Asian Horror Month: Book Review/REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

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.

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

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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.

Asian Horror Month: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

Review: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

If you think a ninja’s life is all about throwing stars and black pajamas, think again. For Chinese-Norwegian born Lily Wong, it’s a mixed bag of fighting domestic abuse, family dynamics and this little issue with the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob. No big deal.

Lily Wong is a heroine for modern times. Gutsy, humorous and bad*ss, she takes on injustice wherever she finds it, using her skills to defend women against those who would enslave them. Loads of action will keep readers turning pages faster than Lily can break a knee cap. There’s even a little romance thrown in to round out the story.

There’s more to Lily than martial arts, however. Author Tori Eldridge brings personal struggles to the table as Lily faces issues of being mixed race, loss of a loved one and how to preserve non-traditional values with a domineering grandmother. Despite her prowess with martial arts, Lily is far from being an inaccessible character. Flawed and conflicted, she’s easy to identify with.

I enjoyed being exposed to new concepts like the kunoichi, a female ninja. Unafraid to touch the hard topics of racism and human trafficking, Eldridge doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her series, The Ninja’s Blade. Lily will go to any means to protect those who would otherwise be victimized. If you are looking for a fast-paced action read with plenty of social value, Tori Eldrige’s Lily Wong series will not disappoint.

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Tori Eldridge is the bestselling author of The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong series), nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel and named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories have been published in horror, dystopian, and other literary anthologies, and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori’s screenplay The Gift earned a semi-finalist spot for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection. Look for the third book in the Lily Wong series in September 2021.

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About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Asian Horror Month:The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter by Elaine Cuyegkeng

This story was originally published in Black Cranes edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’

by Elaine Cuyegkeng

She dreams of death and rebirth on her mother’s table.

The smell of antiseptic: chemicals, artificial cherries and other-fruit. The specimen on the table. Herself, slipping a needle under the specimen’s skin to obtain samples for reconstruction. Finally, the disposal of the body while the new one grows inside her crimson egg, kicking her little amphibian feet. Later, a telepathic matrix imparts an (edited) library of the Prodigal’s memories. This reinforces the desired traits, knitted carefully into the genome.

In twelve days and twelve nights, there will be a single, perfected being: waking in the specimen’s old room with only a vague, uneasy sense of displaced time. There will be no official record, no trace of the original (save for the genetic profiles, buried deep in her mother’s libraries).

Everyone dreams those strange, mundane dreams of themselves performing their daily rites. The genetic alchemist’s daughter is no different; why should she be? But still, Leto Alicia Chua Mercado wakes as if she were a child waking from a nightmare. Leto thinks: there are fragments of bone and marrow in her pyjamas, in her blankets, her bed. For a moment, her hands are viscous with ruby red.

The Genetic Alchemists

Leto is her mother’s daughter, and so, when she wakes, blinking out crimson dreams in the pre-dawn, the day’s business is the first thing that occupies her. Nothing in Leto’s creation was left to chance; the same is true of Chua Mercado Genetic Alchemy.

Below, the family’s laboratories gestate the fruits of several lucrative contracts. Tiny mermaid embryos, for a techno-prince’s private aquarium. A new variant of winged cat: Bengal Beauties, with jade eyes and leopard spots, jewelled peregrine’s wings. Luminous Moths, ordered by an exclusive fashion house for their silk. There are the Prodigals, the human specimens who will be delivered to their families’ holdings, waking in the original’s old room as if from a dream.

And finally, there are the little Seraphim, tiny embryos swimming in their exo-wombs. The bulk of these are still ordered by foreign CEOs—grateful for the assurance of a rarefied offspring, grateful to be spared the inconveniences of caring for pregnant wives. One day, Leto’s mother hopes, the world will be full of them. There will be no Prodigals, no broken creatures in need of repair.

(Leto feels a tenderness for them. She doesn’t know why—perhaps it’s their shared origins. The fact she knows, and they don’t.

Leto’s mother scoffs at that. You’re not a specimen. You’re my daughter.)

But Leto has always been what she is: the girl with all the gifts, Ofelia Chua Mercado’s irrefutable proof. All the world had seen Leto in her womb, the tiny crimson egg Ofelia created. It made Ofelia’s fortune and her infamy. How the Manilero elite were scandalized! Ofelia had created Leto without the help of a husband, without the blessing of the Holy Apostolic Church (or any church), simply because. Priests cried about the dissolution of the family from their cathedrals, pastors from their multi-million-dollar pulpits. But hereditary heads of state, foreign billionaires, Hollywood queens—all of them came clamouring for Ofelia’s service.

Leto’s mother waits for her at the breakfast table. She is a slender woman, not beautiful but magnificent. She has a cruel mouth, a hard face, a hooked nose as if she truly were the witch the more poetic among the Manila elite call her. Her black hair falls in rivulets down her back. No matter the demands of the day, Ofelia Chua Mercado insists on taking this time: the time to sit down and have a meal with family. She didn’t create a daughter just to neglect her. She prides herself on having better husbandry of children. On the table are buttered toast, salted duck eggs, slices of chilled fruit.

“Today’s clients will need careful handling,” Ofelia murmurs, handing her daughter the day’s dossiers. “I know you’ve managed them before, but darling, today, I need you to resist the urge to gloat.

Leto opens the dossiers. She understands the moment her eyes fall on the client’s name. She doesn’t smirk; she knows it’s unladylike.

Ever since she was a tiny thing, old enough to be presented in a sad little classroom with portraits of saints, every single one of her classmates had hated her. They called her soulless. They said: You don’t have a papa. And yet, over time, so many of them ended up on Leto’s table. She carefully explained all the reasons why their families elected them for the procedure. She feels that they’re owed an explanation, but she can’t help feeling some satisfaction. She had never disappointed her mother.

“Not one Prodigal,” Ofelia says, sipping her tea, “but three. Can you imagine that, darling? Imagine if they’d come to us from the beginning. It would have spared them so much trouble.”

It’s an old, old story. It is the puzzle that so many familial dynasties have tried to resolve. How does one halt the decline that seems to seep in the third, fourth generation? Sixteen, eighteen, twenty years old, and their beloved offspring showed signs of delinquency, addiction, general malaise, rebellion, depression, of all things. They showed poor scholarship. How does one save a child from themselves? Eighteen years of Mandarin lessons, ballet or music, and Catholic school didn’t fix them. The Church and the promise of heaven can’t fix them.

Manila might have been horrified by Ofelia, the woman who made a daughter. But as the decades passed, one by one, they crept to Ofelia’s door, and begged her for her help. They turned to her genetic alchemy and, over the years, a whisper network has formed between desperate, gossiping mothers, patriarchs over games of golf and exquisite lunches.

Leto feels her fingers itch. Thinks of the discarded original, turning to ash in the furnace while a new, tiny creature emerges whole from Leto’s artistry. All her fellow heirs have hated her: have always hated her. But here she is anyway, granting them a gift unbidden. They will never even know.

Her mother rises and kisses her cheek. “Good hunting, my sweet girl,” Ofelia murmurs, and Leto blushes.

Her mother knows her, inside and out. Better than she knows herself.

The Dowager

When Leto goes to meet clients, she brings her mother’s wares as if they are the trappings of their self-appointed office. In her arms, she brings a winged cat with snow-white plumage, her little feet ending in owl’s talons and one blue eye alongside jade (feline specimens with heterochromia fetch three times the price). A speckled serpent with a forked tongue wraps himself around Leto’s neck like a regent’s gold necklace (base specimen: Atheris hispida). And finally, after a moment’s consideration, Leto carefully selects amber earrings made from the chrysalises of Luminous Moths. She picks up a rose as white as a funeral, a present for the Dowager. She paints her mouth with a neutral pink (edging towards a baby pastel); lines her eyes with modest shadow (Industrial Revolution—a shade popular among her peers). She takes her little slate and programs the nanites in her hair; they colour it a deep black with only the faintest streaks of a foreign autumn.

Leto understands what the heart wants: it wants a useful young woman, modest and helpful, who will solve all their problems with a flick of her manicured fingers. Leto meets clients because her existence says: you could have a helper, a dutiful, reliable heir. The child you need, if only you had asked for our services from the beginning. She revels in clients’ gritted teeth and fingers pressed into their palms—how they hate being proven wrong! She sits herself at the little table, waits for the client to arrive.

And when the Dowager slips into Chua Mercado’s rooms, dressed as if for a funeral (or a cocktail), Leto can’t help it. She rises up and kisses the Dowager’s cheeks like a fond niece. The Dowager closes her eyes; she smells, very faintly, of very fine, expensive whiskey. She shudders; or perhaps, it’s poor Leopold that terrifies her, the gorgeous speckled band winding himself around Leto’s neck, or Anne-Marie, the snow-white cat purring in her arms. Here is Leto, an unnatural thing, decked out in unnatural things. But the Dowager needs her help.

“I have three daughters,” the Dowager says with a rasp. “And they will all be the ruin of me.” Her elegant hand trembles as she sits in the client’s chair. Outside, Leto smiles; inside, a frisson of schadenfreude ticks upwards in spite of herself. She knows the Dowager’s daughters: they are just like every other classmate who’s ended up on her mother’s table.

“Why don’t you tell me what you need, Tita?” Leto asks. Like the witch in the story. What do you need? What do you lack? What price are you willing to pay?

The Dowager is Eva Maria Romano Iglesia—scion of a saintly house, married to a handsome media pastor in her baby-faced youth. She was a woman alone of all the multi-million-dollar pastors: having inherited the position after his untimely death. She preached in Chanel and pearls, wasp-waisted dresses with billowing skirts, and spoke of love and deference to husbands and fathers. She spoke of the sanctity of the family, this woman with no husband, and adoring crowds of women threw money at her. She was the most vicious of Ofelia’s detractors, when Leto and the exo-womb were unveiled. She called Leto soulless. She called Ofelia a fallen woman, creating a child outside the sanctity of marriage, outside the bounds of God’s intended methods.

But now two tiny granddaughters are dead. A son-in-law is set to be buried tomorrow, and the daughters are locked in their rooms in the family compound.

“I need you and your mother to give me the daughters I should have had from the beginning,” the Dowager says. She almost spits. How it humbles her, to be abandoned so by the God who showered her in gold but gave her delinquent children on which to build her church.

“Our congregation needs us,” the Dowager whispers, clutching her Chanel pearls. An entire congregation of lost souls—expensive women with husbands who loathe them, girls who became pregnant too early. They all find solace in the Dowager and her family of perfect women. What happens when the image that gives them so much comfort comes crashing down?

Leto is never really interested in all the clients’ reasons why this has to be done. She’d rather hear from the specimens themselves. Console them on their deathbeds.

“We’ll need to stagger them out,” Leto says. “One by one, to accommodate schedules for other clients.”

“I want it over and done with, as soon as possible.”

“I understand,” Leto says evenly. And nothing more.

(Really, Leto just wants her to anguish over it, just a little longer.)

Silence settles between them. Leto feels the Dowager acquiesce. No one else can help her. She can’t disappear three young women and gain their replacements, their better selves, on her own. She can’t create a replacement daughter, and raise her, not at her age.

The Dowager is old. She is running out of time.

“No one will know?” The Dowager’s hands tighten around her cane.

“No one will know,” Leto says softly. “From head to toe, down to their cells, they will be exactly the same.”

Leto takes the pale white rose, as perfect as a faerie dress. They named it Blanca Nieve. It smells like a perfumed night. She gives it to the Dowager. Places it carefully on the table, along with a lacquered box containing its food. Ten little nightingale corpses.

“People need to see you leave with it in your hands,” she tells her. “So you’ve had a reason to come to us. Feed it with ten nightingales. You won’t be disappointed.”

The next day, a funeral for the Dowager’s son-in-law is held in her stained-glass church. The cathedral arches are snow-white with roses, and they spill down the steps of the church, singing with bell-like voices.

No one even sees the bones.

Faith

She starts with the youngest. Why not?

They take her from the family compound. They place her, fast asleep, on Leto’s table in the lab. Faith is a delicate snow-white beauty: long limbs, a small head, the fair skin that Manileros prize so much. It’s at odds with Faith’s reputation.

Leto waits, and watches as the specimen slowly blinks herself awake. The upsurge in fear when she realizes that she’s strapped to the table. When she realizes that she’s not alone.

Leto doesn’t see what she does as revenge, as former classmates have accused her when they have woken up to find themselves in her lab. She sits with the specimens, waits for them to wake up. It feels wrong to her, simply destroying the originals without explaining why their families requested the procedure. She hopes that a vague memory of that conversation settles into the client’s cells. When they perform the process, create the new, perfected specimen, the Prodigal will not relapse.

“Faith?” Leto says. Her words come out muffled behind her mask. The girl stops struggling; she recognizes Leto’s voice.

“Oh God,” says Faith, and the pretty girl laughs. “All the stories they said about you are true.”

Leto’s hairs prick up at the back of her neck.

When they were children, Leto was the witch’s daughter. Now, as adults, she is her mother’s right hand, her coolly competent heir and that is where her story ends. All the specimens returned to the client families have had their memories edited: they know nothing of her mother’s labs. But her classmates know nothing of Prodigals, of Leto’s part in the process. They know nothing of the Procedure. It’s in their parents’ interest: that their children know nothing. They’d rather forget the unpleasantness and have their baby back (they never really will).

“Do you know why you’re here?” she asks Faith. Faith laughs and pulls at the straps.

“I killed my sister’s husband,” Faith rasps. “We did it together, you know. Me. Charity. Harmony. We pushed him off the balcony.”

They’d said it was an accident. Pat del Rosario—beloved husband, beloved son-in-law—falling over the balcony in the family’s multi-million-dollar compound. Thank God, the Dowager had board positions on various media boards: his death was announced without mention of murder or suicide. They had locked Faith in her room until the funeral and she had appeared with the rest of the family, her stony face easily interpreted as a perfect mask of dignified grief.

“I did it knowing you’d show up,” Faith whispers.

“You knew nothing of the sort,” Leto says. Her voice is even, but under the table, her hand shakes.

Faith has no reason to believe Leto would show up. She has no reason to believe in her mother’s lab. Leto is not a fairy tale, the way the Prodigals she perfects are fairy tales. They emerge perfect and whole under her fingers, blessed with cool-eyed competence, the smothering of their genetic demons.

“Do you even want to know why?” Faith asks.

“I know you want to tell me,” Leto says.

It doesn’t matter what they tell her; the procedure will go ahead anyway. But it’s as if she’s a confessor tending to a penitent on their deathbed. How can she say no?

You’re not a specimen, Ofelia had told Leto. You’re my daughter.

But still, the fact remains: Leto was created to prove the viability of her mother’s product, the efficacy of her mother’s services. Ofelia edited Leto’s genes. She edited them for beauty, for genius, for musicality, an affinity for maths and languages, all those things that the ultra-rich crave in their children. They like to feel as if their genes have given rise to better stock, better product.

Leto was engineered for obedience, which meant she was inclined to recognize her mother’s authority in all things. Her mother had been frank about this: there was no point in raising a child who spurned all her gifts. From the moment Leto stepped inside a classroom, she had excelled, surpassing her peers. It gave the elite of Manila something to consider, even as they called her soulless. When their beloved babies grew up, showing signs of rot by the time they reached their teens, they turned to Ofelia Chua Mercado and her helpful, perfect daughter. Who swap out imperfect specimens for better ones. Or at least, they edit the genetic code, so they are more inclined to conform to their parents’ expectations. They’re like fairy godmothers, granting obedience as a gift.

Faith had failed from the beginning. Even when she and her sisters were little, when the Dowager paraded them around as her little saints, Faith was infamous for her rage. There was a party, when a group of boys held her down to take her photo (wasn’t it sweet? Babies and their games!). She’d pushed one of them down the stairs, and he broke his leg, right there on the Dowager’s immaculate floors. When they were all older, there was another incident, another more grown college party, when she’d taken out someone’s eye.

The Dowager said: they’d hoped she’d grow out of it. That time and patience and their guidance would temper her. It honestly surprised Leto that it’s taken Faith this long to come to her table.

(Leto’s mother said, scoffing, that they should have edited Faith’s anger out of her, long ago. Leto had wisely kept quiet. She doesn’t blame Faith, the way her mother did. But she knows what traits are desirable and what aren’t—they don’t like rage in little girls.)

And now there’s a dead body that they’ve had to cover up with bribes and ritual, and a snow-white funeral.

“He killed Charity’s babies,” Faith snarls. “Did Mommy tell you that? He killed her girls.”

It was in the dossier—a sad obituary in the Manila Times of the Dowager’s twin granddaughters. But babies often die for strange, unknown, and unknowable reasons. Especially when they’re so small.

“He put stuffed toys in their crib,” Faith says. “It’s a SIDS risk: everyone knows that. They kept telling him to stop; he laughed and kept doing it. Look, she loves her little teddy. What’s the harm? Everyone said: Men don’t raise children, it’s not in them. You can’t expect them to understand. It was Charity’s responsibility: after all, she was their mother.

“Charity couldn’t stay awake forever. She tried. We all did. He found reasons to keep us away. And one day she found him standing over their crib with a pillow—and her baby girls were dead.” She closes her eyes. “A house full of people who were supposed to love them, and they all said she was hysterical. They didn’t believe her. Poor Charity. He barely cried.

“Why would he do that?” Leto asks.

She really shouldn’t have asked. All Faith wants is to unburden herself.

“He wanted boys,” Faith says. “It’s not as if he hid that. He was so disappointed when they came out! And Charity was so happy—his disappointment was such a small thing to her, at least in the beginning. That she loved something he didn’t.”

“Annulment was an option, you know.” It’s not that she objects to what Faith did; it’s that she should have been clever about it. She starts thinking of ways to snip the rage out of her, or at least temper it. They can modify memories to reinforce caution.

“Annulment isn’t part of our brand,” Faith says. “It’s not an option for us. Can you imagine the scandal? Lola would kill us first. Mommy would.”

That, Leto thinks, unfortunately is true.

“I’d have been more careful about it than you,” Leto says. Faith laughs.

“We were past careful,” Faith says. “After he killed the girls. After they all said Charity was hysterical and not thinking clearly. They even blamed her: Lola, Mommy, our aunts. We shut them up when we threw him down the balcony.”

Leto starts prepping her needle. She needs to draw blood; their work is easy, really. They have such a rich source of DNA.

“So what are you going to do?” Faith asks. “Replace me with a soulless little drone? A more palatable version of me?”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Leto says. “I can’t make or remove a soul. I’d make a version of you that wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

It’s not quite what Faith’s mother would have wanted. It’s not what Ofelia Chua Mercado would have wanted. But there is no one here to gainsay her decision.

She’s not sure why or how she decided this: that Faith is entitled to her anger. But here she is.

“It’s alright,” Leto says, and she is back on familiar ground. “It’s alright. You won’t even remember this happened. The you that wakes up won’t even remember this.” And if the new Faith doesn’t remember and the old Faith is simply erased, does Faith even suffer?

She lets Faith see the tiny little selves, swimming in their little crimson eggs, before she puts her to sleep. It seems to calm Faith: watching tender little creatures made from her bone and marrow. Leto dresses the new specimen herself when she emerges, perfect and whole. The new Faith will be little more calculating, a little less given to rages. If the new Faith does need to act on her rage, she will take better care not to get caught. The Prodigal is returned to the family. The Dowager sends back a message, saying: Faith is much improved. Leto imagines the Dowager breathing a little easier even as Faith is counting her grudges and biding her time. Counting down the days, until it’s all done.

Leto schedules the next two procedures. She takes her time.

Charity

She was the last person Leto had thought would end up on her table.

The middle sister: kind-hearted and soft, the kind of girl who deflected other people’s faults. The fairy tale girl people say they want but, in reality, isn’t equipped to keep a dynasty together. Still, she had that fairy tale wedding, married the boy her family picked for her. The Dowager was very clear about her specifications: they want their sweet girl back, before she went wrong.

Really,” Leto told her mother wearily, over chai tea and congee for breakfast, “they want a Charity who doesn’t remember how much her family failed her. They want a Charity who won’t make them feel guilty, every time they look at her.”

“If that’s what they want to believe,” Ofelia said. She shrugged her elegant shoulders. It’s cheating, but it’s not quite cheating, is it, if a Prodigal is exactly the same, just slightly improved? It’s the improvements they focus on.

Leto didn’t tell her mother about what Faith had said. It’s not that she believes Faith, exactly, but…

When Charity wakes up, when she sees Leto, she looks almost resigned. There’s no shock. Ice pricks at the back of Leto’s neck. Charity should be shocked. Charity should cry for help. Why doesn’t she?

“I knew something was wrong,” she says. “When Faith came back… She wasn’t herself.”

Leto doesn’t answer.

“Poor Faith. Did she feel anything? Was it fast?”

“What can you possibly know about the procedure?”

Charity laughs, a sad little laugh that almost sounds like affection.

“We all talk about it, you know,” she says. “All our old classmates, all our old friends.

None of you were ever my friends. Leto digs her nails into her palms. She is not…she is not supposed to be the monster in anyone else’s story. She’s more than that unveiled creature in the womb, more than the girl in the schoolroom, more than the witch’s baby everyone decided they should hate.

“I’m frankly surprised that you don’t know. I would have thought that your mother would have told you. We could never match you in scholarship, but we’re not stupid. Sometimes an old classmate would show up and…they weren’t quite themselves. They would remember things—but in slightly different ways. We heard about the oldies’ little whisper network. They say there’s a little dungeon somewhere—where all the bodies are kept. There’s a little lab where you clone tiny little creatures to replace us. That you sell our souls yourself.”

Leto’s heart is beating fast.

There is no reason. There is no reason why Charity and her friends should know. The specimens’ memories of her mother’s workshops are wiped. The Prodigals are returned to their rooms, and they don’t remember—they don’t remember anything of their time as tiny little creatures in blood-red eggs, their hatching.

If what Charity says is true and there are whispers of the process, and Leto’s part in it… How could she not know that she has turned into a story she has no control over? How could her mother not know? She feels like she’s back in that dreary little room again: her classmates whispering poison, spinning stories she has no control over.

Charity watches her face. “Do you remember?” she asks. “Do you remember anything—from before?”

“Before what?”

Charity closes her eyes and sighs, as if she is very tired and ready to go to sleep. She opens them again, and her eyes fix on Leto. “I wouldn’t tell your mother about this conversation if I were you.”

“We tell each other everything,” Leto says.

“Do you?” Charity asks. “Do you really? Do you ever wonder about the little gaps in your memory—”

She doesn’t have to pay attention to this. She doesn’t.

“Look at me,” Charity says, her voice soft and urgent. “I did everything my mother wanted. I married a boy she wanted. I gave up the idea of a master’s degree in science. And still—look at where I am right now.” Leto twitches, remembers her dreams of little feet, a crimson world.

“I wasn’t expecting to have to destroy everything I was when I married,” Charity whispers. “I wasn’t expecting to destroy everything I loved. That wasn’t the bargain I thought I made. Do you remember your Bella Norte?

When she was fourteen, Leto had engineered little bees who sang like bells and were nocturnal. As sweet and docile as Charity. She’d been frankly surprised that the Dowager had purchased a specimen from Chua Mercado Alchemy. A birthday gift for her middle daughter, who later became obsessed with beekeeping.

“They never really caught on,” Leto says. That was the trouble with new patents.

“Do you remember?” Charity asks. “Do you remember making them for me?”

Leto just stares. She’d done nothing of the kind. She made them, Charity ordered them, and that was the end of it. Charity sighs, softly.

“I kept beds and beds of nocturnal flowers to feed them. I did everything you told me to, even when you stopped answering my letters.

Nocturnal roses, honeysuckle, lavender. Leto can’t even remember why she made them: only that she did.

“Mommy and Lola never approved. Pat wanted me to stop: they were dangerous to me and the baby. Who knew what they were picking up while they were dancing in the dark? Who knew how reliable the patent was, how docile they really were? I went on a trip to the States; I came back to find most of my hives burned. Lola said: But it’s such a little thing. Mommy said: You have babies now. You won’t even notice they’re gone.”

Charity closes her eyes. “And then the girls turned out to be girls. We didn’t even want to know—he was so sure God would give us what he deserved. I took their blood. I cut their hair. I wanted something to remember them by, just like I kept the bees to remember you.” She breathes in, breathes out. Looks over at Leto, whose face is carefully blank.

She would have no reason. Her mother would have no reason to remake her. Leto is perfect, has been perfect, since the beginning. She was engineered for beauty, for intelligence, reliability. There is nothing that Leto wants, outside of what her mother needs.

“They were right,” Charity whispers. “Oh God, they were right.”

Leto doesn’t answer. She preps her needle.

Listen to me,” Charity says, before she slips off to sleep under Leto’s needle. “You’re not so different from us. Someone should have told you that from the beginning. I’m sorry we didn’t.”

Charity is easier, in many ways. They keep the base genetic profile. They edit her memories. Faith did it. Harmony did it. Charity just watched. Leto goes through an entire album of memories, editing things out, snipping inconvenient ones.

When the new Prodigal wakes in her room, she is more certain of her mother’s authority, of her mother’s love and adoration. The need to defer to her authority. She won’t remember that conversation with Leto, in the lab below.

Leto should talk to her mother. She should talk to her, but something stops her, every time. Leto stays in the lab, watching over the dreaming specimens. Cinderella, over the turtledoves that shake gold and silver over her. She thinks of the ashes of every discarded specimen, feeding her mother’s roses. Faith, Charity, an endless, endless parade of names before them.

And she wonders, she wonders. How many of them were her? How many dreams has she had, of a crimson world and kicking feet? Can she count all the times she might have been remade? She wouldn’t even know when it began, what had been the starting point. She walks into the garden at twilight, where the apiaries of little Bella Norte are kept. Their little feet brush against her cheek like a kiss.

Do you know more of me than I do? she asks them.

Do you?

Harmony

The eldest daughter escapes.

She must have seen the writing on the wall, Leto muses to herself when it happens. The Dowager is beside herself. It would not have happened, it would not have happened, if Leto had done all three of them at once like she had asked.

You should have known better than to let the other girls out, is all Leto thinks. Ofelia lets the Dowager know, calmly, that matters are being handled and shoots Leto a look. Leto understands: she wants Leto to fix it. The foundations of the world her mother is building depends on Chua Mercado’s reliability, their reputation. She needs to undo the damage she’s caused.

But Leto spends some time in the garden, among the specimens and patents that never quite caught on. She spends some time with the Bella Norte bees, waking in the moonlight, settling on Leto’s dress like golden dust.

You made them for me, said Charity. Why would Leto do that? What did she owe her?

She considers that Charity and Faith may be right, that her mother has been wiping her memory, altering her like a story that she can’t quite perfect. She should be terrified. She should be outraged, but all she feels is hollow. She wonders if anger was edited out of her too.

“I don’t know what to do,” she says, honestly, to the Bella Norte bees, as if they could answer her.

They track Harmony down in a shabby little street in Binondo, in a shabby little room. Leto insists on going herself. After all, it was her mistake.

At that, something inside Ofelia seems to untwist and loosen. She kisses Leto on the cheek. She says: She knows Leto will make it right. Everyone makes mistakes. We all learn from them. We make ourselves perfect.

Leto lets herself into the shabby little room, and there is Harmony, waiting.

The survivors of Charity’s bees surround her, drinking sugar water. Harmony is tall and striking, even with her hair slick with the humidity and the lack of care over the past few days. Charity was the sweetheart, Faith was the baby, but Harmony was meant to be their mother, all over again. It must have galled the Dowager, when Harmony picked her sisters over her mother. That was not the natural way of things.

Leto isn’t sure what edits to make to improve those outcomes.

“We all know you’d come for us, you know,” says Harmony. She doesn’t move. The bees settle around her, as if she is their saint.

“So I’ve heard,” says Leto. Harmony raises her eyebrow.

“What do you remember?” Harmony asks, point blank.

Leto says nothing.

“What do you remember?” Harmony asks. “How many times did she make you over, so she could start all over again, a clean slate?”

Leto thinks of the ashes in her mother’s garden. Whether any of them are made up of her former selves. She wouldn’t know when her mother started. She wouldn’t even know where to begin.

“I know about Charity’s daughters,” she says, her voice hollow. “I know about the bees.”

Harmony sighs, and her shoulders slump over.

“We didn’t know,” she says, “if she’d remake you, over and over again. Just to make sure you couldn’t remember. Do you remember? Making the bees for Charity? Do you?”

Leto feels breathless. A little bella norte lands on her cheek.

“She cried when you stopped answering her letters,” says Harmony. “When we passed by each other and you acted as if you didn’t know her. And later—when classmates came back, from rehab, from sabbaticals, from tours, not quite right, well, we all wondered.

It’s like a knife to her ribs. She doesn’t—she can’t feel anything.

Harmony gives her a box.

“I’d do it again you know,” she says, between her teeth. “I would pick Faith and Charity, every time. Every time. Hollow me out, empty me of all the inconvenient things my mother wants gone, and I’d still make the same choice.”

“What’s inside?” Leto asks.

But she already knows.

The Dowager sends payment: all three Prodigals, successfully remade. She even gifts Leto with the survivors of Charity’s bees. They have no use for them, and the girl is getting married again in the fall. Another fairy tale wedding. Then: one for Faith, and one for Harmony. She’s already signed contracts for little Seraphim to be made.

“Well done,” Ofelia says, and kisses her cheek. Another death, smoothed over. Because these girls wanted something outside what they should want.

What does Leto want? Nothing except her work. There’s nothing that her mother left her.

So she creates a second variant of the Bella Norte, from the daughters of Charity’s bees. They have Faith’s anger; Charity’s love; Harmony’s loyalty. And inside, inside, they contain slivers of memory, two baby girls avenged by their mother and aunts.

Leto’s daughters have no debut: they are not presented to the world the way Leto was. Instead, she lets them fly wild.

That year, the Dowager and her congregation will be haunted at night time by bees that sing like wind chimes, that smell of baby’s breath, and build cathedrals inside her church. At her wedding, Charity will turn to look at them, and she won’t know why she feels joy and heartbreak. Faith will wonder as she lets them settle on her shoulders and Harmony will feel a strange peace, even as the bees murder her mother’s congregation.

They’ll say it’s a miracle, that the three of them are left alive.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Elaine Cuyegkeng

Elaine Cuyegkeng is a Chinese-Filipino writer. She grew up in Manila, where there are many, many creaky old houses with ghosts inside them. She writes about eldritch creatures, monsters with human faces and the old, old story of art and revolution. She now lives in Melbourne with her partner.

Elaine has been published in Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, The Dark, Rocket Kapre, and now, Pseudopod! You can find her on @layangabi on Twitter.

FIND MORE BY ELAINE CUYEGKENG 

Asian Horror Month: Meet Black Crane – Lee Murray

Meet Black Crane Lee Murray

Posted on November 6, 2020 by Angela Yuriko Smith

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.

Odds and Dead Ends: The Bloody Brilliance of Lady Snowblood (1973)

Article by Kieran Judge

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.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

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… 

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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. 

Asian Horror Month: BLACK CRANES : A Review in Verse

 

BLACK CRANES: A REVIEW IN VERSE

Tales of Unquiet Women

From voices no longer silent

In this anthology of Asian narratives

Ranging from hilarious, to haunting and violent

A frisson towards an immersive journey

Headlined by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

Not merely stories, but an assemblage of shared experiences

And teamwork presented by Omnium Gatherum

Alma Katsu leads the proceedings

Of what follows and what to expect

Asian, women, and horror

Tales of identity, expectation and neglect;

Obligations, traditions, duties and more

Scientists, warriors, princesses, spirits

We can be many things

But we cannot be defeated

A haunting foreword sets the tone

For Elaine Cuyegkeng to kick off with a bang

Pandora’s box of gene editing

Or more attuned to a boomerang;

Snipping out traits and replacing preferential ones

Rarefied offspring too good to be true?

There’s always a price to pay

Specimens or daughters? Are we a ‘what’ or ‘who’?

Nadia Bulkin marshals an uprising 

With Indonesian history and folklore

A princess’s people retrieving her throne

A fight and reclamation at its core;

Who is monster and who is human?

Questions Kapre in his chronicle

Rin Chupeco’s unique love story

Depicts a tale heartwarming and ironical

Beauty, cosmetics, enhancements galore

Two tales from Angela Yuriko Smith

How far would you go to be yourself no more?

Sci-fi abounds; this isn’t myth

White on the outside, yellow within

Patchwork eyes and warring factions all over

Whom do we belong to if we don’t belong at all?

Gift recipient or pushover?

Grace Chan makes a two-fold mark

With hunger and fury, suspicion and doubt

Gabriella Lee’s rites of passage

Aspects of womanhood poured out;

The legend of the nine-tailed fox

Of trickster entities and lotus feet

Rena Mason presents womanhood again

As past, present and future accrete

Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

In their dual roles of editor and writer

Lend duality with contrasting themes

From heartbreak to horror, and lighter;

Caring for an ailing parent,

A mind-blowing take on pets,

A litmus test of acceptance,

Words – their shining assets

Set the clock ahead with Christina Sng

As we time travel to a zombie apocalypse

An ode to women in the military

Fury is not one to be eclipsed;

The fury of sacrifices to accommodate 

Meeting the expectations of others

Hollowed versions of ourselves

Emptied out; unconsidered druthers

With stories of folklore and legend

From the common to the esoteric

Across geography and culture

From charming to barbaric;

Returning to one’s roots

Or imagining a far-fetched world

From the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore

China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand;

Asian women from wherever they might be 

Scattered across place and time

Breaking notions and stereotypes

That living is not a crime;

There’s no single type of woman

No all-encompassing concept of Asian

The multifaceted identities of horror

And the stories of women who experience their own versions.

                                      ~Renata Pavrey

                                        December 2020

Ranata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Deathcember

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

Complaints: Nothing really

Overall: Highly recommend

Stars: 4 Stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

 

Asian Horror Month: Interview With Writer Grace Chan

Interview by Angela Yuriko Smith

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. 

Historian of Horror: In Memoriam 2020

In Memoriam

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.

January

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 Higgins Clark (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.

February

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

March

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.

April

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

May

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.

June

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).

July

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. 

August

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).

September

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).

October

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.

November

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.

December

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.

Asian Horror Month: Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn/ By Angela Yuriko Smith

Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn

Previously posted onPosted on November 9, 2020 by Angela Yuriko Smith

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

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 Asian female 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?

