtered through the generations and settled on me here, but also that the New Zealand context had subverted and changed them in various ways. It would have been wonderful to have explored these ideas in my reading, but when I was growing up, the Asian-New Zealand diaspora was largely ignored in literature—and still is.
Even now, I know of no stories which reflect my experience as a half-caste Chinese-New Zealander other than my own work. Perhaps, it is significant that I first saw myself in John Wyndham’s science fiction novel, The Chrysalids, as someone grossly flawed and banished to the fringes, only in New Zealand, where the only other Asian children I knew were my siblings or my cousins, there were no telepathic allies with whom to share my otherness. Finding this shared experience now with my Black Cranes colleagues has been extremely uplifting, and also a little sad.
Can you tell us briefly about your last project and what you’re working on next?
Thank you for asking. As well as Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, this year’s projects included my debut short story collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories, which released in July from Things in the Well, Australia, and Blood of the Sun, the final book in the Path of Ra, a supernatural crime-noir trilogy co-authored with Dan Rabarts, which released from Raw Dog Screaming Press on 4 November 2020.
As far as my plans go, I’d like to carve out some time to work on a poetry project, some scripts, and another Taine McKenna novel. I also have ten short story commissions on the go, and since I’m a slow writer, barely able to complete 500 words a day, I think that’s enough to keep me going for a while.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, Lee. I have a lot of respect for you both as an individual and as an artists. I’m very happy to share you here today, and look forward to chatting again next Tuesday on the next Skeleton Hour! Remember, you can register for the online event on Facebook here.
Japan is not known for holding back when it comes to throwing around buckets of blood on screen. Not just limited to horror, the country’s samurai and revenge films are some of the bloodiest on record, and because there are often swords involved, it’s not just limited to splashes of red from bullet-wounds either. Lady Snowblood(Toshya Fujita) is a perfect example of this, featuring copious amounts of the red stuff gushing in geysers from slashes and stabs. But the film is much more than just a blood-fest, and is an interesting window onto Japanese society in the beginning of the Meiji Era, when the country was beginning to examine western ideas, moving from the feudalistic, pre-industrial country of old, into a nation that had changed almost indescribably by the era’s end.
The story is one that has been told times before. Yuki, born in the first years of the Meiji Era (I believe 1873, give or take a year, according to my rough estimations), is raised to be an assassin who will one day track down her mother’s four abusers. The film follows the now named ‘Lady Snowblood’, as she follows the four trails, taking out each one in turn, until the final bloody climax. Based off a manga of the same name, it spawned a sequel, a spinoff, and had its legacy largely cemented in western culture when Quentin Tarantino used it as primary inspiration for Kill Bill (2003). It’s a kind of narrative we’re still seeing today, with a female assassin raised from birth for the sole purpose of murder, and anyone who hasn’t seen the stylish 2017 film The Villainess (Jung Byung-gil, South Korea), which in turn was inspired by the Luc Besson film La Femme Nikita (France, 1990), would do well to check it out for a fun, modern example of the narrative.
Lady Snowblood has enough filmmaking technique going for it to make it a good watch on its own, and attention to the use of colour as part of its thematic expression is just part of it. Red is obviously a large feature in the film, and not just because of the severed hands and blood-splattered faces. After several flashbacks to Yuki’s birth, red light spills into the night, colouring the snow crimson. The women in the prison at her birth are all dressed in red, the floor of the palace in the finale is red, the kimono of the daughter of one of her targets is red; the symbolism is obvious. She is born to blood, which is said as much “poor child, you were born to vengeance”, and it is in red where the story ends. She can never escape it.
It’s also no coincidence for her to take the name Snowblood, as the translation for ‘yuki’ is ‘snow’ (according to Google), a name given to her by her mother, just before passing after giving birth, after looking outside to the falling snow. Indeed, the purity of the colour white contrasts with the blood in many scenes. Our introduction to ‘present-day’ Yuki takes place in the snow, which ends in a violent bloodbath, and the film ends in the snow also. Yuki also wears a white kimono for much of the film, which, when contrasted with a red sash, demonstrates her attire as a reflection of herself. A pure woman forever destined to spill blood, for no other reason than that is what she was born to do. It might also reflect the death of her mother’s husband, whom the group killed before abducting her mother, who was wearing a white suit at the time.
Perhaps of most interest from a cultural point of view, however, is how the film examines the growing western influence in the country in relation to the antagonists, especially Gishirō. Both he and Okono (two of the four being hunted) use pistols, the only two characters to do so. Okono’s policemen, which she uses to try and stop Yuki, are dressed in a western-inspired uniform, with gold buttons and shiny billed caps. Her relative rank and influence is coming as a direct response to assimilation of western technology and culture, whereas Yuki carries a parasol, dresses in a kimono, and uses a katana, as she has done all her life, all seen as traditional icons of Japan’s history.
As mentioned before, Yuki’s ‘father’ was wearing a suit when killed. The film explains that government officials wore white when visiting the towns to draft young men for the war effort, and so the four villains of the story were running a scam to say that young men would escape the draft by paying them (they would then promptly vanish with the money). This plays into an excuse to rob and kill Yuki’s ‘father’, as a result of paranoia and hatred of men dressed in white. But, that he was wearing a suit specifically shows that the new era of exposure to western influences can unstable a nation’s people. A symbol of western society, it is seen as inherently threatening to a traditional way of life. By getting rid of someone dressed in attire of the world beyond their borders, which had been closed off for so long, the four align themselves as friends of the people, helping to persuade them to take up their scam. Thus their hypocrisy deepens as they themselves adopt similar dress in the later segments of the film. They will align themselves with anyone who help to further their own rank and influence.
The finale at the masquerade ball is also interesting, as it is set up for dignitaries from all over the globe. From the ceiling are hung flags from countries all across the world, from the UK to Belgium to Greece, and Japan’s white flag and red circle is not exactly hung right in the middle of the room. The chandelier is definitely in the style of an aristocratic European mansion, some of the guests speak English, and once again, Yuki is attacked with a pistol. Yuki must go into this new world, still upholding a tradition of the past, straddling the strange, mixed ‘netherworld’, to accomplish her mission. That the villain’s final plunge from the balcony causes him to fall into, and drag down, the Japanese flag, is perfectly apt. Draped in the colours of white and red (just like Yuki herself), Japan’s past has taken revenge for exploiting the incoming influence of the West for personal, nefarious gain, and not for the unilateral gain of all.
Thus, not only is Lady Snowblood very entertaining, stylish, and well shot, but is very much a story which could only be told about this country and about this period of its history. Through the bodily dismemberments and fountains of blood is a reflection of a nation’s exposure to radical change, and the chaos that this can bring about when some seek to exploit it for ill-gain. If horror fans are looking for a little change of pace to their usual demonic possessions and serial killings, this bloody tale of revenge should certainly be sought out and savoured.
Free Fiction Friday from June, 2015
by Grey Harlowe
It was their last chance to get dinner; the restaurant scene in town closed in an hour. Max and Claire had been arguing Mexican versus pizza, Paige wanted seafood and Boyd was ambivalent about any option. He was thirty seconds away from just heading home when they stumbled into a Chinese diner, keeping a low profile next to an arcade.
“Let’s try here,” said Max, triumphantly.
The diner had low lights and an old fashioned bar. The four coworkers, who’d worked late at their small office, sat on its round stools eating. The staff, indulgent types, left them alone.
As the meal wound down, Paige cracked a fortune cookie. Boyd, who hated them, moved to stop her. She giggled.
“Superstitious?” she asked.
“No, that’s why I don’t read these. And who’s ever heard of anything this silly actually telling someone’s future?”
Rolling her eyes, Paige opened her tiny white scroll.
“Good health will be yours for a long time.” She smiled.
“Can’t beat that,” Max said, smiling back. Everyone knew the ex-lovers had been considering reconciliation, delayed while Paige endured a cancer scare. The final tests weren’t back, but it appeared she’d dodged mastectomy.
“Indeed,” said Claire. “I’m next.” Slowly, she recited, “A new wardrobe will accompany great change.”
“Like you need improvement,” Paige said. They all nodded. Claire was often mistaken for a model. “Do yours, Max.”
Max hesitated, then read, “You will be successful in your work. Hmm. Maybe Chuck will lay off soon.” Their boss had been giving Max a hard time. Rumor was, Chuck was unhappy with Max’s pitch to a big overseas client. Chuck was impatient for their product, eco-friendly playground material, to go international.
Pressured by his friends, Boyd opened his cookie.
“You will soon be crossing the great waters.” He was greeted with cackling laughter.
“Ouch,” said Paige. “You don’t think that means—”
“What does it sound like? Is there ambiguity there?” Max teased. “No wonder you hate these cookies, bro.”
“Helpful,” said Boyd, trying to stay brave. The reason he avoided fortune cookies was to avoid tempting fate.
He drove home apprehensive.
It turned out, he’d had cause to be afraid.
The next morning at work, he arrived to a grim scene. Paige was in the breakroom, staring at her coffee mug. Max and Chuck were facing off in the doorway of Chuck’s office, clearly having had a harsh exchange. Eventually, Max stormed out. Boyd could hear someone crying in the bathroom. It sounded like Claire.
“What’s going on?” he asked Paige.
“Well,” Paige said, “Claire’s pregnant. I’m surprised we didn’t notice, but she’s been…dressing to hide it.” Paige looked at the wall. Both recalled the ominous ‘new wardrobe’ fortune.
“Gets worse,” she continued. “Claire admitted affairs with both Max and Chuck. Paternity’s up in the air. Max is dealing, but Chuck’s pissed enough he fired him.”
Boyd gulped. He wasn’t shocked; Chuck was a territorial guy.
“How’re you dealing?” This couldn’t have done Paige’s intended reunion with Max any favors.
“Fine, I guess,” she said. “Doc’s office called. My tests are normal.”
It became surreal. Claire fled the bathroom, tears streaming. Paige followed Claire downstairs. Boyd and Chuck soon heard the women arguing in the street, alongside Max’s voice. Then tires squealing. Screams. Paige would enjoy her ‘good health’ an eternity.
After the funeral, Claire disappeared. So did Max, to search for her. Chuck told Boyd that Boyd would take over their new European account, which Max had been successful at securing in the end. Boyd was to leave immediately, courtesy of a trip on the client’s cruise line.
Crossing the great waters after all, Boyd thought bitterly.
The third day out, Max surprised Boyd beside his deck chair. He looked livid. About his firing, his lost women, or both, Boyd decided.
“I’ve felt so guilty,” Boyd said “Mine was the only nice fortune. Here I am, crossing the water.”
“Don’t feel guilty,” said Max, blood in his eye. “Fortune didn’t say you’d be crossing back.”
Grey Harlowe’s fiction has been featured on Every Writers Resource and Microhorror.com. She is the 2014 winner of the Saugus.net annual ghost story competition, and has also been published in the journal, The Last Line.
Contrary to what the cover and write up leads you to believe, the star of this manga is not Princess Resurrection. The true star is Hiro, an abandoned boy who is resurrected to be a slave for the princess. Poor Hiro wakes up in a morgue unaware that he is now undead and wanders to the Princess’s house.
Princess Resurrection is nonchalant and uncaring of his life or what becomes of him. As the daughter of the king who stands above all monsters, I guess she has the luxury of being jaded about death. She wields many weapons such as stakes, swords, jackhammers, and her favorite, a chain saw. Despite the many monsters she massacres, her dress is never damaged. Now, this is a girl we can look up to!
So, let’s see… we have a hell-bent princess, an undead boy, a robot maid, is there someone missing? Ah yes! Let’s add a rebellious werewolf girl into the mix.
These books are great. No matter how many times Hiro is “accidentally” killed by the Princess’s weapons or the robot maid says her only word “Hooba”, this story never gets old.
What you’ll find in Volume 1:
Hiro wakes up dead and finds the Princess battling a horde of werewolves.
Insane hospital employees attempt to make Hiro their savior and then try to kill him.
Werewolf girl saves Princess Resurrection from a battalion of squidmen.
Extras in the back include a four-page spin-off comic and two pages of translation notes explaining the significance of certain scenes along with a sneak peek at Volume 2.
Favorite quote: “You think Hiro’s alright?”
“He only drowned for one night. There shouldn’t be a problem.”
What you’ll find in Volume 2:
The Princess’s evil little sister visits and infects the house with triffids.
A sexy vampire girl wants Hiro for her own and attempts to steal him from the Princess.
The Princess battles another horde of werewolves.
The robot maid finds an android who she cares for.
The Princess kills an eyeball squid creature with a jackhammer.
Extras in the back include a five-page spin-off comic and two pages of translation notes explaining the significance of certain scenes along with a sneak peek at Volume 3 which looks to include a mummy army.
Favorite quote: While most of the crew is fighting for their lives against triffids, the maid is cleaning up. “It’s a little noisy upstairs… Oh well. I need to vacuum!”
The art in this manga is not pretty and frilly, but it is very well done. Monster art, gory blood, fighting, and a girl who cuddles her weapons? What more can a horror manga fan want?
Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month we’re listening to the Dark Wave artist Dissonance. Cat Hall has a new maxi-single that’s perfect for fans of bands like GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS & INFORMATION SOCIETY. Precipice is a techno-moody piece that is very personal to Hall. Music helps us heal from the tragedies in our lives, and for Hall, it’s been a form of catharsis. After a serious health battle, she’s come out on the other side to share her emotional experience in these three pieces. With remixes by Joe Haze, Diverje, Junior Kain, and Machines with Human Skin all add layers to the composition. Reminiscent of Tubular Bells or early Depeche Mode, Precipice is music to sit with and contemplate. Each element woven together, whether it be effects or harmonies, all evoke feelings of loss and yet are ultimately hopeful.
Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you and yours are well. I’d love to hear what kind of music is getting you through this tumultuous time. If you want to hear what I’ve been listening to, you can check out my #SpotifyWrapped. If you’re not on Spotify yet, you might want to change that in 2021. Getting a report on your listening habits can be…creepy, but also a great trip down memory lane. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings…
R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her at www.queeromanceink.com writing about Hope, Love and Queeromance.
At 1:15 am pst on Dec. 13th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and dog in lap picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Viewer discretion is advised.
Plotline: A collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself.
Who would like it: Fans of anthologies, short films, collections, international films, horror lovers, gorehounds, tech geeks, sci-fi fans, indie horror movies, and people who love jump scares
High Points: This was a super strong anthology, loved about 80% of the films
Grace Chan (gracechanwrites.com) is a speculative fiction writer and doctor. Her family migrated from Malaysia to Australia before her first birthday. Her writing explores brains, minds, technology, and narrative identity.
Her debut novel, Every Version of You, will be published by Affirm Press in 2022.
Her short fiction can be found in Clarkesworld, Going Down Swinging, Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, Verge: Uncanny, and other places. She was shortlisted for Viva la Novella VII. Her short story, The Mark, was nominated for the 2019 Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story and the 2020 Norma K Hemming Award.
Her other interests include salt-and-vinegar anything and secretly filming her friends’ post-NYE karaoke highlights. She is terrible at conveying sarcasm. In a decaffeinated state, she may cease to exist.
Grace, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Of Hunger and Fury and The Mark, both have such strong messages built into the story structure. What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?
This is still something I’m figuring out, which is part of the fun.
I’m fascinated by both the expanse of the universe and the expanse of our minds. I like writing about the unconscious—that can often take a dark, horrifying turn. I like writing about how technology, especially medical technology, might impact identity, relationships, and culture. I’m excited about works that centre more characters and narratives that aren’t so often centred, and I hope I can contribute to that in some small way.
You have a lot of work published from the likes of Clarkesworld and Aurealis. Which of your stories/characters best represents you?
I think I put a kernel of myself into every story…and then I craft a new character around that. Emma Kavanagh, from The Mark, is a character whose perspective and pain is silenced by society. I drew on the experience of women of colour, of being unheard and unseen, because your voice isn’t the right one for the room.
With Fiona/Fen Fang, from Of Hunger and Fury, I wanted to explore how an individual can be compressed between two cultures. I’m an amalgamation of my Australian upbringing and my Malaysian Chinese heritage, and I’ve gained a lot of strengths from both. But there are also restrictive, sexist pressures from both cultures—in different ways. As diasporic women, it can be especially exhausting. I’ve also put a bit of myself into Lian, the rational, ambitious main character from my novelette, Jigsaw Children, and a bit of myself into Tao Yi, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Every Version of You. I think writing allows us to explore parts of ourselves that don’t often see the light: weaknesses, strengths, dreams, fears, and so on.
I think the state of being culturally split is something that often gets overlooked as characters are often a single race in fiction. What are some of your experience of ‘otherness.’ Has this influenced what you write?
My heritage is filled with movement. I was born in Malaysia. So were my parents and most of my grandparents. My great-grandparents migrated to Malaysia from Guangdong. My parents and I migrated to Australia when I was a baby—my father came first, like a scout, and my mother came with me a few months later.
Although my parents are both tertiary educated, displacement and hardships made things difficult. I went to the local suburban primary school, where you could count the number of Asian kids on one hand. At the time, I didn’t think much of the fact that I looked different. But in hindsight, there was always a sense of being an outsider, and needing to prove my place by being a model citizen.
Like many other writers, I fell in love with the local library as a child. I devoured the YA section, but hardly ever found people like me in stories. When I first started to write, my characters were white Australian girls: Emma Smith, Hannah Brown. I remember my dad joking, “Why don’t you call her Emma Tan, or Hannah Chong!” I thought he was silly. I disliked my boring, common, Chinese name, and thought I could never be a writer unless I changed my name to a Western one.
As I’ve ventured into the workforce, I’ve become disillusioned to the myth that dominated my childhood: that compliance to the model minority mould leads to success. My eyes are gradually opening to systemic inequalities in our workplaces and society. It’s a personal and broader journey, fraught with complicated emotions.
I don’t think I purposely set out to write characters who are ‘other’. I don’t purposely make my characters ‘Asian’, or ‘different from the norm’ in any specific way. I just want to write characters that I’m interested in, who have compelling stories. I often find that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the most interesting ones. Many of the best stories are hidden in the quieter minds, in dark corners and buried places.
Wonderful points beautifully said. What has your experience been as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? How has this changed over time, or not?
I’ve only started to publish in the last couple of years, so I’m very much still in the process of finding my voice. I do feel that being part of a diaspora gives you perspective and power in writing. You’ve always lived with a sense of travelling, of not belonging, and you get rather good at putting yourself into other people’s shoes…or into alternate timelines entirely!
I’ve gravitated towards darker themes in a lot of my writing. I think it can be a way to acknowledge the darker, more difficult aspects of existence—and perhaps to find commonality and catharsis. It’s also just feels really good to be able to challenge people’s preconceptions and to throw out stereotypes. Asian and women characters are so frequently flattened into two-dimensionality. It’s exhilarating to be able to write slippery, multifaceted, three-dimensional characters that terrify, rage, grieve, crack dry jokes and dreadful puns, and forge their own paths, fiercely.
What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
I don’t think I have enough knowledge to comment on dark fiction specifically, but I certainly feel that Asian women in fiction are exoticized, sexualised, stereotyped and/or silenced, which is reflective of society. In White Tears/Brown Scars, Ruby Hamad describes the archetypes of Dragon Ladies and Exotic Orientals. Asian women as perceived by the dominant culture are either controlling and unpleasant, or passive, supportive, and decorative.
I want stories about Asian women who are both good and bad, who drive their own narratives, and make up their own minds. I want stories about Asian women who get to adventure, fight, run away, fall in love, not fall in love, destroy their enemies, plot wicked plots, exact revenge, save the world, or be wonderfully ordinary. There are a lot of such stories in SFFH (and, of course, in Black Cranes!). I hope they continue to receive more attention.
I do as well! On that note, do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?
Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling was a reading experience like none other. It took me fifty or so pages to get stuck in, but I became utterly immersed in a world of fox spirits, ghosts, ghost-sex, scholars, trickery, and monsters. It’s playful, eerie, and whimsical, with laugh-out-loud humour alongside horror.
I’ve also enjoyed: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. Her Body & Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado. Mother of Invention, edited by Rivqa Rafael and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Elizabeth Tan’s short story collections, Rubik and Smart Ovens for Lonely People.
All those just went on my list. How about your last project and what you’re working on next? Can you tell us about these projects?
My tentacled, symbiotic, monster story, Mother of the Trenches, will appear in Unnatural Order published by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. I had a lot of twisty fun with that one, and I’m excited for it to venture out into the world.
I’m also delighted to share that my novel, Every Version of You, will be published in early 2022 by Affirm Press, an independent Melbourne-based publisher! It’s a near-future science fiction novel with a Malaysian Chinese Australian protagonist, and it uses virtual reality and mind uploading to explore themes of identity, change, migration, love, and loss.
Chinko-ji Temple cemetery aka Rokudo-san cemetery aka Rokudochinnoji cemetery 595 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0811, Japan Telephone: +81 75 343 6555 Founded: 836 AD Size: a fraction of an acre Number of interments: hard to say, since Japanese are cremated and their ashes interred beneath their headstones marked with only their family names Gates are open: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The buildings open only occasionally. Check with the Tourist Information Center downtown for opening hours if you want to see the paintings of Hell and the Spirit World. Admission: free Important to know: The mosquitos in June were fierce, even in the heat of the afternoon. You may want to invest in insect repellent before you visit.
The city of Kyoto was founded in 794. For centuries, it served as the capital of Japan, until the emperor moved his court to Tokyo in 1869. It’s been called the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, but may only have as many as 2000 of them, 1600 of which are Buddhist temples along with 400 shrines dedicated to Shinto, the native religion.
Kyoto’s largest festival of the year takes place in August, when the city observes the Bon Festival, the Japanese celebration of ancestral spirits.
The book Introducing Kyoto by Herbert E. Pluschow reports “The Bon Festival begins on August 8 with a visit to Chinko-ji Temple. The location of Chinko-ji (also called Rokudo-san) marks one of the largest grave areas that existed since Heian times. Formerly, it extended from Kiyomizu-dera Temple all the way downhill to Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple and as far north as Chion-in.” Kyoto, a Cultural Guide, adds, “This area was known as ‘the land of the dead,’ a place where the bodies of those who died without family were often abandoned.”
So perhaps there were no monuments to move, no graves to disturb. The area is suburban now, full of houses. Of the massive graveyard, only a fragment remains at Chinko-ji.
The small Buddhist temple of Chinko-ji (also known as Rokudo-san) stands in the Higashiyama neighborhood, just south of Kyoto’s Gion neighborhood. The temple dates to the 9th century. As far as I can tell, the graveyard does not date that far back.
The plaque at the gate says, “A Rinzai-sect temple of the Kenniji school, founded in 836, and commonly known as Rokudo-san. Kyōto’s Bon Festival, Buddhist observance honoring the spirits of ancestors, begins with the tolling of the temple bell. The area is called ‘Rokudo-no-tsujii,’ or ‘the place where this world and the other world meet.’ Reference to this belief appears in Konjaku Monogatari, Tales of Times Now Past. The well behind the Main Hall was believed to have been used by Ono no Takamura (802–852) to commute between the two worlds.”
In fact, the temple still has a statue of Chinese scholar Ono no Takamura, a calligrapher and poet who served Emperor Saga in the early part of the ninth century. Takamura was so eloquent in his descriptions of Hell that it was believed he was an emissary from Enma, the King of Hell. Legend holds that at night Takamura would climb into the well at Rokudo Chinkoji, descend to the underworld, and help Enma judge the dead. In the morning, he’d climb back out, then go serve the Emperor.
Chinko-ji remains a place to pray for “the souls of commoners.” Rokudo-san, the temple’s popular name, refers to the roads to the six Buddhist realms to which a soul may go: 1) Jigoku (Hell), 2) Gaki (the land of the hungry spirits), 3) Chikushou (the land of the beasts), 4) Shura (the land of fighting), 5) Ningen (the land of humans, or our world), and 6) Tenjo (Heaven). Rokudo no Tsuji (the intersection of this world and the next ones, where the six roads begin) is believed to be in the small open square inside the tori gate from the street.
