Tag Archives: vampires

Women in Horror: Nancy Kilpatrick

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s bloody Valentine’s Day and who to know more about the horror of vampire’s than Canada’s own Nancy Kilpatrick. Nancy talks about collecting, vampires and all that crazy killer love of them.

Vampires. Now you see ‘em, now you don’t. They’ve been around at least since the first written records of humanity’s history, and likely since the first mortals ventured out of caves and decided they enjoyed being bipeds. As we’ve evolved, so have the Undead. After all, we imagined them, so we have creators’ rights to bring them up to our speed.

Being one of those insane types who becomes obsessed about certain things, I’ve ended up with a library of vampire novels totaling over 2,500 volumes, which will be hard to move if I ever need to. I also own a hundred or so movie posters, games, dolls, toys, pamphlets, PhD dissertations, small press non-fiction offerings, movies, vinyl and CD music, poetry, jewelry, clothing, toys and much other memorabilia related to Bloodsuckers (and their less physical cousins who don’t want to sip our blood but do want to imbibe our energy, our dreams, our souls, or whatever else they desire which we possess).

kilpatrickI’ve also written quite a bit on vampires. Currently, my 22nd novel has just been released in a vampire series for adults called “Thrones of Blood.” Vol 4: Savagery of the Rebel King follows the bite trail of Vol 1: Revenge of the Vampir King; Vol 2:  Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess; Vol 3: Abduction of Two Rulers.

Being awash in this crimson milieu has resulted in a bit of knowledge about these supernatural creatures, especially in terms of what’s been written, and what hasn’t. Which is why the great hoopla about the Twilight books and movies and others of that ilk has astounded me. Both the pro and anti positions are strong still and within those are factions like: Camp Edward (vampire) or Camp Joseph (werewolf)—pick your own fantasy guy.

Twilight has been viewed as teen fodder, but it was not only young adults and not only females that adored the material. Rumor has it that moms also jumped on the coffin wagon. This sanitized vampire world spoke to budding hormones, since the human protagonist didn’t have sex until marriage, which came at the end of the series. Edward Cullen (approximate age 117 years), aka The Good Boyfriend, was always there for his still-in-high school human sweetheart Bella Swan. Attentive. Kind. Not pushy. Self-effacing to a fault; he would rather harm himself than harm her, abandon her instead of inflicting his questionable true self on his true love. Much tease, little payoff.

But vampires have always had problems being accepted. Derived from legends and mythology with a few “true” accounts, in the past this creature was portrayed as horrific, violent, a fearsome, murderous, blood-drinking resuscitated corpse.

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Bela Lugosi as Dracula

The review in the Manchester Guardian on the 1897 release of Bram Stoker’s book is so scathing. Bela Lugosi played Dracula on stage and in 1931 on screen. While the movie was well received by the public, some of the female persuasion reputedly fainted en masse in the theater, The New Yorker’s negative review included, “there is no real illusion in the picture” and, “This whole vampire business falls pretty flat.” The Chicago Tribune did not think the film as scary as its stage version, calling it “too obvious” and “its attempts to frighten too evident.” Despite that, The Tribune deigned to conclude it was “quite a satisfactory thriller.”

All this to say that the vampire has floated side by side over millennia with us and that each incarnation has met with acceptance and rejection. Ultimately, the vampire, IMHO, is composed of many facets, which is why its popularity ebbs and then flows again at a re-envisioning, and why it likely will always remain the most popular supernatural. This monster is recognizable as us. Vampires were human and can still take human form.

We’ve cleaned up the vampire to meet our exacting germ-obsessed 21st century kilpatrick2standards. And that’s fine because it’s what the public demands. Each generation finds a new facet to engage with. Generation X had the most recent crack at redefining the vampire as a being that sparkles. A backlash resulted to return to the more terrifying Undead. We will have to wait to see what Gens Y or Z concoct. But if history means anything, it tells us that the vampire will not be staked into oblivion. If that was going to happen it would have already occurred. This dark archetype resonates in its myriad forms. Twilight is already part of the comprehensive history of the most intriguing of supernaturals.

Nancy Kilpatrick, who has been called Queen of the Undead, Canada’s Anne Rice, and That Hot Vampire Chic, says these monikers leave her delirious because “Somebody’s got to own it!”  Kilpatrick writes vampires, not only, but mostly. Her website lists her novels and collections. In addition, she has published over 220 short stories, 1 non-fiction book—The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined—as well as graphic novels and stories and lots of non-fiction articles. She whiles away her limited free kilpatrick3time visiting crypts, catacombs, cemeteries, mummies, jeweled skeletons and Danse Macabre artwork. Her latest creations are the sinister and seductive vampires in Thrones of Blood, with the first 4 books of this 6 book series out now. Check out the ebook of #4, Savagery of the Rebel King here  as well as at Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk.

Nancy Kilpatrick’s website is here and if there’s something not there that you want to know about her, ask at the bottom of the page. Nancy can also be found on Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram and on her Blog.

Links to the Thrones of Blood series:

 

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Women in Horror: Robyn Alezanders

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Today, Robyn Alezanders talks about acting, Dracula and the role of consent and sexuality with vampires.