My last project was a charity anthology. Trickster’s Treats #4: Coming, Buried or Not! is the fourth and final Trickster’s Treats anthology brought out by Things in the Well, and it raises funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in Australia. 

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.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, Geneve. I’m very happy to share you here today, and look forward to chatting again next Tuesday on the next Skeleton Hour! Remember, readers, you can register for the online event on Facebook here.

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.

Asian Horror Month: Black Cranes Unquiet Inspirations by Lee Murray

BLACK CRANES: UNQUIET INSPIRATIONS by Lee Murray

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women was 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 Ninja Daughter 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.

Website:  https://www.leemurray.info/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MonsterReaders

Twitter: https://twitter.com/leemurraywriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leemurray2656/

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lee-murray

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Murray/e/B0068FHSC4

Asian Horror Month Announced

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!

Live Action Reviews! By Crystal Connor: May The Devil Take You, Too.

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.

Complaints: None!

Overall: Love it…better than the 1st

Stars: 5

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.

10 Creepy, Campy, Corny, Freaky Foodie Movies to Watch Free Online

10 Creepy, Campy, Corny, Freaky Foodie Movies
to Watch Free on Tubi

  1. The Stuff Nobody can say what’s in a popular new dessert item, but it’s causing a deadly result, and a horrifying, zombie-like effect on consumers.
  2. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes In this musical comedy spoof, a team of eccentric individuals must keep killer tomatoes from taking over the world and killing everyone in their path.
  3. Return of the Killer Tomatoes This sequel to the cult classic follows a mad professor hellbent on world domination by mutating ordinary tomatoes into a machine gun-toting army.
  4. Attack of the Killer Donuts A chemical accident turns ordinary donuts into bloodthirsty killers. Now it’s up to three friends to save their sleepy town. Read the HorrorAddicts.net review here.
  5. Worm Eaters
  6. 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.
  7. The Corpse Grinders When 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.)
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Historian of Horror: For Freaky Foodies Month / Food, Goriest Food

Food, Goriest Food!

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. 

Mangiamo!

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 –

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Static – X

 

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.

Top Winter Horror Movies

Top 5 Winter Horror Movies, as voted on by the Addicts!

  1. The Shining
  2. 30 Days of Night
  3. The Thing
  4. A Christmas Horror Story
  5. Let the Right One In

Some other winter horror flix we enjoy: Misery, Ginger Snaps Back, Storm of the Century, Frozen (2010), The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Gremlins, Black Christmas, Anna and the Apocalypse, Dead Snow, Candyman, Krampus, Prophecy, Nightmare Before Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Crimson Peak, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas.

Share your favorites in the comments and come join us on the HorrorAddicts.net Facebook Group to chat about your favorites!

Freaky Foodies Month: From the Vault / Dark Divinations: Breaking Bread

DarkDivBanner

The Inspiration Behind “Breaking Bread.”

By R.L. Merrill

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.

Merrill_RL-HeadshotOnce 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.

 

December: Freaky Foodies Month

Congratulations and Salutations Horror Addicts!

As of today, you have arrived in December 2020!

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!

 

Historian of Horror: Hath Music Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast? Not Necessarily

 

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.

And, as always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Ro’s Recs – November

Ro’s Recs

Creativity and Haunted Places

On the weekend of November 8, 2020, the legendary Foo Fighters took the stage on Saturday Night Live and played a song from their upcoming album, Medicine at Midnight, called “Shame Shame.” It was different and brilliant and a little bit dark, including lyrics like: 

“If you want to

I’ll be the one

Be the tongue that will swallow you” 

and 

“Another splinter under the skin

Another season of loneliness

I found a reason and buried it

Beneath a mountain of emptiness.

The song was definitely a departure for the band and I was anxious to read all I could about the production. Grohl has always been very open about his recording process. He boldly created the documentary Sound City, which I highly recommend, as well as taking the journey on the Sonic Highways, where the band visited some of the biggest cities in rock music history and wrote songs based on their experiences and interviews they had there. In an article with Rolling Stone dated March 23, 2020, Dave Grohl revealed that the house they recorded the album in was haunted and that totally piqued my interest. (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/foo-fighters-new-album-ghosts-971615/)

What is it with amazing things coming from supernatural experiences? Some of my favorite albums have been recorded under haunting situations including Black Sabbath’s debut, Blood Sugar Sex Magic from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hypnotize/Mesmerize by System of A Down, and Slipknot’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, the latter three being recorded at Rick Rubin’s Mansion in Southern California. How did being in a haunted space contribute to the artists’ creative process? (https://www.kerrang.com/features/10-rock-and-metal-albums-recorded-in-haunted-places/)

Corey Taylor discussed his experiences in The Mansion in his book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, which is full of incredible stories and Taylor’s philosophy about the afterlife and things that go bump, well, at all times of the day. From his perspective, it seems that the hauntings kept him on edge, which may or may not have contributed to his manic performance on Slipknot’s Subliminal Verses. He said in an interview with Kerrang! Magazine in 2019, “Only recently have I noticed the ethereal feel to the album,” Corey said on the eve of Vol. 3’s release. “And that’s definitely come from making it in that house. That house was so fucking haunted.” (https://www.kerrang.com/features/slipknot-the-inside-story-of-vol-3-the-subliminal-verses/)

Over the past several years, I’ve had the fortune to attend writing retreats with my fellow San Francisco Bay Area authors. The first one was at the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley, California, and I immediately fell in love with the grand old building which boasted that it housed the longest continuously-open saloon west of the Mississippi (which it likely can’t say anymore since the hotel has been closed the past two years for renovations). It’s a place with an incredible amount of energy, mostly positive, and during the retreats we held there, I was inspired to write some of my favorite stories. “A Piece of Him,” which was featured in the Gone with the Dead anthology back in 2016 is still one of my favorite short stories I’ve written and was my first traditionally published story. I wrote some of my Banes of Lake’s Crossing stories there and the hotel has even been a setting in my writing. I love working in old buildings. The Weller House in Fort Bragg is another favorite as well as the Jupiter in Berkeley and a friend’s turn-of-the-century house outside Portland, Oregon. There’s something about working in a place that has held within its walls all walks of life that causes its very fabric to hold onto that energy, both positive and negative, that gives me a supercharge of creativity like nothing else. I so look forward to being able to travel to my favorite haunts when this pandemic is over. 

So if you’re missing that feeling of someone looking over your shoulder as you work, or want to listen to music closely for any signs of ghostly hijinks, check out the albums listed above, and if you’re like me and love a good “behind the music” type of story, be sure to watch those docs listed above as well as read Corey Taylor’s book. 

How about you? Does a good haunted spot bring out the creativity in you? I’d love to hear about your favorite places and projects you’ve been inspired to work on there. Definitely check out the albums listed above as well as the two Foo Fighters documentaries. And as always, 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. 

HorrorAddicts.net 191, Holiday Ghost Story Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 191
SEASON 15
**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Russell Holbrook


**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Dedicated to our long-time listener Jeff. Here you go, buddy!

Ghost Stories:

“A Corpse Going to a Ball” or “Fair Charlotte” by Seba Smith, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service, read by J. Malcolm Stewart

https://www.amazon.com/J-Malcolm-Stewart/e/B0088I39XG

“The Open Window” by Saki, read by Daphne Strasert

http://daphnestrasert.com/

“Gatekeeper” by Rish Outfield, read by the author

http://rishoutcast.blogspot.com/

“The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christen Anderson, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“Staying After” by Angela Yuriko Smith, read by Ryan Aussie Smith
http://www.spaceandtimemagazine.com/

“Four-sided Triangle” by Nancy Kilpatrick, read by the author

https://nancykilpatrick.com/

“Company” by Sumiko Saulson, read by the author

http://www.sumikosaulson.com/

“Citrus, Spice, and Not a Thing Nice” by Phillip T. Stephens, read by the author

https://reifinery.medium.com/

“Just Like a Dolls” by Michele Roger, read by the author

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

p a t r e o n

https://www.patreon.com/horroraddicts

t h e  b e l f r y  a p p

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.wizzard.android.belfry&hl=en_US

s t i t c h e r 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/horroraddictsnet

spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/show/0DtgSwv2Eh6aTepQi7ZWdv

overcast

https://overcast.fm/itunes286123050/horroraddicts-net

podcast republic

https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/286123050

himalaya 

https://www.himalaya.com/en/show/501228

google play music

https://play.google.com/music/m/I5rjr5vrnpltxyr3elfqtzujzay?t=HorrorAddictsnet

rss

http://horroraddicts.libsyn.com/rss

Guest Blog: What’s your Jam? by Michael Fassbender

What’s Your Jam? By Michael Fassbender

Recently, I was browsing on Stuart Conover’s site, The Horror Tree, and I saw an interview with a publisher who got his start with a Punk magazine. While he’s branched out to the realm of fiction, the punk sensibility has never left him. Indeed, “punk” is the second adjective in the list of qualities he’s looking for in prospective stories. For those who have been a part of that scene, the punk sensibility remains an enduring part of their character. 

It’s a sensibility that resonates with many writers, as attested by the gamut of subgenres from Splatterpunk to Steampunk. It’s not one that resonates with me, however. I identify with a competing scene, Heavy Metal, and have done since I was in high school. Superficially, there are certain similarities: music that is played loud and features distorted guitars, and wardrobes that boast a lot of black T-shirts, but there aren’t too many common threads beyond these. 

As art forms, Punk and Metal are created very differently. In Punk, the medium is secondary to the message, and Punk Rock songs tend to be fast, energetic, and haphazard. The band is reminding you that they don’t take anything seriously, including themselves and their music. Metal bands are quite different; they may take nothing else in the world seriously, but they are fiercely earnest in their dedication to their craft. They are perfectionists in their technique, and for those unfamiliar with the genre, surprisingly sophisticated in their composition. Much of the Metal scene has been converging with classical music at least since Randy Rhoads recorded “Blizzard of Ozz” with Ozzy Osbourne in the early eighties. Doubters are urged to listen to string quartet or piano arrangements of Metal songs, such as Apocalyptica’s first two albums.

Both genres relish horror imagery. It just manifests itself differently. Punk horror art takes on a pop culture veneer, almost an Andy Warhol approach. Metal horror art favors the look of medieval woodcuts, Hieronymous Bosch paintings and Grand Guignol-style performance stills. Contrast the imagery of The Misfits and Mercyful Fate, and you’ll see what I mean. Each of these bands exemplifies the horror aesthetics of its team.

We generally don’t hear about a Metal sensibility in horror fiction. We don’t have Occultmetal or Possessionmetal subgenres in the community, but upon examination of my own habits as a writer, I see common threads with the musicians I champion. I share their perfectionist tendencies in terms of technique. Typos and faulty grammar vex me, unless they’re meant to appear in the story as a function of characterization. I was mortified recently when I discovered a continuity error in a story that had reached the final proofing stage. For the most part, I like to think that my stories are in good editorial shape when I present them to editors. Whether or not they resonate with the editor is another matter entirely.

It’s not just about the technique, either. I do take myself and my art seriously. I’d rather give my readers the chills than make them laugh — or score points in an imaginary debate. In terms of horror styles, I have a marked preference for supernatural horror, although this encompasses a number of subcategories, such as Lovecraftian, occult and mythological themes. The same preoccupations reign among many Metal acts, from Scandinavian Black Metal through retro acts like Blood Ceremony and Brimstone Coven. And in execution, I prefer to write my stories in earnest, not with irony. One annoyance I’ve had with the Lovecraftian community is the prevalence of tongue-in-cheek content. Overtly jokey stories and poems only serve to lighten the mood.

Metal and Punk are not the only musical in-groups with substantial linkage to horror. Goth is a third, and it carries its own sensibility to the same literary well. Of the three groups, the Goths probably feel the greatest affection for classic tropes like vampires and ghosts. The differences with Metal are more in the realm of nuance: Metalheads are more likely to present monsters as menacing, and Goths more as misunderstood. Goths are more likely to bask in the melancholy side of the spectrum, and Metalheads incline more to the macabre side. Nor should these three musical genres feel that they control horror imagery in music; other bands have swum the same waters, either intermittently or chronically. Stephen King is famous for interjecting his classic rock obsessions into his fiction.

Herein lies the significance of the exercise. Readers in general, and writers in particular, are likely to discern common threads in the literature that drives them, the films that excite them, and the music that drives them. While the linkage between books and movies is obvious, given the number of stories that came to the screen after success on the page, the relevance of musical taste can be just as significant, at least if the musical interest is a strong one. Horror writers can learn a great deal about themselves and what drives them if they stop to consider their musical tastes and examine their parallels in the fiction they love and the stories they produce.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. “But Together We Are Strong” has appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, “Miroir de Vaugnac” found its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and “Schattenlenker’s Hidden Treasure” was revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, “Old Growth” began spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.

Latinx Month : Dark Artist Tehani Farr

As part of our Latinx Month, we would like to introduce you to Dark Artist Tehani Farr. Tehani is a Mexican Illustrator, from a place called Xalapa Veracruz,  her style is Dark fantasy,  she works for metal bands, dark tales, books, festivals, games, etc 

Please enjoy some of her cover art. If you to see more, you can find her work on Instagram: @tehanifarr and also on her website www.tehanifarr.com

Latinx Month: Chilling Chat with E.M. Markoff

From the Vault – Feature from 2019 #172

E.M. Markoff is the indie award-winning Latinx author of The Deadbringer and To Nurture & Kill. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her loveEMMarkoff_authorpic_sm of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist, where she spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat E.M.! Thank you for joining me today.

EM: Evening, Naching! Thank you for having me.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

EM: Pretty young–in elementary school! Despite not knowing English, my mom was a fan of the Hammer Horror films and Vincent Price, and she was the one who first introduced me to the genre. She also never limited my reading, which allowed me to discover Stephen King at a pretty young age as well. I have no doubt all of this consciously and subconsciously helped shape my love of horror and “dark” things.

NTK: Did Stephen King influence your writing? Who influenced you the most?

EM: I have no doubt Stephen King influenced my writing, as he was the reason I fell in love with reading, to begin with. The vivid image of the monkey with the cymbals on the cover of Skeleton Crew is the first real memory I have of a light going off in my head and thinking, “Reading is amazing.” Other authors whose words have no doubt inspired me include Neil Gaiman with The Sandman series, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, C.S. Friedman, Carlos Fuentes, Junji Ito . . . the list goes on.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration? Do you find it in everyday life? In dreams? What inspired The Deadbringer?

EM: The heart of my inspiration for all my writing comes from my identity as a Mexican-American, which was passed on to me by my mom. All of my works, whether overtly or not, reference my culture. I do, however, sometimes get ideas in dreams. The first section of the chapter entitled “A Memory Dissolved by Pain” originated from a dream. I had been working on that section, with little progress, when it suddenly came to me. Consequently, the chapter title got its name because dreaming the dream and writing it was very emotionally difficult. I don’t like hurting my characters, so I tend to get pretty bummed out when something bad happens to them. The other major influence on The Deadbringer was the end of my mom’s life. The decisions that you have to make are painful, and that pain wound up carrying over to the characters that were also suffering a loss.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

800px-the-deadbringer-cover-emmarkoff-ellderet-seriesEM: My characters are assholes with too much agency! (Laughs.) My editor says I like to “play house” with my characters, so to a certain extent, they have to do what I say. But–like life–sometimes they refuse to cooperate until I figure out exactly what it is that’s just not falling into place. I had this happen with a character who is unexpectedly getting their own POV in the forthcoming second book in The Ellderet Series, The Faceless God.

NTK: Your style is very distinct, almost Gothic. Do you enjoy Gothic horror?

EM: Thank you for those kind words. You just made my evening. Yes, I do love Gothic horror and have no doubt that it has found its way into my writing, although I know I have a long way to go before I can hold a candle to the masters of the style!

NTK: You mentioned your mother’s love of Hammer films. Are they your favorite too?  What is your favorite horror movie?

EM: It’s impossible not to love Hammer Horror films. Their films, in particular, all the Draculas because of the dynamic duo of Lee and Cushing, will always have a special place in my heart. My fave, however, is The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

NTK: Favorite horror Novel?

EMThe Picture of Dorian Gray.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

EM: El Maleficio.

NTK: E.M., what does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

E.M. More immediately, I will be at a number of conventions, including one with HorrorAddicts.net at Sinister Creature Con from October 12-13.  My future plans involve publishing The Faceless God, the sequel to The Deadbringer, in 2020, as well as attending plenty of local Bay Area conventions and (hopefully) readings. I also have planned a standalone novella that focuses on two of the characters from the world of the Ellderet, and I have a few ideas for non-Ellderet short stories that I would like to see come to life. You can follow what I’m up to by signing up for my Newsletter of the Cursed. You can also follow me @tomesandcoffee on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, or buy my works on Amazon or direct from me. As for my work as a publisher, readers can check out the horror charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire, which includes a short diverse ghost story of mine — “Leaving the #9.” All profits from the charity anthology will be donated to Camp Fire relief and recovery efforts which will be administered by the North Valley Community Foundation.

NTK: I just interviewed Loren Rhoads about Tales for the Camp Fire. What a greatTales for the Camp Fire idea! How did you come up with it?