Japanese Buddhists believe that the souls of the dead inhabit mountains, which were Paradise. The bottoms of valleys were Hell. The mountain above Chinko-ji is called Mt. Amida, the Buddha of eternal light who rules Paradise. Some souls were so weighed down that they couldn’t climb uphill and were condemned to roam the earth, causing suffering. The Bon Festival addresses itself to these unhappy souls, which are welcomed back to earth at temples considered gates of Hell.
The welcoming bell is inside this building.
At Chinko-ji, people welcome their ancestors back by ringing the temple’s bell, called “Mukae-gane” or the welcoming bell. Unlike most temple bells in Japan, where you draw the clapper back to strike the bell, this one requires you to push the clapper forward. Legend says that the bell can be heard in every corner of hell and was once heard as far as China.
The building housing the bell stands on the right side of the temple complex. Just past in stands a hall with a statue of Enma and his emmisaries.
Straight ahead from the gate, on the north side, stands the main hall of the temple, which houses a statue of the Buddha Yakushi, who has the ability to rescue the suffering from Hell.
Some of the Jizo
The well that Takamura used to visit Hell still exists behind one of the temple buildings, but it was closed the afternoon when I visited. During Bon, people used to buy pine branches from the temple and lower them down into the well, so that the souls of the dead could grab on.
On the western side of the shrine, a plastic roof shelters a large statue of Jizo, the Buddhist guardian of travelers, children, and the dead. He’s surrounded by 200 smaller Jizo.
Behind the Jizo shrine stands the pocket graveyard. I didn’t open the gate and walk in, even though my family was alone at the temple when we visited. It didn’t feel respectful and I could see as much as I needed from the gate.
The graveyard with sotoba
However, as I stopped to pay my respects to Jizo and take some photos, the sotōba – the wooden blades marked with the posthumous names of the dead – rattled like chattering teeth in a sudden breath of wind.
I was glad when other people came into the temple grounds with us.
A great blog post with photos of the temple at O-Bon and the tale of “ghost-raising sweets”
I’m co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. Angelus Rose, the final book, came out in February 2020. I am the editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. I’m also author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel–and a space opera trilogy.
As is de rigueur for this time of year, we look back at some of the genre connected people who passed away in 2020. Some connections are tenuous, some very solid. A few names, everyone knows. Many, I didn’t even know until I set out on this journey.
By the way, there be spoilers here. Act accordingly.
Veronika Fitz (3/28/36-1/2/20) German actress with a nearly six-decade career. Her only genre performance that I could find was a bit part in The Haunted Castle (1960). Oh, well. We had to start somewhere.
Robert Blanche (March 30, 1962 – January 3, 2020) American actor, played Sgt. Franco on the American television program, ‘Grimm’, from 2012 to 2017.
Edd Byrnes (July 30, 1932 – January 8, 2020) American actor, best known to the generation just prior to mine for his role as Kookie in the television mystery show, ’77 Sunset Strip’. Played a psycho killer in 1973’s Wicked, Wicked, a film notable only for its use of a split-screen for its entire running time. Brian de Palma had used the technique of showing two scenes at once in parts of his film, Sisters, that same year. Too much of a good thing, in this case.
Buck Henry (December 9, 1930 – January 8, 2020) American actor, writer, director. Creator of the classic ‘60s TV spy spoof ‘Get Smart’, frequent first season contributor to ‘Saturday Night Live’, and doomed swinger in the 1982 dark comedy, Eating Raoul.
Ivan Passer (10 July 1933 – 9 January 2020) Czech director of 1988’s Haunted Summer, one of several films about the 1815 gathering in Switzerland that produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s Vampyre.
Mike Resnick (March 5, 1942 – January 9, 2020) Award-winning American science fiction writer and editor. Author of The Official Guide to Fantastic Literature (1976).
Carol Serling (February 3, 1929 – January 9, 2020) The widow of Rod Serling, who guided the Twilight Zone brand through decades of reinvention and adaptation into other media, including the magazine of the same name.
Neda Arnerić (15 July 1953 – 10 January 2020) Serbian actress, Venom (a.k.a. The Legend of Spider Forest, 1971)
Patrick Jordan (10 October 1923 – 10 January 2020) English actor who spent most of a long career as a character actor on the BBC, but did manage to squeeze in a bit part in the 1959 kaiju classic, The Giant Behemoth.
Robert Sampson (May 10. 1933 – January 18, 2020) American actor who appeared in the TV shows ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’, and as Dean Halsey in 1985’s Re-Animator.
Terry Jones (1 February 1942 – 21 January 2020) Welsh actor and writer and founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Played Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a performance that required him to run away from several scary things. That rabbit’s dynamite!
John Karlen (May 28, 1933 – January 22, 2020) American actor. Ah, yes. Willie Loomis himself, who foolishly awoke vampire Barnabas Collins on the classic horror soap opera, ‘Dark Shadows’. In the second half of the 1960s, everyone I knew ran home from school to plop down in front of the television in order to find out what devilment Barnabas was up too, all because Willie had been tempted by the rumors that the undead main character had treasure buried in his coffin with him. He ought to have known better. Nobody puts chains around a coffin to keep people out. The chains are obviously there to keep the occupant in. Duh.
Robert Harper (May 19, 1951 – January 23, 2020) American actor devoured by the inhabitant of ‘The Crate’ in 1982’s Creepshow.
Monique van Vooren (March 25, 1927 – January 25, 2020) Belgian actress who essayed multiple roles in Andy Warhol’s 1973 film, Flesh for Frankenstein.
Jack Burns (November 15, 1933 – January 27, 2020) American actor and comedian, best known for his partnership with Avery Schreiber in the comedy team of, you guessed it, Burns & Schreiber, and for being Barney Fife’s replacement on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. Did make one appearance on the late ‘60s supernatural TV show, ‘The Ghost & Mrs. Muir’.
Norbert Moutier (1941 – 27 January 2020) French director of 1983’s Mad Mutilator and 1993’s Dinosaur from the Deep.
Marj Dusay (2/20/36-1/28/20) American actress who had a lead role in the 1969 TV movie, Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon, a pilot for a supernatural investigations series that was not picked up by the network. She appeared in virtually every television series made in the United States during her very long career, including in one episode of the short-lived Tucker’s Witch in 1982, also a supernatural investigations show.
Nicholas Parsons (10 October 1923 – 28 January 2020) English actor. Okay, blame the Beatles for this, or maybe Elvis, but it seemed that every rock & roll band in the ‘60s made an effort to break into movies. The Spencer Davis Group tried their hand in 1966 in a fab little feature called The Ghost Goes Gear. Gear being a synonym of the time for fab, or george, or groovy. As opposed to grotty. Clear as mud? Parsons played the band’s manager, a nobleman whose manor house was haunted. I recommend sticking with A Hard Day’s Night.
Dyanne Thorne (October 14, 1936 – January 28, 2020) American actress, ‘star’ of Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S. (1975). Naughty, naughty Ilsa, performing all those awful experiments on her barely clothed female prisoners in her own personal Nazi concentration camp. Camp being the operative word.
Mary HigginsClark (December 24, 1927 – January 31, 2020) American author of numerous suspense novels than danced around the edges of being horror.
Andrée Melly (15 September 1932 – 31 January 2020) English actress in The Brides of Dracula in 1960 and the cheapjack retread of William Castle’s 1963 remake of The Old Dark House called The Horror of it All in 1964. Her image from Brides was also picked for the Old Maid in a 1964 monster card game in which she is misidentified as Dracula’s Daughter.
One of several things that Milton Bradley got wrong. Sounds like meat for a future column.
Katsumasa Uchida (19 September 1944 – 31 January 2020) Japanese actor, played an Interpol agent in 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Lila Garrett (November 21, 1925 – February 1, 2020) American writer who scribed a dozen episodes of the 1960s supernatural TV series, ‘Bewitched’.
Luciano Ricceri (26 April 1940 – 1 February 2020) Italian production designer for the 1966 dark comedy, The Devil in Love.
Lovelady Powell (May 9, 1930 – February 2, 2020) American actress who appeared in one episode of ‘Dark Shadows’ in 1966 and in the 1972 horror thriller, The Possession of Joel Delaney
José Luis Cuerda (18 February 1947 – 4 February 2020) Spanish producer, The Others (2001), with Nicole Kidman.
Gianni Minervini (26 October 1928 – 4 February 2020) Italian producer of the 1976 Giallo, The House of the Laughing Windows
Kirk Douglas (December 9, 1916 – February 5, 2020) American actor not generally known for genre work, but he did star in a not-well-received musical TV version of ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ in 1973.
F. X. Feeney (September 1, 1953 – February 5, 2020) American screenwriter on Roger Corman’s 1990 adaptation of the Brian Aldiss novel, Frankenstein Unbound.
Raphaël Coleman (30 September 1994 – 6 February 2020) American actor in the 2009 remake of It’s Alive.
Orson Bean (July 22, 1928 – February 7, 2020) American actor who was all over television in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and who made one appearance on ‘The Twilight Zone’.
Robert Conrad (March 1, 1935 – February 8, 2020) If you love steampunk, this is one of the guys who created it. Conrad was the star of ‘The Wild Wild West’, still after fifty years my favorite TV show of all time. Only one episode is truly horror related, ‘The Night of the Man-Eating House’. Hurd Hatfield from 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is the guest star.
Paula Kelly (October 21, 1942 – February 8, 2020) American actress in the borderline horrific science fiction films, 1971’s The Andromeda Strain and 1973’s Soylent Green. Spoiler alert: It’s People!
Ron McLarty (April 14, 1947 – February 8, 2020) American actor whose first film role was as the real estate agent in 1977’s The Sentinel, which was based on the Jeffrey Konvitz horror novel of the same name.
Mirella Freni (27 February 1935 – 9 February 2020) Italian operatic soprano who sang in several genre-related operas over her illustrious fifty-year career, including Gounod’s Faust and Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame (AKA Queen of Spades).
Marjorie Redmond (December 14, 1924 – February 10, 2020) American television actress, likely best known as Sister Jacqueline in ‘The Flying Nun’ (yes, a ‘60s TV show about a nun who, you guessed it, could fly), with stopovers along the way in ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Munsters’, as well as an episode of the spin-off (sort of) from Rod Serling’s ‘Night Gallery’, ‘The Sixth Sense’ in 1972.
Raphael Romero Marchent (May 3, 1926 – February 13, 2020) Mexican director, Santo vs Doctor Death (1973) and Curse of the Black Cat (1977).
Zoe Caldwell (14 September 1933 – 16 February 2020) Australian actress with one appearance on the TV version of radio’s classic series, ‘Suspense’, in 1960. She’s best known for her stage performances in Macbeth and Medea, both of which have horrific connections. In fact, in early 1983, she brought her touring company of Medea to Knoxville, Tennessee, while my wife and I were students there. Yes, we saw it, and, yes, it was very, very good. Mitchell Ryan, late of ‘Dark Shadows’ and Dame Judith Anderson, who co-starred with Vincent Price in the great film noir, Laura, in 1946, appeared with her. There is a filmed performance of that production on YouTube.
Frances Cuka (21 August 1936 – 16 February 2020) English actress in 1980’s Watcher in the Woods with Bette Davis, and one episode of the ‘Hammer House of Horror’ BBC series.
Sonja Ziemann (8 February 1926 – 17 February 2020) German actress, Ghost in the Castle (AKA Spuk im Schloß, 1947)
Flavio Bucci (25 May 1947 – 18 February 2020) Italian actor, Suspiria (1977)
Bob Cobert (October 26, 1924 – February 19, 2020) Soundtrack composer on numerous genre films and TV shows, including the aforementioned ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ with Kirk Douglas; House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971); and The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973), the forerunners of the ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ TV series. Also, The Norliss Tapes (1973), 1974’s TV Dracula with Jack Palance, and the 2012 Dark Shadows feature film with Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.
José Mojica Marins (13 March 1936 – 19 February 2020) Brazilian actor best known as Coffin Joe in a trilogy of films, 1964’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, 1967’s This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse and The Embodiment of Evil in 2008, with numerous other spooky film and TV appearances along the way.
Peter Dreher (26 August 1932 – 20 February 2020) German artist who enjoyed painting skulls. He called this series of creepy images ‘Totenschädel‘.
Claudette Nevins (April 10, 1937 – February 20, 2020) American actress, The Mask (1961). Not the one with Jim Carrey. This one is in 3-D, which would be much too much to tolerate from a Jim Carrey movie.
Nicola Cuti (October 29, 1944 – February 21, 2020) Comic book writer, editor and artist who wrote well over two hundred scripts for the horror comics line published by Charlton Comics in the 1970s, and co-created with artist Joe Staton the classic comic book super-hero, E-Man.
Boris Leskin AKA Boris Lyoskin (5 January 1923 – 21 February 2020) Romanian actor who had a small role in 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss with Nicolas Cage.
Russ Cochran (July 3, 1937 – February 23, 2020) A former physics professor who quit academia to collate and reprint the EC Comics of the early 1950s, preserving for new generations those gruesome yarns from crumbling issues of Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror. And some other stuff, Disney and Hopalong Cassidy comics and the like.
Ben Cooper (September 30, 1933 – February 24, 2020) American actor who made appearances on TV’s ‘Suspense’, ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’.
Michael Hugh Medwin, (18 July 1923 – 26 February 2020) American actor with one genre performance, in 1949’s Queen of Spades.
R. D. Call (February 16, 1950 – February 27, 2020) American character actor with appearances in ‘X-Files’ and ‘Supernatural’, among many, many other television shows.
Dieter Laser (17 February 1942 – 29 February 2020) German actor, Human Centipede (First Sequence), 2009
Frank McLaughlin (March 18, 1935 – March 4, 2020) Comic book artist and art director for Charlton Comics whose first credited work was on a story in the kaiju comic, Reptisaurus, in 1961.
Max von Sydow (10 April 1929 – 8 March 2020) Swedish actor and long-time collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman, he played chess with death in 1957 in The Seventh Seal and died trying to drive Pazuzu out of Linda Blair in The Exorcist in 1973.
Gary B. Kibbe (January 9, 1941 – March 9, 2020) American cinematographer on the John Carpenter films Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Village of the Damned (1995), Escape from L.A. (1996) and Vampires (1998), and one episode of HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt’, 1992’s ‘King of the Road’ starring Brad Pitt.
Suzy Delair (31 December 1917 – 15 March 2020) French actress in the 1942 dark comedy L’assassin habite… au 21 (The Murderer Lives at Number 21).
Roy Hudd, (16 May 1936 – 15 March 2020) English actor who played a morgue attendant in 1968’s The Blood Beast Terror, which starred Peter Cushing.
Stuart Whitman (February 1, 1928 – March 16, 2020) American leading man, star of many theatrical and television westerns, mysteries and adventure yarns, with one episode of ‘Night Gallery’ on his resume. He also co-starred with Psycho victim Janet Leigh in 1972’s Night of the Lepus, generally considered one of the worst movies ever made. I will not take an opposing position on that question.
Giovanni Romanini (27 December 1945 – 20 March 2020) Italian cartoonist, illustrator of the dark and often horrific Italian comic book series, Satanik, in the early 1970s.
Lucia Bosè (28 January 1931 – 23 March 2020) Italian actress who had a small role in Jean Cocteau’s 1960 film, Testament d’Orphee.
David Collings (4 June 1940 – 23 March 2020) English actor who played Bob Cratchit in 1970’s Scrooge.
Melinda O. Fee (October 7, 1942 – March 24, 2020) American actress who played Mrs. Webber in 1985’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddie’s Revenge.
Stuart Gordon (August 11, 1947 – March 24, 2020) American screenwriter and director on 1985’s Re-Animator, the 1991 version of The Pit and the Pendulum, 2001’s Dagon, and two episodes of the ‘Masters of Horror’ TV show.
Juan Padron (January 29, 1947 – March 24, 2020) Cuban director of Vampiros en La Habana (1985) and Mas Vampiros en La Habana (2003).
Barbara Rütting (21 November 1927 – 28 March 2020) German actress in early ‘60s adaptations of a couple of Edgar Wallace’s horror-thriller novels, Der Zinker (The Squeaker, 1963) and Das Phantom von Soho (1964).
Krzysztof Penderecki (23 November 1933 – 29 March 2020) Polish composer of Die Teufel von Loudun (The Devils of Loudun), a 1968-1975 opera based on an episode of mass demonic possession in 17th Century France. Yes, it took him seven years to write an opera. How long does it take YOU?
Hilary Heath, AKA Hilary Dwyer (6 May 1945 – 30 March 2020) British actress in 1968’s The Witchfinder General and 1969’s The Oblong Box, both with Vincent Price in Edgar Allen Poe inspired films, 1970’s Cry of the Banshee, also with Price, and in the 1970 version of Wuthering Heights, which starred future James Bond Timothy Dalton.
Vincent Marzello (July 4, 1951 – March 31, 2020) American actor in 1990’s The Witches.
Olan Montgomery (April 12, 1963 – April 4, 2020) An American actor known for playing a newsman for four episodes during the third season of the Netflix series, ‘Stranger Things’. He died of COVID-19.
Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 5 April 2020) British actress who made her mark in film history by portraying the redoubtable Pussy Galore in the third James Bond film, 1964’s Goldfinger, after having spent two seasons practicing her judo throws on bad guys in the BBC series, ‘The Avengers’. She co-starred with Christopher Lee and Nastassja Kinsky in 1976’s To the Devil a Daughter, based on the Dennis Wheatley novel.
Lee Fierro (February 13, 1929 – April 5, 2020) American actress who played the mother of the little boy eaten by the shark in Jaws in 1975.
James Drury (April 18, 1934 – April 6, 2020) American actor who spent nine seasons starring in the ninety-minute television western, ‘The Virginian’. Before that, though, he was a crewman on the spaceship C-57D in the 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet, which was loosely based on Shakespeare’s marginally horrific last play, The Tempest, and did have folks killed by something called ‘the monster from the Id’. So, yes. It counts as horror, at least a little.
Allen Garfield (AKA Allen Goorwitz; November 22, 1939 – April 7, 2020) American actor who specialized in playing officious minor authority figures whose bark was always worse than their bite. Except, of course, when he starred in 1978’s Sketches of a Strangler, in which he put the bite on several actresses in a manual way. He was also in the 1996 remake of the classic French horror film, Diabolique, with Sharon Stone.
Mort Drucker (March 22, 1929 – April 9, 2020) For decades, Hollywood actors only knew they’d finally ‘arrived’ when this Mad Magazine artist and master caricaturist included them in one of his movie or television parodies. Drucker started out doing war comics for DC before signing on with EC, Mad’s publisher, shortly after they shut down their comic book line (see the Russ Cochran entry above) in favor of putting all their eggs in the Mad basket. The first one of his I remember seeing must have been in one of the reprint collections Mad issued a time or two a year. It was the parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Psycho. To this day, there are frames from that film I see in my mind’s eye, not in cinematic black and white, but in Drucker’s distinctive style as he recreated them for the magazine.
Nobuhiko Obayashi (9 January 1938 – 10 April 2020) Japanese director, House (1977)
Margot Hartman (August 15, 1933 – April 11, 2020) American actress, Curse of the Living Corpse (1964). Janet Leigh should stay out of showers, and poor Margot should stay out of tubs for the same reason. How is a lady supposed to stay clean?
Danny Goldman (October 30, 1939 – April 12, 2020 American actor in 1974’s Young Frankenstein. He was the obnoxious medical student who drove Gene Wilder to stab himself in the thigh with a scalpel.
Joel M. Reed (December 29, 1933 – April 13, 2020) American schlock director of Blood Sucking Freaks (1976) and other exercises in questionable taste.
Brian Dennehy (July 9, 1938 – April 15, 2020) American tough guy actor, who discovered in First Blood that he wasn’t nearly as tough as Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo. He didn’t do much better as the fire chief in 1977’s Ants!
Gene Deitch (August 8, 1924 – April 16, 2020) Czech-American animator on Where the Wild Things Are (1975), and creator of one of my childhood favorite cartoon series, ‘Tom Terrific’, who appeared periodically with his sidekick, Manfred the Wonder Dog, on the Captain Kangaroo show. Ah, the good old days.
Jacques Rosny (25 March 1939 – 18 April 2020) French actor who had a small role in Roman Polanski’s 1976 psychological horror film, The Tenant.
Hector Garrido (1928 – April 19, 2020) American illustrator who painted hundreds of paperback book covers in all genres, including horror.
Shirley Knight (July 5, 1936 – April 22, 2020) Oscar-nominated American actress whose only genre work I know of was an episode of ‘The Outer Limits’ in 1963, co-starring Martin Landau.
John Lafia (April 2, 1957 – April 29, 2020) American director of 1993’s Man’s Best Friend, one of several lethal dog movies from around that period
John Ericson (September 25, 1926 – May 3, 2020) German-American actor, the leading man and personification of the Great God Pan in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao in 1964, and the German officer whose invading force was driven off of Britain’s shores by empty suits of armor animated by apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in the 1971 Disney live-action feature, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Richard Sala (June 2, 1954 – May 7, 2020) American comic book creator on 1995’s The Ghastly Ones and Other Fiendish Frolics from Manic D Press, and IDW’s 2005 Dracula, among others.
Marty Pasko (August 4, 1954 – May 10, 2020) Canadian comic book writer who primarily worked in the super-hero genre for DC and Marvel, but who began his career with a script each for Warren Publication’s Eerie and Vampirella magazines in the early ‘70s.
Jerry Stiller (June 8, 1927 – May 11, 2020) American comedian and actor, father of Ben. He appeared in one episode of ‘Tales from the Darkside’.
Frank Bolle (June 23, 1924 – May 12, 2020) Italian-American comic book artist who, among many other things, illustrated horror stories for Atlas Comics, the precursor to Marvel Comics, in 1956 and 1957.
Fred Willard (September 18, 1933 – May 15, 2020) American comedy actor, perhaps best known for his work in the series of Christopher Guest comedy films of the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with This is Spinal Tap. He did make a memorable appearance as the rascally realtor in the 1979 TV miniseries Salem’s Lot who gets caught with his pants down, both by the cuckolded husband and by vampire Kurt Barlow.
Cindy Butler (October 15, 1955 – May 26, 2020) American actress, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1984). Neither one, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson, worth seeing, and even less worth going to see.
Richard Herd (September 26, 1932 – May 26, 2020) American character actor whose genre career began with 1980’s Schizoid and culminated in a videotaped performance of patriarch Roman Armitage in 2017’s Get Out, with a stop in the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ TV series along the way.
Anthony James (July 22, 1942 – May 26, 2020) Twitchy American actor, sort of the poor-man’s Anthony Perkins, who played the chauffeur in the 1976 classic Burnt Offerings with Bette Davis.
Dan van Husen (30 April 1945 – May 2020) German actor who, among many other minor horror roles, played the warden in 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. If forced to choose between this among his films, or Killer Barbys vs Dracula from 2001, I think you know which way to jump.
Andrée Champagne (July 17, 1939 – June 6, 2020) Canadian actress, Playgirl Killer (1967). Not Canada’s finest hour.
Joanne Lara (June 3, 1952 – June 9, 2020) American actress notable, if that’s the word, for being the title character (‘Maria’) in an episode of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, and for playing a bit part in It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive.
Joe Johnson (June 25, 1957 – June 10, 2020) American actor, victim of a misapplied power tool in The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Dennis O’Neil (May 3, 1939 – June 11, 2020) American comic book writer who worked for both Marvel and DC but is best known for his long association with the artist Neal Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and on the various Batman titles, many stories for which he included a supernatural element. ‘The Secret of the Waiting Graves’, the Batman story in Detective Comics 295 from January of 1970 concerns a couple whose time ultimately runs out after several hundred years, for example. O’Neil also worked with artist Steve Ditko on Beware… the Creeper in the 1960s and with Mike W. Kaluta on The Shadow in the early 1970s.
Ian Holm (12 September 1931 – 19 June 2020) Distinguished English actor who, long before he was Bilbo Baggins, played a murderous android in 1979’s Alien.
Philip Latham (17 January 1929 – 20 June 2020) English actor, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Joel Schumacher (August 29, 1939 – June 22, 2020) American director, notorious for taking the campy surrealism of Tim Burton’s two Batman films and twisting the franchise in his own two sequels into a surrealistic campiness that was a definite step down. Viewers can make up their own minds as to whether he redeemed himself by directing Gerard Butler in the film version of the Phantom of the Opera musical in 2004. This deponent sayeth not.
Joe Sinnott (October 16, 1926 – June 25, 2020) Legendary comic book artist, favored inker over the pencil work of King of the Comics Jack Kirby, and prolific illustrator of 1950s horror tales for the aforementioned Atlas Comics.
Stuart Cornfeld (November 13, 1952 – June 26, 2020) American producer, The Fly (1986)
Taryn Power (September 13, 1953 – June 26, 2020) American actress, daughter of Golden Age of Hollywood megastar Tyrone Power, Junior, and granddaughter of silent movie star Tyrone Power, Senior. She appeared in the Ray Harryhausen classic, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and not much else. This apple did, it seems, fall far from the tree.
James Holloway (d. June 28, 2020) American illustrator for many monster-laden Dungeons & Dragons related publications, including Dragon Magazine.
Johnny Mandel (November 23, 1925 – June 29, 2020) American music producer, orchestrator and conductor, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
Dan Hicks (July 19, 1951 – June 30, 2020) American actor, Evil Dead II (1987) and Darkman (1990).
Billy Tang (1951 – 7/2/20) Chinese director, Dial D for Demons (2000)
Yoon Sam-yook (May 25, 1937 – July 2, 2020) Korean screenwriter, Suddenly in the Dark (1981)
Ronald L. Schwary (May 23, 1944 – July 2, 2020) American producer, Meet Joe Black, the 1998 remake of the classic Death Takes a Holiday, previously filmed in 1934 and 1971.
P.H. Aykroyd (February 5, 1922 – July 4, 2020) Canadian father of Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd, author of “A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Seances, Mediums, Ghosts and Ghostbusters” with Angela Narth
Ennio Morricone (10 November 1928 – 6 July 2020) Italian soundtrack composer, The Thing (1982), as well as numerous gialli. The spaghetti western scores he is most famous for comprise a small percentage of his total, voluminous output. Tell me you didn’t just whistle the opening bars to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Go ahead. Not that I’ll believe you. Wah-WAH-wah…
Charlie Daniels (October 28, 1936 – July 6, 2020) American musician, The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The Devil should have known better than to bet a golden fiddle against the soul of a Saltine-American bluegrass champion. Stupid Devil.
Raymundo Capetillo (1 September 1943 – 12 July 2020) Mexican actor, Bestia Nocturna (1986).
Kelly Preston (October 13, 1962 – July 12, 2020) American actress, Christine (1983).
Sonia Darrin (June 16, 1924 – July 19, 2020) American actress best known for playing the snarky porno dealer in the 1946 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film noir classic, The Big Sleep, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. That was pretty much the pinnacle of her brief career, but she did manage to squeeze in a bit part in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943.
Jacqueline Scott (June 25, 1931 – July 23, 2020) American actress, Macabre (1958).
John Saxon (August 5, 1936 – July 25, 2020) American actor, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I had no idea he was living maybe twenty miles from me when he passed away. I’m not sure what I would have done had I known, but I’d like to think if I’d run into him at some point, I might’ve asked to shake the hand of a man who had sparred with Bruce Lee. That’s something not a whole lot of folks can say they’ve done.
Dame Olivia de Havilland (July 1, 1916 – July 26, 2020) British actress born in Japan, the woman no less an expert on the topic of feminine pulchritude than Errol Flynn always considered ‘the one that got away’. They made some damn good movies together, starting with 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, far and away the best film version of that legend. Alas, Errol died in 1959, and a few years later Olivia joined the brigade of past-their-prime actresses in the psychological horror film fad of the early 1960s. Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte was the 1964 entry in that sweepstakes, and it’s a doozy, with Bette Davis, Bruce Dern, Mary Astor, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Morehead along for the ride.
Jan Skopeček (19 September 1925 – 27 July 2020) Czech actor, The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (1981)
Gianrico Tedeschi (20 April 1920 – 27 July 2020) Italian actor, Frankenstein: Italian Style (1975) and Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot (1979).
Alan Parker (14 February 1944 – 31 July 2020) English director, Angel Heart (1987), starring Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro as the Devil, based on the novel by William Hjortsberg.
Wilford Brimley (September 27, 1934 – August 1, 2020) American actor and commercial spokesman, owner of one of the few mustaches more impressive than mine, and one of the poor fools isolated at the top of the world with an interplanetary shapeshifter in 1982’s second version of The Thing. Okay, the 1951 original scared the hell out of me when I was eight and caught it on Night Owl Theater early on a Saturday morning, but I totally get why many folks consider John Carpenter’s remake of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story ‘Who Goes There?’ to be superior. I don’t agree, but I don’t totally disagree. Either way, Brimley’s performance is suitably creepy, albeit brief.
Daisy Coleman (March 30, 1997 – August 4, 2020) American actress and advocate for her fellow victims of sexual violence, she made Texas Death Trippin’ in 2019 before committing suicide a year later. Regardless of the film’s quality, it’s such a terrible waste of a human life and potential that I find the situation far more horrific than the film could possibly be. People suck.
Ben Cross (16 December 1947 – 18 August 2020) English actor who essayed the role of Barnabas Collins in the revival of the TV classic, Dark Shadows, in 1991. He also appeared in an episode of HBO’s ‘Tales from the Crypt’, and played another vampire in 1989’s Nightlife opposite Maryam d’Abo.
Lori Nelson (August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020) American actress, Revenge of the Creature (1955). Clint Eastwood has a bit part as a marginally competent lab assistant. Lori gets carried off into the Florida swamps by the escaped Gillman in this first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, until she’s rescued by leading man and former Mr. Shirley Temple John Agar. Like the first one, this is also in 3-D.
Joe Ruby (March 30, 1933 – August 26, 2020) American television producer and co-creator of Scooby-Doo. Darn those meddling kids!
Peter Licassi (April 1, 1959 – August 27, 2020) Actor, Killer Clowns from Outer Space (1988)
Sidney Noel Rideau (December 25, 1929 – August 27, 2020) New Orleans TV host of ‘House of Shock’ (Dr. Morgus).
Bob Fujitani (October 15, 1921 – September 6, 2020) American comic book artist of Irish-Japanese ancestry. He illustrated numerous stories in all genres for a variety of publishers in the 1940s, including some horror. He had a long run on the peripherally horrific series, The Hangman. The Hangman appeared in MLJ’s Pep Comics as well as in his own title. MLJ was the original name of the publisher now called Archie Comics, by the way.
Dame Diana Rigg (20 July 1938 – 10 September 2020) British actress who, like Honor Blackman, graduated from female lead of the BBC’s ‘The Avengers’ to Bond Girl status in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. Unlike Blackman, she got 007 (George Lazenby) to put a ring on it. Too bad arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld machine-gunned her out of the British spy’s life before the wedding night. She went on to play the daughter of crazed Shakespearean actor Vincent Price in 1973’s Theatre of Blood, probably the best specifically Vincent Price movie ever. Partisans of the Dr. Phibes films are free to disagree, but they’re still wrong.
Barbara Jefford (26 July 1930 – 12 September 2020) British actress who manages to get herself garroted in her wheelchair in The Ninth Gate (1999). How rude!
Michael Chapman (November 21, 1935 – September 20, 2020) American cinematographer, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). The second version of the classic Jack Finney story first published in Collier’s Weekly magazine in the 1950s. The tale of how I and two friends saw this film at the old Tennessee Theater in downtown Nashville is the stuff of legend, and if you and I ever run in to one another in a bar or pub somewhere, and you buy me a few drinks, I will tell you all about it. The saga involves a 1956 Chevy, a double-boom wrecker and a multiple Hugo Award winning science fiction author, so I don’t think I’m too out of line in assuming that you’ll be obliged to admit in advance that it’s worth the price of a few drinks to be told. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.
Ron Cobb (September 21, 1937 – September 21, 2020) American production designer and concept artist, Alien (1979). And what a great job he did! I’ve got to tell you folks, I saw this film the first night of its release, and I was the only person in the audience who knew about the chest-burster scene. You have not lived until you’ve been in a movie theater with four hundred strangers going absolutely berserk over what’s happening to John Hurt, while you’re sitting back and laughing at the whole bloody thing.
Xavier Loyá (December 31, 1934 – September 22, 2020) Mexican actor, one of the partygoers trapped in the apres-opera drawing room in the Luis Buñuel classic, The Exterminating Angel (1962). He was also in Santo vs the Vampire Women the same year. A very versatile fellow, apparently.
Juliette Gréco (7 February 1927 – 23 September 2020) French actress, Jean Cocteau’s Orphee (1950).
Yūko Takeuchi (April 1, 1980 – September 27, 2020) Japanese actress, Ringu (1998).
Maud Hansson (5 December 1937 – 1 October 2020) The Swedish actress appeared as a witch in the 1957 Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal.
Armelia McQueen (January 6, 1952 – October 3, 2020) American actress, Ghost (1990).
Henryk Boukolowski (January 11, 1937 – October 4, 2020) Polish actor in the 1972 short film, Beczka Amontillado, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, ‘A Cask of Amontillado’. For the love of God, Montressor!
Margaret Nolan (29 October 1943 – 5 October 2020) English actress, went from a bit part in 1964’s Goldfinger with Sean Connery to a bit part in 1968’s Witchfinder General with Vincent Price. Not exactly a step up, but neither was it a step down. Call it a lateral move.
Osvaldo Ruggieri (January 8, 1928 – October 10, 2020) Italian actor, Werewolf Woman (1976).
Rhonda Fleming (8/10/23-10/14/20) Zaftig American actress known as the Queen of Technicolor for how the process loved her red hair, green eyes and fair skin. She made mostly westerns and a few films noir, as well as the first (and best) version of The Spiral Staircase in 1946, based on the novel by Ethel Lina White. She gets her pretty neck wrung by serial killer George Brent well before the denouement. Am I beginning to sense a theme here?
Spencer Davis (17 July 1939 – 19 October 2020) Welsh musician and actor. Way up there, near the top of this list, I mentioned The Ghost Goes Gear. Here it is again. See the previous entry. Davis discovered his lead singer, Steve Winwood, later of Traffic, when the fourteen-year-old was playing jazz in a club in Birmingham, England. The Spencer Davis Group made some very good records. Movies, not so much. Unlike Herman’s Hermits, who made three films, they had the good sense to quit when they weren’t too far behind.
Gianni Dei (21 December 1940 – 19 October 2020) Italian actor, Patrick Still Lives (1980).
Wojciech Pszoniak (2 May 1942 – 19 October 2020) Polish actor, The Devil (1972).
Marge Champion (September 2, 1919 – October 21, 2020) American dancer who, with her husband, Gower, was perpetually prominent in the MGM musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and who modeled for Walt Disney on his feature films, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (1940). Not specifically for characters in the scary parts of those pictures, but close enough for inclusion here.
Richard A. Lupoff (February 21, 1935 – October 22, 2020) American speculative fiction author and genre historian. I can’t say that knew Dick Lupoff, although he was a member of a couple of Yahoo groups I belonged to when that was still a thing. We might have commented on the same threads, I don’t recall. I wish I had interacted more with him when I had the chance, for he was a treasure. He was one of the editors and contributors to both All in Color for a Dime and The Comic Book Book, two of the seminal histories of one of the crucial media by which our genre has been disseminated, and both of which volumes included important chapters regarding horror in the comic books. Future columns on horror comics will no doubt contain information gleaned from one or the other of those two volumes.
Jacques Godin (September 14, 1930 – October 26, 2020) Canadian actor, The Pyx (1973) with Karen Black and Christopher Plummer.
Ricardo Blume (August 16, 1933 – October 30, 2020) Peruvian actor, Sobrenatural (All of Them Witches, 1996)
Sean Connery (25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020) Scottish actor. There is a no-doubt apocryphal story that Connery was contacted when Gordon Scott decided to hang up his loincloth and retire as the cinematic Tarzan. Connery had played one of the villains in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure in 1959, Scott’s penultimate appearance in the series. Sean had done such a good job that he was supposedly asked if he’d be willing to don the loincloth himself. According to legend, he told Tarzan producer Sy Weintraub that he was committed to star in some spy picture, and that once that was finished, he’d consider the offer to play the Lord of the Jungle. As everyone knows, Connery went on to play James Bond another six times after Dr. No, won an Oscar for The Untouchables in 1987 and never got around to playing the apeman. Weintraub was forced to go with the villain from Scott’s last Tarzan picture, Jock Mahoney, as his next jungle lord. The two pictures Mahoney starred in are considered among the best of the Tarzan films. A pity Connery got so tied up with Bond. He might have made something of himself, had he dispensed with the vodka martinis, Aston-Martins and Bond Babes, doffed his tuxedo and run off into the jungle wearing a scrap of deerskin instead. Ah, well. Fortunately for horror fans, he had already appeared in the Disney live-action Halloween staple, Darby O’Gill & the Little People, in 1959, as scary a picture as the Mouse Factory ever produced.
Rachel Caine (April 27, 1962 – November 1, 2020) Author of, among other works, the Morganville Vampire series of young adult novels.
Elsa Raven (September 21, 1929 – November 2, 2020) American actress, The Amityville Horror (1979).
John Fraser (18 March 1931 – 6 November 2020) Scottish actor in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), with Catherine Deneuve.
Ken Jones (d. November 6, 2020) American actor, Phantasm (1979).
Sven Wollter (11 January 1934 – 10 November 2020) Swedish actor, The 13th Warrior (1999).
Philip Voss (20 August 1936 – 13 November 2020) English actor, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). Voss’s last work was as Mason in the British TV series, ‘Vicious’, with Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Derek Jacoby.
Daria Nicolodi (19 June 1950 – 26 November 2020) Italian actress, Dario Argento’s Profundo Rosso (Deep Red, 1975) and Paganini Horror (1989).
David Prowse (7/1/35-11/28/20) English bodybuilder and actor. Yes, yes we all know about Darth Vader, but everyone eulogizing Prowse seems to have forgotten that he also played the monster in two Hammer films, The Horror of Frankenstein in 1970 and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell in 1974. And in 1980, he was in Nashville for a Star Wars convention I attended. I was standing in the back of one of those big hotel ballrooms, in front of a pair of double doors, listening to Peter Mayhew talk about being Chewbacca. I was twenty-two years old, six-foot-one, 210 solid pounds, young and impressive and in the best shape of my life, with all my teeth and a lot more wavy, blond hair than I possess now. I frequently enjoyed the company of attractive ladies, and they seemed to enjoy my company, as well. I was feeling, in other words, pretty good about myself.
And then, something huge moved into the room behind me. It was like being in the gravity well of a small planet. I turned and looked up and up and up at David Prowse, not in the Vader costume, but a head taller and a twice as wide across the shoulders as me on my best day. I felt very, very small and insignificant, indeed. We smiled and nodded, and then he was gone. I never spoke to him at that convention. I’m not sure I would have been able to.
The weekend was not ruined for me, I’m glad to say. That evening turned out well. Remember those drinks you were going to buy me? Add a few more, and you’ll hear the epic saga of a gold-plated droid, an AMC Hornet, and a crimson crustacean.
Richard Corben (10/1/40-12/2/20) American comic book artist. I first noticed his distinctive air-brushed style in the black and white Warren magazines, Creepy and Eerie, around 1970. His best-known work was probably in the Heavy Metal magazine in the late 1970s, for which he created the perpetually naked, bald and musclebound hero, Den. Den’s origin story was adapted to animated form in the Heavy Metal movie in 1981. He also did a lot of horror genre work for underground publishers Last Gasp and Rip Off Press.
André Gagnon (2 August 1936 – 3 December 2020) Canadian soundtrack composer, Phobia (1980)
Eduardo Galvão (April 19, 1962 – December 7, 2020) Brazilian actor, appeared in one episode of the 2002 television series ‘O Beijo do Vampiro’ (A Vampire’s Kiss).
Barbara Windsor (6 August 1937 – 10 December 2020) English actress, played Jack the Ripper’s second victim Annie Chapman in 1965’s A Study in Terror. The poor lass was well and truly dismembered before Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) could put a stop to Jack’s spree of spontaneous vivisection.
Hanna Stankówna (4 May 1938 – 14 December 2020) Polish stage and screen actress from the lovely city of Posnan, where my wife and I enjoyed a delightful lunch and some damn good beer some years ago. Her only genre role, as far as I can tell given my non-existent ability to decipher titles or plot synopses in her native language, was Lokis. Rekopis profesora Wittembacha (Lokis, the Manuscript of Professor Wittembach), from 1970.
Peter Lamont (12 November 1929 – 18 December 2020) British art director and production designer, Aliens (1986), as well as a slew of James Bond films.
Jiří Hálek (9/10/1930-12/18/2020) Czech actor, The Cremator (1969).
David Giler (January 10, 1943 – December 19, 2020) American film producer & screenwriter, Alien (1979).
Pero Kvrgić (4 March 1927 − 23 December 2020) Croatian actor, Nausikaya (1995).
Guy N. Smith (21 November 1939 – 24 December 2020) Prolific British horror author.
Josefina Echánove (September 29, 1927 or July 21, 1928 – December 29, 2020) Mexican actress, Amityville 3-D (1983).
Corrado Olmi (24 October 1926 – 29 December 2020) Italian actor in the dark comedy The Devil in Love (1966) and in the classic Giallo, The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971).
Dawn Wells (October 18, 1938 – December 30, 2020) American actress. Like most families in the 1960s, we only had one television. While my parents were pretty indulgent as far as allowing my brother and I, and later our sisters, to watch whatever we wanted to, Dad did draw the line a few times. One of those instances was whenever Gilligan’s Island came on. He considered it the dumbest show ever, and objectively, at this considerable temporal remove, it’s only the existence of My Mother, the Car that argues very much against that assessment. So it was that I rarely watched it in first run. However, it ran, and still runs, in syndication, so I caught up with it as I raced into puberty in the early 1970s. And I was Team Ginger, all the way. I never got why anyone would prefer Mary Ann, and still don’t. I didn’t dislike her. As a character, I thought she was fine. As fine as the material allowed, anyhow. She seemed very sweet, and she was pretty in a cornfed sort of way, but for pure prurient interest, it was Ginger for whom I lusted. Oddly, in the case of WKRP in Cincinnati, I’m all about Bailey instead of Jennifer, which is the exact opposite dynamic. Wonder why that is?
Never mind. When Dawn Wells died, yesterday as I write this, from COVID-19, I was shocked and more than a little saddened. She lived in my hometown of Nashville for some years, and lent her support to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, a worthy cause if there ever was one. Ginger is the last surviving castaway, and that makes me feel more than a little old. Dawn’s only forays into horror were a couple of truly wretched B-flicks, The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Return to Boggy Creek (1977). Probably just as well she didn’t make any more, but I’m glad there were enough to include her in this list, even if she never was the object of my desire.
Robert Hossein (30 December 1927 – 31 December 2020) French writer, director and actor, The Wax Mask (AKA Maschera di Cera, 1997)
And there it is. Hopefully, the list I compile at the end of 2021 will be shorter. ‘Twould be a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.
Mitch slid onto the vacant seat beside the woman in the red hot dress.
“And who do I have the pleasure of speaking to?”
She smiled. “I’m Sasha.”
He was sizing her up—an easy 9 out of 10—with her smooth supple skin and generous curves in all the right places. Mitch had no shortage of women throwing themselves at him and thirsting over his social media selfies. He was a music executive in his early thirties who could still pass off as a decade younger. A charming smile, tousled hair, and the right touch or words allowed him to get away with much more than a lesser mortal could.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” started playing and the lights coming back on signaled it was the bar’s last call. The patrons didn’t need to head for home, but it was time to leave.
Sasha’s dark hair flowing down her back was mesmerizing. Mitch wondered how nobody else was being transfixed by her. Was she too intimidating, or were people too drunk to care?
He followed Sasha like a dream as she led him to the nearby Maxx boutique hotel.
A faint yet familiar scent permeated the room…the sweet vanilla notes of his last girlfriend’s favorite perfume. Anna. Her name was enough to send a shiver down Mitch’s spine. He briefly recalled the night his hands had closed around her throat when he had had enough of her teary-eyed episodes where they had broken up and made up for the upteenth time. She sure left a beautiful corpse at the morgue.
When Sasha turned around, it was too late: her face had turned into Anna’s. She grabbed him by the throat as soon as the door shut behind them.
“Now we can be together forever,” she said, delivering an icy kiss of death that drained the life from Mitch’s body.
Her words were the same last words Mitch had said to her and all the other young girls he discarded once he had deflowered them.
Author Bio: Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her microfiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets. Her website is www.jesschuabooks.com
PLANNER INCLUDES 13 months of monthly and weekly spreads Monthly goal and recap sheets Weekly check-ins and note pages Writing challenges, planners, and instructions. Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers. Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners. Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses. Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.
Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her micro-fiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets.
NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?
JC: I was possibly five years old when I first started learning about ghosts. I’ve been savoring taking my own sweet time exploring the genre since then.
NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?
JC: Hmm, it’s hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites include Psycho, The Shining, Pet Sematary.The Stepford Wives (1975). Alien, Silence of The Lambs, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
I recently added some Asian horror movies (like Third Eye and 23:59) onto my Netflix queue and look forward to checking those out.
The Ring (Japanese; 1998) was very creepy, too! I watched a little bit of it long ago and will need to finish watching it someday…
NTK: Do you have a favorite horror television show?
JC: I was very drawn in by Bates Motel and Kingdom (South Korean). I found the latter’s portrayal of zombies refreshing.
NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?
JS: Psycho was a slim book that packed a punch. I enjoyed the pacing and range of human emotions in Pet Sematary.
Aside from novels, I enjoy short stories in this genre as it allows me to check out different worlds and characters in a short amount of time.
NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?
JS: I’ve been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe since I was sixteen. His haunting tales of the macabre stay with me long after I’ve finished reading them.
I almost have the full collection of out-of-print books by the late Singaporean writer Damien Sin, so he’s definitely another one of my favorite horror authors. I appreciate the originality and authentic, local flavor of his writing.
NTK: What inspires your writing?
JS: The highs and lows of the human psyche and human behavior.
NTK: If you were to meet a reader for the first time, and they asked for a recommendation from you about one of your works, what is the one book or story you would recommend to them?
JS: I would probably recommend a dark fiction chapbook that I’d like to compile in the near future. It’d be a convenient way for a new reader to check out my writing style and ideas.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?
JS: I think a 50-50 approach is fun to take. The characters sometimes have free will within a set idea that I have beforehand of what I’d like them to experience or be like. Visualizing the scenes they’re in is always a creative and analytical exercise.
NTK: What is your favorite monster?
JS: The Pontianak (a malevolent female spirit in Malaysian and Indonesian folklore), King Kong, or Godzilla.
NTK: As an Asian writer in the horror community, how has your experience been?
JS: As a writer of mixed ethnicity (Chinese-Eurasian) who has lived in different countries, it’s sometimes difficult to find the right balance in a story or piece of creative work. It can become very anxiety-inducing to think about whether the characters or story is inclusive enough to readers of different cultures and backgrounds. I try to stay focused on the plot and characters, and if race or geographic setting is integral to the story, then I do my best to write about it in an authentic way.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?
JS: I’d like to continue working on short stories and reading the horror anthologies on my bookshelf. One of my stories will be published in a Gluttony-themed anthology and I have some Singapore-based ghost stories in mind. Southeast Asia has a rich variety of paranormal lore which have stayed with me, even though I’ve lived halfway across the world for over a decade now. Thanks for checking out my interview–and best wishes for 2021!
Next Tuesday editors and authors from the new horror anthology, Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women will be featured on the next Skeleton Hour, the Horror Writers Association’s monthly horror literature webinar series. Please join Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, Rena Mason and myself for this event. You can register for the online event on Facebook here.
Leading up to this event I’ll be posting interviews with some of the Black Cranes so you have a chance to know them a little better ahead of time. Think of questions you want to ask because I believe there will be an opportunity for Q&A in the chat. Today we get a closer look at one of the minds that brainstormed this beautiful book into being—the warm and lovely Geneve Flynn.
Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specializes in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.
Geneve, thank you so much for taking the time to share your work in more depth. What are some of your favorite themes to explore?
I have a background in psychology, so I like thinking about what drives a character and why they make the choices they do. One of my favourite themes is that everyone has a hidden side, especially girls and women, because so much of our lives and our identities are about making others happy, putting others first, about shrinking ourselves. Everyone has a face for the public, and a face that no one sees. That’s the side I want a peek at.
Oh, I like that and I absolutely agree with you. How much of you as creator is hidden in your characters and stories?
I think there’s a bit of me in all my stories. When you’re able to take a deep breath and write authentically, exposing all parts of yourself – the palatable and unpalatable, that’s when a story comes alive.
In my story “The Fledgling,” I write about a mother’s guilt at failing her children because she’s trying to hold down a career. “Little Worm” explores the dilemma of individualism vs filial duty. It’s a question of who cares for aging parents and the expectations laid at the feet of women in families, especially Asian women, who are often seen as the caretakers, the dutiful daughters, the ones whose first and only prerogative is the family. This is something that’s looming for me at this point in my life, and it was an uncomfortable story to write, but it was honest.
As I’ve matured, I find I’m very much okay with knowing that the monsters in my stories also have a bit of me in them. This goes back to the hidden side of human nature. I think as you get older, you become much more comfortable with allowing that side out, and allowing it to live. I take a certain glee in celebrating the monstrous side.
The monstrous side is my favorite side, I think. As you say, it’s where I am myself. Tell us a bit about your heritage and your experience of ‘otherness.’ Has this influenced what you write?
I’m Chinese, born in Malaysia. When I was young, my family moved around because of my dad’s work. We lived in South Korea for eighteen months, in a visitor’s compound with one wonderful Canadian teacher for all the kids. I’d gotten a taste of a western education, and when I returned to the very strict Malaysian schooling system, I was miserable. I’d forgotten a lot of Malay and Chinese, so I spent my days struggling to understand what I was learning, terrified that I would be caned because my grades were dropping.
We emigrated to Australia when I was about eight years old. The school system was a lot better, but being one of only a few Asian kids, I came up against a lot of casual and not-so-casual racism. It’s waxed and waned over the years, flaring with political campaigns against Asian immigration and multiculturalism, and media reports of Asians “taking over” certain areas with property development.
My experiences have influenced what I write in that I can easily tap into that sense that the world is an unpredictable, unsafe, and sometimes hostile place. As a young woman, whenever I walked past a group of people, I never knew if I was going to be catcalled, told to “go back to your country,” or left alone.
How has this affected you as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? Has this changed over time, or not?
When I first started writing, the majority of what I’d read was by white, male writers. The very idea of writing Asian characters, Asian mythology, and Asian settings didn’t even occur to me. And when it did, I shied away from it, thinking that no one wanted to read stories like that.
I thought of myself first and foremost as a horror writer, and it’s only with Black Cranes that I’ve embraced being an Asianfemale horror writer.
As I’ve attended more and more writing conventions, I’m also delighted to continue to discover the breadth of perspectives in fiction. The hunger for diversity in publishing has definitely changed.
I’ve only identified as an Asian female author relatively recently as well, and I appreciate you sharing that. It’s empowering. What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
I remember reading the Chung Kuo dark sci-fi series by David Wingrove back in the 90s. The premise was a world where the Han Chinese have become the dominant race. While it was sprawling and ambitious in worldbuilding and scope, the depictions of Chinese culture and women were problematic. The Chinese were seen as a monolithic people, stuck in a cycle of stagnation and tradition. Women and girls were largely sexual objects, wives, and mothers.
On screen, there are countless examples of Asian women as highly eroticised, almost doll-like creatures. They’re passive, adoring girlfriends, dragon ladies, or martial artists. And very rarely the main character.
Comics were where I first saw a major Asian female character. My folks owned newsagencies (kind of like corner stores where you can buy newspapers and magazines), and I misspent a lot of my youth reading comics. Seeing Jubilation Lee, an Asian female mutant, in a storyline with Wolverine in the X-Men was pretty special. I was a bit bummed that the writers gave her storyline to Rogue in the movies.
A recent portrayal that I love is from the Netflix horror series, Kingdom, which is set three years after Japan invades Korea. Seo-bi is a female healer, caught in the midst of a mysterious plague outbreak. She’s brave and smart and driven to find out what’s causing the outbreak. She has no interest in romantic relationships. She’s not a wilting flower, needing rescue. Her story doesn’t revolve around a man’s.
These are the characters I want to see and read. Complex, determined, capable women, who drive their own stories.
Do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?
Well, obviously, all work by our wonderful Cranes. I loved Alma Katsu’s The Hunger. I found the examination of the American belief in manifest destiny fascinating. I’ve also enjoyed exploring more diverse works because there’s often that sense of being the other. Chikodili Emelumadu’s writing is wonderful, and I just finished Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, and The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle.
Oh, yes. The Hunger was brilliant. Can you tell us briefly about your last project and what you’re working on next?
I co-edited the anthology with fellow Australian editor Louise Zedda-Sampson, and we were thrilled with the quirky, scary, and inventive stories that came across our desks.
In terms of writing, I’m working on a story about Ching Shih. She went from a prostitute in a floating brothel to the most successful pirate in history, commanding 80,000 sailors at the height of her power. How did she do that? Of course, I have a monstrous answer.
Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specializes in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.
Natsume is an orphan who sees spirits called yokai. In Japanese folklore, Yokai are a class of monsters that are mostly portrayed as humans, but can shape shift into other forms. In Book of Friends, they are interchangeable as demons or spirits.
Not only can Natsume see them, but he has been tortured by them all his life. One day, Natsume meets a demon named Nyanko who is trapped in a lucky cat statue. Nyanko can also change into his natural form which is a giant cat three times the size of Natsume. It’s pretty scary when he stands over Natsume while he sleeps, wondering if he should eat him. Gives new meaning to waking up with a cat on your chest!
Nyanko tells Natsume his grandmother used to play games with demons. She saw the supernatural too and for reasons he is yet to understand, she locked hundreds of demon promises in a book called the Book of Friends. Whoever owns the book may call the demons and they have to obey their orders. Nyanko follows Natsume and kind of helps him because he wants the book himself to control demons. Natsume tells Nyanko he can have the book when he dies.
Just like any good hero, poor Natsume doesn’t want to own demons. He just wants to get rid of them so they stop trying to kill him. By calling the demon’s name, stuffing the paper with their name on it in his mouth and clapping, the demon promise is released from the book and therefore, the spirit is free to live their life without fear. However, if Natsume tears, burns, or in any other way destroys the page with their name on it, the demon will tear, burn, or die in whatever means the paper did.
During Natsume’s quest to free the demons, he meets many different, strange spirits. They remind me of the minister creature at Beetlejuice’s wedding. One spirit he meets (and eventually frees) is Tsuyukami, the God of Dew. Once worshipped by many, he has only one worshipper left, an old lady with little time to live. As his worshippers dwindle, Tsuyukami gets shorter and smaller until he is now just the size of Snap, Crackle, and Pop. He peeks around Natsume’s bowl one morning and asks him to be free.
Each spirit is different and I enjoyed finding out who Natsume will meet next! Some are sweet, like the one who used to be a swallow bird, and just wants to see the man who picked her off the pavement and put her back in her nest, but others are horrifying. This is a fun read for anyone into demons or spirits.
This manga is available at Amazon, for Kindle or print.
It’s never one thing that inspires me to write any story, and the same was true for “The Ninth Tale.” With the popular resurgence of a modernized Huli Jing, (Pinyin – húlijīng) or Fox Demon/Spirit portrayed in anime and video games with a blending of cultures and added superpowers, many of the original stories get muddled and lost to younger generations. Because of my mainly Chinese heritage, which I grew up knowing little about, I wanted to write a classic folktale-style story using the Chinese mythos versus the versions from other countries like the Japanese Kitsune, or Korean Kumiho.
In Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of myths, fables, and stories written in the mid 1600s to early 1700s, the majority of the works about the Huli Jing, Songling depicted the demon, and all women for that matter, as villains and the explanation behind men’s troubles. I knew I needed to take that and crush it. So I placed the character, traditionally seen and feared as a powerful woman, and set her in a time when the sexist practice of foot binding was at its peak yet nearing its end with changes occurring in the country’s political climate. Her complete disdain and disregard for the practice along with her sympathy for the women forced or encouraged to do it sets a character trait I wanted for my Huli Jing in the story.
I’ve always been fascinated by the contrast between the reverence for, and fear of women in East Asian mythos compared to the treatment of East Asian women by their male counterparts throughout history. I’m certain my curiosity began with the first stories I ever heard from my mom about powerful Thai female ghosts who’d enact their rage and vengeance upon their spouses.
Another component I wanted to incorporate in the story was East Asian interpretations for colors I’d mostly seen used in movies. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was introduced to Zhang Yimou’s films. JU DOU was the first, and I was mesmerized by the story, but most of all by the colors that cued my emotional responses during different scenes (although I didn’t realize they were having that effect on me at the time). Culturally, I grew up knowing that different colors symbolize different things, and Yimou had tapped into this ingrained knowledge visually. It took me years and several of his movies to figure out what he’d done. Not until HERO was it so obvious and profound. So I was taken aback when I watched SHADOW this past year in its beautiful but bleak monochrome hues. Where were the colors? The lack of them made me suspicious of all the characters. I felt dread and impending doom and not much else. Then it hit me during The Black Cranes Skeleton Hour panel that every character in the movie is a shade of bad, or black, hence the monochrome hues. Yimou had done it again but with the absence of color—genius. PAINTED SKIN, taken from one of the stories in Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, loosely adapted by filmmaker Gordon Chang, uses colors this way in his acclaimed film as well. But could I pull it off in a written story? I had to try.
Red or vermillion is a popular color in Chinese culture, symbolizing luck, joy, and happiness. It also represents celebration, vitality, and fertility in traditional Chinese color symbolism. Think of the red envelopes handed out for Chinese New Year and on other celebratory occasions, and the “power” tie color businessmen wear with suits. Chinese brides wear red to ward off evil. The color also represents the summer and the element of fire. Red is the only color that has two different and almost opposite meanings, as it can also represent jealousy and anger.
—In “The Ninth Tale” the Huli Jing sets off on her journey and is excited and feeling happy, so I emphasized that with the scarlet leaves. I pictured her pale skin glowing red underneath the canopy as she headed out of the forest to complete her celestial ascension.
Yellow is an imperial color in traditional Chinese color symbolism, representing power, royalty, and prosperity. It also represents the late summer season, the central direction, and earth.
—As the Huli Jing meets the farmer in his wheat fields, the yellow represents the future prosperity she would bestow upon him and his family for revering her. (Although banned, Fox Spirit worship is rumored to exist to this day in parts of northern China.)
Gold symbolizes wealth and riches in Chinese culture as well as most other cultures.
—In the very beginning of “The Ninth Tale” the Huli Jing acquires a pair of slippers embroidered with a gold chrysanthemum. A double meaning, since gold represents riches and the chrysanthemum represents nobility. I also used the color gold when describing the farmer’s wheat fields because good crops are representative of wealth.
Blue represents the element of wood, and symbolizes freedom, the heavens, immortality and advancement.
—When the Huli Jing in “The Ninth Tale” meets Xin, her rival, the young woman is pale and underwater with a blue hue to her skin, hinting at Xin’s character being carefree. That she’s feeling indestructible, and wanting advancement.
Green is similar to blue, but also represents harmony, wealth, growth, cleanliness and purity from contamination.
—In the story, the Huli Jing is often flying and dancing in the air with evergreen branches behind her, showcasing the Fox Demon’s ability to remain unfazed by the ordinary around her.
Black represents water, and also symbolizes destruction, evil, cruelty, and sadness. Hei is Chinese for black, but it also stands for bad luck, irregularity, and illegality.
—When the Huli Jing visits her lover Zhang, it is always at night, under the cloak of darkness, and his black hair, and dark eyes, and all the shadows and absence of color in his room portend his “deception” and the evil of his character in the story.
White represents the metal element in traditional Chinese culture, and also symbolizes purity and innocence. It’s also commonly associated with death, mourning, and funerals in China.
—From the white light that comes from the Huli Jing when she’s injured, emanating from her celestial self, to their glowing faces in the moonlight, I used a lot of white toward the end of the story to symbolize death and the Huli Jing’s ascension to the heavens. I also used the silver blade to represent the metal element of white.
In the end, I felt I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do when I’d thought of how I’d wanted to write my Huli Jing story. I’ve never really paid much attention to what colors might mean in stories that I’d read, but I know now that I’ll take a closer look and scrutinize whether or not the author wants me to feel a certain way with the colors they incorporate into their stories.
Rena Mason is an American horror author of Thai-Chinese descent, and a three-time Bram Stoker Award® winner of the The Evolutionist and The Devil’s Throat, as well as a 2014 Stage 32 /The Blood List Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest Quarter-Finalist. She has short stories, novelettes, and novellas published in various anthologies and magazines and writes a monthly column.
She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The International Screenwriters’ Association, and the Public Safety Writers Association.
An avid scuba diver, she enjoys traveling the world and incorporating the experiences into her stories. She currently resides in Reno, Nevada but plans to relocate to the Pacific Northwest in 2021. For more information visit her website: www.RenaMason.Ink
or follow her at:
Stage 32: Rena Mason
In the works, she’s co-editing and reading submissions for the next HWA anthology Other Fears slated for publication with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2022. She’s excited to be participating in an anthology that will amplify diverse voices in horror and for her role in representing the long line of great horror from the HWA Presents publications. Her next novel is near completion, and she is also writing some nonfiction, short fiction, and a screenplay.
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Womenwas inspired when two editors of Asian heritage arrived way too early for a panel at a conference in Brisbane. Geneve Flynn and I both laughed that we should fall so deeply into the conscientious Asian girl trope, and that set us to talking. We’d both been raised in predominantly Western cultures. How was it our behaviour was so influenced by our Asian heritage? Did we know any other Asian women writers? Where were the Asian horror writers? And where was the vehicle for our stories? Our voices? Although Flynn and I had communicated online, and I’d enjoyed some of her fabulous stories published by a mutual publisher, I hadn’t met her previously. I liked her immediately, finding her well-read, articulate, funny, humble (and of course, conscientious). Before we’d even entered the panel session, the cogs were turning, the two of us already sifting possibilities for the anthology we would co-edit.
Fast forward a year, and Black Cranes is a reality, the anthology comprising stories from many of our favourite authors of dark fiction, a hard-hitting foreword from Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger and The Deep, and published by boutique small press Omnium Gatherum behind a glorious Greg Chapman cover. In the short time since the book’s release, Geneve and I have been overwhelmed by the response to Black Cranes, not the least coming from Asian women writers of dark speculative fiction:
“As haunting and versatile as the Chinese erhu, the stories in Black Cranes pluck and bow the strings of the Southeast Asian experience with insightful depth and resonance.” —Tori Eldridge, author of the acclaimed Lily Wong novels, The NinjaDaughter and The Ninja’s Blade.
“A varied and fascinating collection of monsters, full of dazzling landscapes and writers to watch.” —E. Lily Yu, John Campbell Award winner and author of On Fragile Waves.
But my experience with Black Cranes has gone deeper than just the chance to work with some amazing writers. Two of my own stories appear in the anthology, inspired by my personal experience as a third-generation Chinese New Zealander. ‘Phoenix Claws’ is a contemporary comic horror focusing on that moment when a prospective partner meets the family, an awkward occasion, especially when the relationship involves a blending of cultures. Will the parents like them? What if that person unwittingly stomps on an important tradition? In ‘Phoenix Claws’ an unwritten litmus test of suitability involving chicken’s feet multiplies the awkwardness of that meeting.
‘Frangipani Wishes’ is a story sucked from my marrow, one of those tales that was never told to me, but somehow I knew it anyway. Perhaps I heard it whispered on frangipani scented winds while on visits to Hong Kong. Because of, or perhaps in spite of their source, these stories forced me to address my ongoing struggle with my Kiwi-Asian identity and the powerful expectations of self-erasure experienced by many Asian women. And in the case of ‘Frangipani Wishes’, a story pieced together from secrets, I experimented with a new-to-me prose-poem format to capture those shadowy origins. Here’s a short excerpt:
Some things you knew already. Some things you knew before you were born; they were revealed to you in the rhythm of your mother’s heartbeat and in the echoes of her sighs. Later, you heard it in the closing of doors, in the scuff of a suitcase, and the low hum of a ceiling fan.
the bitterness of smiles / the perfidy of eyes
That was back when you lived with your bones squeezed sideways into the spaces between the floorboards of your father’s villa, cowering from the sharp tongues of lesser wives and the cruel taunts of your half-sisters. Back when you were waiting to live, when you lived and waited, comforted by the soft scents of your silly frangipani wishes. Embroidering silk dreams, you waited, listening for the hundred-year typhoons that whipped across the harbour, tugging at rooftops, flattening shanties, and stealing away souls. Because only when the winds raged and the waters of the harbour thrashed, only when the villa rattled with unease, only then were the ghosts quiet. Only then, were you able to breathe.
* * *
Since the moment you were born, generations of hungry ghosts swirled around you, teasing the air, your breath, your hair. Not your fault, although First Wife and Little Wife and the entanglements who dwelled in your father’s villa, those living repositories of secrets, they blamed you still. They whispered behind their hands, hiding smiling teeth, muttering, uttering, chattering. Your mother had unleashed them, they said, spawned them as she spawned you, let the starving ghosts escape into the night. A hundred dragon’s teeth could not drive out such demons. Nor a thousand dragon teeth ground to powdered dust. It was as well she was gone.
Your mother might be a ghost herself; you didn’t know. No one had thought to tell you, although they said other things—mean, sunken, tortured things. Things with thin bony limbs and slender necks. Swollen bloated-bellied things which wormed their way beneath your ribs, pushing aside your lungs, where they took up residence: pulsing, and pulsing, and pulsing… You learned to live with them, the tortured, swirling wisps of ghosts and the ugly, swollen pustules lodged under your heart, while you waited for the tempests, while you waited to live, in your father’s villa on the hillside.
A cousin came to the villa. He worked in the textile business and came to weft and weave words with your father. A distant cousin, although not so distant. Little Wife called for you, she liked to see you underfoot, so you squeezed your way up to where the living roamed, hauling yourself from the damp crawlspace, through the gaps in the floorboards. Scrubbed and pretty, you served Distant Cousin tea in the salon, hands trembling with reverence, since he was your father’s guest. You served the sweet red bean cakes that were everyone’s favourite. You nibbled on the crumbs, caught the rifts of conversations, and a waft of sultry sandalwood. After that, Distant Cousin stayed on, stopping to play mah-jong with your father and his friends, their voices murmuring, and the tiles clattering long into the night.
the harbour / glints / in his eyes
Hello, little cousin, he whispered as he passed you days later in the hall, setting your insides aflutter, like the wings of the skylark Little Wife kept in a domed teak cage in her room. Just in time, you remembered to drop your head respectfully and hide your smile behind your hand.
* * *
Ongoing conversations with my Black Cranes contributors made me realise that my dance with themes of otherness and identity was just beginning, their insightful comments inspiring me to dig deeper into my own history. But how would I do that? And would there be any interest in that work?
No one wants to know. Maybe I should just keep quiet.
In May 2020, New Zealand journalist Karen Tay wrote in Stuff: “To be invisible in this world is to have your stories erased or reduced to the margin, which is how it’s largely been for many generations of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand. But in the past decade, New Zealand’s Chinese diaspora – from Kiwi-born Chinese, whose families arrived as long ago as the earliest Pākehā, to recent immigrants – is taking back the power by writing their own stories. They are no longer striving to keep their heads down and completely assimilate. Instead, these writers are sharing their own truths unapologetically and unequivocally…redefining on their own terms, one story at a time: the immigrant narrative.”
Could I add my own voice to those narratives described by Kay? Take back my power? Perhaps a longer prose poem narrative in the style of ‘Frangipani Wishes’?
Cogs turned again.
I consulted New Zealand’s archive site Past Papers, peeking into the lives of Chinese New Zealand women over the past century: a badly beaten Chinese woman falls from the second floor of a Taranaki tobacconist; in Taumarunui, a half-caste Chinese slices the throat of her new-born with a cleaver; in Wellington, a sixty-year-old hangs herself in a scullery. What experiences drove these women to commit such acts against themselves and their families? Could I also incorporate some of those stories alongside my own? I thought of Rena’s charming story ‘The Ninth Tale’ in Black Cranes, a chilling folkloric tale highlighting the Chinese mythology of the fox spirit—and was inspired again. I would write a series narrative prose-poems inspired and informed by real life narratives of New Zealand-Chinese women, connecting them through the various lives of the Chinese shapeshifting nine-tailed fox spirit, húli jīng, 狐狸精, as that creature attempts to ascend to the heavens.
Still, I wasn’t sure.
“Above all,” wrote Alma Katsu in her foreword to Black Cranes, “Asian women are supposed to be submissive. Obedient, invisible, without wants of her own, and so content to devote herself to making others happy. This is the expectation I found the hardest. But I found the mere expectation soul-crushing. That anyone could expect another person to negate themselves voluntarily.” Katsu goes on to demand that we “use the power of story to push back on these stereotypes. To show the damage they cause. To show that we’re made of flesh and blood.”
So, with Katsu’s words in my head, and encouraged and supported by my Black Cranes colleagues, Geneve Flynn, Christina Sng, and Rena Mason, I submitted the proposal to New Zealand’s Grimshaw Sargeson Trustees, and was thrilled to be awarded a 2021 fellowship to work on my project, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud.
“This is something very special,” the award convenor confided when she called to give me the good news.
Nor am I the only Black Cranes contributor who’s been inspired to continue the discussion opened in Black Cranes. Angela Yuriko Smith, publisher at Space and Time, was already focused on promoting marginalised voices, but it is clear her resolve has sharpened, both in her own writing and in her vision for the iconic magazine.
“I’ve been diving into all kinds of Thai myths and folklore, ghosts, spirit houses that they actually erect and bring items to, and it’s absolutely fascinating,” Rena Mason wrote in one email to me after the anthology was released. Determined to promote Asian and other marginalised groups and brimming with new project ideas, the three-time Bram Stoker Award-winner is currently working on the HWA’s anthology Other Fears, her first foray into editing. With the HWA anthology also addressing concepts of alienation and otherness and due for release in late 2021, I feel proud that she is continuing this important work.
As far as a sequel Black Cranes anthology is concerned, COVID has put a stop to unexpected conversations with new friends in convention centre lobbies for the moment, nevertheless, the cogs are turning…
Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning author-editor from Aotearoa-New Zealand (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows), and a three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominee. Her work includes military thrillers, the Taine McKenna Adventures, supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and debut collection Grotesque: Monster Stories. Her latest anthology projects are Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, co-edited with Geneve Flynn, and Midnight Echo #15. She is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, HWA Mentor of the Year, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021. Read more at leemurray.info.
Welcome to 2021 and our first theme month of the New Year! Because we here at HorrorAddicts.net strive to recognize and highlight as many different voices in horror as possible, we are excited to welcome you to Asian and Pacific Islander Horror Month. This month we will be featuring Asian authors, their books, movies, and experiences.
From Japan’s Kaiju (Godzilla) in 1954 to the gothic manga worldwide craze of the 90s and 00s, the world has been in love with Asian Horror and its monsters for decades. Yurei haunt us from every corner, shinigami invade our nightmares of the afterlife, and the recent unique fad of zombies in film terrifies us. Whether you’re a fan of more popular media such as Ringu, Train to Basan, and Death Note, or looking to expand your knowledge through more obscure and little-known stories of the culture, this month we’ll bring you all sorts of Asian-infused delights.
We hope you will enjoy the thrills, chills, and insight this month will bring you!
It’s one thing to discuss Victorian Memento Mori but it is quite another thing to sew several memorial pillows and a quilt out of t-shirts and sweatshirts for friends and family – especially during the Holidays. In 2020. In Pandemic Times. 😦 Enjoy the music as I stuff, pin, sew, and sew some more while discussing the pros and cons of making this kind of sentimental gift when you don’t really know how to quilt or have all that much Eagles green thread.
