Mad and Dead: Monstrous Women, Transgressive Sexuality, and Postmodern Paranoia

I have a couple of posts coming up that talk about different aspects of my trip to Transylvania for the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival (IVFAF). For now, please to enjoy the PowerPoint of the paper I presented for the academic conference. I’ll be submitting the full paper for publication.

Mad and Dead

CANINES: A SUPPOSED CRIMES ANTHOLOGY

caninescover2 Title: Canines: A Supposed Crimes Anthology
Authors: Kaden Shay, A. M. Hawke, Jennifer Loring, Christopher Michael Carter, Landon Dixon, Lela E. Buis
Date of Publication: September 1, 2016
ISBN: 9781944591038 (ebook)
Contact Information: owner@supposedcrimes.com
Category: Gay Erotica, Lesbian, Paranormal, Historical
On Sale: Available FREE at the Supposed Crimes Website and Smashwords. More shops coming soon.

Stories
This vampire anthology by Supposed Crimes features six tales of bloodlust, violence, and vanity with LGBT protagonists, men seeking men, women loving women, and more.
“A Late Night Snack” by Kaden Shay – The narrator gets more than bargained for pursuing a beautiful woman at a club.
“Courting the Flame” by A. M. Hawke – A man wants to become a vampire at all cost.
“This World or the Next” by Jennifer Loring – He longs to free the vampyre on display at the circus.
“The Diary of Anne Salt” by Christopher Michael Carter – She’s drawn to the woman on the subway, but is unprepared for un-worldly revelations.
“Vamp-Hire” by Landon Dixon – He’s a PI that will work for vampire sex.
“The Dress” by Lela E. Buis – She wants to be beautiful, but she might not be willing to trade her life.

Author Biographies:
A.M. Hawke lives in the Washington, DC area, where she works as a peer mentor and advocate for people with disabilities. She has a Master’s degree in philosophy from Georgetown University, but has always returned to her passion for writing. Though a philosopher by training, she would rather inflict complicated questions on her characters than lecture about them. When not writing, she can be found gaming, seeking out new restaurants to try, or drinking ridiculous coffee. She can be emailed at amhawkefic@gmail.com and found on Blogspot at amhawke.blogspot.com.

Christopher Michael Carter was born on May 3rd, 1984 in St. Louis, Missouri. His poetry can be found in Gun Control for Polar Bears. Find him online at Twitter: @CMC5384 – as well as his blog site beavertownproductions.blogspot.com.

Kaden Shay is a 30-something crazy-cat-lady in-the-making who currently resides in Arizona with her partner and miniature zoo, which does currently include 4 cats. When she isn’t writing or playing mom to several fur-kids she’s singing, playing guitar, or playing online video games. Her furry family, currently consisting of two dogs, four cats, and several rodents, is always available to help her procrastinate in finishing projects.

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, webzines, and anthologies, including Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales from the Lake vol. 1 and Black Mirror Press’ Snowpocalypse. She has also published a novella, Conduits (DarkFuse, 2014), and three novels, Those of My Kind (Omnium Gatherum, 2015), Firebird (Limitless Publishing, 2015), and What’s Left of Me (Limitless Publishing, 2016). She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, their turtle, and two basset hounds.

Landon Dixon’s writing credits include the magazines Men, Freshmen, [2], Mandate, Torso, and Honcho; stories in the anthologies Straight? Volume 2, Friction 7, Working Stiff, Sex by the Book, I Like It Like That, Boys Caught In The Act, Service With A Smile, Nerdvana, Homo Thugs, Black Fire, Boy Fun, Who’s Your Daddy?, The Sweeter the Juice, Big Holiday Packages, Brief Encounters, Hot Daddies, Hot Jocks, Uniforms Unzipped, Black Dungeon Masters, Wild Boys, Bad Boys, Mob Men, Boys in Bed, Daddy Knows Best, Lust in Time, Pay For Play, Pledges, Rookies, Steambath, Latin Lovers, Drill Me Sergeant, Ultimate Gay Erotica 2005, 2007, and 2008, and Best Gay Erotica 2009; and the short story collections Hot Tales of Gay Lust 1, 2, and 3.

Lela E. Buis has been publishing prose and poetry in magazines and anthologies for a number of years and is a member of the Knoxville Writer’s Guild, the SFWA, and SFPA. Some years back, one of her stories finished as a quarter-finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. She’s recently had four collections of short stories and poetry published by That Ridge press.

The Beauty of OneNote

I’m not writing this post to instruct you on all the helpful ways you can use Microsoft’s OneNote (free download!) to organize, research, and plot your novel. That has been done before, and certainly better, in places like this and this. My purpose is to share with you how OneNote helped me discover the story I wanted to write.

Picture it: late 2015. I’ve got a contract to fulfill with my current publisher, and they want Firebird #2 ASAP thanks to the success of book 1. Sure, I said. I’ll knock out a first draft for NaNoWriMo (which I did). However… I had been wandering back into reading vampire fiction recently, and it had been damn near twenty years since I’d written a story with a legitimate vampire in it–Those of My Kind features blood-drinking half-demons and a jiang-shi but no actual vampires. Deeply inspired by Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, I decided to write a vampire novella.

Twice.

Then it became a novel. I plotted extensively. I had a three-ring binder full of character charts and world-building. I wrote an outline and over 100 pages.

I scrapped it.

I started a new draft (and if you’re counting, we’re up to number four). A hundred pages in again, and I scrapped it. I wanted to write a vampire paranormal romance SO BADLY. Why wasn’t it turning out the way I wanted?

I had begun a Pinterest board for this book, as I had done for Alex of Firebird and for general inspiration in the horror and fantasy genres, all of which you can check out here. OneNote had come pre-installed on my laptop, where it had sat dormant for two years. I decided to install it on my PC specifically to try getting my head around what the hell I was trying to do with this hot mess of an idea. Having done my undergrad degree in studio art, I remain a very visually-oriented creator. Pinterest is great for this, but with OneNote I could have my pictures, notes, outline, etc. all in one place.

I started with pictures. I made a page for each major character and gathered items from my Pinterest board to fill those pages. I grabbed beautiful, relevant quotes and collaged them with the pictures. Three pages of pictures and quotes pertaining to the three main characters, and another page for the relationship between the protagonist and antihero. I’d been trying for epic and somewhat humorous in the previous four unsuccessful attempts; what was taking shape right before my eyes was instead a tragic love story between two supernatural yet very broken creatures.

For me, this was almost a form of free writing except using only visual elements to collect my ideas. It was a completely different experience than anything I’d done before in the planning stages, and in getting lost in those images and quotes, I discovered my plot. Maybe you’re already using OneNote or Evernote, and this process is nothing new to you. But if you’re not, and you find yourself getting stuck on a project, I recommend giving it a try. You never know what you’re going to find.

30 Days of Night

I am an unabashed nerd who goes to comic book conventions and plays video games. Graphic novels are one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve owned 30 Days of Night for many years, probably since shortly after it was released, and it provided a much-needed respite from the romantic, whiny bullshit that had defined vampires for the previous several decades (and continues to do so in the YA and paranormal romance genres). Look, I’m woman enough to admit that I went through an Anne Rice phase in my late teens-early 20s. But at least Lestat was actually fun in Interview With the Vampire–he enjoyed being a vampire and a jerk. As the vampires grew ever more obsessed with being human again, I lost interest.

And that’s what attracted me to 30 Days of Night. These vampires love being at the top of the food chain. They aren’t crying for the loss of their souls/mortality/some chick/etc. They like to feed and to kill. It’s what they do best, and damn it, it’s just fun. The choice of Barrow, Alaska for a vampire rampage is so brilliantly obvious, I’m a little pissed I didn’t think of it first. Curse you, Steve Niles! Barrow is extremely isolated, extremely cold, and extremely dark. The sun never rises for a solid month. It would be the ideal setting for any number of horror stories, but if you’re sticking with the concept that vampires can’t go out in the sun (a concept that comes not from folklore, but from Hollywood), what better place on earth than Barrow? My one complaint would be the largely unnecessary subplot involving George and “Momma.” It added little to the story overall, especially since there is already conflict between the vampires themselves regarding the discovery of their existence. I haven’t read subsequent books in the series, so I don’t know if the pictures George transmits to her ever have any relevance or not, but that subplot just seems out of place.

OK, and Eben’s transformation. No explanation is given as to why he is able to control his vampirism for as long as he does. The person whose blood transformed him immediately became consumed with bloodlust. I have no cause to believe that Eben is a better person than a man who was bitten searching for a loved one (Eben has spent most of the book hiding, after all), yet he can somehow channel his murderous impulses toward the vampires rather than the people around him. He sort of reminds me of Rick from The Walking Dead, whose heroism, motivated by a thoroughly unrealistic altruism, has rendered him unbelievable as a character.

A lot of people are on the fence about Ben Templesmith’s artwork. In his introduction Clive Barker mentions the “soft focus” of it, and I think it works well for this story, as it creates the illusion of the indistinct haze formed by falling snow. The black-and-white bleakness of the setting and the vampires, contrasted with splashes of red, is visually very powerful. (I did my undergrad in studio art, and I still draw and paint as often as possible, so I’m very much a visual person.) His style is highly unique and, even if you don’t like it, you probably won’t forget it.

Is 30 Days of Night the greatest vampire story ever? Of course not. But it brought back the folkloric vampire, the heartless, remorseless killer that haunted the nightmares of 18th-century Europe. That’s the vampire I know and love, and I hope we continue to see more of them.

The Funeral

“The Funeral” is Richard Matheson’s absurd yet charming short story about a vampire who wishes to attend his own funeral. His guests include familiar faces, particularly from the 30s and 40s era of horror films–a hunchback, a werewolf, a witch and, well, more vampires. As with I Am Legend, Matheson questions our perception of the true monster, though in a far more amusing way. The vampire, Ludwig Asper, simply wants a funeral, the best that money can buy and for which he is willing to pay. Morton Silkline, the funeral director, is an arrogant and greedy man more than content to make a buck off of grief.  

The chaos that ensues is a reflection of similar human gatherings in which the guests behave monstrously, and more than a few I’ve experienced myself. For actual monsters, at least, it’s their nature to behave this way. The werewolf has an appointment to keep and leaves early, with only one syllable rudely grunted to mark his departure; the witch is like the family drunk who starts fights just for the attention she’ll get. Between witch and vampire magic, the room is severely damaged in the end, but one can hardly sympathize with either Silkline’s losses or his terror. It’s Ludwig who garners that sympathy; upstaged by the witch, whom he had asked to leave before things got really ugly, he is once again unable to experience a proper funeral.

Some people do not like the pompous, pretentious style in which “The Funeral” is written, but I felt it very appropriate to Silkline’s character. By the end, as some Lovecraftian beast lumbers into his office because the vampire has referred it, one wonders how long gold will comfort Silkline when faced with a potentially endless clientele of monsters and the inevitable destruction of more rooms. And yet, are these funerals all that different from the human ones over which he has presided? Perhaps this is exactly the opportunity he has been waiting for; monsters, after all, seem to have a great deal more money than people do.

“The Funeral” was an excellent counterpoint to I Am Legend. Matheson truly excels in the short form, and I look forward to reading the rest of the stories contained within the book.

I Am Legend

It’s been difficult for me to reconcile the fact that Richard Matheson, who wrote the fantastic and influential vampire novella I Am Legend, is the same man who went on to write Hell House. My brain did not break over sentences punctuated with endless adverbs, or a bizarre obsession with a character’s breasts (as explored so brilliantly by Kristina Butke), or a ridiculous ending that rendered the villain’s entire motivation equally ridiculous. But let’s not dwell on that. I admit that I love vampire novels, and I have read a hefty number of them, as well as numerous “non-fiction” books on the subject. My thesis novel is, on the surface, about a vampire and her preordained killer. And while my novel is fully immersed in the realm of the supernatural, I truly enjoyed the biological/psychological explanation Matheson posited for his vampire plague. I became so engrossed in every aspect of the story that I didn’t even notice the handful of inconsistencies pointed out by Cin Ferguson in her own blog post.

More than that, however, Matheson appealed to my undying (heh) love of post-apocalyptic fiction. Where this story shines is in depicting Robert Neville’s utter solitude as the last uninfected member of the human race, of the insanity to which a social animal is inevitably driven when it is forced into solitude. While reading the book I thought a lot about what it would be like to be in Neville’s shoes, to be an average working-class joe trapped in a world where everyone you ever knew and loved is worse than merely dead; their continued existence is a reminder of all that has been lost, and a mockery of life itself. This is the power of Matheson at his best. Neville’s desperation to befriend a stray dog, and the loss of hope represented by the dog’s death, is one of the most depressing segments of I Am Legend precisely because of our deep-seated need to connect with other living creatures. Neville is, after all, merely in “the habit of living” at this point; emotionally, sexually, socially, he has been dead for a long time, and we see it in his initial reactions to Ruth. Ruth, one of the infected (unknown to Robert at the time, of course), exhibits more compassion and humanity at the end of the book than Neville after his three years of isolation. Yet she awakens in him a spark of emotion beyond mere survival instinct. In a brutal stroke of irony, it is that fear of being alone, of being the last of one’s kind, that is his downfall.

Which brings us to the most important aspect of the book: what is the meaning of the title, and who are the real monsters in Matheson’s terrifying world? The vampires, who come out at night seeking blood, just as they have for centuries? The living infected, who want neither the dead nor any humans in their fledgling society? Or Robert Neville, feared by both groups as their exterminator? As a modern human it is only natural to continue living under the default assumption that humans are the rulers of the world, even when, in Robert’s case, all evidence points to his being the only one left. Until his scheduled execution, Robert Neville resists the idea that the true monster in this new civilization was him all along, and indeed, Matheson let us believe that Neville was just doing what he had to in order to stay alive. To the living infected and their vision of rebuilding society, however, he is a terror that must be stopped. And so, in the end, we witness the inversion of one of humanity’s most enduring myths. On a planet populated by vampires, it is the last human, the killer of vampires, who becomes the subject of legend. One wonders if the infected scare each other with stories of humans hiding in the mountains, who will kill vampires on sight…

Oh, and stop watching that stupid Will Smith movie. It doesn’t even deserve to have the same title.