EM: It began as an idea by Ben Monroe, a fellow member of the Bay Area Horror Writers Association. The idea brought together horror writers from the Bay Area with the goal of giving back to the victims of a terrible NorCal wildfire – the Camp Fire. Loren Rhoads served as editor, curating an eclectic range of short stories that showcase the many faces of horror, including a story graciously donated by the estate of Clark Ashton Smith. The entire project is indebted to people who volunteered their time to put in the work necessary to bring it to life, thus keeping production costs low and maximizing profits for charity. Even now, the authors are continuing to do what they can to spread the word about the charity anthology because they want to give back to the community. I think it says a lot about horror writers, that in the face of tragedy they stepped up to help.

NTK: Awesome! Horror Writers are such great people! Thank you so much for chatting with me. E.M!

EM: Thank you for having me, and for the lovely interview, Naching. It was my pleasure.

Latinx Month: Best Latinx Horror Movies

from Will “the Thrill” Viharo

Naschy and Franco made hundreds of films between them so this is only a small but representative sampling. Here are some of my favorites. Salud!

THE BLIND DEAD quadrilogy directed by Amando de Ossorio 

  1. Tombs of the Blind Dead
  2. Night of the Seagulls
  3. Return of the Blind Dead
  4. Tombs of the Blind Dead

Also by Amando de Ossorio:

  1. The Loreley’s Grasp
  2.  Night of the Sorcerers

Rino Di Silvestro:

      Werewolf Woman

Paul Naschy:

  1. Werewolf VS. The Vampire Woman (aka Werewolf Shadow)
  2. Curse of the Devil
  3. Dracula’s Great Love
  4. The Mummy’s Revenge
  5. Hunchback of the Morgue
  6. Vengence of the Zombies
  7. Horror Rises From the Tomb

Jess Franco:

  1. Vampyros Lesbos
  2.  She Killed in Ecstasy
  3. The Awful Dr. Orlof
  4. The Diabolical Dr. Z
  5. Succubus
  6. Venus in Furs
  7. A VirginAmong the Living Dead

 Listical courtesy of Will “the Thrill” Viharo
http://www.thrillville.net/

Press Release / Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

Directed by our friend, Frank H. Woodward, this title is now Streaming on Amazon Prime! 

The award-winning documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown is a chronicle of the life, work, and mind of author H.P. Lovecraft.  As told by luminaries of dark fantasy including Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, and John Carpenter.

Please be sure to tell us what you think.  Rate, review, and share!

 

Historian of Horror: Hot Town, Summer in the 60’s

On a regular basis when we were kids, my brother and I were shipped off from Nashville to visit our grandmothers and cousins for a few weeks every summer so our parents could get a well-deserved rest from our shenanigans. Today, I suspect that would be considered child abuse at best, given that we were ferried by either car or train to a small town in Northern Alabama in the days before the pervasive hum and whir of air conditioning could be heard everywhere. 

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the heat being all that oppressive. There were lots of electric fans, and open windows, and sleeping in upstairs bedrooms under thin sheets, while the distant sound of a train whistle carried us away with it into slumberland after long discussions about girls and Auburn football and whether or not it were possible to tip one of my uncle’s Black Angus bulls. It’s not, by the way, and given how much at least one of them resented the attempt, it’s a wonder any of us are still alive.

Good times.

Even better, for the voracious consumer of popular culture that I was even at the tender age of eleven, was that a marvelous new invention did arrive in Athens about 1969, one that would not make it to Nashville for another sixteen years. Nowadays, cable television is almost quaint, but in those halcyon days of three channels, it was a magic carpet ride that carried me for that brief, hot period beyond the Lawrence Welk schmaltz and Mike Douglas talking about God knows what with people you’d never heard of and soap operas that for some reason didn’t feature vampires, and all the other adult programming that pervaded the local airwaves of the tiny town to which we were remanded into durance vile for those few weeks.

I’m exaggerating, of course. We had lots of fun with the cousins, and occasionally with the kids who went to the Baptist and Methodist churches in which our grandmothers were virtually matriarchic figures. But there are times when you just want to turn on the TV, and it was in Athens that I first encountered What Lay Beyond.

Athens is about halfway between Nashville to the north and Birmingham to the south, and twenty miles west of Huntsville, which at the time had, I believe, one television station. If the weather conditions were just right, you could almost pick up a Nashville station and maybe two Birmingham stations, but you couldn’t count on it. Which is exactly why the first rudimentary cable system I encountered was in tiny Athens. Its original purpose was apparently to bring those distant network affiliates (and their commercials) out into the hinterlands.

I have no idea at this late date which of the ten buttons on my grandmother’s cable box I pressed to find the old horror pictures I was already enamored of, but I sure figured it out at the time. A few days into our enforced vacation, I had started missing the daily after-school movie, the Big Show on Channel Five from which I normally got my fix. When I discovered something close enough to it to serve in a pinch, I latched on to it. I remember seeing old-time movie star Jon Hall stomping around in a rubber suit in Monster in the Surf for the first time on whatever channel it was, along with the big-headed BEMs from Invasion of the Saucer Men and a string of pictures that were rather clumsily dubbed into English and with the credits in Spanish.   

I had never seen Mexican horror movies before. The Big Show was full of Universal monsters and Hammer horrors and Japanese behemoths stomping model cities flat, but nothing like this new thing I’d found. I don’t recall any specific titles from that summer more than fifty years ago, but I do remember that they were fun, and spooky, and some of them starred masked wrestlers. I was a big fan at that age of the local wrestlers who popped up on TV back home, Jacky Fargo and Tojo Yamamoto and that crowd, so I gleefully absorbed the adventures of Santo and the Blue Devil as they battled a variety of monsters and mad scientists that summer, while my grandmother was off working at the local newspaper where she was the society editor. I’m sure she would have disapproved, had she known. 

But isn’t that the best part?

The Mexican horror movies weren’t there on her cable box the next time I visited Athens. It was years before I saw any of them again. It took the internet to bring them back into view, and while I understand the draw those specific films must have had on my eleven year old mind, this much older geezer is looking for something a little more sophisticated. And, just as one should never judge classic North American films by, say, the Bowery Boys, one should look for a higher level of fright-inducing Mexican cinematics with an expectation that one would find it.

One did.

I will admit that, despite my early exposure to Mexican films, I am not yet as conversant with the national oeuvre as I am with, say, French or Japanese filmmaking. I suppose it does take a while to get all the way around the world and back close to home again in exploring world cinema, even with the wonders available online. I am of course familiar with the great films made by Spanish ex-patriot Luis Buñuel during his time in Mexico from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. The Exterminating Angel is the closest I can think of to Buñuel having made a genre film, but I’m not really sure it can be classified as a horror film. I might take a gander at it in this space down the road, anyhow, but for now, let’s look, as we would pretty much have to in regards to North American horror films, at the middle range of overall cinematic quality.

And there it is that we find a number of quite good Mexican horror films in the early 1960s, on a level with anything being done in the genre by Hollywood filmmakers such as Roger Corman or William Castle, if not, in some cases, better. (Notice how nimbly I wriggled out of including Psycho in that category? Hitchcock was a director on a par with Buñuel, and like the Spaniard, not really a horror director, per se, no matter how he might have dabbled in its pleasures.)

I will speak in future of Messers Corman and Castle. For now, let’s speak of la Llorona.

The Weeping Woman, in English. An old Mexican folktale about an abandoned mother who avenges the betrayal of her unfaithful husband/lover by murdering their children. She regrets her act when denied entry into Heaven, and is fated to roam the Earth in search of her dead children. Since they are beyond her reach, she seeks to replace them with the children of other mothers, with dire results all around. It’s one of those cautionary tales meant to keep the younguns of Mesoamerica in line. I have no data as to how well it works. What I do have is some Mexican-made films I want to have us all take a look at.

I’m not in this instance concerned with the numerous recent North American and Mesoamerican cinematic examinations, of varying quality, of the ancient legend. And by recent, I should point out that I mean anything since about 1980. When you get to my age, that’s when the cut-off date between old and new falls. Hell, I’m so old, cougars are barely legal.

Can I get a rimshot? No? Oh, well. Never mind.

I want to examine in this space three of the earliest films that were constructed around this legend – 1933’s La Llorona, 1960’s La Llorona, and 1963’s The Curse of the Crying Woman. There is one from 1947 I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of yet, La Herencia de la Llorona, but I hope to correct that oversight in the very near future. I expect I’ll address that one in a coda to a future column if you would all be so kind as to be patient with an auld phart.

The first la Llorona film, indeed the first Mexican horror film, was directed by Ramón Peón, one of roughly seventy films he made over a long career. La Llorona is not a bad film, but production-wise, about on a par with one of the better Hollywood Poverty Row studio films of its period. Some of this impression could be a simple lack of a good, restored copy, given that I’ve only been able to find a rather fuzzy presentation on YouTube, along with poorly synced subtitles to match. Maybe. The running time, like many of the la Llorona films of all periods, is taken up with an extensive flashback of the original legend as it unfolded in the late 16th Century. There is a second flashback to an even earlier, similar legend, that of la Malinche. She was the Aztec translator for and lover of Hernando Cortez, who also responded to being treated shabbily by killing the children she had borne the Conquistador almost a century before la Llorona began to weep. I’m not sure that segment adds to the overall quality of the film, but it does have some interest as a historical artifact. None of the other pictures I looked at for this column featured that older tale.

I think I might have just noticed a few eyes glaze over there a moment ago when I mentioned Poverty Row. My wife has been complaining for forty years now that I tend to throw out terms without always explaining them. I promise I will take a long, loving, terrified look at the old Hollywood studio system in the not-too-distant future, including what that phrase meant in the history of our genre. For now, you only need to know that Poverty Row was the collective noun for small, cheaply run and often fly-by-night independent studios mostly clustered along Gower Street in Hollywood that produced, at best, grade B movies. Westerns, serials, gangster pictures, and low-grade but often quite enjoyable horror pictures poured out of these movie mills, some shot in a matter of days on budgets that wouldn’t pay for a good used car today.

Moving on. That first La Llorona film has placed around the two flashbacks a contemporary story involving descendants of the original family, and the peril to the newest member, Juanito, on his fourth birthday. According to a legend related by the mother’s father, every first-born child in that line of descent disappeared on their fourth birthday, carried away by la Llorona. A mysterious, cloaked and masked figure lurks around the set, peering through secret panels and other such conventions of the Old Dark House sub-genre. It has comic relief, red herrings and all the trappings of better, and worse films. The climax reveals – Spoiler alert! – that it has been a trusted servant that has been possessed by the evil spirit of la Llorona. It had been she who was behind the several thwarted attempts to make away with the little boy.

As I stated above, not bad. Competently acted and directed, with a brisk but not rushed pace, it’s an enjoyable film of its period, with all the technical limitations inherent to that era. I just wish I could have found better subtitles, as my Spanish is not much better than at a ‘decipher-the-menu’ level. I suspect if I had been able to, I’d rate this one at C+. As it is, it’s a solid C.

The identically named version from 1960 is, structurally, very similar to the first film, but technically on a much higher level. I could easily see this coming from a North American studio of the caliber of Columbia or a second-tier Universal unit in that same time period. In fact, it reminds me, stylistically and technically, of one of the better William Castle vehicles, without the distracting gimmicks. A solid, well-made film, very enjoyable. I liked that the identity of la Llorona is made clear during her repeated attempts to do away with the child in this version. The build up of suspense for every attempt is handled with stylistic flair and subtle, gradual make-up effects at least as good as a contemporary Hollywood picture of its kind and time. B+

That leaves us with what is perhaps the most problematic of the films under consideration, The Curse of the Crying Woman, AKA La Maldición de la Llorona. Problematic in that it doesn’t exactly fit thematically with the others, being closer in tone and storyline to one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Still, it’s quite an attractively mounted film, albeit in black-&-white rather than the color productions Corman was making by 1963. Otherwise, the influence is obvious. Its historical setting, in this case, the mid-to-late 19th Century, the mise en scene, the acting, are all seemingly in keeping with the style Corman had established north of the Rio Grande. And yet, its departures from the basic legend make it hard to judge as a la Llorona film. 

Oh, boy, I did it again, didn’t I? Mise en scene is, simply put, everything in a film or play that isn’t acting or dialogue. Costumes, set design, props, lighting, music, etc. Clear as mud? Moving on.

This time out, the spirit of la Llorona is lurking around an ancient house, waiting to displace the soul of her nearest available female descendant. At the exact moment of her twenty-fifth birthday, the latest in the line is fated to pull a spear out of what looks like a Medieval torture device known as a Catherine Wheel upon which the decayed corpse of the original la Llorona has been pinned since she was executed for her crimes. That will free the spirit of la Llorona to possess the young woman so she can carry on her demonic career. The somewhat convenient escape of the insane former owner of the crumbling house, up until the climax locked away in the bell tower, scotches the evil plans by strangling the villainous aunt so that the heroine can escape with her less-than-hypercompetent husband. 

Good, solid filmmaking of its kind and era. I rate it a B. 

I hope the populace doesn’t object to my comparing these efforts of the Mexican studios to the contemporary output of Hollywood. I’m making the perhaps unwarranted assumption that the majority of the folks likely to read this are more familiar with North American horror films, and that that familiarity might provide some context for fitting these three pictures into the overall history of the genre. If I’m incorrect, feel free to let me have it with both barrels in your comments. I’m a tough old codger. I can take it.

Until next time, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Chilling Chat with Best in Blood Winner Selah Janel

Selah Janel was blessed with a giant imagination, even if it made her gullible enough to wonder if fairies lurked in the woods and vampires waited in abandoned barns outside of town as a child. As an adult, she writes in various genres, including horror and dark fantasy. Her work has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, e-books, and a short story collection. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her faeries to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Selah! Thank you for joining me today!

SJ: Thanks so much for having me again!

NTK: How did it feel to be named 2020’s Best in Blood winner?

SJ: I’d say pretty shocked is a good description for it! I was not expecting it at all!

NTK: You are very deserving! Tell us a little about “Wallpaper” your winning story.

SJ: I had originally written it as a flash story for another project, but it started going over word count, so I just kept it saved in my files for a while. It’s a pretty simple concept story of a woman at a crossroads in her own life stumbling into a haunted hotel and dealing with some particularly strange interior design. (Laughs.) Something is in the wallpaper, so it’s a short that focuses on that discovery and spirals from there.

NTK: What projects have you been working on since last we chatted?

SJ: Well, 2020 has obviously changed a lot of things and I was already doing a lot of changing and dealing with some things last year, as well, so the writing has been forced to slow down a bit. I’m starting to come back to it here and there, which is awesome and necessary. I’ve been typing a lot from my notebooks to edit, going through old files, submitting, etc. This summer I started helping the crew at Legendary Tales Magazine as a slush reader, and that really brought about a new perspective on what editors look for and how things work on that end. I’ve been going through a lot of my old shorts from anthologies and other places and hope to be putting some of those out on kindle soon as individual titles, too. There’s a lot of trial and error, and I’m rebuilding a bit and working on a few original manuscripts and ideas.

NTK: Legendary Tales Magazine is lucky to have you! You’re very involved in acting and costuming. Have these experiences inspired any of your stories?

SJ: Oh definitely, in a lot of ways. In general, I think my years of acting classes in college taught me how to approach characters a little differently, to use techniques like sense memory while writing to get more into their heads or into certain moments. And improv classes have been great for latching onto unintended plot development and rolling with it. Costume work has made me detail obsessed so a lot of my stories, especially my longer work, have several layers or little hidden details or researched bits. I live for stuff like that. I usually overthink clothing details and try to make them matter, as well. In terms of content-wise, yes and no. I think I avoided some of that trying to put distance there for a while, but enough time has passed that I’m ready to incorporate it more. There’s an old vampire story I did for the anthology The Big Bad, the title of the story is “Real Wild Childe,” and there’s a seamstress character in it who ties a lot of the plot together. Her specific backstory isn’t mine, but her frustrations at trying to get ahead and have her work be appreciated, the long hours it takes to do something well, and the sheer amount of scars from seam rippers and rotary blades and needles is pretty much from my life. I’ve set a story behind the scenes of a haunted attraction and that was a lot of fun to do—with all my life stories in that and the amusement park world, I’m pretty much looking for excuses to use those settings at this point. An old, out of print novel I’m working on re-editing dealt with a midwest small town guy becoming a rockstar and a cursed pair of shoes, so a lot of that book was looking at aspects of the entertainment lifestyle and the work involved, as well as a lot of costume detail there. I tend to not like description for description’s sake—I want to know what a character is wearing has a reason or fits the world or whatever. And I think with acting, it’s kind of the same skills involved that you’d take into scene work—only now I’m playing all the characters and responsible for all the emotional moments landing true, if that makes sense.

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NTK: Where can our readers find you in the future?

SJ: I’ve had to take a break from media while dealing with life and putting my health back together a bit, but I’m starting to get back to it again! People can look for me at my website and I’m on Twitter and on Facebook. I’m on Instagram, but haven’t had a chance to really play there and start posting yet. My historical horror/kinda vampire story Mooner is on Amazon.
I’m really hoping to have two shorts up soon. These were either done under another name or showed up in other places, but I’m still working on edits and tweaking some things. Hopefully soon for those, though!

NTK: Sounds wonderful! I’m sure the readers look forward to it. Thank you for chatting with me today, Selah. It’s always a pleasure, and congratulations on winning Best in Blood!

SJ: I always love talking to you and the rest of the Horror Addicts! Thanks so much!

I’m still shocked and touched!

Latinx Month: Representation in the Dark

 

by E.M. Markoff

The importance of racial and cultural representation in mainstream media is much discussed these days, as any number of essays, YouTube videos, and social media controversies would show. One thing that I have not often seen discussed, however, is the importance of representation in less mainstream places — in counterculture, in surreal media, in the dark.

Hollywood, unsurprisingly, does not have a great reputation for diverse, accurate representation. As a Mexican-American growing up in deep south Texas, I got used to seeing people like me represented in mainstream media as “the help,” the “comedic sidekick,” the “homewrecker,” the “Latin lover,” or the “narco.” Fortunately, I was able to see myself represented in Mexican media channels, which offered more than the tropes and stereotypes common in Hollywood. Of course, this is not to say that there haven’t been great Mexican and Mexican-American actors in Hollywood that I admired growing up: Anthony Quinn, Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, Ricardo Montalbán, Cantinflas, and Katy Jurado, to name a few. Even still, in Anthony Quinn’s case, it would have been great to see him play the title role of Emiliano Zapata—an important Mexican revolutionary—in 1952’s Viva Zapata! instead of Marlon Brando.

That type of miscasting is slowly changing thanks to the efforts of BIPOC artists and activists, who have been fighting for decades to make their voices heard. Not that Mexican media doesn’t have its own issues: Colorism and racism against the native indigenous peoples of Mexico are very present, both in media portrayals and in reality. That’s what being colonized does; it tears your identity apart and leaves wounds that only temporarily scab over. 

But as blessed as I was to have access to Mexican media and music, very little of it spoke to me on a personal or spiritual level. Without realizing it, a part of me longed to see myself represented in the things I loved, and I love Horror. 

I love the surreal. 

I love the dark. 

I don’t remember when I first saw David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, but I remember the feeling of hot tears burning my eyes and the llanto, the cry welling in my chest at Rebekah Del Rio’s performance in the Club Silencio scene. Through the character of Rita—played by Mexican-American actress Laura Herring—that moment became personal to me. It allowed me to see myself represented in a film that encapsulated what my heart had always longed to see—a Mexican-American actress in a starring role that was not a stereotype, cast in a surreal film by a director that I admire. Rebekah Del Rio’s powerful performance was the icing on the cake: She was not there as a token element, she was there to further the story by bringing emotion, and damn did she bring it. When Rita cried, I cried. Seeing yourself represented in what you love holds power. 

On the music front, I love industrial and aggrotech, a genre that tends to be very white and European. Or so I thought until I picked up Hocico’s 2004 album Wrack and Ruin. Hocico is an aggrotech/dark-electro Mexican duo hailing from Mexico City. Formed in 1993 by lead singer Erk Aicrag (Erik Garcia) and Racso Agroyam (Oscar Mayorga), they fused the dark, harsh sounds of industrial—along with its rejection of the mainstream—with the danceable beats of electronic to create a sound and an aesthetic that was uniquely their own. Their music videos and live performances often showcase elements (from mariachi to Dia de los Muertos, to Danza Azteca) that are part of their culture—my culture. 

Here was a band that was part of the music scene I loved, yet still were unapologetically Mexican. They had succeeded by being themselves. They showed me that you can be part of a counterculture and still be proud and loud of your culture and who you are. It meant so much to me because I don’t care much for the music some might say I’m “supposed” to be listening to (the exception being música ranchera, which I LOVE!), and sometimes I’ve even been shamed or made to feel guilty for not being “Mexican enough.” 

Back in 2011, I had the privilege of being able to see Hocico perform live in Germany and even had an opportunity to chat with them. Those two Mexican bastards (as they call themselves) are one of my biggest inspirations, and their generosity will always have a special place in my heart; it can be very isolating not seeing yourself reflected in what you love. Being able to see them on a huge stage, in a foreign land, surrounded by foreigners singing along in broken Spanish will always be a powerful moment for me. 

So yeah, I really believe it does make a difference in a person’s life to see themselves reflected in what they love. It’s part of why I’ve made a conscious effort to subtly incorporate elements of Mexican culture into my own writing. Representation is important, but it can’t be limited to the mainstream, because the mainstream doesn’t speak to everyone. We also need representation in the dark. 

About the Author:

Latinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Works include The Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and Leaving the #9.” Under her imprint Tomes & Coffee Press, she published Tales for the Camp Fire, a charity anthology to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.

Connect with her @tomesandcoffee on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Visit her at www.ellderet.com or sign up for her Newsletter of the Cursed.

You can find her books in print and ebook on Amazon.

Latinx Month: “Leaving the #9” by E.M. Markoff

Tomes & Coffee Press Presents: “Leaving the #9” by E.M. Markoff

A bewitching tale of life and death, of dreams and nightmares, of the real and surreal. Mexican folklore meets The Twilight Zone in this short ghost story.

Adelia is confronted with strange happenings that threaten to pull her into a dark labyrinth.

Spoiler free interview by L.S. Johnson:

Tell us a little about your story, “Leaving the #9.”

 The story follows Adelia, a working class cook who has worked long and hard for a better life and is finally able to take that next step. With her are her brother, Miguel, and a client turned best friend turned “the grandma I never had.” Her sense of reality is shaken when strange occurrences begin to disrupt her attempts to achieve her dream. The setting was inspired by the ongoing gentrification and displacement of the Mission, San Francisco’s historically Latinx neighborhood. A reader described it as “[a] wonderful ghost story with some excellent unexpected tidbits.”

Your story includes both Spanish and Nahuatl words. For readers unfamiliar with the latter, can you tell us more about Nahuatl, and why you wove it into your story?

I am fluent in Spanish since my mom never learned English, but I only recently began learning Nahuatl. Nahuatl is one of the many native languages of Mexico, and is still spoken today by 1.5 million people. I wove it into the narrative because I wanted to see all aspects of my culture represented in the story. All my works are like this, including the books in my main dark fantasy series, though the references there are not as overt.

Buy the ebook of “Leaving the #9” on Amazon


About the Author

Latinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her love of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist and spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. Her works include The Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and “Leaving the #9.” She published the charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire under her imprint, Tomes & Coffee Press, to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.

Check out author readings, blogs, and other events at www.ellderet.com

Stay connected on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter@tomesandcoffee

Sign up for her newsletter: www.ellderet.com/newsletter

Book Review: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

Darkest Hours is a collection of horror short stories by Mike Thorn.

Content Warnings: gore

Darkest Hours presents a combination of realistic and supernatural stories, running the absolute gamut of subjects. The variety in stories is astounding. Thorn succeeds with visceral, gory body horror as well as psychological tension and cerebral, philosophical horror. He addresses traditional tropes and creates entirely new nightmares for his readers.

Darkest Hours gets off to a stomach-churning start with “Hair”. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it through the rest of the book if it was going to all be like that. Fortunately for me, the following stories didn’t go after my gag reflex in such a way. “Long Man” and “Economy These Days” were stand-out performers in an already excellent line-up. “Long Man” took a traditional childhood fear and made it the sort of nightmare that sticks with you. “Economy These Days” was a unique and brutal look at modern struggles.

There is an academic leaning in some of the stories—one that can, at times, be a little patronizing. But Thorn writes the characters well, clearly drawing on personal experiences in university and graduate life. No matter what, Thorn keeps all of his stories short and tight, starting right in the action and leaving just enough room to build to the climax. His endings are superb, clinching the story at just the right moment.

Darkest Hours is a wonderful introduction to Mike Thorn as a writer. He’s created a wonderful collection of riveting stories. If you like small bites of horror, please pick Darkest Hours up.

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

 

Historian of Horror : Here Be Monsters!

Here Be Monsters by Mark Orr

So, read the edges of maps in the Age of Discovery, that period when Europeans wandered around the planet, snatching up lands and property and natural resources from indigenous peoples, to designate those areas into which they had not yet ventured. They feared what was there, but coveted the treasures they suspected would be found in those unexplored and unexploited regions. That’s where the monsters were, they thought, never realizing that they themselves were the monsters. 

Isn’t that how it goes? The peril in staring so long into the abyss, according to Nietzsche, is that the abyss stares back into us. We become what we fear if we’re not careful. Alas, we are not very often a careful species. As Pogo Possum pointed out in the 1950s, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

And so, off the edge of the map, we sail, in search of treasures. And, in the case of the horror genre, monsters. For what would horror be without monsters?

The easy answer is, it would be suspense. There’s nothing wrong with suspense, as a genre. In many of its respects, it is very much like horror. It relies on many of the same tropes and tricks as horror. It’s just not what we’re are gathered here together to talk about. And, therefore, we must needs talk about monsters.

We love them, we hate them. We fear them, we pity them. We jump when they suddenly appear, we weep when they fall off of the Empire State Building. They are the primary and most reliable delivery system for le frisson, that delicious shiver we’re all looking for in our horror diet. That transient, delightful, cathartic physical sensation we feel when fangs pierce flesh when the mask is ripped away from the Phantom’s hideous face when clawed fingers emerge from the darkened room on the other side of the slowly opening door. The goosebumps, the dilation of the pupils, the quickening of the breath as we eagerly and, let’s admit it, sadistically anticipate the gruesome demise of some unfortunate nonentity.

Who’s the monster now?

More importantly, what is a monster?

The word comes from the Latin monstrum, from an earlier word that meant a warning or omen, often of evil events raining down upon humanity from the gods themselves. As applied to the manifestations of those warnings, it refers to beings that are disfigured or distorted in body or mind, the unnatural and the supernatural, those that are both outsized and outside the norm in other ways. In other words, those that we readily identify in our own culture as monsters. 

Fritz Leiber, Jr. is more renowned for his fantasy than for his horror, having coined the term ‘sword and sorcery’ in 1961 and being arguably its most adept practitioner over the bulk of his nearly sixty-year career, but he wrote quite a few tales of terror and one major novel in the genre, Conjure Wife. He also won five Hugo Awards for science-fiction, but that’s even more neither here nor there than the fantasy. It’s horror we’re after! And I do plan to cover the estimable Mr. Leiber and his novel in more detail later, so don’t worry that you’ve inadvertently skipped a page or something, or that I’ve gotten you turned around or otherwise lost in the narrative. All shall be revealed at a later date.

Anyhow, in 1974, DAW Books published The Book of Fritz Leiber, for which he wrote a short essay entitled, “Monsters and Monster-Lovers”. Over the course of thirteen pages – and how fitting is that? – Leiber explicated his understanding of what a monster is, whence comes our fascination with them, and how does one go about most effectively creating them and using them to summon that frisson I mentioned earlier. Along the way, he lists some of his favorites, all of whom I intend to expound upon in future entries herein. Lovecraftian menaces from the outer darknesses, creatures of folklore and science fiction, giant apes and shapeshifters and even poor old Richard III, all will have their say in this space. Feeling that shiver of anticipation yet?

No? Then let me introduce you to legendary anthologist Peter Haining, who included in his 1988 collection, Movie Monsters: Great Horror Film Stories, a prologue by the late great Ray Bradbury. In “Inviting Frankenstein into the Parlour”,  Bradbury covered much of the same ground Leiber had fourteen years earlier, with some additions. Including Vertigo, of all things. He made a fairly good case for a third Hitchcock horror film, along with Psycho and The Birds. I expect I’ll take a look at that one of these days, as well. It’s too soon to mark your calendars, but don’t be surprised when it pops up.

Haining himself deserves a lengthy entry or two, along with other great gatherers of literary horrors like Richard Dalby, Donald A. Wollheim, August Derleth, Marvin Kaye, Christine Bernard, Dennis Wheatley, Gerald Page, Herbert Van Thal, and Charles Birkin. That and more will be forthcoming in times to come, along with so much more. But for now, the central question remains:

Why monsters? What is it about the disfigured, the deformed, the gigantic and the unnatural that draws us into their world, time and again? Is it some deep-seated need to exorcise our fears, or tap into the collective unconscious, or connect with the like-minded, or some other intense but subcutaneous psychological need? 

Or is it simply that monsters are fun?

Yeah. I think that’s it. Don’t you?

I came along at the tail-end of that first generation to be inundated by the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s when Universal and other studios realized they had a gold mine and dumped their catalogs onto local television stations all over the United States. I was too young to stay up late on weekend nights to watch Shock Theater or whatever it was called in Nashville, but there were frequent appearance by Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and their myriad fellow denizens of the night on our local stations during the hours when I was awake. I, like a few million other boomer kids, scheduled my playtime around movie presentations like the Big Show, which came on right after Dark Shadows and had at least one classic horror film a week. Or I’d crawl out of bed at five o’clock on a Saturday morning to catch Son of Frankenstein or The Mummy’s Curse on Night Owl Theater, before settling in with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a morning filled with cartoons. The Universal horror films were rarely much more than an hour in length, so once commercials were spliced in, they fit very nicely into the ninety-minute slot allotted to them. I’ve always suspected that was why it was that horror movies were so widely distributed on television, and thus one of the first entire classes of films largely preserved for future generations. Thank the Elder Gods for ninety-minute time slots.

Kids today are accustomed to massive promotional campaigns for pretty much anything that shows up on TV or in the movies, but that was a fairly new phenomenon in the early 1960s. There had been such campaigns in the 1950s for TV cowboys and such, but they were very specific. Hopalong Cassidy was the first, and Davy Crockett the most extensive, but those were before my time. My earliest memories of advertising premiums were the action figures from the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, that several of my fellow second-graders had, or the lunch-boxes decorated with pictures of popular TV and movie characters. Those, and all the monster stuff. And what monster stuff we had! 

My parents frequently shopped at the old Sears store on Lafayette Street in Nashville. That building is now the Union Rescue Mission, but when I was a kid, when you came in through the garden department, you emerged into a magical world. Toys as far as you could see, and to your right a display of Matchbox Cars, back when they were actually packaged in matchbox-sized cardboard containers. Hence the name. Just beyond those was the real treasure trove, a long wall filled with plastic models, including the Aurora Monster kits. Frankenstein. The Mummy. Godzilla. Dracula’s Dragster. The Bride of Frankenstein. I built them all, at one time or another. There were monster wallets, too. I had one with the Phantom of the Opera on one side and the Wolf Man on the other. Didn’t have any money to put in it, though. My allowance was fifty cents a week, which barely covered a few comic books and some baseball cards and the occasional paperback or Whitman hardback or Big Little Book. But I had the wallet! And I had a Thingmaker, with metal molds you filled up with Plastigoop and baked in the little oven until Creepy Crawlers emerged that you could throw at your little sister and freak her out.

Best of all, when you could find one, were the issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Articles on all the old horror films, and news of upcoming ones, with lots of pictures and groan-inducing puns. The thirty-five-cent cover price took up most of my allowance, cutting into my comic book collecting, but it was worth it to read Forrest J. Ackerman’s deathless prose about Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre and peruse the ads in the back for Don Post monster masks and 8mm films of old horror movies and real-life venus flytraps and record albums of scary stories and all the other goodies for sale to those whose allowance was more generous than mine.

All of which I intend to examine in some detail in installments yet to come, along with all the other spooky goodies I’ve read and seen and heard and otherwise accumulated in the decades since then. Hang around and travel down my memory lane with me into dark corners of horror you might not have ever suspected existed, and meet some monsters you might not have encountered yet. 

It should be fun. Because, yeah, monsters are fun.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs October

Ro’s Recs October

Hey HorrorAddicts! I hope you all are staying safe and insane—I mean healthy—during these peculiar times, and I hope, like me, you are taking advantage of all the PHENOMENAL horror offerings this season! MAN! What a great time to be a horror fan! 

One of the best films I’ve watched recently is the Shudder film The Mortuary Collection, directed by Ryan Spindell and starring Clancy Brown. A nod to anthology films like Creepshow and Tales of the Crypt, The Mortuary Collection is at turns ominous, creepy, campy, and MAN does it ROCK! I found myself digging the music so much I whipped out the old iPhone and used Shazam! to try to find out who was responsible for these groovy tunes. Much to my chagrin, the tunes were nowhere to be found.

But thanks to my pal Google, I did a little more digging and I discovered the culprits: The Mondo Boys. This duo has been making music together since they were fifteen and are not only quite adept at creating hauntingly beautiful scores, but at writing “lyric-and-vocal” pieces as well.

For this film, they had the challenge of creating an Elfman-esque/Potter-ish score as well as tunes to go with different eras portrayed in the film. You had a Frat-boy-gone-bad tune in “Little Lover,” a funky throwback in “Suicide,” and the 60s reminiscent back-and-forth in “Find Me In The Fall” that suck you into the theme of that section of the film as though you’d switched on a radio station made of the exact ingredients necessary to evoke the desired emotion. You know it’s the perfect soundtrack when you’re pulling up iTunes or Spotify to download the songs. Ahem…Mondo Boys, if you’re reading, will you get right on that? In the meantime, you can stream the songs on their website.

So, the next time you’re watching a film and think “huh, I wonder who wrote that song? It’s perfect for this scene,” you just might discover that The Mondo Boys are responsible. You can find their website at https://www.mondoboys.com and I encourage you to check out their other projects. The Mortuary Collection is a great film. Check it out and I guarantee you that you’ll be smiling so wide your face will ache by the time it’s through!