Female Vampires in the Age of #MeToo

A couple of months ago I decided to challenge myself, try to check off a bucket list item, and hopefully get my creative mojo back by auditioning for a play. Not just any play either, but a community production of Dracula, and proud to say I landed it, portraying one of the vampire brides/Vixens. An absolute dream role, one I’ve coveted since I fell in love with vampires and the horror genre almost four decades ago.

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Robyn Alezanders playing the bloodthirsty Vixen

The entire theater experience thus far has been amazing and inspiring, thanks to an amazing woman director and a cast and crew who have made me, the newbie, feel entirely at home. Everyone is very open, very candid about themselves and what they bring to their roles, and as to be hoped and expected for, consent is strongly instituted. In a production where the story dictates a lot of touching and physical interaction, we have all discussed comfort levels and boundaries.

Dracula involves multiple obsessions: sex, feasting (food), faith, love, life, and death, but it’s the sexual component that has me most intrigued. It’s easy to analyze the Transylvanian count and see the flaws in his seductive dance, especially when focusing on his behavior with Lucy and Mina. He pursues who he wants and takes what he wants, and yet it’s that kind of control that many men and women find incredibly appealing about vampires. I, like many of those admirers, have a vampire fetish, extremely turned on by the neck biting, the submission, the feeling of being carried away into the depths of erotic imagination.

During these rehearsals, I’ve thought back to my goth nightclub days, where I alternated between “baby vamp,” hair pulled up in Pebbles Flintstone style, baggy white nightgown, and large wooden upside down cross, and “sexy vamp,” black lace, velvet, and fishnet stockings. Under either persona, I attracted flirtatious responses, emulating that compelling creature that’s become no pun intended, a forever classic in literary, cinematic, pop culture, music, and role-playing ventures.

The Vixens are eye candy and then some in three momentous scenes of this production. Clad in vintage flowing wedding dresses, we slither and crawl, evoking that interesting line between lust and fear−sadistic, wild, feral women ready to pounce on what (and who) they desire. It’s many a heterosexual man’s fantasy, isn’t it, to have four bewitching women all over him, despite the ultimate reveal that they bear more than just a sexual appetite?

We fondle, grope, and hold Harker down, moaning, cooing, giggling, and sniffing, exhibiting an over-excitement at hopefully satiating our hungers. And this in particular has me thinking about the role reversal of the Vixens vs Dracula−the portrayal of aggressive, overpowering, coercive women. Are we simply owning our sexuality, that which we should, that which men often already do, or are we, in the same context of dissecting Dracula, something more suggestively sinister? Harker is a perfect match for the virginal Mina−he is conservative, cautious, a by-the-rules gentleman. It is that purity that adds to Dracula’s attraction to Mina, and the obvious contradiction between her and Lucy, who has presumably not behaved as virtuously with some suitors. If Lucy is still indeed a virgin, she is at least a lot more self-aware of her beguiling wiles than Mina.

Alezanders - Dracula Vixens and Harker (002)

Harker being seduced by the Vixens

In the seduction scene between Harker and the Vixens, he is asleep, and we guess that he is most likely dreaming of his beloved. He feels the Vixens licking, nibbling, and stroking him, but is in that blurry state of applying those actions to what he’s dreaming about. He may even naturally be getting turned on, softly mumbling his fiancée’s name, before suddenly snapping awake, and realizing who is atop him. We hold him down, force against his struggles, and still try to dominate him (three Vixens at his arms and chest, me at and then between his legs), only to be cast off by Dracula entering the room and commanding us to stop. In those fleeting moments we have with Harker awake, is he solely aghast at seeing our fangs for fear of being killed, or because it hints at dangerous, unwillful sex? Were our fangs not evident, were the threat not so obvious, how far would the sexual element go? Would he even dare to touch us back? What of the metaphors between the Vixens and sex?

Our movements are animalistic, that of jungle cats on the prowl. We are also each from different centuries, and in this production, reminiscent of or inspired by historical female killers. There are multiple layers to muse on – did their inherent viciousness draw them to Dracula, or something else? What are they now, as compared to their mortal lives as rulers, forces unto themselves, formidable women not to be messed with? They have an essence of Manson Girls about them, that semblance of subservience, and what does that say? They’re trying to satisfy their lusts in the only ways they know how, but that’s quelled by Dracula−we are ordered to obey, and pacified like children. Lucy Westenra roams freely after becoming a vampire−it is her conspicuous behavior as the “Bloofer Lady” that leads to her ultimate demise. Have the Vixens just been lucky in avoiding the attention of vampire hunters, or are they kept quarantined to the castle? And if held to their home, why them, and not Lucy? What is the full extent of Dracula’s dictation, and how does it affect the Vixens’ sexual drives?

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Robyn as Vixen

As with any centuries-old story, it’s not unusual for adaptations and variations to echo societal issues or notable distinctions of the present time period. So what to do in this age, where we are redefining boundaries, encouraging and supporting more outspoken discussions, and pushing #MeToo to the forefront of conversations? What are the obligations, if any, from horror writers, women horror writers, women horror writers who can personally relate to #MeToo?

Putting aside Dracula’s sole behavior being called into question and castigated for ignoring consent, what if the Harker seduction involved more than one male vampire pinning down a woman? Unless explicitly designed, promoted, or described as something otherwise, how would it not then seem a bit uncomfortable to watch or unseemly? