What perils await young women as they venture into the wider world? How do fairy tales translate into the modern world? Is there a reason why some stories end exactly where they do? Find out all this and more in this month’s mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Abandoned places are a reliable source of wondrous imagery, juxtaposing our species’ resourcefulness in building with our tendency to lose interest in anything considered old or outmoded. In populous areas, such spaces are reclaimed in one way or another–either refurbished or demolished to make way for projects that fit with current needs. Far more fascinating, however, is what happens to abandoned buildings in more remote locations. This gradual slide into decay is captured poignantly by photographer Eleonora Costi, whose haunting work is profiled in Atlas Obscura.
I love paintings that appear in movies. This probably accounts for my warmer-than-they-should-be feelings towards Night Gallery, a show I can admit is far less good than Twilight Zone and yet which I will always gravitate towards. It’s a special delight when I get to learn more about the creators of movie paintings, so Dangerous Minds’ recent profile of artist Burt Shonberg was a welcome read. Not only do I now know who created the ghostly portraits in the Corman version of Fall of the House of Usher, but Shonberg’s bio also includes a cameo by occult superstar Marjorie Cameron!
All travelogues should come with a whiff of scandal. The Public Domain Review curates this noteworthy book by English sculptor Clare Sheridan, which you can read in its entirety. Written after her travels to Soviet Russia and shortly before the creation of the Soviet Union, the book excited the wrath of Winston Churchill.
By the time [Clare Sheridan] met Kamenev in London, she was an established artist of independent means, but she had never been published. When Kamenev personally invited her to travel back with him to Russia to make busts of his fellow revolutionaries she seemed to jump at the chance. Perhaps she smelt a great story. Certainly she wanted adventure and to know the truth about the Bolsheviks — “these wild beasts who have been represented as ready to spring upon us and devour us!” Kamenev managed to secure her passage to Moscow, getting her a berth on the trade delegation’s boat to Stockholm, and from there the Estonian visa she needed to reach Russia. She would stay at the Kremlin for two months, producing excellent models of Trotsky, Lenin, and other Soviet bigwigs.
I have to say that GoodReads has been a great tool for me to get through some of the books I’ve been hoarding! There’s something to be said about the accountability of having a “Books I’m Reading” update glaring at me every time I log on. In addition to my podcast reads, here are a few titles that stood out for me this month.
Much as a I hate star ratings from a principled standpoint, they’re a good tool when seeking automated recommendations–sort of a way of saying “more like THIS, please.” I’m always going to default high when star-rating creative works in these kinds of online platforms, since my real approach is more of a “pass/fail” depending on what I’m looking to be entertained by at that specific moment.
By turns sardonic, mystical, romantic, witty, and violent, this lushly illustrated trio of stories builds an immersive fantasy-futurist vision that one won’t soon forget. Bilal seems to take a “more is more” approach, blending elements of espionage, mythology, film noir, surrealism, and meta-narrative into these stories. Each panel is exquisitely detailed, encouraging a pleasurably slow reading process. A spiritual cousin to The Incal but from a grimier, more pessimistic perspective.
Completely over the top horror SF fantasy from the team that created Requiem Vampire Knight. This is very much a Heavy Metal title, with all the violence, acerbic satire, and weird sexual politics that implies. Ledroit’s visionary art style brings Mills’ dystopian occult revenge plot to life. This very much feels like a test run for the more immersive (and more outrageous) Requiem.
Becky Cloonan’s gifts as a visual storyteller are aptly demonstrated in this trio of short stories linked by themes of loss, heartbreak, and the cruelty of fate. The juxtaposition of her thoroughly modern visual style with the weighty supernatural tales she weaves creates an impact that lasts long after the final frame. There’s a restraint present here that focuses the attention on small gestures and facial expressions, making climactic moments land all that much harder. The added “Concept Sketches & Illustrations” are a welcome treat that allow the reader to linger in Cloonan’s medieval world a bit longer. Highly recommended.
The real joy of Larson’s narrative approach to writing about history is found in the small moments he captures. While the broad strokes of Hitler’s consolidation of power are known to virtually all readers with a passing interest in military and political history, Larson narrows the focus and depicts events as experienced by a very specific set of personalities. This is a book about romantic entanglements, over-dinner conversations, and personal diary confessions, all of which grow to have dire consequences in the charged, bloody, and tragic atmosphere in which they occur. Larson mentions the influence of Christopher Isherwood on the development of the book, and that’s an apt point of reference for potential readers. This is a real page-turner with two captivating, flawed American characters (scholarly Ambassador Dodd and his vivacious twenty-something daughter Martha) at its center.
There are a lot of things to be afraid of in the world: bees, nuclear annihilation, identity theft, having all your teeth fall out, and so on. To this non-comprehensive list, I’d like to add one of my personal fears: “contemporary reinterpretations of historical periods about which I know enough to be dangerous.” Molly Tanzer’s novel Creatures of Will and Temper falls into this category. What did I make of a playful reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray but with gender-bending, swordplay, and demons? Frankly, I found it to be quite a bit of fun!
Listen to the Podcast Here.
In Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer takes elements of Oscar Wilde’s ThePicture of Dorian Grayand crafts a story of romance, swordplay, and demonology. It’s an ambitious premise that goes beyond simply gender-swapping its source material. Listen and find out what Jack, a Wilde scholar, and Kate, a reader with a deep fear of contemporary takes on fin de siecle themes, think about this supernatural adventure.
Just how bent do genders get in this story? How much of the artistic process involves drinking, crying, and puking? Will these fencers ever get an opportunity to have some sexytimes? How do demons fit into the worldview of the Aesthetic movement? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
NOTE: I want to personally apologize for mis-naming the lead character throughout this episode. Her name is “Dorina Gray,” not “Doriana Gray.” I made a typo in the show notes because I was thinking about Jess Franco’s Doriana Gray. I’m always kind of thinking about Jess Franco movies, really.
Upon seeing my name mentioned recently in the context of film writing by the exceedingly talented Heather Drain, it struck me that I haven’t actually written about film in a long time. I’m not sure how much the following list counts as breaking that streak, but I will take a minute to talk about some of the more memorable titles I’ve watched recently.
I’m consistently shocked at the excellence of the selection at Shudder.com. We live in a beautiful world where $50 a year gets you access to titles like The Devils, Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and His Women. Selling me on a “horror streaming service” is a dicey proposition, since I’m more incidentally interested in horror. It’s not so much the horror-ness of a movie that attracts me, as it is that stories classed as “horror” are reliable sources of the kind of bizarre and thrilling things that I enjoy. As such, here are a few Shudder titles I can recommend.
Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion: DELICIOUS fashion, bad behavior, duplicitous women, and really awful personal decisions combine to make this Italo-thriller sizzle. So long as you’re not at 101-level gore-seeker status (and if you are, why are you reading anything I write?), this is a keeper.
Play Motel : OH MY GOD there’s a bouncy, soft-rock theme song that references the title of the movie and this was made for a dollar ninety-nine and I feel like I’m coated in a thin sheen of something slimy and disquietingly organic after accidentally stumbling into a sex party and then staying because dude, it’s a sex party–what am I going to do, LEAVE? Perfect, perfect, perfect. You, too, will be havin’ fun at the Play Motel, but you’ll feel super-gross about it afterwards.
Lust for a Vampire : Ralph Bates has gone on record saying this is “one of the worst films ever made,” which makes me sad. That the actor who is Hammer Films’ answer to Crispin Glover failed to see the beauty of this ode to lesbonic passion in a continental girls’ school where the heavy-bosomed students traipse about performing pseudo-Grecian dances while giggling is one of the great mysteries of cinema.
Amazon Prime Video is a reliable source for weirdness dredged up from god knows where, often with dubious-quality prints. All of this makes their pristine streaming copies of vintage Shaw Brothers movies even more of a treasure. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but Human Lanternscan’t be rivaled for sheer Grand Guignol monstrosity. You’re gonna have a bad day after watching this martial arts revenge film whose “surprise” is right in the title. That is either a recommendation or a warning depending on your personality. Also: if you’re not watching movies starring the Venom Mob, then I just don’t know what you’re doing with your life. These martial arts masters make it all look so damn easy, capable of doling out serious ass whippings even when wearing bespangled, chest-baring satin outfits. Check out Flag of Iron, Five Elements Ninjas, and of course Five Venoms and prepare to be amazed.
I finally watched Fatal Attraction which is a wry comedy from the point of view of a middle-aged office worker who imagines himself to be an object of unbearable sexual desire, like some darkest timeline Walter Mitty (unless I’m reading this movie incorrectly…?). Following closely on the heels of this absurdist romp, I figured it was high time that I checked out Basic Instinct. The latter title was, if anything, even more bananas than I’d been led to believe. Sure, at one point in my life Basic Instinct was just a cultural artifact that brought me great pleasure when denying its rental to teen boys during my stint as a video store manager. I used to dismiss these 1990s erotic thrillers as aesthetically weak-sauce knockoffs of giallo, and while younger me was not entirely wrong in that assessment, I was very mistaken to think that this particular brand of bad taste was meritless as a result. Twenty-five years after its release, Basic Instinct has aged into a surprisingly heady brand of grotesque charm.
Speaking of grotesque charm, I blind-watched The Devil’s Mistress, a 2016 Czech docu-drama about actress Lída Baarová’s affair with Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and walked away satisfied. Have you ever wanted to see a telenovela-style love scene featuring a close-up on Goebbels’ leg brace set to Wagner’s Tannhäuser? Well, if you do now, you can head to Netflix and sate your curiosity.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been entirely too long since I updated here, but y’all will hopefully forgive me when you see everything I’m up to.
The big news (such as anything can be termed “big news” in my world of esoteric nonsense) is that I’m launching a podcast with my trusted Heretical Sexts lieutenant J. Guignol. It’s called Bad Books for Bad People, and it will feature the most outrageous, shocking, shamefully fun books that we’ve enjoyed. Expect a variety of titles from a variety of time periods. Our first book is BleakWarrior, and Jack describes it as “”if SoulCalibur were a porno directed by Jodorowsky.”
Elsewhere, I’ve done bunches of stuff…
I’m continuing my Great Moments in Historical Sluttery column with two amazing women:
The dangers of rock music in Spellbound?, a Chick Publications comic informed by the work of the same dude who assisted with Dark Dungeons.
I got to chat with Anders Manga of Bloody Hammers, my former editor over at Occult Rock Magazine. The new Bloody Hammers is a delightful occult/doom/goth-flavored offering that should be listened to posthaste.
Has it been almost two months since I posted an update? YIKES. Let me atone for that by letting you know everything I’ve been up to…
In what’s probably my greatest personal achievement to date, the Death In June/Boyd Rice fanfic authored by the mysterious J. Guignol and illustrated by me is being sold as officially endorsed DIJ merch at Soleilmoon. The beautiful hardbound copies got snapped up right quick, but softbound copies are still available. According to coverage on Dangerous Minds, it’s “frankly explicit” and I’ve also been told it’s “funny” and “surprisingly sad,” so go grab a copy and find out for yourself. Oh, and if you want me to do a fic about your band in erotic situations, please get in touch.
April’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery is dedicated to Vali Myers, the 60s counterculture icon and artist who was so much more than a muse. Read about her here.
I enjoy puns, so for May I covered Mae West, who was one of the most excellent humans to walk the earth. The story about the trained parrots might be my favorite anecdote from this piece. Read about Mae West here.
Speaking of Slutist, I got a chance to chat with founder Kristen Korvette about the second installment of the Legacy of the Witch Festival. She’s great, you’ll want to learn more about her in this interview for Heathen Harvest.
Mike Hunchback, man of indomitable charm & energy and co-editor of Pulp Macabre: the Art of Lee Brown Coye chatted with me about weird fiction, underground art, and the controversy surrounding H.P. Lovecraft. Read the article on Heathen Harvest.