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

Kbatz Kraft: Pot O’ Bones Tower

When one spots a bag of loose Halloween skeleton bones at Goodwill for $5, one snatches it before anyone else! Like an archaeologist on a discovery, opening the bag revealed large femurs, skulls, spines, and bony hands perfect for a towering Pot O’ Bones!

These odd, incomplete skeletons, however, were two different colors, and a brown paint dry brushed gave the bones a cohesive color before a second coat of a yellow and brown muddy added to the dug up and weathered theme. An unused skull meant to go with the collapsed Shakespeare Cardboard Tombstone and a pair of skeleton arm tongs from the dollar store were also doctored with aging paint and tossed into the collection. Initially, a found terracotta pot served as the tower base, but it was too big, requiring more backyard stones to secure the inner cardboard tower roll re-purposed from an upholstery fabric sale. The hole in the bottom of the pot meant a stabilizing stake could run through the pole, but since this isn’t weather proof anyway, the stake and the increasingly heavy terracotta were swapped for a smaller rusted metal pot.

With the stand fixed, the bones were strategically set using semi-adjustable hot glue rather than a mega strong adhesive that doesn’t allow maneuvering. Once the large femurs were in place, the cardboard base was painted brown just in case any gaps showed. More leaves, sticks, or stones as fillers between the angular bones were an option, but two bags of dollar store moss completed the decrepit look. Although one could paint the post and even moss the entire tower before adding the bones, that also creates unnecessary work in spots that might not show. This assembly could be done quickly in a day, but I did the bones and moss in stages and made adjustments. Like a Christmas tree, I keep seeing gaps were there should be less moss or another bone and wasn’t quite pleased. Fortunately, the discarded bottom halves from my 3D Skeleton Frames project provided more bones.

Obviously, long term outdoor use requires different materials, but with on hand paint supplies, found materials, $5 for the bones and $2 for the moss, this was much cheaper than the luxury skull towers online. Bags of bones themselves run between $15 and $30! This same model can be applied to family friendly leaves and pumpkins or more birds and bats morose, and a Pot O’ Bones Tower is perfect for a foyer statement, autumn porch, or cemetery sentry.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Spider Ball Topiaries

DIY Flower Pens

Re-Purposed Black Topiaries

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology – Last Week

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

 

Authors of SLAY – John Linwood Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John-the-Balladeer

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

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

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

Wellman, ‘Vandy Vandy’, (1953)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘She’ turned out to be Mamma Lucy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Paul Oliver, Conversation with the Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conjuration

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

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

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

Modern Culture, volume 13, 1901

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

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

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

But it’s always interesting, anyway.

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


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

Slay: In Egypt’s Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist

In Egypt’s Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist

When I saw the submission call for SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire edited by Nicole Smith, my thoughts went instantly to Egypt! Since my teens, I’ve been a fan of Ancient Egypt. I’m sure I was initially attracted to the pyramids, glyphs, art, and desert locale—but later, the longevity of the Egyptian culture was inspiring as well. Myths and legends which last across thousands of years must speak to something at the core of our humanity.

So when writing about vampires, who can live millennia, what better place to set a story than Ancient Egypt? Thus, In Egypt’s Shadows was born.

Of course I wanted my vampire to be handsome, strong, and desirable, but vampirism is often too romanticized. When you think of the bonuses of living forever, you tend to forget the negative. You’ll see your friends and family die. You’ll have to keep moving and changing identities to prevent discovery. Unless you’re in love with another vampire, you’ll endure countless heartbreaks.

The countless heartbreaks part of vampirism also inspired me to write ‘In Egypt’s Shadows.’ I thought, “What if your true love is human, she refuses to change, and you just can’t forget her?” Now, that’s a story I wanted to tell.

My protagonist, Akhon longs for Kebi, his former human life’s love interest. He watches her, dreams of her, and imagines her children could be his. His vampire maker, Nawa, discovers him spying on Kebi again and again. Finally, Nawa convinces him he must leave and begin a new life farther up the Nile. Akhon only agrees with her terms, if she’ll send him a message when Kebi is near death so he can return to Giza.

Lest the reader forget exactly who and what Akhon is, I included him spotting, killing, and feeding on a meal. When done, he coldly disposes of the bloodless body while honoring a crocodile-headed deity:

“Here’s a gift for you, sons and daughters of Sobek,” he said. Whistling softly, he slipped the corpse into the lapping water. Akhon didn’t move as the crocodiles approached, studied him with their yellow eyes, then ripped the unlucky traveler’s carcass into bite-sized chunks and swallowed him.

Quiet as a tomb, Akhon stood on the banks of the Nile, admiring the crocodiles’ efficiency. He smiled as within a few minutes, the children of Sobek finished their meal and there was nothing left on the surface of the water at Akhon’s feet but moonlight.”

The mention of Sobek and his sacred creatures was a way of including Ancient Egyptian culture. I tried to include other small details as well, while not overwhelming the story with too much historical information. But I sure did have fun reading the research material—almost all of which is not in the story!

If you want to discover how Akhon resolves his dilemma, and if he is finally able to be with his true love, Kebi, you can check out In Egypt’s Shadows in the SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire anthology. The collection is filled with wonderfully horrific stories of vampires from the African diaspora.

Vonnie Winslow Crist, HWA, SFWA, is author of The Enchanted Dagger, Owl Light, The Greener Forest, Murder on Marawa Prime, and other award-winning books. Her stories appear in Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Cast of Wonders, Amazing Stories, Killing It Softly 2, Blood & Beetles, Horror for Hire: First Shift, Creep, Mother Ghost’s Grimm 1 & 2, Devolution Z, Monsters, Scary Snippets: Halloween, Re-Terrify, Samhain Secrets, Forest of Fear, Re-Haunt, Coffins & Dragons, and elsewhere. Still believing the world is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic, Vonnie strives to celebrate the power of myth in her writing. For more information: www.vonniewinslowcrist.com

Buy link for SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire: https://www.amazon.com/SLAY-Stories-Nicole-Givens-Kurtz-ebook/dp/B08FM3MC3L/ 

Slay : Inspiration for The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

Inspiration for ‘The Retiree’, a short story by Steven Van Patten to be featured in Slay: Tales of the Vampire Noir.

Most of my short horror stories start with an idea—sometimes inspired, other times flat out ridiculous– that refuses to stay contained. And if you have a parent who refuses to give up their right to share an opinion whether you asked for it or not, or if you are the child of such a person, this is one for you.

The trick is that while the story’s hero is grumpy and probably a little too honest for his own good, he’s also a hero in a few ways that his daughter and the rest of their family never expect. He’s a curmudgeon to the core, right out of an episode of Sanford & Son and yet he’s also self-sacrificing and probably the smartest guy in the room he walks into. That’s old Gideon Hastings for you, a man’s man, facing his end with the same grizzled defiance that he stared down a treacherous life.

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

 

HorrorAddicts.net 190, 3 hr Halloween Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 190
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
with guests Star, Mercy Hollow, and R.L. Merrill
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


3 hr Halloween Special!

nicole givens kurtz | jack mangan | frank h. woodward | selah janel | shadow fashion | frankenstein chronicles |

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net
14 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!
terror trax: shadow fashion, children of the night
catchup: welcome, intro to in-studio guests: star, classic literature, r.l. merrill, musical musings maven, mercy hollow, return victim, drinking word: horror
merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, mechants by isolation
craft: halloween wall-hanging
supplies:
*3 (or more) wooden halloween cutout ornaments
*thin string or embroidery thread
*at least 2 markers of your favorite colors that compliment each other
*a sparkly glitter pen
*various halloween charms and beads that match your colors.

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how not to be cursed: know when to quit, jeanne rodgers the “most cursed”, bat, boat mishaps, etc…mercy cursed? star favorite costumes, lucy, sonny bono, mad hatter, boy George

14:00 Interview Selah Janel
costuming, acting, gizmo, gremlins, king’s island, friday the 13th, punked fairytales, lost boys, dress made of synthetic skin, demon attack, swedish chef outfit, batgirl, fairy, wings

ro costume misshaps, cyndi lauper, how to use/start your glitter pen
daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert small town horror, hold the dark, the crazies, the fog, 30 days of night, and the town that dreaded sundown. emz, storm of the century, mercy, alfred hitchcock, the birds
frightening flix: kbatz, frankenstein chronicles S2

42:13 Interview with Frank H. Woodward

men in suits, frank was on #97, s8, lovecraft fear of the unknown, wrong turn 6, 30 years of working in movies, movie biz, marketing, covid, closure of sets, postponing releases, netflix buying theaters, disney, amc, microbudgets, short film, clean, drivein festival, lovecraft country, h.p. lovecraft, racisim, harry potter, j k rowling, bad mouthing trans people, doesn’t belong to her anymore, movies, etc are the fans, neil gaiman, new rules about set procedures, tyler perry, pods in filming, batman, robert pattinson, quarantine pay, sick pay, celebrate, film fest, zombie escape room in your home
Film Sense Podcast
https://directory.libsyn.com/shows/view/id/filmsense

crafting check-in, juiced glitter pen, color the wooden pieces and use glitter pen on top of colors
live action reviews: crystal connor, alone magnolia pictures
movies coming up: Don’t Look Back (2020), The Empty Man (2020), Synchronic (2019), Come Play (2020), Dune (2020), Antlers (2021), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), Morbius (2021), A Quiet Place Part II (2020), Last Night in Soho (2021), Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Spiral (2021), CANDYMAN Expected 2021, The Forever Purge (2021), The Batman (2021), Halloween Kills (2021)
halloween movie watchlist game: evil dead 2, rocky horror, frankenstein, nightmare before christmas, the great pumpkin, hocus pocus, beetlejuice, ghost ship, little shop of horrors
craft check-in, tie them together

1:37:10 Interview with Nicole Givens Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press / SLAY
The book SLAY, non POC writer mistakes, women write horror, only white men can write horror?
Writing the Other: https://writingtheother.com
Mocha Memoirs Press: https://mochamemoirspress.com
halloween suggestions: bram stoker’s dracula, sleepy hollow, the crow, the haunting of hill house, pet semetery
Nicole’s work: https://nicolegivenskurtz.net
chilling chat: naching t. kassa, nicole kurtz

2:05:01 best band award announced and message from the winner,
kbatz krafts: halloween haul and how not to make orbs
logbook of terror: russell holbrook, milo’s yard
bigfoot files: lionel green, the search breedlove’s documentary

2:12:03 best in blood, winner is announced and surprised on audio.
glitter attacks, watermelon glitter burst, mercy glitter crime boss, star craft, too much glitter, rassle dazzle ghost
dead mail:
michele: the grey lady, the turnoff the screw, the woman in white, dracula, the portrait of dorian grey, salem witch trials, cotton mather notebooks, the house of seven gables, old time radio, the plague by albert camus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_Mather
(other suggestions: “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers, “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol, “The Signal Man” by Charles Dickens)
jeff: answer for realistic pandemic movies for james, contagion, outbreak, the hot zone, alas babylon, the stand, ghost story special, nancy kilpatrick, mercy favs: 12 monkeys, i am legend, the rain, the handmaids tale, 3%
seth: movie soundtracks for writing, interview with the vampire, dracula musical, 5th element, beetlejuice, accuradio video game soundtracks, classic horror film soundtracks, suspiria, ros: fright night, pet semetery, rocky horror, reanimator, the shining, danny elfman, in the tall grass, midnight special, the twilight zone, wanna see something really scary, creature features, gremlins, the lost boys, g tom mac, episode #136, dan shaurette interviewed him
news: the new craft movie, the craft legacy, blumhouse, jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, mocha memoirs press, SLAY, haunts and hellions, transmundane press, ON TIME, emerian rich, philip steven, dj tryer, valentine wolfe.bandcamp.com
book review: benjamin langley, normal review by stephanie ellis

2:41:50 Interview with Jack Mangan
was on #23, #52, in two of dan’s two audiodramas, am i evil, metallica, diamondhead, brian tatler, sean harris, witch burning, revenge, comic, graphic novel, fan art, rich catino, james f beverage, derek mau, spherical tomi, fiction writing, halloween plans, no more events on halloween, no trick or treating, but fun at the house, candy, harry potter, peanuts, star wars, snakes, slytherin, horror movie recommends: evil dead 2, bruce campbell, evil dead musical, splatter zone, poltergeist
Am I Evil: https://www.amievil-graphicnovel.com
Metal Asylum: http://www.metalasylum.net
Jack Mangan’s site: http://jackmangan.com

last word on crafts, ro: advanced crafting, star: by the book, mercy: flamethrower edition.
Mercy Hollow: https://www.mercyhollow.com
R.L. Merrill: https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com
Star: I can’t wait for The Haunting of Bly Manor!
bloopers


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

p a t r e o n

https://www.patreon.com/horroraddicts

t h e  b e l f r y  a p p

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.wizzard.android.belfry&hl=en_US

s t i t c h e r 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/horroraddictsnet

spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/show/0DtgSwv2Eh6aTepQi7ZWdv

overcast

https://overcast.fm/itunes286123050/horroraddicts-net

podcast republic

https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/286123050

himalaya 

https://www.himalaya.com/en/show/501228

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https://play.google.com/music/m/I5rjr5vrnpltxyr3elfqtzujzay?t=HorrorAddictsnet

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Slay : Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

Inspiration

My inspiration for “Message in a Vessel”, started as soon as I saw the cover for the SLAY anthology. I knew I wanted a story in that book, but I wanted something different than what I usually write, which is paranormal. So, I went for a sci-fi angle under my V.G. Harrison pen name instead. There’s so much mythology out there about vampires, so I wanted my vampires to be a little different, in that if they were going to outlive humans, then they would probably be technological geniuses in the future. But I also had to ask the question of how would vampires survive, if their only nourishment was blood. “Message in a Vessel”, pays homage to the saying of “use what you know” to do what you need to do. That’s exactly what my brilliant, vampire heroine does. 

Excerpt –

Nobody knew how the disease-carrying mosquitoes would affect us. Thirty years later and a food shortage to boot, and we knew we’d pay the price. Authorities harvested those in prisons and on the streets. The ones who wouldn’t be missed. Then they went to anyone older than sixty-five. The younger you were, the more protected you were. If you were like me, who had parents that could teach you a valuable trade, then you survived the Cleansing Era. 

I sat back in my seat and breathed in a deep breath. Even though we healed better and aged slower, stress was still a part of our lives.

“You look like you need a break, Dr. Jakande.” Cora walked in like her tight pencil skirt kept her tights taped together. She kept her head held high while confidence leaked from her pores. She placed a food card on my lab table. “You’ve been neglecting your allotted daily nourishment.” 

“I’m fine.” My growling stomach probably gave me away. 

“This project means nothing, unless you eat.” She placed one of her bright red fingernails on the nourishment card and pushed it to me. 

“I’m a little busy right now. I’ll go in a minute. Just let me finish this.” I turned back to my computer to review the bioinformatic collection program my team had been working on for the last year and a half. 

“I understand the nature of your work, doctor. But protocols are in place. If you don’t eat now, I must report you.”

I hated this woman. Unfortunately, I would also give anything to be off this project permanently, too. A food break wasn’t long enough.  

“Dr. Jakande?” She leaned close. “Please do not force me to get security to escort you.” 

“Son of–” I slammed my hand down on the counter and shoved my chair away from my desk. “Are you going to lick my lips clean while you’re at it?”

She said nothing. She lifted her head higher as though protocols dictated everything right down to her cold-hearted determination to make sure I followed the rules. Every click of her heels on the marbled floors made me want to reach back and break her neck. Security would be down on me so fast and probably stab me with enough silver knives to make sure I could only work from the neck up. This project only needed my brain. 

I flashed my hand across the keypad and pressed the cafeteria icon.  A flashing arrow directed me to my designated elevator. When I entered, I went to the back and waited as more people entered behind me. 

The view from the moon never got old. The Red Giant space shuttle was the tallest spaceship in the solar system and could carry a payload of more than a half million pounds. Because of the engine thrust, it had to launch from the moon and far enough away not to kill anyone. 

Bio

Science fiction has been my love since I was a little kid who purposely tried to stay up at 11 PM to watch Star Trek. I’ve been writing for a few years now and even though I watch a lot of sci-fi, I don’t read it nearly as much of it as I do paranormal. It made sense to combine the two and come up with my Project Solstice series. From there, it’s been pure science fiction all the way. 

I like to write sci-fi that has some basis in reality. So, whenever I introduce something like the Fine Structure Constant or quantum entanglement, I do as much research as possible to make the story plausible. I don’t like to rehash something that made you fall asleep in physics class, but rather, insert just enough to stir your imagination in the right direction. I guess my overly-priced engineering degree paid off. 

Between the day job, family, and enjoying life as a North Carolinian implant, I’m either hiking, binge watching TV, or trying to connect with my daughter, Jayden, on a cool level. I’m sure I’m failing at that last one, so I’ve resigned to embarrassing myself whenever things don’t go as planned.  

For more information, check out my website at www.vgharrison.com.

Terror Trax: #190 Shadow Fashion

Shadow Fashion

Members/ What instruments they play.

Patrick Fears – Vocals/Synth

Steve Salcido – Guitar

Svia Svenlava – Drums

Chuck Fears – Synth


Website 

Album/Song/Tour you are excited about right now?

Really looking forward to catching The Birthday Massacre on tour right now. Huge fan and they always put on a killer live show!