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Yes it is Freaky Foods December and no it isn’t Halloween but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve a pumpkin! Out of practice farm girl Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets out the sharp objects to get good and messy first in gutting a pumpkin then using that puree mushy to bake some easy box muffins. Seeds will be saved for planting, too! How do you think we got pumpkin pie back in my day? Sit back and enjoy the festive sounds of the season calorie free while I set the blender smoking in the quest for some kind of gross but tasty holiday treats. Messy kitchen and black clothing mishaps included!
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Carol Of The Bells by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Artist: http://audionautix.com/
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100270 Artist: http://incompetech.com/
How to win: Comment on the vid about how much a planner fanatic you are or what you plan on writing in the coming year. Why do you need the Spooky Writer’s Planner? Comment on the vid on YouTube, Facebook Watch, Instagram, or HorrorAddicts.net to be entered into the giveaway drawing. Entries close on Jan. 6th, 2021. Winners will be announced via HorrorAddicts.net on Jan. 7th.
PLANNER INCLUDES 13 months of monthly and weekly spreads Monthly goal and recap sheets Weekly check-ins and note pages Writing challenges, planners, and instructions. Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers. Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners. Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses. Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.
Loren Rhoadsserved as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden: Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her short stories have appeared in the books Best New Horror #27, Strange California, Sins of the Sirens: Fourteen Tales of Dark Desire, Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, and most recently in the magazines Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Space & Time.
Emerian Richis the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.
In our round table interview, these talented ladies spoke of their newest creation, The Spooky Writer’s Planner.
NTK: What inspired The Spooky Writer’s Planner?
LR: I am a planner junkie. To be honest, I have trouble deciding what to do next, especially if projects have multiple steps, so I really need a planner to take the stress out of deciding how to move forward on a project. I kept buying new systems, hoping to find one that would tame my chaos, but no single system ever had all the forms I wanted or needed. I tried cobbling together a bunch of different systems, but it was ugly and frustrating.
ER: I wanted a planner that fit my needs better than any of those on the market. I’m kind of a planner fanatic. I buy several every year to try and “Frankenstein” one planner that will fit all my needs. I was talking to Loren about this and she has the same problem, so we join forces to create this one. We figured, even if no one else finds it helpful, at least we’ll have our perfect planner in our hands.
NTK: How did the planner come about? What started this awesome collaboration?
LR: I turned to Emerian and asked if she would consider designing the perfect planner for me. Once we got talking about the project, she realized that she could make a planner that was perfect for her, too. So, then we started sending our favorite planner pages back and forth, talking about what worked for us and why. That part was really fun.
I think she was startled by just how many planners I’ve tried over the years, though.
NTK: Who came up with the name?
LR: I credit Emerian for that. We went back and forth between Spooky Author’s Planner and Spooky Writer’s Planner, but I think she made the right choice to make it more inclusive.
ER: I think it was a collaborative brainstorm.
NTK: What are some of the problems you’ve encountered with other planners? Did you address these specifically when creating the Spooky Writer’s Planner?
LR: Other author planners that I’ve experimented with focused on things that weren’t useful to me. The one I started with last year spent pages on choosing editors and logging finances. The one I used in the middle of the year spent an enormous amount of time on figuring out how many hours you have to write in a week, then on choosing projects you can finish in those hours. Which required a much better understanding of how long projects take to complete than I have!
So, we stripped our planner back to what we really need as authors: a place to track submissions, a form for developing characters and one for world-building, weekly lists of deadlines, a way to track big projects, a game for collecting rejection slips as a way to inspire us to take chances on pitching to new markets, a system to celebrate successes… I am so bad at tracking things that I sat down earlier this month to figure out how many pieces I’ve had published in 2020. It was way more than I thought! I kept coming across interviews I’d forgotten I’d done. I need a place where I can log all of that and be able to track it better.
ER: Planners usually don’t address the needs of a writer’s life. They don’t account for charting progress or keeping track of submissions. So, often, a writer will have a planner and then other books or sheets to keep track of all that. With this planner, writers will have all that information all in one place. Easy to track and most of all, easy to access. We’ve also made the planner customizable. If you want a print book, we have that, but if you only use certain sheets or certain spreads, you can get the digital copy so you only print what you use.
NTK: There are inspirational quotes and tips included in the planner. How did you choose them and how did you come up with them? Are these tips and quotes personal to you?
LR: Years ago, I belonged to a writers group called the Red Room Writers Society. One Christmas, they gave us each a little red leather-bound book called a Commonplace Book, for collecting quotes that inspired us. Every time I see something about writing, I copy it down in my Commonplace Book. I’m really thrilled to share some of my favorite quotes in the planner.
A lot of the tips came from a seminar Emerian and I did at BayCon a couple of years ago. The topic was “How to Get Out of the Slush Pile.” We talked about what you can do as an author to improve your chances with an editor. Emerian suggested we include some of that in the planner, which I thought was a great idea.
ER: The tips and tricks are things we’ve learned during the combined 50 years of publishing experience we have. We give tips on publishing, submitting, marketing, and social media. We’ve also got quick tasks listed. Only have five minutes? We give you ideas on how to use that time to benefit your writing schedule.
NTK: Is the planner available in print and digital forms? Where can Horror Addicts find it?
LR: Yes! Emerian wanted a book-style planner. I wanted to be able to print pages as I needed them and keep them in a three-ring binder. So, we each got what we wanted! The paperback version is available on Amazon. The digital download is for sale on Etsy.
ER: They can find it on Amazon for the print version and Etsy for the digital version. We show the different types with pictures and examples, here.
NTK: Do you have any plans for future collaborations?
LR: I would love to work with Emz again. For a long time, I’ve been in awe of how many things she accomplishes and how incredibly creative she is. She was really a driving force in getting this planner done. I did a lot of the “fun” work, pulling together sample planners and daydreaming about the pages I wanted, but she did the hard imaginative design work. I kibitzed and proofread—which I love—but she had to make my suggestions real. She made the process really fun for me. I hope it was as much fun for her!
ER: I am so thrilled to be collaborating on this planner. Loren has been one of my favorite creators for years, even before I knew her, I admired her ‘zine Morbid Curiosity. Now that we’re friends, I’m still inspired every day by the way her brain works and the fun topics she comes up with, so you never know! PS… we’ve just been told we’ll be sharing a fiction TOC soon, so… stay tuned!
Second Life/Milkwood event: Edmund Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Second Life/Milkwood event: Blitz Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Facebook Group: Michael F. Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Facebook Group: Mark T. Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner Facebook Group: (runnerup) Irene W. free fiction read from the HA library Facebook Group: (runnerup) Matthew R. free fiction read from the HA library
We will be in contact with you soon, but if you don’t hear from us, please email your info to us.
Congratulations and Happy Reading!
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Coming up on December 30th, We’ll have a Facebook Watch & YouTube video with more chances to win.
In the cult classic black comedy, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, one of the random acts of violence perpetrated by these deadly nightshades was that a man was attacked by a BLT sandwich. What a horribly boring way to die. If I’m going to go out, I think that should be one killer BLT. Here’s my attempt at such a monster.
Yield: 1 sandwich
3 slices of favorite thick cut bacon, pancetta, and/or prosciutto
1/4 cup arugula, or your favorite lettuce
2 Tbsp Creamy Tomato Spread (see below)
1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 slices sourdough bread, or your favorite bread
Frying pan, skillet, or griddle
Grill the bacon over medium heat until fully cooked and is to your preferred level of crispiness. Set aside on paper towels to soak up the grease.
Butter both sides of each piece of bread and grill until golden on both sides.
Add shredded cheese to one slice of bread, allowing it to melt.
Layer the bacon on top of the melted cheese. Spread some Creamy Tomato Spread on the other slice of bread, and sprinkle on arugula. Put other slice of bread on top.
Cut in half and serve.
Creamy Tomato Spread
Yield: about a cup (for about 8 servings)
Serving Size: about 2 Tbsp per sandwich, to your taste
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or 2 garlic cloves, minced)
1/4 tsp dried basil (or 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped)
1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped)
1/4 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp hot sauce (optional, for a little kick)
6 oz can of tomato paste
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, herbs, spices, sugar, and salt together and mix well.
Add the tomato paste and yogurt. Mix until well combined and smooth.
Save in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. This will stay fresh for about a week.
If you have a panini sandwich press or the like, feel free to use it instead, but I’m partial to an old-fashioned grilled sandwich myself.
I’ve never been a fan of tomatoes on sandwiches. They’re messy and I don’t find their plain flavor terribly appetizing. This spread on the other hand brings all the flavor to the party.
This sandwich pairs wonderfully with a nice hot bowl of tomato bisque, to really show those tomatoes who’s boss.
For ice cream sundae treats in America we have King Cones and Drumsticks, but the rest of the civilized world has the Cornetto. In Shaun of the Dead, a couple of mates share a pair of Strawberry Cornetto cones which were bought while blissfully not noticing the zombies shuffling down the street. Good thing those Cornettos gave them the energy to fight off the zombies and defend the Winchester pub.
A Strawberry Cornetto is described as being “a crispy baked wafer coated from top to bottom with a chocolatey layer, combined with delicious vanilla-flavour ice cream and strawberry fruit ice, topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate curls.”
That means we could assemble some from a quick trip to the shop to fetch:
Sugar cones, Magic Shell chocolate topping, strawberry ice or sorbet, vanilla ice cream, strawberry syrup, and white chocolate chips. I will describe how to assemble your own sundae cones, but I will also provide recipes for most of the components.
If you want to make strawberry sorbet, strawberry syrup, and vanilla ice cream all from scratch, the recipes follow. If you just want to buy the constituent parts and assemble, feel free to skip past the recipes and move on to the assembly instructions at the bottom.
Find a contraption that will let you stand your cones upright in your freezer. I think an egg carton would work quite well. If you have fluted glasses that you can easily get the cone in and out of, they could work well also.
Cut pieces of waxed paper to fit around your sugar cones and provide about 2 inches of clearance above the top of the cones. This will provide a mold for the ice cream crown. Set the wax paper sheets aside for now.
Using a squeeze bottle, coat the inside of your sugar cones with the chocolate topping. Make sure the bottom of the cone on the inside has a nice well of chocolate. Prop your cones standing up in your freezer and chill until the chocolate is solid.
Spoon in enough strawberry sorbet into the cone to come up just under the edge of the top of the cone. Return to the freezer until the sorbet is solid.
Wrap the cones in the waxed paper and tape to keep them on. Spoon in soft vanilla ice cream, almost to the top of the waxed paper.
Using a squeeze bottle, drizzle on some strawberry syrup and sprinkle white chocolate chips on top. Return to the freezer and allow these to harden up. These will stay fresh in your freezer for about a week.
These sundae cones are very simple to assemble whether you make all the ingredients yourself or use off-the-shelf treats. On a hot day, especially here in Arizona, these are so wonderful.
I’ve never personally eaten a Strawberry Cornetto, and I know they are quite beloved in the U.K. and elsewhere. Please accept this humble sundae not as a replacement for a treasured treat, but for one crazy yank’s attempt to know such bliss.
Christie Crapeticio, known as “EmoWeasel,” is a San Francisco-based illustrator who draws comics, children’s books, horror art, and pattern designs. She went to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. While attending school, she studied comic book art and children’s books.
EmoWeasel has been busy since we last spoke. Here’s what she’s been up to.
NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, EmoWeasel! I hear you have a new comic series. What is it about?
EW: The comic series is called Demon Eye. It is a war fantasy. Here is the small elevator pitch:
Cirsto is forced to return home from a war she created. Once home she gets to see her old friends and family and is reminded of who she has truly failed. They all hope they can get back to where they were, but Cirsto knows she can’t be what she was. Haunted by her past actions she knows she can never be the friend they once loved.
Now Cirsto must readapt to the old ways of life while being plagued by what she has become.
NTK: Who are the main characters?
EW: The main character is named Cirsto. She is a wolf-demon from the Clover pack. The other supporting main characters are Garien, Panda, Alek, and Jay. They are all humans.
NTK: What inspired this new series?
EW: This has been a dream project of mine since I was 13, so it’s been a project I’ve been working on literally half my life.
While growing up I never had a lot of friends, so I loved to either watch cartoons and stuff and that always sparked stories in my head.
One day when I was in middle school, I saw a show called Naruto and I just fell in love with it! I started to watch it and read it and almost studied it. And after seeing the show and loving how it was built, I decided to finally put my overactive mind into use and start building my own story!
Working on Demon Eye has been one of my biggest drives to follow my art dreams. It’s because of the comic that I went to school, the Academy of Art University, here in San Francisco.
NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it?
EW: Currently it is on Tapas.io, WEBTOONS, and my art Facebook page (@EmoWeasel). But it is getting printed into a comic book now! The book was supposed to be out on November 26, but due to printing problems, it will be available in my Etsy shop, Square shop, and Book shop on December 26. It will also be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble on January 26. (keeping the 26 theme for all the months.) (Laughs.)
It should be available for preorder on Etsy and Square around the beginning of December. For the preorders, you can get some special stuff! Like a signed book, two special dye cut stickers and a print! These specials will only be available for preorders.
NTK: You also have a new podcast. What’s it called and what’s it about?
EW: The podcast is a spooky! It is done like the old radio shows back in the day. It is called Koszmar, and it is a dream project by the creator, in both senses because she’s wanted to make this come true and it’s based off a nightmare she had.
“In this story, we join a Detective, a washed-up recovering drunk who is transferred to Shaker Heights to work on a string of murder cases to find the culprit. As the Detective draws the strings together, he’s haunted by a past he cannot shake. Will he survive the nightmare? Join us on our journey with the Detective to try and solve the riddle behind the Widow’s Creek Lullaby.”
NTK: Where can Horror Addicts find it?
EW: It is on Spotify, apple music, and most podcast platforms.
NTK: What does the future hold? What new projects are on the horizon?
EW: So much is happening while nothing is happening at the same time. (Laughs.) I will be doing some fun short comics soon. One of the comics I will be doing is actually based off the podcast, so viewers will soon get to see the true horror that is the story.
Besides comics I am working my butt off the get my online stores looking pretty and also, I hope to finally get my art classes up and running. I will be doing comic classes, of course, and some fun crayon craft classes.
NTK: Thank you for joining us, EmoWeasel! It’s a pleasure as always!
EW: You’re welcome!
Addicts, you can find EmoWeasel on Facebook, and Instagram. Discover her work on her Etsy page. You can pre-order Demon Eye at her Etsy and Square sites. The book will be available December 26, 2020.
It’s your put earrings in your ears reminder! Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz is breaking out the tacky and gaudy orange bling for a little chat about jewelry making basics, where to get affordable beading supplies, cheats for those of us with dexterity issues, and the endless possibilities of making your own earrings, necklaces, or bracelets to coordinate with your style. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to add personality to your wardrobe – even if that’s just orange and black beads to go with Halloween pajamas in December! Terrible camera angles and talking Italian hands that spill the bead tray are included free of charge.
Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage! Tell Kbatz what you’d like to see with our Online Survey or join the conversation on our Facebook Group!
Welcome to the Spooky Writer’s Planner Event Calendar. We have many delightful events planned for your enjoyment and edification. Be sure to join us for interviews, tales of inspiration, excerpts, and parties galore! We would be most honored by your presence.
At 3:37 am on November 8th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: May The Devil Take You, Too!
Viewer discretion Advised
Plotline: Two years after escaping from a demonic terror, Alfie and Nara try to continue their lives, but Alfie is still haunted by feelings of guilt and unnatural visions.
Who would like it: Everyone who loved the 1st movie, fans of occult films, possessions, gore hounds, Fx fans, and international horror movies
High Points:This was a really good sequel with a original story line from the 1st.
Overall: Love it…better than the 1st
Where I watched it: Shudder
Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains. Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.
When she’s not reviewing indie horror and science fiction films for HorrorAddicts she’s terrorizing her fans with new written horrors and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences.
Fat Planet When a popular fitness guru and his students are kidnapped by aliens, who worship food and physical heft, he tries to help them save their kind.
The Corpse GrindersWhen the owners of the Lotus Cat Food Company, who manufacture an exotic, high priced type of kitty chow, run short of cash, they find themselves in big trouble with their suppliers. The two disreputable partners soon turn to a new and plentiful source for product fresh cadavers! Grave robbing and unreported murders soon provide plenty of raw material for “the food cats crave” but there’s only one problem, cats all over town have begun attacking and killing their human owners, filled with a newly found taste for human flesh!
(They also have the sequels 2, and 3.)
Bad Taste This intergalactic fast-food chain has human flesh on the menu. When aliens snack on a small town, it’s up to Derek and friends to save the day.
Cannibal Collector A guy, who obsessively collects food for his own weird museum, refuses to consume his precious vittles and resorts to alarming acts of cannibalism.
Cannibal Girls Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin star in this Canadian horror spoof as a couple on a romantic holiday who settle into a quaint little bed-and-breakfast run by a trio of flesh-eating ladies who fancy them for tomorrows menu.
Originally posted on HorrorAddicts.net December 2014
When it comes to the holiday spirits, I’m not talking about the Ghost of Christmas Past, or that chain-rattling spectre of Jacob Marley. No, I speak of something even more frightening: Holiday Hooch!
As the song goes, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” One sure way to stay warm is with a little nightcap. It’s no surprise that many drinks this time of year are heated up. Hot buttered rum, egg nog, mulled wine, just to name a few. Hot apple cider and hot cocoa shouldn’t be missed either.
So in keeping with the intoxicating tradition, I am sharing three of my favorite drinks that will make the season, and your nose, bright. Just stay safe, my fellow Horror Addicts. We want to see you have a prosperous new year.
This drink is one of my own devising. Instead of mundane eggnog, I leave this as a treat for Krampus. When he visits my very naughty children, this tends to please him and he has yet to torture my kiddos. Clearly they have been very naughty if Santa is not only forgoing the coal, but sending Krampus to punish them. I like to think this drink encourages his mercy. They are just children after all, and I believe that children are our future. Oh, sorry. Almost broke into song there. My apologies.
About one quart
Roughly 5 to 6 drinks
1/4 cup (2 oz) Sanguinaccio Dolce sauce (or melted dark chocolate)
2 cups (1 pint) half & half
1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 oz brandy or bourbon
3 oz black spiced rum or coffee liqueur
dashes of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa powder
double boiler, or a large pot with a large bowl that sits snug on top
First, either prepare a small batch of Sanguinaccio Dolce sauce, or melt some dark chocolate in a double boiler, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat up the half & half and sugar, over high heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
In a blender, add the eggs and sanguinaccio dolce (or melted chocolate). Blend on low speed for about one minute.
With blender still running, slowly add the warmed half & half and blend for about 30 more seconds.
Add the alcohol and blend until the everything is frothy, about 2 minutes.
Some people like warm nog. If so, serve immediately. If you and your guests prefer chilled nog, put your blender carafe into the fridge and chill for at least an hour. When ready to serve, put the blender carafe back on the motor and blend for about 30 seconds to combine everything together again and restore the froth.
Pour into glasses and serve with dashes of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.
Slowly pour in the warmed dairy mixture
Blend until frothy
This recipe makes just about one quart, a perfect amount for the average blender. If you want to make a party punch bowl version of this, then multiply by however many quarts your punch bowl can safely hold. Just remember that this is an egg-based drink. It is not a good idea to let this just sit around at room temperature.
I used to make this with Kahlúa, as the coffee and chocolate flavors go together so perfectly. Then I discovered Tia Maria, and ditched Kahlúa like a bad habit. I personally find it to be smoother and less sweet.
However, my beloved wife hates coffee. In an attempt to alter this exalted recipe, I have found that black spiced rum adds a deeper spice to the drink as well as a darker hue to the beverage that is in keeping with a drink fit for Krampus. Of course, for a twist on the horror angle, you could try REDRUM. If you try that, let me know how it tastes.
Finally, let’s address the demon in the room. Yes, sanguinaccio dolce is my traditional chocolate sauce for this drink, and yes, it contains pig’s blood. Of course you can melt chocolate or even use chocolate syrup, in a pinch. I do understand if drinking a small amount of pig’s blood turns you off… in a drink made with chicken eggs. And booze. I have had more compliments on this drink when made with sanguinaccio vs. mundane chocolate. In the end, I leave it up to you.
This is delicious any time of year, but I inevitably get asked to make it during Yule and Christmas Eve parties. I hope it becomes a tradition at your home as well. For us it has been Dad tested, Krampus approved.
This twist on the traditional mimosa is named after Bela Lugosi and features the juice of blood oranges. It has become a favorite for a toast on New Year’s Eve, as well as for brunch on New Year’s Day.
2 oz champagne
3 oz blood orange juice
dash of grenadine (optional)
1 slice blood orange
In a champagne flute, pour blood orange juice and champagne. Add grenadine to provide extra color.
Garnish with a slice of blood orange.
It can be hard to find blood oranges year round, but they are in season during the winter. That makes a New Year’s toast with this drink the perfect time to enjoy it.
“I never drink… wine,” said the Count. I’m sure he would have added, “vithout bubbles.” No? How about this… “Bela Mimosa’s dead. Undead, straight to my head.” Admit it. You’re singing that right now. My work here is done.
Twelfth Night Lambswool (Hot Wassail)
In the Christian tradition, the Feast of the Epiphany is held on January 6, celebrating the birth of Jesus and the visit by the three wise men. The night before Epiphany is known as Twelfth Night, as it is the twelfth night of Christmastide, following Christmas.
For those that might follow an older path and celebrate Yule instead, Twelfth Night follows as well as the end of the Yuletide celebrations. However as Yule begins on December 20th, this means Yuletide Twelfth Night is December 31st, the end of the year.
In both traditions, there is a toast to good health and good harvest, called a wassail (from the Old English wæs hæl, which means “be you healthy”) which was raised with a drink of the same name.
Hot wassail is a cousin of mulled wines and ciders, but is instead usually made with mead or ale. Lambswool is but one ancient version of the drink which keeps the apple pulp in the drink.
750ml (or two 12 oz bottles) honey mead
12 oz hard apple cider
12 oz ginger beer (or ginger ale)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups no-sugar-added applesauce
In a large saucepan, combine the mead, cider, and ginger beer. Add the sugar, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and cloves. Cook over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar and meld the flavors together.
Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves, then add the applesauce. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour mixture into blender and puree together until the apples form a frothy head.
Serve warm immediately.
Yes, the traditional recipe requires coring and baking six apples (at 250°F for about an hour) then pureeing them. Normally I’m all about the traditional methods and freshest ingredients. However, we’re talking about making applesauce, which you can so easily purchase. For once, I say use the store-bought jar of applesauce. Just get the kind with no sugar added and no funny extra ingredients.
I love a good mulled wine, but I think a hot lambswool wassail may be the best thing to kill the chill of Twelfth Night.
They tell me this is Freaky Foodie Month here at HorrorAddicts.net, so I’ve wandered down into the kitchen area of the basement laboratory and cobbled together a tasty little treat that I hope will satisfy the palate of even the most discriminating connoisseur de frissons. And yes, there will be dessert. I call this offering:
Submitted for Your Approval – A Man with No Upper Lip
Rod Serling got his start as a writer by winning a radio contest, after spending a few years in the Pacific Theater jumping out of airplanes in order to expedite the extermination of Japanese soldiers. He gradually worked his way up to the new medium of television in time for what is considered its Golden Age, a period when every evening brought Great Dramas into the homes of millions of Americans. Serling wrote his fair share of those Great Dramas, including Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Both were later made into movies and are considered high points of that Golden Age.
This was all heady stuff for a decorated war veteran and one of early television’s cadre of angry young men, but Serling wanted more. He yearned for a vessel into which he could pour his social concerns about censorship, racism, and war, and maybe exorcise the psychological demons left over from his military service. Alas, comfortable and complacent Middle America wasn’t ready to have its collective face shoved into its sins, and so a more allegorical approach was called for.
