I have nothing but good things to say about Ajna Bound, the esoteric publishing arm of media company Ajna Offensive. Issuing carefully selected titles in the realms of the occult, underground music, and alternative art, they create keepsake books that are like catnip to folks like me. Their recent publication of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ The Hearts of KingsI take a look at this new English translation over at Heathen Harvest, a short conte cruel by the German master of the weird, is another lovely addition to their catalog:
The work of German author Hanns Heinz Ewers depicts the grotesque, erotic, and philosophical in elegant language, often dosed with poisonous wit. Best known for his novel Alraune, the decadent and blackly humorous tale of an artificially birthed femme fatale, Ewers’s Romanticism would lead him to join the most deadly cult of German exceptionalism, the Nazi Party. This three-year-long affiliation would ultimately find the freethinking bisexual artist ousted from the group in 1934 with virtually all of his works banned, but this did not occur until after he had penned the propagandistic novel Riders in the German Night and had written a screenplay and biography of Nazi martyr Horst Wessel. As a result of these political beliefs, many scholars of the fantastique have been hesitant to champion Ewers’s horror writing. He is a complex figure; the same man who joined the Nazi Party also had a fascination with occult theory that led him to develop the concept of a “cultural nation” that transcended geographical boundaries by spiritually uniting creative thinkers. Recent years have seen a reassessment of Ewers’s writing in the English-speaking world. Through independent publishing services, translators have made the author’s short stories, novels, and essays available to adventurous readers. One of the most jewel-like of these new editions is Ajna Bound’s 2015 hardbound volume of Ewers’s 1922 short story The Hearts of Kings, published alongside the etchings by Stefan Eggeler that accompanied the text in its original printing.
A few months back, I reviewed Death in Rome’s Hitparade, a delightful collection of pop songs covered in neofolk style, for Black Ivory Tower. The mysterious gentlemen behind the band appreciated the article, and in an extraordinarily generous move, gave me the opportunity to select their next cover song. I chose “Toxic” by Britney Spears, imagining the potential for some sort of Baudelairian comment on excess, but Death in Rome went in a more nihilistic direction altogether. The resulting track is–dare I say it–a dark dancefloor banger. The YouTube video features my cover illustration of Britney serving champagne to nihilist philosopher Emil Cioran. Enjoy!
Celebrated on the 15th of February, Lupercalia is thought by some historians to be the origin of Valentine’s Day (which itself is a Catholic feast day for multiple Saint Valentines, but that’s a whole ‘nother zine). My handmade, fully illustrated mini zine explores some of the ways we can take a page from the Ancient Romans to spice up our own romantic celebrations.
Carisa Swenson, the artist behind Wormwood and Rue, has created a black and gold enamel badge bearing the image of a fascinum, a winged penis amulet that represented everything from victory in war to good luck to protection against the evil eye. That’s some pretty intense juju for a winged penis!
For a limited time, orders will be shipped with a button showing my illustration of the god Faunus, an Ancient Roman nature spirit.
Hanns Heinz Ewers’ 1911 novel Alraune is part horror, part science fiction, part decadent prose, and absolutely of the most extreme femme fatale stories ever written. Kate and Jack tackle Ewers’ complicated personal and political history and why this German author’s weird tales deserve to be read alongside the work of other horror luminaries.
Kate and Jack selfishly take on the role of readers this month, highlighting the author’s luridly beautiful writing.
Explore sexy funtimes dekadentenstil with bloodletting, gender bending, and attempts to scientifically identify the sluttiest woman in Berlin. What on earth is a German fencing fraternity? Why should we bring back dueling for satisfaction? How can reading out loud be an effective pathway to getting laid? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
In the mid-1990s, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series was a sensation, creeping out kids across the globe. The phenomenon of kid-friendly horror fiction is hardly a new one, so Kate and Jack tackle three Goosebumps titles and see how they stack up against the terrifying stories of their childhoods. Bring on the haunted houses, possessed dummies, and nightmarish theme parks!
This month’s guest reader is Aunt John from Kindertrauma, the long-running website dedicated to all things childhood-horror-related.
How weird are the Goosebumps books? Why do people love them so much? How do you say Goosebumps in Dutch? What highly inappropriate Freudian subtext can our hosts insert into their conversation about these stories for young readers? All these questions and more will be answered in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
The latest episode of Bad Books for Bad People features the 1953 occult adventure novel To The Devil a Daughter by British pulp author Dennis Wheatley. Come for the promise of a devil-possessed young lady, stay for the heroic interior decorator and many, many stops for cocktails and hearty meals! Charmingly stuffy, undeniably weird, and quite ludicrous indeed, this yarn tracks a mystery author and her interior decorator son who get enmeshed in an occult conspiracy when they delve too deeply into the life of mysterious young lady who becomes their neighbor on the French Riviera.