 

 

What singers or bands inspired you growing up?

The Misfits, Nine Inch Nails, Mike Patton (Faith No More), Guns N Roses

Who are your favorite artists today?

The Midnight, Gunship, Timecop 1983. Lots of Synthwave!!

What non-musical things inspire your music?

Dreams, nightmares, life, death, hopes and fears.

Is there a place where you go to be inspired?

There’s not really a specific place I go to to because for me inspiration tends to hit at random times. When inspiration does hit I try to embrace that moment by hitting the studio as fast as I can to truly capture the vibe of what I’m feeling.

What’s been the greatest achievement of your band?

We’re pretty proud of the two music videos we’ve released so far and can’t wait to work on the third.

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

In 2017 we played The Lovecraft Bar in Portland, Oregon and it was sick!!! From the aesthetic of the bar to the people we met there, we just fell in love and would love to go back again someday.

What are your favorite horror movies?

I absolutely love old school horror movies especially from the 1980’s. That’s the stuff I grew up on and they really don’t make them like they used to. I love everything from the musical scoring to the make up and visual FX of that era.

What was the scariest night of your life?

Years ago we were in Laredo Texas playing a gig with our horror punk band when a riot broke out in the streets as we were standing outside. All we saw was a mob of people running and heard gunshots blasting so we all kinda just scattered and ran into abandoned buildings to escape. I for sure thought we were gonna die that night but as soon as everything settled we got the hell out of there!

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

It would be a dream to play Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig Germany and have Trash Batz open.

What are you working on now for future release?

We’re currently working a cover song that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now.  It’s a classic 90’s pop dance song which we’ll also be doing a video for. You’ll see it hopefully soon.

Final thoughts / Anything you want to tell the listeners?

We really appreciate everyone who takes the time to listen to our music, read this interview or just acknowledge what we are doing here. Much love!

Logbook of Terror : Milo’s Yard

“Milo’s Yard” 

Every year Milo’s Halloween decorations grew more elaborate, ambitious, and horrific. Milo’s yard had become so scary during the month of October that all the neighborhood joggers and walkers rerouted their familiar paths to avoid that peculiar house until November came and the terror was put away for another year. 

Halloween night was especially dreadful, so much so that none of the adults would come within a block of Milo’s yard. Only the children were brave enough to go, and yet still, only the bravest would return, their faces ashen white, their eyes deep pools filled with dread. And the children who weren’t so brave, the ones who were called The Lost, the ones all the neighbors whispered about during the months that followed Hallow’s Eve, they seemed to somehow disappear; they would enter Milo’s yard and never return as if their own fear kept them trapped there forever. But, everyone knew that Milo had the best candy. There was no candy like it anywhere else in the whole neighborhood, and no one could ever figure out where it came from. It was beyond delicious. It was legendary. It was worth the risk. 

Milo checked his watch – it wouldn’t be long now. He surveyed the yard and smiled far and wide at his creation. Gargoyles leered from every corner of the roof. Phantoms hoisted on unseen wires and pulleys flew back and forth above the headstones, zombies, witches, and ghouls that filled the front yard. Lights burning orange and purple lit the scene. Two meandering rows of glowing skulls illuminated a path that weaved its way through the yard to the front door. Wireless speakers hung hidden in the trees, waiting to come to life and proclaim their fearful song.

Milo hurried into the house. He powered up the six fog machines. Three minutes later dense fog began to fill the yard. Excitement and anticipation filled Milo’s soul. He pressed the play button on the stereo. As his favorite haunted house tape echoed out into the gathering gloom, Milo sat in the dark of his front window and waited for the trick or treaters to arrive. 

***

Chase Cabrini stood with his parents and little sister at the top of the hill, just up the street from Milo’s house. “You know we can’t go with you, son, it’s just the way it is,” Landau Cabrini said to his oldest boy. 

Chase had just turned eleven and was teetering on the edge of adolescence and the loss of childhood wonders. He looked up at his father. “It’s alright, dad, I’m not scared.” 

Landau looked down at his boy. His eyes filled with empathy. He knew the kid was full of shit. 

“Alright, son, we’ll wait here for you,” Chase’s father said. 

The small family stared down the street toward Milo’s yard. Horror music wafted up the hill, carried along on the ever advancing fog. Chase took three steps before he turned back and glanced at his family. He grinned and then trotted away and disappeared into the mist, his black vampire’s cape flying in the wind behind him. 

***

The fog seemed to clear a bit as Chase neared the house. He could hear odd, unearthly voices underneath the music, inside the fog. He felt eyes on him. His shoes hit soft earth. He was there. He was in Milo’s yard. He stopped and took a breath, taking in the sweet aroma of the fog. A cool wind chilled his skin. He gazed into the fog and saw the lighted path that led through the cemetery and to the front door. Chase felt his nerve start to shrink. The door suddenly seemed so far away. His dad was right after all; he was totally freaked. “Shit…” Chase muttered to himself. He stood still and listened and hoped to hear the reassuring voices of other children coming down the hill but there were none. He was all alone in Milo’s yard. 

Peering through the fog, Chase saw the front door creep open. He choked down the lump in his throat and began to walk. 

The front door seemed impossibly far away. His ears burned hot with fear. His eyes watered. His hands trembled. Leaves crunched under Chase’s feet as he walked the path. He felt fingers and hands brush across his back. Strange creatures beneath the gloom breathed hot breath onto his legs and nipped at his toes. Chase’s eyes darted around, searching for the monsters hidden in the fog. Two zombies lunged at him, one from either side. An ancient black cat tore at his pants leg. A coffin lid moved and a mummy rose up into the fog. A sudden banshee shriek tore the air behind him. Chase jumped and bolted straight for the door, his heart racing out ahead of him. He tripped and stumbled on to the porch. He looked up and there was Milo, standing in the doorway, staring down at him with a devil’s grin. Chase straightened up and cleared his throat. “Trick ‘r Treat,” he squeaked out. 

Chase held out his trusty plastic pumpkin bucket. Milo smiled and dropped a handful of candy in. “Why don’t you go ahead and try a piece now?” Milo asked the boy. 

“Sure…!” Chase said, his face beaming with eager joy as he reached into the pumpkin. 

At first bite, the candy didn’t seem all that special, but then something happened. The flavor changed. The chocolate coating somehow seemed indescribably delicious. Chase felt a wild euphoria sweep over him and he cooed like a baby. His eyes went limp and numb. 

“This is delicious,” Chase said through a full mouth. 

“Good…” Milo said. “Have another.” 

So Chase stood on Milo’s porch and ate another and another and still one more. And Milo dumped more candy into the plastic pumpkin bucket. Chase’s feet felt light. Pure happiness flooded through him. He couldn’t feel the porch beneath him. He looked down and saw that he was floating. He began to laugh and Milo laughed along with him. Chase dropped his trick or treat pumpkin and flapped his arms. He felt his teeth grow into sharp fangs. He drew his cape up around him and floated out into the fog of Milo’s yard. 

“I love it here!” Chase exclaimed. “I never want to leave!”

“And you’ll never have to!” Milo said with a huge smile. “You can stay in my yard forever and ever and have all the candy you like.”  

“I’m a real vampire now!” Chase shouted as he perched on the limb of a withered old tree, enshrouded in fog, and waited for the next trick or treater to come by.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 2

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two is Brimming with Monster Quality

By Kristin Battestella

The 2017 six-episode Second Season of The Frankenstein Chronicles picks up three years after the twisted events of its Debut Series as Sean Bean’s supposedly dead Inspector John Marlott pursues Lord Hervey (Ed Stoppard) for his monstrous science while Sergeant Joseph Nightingale (Richie Campbell) investigates the gruesome murders of several parish officials as new mad machinations and corrupt officials collide.

It’s 1830 and disturbed flashes of what has transpired match the Bedlam catatonic in “Prodigal Son.” Jailers think this case is hopeless, for the angry, rattling chains can’t tell of the heartbeats, fires, agony, and horrors. Silent screams, gory garrotings, and escapes lead to the abandoned laboratory with cracked mirrors, empty bottles, and lingering phantoms. The Frankenstein Chronicles refreshes the audience whilst the characters themselves struggle with the previous experiments, former pain, and fresh dilemmas as a murdered archdeacon sends fear through the local parish. The poor cannot feed their families on faith alone, but the Dean maintains his luxury by hampering the police with jurisdiction technicalities. New cemetery bills don’t stop grave robbing schemes, and cruel high versus kind lows are firmly established in the multi-layered mysteries and investigations. Despite a sophisticated period mood, church fires, eviscerating shocks, and eerie figures with lone candles always remind viewers of the morose horror drama. London is run amok with slicing and dicing nobles on The Frankenstein Chronicles, and there’s no solace for “Not John Marlott” as more bloody crimes begat missing organs, epidemics, and piled bodies. Creepy dreams and laughing visions add to the on edge, ghosts approach former friends, and headlines say the escaped lunatic is responsible for these unholy murders. Local parish watchmen rebuff inspectors, and back-alley deals lead to corpse bearer job opportunities and intriguing new characters. Desecrated bodies are dug up and moved to pits – clearing the graveyards for people who can pay more for sacred ground. Mirrors and reflections create more soulful questions as the dead man walking sees the naked, animalistic internal monster. Shrouds, vaults, torches, and coffins keep The Frankenstein Chronicles on the morbid move in “Seeing the Dead.” Our former detective has his own underground investigation amid the church bells, empty steeples, and plague-ridden alongside tender moments and a real life famous name or two. Dead children abound, and families that can’t afford consecrated burials paint crosses on their doors to honor the deceased while a carnival caravan arrives with freaks and re-enactments of Frankenstein. Politicians argue about burial taxes, and motives for the murders include selling off church properties, twisted science, and blaming the devil. Who’s clearing the slums and pocketing the money? It isn’t God who’s brought this pestilence, but men of science playing with God’s power. Black horses, night owls playing the piano by candlelight, and men talking of the final nail in the coffin add symbolic subtext while dreams, monster memories, and ghosts provide clues. Superstitious fears and wrongful medicine clash thanks to sewers, sailors, on stage within Frankenstein horrors, and knife fights behind the curtain. Autopsies, methodical precision, and poisoned pumps hone in on the contaminated truth – revelations perhaps made more disturbing by the water crises happening in America today.

Old inspectors and suspicious aristocrats meet face to face in “Little Boy Lost” amid fancy balls and false sermons waxing on demons and souls. Unfortunately, the truth is blasphemy, and quarantined ships send the sick to die in abandoned buildings behind chained doors – making for some silently terrifying scenes of garish dead haunting the corridors. Messengers from religious officials come baring knives in the back, leading to bloody struggles and gurgling groans. The innocent must flee in chases through the streets and leaps across rooftops, contrasting the footmen and tête-à-têtes on the ballroom balcony. Lifelike machines and automaton displays escalate the mad science amidst more grief, twists about who is real or phantom, and dead babies in jars. Thanks to town mobs and persecutions, circus folk with cut out tongues are arrested just because they fit the description of monsters, but ominous staircases descend to bright laboratories, creepy equipment, and shocking revelations with touching supernatural moments linking our characters. Politicians using the poor and too good to be true health plans in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” again mirror the contemporary political climate as scary ideologies hide in plain sight. Be it illness or slit throats, people in this era don’t live very long, and officials double-cross each other to fill the void left by the dying King. Likewise, constables and the press are at odds over evidence and thin leads as all roads point to monstrous men throwing their own to the dogs if it suits their toys, tears, and conspiracies. Blocks of ice are used to store organs alongside secret formulas, memento mori, psychic encounters, and plans to escape to the continent. Chilling confrontations trap the unwilling in the choice to be reborn, for more things are possible than what God can do according to our seemingly sacrosanct gentleman. Stone towers contain romantic rooms draped in white soon to host some serious butchery, transformations, and abominations. Why wait to rekindle what one’s lost in God’s time when life’s mysteries can come full circle now? Wounds and spirited intervention culminate in “Bride of Frankenstein” as lies, gags, and convulsions reunite our firstborn with the reanimation process. Life-giving elixirs, breathing apparatus, and unique tissues lead to coastal visions and life or death limbo. Our murder victims got in the way of political ambitions so now their bodies are being put to good use. There’s no need to make apologies when sacrificing for science! Once again The Frankenstein Chronicles builds its crimes and mysteries before escalating to full-on horror. Raids, arrests, and eponymous resurrections mean nothing when death is not the end for men who live forever in a world without God. However loose ends must be tied up, and another corpse on the church steps leads to confessions, ironic justice, and science preventing the dead from staying deceased in an excellent denouement of amoral horrors.

He’s angry, doesn’t know his own strength, and vows revenge, yet Sean Bean’s former inspector John Marlott remains haunted by his past. Initially he doesn’t speak much, only “I was abandoned by God,”– which sums up The Frankenstein Chronicles quite well. Marlott insists he isn’t who he was, for whether he was a man of kindness and justice or not, he received neither. Marlott feels forsaken since his family has gone on without him, yet he finds solace and a clean bed in a church and recognizes psalms of mercy when he hears them. Unfortunately, he can’t look himself in the mirror, and any peace is quickly ruined by tragedy. Marlott moves on, pushing away the living because everyone around him winds up dead. He becomes a corpse bearer and calls himself Jack Martins, revisiting places he once frequented to prove his innocence despite nightmares that seem to indicate otherwise. Marlott is disturbed by all the death he sees and talks to ghostly guests from Series One, but he’s more upset that he cannot see the spirits of his own wife and daughter. Marlott gives his coins to orphans and poor families so they can bury their dead properly and helps the sick households by doing their cleaning and hard labor, becoming the ironic hero of Pye Street roaming the slums at night – a foreboding grim reaper silhouette escorting a wagon of the dead to their mass grave. He tells people to flee the plague but ultimately ends up communing with their lingering spirits in superbly haunting moments. He cannot help the ghosts who torment him, but Marlott is deeply sorry for all the souls he seemingly damned. Forgiveness, however, may be found in the darkest places, and Marlott comes to accept he can live to do good even if he is not blessed. The Frankenstein Chronicles provides fascinating winks at Bean’s walking spoiler onscreen image amid chilling declarations, strong demands for vengeance, and tearful displays. Granted I am biased – and I still think Marlott is Sharpe – but Sean Bean seems to have become a better, more seasoned actor with age, and it is a pity The Frankenstein Chronicles received no awards notice for his excellent performance.

Though now a sergeant, Richie Campbell’s Joseph Nightingale is assigned to a seemingly routine escape from Bedlam rather than a murder higher up officials want forgotten. He’s a lot like Marlott, actually, getting praised for his initiative, punished for his insistence, and circumventing orders to find out about Marlott’s surprise reappearance. Joe must still deal with racism from above and below and knows he’s being stonewalled once victims’ bodies are removed before he can inspect them – leaving Nightingale no choice but to get the truth at a terrible price. Ryan Sampson’s fast talking Boz is still a reporter for the chronicle, chastised by Nightingale for writing outlandish reports to scare the public but shocked when the dead Marlott comes to see him. He wants Marlott’s surely fantastic story, and remains unfettered in his outrageous reporting, because the truth that victims are having their hearts cut out is supposed to scare people less? Although grossed out by the autopsy reports, he’s reluctant to give up his sources until their differing private exams prove they want him to print lies. Boz believes Marlott when he tells him there is a poisoning scheme in the works, but says he should do the talking when they poke around at the inquest. Charles Dickens ends up bombing around London with Frankenstein’s Monster – one of many fascinating what ifs on The Frankenstein Chronicles. Laurence Fox’s (Lewis) Mr. Dipple, meanwhile, is a creepy, reclusive aristocrat overly concerned with weird marionettes, music boxes, machine models, and masks. He’s become enamored with contraptions because he is afraid to live, seemingly tender or sensitive but suspect when he asks guests to keep an open mind about what they see. The character embodies several contemporary ills viewers will recognize – saying one thing but doing another for his own purpose , which is to have power over death and grief. Sadly, Maeve Dermody (Carnival Row) as kind, widowed seamstress Esther Rose is unknowingly caught in the middle when taking in Marlott while commissioned to make dresses for Dipple’s dolls. She buys clothes off the dead to re-sell to poor, not so particular customers and gives Marlott back his own effects. There’s not much difference between her craft and stitching him up when he’s injured, either. She’s glad to have him protect her shop, for Esther thinks she is weak, afraid to live, and too nervous when invited to a ball showcasing her work. She’s glad when Dipple calls her designs exquisite and doesn’t believe he has ulterior motives despite Marlott’s warnings. However, Esther insists she is not part of Dipple’s collection, vowing to be no man’s property despite her loneliness.