The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959. For five years, Serling, along with collaborators Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, created a series of little morality plays couched in the more palatable tropes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales. And then, it was gone, cancelled by the suits, only to reappear in the realm of perpetual syndication, where it lives on even today. Sixties television devolved into an endless parade of sitcoms, many of them with a supernatural bent; westerns; shoot-em-up action dramas; variety shows; spoofs of comic books and spy movies; and body counts from the Vietnam War on the evening news.
Like the War, the Sixties slopped over into the next decade. Popular music continued on much as before, not yet sullied by the arrival of disco. The usual array of genres persisted on television. And the news was still just as depressing as ever. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Serling spent the second half of the Sixties much as he had the Fifties, writing dramas for a medium that had turned out to be too small for him. He wrote a successful teleplay about an airline high-jacking, and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that was as weighted towards modern concerns as the original story was towards the social ills of the Victorian Era. He created a high-brow western series called The Loner that only lasted one season, and lent his distinctive voice and stiff-upper-lip visage to a number of commercials.
At the end of the decade, he came up with a made-for-TV movie superficially similar to his last great success. Night Gallery was an anthology of three spooky stories, more horror-based than Twilight Zone ever was. Serling introduced each tale by revealing a painting inspired by it. Hence, the ‘gallery’ part of the title. The middle section, Eyes, starring Joan Crawford, was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was his first professional media job, and very nearly her last. Her final performance came a few years later in Night Gallery’s spin-off series, The Sixth Sense. More on that, and her, and him later in this space. Stay tuned!
Night Gallery was picked up for regular broadcast in 1971, one of a set of four titles that rotated weekly episodes as part of what was called a wheel series. The other show that survived Four in One’s only season was the fish-out-of-water detective show McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver. McCloud moved over into another wheel series with two other long-running mysteries, Columbo and McMillan and Wife. Night Gallery went into regular production as a weekly program. Win for Serling!
But not quite as much as before. More of the same, but less, I’m afraid. This is not to say that Night Gallery wasn’t a good program; it was. It just wasn’t The Twilight Zone. But then, what was? Not even a major motion picture and a couple of revival series have been able to recapture that particular lightning-bolt-in-a-bottle.
It might have helped had Serling been able to exert more creative control than he was allowed, but that was not to be. Still, Night Gallery is not a series to be brushed aside without due consideration. It adapted some of the great stories in the genre, including works by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, Algernon Blackwood and Robert Bloch, and by Serling’s old pal from Twilight Zone days, Richard Matheson.
Christianna Brand is not a name well-known to horror enthusiasts, I suspect. She was a mystery writer of some renown, but she only wrote enough horror tales to fill one collection, What Dread Hand?, published in 1968. One of the yarns therein, ‘The Sins of the Fathers’, first appeared, as far as I have been able to ascertain, in The Fifth Pan Book of Horror Stories. It was edited by Herbert van Thal four years previously. If you’re not familiar with this delightful series of anthologies, I urge you to haunt whatever used paperback vendors you have available to you and track down as many editions as you can get your talons into. I shall have more to say later on regarding the estimable Mijnheer van Thal, but for now, the dish upon the table is getting cold. And a little, um, congealed.
Sin eating is an old practice found in Wales and those English counties bordering Wales, in which a poor person would be hired for a nominal sum to dine upon bread and ale placed atop the corpse of a recently deceased sinner as it lay in state. The sins of the late reprobate would transfer, through the bread and ale, to the soul of the diner, preventing the lamented one from wandering the Earth as a vengeful spirit. The question remains, what of the sins of the sin eater, both original, and those acquired through gustation? What keeps that worthy in his grave? Therein lies the tale.
‘Sins of the Father’ was one of two stories presented in the second episode of Night Gallery’s second season, airing on February 23, 1972. It starred, among others, Barbara Steele, she of the vast, magnetizing eyes long familiar to horror aficionados from her performances in such classic terror films as Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Ghost. Frequent Oscar nominee and future winner Geraldine Page was along for the bumpy ride, as well, along with soon-to-be John-Boy Walton Richard Thomas, former Batman butler Alan Napier, and Michael Dunn, who had just recently completed a long run as master villain Dr. Miguelito Loveless on the classic spy-western show, The Wild Wild West.
Dunn scours the Welsh countryside on half of his master, who lies three days dead, covered in a feast of lamb and cakes and cheeses. The servant is in search of a sin eater, one who has not already succumbed to the plague and famine ravaging the land. With time running out, he finds his last option too sick with disease and hunger to travel the distance, but that sin eater has a son. The boy absconds with the food without taking on the sins of the dead man, but when he returns home, finds his own father dead. Where are that sin eater’s sins to go, but into the starving mouth of the next one in line?
Not so horrifying in the brief description, perhaps, but like any fine meal, there’s so much more in the presentation. Even better, every name mentioned above has a genre pedigree that dates back, in some cases, into the silent era. Lots of material for future installments.
I did mention dessert, yes? Well, Stanley Ellin is another mystery writer of historical significance who dabbled in the macabre. His first published short story, ‘Specialty of the House’, is one of those that really sticks to the ribs, so to speak. A restaurant that caters to a very particular clientele offers an occasional specialty that only the best customers get to sample, or participate in the preparation thereof. Creepiness is on the menu, served with healthy dollop of frisson on the side.
‘Specialty of the House’ has been reprinted in dozens of periodicals, collections and anthologies since it was first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in the May, 1948 issue. It was adapted to television during the fifth season of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents show and broadcast on December 13, 1959, and on the revival of that series on March 21, 1987. Robert Morley, whose turn upon the spit in Theatre of Blood also involves food, stars. That classic film deserves its own lengthy consideration, rather than a superficial glossing over here, so more on that later.
The first one is available for viewing here:
In the early Seventies, Vincent Price was among several stars who were part of an attempted revival of old-time radio in the modern era. His BBC program, The Price of Fear, featured an adaptation of the yarn on April 13th, 1974. It can be found on You Tube or in the Internet Archives. Worth seeking out!
So, there it is. Hope you enjoyed my little concoction. Would you like an aperitif? A little libation to wash it all down with? Don’t worry, there will be more coming, perhaps sooner than you think. Stay blood-thirsty, my friends. And, as always –
Simon Osborne was born in 1970 in Cornwall, UK, and started acting professionally in British TV at the age of 10. At the age of 17, he played Prime Minister Pitt the Younger in BBC TVs Blackadder 3. He appeared in many productions before and after but is best known for Blackadder. Later, he studied history and has spent a few years working in heritage in Wales, UK. His wife Penny also works in heritage and his son William is studying film at University in the UK. As well as being a behind the scenes blogger, Simon is now considering going back into acting.
NTK: Welcome, Simon! Thank you for joining me today!
SO: Thank you for having me, Naching.
NTK: How old were you when you decided you’d like to be an actor?
SO: I think about eight or nine when I first seriously did. A BBC series was being filmed in my remote Cornish village, and I thought ‘I could do that!’
NTK: Where did you start? Did you start in plays or did you go straight to television acting?
SO: Straight to TV professionally, but I had done amateur Pantomimes in my village first.
NTK: Could you explain what Pantomimes are for our American audience?
SO: I just thought of that! (Laughs.) They are sort of comic morality stories, usually of Medieval folk origins and often have musical numbers in them. Traditionally the young male lead will be played by a young woman, and an old woman part will be played by a man. Although a moral tale the main theme is fun. Sort of comedy musical fairy tales.
Peter Pan is one and Cinderella.
NTK: Did these pantomimes prepare you for acting on television? Or are the skills used completely different?
SO: It prepared me for performing, gave me confidence in my acting abilities and experience in live performance.
NTK: What was your first television role?
SO: I played the lead role in a sort of Horror story for British schools made by Thames TV. It was for children so not too scary.
NTK: Was that “The Shadow Cage?”
SO: Yes, it’s from a book of short stories by the late author Philippa Pearce. “The Shadow Cage” being the main story.
NTK: What is the story about? And what was your role?
SO: It starts in Victorian England. An old woman is accused of being a witch. One night her cottage is burned to the ground, and her with it. Skip to modern day and a farmer ploughing where the remains of the cottage are. He digs up an old bottle with some dried strange powder inside. This bottle ends up in the hands of the farmers nephew Kevin (that’s me!) Having this bottle causes dreams of Victorian England, the witch, and makes him walk around at night in the village followed by whistling spirits! Or are they?
NTK: Are you a fan of horror or scary stuff?
SO: Not always! I don’t like needless blood and things, but I definitely think much more atmosphere can be caused by tension and what you don’t see. I loved staying up late at night as a child to watch black and white horror films like The Mummy! I think being black and white added to the atmosphere, tension and enjoyment.
NTK: Was this the Universal Mummy or the Hammer version? Which do you like better?
SO: Probably Universal but would have watched them both! I think I found Hammer stuff scarier as a child. Both good.
NTK: Do you like mysteries?
SO: Yes, I am a huge Conan Doyle fan! I love Sherlock Holmes, but also his other darker stuff
NTK: What is your favorite work by Conan Doyle?
SO: Outside of Sherlock Holmes, I think Lost World.
NTK: What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes story?
SO: Hard one! I think Hound of the Baskervilles and Valley of Fear.
NTK: Did you ever act in a television mystery?
SO: I did an episode of a series called Rockliffe’s Follies where I was in a gang that took on a girl they believed was a witch that caused their leaders bike to crash! We didn’t win! (Laughs.) But I do have another Sherlock story—not acting— but I always wear Victorian style clothing. I visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street with my family some years ago. I was wearing lots of Tweed. I sat in Sherlock’s chair by the fire and found it hard to get away! I had to pose with my pipe with all the tourists that came in, as though I was Sherlock Holmes! They must have thought I worked there!
NTK: (Laughs.) Oh my gosh! That’s great! Do you have a favorite actor?
SO: So many, but I think love lots of old ones! Charlton Heston, and Leslie Howard for drama, Terry Thomas for Comedy, Doris Day, Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire for Musicals! Modern ones, I do like a lot of Brad Pitt’s performances, but also Idris Elba, and I love a lot of Kevin Costner’s work! Strange answers! (Laughs.)
I like Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes though.
NTK: You’ve worked with some fine actors, including the son of Sir Alec Guiness. He told you some interesting stories. Would you like to elaborate on that?
SO: Yes, Matthew Guinness, I never knew he was Sir Alec’s son until years later! Very talented and very funny! He knew I was interested in the supernatural and I was doing a project on it while I was away filming with him for a month as schoolwork. I was always interested in it as my grandmother Ruby who lived with us as I was growing up was born on Halloween. People always said she was a White Witch!
Matthew told me stories of things he had experienced while filming other TV and film stuff! One which involved an old woman who roamed around a manor house he was staying in at night, her cane banging on the ground as she walked but when looking to see her, she was never there! She kept two huge hounds. A little scared of this, Matthew locked himself in his room and fell into a deep sleep. When he woke he found he could hardly breathe. One of the huge hounds was lying on his chest! It wouldn’t move! Then the old lady’s cane was heard outside the room, the dog jumped up and was suddenly gone! Matthew ran and checked the door! It was still locked! He had lots like that.
NTK: Spooky! And so cool about your grandmother! Are you interested in seances and ghosts?
SO: A little! I had to with my grandmother! (Laughs.) I’m sure I’ve seen and felt things!
NTK: Ok, let’s talk about one of your biggest roles, Pitt the Younger on Blackadder. Fans of the show can read your blog if they’d like to see how you got the role and that link will be provided. What I’d like to know is if you have any funny stories to share with us. First, what was it like acting with Rowan Atkinson?
SO: Rowan was very friendly, quite quiet, but very, very funny! He could pull faces that only he could pull! He was always trying to make the rest of us laugh if we were on camera and he was off.
NTK: What about Tony Robinson?
SO: Tony was the first cast member I met! He was so friendly from the start, he really made me feel part of the Blackadder family right away.
NTK: And how was Hugh Laurie?
SO: Hugh was also very funny! He was always putting on voices particularly Dick van Dyke’s bad cockney accent! He would play the piano during breaks too.
NTK: You have a very famous speech in the episode in which you starred, “Dish and Dishonesty.” How did you feel when you first read those lines?
SO: I read it for the audition first. My first thought was that’s a nice big bit to do. I only realised I had a lot more as well as that when I got the full script in the post after I had been chosen to play the part
NTK: You delivered it beautifully! I can see why you got the part! Did you have an opportunity to meet Stephen Fry?
SO: Yes, he watched my episode being filmed as he was in the audience that night, but I met him in the BBC Bar afterwards! The BBC Bar was on the top floor of the Studios and it was always full of actors after filming
NTK: Oh wow! Did you meet a lot of actors there?
SO: Mostly just things I was working on. I did once go drinking one night in Glasgow with John Hurt! That’s another story though.
NTK: What was Stephen Fry like?
SO: Very nice, very friendly, very tall! (Laughs.) I met him standing at the bar! I am only 5 feet 6 inches tall. Stephen is well over 6 feet tall!
NTK: Blackadder is an historical comedy. Is this what got you interested in history? Or were already a history buff?
SO: I’ve always loved History! Georgian history is one of my favourites! I love Admiral Lord Nelson, who was exactly the same height as me! (Laughs.)
NTK: Do you have any supernatural history tidbits for us?
SO: The first world war was full of stories! The Angel of Mons, the phantom Piper, the phantom soccer player! Modern historians try and now poo poo these stories, but the men who were there said they happened. I am not a big fan of such historians. I will always believe the words of those who were there before I believe someone writing about it a century later.
NTK: What did you do after Blackadder? Did you continue acting? Or did you find a new career?
SO: I did a few things after but nothing as big as Blackadder! The last few years I’ve been working in Heritage (Historical sites) but I am thinking about getting back in to acting again.
NTK: By the way, did you know you have an IMBD page? It says you worked on things with the musician Sting. Is this true?
SO: Yes, I think it is about 3 different Simon Osbornes though. Not just me. I never worked with Sting but I did look after his cat once.
NTK: You did! How did that come about?
SO: Living in London in my early teens, we lived next door to an Irish Rock group called Cruella De Vil. They knew Sting and looked after his cat while he toured! One time he was touring, and they were too, so for about a week I had to look after the cat while both Sting and the group were away.
NTK: That is so cool! You have had a very colorful and fascinating life!! What do you have planned for the future? Anything our readers should know about?
SO: I may go back into acting, but for now writing the blog is making me remember a lot of my own history! I will be writing more behind the scenes stuff, fun History stuff, and my History—including other acting work, my travels, and my time in the British Army!
NTK: Thank you so much for chatting with me today.
SO: You’re welcome!
Addicts, you can find Simon on Twitter and on his blog.
Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month’s review has one helluva backstory. There’s a rock band, a romance, a drug problem, and a resurrection of sorts. I had to do a deep dive to give the album a full critique and what I found was a story that tragically has a lot in common with so many bands who have lost frontmen to the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll, however, the surviving members of Static-X are determined to make their own way back in an unusual but compelling way.
Static-X celebrated the 20th anniversary of their album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2019. The original lineup toured to commemorate the album…with a singer dubbed Xer0. Because Wayne Static died in 2014 of a deadly combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. News came out that the band was recording a new album using some of Wayne’s demos and compositions, a guest spot from Al Jourgenson of Ministry and would feature this new, unknown, masked singer, which has been a controversial move for some of their fans. The band, on the other hand, maintains that Wayne would have found it hilarious. (https://www.loudersound.com/features/static-x-the-story-behind-that-controversial-wayne-static-death-mask).
And man is this album amazing. What a testament to Wayne and a reminder of the magic the original line-up had together.
For those new to Static-X, their hit song “Push-It” has been a staple of the industrial rock/metal scene for years. On this new album, Project Regeneration, Volume I, there’s that same electronic-tinged in-your-face feel of their early work, but the melodic atmosphere of powerhouse bands like Korn, Rammstein, or even Rob Zombie can be heard in the mix. “Worth Dyin’ For” has a hooky chorus, and “Terminator Oscillator” is a hard-hitting tune with a chanting rhyme that is the metal fan’s version of INXS’s “Mediate.” My favorite track on the album so far—and that changes each time I listen because they’re all great—is “Something Of My Own,” a powerful, emotional jam that resonates with its lyrics about opportunities missed due to the loss of Wayne.
The hard rock/metal scene these days has matured from the days of nu-metal when Static-X first set up shop, but Project Regeneration, Volume I fits in nicely with today’s sound. The album is a great tribute to a band that obviously has a lot more to offer, and it’s one I will be jamming to for quite some time.
That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs…
R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her hope-filled posts at www.queeromanceink.com.
Fritters are a great way to use up some of the leftover meats you have from previous meals, or from any stash you might have lying around. Farmer Vincent’s Fritters were very special indeed, as he used some of his famous smoked meats. Don’t bother asking what kind of meats they were, however. His slogan was “it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s Fritters.” If you do ever venture down to try his fritters, I would recommend not staying at the nearby MOTEL HELLO. In fact, it is probably much safer all around to make these yourself.
Yield: 8 to 10 fritters
1 1/2 lb cooked and shredded meats of your choice
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
4 strips of bacon
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped, or 1 tsp onion powder
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk or water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
There are basically two ways to make fritters. One is to mix the meat filling into the batter and fry them like griddlecakes. The other is to make patties or balls then dip them in batter and deep fry. I provide directions for both below.
To prepare the filling
In a large mixing bowl, toss together your cooked meats, paprika, cumin, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, fry your bacon strips until they are crispy as you like them. Set the bacon strips aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
In the rendered bacon fat, sauté the chopped onions and garlic. When the onions are translucent, pour the onions, garlic, and grease into the meat mixture. Crumble the bacon into bits and add to the meat mixture. Mix well to incorporate.
To make the batter
In a medium mixing bowl, beat two large eggs, add the milk (or water), and then whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until you have a batter with no lumps.
To make the fritter-cakes
If you prefer the griddle cake method, then into your skillet, back over medium heat, add about 2 Tbsp of oil to provide a thick layer of oil to pan fry. Allow this to heat up.
Pour in some of your batter into your meat mixture bowl and mix thoroughly. You may not need all of the batter. The mixture should bind well and maybe be a little loose.
With a large spoon or ladle, measure out enough meat-batter mixture for two cakes. (You can do more if you have room in your skillet or make smaller cakes.) Fry the fritters until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Set the cooked fritters aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
OR – To make the patties for deep-frying
If you prefer the deep fry method, then into your skillet, over medium-high heat, add enough oil to provide at least an inch of oil to fry in. Allow this to heat up to about 325°F.
Divide your meat mixture evenly into either into balls or patties. Some meats don’t form one or the other easily, so this will be a matter of experimentation. By using cooked meats, however, you don’t have to worry about under-cooked food if they are too thick.
With a sturdy pair of tongs (or with your hands if you must), dip your meat into the batter and then gently place into the hot oil.
Cook each fritter until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Set the cooked fritters aside to cool and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.
I like fritters made both ways, and I know this is also a regional thing to prefer one method over the other. Personally, I prefer eating the deep fried patties but they tend to make a bigger mess in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary.
As for serving, the patties or fritter-cakes go well with mashed potatoes and gravy or make excellent sandwiches. The fritter balls are fantastic with honey mustard or sweet-and-sour sauce.
Breaking Bread begins in the home of Fidelia Meek, the Meek Mansion, which is less than two miles from my house. The house is an historic site and I drive past it every week. The home was built in 1869 after William Meek and his family relocated to what is now San Lorenzo in order to plant orchards. He and his partner, Henderson Lewelling, got their start in the fruit business up in Oregon and brought their know-how to California to start anew. The area is now part of the Bay Area suburban sprawl, but the Hayward Historical Society has gone to great lengths to preserve the home. It’s a glorious white building with many windows and turrets. I’ve been inside a handful of times and it always feels full to the brim of stories, almost as if you could run your fingers along the wall or the banister and absorb the history through your pores.
When I discovered the submission call for Dark Divinations, I fell into a rabbit hole of research on the house, the area, and what women of the time may have been interested in. I discovered the use of Alphitomancy—the use of bread to determine one’s innocence or guilt—and away the story went! I was even able to score a couple of tickets to a paranormal investigation of the home one night and though it was a thrill to attend with my pal Karysa and to hear stories about the people who lived there, nothing much out of the ordinary occurred. Still, we got to explore parts of the house that are usually closed to the public, and I loved every moment.
When the place you live in and love is full of history, it doesn’t take much to be inspired.
Once upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Twenty-five published works later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill strives to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.
Who would like it: The people who would like both movies fans of Coming of Age stories, Zombies, Twisted Families and gore hounds.
High Points: —
Overall: Preferred Somos Lo Que Hay over the remake We Are What We are
Stars: No Rating
Where I watched it: VOD
Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains. Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.
When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net
She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.
Real World Trauma Acerbates the flaws in The Strain Seasons Two and Three
by Kristin Battestella
After an unraveling end to the First Season of The Strain, it took me a long, long while to return to the thirteen-episode 2015 Second Season. Childhood flashbacks recounting fairy tales of nobles with gigantism and quests for the curing blood of a gray wolf start the year off well. Horrific blood exchanges lead to village children vanishing in the shadow of the creepy castle before we return to the present for secret deals with The Master, alliances with the Ancient Ones, and blind telepathic feeler vampires canvassing the city. Scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) contemplate vampire vaccines while former antique dealer Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) pursues a rare strigoi text and rat catcher Fet (Kevin Durand) prepares their explosive defensive. Government officials like Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) fight back against the zombie like masses despite shootouts in infested laboratories, double-crosses, and sentient, disguised as human foot soldiers. Old fashioned black and white Mexican horror reels add personality and history to our reluctant heroes while more superb action and flashbacks standout late in the season with “The Assassin” and “Dead End.” Unfortunately, early on in Year Two, my main dilemma with the First Season of The Strain returned– you can read all of this, but it is much too much onscreen. Unnecessary timestamps and location notations clutter reintroduced characters, new problems, old problems, and unintroduced newcomers. There are too many separated characters with unbalanced screen time who must repeatedly explain who they are. Enemy’s enemy is my friend mixed motivations create confusion – multiple people hunting The Master individually making promises to his fellow ancient vampires with little background on who these chained monsters chilling beneath Brooklyn are. Cryptic double talk and real estate transactions may be filler or meandering developments, but it’s a toss up on which one will drag on or disappear. The past stories are often more tantalizing because our team isn’t much of a team. It took so long in the First Year to get everyone together, yet each is still toiling over what to do in this vampire zombie apocalypse. After previous fears over any tiny contagion, one and all shoot, blast, slice, and splatter at will. They hand out fliers with the monster details and warn the community, yet unaware police are shocked to find vampires in a dark alley.
Maybe The Strain is meant to mirror how no one is on the same page in a crisis – we are now witnessing that chaotic misinformation mistake first hand indeed – but the plot is all over the place, too. It’s been a few weeks onscreen since The Strain began, however, life is upside down for some while others seem totally unbothered. Again, this is a foreboding parallel to our real life pandemic with the poor working man much more deeply impacted than the wealthy ease of access, but here there’s no sense of the storytelling scope despite opportunistic orchestrations and tough women securing the five boroughs. Slick villains talk of great visions and master plans, but tangents diverge into a dozen different threads and multiple dead ends. Is The Strain about a doctor experimenting on the infected to test scientific theories or weird do nothing telepathic vampires and slow strigoi chases? Are we to enjoy the precious moments between our little people struggling on the ground or awe at the zombie outbreak turned vampire mythology? New people and places are constantly on the move, jumbled by an aimless, plodding pace as too little too late politicians talk about quarantines when The Strain is past containment. Confusing, pointless storylines take away from important intrigues and significant elements tread tires amid random threats and dropped crises. The conflicts on cruel science for the greater good grow hollow thanks to constant interruptions and changed emotions. Provocative diluted worm extracts taken for illness or ailments are used as control by the strigoi or when necessary for our heroes, but the scientific analysis of such a tonic or hybrid cases is never considered. Infecting the infected experiments and vampire free island security only take a few episodes, yet viewers today who can’t pay the rent are expected to believe it takes weeks for a market free fall and runs on banks? “The Born” starts off great, but often there’s no going back to what happens next regarding cures and Roman history as contrived messy or blasé action pads episodes. Rather than driving away in a cop car, dumbed down characters run into a church for a lagging, maze-like battle that kills an interesting minority character. When the community comes together for “The Battle for Red Hook,” unnecessary family pursuits ruin the sense of immediacy while the hop, skip, and jump to Washington D.C. for two episodes of scientific effort gets ditched for glossed over vampire factions and historic relics. Both the lore and science are interesting, but these mashed together entities compete for time as if we’re changing the channels and watching two shows at once. Instead of the rich detail we crave, The Strain continually returns to its weakest plot with shit actions and stupid players causing absurd consequences.
The Strain, however, does look good, and the ten episode Third Season provides coffins, gore, goo, and nasty bloodsucking appendages. The vampire makeup, creepy eyes, monster sinews, and icky skin are well done. Occasionally, creatures scaling the wall and speedy, en masse action is noticeable CGI, but the worms, tentacles, and splatter upset the body sacred. Sickly green lighting invokes the zombie plague mood while choice red adds vampire touches alongside silver grenades, ultraviolet light, and ancient texts. Sadly, Season Three opens with an unrealistic announcement that it’s only been twenty-three days since the outbreak started. The uneven pace makes such time impossible to believe, and tricked out infrared military are just now arriving three weeks into the disaster. Mass manufacture of The Strain’s bio-weapon is also never mentioned again as the science is now nothing more than a home chemistry set. Instead, step by step time is taken to siphon gas in a dark, dangerous parking garage – which could be realistic except The Strain has never otherwise addressed food, supplies, precious toilet paper, or the magically unlimited amount of silver bullets. Once again, everyone who fought together goes on to separate allegiances on top of hear tell global spread, Nazi parallels, control centers, and messianic symbolism. It’s all too clunky thanks to people made stupid and contradictions between the onscreen myths, technology, and abilities. Too many convenient infections, Master transformations, tacked on worms, and excuses happen at once – cheapening Shakespearean touches and monster worm bombs with redundant failures. Montages wax on human history while voiceovers tell audiences about government collapse, glossing over arguably the most interesting part of the catastrophe for drawn-out experiments on microwaves. There’s no narrative flow as the episodes run out but suddenly everyone is sober enough to use the ancient guidebook to their advantage. After such insistence over sunlight and ultraviolet, those safeguards are inexplicably absent when needed. No one maximizes resources and opportunities in “Battle for Central Park,” and people only come together because they accidentally bump into each other. In “The Fall,” a carefully orchestrated trap and prison plan is finally put into action against The Master, but ridiculous contrivances stall the operation before easy outs and one little effing asshole moron ruining it all. Again.
The cast is not at fault for the uneven developments on The Strain, but if Ephraim Goodweather is only there to be a drunken bad parent failing at every turn, he should have been written off the show. If we’re sticking with Eph and his angst before science, then his pointless strigoi wife and terrible son Zach should have been tossed instead of hogging the screen. Cranky, obnoxious, budding sociopath Zach’s “Why? No! Don’t!” lack of comprehension is unrealistic for his age, and everything has to be dumbed downed to appease him. Onscreen The Strain is continually talking down to viewers like we are five and it gets old very fast. Previously compassionate characters are reset as cold marksmen, and Eph claims he no longer cares about the cause when he was once at its epicenter. He complains he has nothing to do, bemoaning the lack of a feasible vaccine before gaining government support in creating a strigoi bio-weapon only to ditch it for microwaves and vampire telepathy. Zach ruins each plan anyway, and by the end of Season Two, I was fast forwarding over the Goodweather family plots. Nora Martinez is also nonexistent as a doctor unless convenient, relegated instead to babysitting, and Samantha Mathis’ (Little Women) Justine Feraldo likewise starts off brassy before unnecessarily overplaying her hand and failing bitterly because of others. Initially The Strain had such a diverse ensemble, but by the end of the Third Season, all the worst things have happened to the women and minorities. Ruta Gedmintas’ Dutch wavers from the cause for a conflicted lesbian romance that disappears before she returns to the fold as Eph’s tantalizing research assistant when she’s not being captured and rescued. I won’t lie, I only hung on watching The Strain as long as I did for Rupert Penry-Jones (MI-5) as the thousand year old hybrid Quinlan. He uses his conflicted history with The Master to help Setrakian and sees through Ephraim while developing a distrustful shoulder to shoulder with Fet. Unfortunately, his vampire super powers come in handy unless he’s forgotten about when it’s time for the action to sour or let failures happen, and nobody tells officials about this almost invincible half-strigoi who could be useful in a fight. Setrakian, Quinlan, and Fet make for an ornery, begrudging trio, living in a luxury hotel while pursuing Abraham’s relics whether they agree with the plan or not – mostly because Fet accrues all manor of weapons and is happy to use them. Setrakian has some crusty wisdom for them, but his battle of wits with Jonathan Hyde as the at any price Palmer provides great one on one scene chewing. The double crosses and interchangeable threats feel empty, and Palmer also has an odd romantic side plot that wastes time, but Richard Sammel’s Nazi vampire Eicchorst remains a deliciously twisted minion. “Dead End” and “Do or Die” reveal more personal history as the mature players provide intriguing questions on immortality, humanity, and barbarism. Miguel Gomez’ Gus finally seems like he is going to join the team, but then he’s inexplicably back on his own rescuing families and refusing to accept his mother’s turn in more useless filler. He and Joaquin Cosio (Quantum of Solace) as the absolutely underutilized fifties superhero Angel are conscripted to fight vampires but once again, they remain wasted in isolated, contrived detours.
Streamlining Fet, Dutch, Quinlan, and Gus as vampire fighters testing methods from Setrakian’s texts and Eph’s science funded by Feraldo could have unified The Strain with straightforward heroes versus monsters action we can root for in an apocalypse. Watching on the eve of our own real world pandemic, was I in the right frame of mind to view The Strain unclouded? Thanks to creators Guillermo de Toro and Chuck Hogan and showrunner Carlton Cuse’s foretelling social breakdowns between the haves and the have nots, maybe not. That said, The Strain terribly executes two seasons worth of source material. An embarrassment of riches with a scientific premise, mystical flashbacks, assorted zombie and vampire crossover monsters, and intriguing characters fall prey to uneven pacing, crowded focus, and no balance or self-awareness onscreen. The Strain may have been better served as television movies or six episode elemental seasons – science in year one, vampire history the second, relic pursuits, and a final battle. Disastrous characters and worthless stories compromise the meaty sacrifices, crusty old alliances, and silver standoffs – stretching the horror quality thin even in a shorter ten episode season. Rather than a fulfilling mirror to nature parable, The Strain Seasons Two and Three are an exercise in frustration, and even without the real world horrors, it’s too disappointing to bother with the end of the world reset in Season Four.
For More Frightening Television or more Guillermo del Toro, Re-visit:
Right off the bat you are probably thinking, “Ewww… beef marrow?!” That’s assuming you got past “Ewww… human burgers?!” Bone marrow is actually quite delicious roasted and spread on toast. I’ve had it at The Salty Sow and it is divine. This is really little more than a rich fat that adds a velvety quality to the burgers. Ask your butcher if they can get you some. My local gourmet store sold some from Rumba Meats.
If you can’t find marrow bones or soup bones at your local grocer, or if you just can’t get past the “bone marrow” factor, I think some strips of bacon would suffice. Bacon is mostly fat and the smoke and saltiness would go well. Just don’t cook the bacon before using it. Chop or grind it right up raw with the rest of the meat.
So… what does it taste like? I don’t have Hannibal Lecter’s palate, but I quite enjoyed them. They were nothing like beef burgers, of course. The pork and veal were a nice complement to each other. The marrow brought it all together in a nice solid patty. I would definitely make these again.
Ahead of you lie 31 days of co-workers offering fudge, your Grandmother sending packages of cookies, and banks and dry cleaners placing containers of candy canes at the service desk!
The holidays of this month are so closely connected to food, that we at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to offer some relief in the form of foods of another nature. Foods more suited to the Horror seeking palate.
We hereby declare December 2020 to be Freaky Foodie’s Month. Please join us for some scary, spooky and gut-grabbing delicacies. Happy horrordays!
Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My! By Kristin Battestella
The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.
Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires. Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences.
The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.
The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.
The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here. Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.
The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night! Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy. Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie. There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing. Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating. For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt.
The moaning wind of the cemetery colony was already attempting to bury the landing pad that Buster Ross had lowered his ship on in the surrounding, desert sand. The funerary agent from Earth ran quickly toward the looming nearly-all-glass funerary building both to escape the storm as well as to meet the master of this literally dead planet. Both pad and building were surrounded by tombstones from nearly every region on Earth, many of the stones rolling with the dunes and sinking into the dark of the hollows. They were stone and metal crops, some of them being simple plaques or stump-size stones barely rising up out of the ground, others more fully risen. Yet a seed lay below each of those stone and metal crops, a seed known as the human corpse. The official name of the planet was Memoria. The Global Government on Earth wanted to be sure its name was as honourable sounding as possible to the ones buried there. Some people on Earth called the planet New Giza for its millions of tombs as well as for its desert geography. However, many people called the planet by a derivative of Ancient Egypt’s City of the Dead; many people called it the Planet of the Dead.
Immediately arriving at the front door, Ross was stopped by a cold electronic voice: “State your purpose for entering, please.”
Ross said, “I’m here to see a Mr. Juan Moreno.”
The electronic voice said, “Thank you. Now please state your purpose for your visit with Mr. Moreno.” While it spoke, Ross noticed that it generated from a speaker on a small, white box framed within the all-glass wall to the left of the door. A tiny bead of an “eye” glowed red in the upper center of the box.
Ross said, “To pick up some bodies and transport them back to Earth.”
The electronic guard said, “Thank you. Now give your name, please.” Ross did that, impatience beginning to well up from within. Then the automated guard told him to state who sent him. And the guard’s questions went on like this another five times. Then a red beam of light streamed out from the ruby eye and scanned him for weapons. When the red light disappeared a loud click sounded from the double front doors and they slid open. Ross entered when suddenly a 20-something girl walked up to him.
Her face was very pale due to the amount of makeup covering it, and she wore dark gray eye-shadow. Her eyelashes were long and black, and, likewise, her hair was also black and shiny. However, although her features were Hispanic, one could tell that her very straight hair was an unnatural color. She reminded him of people he had seen on the Net in encyclopedia illustrations and black-and-white video clips to articles on 19th-century society and ones on the 20th century’s horror movie industry. It was as if she had walked out of a scene from one of those weird, ancient films. She wore a long, black tailcoat with a tight black satin vest underneath and underneath that a snug, white 19th-century shirt. On her head she wore a black derby. The pants she wore were tight, shiny black stirrups that seemed to merge with the polished, black Victorian gentleman’s shoes she wore with the raised heels which made the shoes look more feminine. Her appearance was almost melodramatic.
“Mr. Ross?” she said, with a dead expression.
Ross smiled and stammered, “Tha-, that’s right. I’m here to see Mr. Moreno.” He did not expect to be greeted by such an odd character as this girl, if it could be called a greeting. Saying nothing else, the girl walked over to a somewhat crescent moon-shaped desk that appeared to be built into the marble floor since both were white. There she pressed a key and spoke into a microphone in which, like the key, was built into the desk. “Mr. Moreno, Mr. Ross has arrived.” As it was when she had spoken to Ross, her tone was expressionless. A man’s voice faintly sounded from an inconspicuous speaker on the desk saying he would be down shortly.
After that, the girl said nothing else. Instead, she keyed information into the desk’s terminal without looking up while Ross waited. Her movement and pose were so repetitious and monotonous, they seemed robotic.
“Mr. Ross?” echoed a man’s voice from above. Ross, startled flashed his head up toward the direction of the voice. At the top of the winding metal stairwell was a man who looked to be around Ross’s age, 60.
Ross answered, “Yes?”
“I’m Manuel Moreno.”
Ross introduced himself, although awkwardly. He was shocked at Mr. Moreno’s appearance more than he had been the girl’s. Moreno’s skin was a very pale brown, his gray hair disheveled. He wore a black, Victorian suit. So many youngsters are bad enough, but such an appearance is way out of the norm for a man of any age, thought Ross, proudly patting his short-cut, neatly parted hair.
When Moreno reached the bottom of the stairs, Ross walked up to him and the two men shook hands. Moreno said, “Delighted to have you here, Mr. Ross.” His smile was faint. Then gesturing to the stairway, he said, “Would you kindly walk this way, please?”
Ross walked up the stairs, hesitantly.
Moreno held the door open and gestured to Ross to enter. Victorian and neo-Gothic furnishings made the room appear more a study than an office. One of the few exceptions to the old-style atmosphere was the transparent wall behind the funerary manager’s desk that looked out onto the fields of gravestones.
After Moreno shut the door, he offered Ross a seat in front of the desk lined with armies of miniature skeletons and skulls. Many of these were idealized with the thick, black lines of features in the style of the Mexican Dias de los Muertos. Several others were more realistic appearing. More of these figurines appeared in various places on his bookshelf. Some of the life-size skulls looked so real they looked as if they had just recently been shoveled up from the graves outside. Panting, Ross more than gladly accepted Moreno’s offer. He was too used to taking elevators. However, Moreno had no reaction at all to the walk; he breathed as normally as if he had not even gone anywhere.
Moreno said, “May I offer you a drink, Mr. Ross?” Although he spoke with a tone of weariness, he sounded much more inviting than the receptionist downstairs.
After several pants, Ross, answered, “I would like that a lot, thank you.”
“What would you like?”
Ross said, “Whatever your favourite is, as long as it’s thirst-quenching.”
After sitting down at his desk, Moreno grabbed the receiver to his long necked 1920’s phone and ordered an employee to bring them a bottle of amontillado and two glasses. He said, “We have received news, Mr. Ross, that the descendants of some of our residents have contacted you.”
Ross paused. Then he said, “Residents?”
Moreno looked down, pausing and then said, “It is, you may say, a euphemism for the bodies that rest here.”
Ross stared with bewilderment at Moreno for several seconds before saying, “But they’re already called units, Mr. Moreno, why would they need to be called anything else?”
Moreno looked away from Ross, tightening his lips. Then he smiled, saying, “We like to refer to them as if they were still living since we get so lonesome here on Memoria. It is only myself, and my two attendants—Luther and Felicia–who notified me of your arrival. Both serve as my secretaries, pallbearers, caretakers and morticians. Aside from the three of us, it is only a few gardeners, computer technicians, and, although for an impermanent span of time, some construction workers who are working on my new house. That is not very many people for a planet that is twice as large as Earth.”
“Mr. Moreno, did I hear you correctly?” Ross asked, bewildered. “Did you just call your attendants pallbearers, caretakers, morticians?”
Moreno froze a stare towards Ross for several seconds before saying, “Forgive me. Those are words that have been out of use for hundreds of years. We use a very unique manner of speech in the funeral business here on Memoria, Mr. Ross. It consists of words that you will no longer find except in ancient, or near-ancient at the least, literature,” he gestured a hand to the ceiling-high bookcase to his left. The case held copies of titles that had been out of print for hundreds of years. Although the titles were still talked about, they were only done so for reasons of historical reference. Nobody read bound books such as the ones on Moreno’s shelves for leisure anymore, books from the gothic and horror forms of storytelling.
Eyeing the books, Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, those are amazing. But isn’t it much easier, space efficient and safer for the value of these hardbound books to read . . .” his look of confusion turned to one of coldness as he studied the titles on the spines, “those, on computer? I mean it seems like such a waste of money when you can read literature for free on the Network.” The titles indicated dark, threatening things: titles such as Poe’s Tales of Terror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lovecraft’s The Dunwhich Horror and Other Tales, among many, many others of their kind.
Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, the Network does not have these books. It only makes available the books that society desires. If a story from centuries ago is not felt to relate to our times, then the Network ‘makes’ it relate to our times by rewriting it. And so we are not reading these authors’ stories,” he gestured toward the bookcase again, “but those of society at large. In addition to that, reading is more than just comprehending the words on the page; it is the holding of the piece in your hand and touching the beautiful pages cut from a dark woodland that is an enormous part of the reading experience.”
“Well I don’t know about that,” said Ross, “but what’s the point in reading a story if it doesn’t relate to the problems that we have to deal with today?”
Moreno countered, “Mr. Ross, the stories of several centuries ago do relate to the problems of the present. We encounter the same basic problems today as our ancestors of several centuries ago did. Though our robbers and murderers that we fear so much no longer commit their crimes on dark streets nor in dark estates, though they now commit them on the Network, or in the average size or smaller home, the same basic cause and effect of crime still lurks in our universe—the cause being the motivations of crime, the effect being the fear that crime brings forth. Those two things do not change. Motivation and fear: both of these stem from the human condition. And we can only understand those problems by examining the past and relating the ones of the present to those that occurred in other forms centuries ago.”
Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, the crimes are the problems, not the motivations, not the fears of the crime, but the crimes themselves.”
“My apologies, Mr. Ross,” interrupted Moreno, “but I think I should make ourselves aware that we should discuss the corpses that you came for; we are very busy here on Memoria.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, we’re going off-topic. I have to be back to Earth by tomorrow, myself.” Ross snapped open his briefcase and pulled out several papers documenting the evidence of the corpses’ living descendants. He began explaining them when he was interrupted by a pounding at the door.
Moreno shouted, “Bring it in.”
The door swung open revealing a young man who appeared to be in his early 20s. He almost looked like he could be a twin brother to the girl, Felicia; his way of dress and bodily features were very similar to hers except the shoes did not have the heightened heals and the hair was much shorter.
Moreno said, “Oh, Luther, I thought you were Felicia with the amontillado.” Then he said sharply, “What do you need?”
Luther said indifferently, “They found another fresh corpse.”
Moreno shouted with a shocked look, “Good Lord,” and jumped up from his chair. He asked earnestly, “In another grave? Another open one?”
Luther nodded, his powdered face without expression.
Moreno hung his head and complained to himself, “Why, damn it all, did they have to do this so early?” Then he turned back to the young man, saying, “Whose body was it this time, Luther?”
“One of the construction workers.”
Moreno asked, “Would the other workers happen to know what he had been doing out there?”
Luther said, “They do not know.”
Moreno turned to Ross. “This has been the third person on the planet who has turned up dead and in a grave. First two of my technicians and now a construction worker. At first we thought the murders were being committed by somebody hiding out in the graveyard areas. . .” He inhaled deeply and then exhaled, “Until now.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ross.
“The construction workers never go out to the graves,” said Moreno, grimly. Then he turned to Luther. “Was there any sign of the method of the murder? Were there hand marks on his throat like the two previous men?”
Luther said, “We do not know; we have not pulled him out yet.”
Moreno said, “Well, then we shall pull him out now.” Then he turned to Ross. “I apologise dearly for you having to experience this matter, Mr. Ross.”
Keeping in mind Moreno’s unusual archaic style of speech and outdated clothes, Ross said,
“This is no game now?”
Moreno said, sounding slightly annoyed, “This is no game; men have actually been turning up murdered here, Mr. Ross.”
Ross corrected, “You mean there have been homicides on Memoria?”
Moreno paused staring at Ross before saying, irritably, “Yes. And the terrible thing is–or maybe the good thing, depending on how you view the matter–the murderer is among us. He can only be among us. We can catch him. As I have already said, Mr. Ross, there are only a few of us on this planet; the killer can only be one of us.”
Ross asked, “Have you called the police?”
“I am the police on Memoria,” Moreno said. “I have gone through the police training, and I am authorized to make an arrest of the suspect if we ever find him or her. This is why the Global Government has not assigned any police or even mere security guards here on Memoria. As we all know, Earth has been in economic crisis since the interplanetary colonial wars. The only security we have here, aside from myself, is Sphinx, our automated guard at the front door who asked you to identify yourself.”
Ross said, “Yes, and she did a really good job of it. She played 20 Questions with me 20 hundred times, which included ‘state your reason for moving the bodies, please.’” He said this with a slightly nasal sound to imitate the guard’s electronic voice. “Come on, why does security need to know that? What other reasons would people like myself have to come to a planet of dead people we don’t even know?”
“Forgive me, Mr. Ross, but I recently programmed her to ask those questions to anybody who comes to the gate from outside due to the incidents I had just indicated: two men have been murdered; now, as we have just been told, there is a third. We thought the murderer may have incoming connections from Earth. Like our mother planet, we must use caution when visitors come to Memoria.”
The Earth funerary agent said, sarcastically, “So like on Earth, everyone’s suspect when a crime is committed here?”
Moreno said with a faint smile of delight, “Suspect! You’re learning the language of Memoria, after all, Mr. Ross! If not that, then perhaps Earth has not lost all honesty in her languages.” As he finished speaking, he caressed a set of Sherlock Holmes novels on one of the shelves. Then he slid open a drawer from his desk and keyed in a call for Earth on his satellite phone within it and reported the murder for the Funerary Department to put on file.
As Moreno, his two attendants, Ross, and the construction crew foreman approached the burial site, the Earth funerary agent and foreman were the only two who were breathing heavily with exhaustion. Ross said, “I think it would’ve been better to have taken the buggy, Mr. Moreno. You people must keep in great shape; I’m ready to die.” He looked around at the tombstones. Then he said, “But if I do, please don’t bury me here; I have known family still living on Earth, thank you.”
Moreno suggested, “You people need to stop depending on so much mechanical transportation; Earth’s become too dependent on it.”
The body lay in the open coffin at the bottom of the freshly dug grave. The corpse seemed to be frozen in terror, eyes wide and mouth gaped open. It looked as though it had seen something too horrible to exist. It made Ross’s stomach sick to the point where he had to swing his head away from it.
Moreno asked the construction foreman, “Mr. Henriksen, do you or any of your men have any notion of how long he had been away from the worksite before you discovered him here?”
The foreman said, “The last time any of us had seen him was just a little before dawn this morning. He was eating breakfast with all of us. Then went out for his morning smoke as usual. After that we never saw him again.” He took a deep, quivering swallow of breath and exhaled, “Until now.”
Moreno further inquired, “He does not often come all the way out here to have his morning smoke?”
Henriksen said, “Not that any of us know of. He often just stands right outside the dining caravan.”
Moreno asked, “And none of you saw him out there when you parted for work?”
The foreman shook his head.
Moreno thanked and dismissed him and then turned to his two caretakers, Luther and Felicia, saying, “Apparently, this murder occurred just outside the dining caravan, and whoever did the killing did so silently and quickly. Take the pulley, raise him up and have it transport him to the morgue. We will perform an autopsy on him later.” Then he turned to Ross saying, “I do not know what the cause of such trouble on Memoria is. Suddenly within the past two weeks, there have been murders. And each victim’s body has been used to replace a resident taken from his grave.”
Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, you keep saying ‘murder’ rather than ‘homicide’. ‘Murder’ has not been in use for centuries. Why do you use this outdated jargon?”
Moreno stared hard at Mr. Ross for several seconds before saying, “As I have already said, Mr. Ross, we get very lonely up here on Memoria. We like to use language that makes our lives and work exciting.”
“You act like incidents such as this are games of some sort,” Ross said, gesturing to the open grave where the bone-white mechanical hand of the pulley was beginning to raise the corpse. “Someone has just been killed and you turn it into entertainment!”
Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, when I said we like to use language that makes our lives and work more exciting, I was not referring to entertainment; I was referring to the living of life itself. Very few people have actually lived life itself for the past several hundred years, Mr. Ross. Too many people have lived their material wealth instead, their automation-made possessions–their cars, their computers, their virtual vacations, their virtual gyms; nobody lives life in its natural form anymore!”
“What does speaking in all these outdated terms have to do with natural life?” asked Ross.
Moreno said, “These terms, Mr. Ross, indicate that natural life can easily be ended by Death at any time, and so it indicates the value of life. When people are always speaking the practical and technical language of today they are only reminded of what is meant to keep preventing death, making them forget the true value of life whose very frailty gives it that value. And that is why I am not a man of the present world and culture, Mr. Ross, and neither are my caretakers. We live in the days when lighting at night did not come as easily as it does in the present day, and only candles and oil lamps provided one’s source of light after the sun had descended to the other side of the earth. Is not fire all we need?”
“You said it again: ‘caretakers’. That gives a very negative connotation to a monument ground to most people now days.”
Suddenly, Luther called out from the edge of the hollowed grave, “Mr. Moreno, hand marks on the neck like the other ones.”
Moreno hung his head in disappointment and disbelief for several seconds. Finally, he lifted it again and commanded to Luther, “Take him to the morgue.”
Ross exclaimed to Moreno, “How the hell can that be? No one from the caravan heard any commotion.”
Moreno hesitated before he said, “Whoever killed him must have had the strength to kill him before he could scream out. Therefore, Mr. Ross, the murderer was not human.”
Ross said, “I thought there was no native life on the planet.”
Ignoring this, Moreno said, “Returning to your argument against politically ‘incorrect’ speech, Mr. Ross, I must make it known to you that I have my own ideas and beliefs of what a graveyard should be like. And as I have just said, I am not a man of the present. That is why I took the position of undertaker here on Memoria, or, if you prefer, since you don’t speak our language, monument ground manager.”
“This, this is, a little unusual,” Ross said. “I, I have to say, very unusual. Such language hasn’t been used for centuries. . . it’s so antiquated . . .“
”Yes, it is, because, you see, ever since Earth forbade its people to speak that dialect, people like ourselves here on Memoria who still speak it have been treated like old people who have no significance to Earth’s societies. Therefore we are antiquated and so are of no use to Earth’s advanced technocratic societies and neither is our dialect.
“Earth’s societies felt that our poetic manner of speaking gave a sense of discomfort and tension for the loved ones of the . . . dead, as we, whether you people like it or not, refer to them here. If we were not treated like old fashioned outcasts, then we were treated like young trouble-making punks. I, of course, am not of youth anymore but I have a youthful state of mind, the very same state that my two gothic caretakers have, and they are of youth.
The ultra liberals hated us for wanting to leave unknown corpses on Earth because they felt it took away space for the living, especially the living who were very poor and who needed housing that they could afford and facilities that could give charity to them. The conservatives hated us not only for wanting to leave the bodies of unknown people in earth that capital-oriented developers wanted to build over, but also merely for the way we dressed.
“Both conservatives and liberals saw the dead who preceded them as non-existent merely because their bodies had no documented identification. And so as with the people buried here on this remote desert planet, we do not exist to Earth either; we are just as dead as the buried residents are.”
The whole time Moreno had been speaking, Ross’s face was paling and his eyes were wide. Moreno snapped, “Now I know most definitely that you are one of them, Mr. Ross, one of the Earthlings who side with the material/technological masses who are so centered on self-gain that they will not consider the bodies of the ancestors who have gone before them.” Then he smiled and asked, “Do you realize how pale you are? You look like I have just told you that . . . I killed . . . somebody.” Moreno’s mocking expression turned to a stunned and angry one. “So simply because I speak, a ‘foreign’ language, Mr. Ross, you think I killed those people? That is exactly the reason why people like myself and my attendants came to this planet, Mr. Ross, because everybody on globalized Earth who lives a little bit of a different lifestyle is under suspicion when something goes wrong. Well now that you suspect me, Mr. Ross, and are going to report me, may I give you a little tour of that house I’m having built? I am certain you already think I am mad.”
Ross said, “Yes I’m aware that you’re mad, and so am I, because you’re taking this homicide very lightly when you’re all so willing to show me your new house. Just what do you need that new house for anyway? You have a free one from the Global Government.”
Moreno reemphasized, “Once again, Mr. Ross, I am not like the rest of the people of society. I desire an older style of architecture. And there is very little we can do about today’s murder; the representatives from the victim’s funerary service on Earth will not be here for a couple of days. The autopsy can wait, so that gives me plenty of time to show you the new house.”
Ross said, mockingly and with accusation, “But you said one of you here on this world has got to be behind these homicides. If you don’t find out who that is now who will be next?”
“Mr. Ross, my attendants who have worked for me for a sufficient period of time and, therefore, whom I trust, will keep an eye out on the area. If anything looks or sounds suspicious they will notify me immediately.”
“Do you have a communicator?”
“Of course. All of the Government’s facilities are required to have one of those damn things.”
Ross said, “No, do you have a portable communicator with you?”
Moreno said, with sudden comprehension, “Oh. A portable communicator is a device too much of the present, Mr. Ross. No, I do not have one.”
Ross snapped, “Because you’re not a man of the present, right, Mr. Moreno? Because if you were, then you would care about keeping up with today’s technology for emergencies like this!”
Raising his voice authoritatively, Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, devices such as your portable communicators, and much of the other damned technology that has grown along with them, including condensed Network versions of our classic literature, is the cause of murders such as the one that has occurred this day. Because of this technology, no living soul cares about life anymore, Mr. Ross, because there is no life. There is only the soulless machine. And because of that there is no mystery. If there is no life, there is no mystery!”
Ross shouted, pointing toward himself, “We are life, Mr. Moreno. And so it’s our duty to take care of ourselves and preserve ourselves as a people, but we can’t do that if we let a killer run around loose! Maybe you’re too secular to understand that! Maybe you take too much advantage of the world’s freedom of belief; maybe you’re just too damn atheist to care about the life of humanity!”
Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, that is exactly the point of my argument: because there is no life, as in natural life, not electronic or biotechnological imitations of it, there is no longer any concept of or belief in the supernatural and, therefore, the mysterious. There is not even any belief in the soul and therefore the consciousness of the other person. Therefore do not dare to blame me and call me an uncaring atheist for not owning an evil device such as these damned portable communicators that basically cause people to avoid natural life, life the concrete experience of our flesh and blood existence, the experience of life as being with people, conversing with them in present time and space rather than just sending apathetic, abstract information to people by way of a cold, unfeeling machine!”
“Mr. Moreno, technology was advanced to solve the world’s problems such as crime like the one that happened this morning. It is a sin against humanity to not keep up with technological advancements all because you’re only concerned about your own aesthetic interest! Or should I say atheistic interest?”
Moreno took a deep quivering breath. Then, gritting his teeth, he said, “Mr. Ross, I am not an atheist and technology has saved none of my family! Death has saved my family, Mr. Ross, Death! He called them through the disease that was inherent in all of my family and they went forth!”
Moreno hung his head, lifted it back up and then said, “Mr. Ross, can I show you the house that I’m building?”
“Please,” said Ross, disbelievingly.
As the two men started walking back toward the facility, Ross asked, “By the way, Mr. Moreno, if you’re not an atheist, what religion do you practice?”
The funerary director stopped. He paused staring hard at Ross. Then he said, sarcastically, “I thought religion had no place in government, in our employments, Mr. Ross. Should it be of any concern to you what my religious beliefs are? Now, if you still want to see my house, then I shall show it to you, if not, then we shall retrieve the bodies you came for.”
Ross said with suspicion, “I would like to see the house, Mr. Moreno.”
They crossed the symmetrical-style front yard with the perfectly trimmed lawn and trees in order to get to the back of the government-made funerary building where a small, narrow gate stood. The shadowy structure could be seen looming in the distance before Moreno opened the tan, smoothly painted, wrought iron gate. As the gate swung open absent of any creaks, the shadowy structure was revealed to be a partially built medieval castle. The portions of walls that had already been built over the skeleton consisted of all storm gray stones chaotically cemented together. There was a tower in the front part of the castle. The whole structure looked like some half decaying brontosaurus or giant serpent lying on top of a high Egyptian sand dune, looking as though it were raising its long neck from a fossilized hibernation. A hibernation that any sane person would pray that it would never wake up from.
Ross gasped, “What is this?”
Moreno said, “It’s my house, my house!” He said this with a wide smile, a smile that was like the sudden burst of the sun coming out of the clouds on a dark grey day. It did not match his overall morbid character. Then the sun sunk back into the clouds when he continued in a bitter tone, “Not the Government’s.”
Ross said, “No one builds houses like these anymore.”
“I am very well aware of that; that is the precise reason why I am having this one built.”
Ross criticized, “I have never seen anything like this. Not in real life. The only places I’ve ever saw such horrible architecture is on the Network at certain sites. Honestly, Mr. Moreno, this is very disrespectful to the people who are buried here. It gives a monument ground a very negative connotation.”
Moreno said, “That is the problem with society, Mr. Ross. Man has always been afraid of death; he has always seen it as an arch-enemy of humanity; he has always seen it as the ultimate menace as though it should never have existed. And so throughout history, he has identified it through the dark, deteriorating haunted castle in our literature and films. But ironically, Mr. Ross, it is a part of life. Without death, there can be no life.
“People always try to put off that which is infinitely greater than themselves: they get surgery done on their body parts to prevent themselves from aging (there are no more wise old men or wise old women; in fact, people move as far away as possible from their own parents and grandparents because their parents and grandparents represent the death that they fear since the elderly are so near it); they put chemicals on their scalps to prevent balding or they surgically have them replaced with the scalps of the dead who did not have enough respect for their own bodies and so in their wills gave their parts away to strangers; they put manufactured remedies in their hair to ward off graying; they go as far as having machine organs put into them to avoid their natural deaths! They try to cheat Death, as the old saying goes. But, Mr. Ross, history all the way up to this point has proven that you cannot thwart Death’s plans! But scientists are constantly trying to thwart them. They are now going to the extreme of trying to locate the microscopic organ that stops the overall process of the body’s functioning, that which ‘brings’ about death, so they can remove even it.”
Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, all religions, or nearly all at least, believe in the preservation of life. And that is why most religions try to prevent death.”
“Mr. Ross, Death is Life!”
Ross remembered a biblical saying similar to Moreno’s last statement. It suddenly dawned on him what religion Moreno practiced. However, he asked to make sure, “Mr. Moreno, you having a Spanish surname, I would like to say are Catholic. But I have a big feeling you’re not.”
Moreno said mockingly, but cheerfully, “May I remind you, Mr. Ross, Earth is a politically correct world, and it is politically incorrect to stereotype certain cultures.”
Ross verified, “So you’re not Catholic?”
Moreno shook his head with a proud grin like a child who thinks he’s out-smarted an adult, and then said, “My religion, if you must know–” then his grin turned to one of a solemn expression, “and if you tell the Government and they get suspicious like yourself, then I am willing to die for my religion–my religion is a break-off of my ancestral Catholicism, Mr. Ross.”
Ross guessed, although he knew he was wrong, “You or your family were converts to Protestantism.”
The proud childish grin grew back. “No, it is much newer than any Protestant sect, although there have been similar religions in the most ancient of times.”
“You don’t even worship God,” Ross said.
“Not that god, Mr. Ross. You people were wrong about God nearly all of history.”
“You worship . . . Death,” he said, as much as he dreaded to, with a cold gasp, eyes wide, face pale like the one of the corpse that the bone white pulley had rolled away with. Then he choked out, “Only a worshiper of Death could commit such a homicide as the one committed today.”
Moreno said, “You dare accuse me of a crime solely based on my religion, Mr. Ross? That is complete bigotry and religious intolerance. The function of the World Constitution is to protect us from that. Let me reveal to you, Mr. Ross, that we, the worshipers of Death, believe that He must take his own course. We touch nobody and nothing. We do not make machines that bring on death as people on Earth make machines that prevent it. We do not make machines for capital punishment. As Catholics say that their god is the only one who can punish by death, so do we say the same about our God. We do not even make or give support to euthanasiac devices; one must accept the form of death that our God brings; His will is His will.”
At this, Ross gasped, “You would let ill people suffer, you cold blooded bastard!”
“We are not of cold blood in our beliefs, Mr. Ross, because we prevent acts such as euthanasia in order to save poor suicidal souls from even a worse suffering, the suffering of eternal hell. Therefore we do not stop Death in His course, nor do we influence Him to speed up his course. We leave be the will of Death, Mr. Ross. That is our doctrine.”
Ross interrogated, “Who’s ‘our,’ Mr. Moreno? You and who else? Where’s the rest of your congregation? Just you three? Those two overly pale face, juvenile, gothic punks that work for you?”
Moreno’s face flamed red as he commanded, “Enough!” Then in a more calm yet firm voice, he continued, “I am through with your insults on our planet.”
“The Government’s planet, Mr. Moreno! You don’t rule this planet, the Global Government does, and the people who support it.”
Moreno said, “And we the people who live here do support it, Mr. Ross, and since we live here you are insulting our home planet merely because of our ways.”
“Yes, that’s right! I am insulting your ways, Mr. Moreno! You people take the time to glorify your ‘god’, Death, but take no compassion on the ones your god ‘takes’ from the universe; in fact, you show even less compassion to the ones who are still alive, the ones who need euthanasia, for instance.”
“Much in the same way you take no compassion for the ones you send here to get buried because nobody on Earth cares about them; you relocate them, exile them to be precise–but you dare not use that term because you’re ‘not inhumane people’–you exile them off of their own planet like the 19th century Americans did with the Native Americans with their land and like the 20th and 21st century Americans did with my Mexican ancestors in their southwestern United States homeland. You do that because the living don’t remember the names of the dead or how they relate to the dead, and so you tear out their graveyards, their neighborhoods, and transport them over here like garbage, Mr. Ross, like garbage to be dumped in a remote Gehenna!”
“We transport them here because the majority voted for that kind of method to make room for the living.”
Moreno said, “That is all you people are concerned with: that which is alive and present. The people of Earth have no concern for the past nor for the people who made it! Earth fears the past; Earth fears that if the past is remembered then it will be relived and so will stop material progress and keep the wrong people in power; Earth fears that the past will haunt society forever. But, Mr. Ross, Earth forgets too easily what gave us our ideas for the present–the past. If there is no past, there is no present and thereafter no future. Without the past, and so without our dead ancestors who made it, there is no meaning for any of us. We forget our past too much and everything and everybody that make it up. We forget the events that made our present day events, we forget our ancestors, we forget our ancestries, and so we forget ourselves to the point where we are just a people floating around in an infinite, black, eternal midnight universe! We, my two caretakers and I, may be a minority in our religion, Mr. Ross, but we know where our faith lies.”
“In death!” Ross barked.
Moreno raised his voice, “Yes, Mr. Ross, in our eternal, old friend Death! Our tour stops here. You will pick up your bodies now and leave. Remember, I hold authority over who comes and goes here, Mr. Ross. And I do not think you are the kind of person who should come here. Now get your bodies and be gone.”
“That’s true, Mr. Moreno, you do have authority over this planet, I’m sorry to admit. But I will be back with higher authority from Earth, Mr. Moreno, do you understand that? I will be back with higher authority to investigate this case!” He was yelling near to the point of losing his breath. “Because this is all a disgrace to turn a place of burial into one’s own aesthetic theme park. Building a haunted castle on a monument planet! You’re sick!”
The two attendants met Ross at the front gate, Luther saying to him, “The bodies are loaded.”
Ross thanked him without expression and headed back to the ship through the moaning wind.
Luther and Felicia met Moreno in his study. He asked, “Did you load all three of them?”
Luther said they had.
Moreno said, “The weapons too?”
Felicia answered in the affirmative.
Then Moreno said, “Good. It will be the only way that Earth will ever believe us. Earth, that foolish world with its beliefs merely in the so called here-and-now, merely in that which can be explained and rationalized, only that which can be shown in the light! Well, the people of Earth are going to find out that all cannot have light shed on it, not even on things that shed blood, and that we are not above God no matter how advanced in science and technology we are! There is still mystery in this universe–” As he spoke he was looking out the transparent wall behind his desk and then suddenly slumped down onto the floor with no resistance.
Luther checked the old man’s pulse. He looked up at Felicia saying, “Death has taken him.”
Without expression, Felicia said, “Do we have time to embalm him?”
Luther looked out the transparent wall for several seconds and then said, “We will have to put him in deep freeze. We can’t lose any time. The three generals will be back on Earth soon expecting the squadrons and troops. . . .” He glared at the endless fields of gravestones as he continued, “Whom we have yet to awaken.”
Ross’s ship was already fleeing through midnight black space several miles out of Memoria’s atmosphere when he and his co-pilot heard the sounds from below. The sounds were like three coffin lids dropping.
I would encourage the populace, if possible, to at least take a look at the recent Netflix series, Ratched. It will help if you’re familiar with the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the one that took home a slew of Oscars for that year, the one in which the television series’ title character was the villain, but that’s not essential. Ratched is a beautifully mounted, albeit severely flawed work, and worth seeing if only for the sumptuous set design. Indeed, every frame looks like a photograph from a 1947 issue of Architectural Digest or some similar slick magazine of its type. The costumes could be out of Vanity Fair, the automobiles from Road & Track. It is gorgeous in its every visual element and blessed with a slightly languid pace that allows the eye to gorge itself at leisure on all that gorgeosity.
While I have several issues with the writing (cardboard and occasionally inconsistent characters, cliched situations, predictable plot points), I cannot fault the technical prowess of those who designed the visuals, or, indeed, the audio. The incidental music is eerily reminiscent of Bernard Hermann’s score from the 1962 film, Cape Fear, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score for the 1991 remake. One day, I will discuss both film versions of that story in this space, and the music from each, but today I want to talk about the title music from Ratched, for it touches upon one of my passions.
Yes, I am a Baby Boomer, a member of that much maligned, fairly or unfairly, generation that for all its flaws did indeed spawn the best popular music of the past century. And, yes, I grew up a fan of, among others, the Beatles, the band whose massive output of incredible music in the space of less than a decade was not only the ne plus ultra of its time but the sine qua non of all popular music since. But they and the rest of the 1960s artists were not my first musical love.
That would be classical music. Before the Fab Four showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show on that momentous night in February of 1964, I had already begun to sample my father’s record collection. The first piece of music I remember being enraptured by was Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges. I had no idea at the time what that title meant, for although I was able to operate a turntable at that early age, I had not yet learned to read beyond a very superficial level. In fact, I suspect that it was to decipher the tiny print on the back of all those record sleeves that I set about becoming literate so assiduously at such a tender age.
I still love classical music. It occupies a significant portion of my listening time. I don’t know squat about music theory, but I know what I like. And in the years since I discovered the wonders on those ancient LPs, most of which are now in my possession, new discoveries of what I like have regularly occurred with delightful frequency.
I think I must have been about thirteen or fourteen when I first encountered the work of Camille Saint-Saëns, or, rather, a portion of one of his works. A radio station in or near Nashville began to broadcast episodes of the Shadow radio show from the late 1930s, the ones starring Orson Welles. The theme music was eerie and compelling, drawing the listener into the outré adventures of He Who Had the Power to Cloud Men’s Minds. No one I knew could tell me what that strange tune was. Fortunately, this was in the early years of a new cultural phenomenon, nostalgia, and every trip to the bookstore revealed a new volume on some aspect of the cultural ephemera of past decades, including radio. I knew of radio solely as a delivery system for current music, but as my dad told me at the time, it was in his youth the primary source of free entertainment in the home – musical, comedic, dramatic. Frightening.
More on that later. I think it was in a paperback edition of Jim Harmon’s 1967 book, The Great Radio Heroes, that I learned the provenance of that snippet of strange music. It turned out to be the middle section of a symphonic poem by Saint-Saëns, Omphale’s Spinning Wheel. Once I knew that, I began to search for more music by this new composer I’d discovered.
Skip years, indeed, decades ahead, and I’d just settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch to watch the first episode of Ratched. At that moment, my wife of nearly forty years came in, and I surrendered that spot, because when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s okay. The seat I gave up is slightly off-center to the TV mounted on the wall opposite, and the spot I almost always wind up in has a more straight-on view. Yeah. That’s the ticket.
For some reason, the subtitle function was turned on, which was fine. I watch a lot of films in languages I don’t understand, and I heartily despise dubbing. Nothing ruins the rhythm of a film than the dialogue being out of sync with the actors’ expressions and mouth movements. Give me subtitles, every time. So, I’m used to them, and made no particular effort to turn them off.
No issues with the first episode, although my lovely bride thought it moved a tad slowly. There was no title sequence that time out, the credits rolling at the end. And for just over five minutes, there was no such thing in the second episode.
And then, there was. I immediately recognized the music playing, although the first bit of it had been lopped off. It was Saint-Saëns’ 1874 tone poem Danse Macabre, a piece I play heavily around Halloween, for it is spooky and creepy and laden with dire forebodings.
And then, I noticed the subtitle that popped up as soon as the discordant violin screeched out its first few notes.[haunting classical music playing]
Say, what? Haunting classical music? Haunting classical music?!?!?!? Does no one at Netflix have access to a decent music library? This piece has a name, a title that has been well-known for one hundred and forty-six years. That’s as bad as people calling the tango Al Pacino danced with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman ‘the tango from Scent of a Woman’, as if that’s its title. It’s not. It’s called Por Una Cabeza, and it’s by Carlos Gardel, a significant composer of Latin music in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s not quite as bad as pronouncing Porsche as a one-syllable name, but still, come on! Is it all that much trouble to identify a major piece of music by its actual name?
Ahem. Sorry ‘bout that.
Danse Macabre was based on a Late Medieval allegorical theme of death as the one truly universal reality, and its application in a variety of artistic expressions. Paintings, frescoes and woodcuts depicting souls of all financial stations and every societal stratum dancing their ways along to the grave accompanied by decomposing corpses and animated skeletons were all the rage in the waning decades of the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance.
I know most folks think of the term ‘classical music’ as encompassing all that stuff you had to sit through during school field trips to the local symphony hall, but for the cognoscenti, classical refers to the music of roughly the 18th Century, composed by folks like Mozart and Haydn in an organically structured and sometimes excessively ornamental style that reflected the artistic sensibilities of the concurrent Rococo period in art and architecture. During the preceding century, more-or-less, both art and architecture on one hand and music on the other were done in what was known as Baroque style, which was also overly ornamented but with a somewhat more constrained, almost geometrical structure. Kind of. That’s very much a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of things, but not, I hope, totally off the mark.
The 19th Century in music was dominated by the Romantic period, and Saint-Saëns was very much a Romantic composer. That word does not mean, as applied to the music of its time, what you think it does, just as an opera comique is not necessarily funny. Romantic in relation to the music of composers from Schubert and Beethoven in the early 19th Century to Dvorak and Verdi near the end of the century, and even beyond with Rachmaninoff and Ravel, was intended to produce within the listener a sort of naturalistic evocation of emotions, so that the music inspired more than merely an aesthetic response. It is no accident that the Romantic period in music coincided in its later decades with Impressionism in painting. The intended reaction from the consumer was the same in both areas, an empathic connection with the artist through the medium.
And Danse Macabre did produce an emotional reaction from early critics, indeed. It was not received well at first, as it was considered to be a source of anxiety for those who heard it. As I stated before, I know little about music theory, but I have been given to understand that there are certain key signatures that lend themselves particularly well to certain types of music, and even the emotions those pieces are meant to convey. According to what I have read on the subject, G Minor is one of those keys that tends to invoke dread and angst, and Danse Macabre is in that key. I’m going to go ahead and assume my informant was correct, for it does put the nerves on edge.
Listen to it throughout that title sequence in Ratched, when and if you’re able to watch it, and see if it doesn’t augment the show’s overall feeling of fearful expectation, even more so perhaps than the story warrants. Then, listen to it in its entirety.
Then, please don’t tell me you felt nothing from that – no frisson, as it were. I hope you do. I might just worry about you if not, just a little.
Also, rest assured I won’t leave you hanging regarding all the possibly unfamiliar references above. I will, one of these days, wax poetic on horror as it was used in old time radio programs and operas, comique and otherwise, as well as by other composers, artists, and even architects. I might even explain just what is meant by a ‘slick magazine’, translate the Latin phrases I love tossing around like confetti, and reveal from what major genre work I lifted the neologism ‘gorgeosity’. Stay tuned.
Destini Beard is a dark lyrical soprano in the Gothic and Horror soundtrack genre. She debuted as the first vocalist for the Horror Soundtrack group, Midnight Syndicate. Her two albums, “The Dark Masquerade,” and, “A Time Forgotten,” have been enjoyed by fans for over a decade. Performing across the US and abroad, she continues to add a dark twist to all her musical creations. Her song “Farewell Forever” was featured in the award-winning Horror/Soundtrack album from the 10th annual Rondo Hatton Awards. Her albums were featured on Rue Morgue radio, Dark Beauty Magazine, and are played nationwide on the award-winning Rock/Metal radio show “Rock Solid Pressure Show”.Continue reading →