Author Leanna Renee Hieber has created an alternative Victorian London that merges ghost-hunting, Jack the Ripper, capital-R Romantic love, and a healthy dose of post-Harry-Potter magic in her novel Strangely Beautiful. Originally published as two books in 2009 and 2010, Hieber’s story features a beautiful, innocent young woman raised in a convent and dropped into a supernatural battle that will change the course of her life. The author describes this book as “Victorian Ghostbusters” and seeks to create a new brand of Gothic with a modern sensibility within its pages.
How will Jack and Kate react to this fanciful new spin on tried-and-true suspense tropes? Why does Kate loathe the male lead more than any other character from any other book they’ve read so far? When does a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a teenager become a horror story for a middle aged person? And how do Jesus, Snape, and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS figure into all of this? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Intro/Outro Music: “What Is Love” by Death in Rome
British pulp author Sax Rohmer built a career on depicting the threat posed to the Western way of life by the Demonic Other. His most famous creation, Dr. Fu Manchu, is infamous not just for the hideous violence he wreaks on his enemies, but also for being a dreadful racist caricature. This formula of depicting the horrors of the non-British enemy worked so well for Rohmer that he would revisit it numerous times, even substituting “Asian” for “feminist” when creating his sexy supervillainess Sumuru. In this month’s episode, Jack and Kate discuss the first Fu Manchu novel, Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu , as well as the first Sumuru novel, Nude in Mink.
What will they make of Rohmer’s brand of phobic suspense? Do any of the characters stop mid-action to grab a cozy fish dinner? How does the author use smoking to convey character? How much more awesome are Fu Manchu and Sumuru than the bumbling protagonists who attempt to foil their plans? Just how inept are British men in dealing with beautiful, sexually available women? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Beginning with her smash hit debut novel, 1976’s Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice has spent a career detailing the lives, loves, and melodramas of a sprawling cast of supernatural characters. In interviews where she’s discussed 2016’s Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, Rice promised a whole new spin on her beloved Vampire Chronicles. The concept of blending gothic vampires with new age science fiction is an appealing one, but does the author deliver on her promise? Jack and Kate dive into this latest offering from the queen of modern gothic horror.
How many of the Vampire Chronicles books have our hosts skipped? Will Kate’s dreams of lots of characters she doesn’t recognize meeting up with ancient aliens come true? Will we learn the vagaries of vampire science? Isn’t a ghost with a body just a dude? How is Lestat doing after all these years? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Intro/Outro music: “Pictures of Betrayal” by Nosferatu.
After failing in his quest to find financing for his 18- to 24-hour-long film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo and Santa Sangre) partnered with French artist Moebius to create a science fiction graphic novel titled The Incal. This epic, first published between 1981 and 1988, takes its hapless hero John DiFool across strange galaxies while providing a platform for Jodorowsky to explore his esoteric ideas, which blend shamanism, the tarot, Freudian psychoanalysis, and theater. As you might gather, there’s a lot going on here.
Jack and Kate break down how Dune‘s DNA exists within The Incal even though its creators take the tale in a direction that’s far more madcap, alchemical, and… well, French.
Can a work of art succeed at being both serious and light-hearted at the same time? Why are women so goddamn allegorical? Is there such a thing as an unfilmable graphic novel? Who is Kill Wolfhead and why is he the best? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
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.