We’re joined by Kristen Korvette, the dynamic and wonderful founder and editor of Slutist, who reads a passage about black magic, gross monsters, and … Stalin.
In 1994, artist Mike Diana was convicted of obscenity in Florida for his comics zine Boiled Angel. I remember following his story as a teenager and thinking how horrifying it was that someone could serve jail time for the so-called “crime” of making people uncomfortable with his art–art that was always intended for an underground audience. It was eye-opening to speak to Diana and to director Frank Henenlotter for Heathen Harvest about the upcoming documentary The Trial of Mike Diana that recounts the whole horrible story and tries to understand how something like this could happen. The Trial of Mike Diana is seeking funding via a Kickstarter Campaign that includes amazing incentives like original art, comics, and invitations special events. I’ll rarely use this word, but this is an important story that deserves to be told, so consider donating to this very worthy campaign.
Can you believe I managed to avoid the books of V.C. Andrews for my entire life? For whatever reason (prejudice against popular girls, a love of gay vampires, and/or getting into general Goth kid mischief), it took me to this advanced age to be coerced into checking out My Sweet Audrina, Andrews’ horrifyingly claustrophobic tale of womanly trauma.
Jack and I tackle this title on the latest episode of our podcast, Bad Books for Bad People, where we delve into what makes this book so effective as well as why on earth tween girls went bonkers for these gothic novels.
Click here to listen, or find us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or in your podcast app of choice by searching for Bad Books for Bad People.
About the episode:
The potboiler Gothics of V.C. Andrews were beloved by adult women… and their tween daughters. Both Jack and Kate are new to the author’s infamous tales of female woe, and they discuss what it’s like to read her work for the first time during this discussion of Andrews’ 1982 novel My Sweet Audrina. This claustrophobic tale of a girl raised with family secrets in the shadow of her dead sister proves to be a surprisingly traumatic experience for Kate who is forced to confront some of her darkest fears, including the horrors of inheriting someone else’s kids.
Here to read an especially sensational passage from the book is Wendy Mays, hostess of Pet Cinematary, the podcast dedicated to taking a deeper look at the role of animals in film. This is her first time reading the work of V.C. Andrews as well, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than your hosts imagined to find a woman unfamiliar with these macabre little novels.
How does the domestic nightmare world of My Sweet Audrina effect your hosts? Did V.C. Andrews’ life experiences add to the intensity of her stories? What were your hosts reading as tweens? Why did tween girls love these depressing forays into mental illness and isolation so much? Find out all this and more on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader’s guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new through the ever-changing landscape of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It’s a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.
In February, I’d written about the unique and overwhelmingly (yet delightfully) esoteric black metal and folk zine Black Ivory Tower, which at that time had been shuttered. It pleases me to no end to let you all know that Black Ivory Tower is back in blog form with a brand-new podcast. I’ve joined the BIT team and will be writing about the music that moves me as well as various beautiful, old-fashioned things.
Transmissions from the Black Ivory Tower Episode 1: I join Degtyarov and we talk about controversial album art, the pain of visa issues for musicians, and 90s video games. Unlike my podcast, this show does not include a section where the co-host is tortured by reading a filthy section of a book aloud (sorry to disappoint you all).
Magic for the People: The Art of Ivan Bilibin: I’ve long admired the artwork of the sole Russian representative in the Golden Age of Illustration. In many ways, Bilibin opened a window for Western audiences to glimpse the folklore and aesthetics of his culture, so I took a moment to appreciate his contributions.
We’re back with another episode of Bad Books for Bad People, in which Jack Guignol and I discuss Philip José Farmer’s one-two punch of Image of the Beast and Blown. These XXX science fiction/horror novels are some of the most bonkers books to come out of the already-bonkers 1960s. I described these books as “like the monster mash version of Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye,'” but there’s an awful lot more going on here. Explicit sex, Lord Byron, aliens, and… Well, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast to find out the rest.
We got our most squeamish friend, man of mystery Baron XIII, to read an especially grotesque segment of Image of the Beast. He issues a seven-day drawing challenge in exchange for being emotionally tortured WARNING: Do not drink every time I say “werepig” or “vagina” or you will be one sloppy human being by the end of this podcast.