 

Lily Lesser as (Wolf Hall) Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s mathematician daughter, also dislikes Dipple’s obsession with “toys.” She’s interested in automatons for the future and power for women, debating Dipple about whether a man building machines means he has power over God. Men’s power pollutes what it touches, demanding obedience and stifling genius – leading to slavery and humans as the automaton. Although at times the character seems too modern, her progressive ideals aren’t wrong, and it would have been intriguing to see more of her. Corpse bearer Francis Magee (Game of Thrones) knows Marlott is too shrewd for this job, but then again so is he. Spence is a former priest who criticized the Dean for his greed, and now he fears he is in danger. Nonetheless, he does his gruesome job and stands by his convictions, returning to his Bible even to his own detriment. Unfortunately, Kerrie Hayes (Lilies) as Dipple’s orphan maid Queenie is also scared of her employer, his contraptions, and the locked doors deep inside his manor. She and Nightingale grew up in the foundling home together, and she clearly has a crush on him, telling him not to be consumed by blaming Marlott. Queenie wants to help Joe’s investigation, but her curiosity gets the better of her. She knows the police won’t believe what she’s seen, but eventually, Queenie finds tell tale tokens as proof for the police. Locating Ed Stoppard’s rumored to be dead Lord Hervey, however, isn’t so easy. He’s as in pursuit of his creation as Marlott is, but is he truly connected to the current crimes or is Marlott’s wishful seeking of justice involving the not so good doctor? Hervey is said to be here or there, off in the carriage, or just missed him – pinning his gruesome actions on others as it suits his plans. He’s happy to offer the choice of transformation to those who want it, developing a sick delight in what he does. For Hervey, there is no such thing as God’s will, only indifferent science. Sir Robert Peele, however, wants to build new closed burials and give the poor the right to a Christian interment, but Tom Ward’s Home Secretary has to move fast on his reforms before losing the ailing George IV’s favor. Peele seeks cleaner cities where nearby decomposition isn’t going back into the water and objects to the circumvention of his authority, for Guy Henry’s (Rogue One) Dean of Westminster lords over everyone with his stranglehold on the police as well as the church. He squashes murder investigations, pockets burial fees, and uses Martin McCann (The Pacific) as parish coroner Renquist to do away with the bodies privately. For his dirty deeds, Renquist rightfully fears he’s going to be the fall guy, just another of many corrupt officials on The Frankenstein Chronicles.

 

Fallen leaves and overcast skies create a perpetual autumn feeling for The Frankenstein Chronicles while barren coasts invoke a bleak limbo. Storms, mud, moors, and fog contrast the carriages, top hats, walking sticks, and frock coats. Careful editing, silence, and natural sounds parallel the horror realizations amid dank cells, chains, spooky lanterns, and autopsies. There are fancy stone manors and slum streets, but the graveyards and churches are somewhere in between – grand, old, but empty cloisters despite the cross’s symbolic shelter and arched windows providing rare light. Wax seals, lockets, quills, waist coats, and cravats birth mechanical innovations, clockworks, masks, and uncanny valley eyes, layering the creepy science what ifs alongside the innocent flowers, lace, and painstaking embroidery attention to detail. Fair fiddles and carnival acts provide morbid bemusement, yet our star is often alone in the center of the camera frame or on the outside looking in at the action through doorways or arches. Then again, golden sconces and grand libraries can’t compare to decomposing bodies as the gasps and covering mouths provide shock and stench for the audience. Sometimes the blue and night time drab are too dark, however, firelight adds a realistic touch so often missing from overly saturated shows. Oil lamps and disturbing harpsichord music accent syringes, hissing gears, leeches in jars, elixirs, tubes, catalysts, and beakers. The candlelit laboratory almost has an enchanting glow, but who knew blocks of ice could be so..well…chilling? Oddly, neither director Benjamin Ross nor writer Barry Langford are involved in Season Two – all new writers join director Alex Gabassi (The ABC Murders). With previouslies and credits, these episodes are also slightly shorter at forty-five minutes, however it is more annoying that Netflix wants to skip both with seconds to spare. The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two doesn’t use Mary Shelley as a character or the William Blake interconnected themes from the First Season, either. Fortunately, the personal morals, monsters dilemmas, and new mad science elements expand the drama and performances. Although this year ends well, it’s a pity there is no word on a Third Season for The Frankenstein Chronicles. There’s still time and the series deserves more. In reviewing, I must multi-task, pause, and take notes. The Frankenstein Chronicles, however, is a can’t look away parable that’s easy to marathon and superbly blends period piece aesthetics, mystery, and horror.

For more Frankenstein, visit:

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 1

Frankenstein: The True Story

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

My Darling Dead : Bastards / Episode 13

Her husband had become just that. A husband, in name only. There were days she did not even see him, so busy was he flaunting his power over the desirable women of the court. More desirable than his queen. 

When the wizard came upon her at her window, weeping silently into a goblet of wine, he was uncertain. But she had imbibed enough already to unload her heart’s anguish onto him. As she wept, she sought solace in his arms. The wizard’s initial reluctance melted as she moved against him, carnal desire replacing sense, lust overcoming caution. 

Afterward, she had forbidden him to speak of it. It was a promise they both kept until she began to show. Fortunately, it was nearing the frost, nobody thought twice about the extra layers the queen now wore. Clothes only covered so much though and finally, making up a story to the distracted king, the queen took refuge in a cabin in the woods with two of her most trusted ladies in waiting. Upon news of his son’s imminent birth, the wizard set out for the cabin. He arrived just as the child made his first cry and, without a word, took the child from the queen’s midwife and vanished, the queen never even laying eyes upon her son. 

Zavier had clearly been waiting long to share this fact and the light shone from his eyes with the intensity of a bonfire. Orteg and Agathas both were stunned into silence. Zavier paced back and forth before them, gesturing wildly as he continued his soliloquy. 

“A bastard by the queen is nothing to anybody. My father knew that, as did our mother, Orteg. They saw to it that I was kept out of the way, a humble pageboy, and learned all I could from my father in the ways of magic, for the day when he would no longer be there and the kingdom required a leader. But as I watched it descend into more and more chaos, I became certain; the queen’s son would have no right over the throne in the eyes of the people, particularly in these troubled times. It would have to be a man who carries the blood of King Wendell himself, who would reunite the kingdom. 

“When I found you, Orteg, I thought my search had ended. Here was a simple, stupid man who would be easy to install as a figurehead, then direct him to do my will, by one means or another.” Zavier shook his staff. “Then Barris and his disgusting sister here decided to place before you an unthinkable choice, one that no father would have made. My entire plan would fall to ruins if you refused to ascend to the throne. I compelled you to dispose of your obstacles to the throne, but instead of accepting your destiny and becoming king, you had to start conspiring with that bloated sack of offal, Barris. I hoped to teach you a lesson watching him die, but you seem to be the same angry self-righteous peasant as you were born, and you have irked me overlong as it is.”

Color rose in Zavier’s face, veins in his forehead standing out as his face darkened. His eyes bulged and he looked quite demented. Orteg tried with all his might to move any muscle and only succeeded in twitching his nose. Agathas whimpered from the cage. Zavier’s eyes shifted to her. 

“Agathas. You have no reason left to live. You realize that, don’t you?” Zavier said, his voice sympathetic though his eyes lost none of their manic gleam. “You know I have to dispose of you as well as this fool or nothing will ever change.” Zavier began breathing heavily as he pulled out his polished staff, running his fingers over its contours lovingly. “For the kingdom. You understand.” He pointed the staff at Agathas. 

Without warning, a blinding light seared Orteg’s eyes. Unable to throw up a hand to cover them, Orteg screwed his eyelids together tightly, though the light continued to grow. Dimly, he could hear Zavier yelling and Agathas screaming. The light was so bright through his closed eyes it seemed loud, shouting in his ears and even though he could not see, he prayed for release…then it came.

Darkness. Orteg ventured his eyes open only to see more darkness. Gradually he heard the snuffling moans of someone laying on the ground nearby. This reminded him of his previous paralysis and he flexed a finger experimentally. It responded, along with its fellows. His entire hand and arm worked as though there had never been any interruption. He clambered to his feet, his legs aching. The darkness was fading and he could make out the room he was in once again. The light had been so bright it had drowned out the pitiful sunshine from outside. 

The moans came from Zavier, laying spread eagled on the floor on his back, struggling to move his lips to form words. Though he trembled with the exertion, no sound beyond his quiet moaning escaped his mouth. Orteg scarcely noticed Zavier though, his eyes were drawn to the fairy Liseem, standing over Zavier, looking more radiant and lovely than ever in her fury. Agathas was similarly gaping at her, making no effort to hide her awe. 

“Zavier, Son of Hespa, bastard child of the crown, you have disgraced the name of sorcery with your foul actions,” Liseem stated, not raising her voice though it filled the entire room and Orteg’s head rang with it. “Due to your haste to grow beyond your status, you shall henceforth be smaller than the eye may readily see, that you may observe the world you may not engage with. Those who do observe you will hate you upon sight and hasten to murder you.” Liseem spun away from Zavier’s horrified expression, raising her hands to the sky and calling out a strange word. 

The light exploded in the room again. Orteg and Agathas screwed up their eyes at once but the light was not nearly so merciless this time. There was a popping sound and the smell of sulfur. The light winked out and Orteg opened his eyes at once. Zavier was gone. Where he had lay on the floor scurried a large cockroach, antenna twitching frantically as it sought to avoid the humans in the room. It rushed at Liseem, then seemed to think better of it, making for the door. 

“My lady?” Orteg asked, a smile on his face. 

“Please,” said Liseem, her own smile radiating light. 

Orteg raised his boot, bringing it down with all the force he could muster. The cockroach crunched under his boot, sending a stream of yellow goo shooting across the floor. Orteg ground his boot back and forth, the crunching sound beneath his foot giving way to the whisper of dirt on stone. When he raised his foot, there was nothing but a wet spot. 

Orteg Bluenote was crowned king of Dandoich before an enormous crowd. From his viewing point, he could see nothing but his new subjects as far as his eye would reach. As the crown was set on his head by Agathas, the roar of the crowd took his breath away. A tear came to his eye, speedily wiped away, lest he show weakness before his new subjects. Agathas stood at his side, her part in the death of the king’s children having been overlooked in the fate that befell Barris. As the king’s adviser, and with Barris out of the way, as the senior member of the council who had run the kingdom for years, she was uniquely positioned to be invaluable to the inexperienced king. Her mind was already feverishly at work, thinking of how best to turn her new position to her advantage.

After the coronation ceremony, the new king was in his chambers, still attempting to grasp the changes in his life over the last few weeks. His family was gone but he had more wealth and power than he could ever imagine. With the blessing of the fairy, he felt invincible. Pouring himself a glass of the finest wine in his chamber, he toasted the window and the moon pouring its light into the chamber. 

Midway through sipping the wine, Orteg heard a noise from just outside the window. It was a scratching sound, as though a cat were sharpening its claws on the stone below the window. As Orteg listened, it became clearer and more pronounced. A snuffling sound, then a high-pitched giggle floated through the window, chilling Orteg’s bones. His innards turned to ice as a hand, thin and bony, with long filthy ragged nails, crawled up over the windowsill. It was attached to an arm, as scrawny and filthy as the hand. Eyes appeared over the sill, dark slits in the dirty, pointed face twisted in a demented grin. 

The brilliant light appeared in the room, making Orteg and the rat creature shield their eyes. As it faded, Orteg saw that the rat creature had entered the room, along with a second and he could see a third scrabbling at the window and (dear Gods) it sounded like there were more working their way up the wall. A figure had solidified in the center of the room, coalescing out of the whiteness into the fairy who had saved him. 

“Liseem!” Orteg gasped. “Thank the gods you are here! You must help me! This creature—”

“These creatures,” Liseem broke in, a nasty grin upon her face, “Will be your doom, Orteg Bluenote.” The fairy touched the face of the first rat creature, delicately pressing her finger against the sharp teeth in the creature’s face. Instantly, all the rat creatures froze. The sound of those climbing the tower ceased. There was nothing but the fairy’s voice.

“Many years before your birth,” Liseem said, turning to face him, “I was in love with a king. The king of Dandoich in fact. Your father.” She fell silent for a moment, looking at Orteg with no kindness in her eyes. “You are of his seed, yet I do not recognize you at all. You are nothing like the king.”

“But—Esemli!” Orteg gasped, his hands clasped before him in an unconscious prayer. “She was in love with the king and was killed by the princess! She has been dead longer than I have been alive! Everyone in the kingdom knows that story!”

“This is where the story ends,” whispered the fairy. “I, Liseem, am the fairy Esemli.” 

A series of images rushed through Orteg’s head. The fairy and the king rutting in his receiving room before being interrupted by the queen. The king groveling as Esemli listened from behind the door, listening as he cast their love aside instead of keeping his promise. Faster, images of the kingdom’s descent into chaos flashed through his mind. Rat creatures feeding on garbage, peasants, each other. Crops rotting on the vine as farmers barricaded themselves in their houses, afraid to tend to the harvest. Esemli laughing, laughing, laughing. 

The images stopped, but the laughing continued. Liseem’s laughter merged into that of Esemli and Orteg knew that she spoke the truth.

“No…” whispered Orteg, feeling as though all blood had drained from his body. 

“Yes,” hissed Esemli, her hatred changed the fairy’s beautiful features into an inhuman rage. “And now, Orteg Bluenote, you shall die carrying on the suffering of your lineage. The kingdom’s spiral into darkness will continue!”

With mad laughter, the fairy vanished. Sound regained its control on the world, the scrabbling sounds of a rat person clawing its way into the room registering first on Orteg’s ear. He realized with a start that his back was against the stone wall opposite the door. The first creature crawled across the floor, its jerky skittering motions sending spasms of horror up and down Orteg’s spine. The thing kept grinning, nose twitching, as it advanced. Orteg tried to make a break for the door, but the creature was too fast, scuttling between Orteg and the door with a drooling grin. There were more crawling in through the window. Cowering back against the wall, Orteg moaned, helpless, frozen in terror as the creatures came for him. 

Agathas had been waiting to visit the new king in his chambers until after he had time to get himself sufficiently drunk. She intended to ask for less oversight on his part as she conducted the day-to-day business of the kingdom, in essence giving her free reign to govern as she saw fit. Under Barris, she had learned from the best and had no interest in the new monarch sticking his nose in her affairs. 

She was lingering in the anteroom below the king’s chambers when the screaming began. The king’s hysterical shrieks brought all within earshot running. Throwing open the door, Agathas and the castle staff beheld the new king, his eyes and throat wide open, gaping in the direction of the door, hand stretched out, even as the humanoid thing that now resembled a rat snuffled and scrabbled at Orteg’s chest, seeking his heart as blood from his neck bathed them both. Other rat creatures prowled the room, looking in corners and under things for their next meal. At the sound of the door, they stopped as one and stared.

Agathas screamed, drawing the attention of the rat creature away from Orteg’s lifeless body. Like a spider, the creature scuttled toward her, eyes twin pinpricks burning brightly amid the face of blood. The next moment, it was flying back, impaled by a long silver spear. Blood ran from its mouth, grinning even as it spluttered for breath. The captain of the guard pushed past Agathas, striding across to the creature. It snarled at him, coughing blood all over his boots as it did. 

The man’s face wrinkled in disgust. In one smooth movement, he drew his sword and struck the head from the creature’s shoulders. It flew across the room, striking the stone wall with a sound like wet sand. Falling to the ground, the jaws gnashed twice, then were still. Looking around, Agathas saw the last rat creature scuttling out the tower window and heard a thud as it hit the ground below. 

“The king is dead,” Agathas said, recovering her composure speedily. “Let it be known throughout the kingdom that the Council once again reigns supreme.” A smile spread across her face. “Inform the council members that their leader has summoned them at once.”

“At once, Honorable Prefect,” said the captain of the guard, sheathing his blade.

“Queen, I think you’ll find, Captain,” Agathas said, smiling an ugly smile. The captain of the guard was only taken aback for a moment, before bowing to her.

“My liege,” he said, already scheming his own rise to power. 

There would never again be another monarch to rule the kingdom. The fairies would see to it. 

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Isolation

Greetings and Salutations. I come to you from a very eerie sepia-toned day in September and bring some musical goodness to ease your troubled minds. I hope you, like me, are taking some solace in the fact that the most glorious time for all horror lovers looms near, and with it, may we embrace our darkness and all that is spooky and creepy. 

This month we are checking out the digital album Mechants by Isolation. Their experimental music, which you can find on Bandcamp, is a combination of an 80s horror soundtrack and a Roisin Murphy tune. According to their artist bio, Isolation project “is a soundtrack-based project that has been created by two UK-based collaborators. The style of music can range from horror, thriller, ambient, sci-fi, and more.” The artists state they are influenced by David Lynch films, and you can definitely pick up that vibe by listening. I tested out my new SkullCandy wireless headphones on this album and I couldn’t stand still. Instrumental music doesn’t always hold my attention, but these tracks make so many twists and turns that the listener wouldn’t necessarily expect and I found myself getting lost in the music. Standout tracks for me were “Never Knowing Napier,” the disturbing “Dr. Quinn,” and then the track “Edwards Arkham” had me feeling like the walls were closing in, very apropos of the isolation and claustrophobia of our quarantine times. Not all of the tracks had a consistent beat, but the music lends itself to modern dance choreography, film and TV soundtracks, and for the average listener, it makes a good accompaniment to your run/walk/workout. 

Ironically the cover art looks very much like the atmosphere outside my house today. It features a firelit sky in reds and oranges with deadened trees and smoke, which definitely reflects the many ways the world is on fire at the moment. I hope you’ll give this album a listen and pick it up if you’re so inclined. Bandcamp has been doing a great job supporting communities in need this summer and I love to see people support them in their endeavors. I think we’ll eventually see this duo doing scores for TV/Movies and I look forward to more of their work.

Thanks for joining me this month and Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs coming soon. Enjoy the most wonderful time of the year…

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

 

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks