The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat

The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat
by Sumiko Saulson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering Sid Haig

On September 21, 2019 the horror community, as well as the film industry as a whole lost a legend in Sid Haig. At 80 years old, Sid’s passing was reported via Instagram by his wife, Suzie.

Sid Haig’s career had begun with a multitude of performances starting in 1960 with a short film by Jack Hill, The Host. The duo worked together again when Sid made his first major film debut in 1967 with Spider Baby, aka “The Maddest Story Ever Told”. This was the makings of a long-standing relationship Sid had with Jack Hill, where Sid would go on to explain in an interview that Hill was one of three directors he would never say no to working with. The other two being Rob Zombie and Quinton Tarantino, who collectively Sid had worked on 17 projects with including, but not limited to Jackie Brown, Zombies House of 1000 Corpses trilogy, and 2007’s Halloween. Many of Sid’s roles had begun with numerous TV appearances, but after announcing his retirement in 1992, it wasn’t until 5 years later when Sid would return. In Tarantino’s, Jackie Brown, Sid went on to really expand his big-screen persona, with Captain Spaulding being his most iconic role. Every great performer has that one role that they will always be known for, and Spaulding, with Sid’s demented laugh, antics, and downright savagery has earned his place as one of the most menacing clowns ever put to film, giving Pennywise and the Killer Klowns a run for their money! As if we need another clown to terrorize our nightmares, ha! But we can’t deny our love for Spaulding aka Cutter.

I am grateful to have met Sid at a Rock and Shock horror convention several years ago and I must say, although he is one of the nicest and most appreciative people toward his fans, Sid, to me at least, always had a great commanding presence about him. Either in person or on-screen, even in his most minor roles, you felt his energy whenever he was around! But in person, he was a far cry from the maniacal clown we may all remember him as. A humble, grateful man who went on to attribute Rob Zombie as the one who reignited his interest in acting. It is incredible to observe Sid’s personality change between the interviews he’s conducted and his character portrayals which is only a further testament to his abilities as an actor.

We could spend all day listing off his accolades and accomplishments, but the only real way to appreciate Sid Haig is to experience his performances first hand. I doubt anyone reading this hasn’t seen at least one or two of his films, but for those who haven’t you are sincerely missing out on one of the best and most committed performers ever. From all of us here at HorrorAddicts.net, we thank you Sid for everything you’ve done not just in horror, but for the world of cinema. You will be missed!

This is The Horror Seeker saying, Thank you Sid Haig (1939 – 2019) Rest in Peace, my friend!

Jeff Carlson, Never to be Forgotten

One of our frequent authors and a man many of us had the pleasure to know in life, has passed on. Jeff Carlson, author of the Plague Year Series and Frozen Sky, died Monday, July 17th from an extremely aggressive lung cancer. He is survived by his wife and two sons, who he adored.

Jeff was an excellent writer and had an exuberant thirst for life. We here at HorrorAddicts.net would like to express our sincerest sympathies to his friends and family by celebrating what enjoyment Jeff brought to our lives through his writing.

About Horror, Jeff said,

We like to be scared because we have a huge capacity for fear. The most basic element of storytelling is conflict because we respond to it.

With four features on HorrorAddicts.net and tons of cameos and book reviews, Jeff is one of the most frequent guests on the podcast. He won our Best in Blood award for season one with his story “Monsters” and continued to be a driving force in the show.

Since meeting Jeff at BayCon in the early 2000’s, I followed his career, attending many of his book parties and enjoying his live readings. His books Plague Year, Plague War, and Plague Zone came at a time when readers were craving survival fiction, before The Walking Dead saturated the market.

The Plague Year series started with a bang and just kept going. Jeff was able to bring our world to the brink of destruction in such a real way, it almost seemed like you were listening to news reports rather than reading a fictional thriller.

In Plague War, the non-stop thriller action doesn’t stop. There were so many layers to this book. You had the survival instinct unwilling to die in the main characters, the war between countries grasping at straws to maintain control, and a zombie apocalypse that actually seemed plausible.

Plague Zone‘s zombies weren’t the George Romero, searching for brains type. They were more subtle, but not less scary. The first scene with the zombie people (people they knew!) being kept in the hut in case they could save them was almost unbearable. I could just hear the bumping and moaning as they struggled against restraints. Ruth’s claustrophobia was contagious and I found myself having to step outside to get some air.

This series was a crazy-fast rollercoaster ride through a nanotech infested world where only one thing guarantees your survival—your will to carry on no matter what. Through Jeff’s writing, he inspired us to overcome surmountable odds, keep true to the loyalty we’ve fostered with other humans, and to never, ever give up.

HorrorAddicts.net Reviewer, David Watson says,

I makes me sad to hear of the passing of Jeff Carlson and my heart goes out to his family in this terrible time. I didn’t know Jeff personally but I talked with him through emails and he was always friendly. The first time I heard of Jeff was when he read his story “Monsters” on the HorrorAddicts.net podcast. In 2015 I was the editor of Horror Addicts Guide to Life in which he wrote an essay called, ‘Why I Write Post-Apocalyptic Fiction.’

One idea Jeff wrote about in the author’s note for his book Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided, was how true happiness in life doesn’t come from slacking off, it comes from working hard and accomplishments. Jeff worked hard at his craft and it shows in the success he had as a writer. I love his work and reviewed four of his books, including his anthology Long Eyes which is a perfect introduction to his awesome storytelling abilities. My favorite work of Jeff’s sets horror in outer space with his Frozen Sky series where he masterfully combined action, horror, science fiction, philosophy and politics. It makes me sad to know that I won’t get to read another new book by Jeff Carlson but at least he left behind eight great books and several short stories that we can all reread and remember him by.

Fellow HorrorAddicts.net author, J. Malcolm Stewart says,

I first met Jeff Carlson in 2011 at Westercon 64 and immediately knew I had found a kindred soul. We were on a panel called Horror Tropes as Social Commentary, which, if you know me, was a subject near and dear to my bloody, beating heart. We had a blast that afternoon and quickly exchanged contact info with the usual good intentions to catch up in the near future.

I didn’t pay too much mind to the promise, figuring the gesture on Jeff’s part was a case of throw-away professional politeness. He was a well-known, well-respected, past winner of Writers of the Future, had been nominated for a Phillip K. Dick award, and his Plague Zone series of novels had spent weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller list. I was a complete unknown who was six months away from my first novel even being published.

But a strange twist, one worthy of Hitchcock himself, happened… Jeff did call and he did email, just as he had promised. And from that time on I was blessed to experience one of the great professional friendships of my adult life.

Jeff was many things in his far-to-brief 48 years. Among the crowd of his attributes was his sheer writing talent, his engaging personality, his keen and probing mind, his oft displayed sense of humor… But the greatest attribute I ever observed about Jeff Carlson was his constant and unwavering love and dedication to his family.

I say with no hyperbole that every conversation I ever had with him, no matter how long or short, ended with either “I gotta go. It’s date night.” or “Gotta get to the soccer game. I’ll catch you soon.” I can’t express this strongly enough. Every time without fail.

I know directly that Jeff bypassed many promotional opportunities at cons or book signings to make sure he had time with his wife and kids. As a result, he wasn’t the most visible author in the Northern California writing scene. But as writer and person, he was without a doubt one of the most respected.

I am personally privileged that our time together included over eight hours of recorded interviews conducted over these last six years. I knew instantly that those conversations were gold to any writer who aspired to learn in the ins and outs of this insane profession. Sadly, I didn’t know that they would come to an end so quickly.

As both a creative artist and in my professional life, I often have found myself grappling with the finality of death. It’s an inescapable part of the human condition, a principle of existence both devastating in its scope and humbling in its randomness. Like many who knew him, I’m still processing the fact that shadowy hand of fate has taken away Jeff. But what I can say with all certainty is that Grim Titan who stalks us all has taken into his company one our best and brightest.

To his wife, Diana and their two boys, my deepest and most sincere condolences.

It’s amazing to me that so many of us felt we had a special, meaningful relationship with Jeff, but he made sure we did. He was a genuine guy and when he said he’d connect with you, he really meant it. Despite his busy career, he always made time for his friends and family.

Horror Addicts Guide to Life

In our 2015 anthology, Horror Addicts Guide to Life, Jeff said,

I think we’re programmed for hardship. In my experience, human beings are happiest when they’re working themselves to the bone. Call me crazy, but from what I’ve seen, people are more likely to feel adrift and unsatisfied when they have too much leisure time. Purpose is the greatest gift. Obstacles are good.

Well, Jeff, we suppose you are right, but getting over your loss will not be so easy. You will always be in our hearts and minds.


Listen to Jeff’s work here:

Ep: #1 with his short story “Monsters”

Ep #20 with his story “Romance”

Ep #27 with is story “Caninus”

Ep# 51 with his story “Pattern Masters”

Read more about Jeff in our blogs here:

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/13-questions-with-jeff-carlson/

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/a-jeff-carlson-double-header/

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/jeff-carlson-on-post-apocalyptic-fiction/

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-frozen-sky/

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/frozen-sky-2-betrayed-by-jeff-carlson/

https://theallnightlibrary.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/frozen-sky-blindsided-the-europa-series-book-3/

Visit his own site for more information on these works at: http://www.jverse.com/

R.I.P. Aleister Tennyson Hobbs of Dead Sea Surfers

Our condolences go out to the family, friends, and fellow fans of Aleister Tennyson Hobbs of Dead Sea Surfers. Aleister lost his battle with cancer and passed away on October 11, 2011.

After being diagnosed with diabetes in 1999 and dealing with organ failures as a result, Aleister rallied back and turned to music with a vengeance. In November of 2010 however he was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer and chose radiation and chemotherapy over surgery.

In May of 2011 we featured Dead Sea Surfers on Episode #60, and we will miss Aleister and his music.

His funeral was held on Thursday, October 13th at the Akard Funeral Home. He is survived by his wife Beverly.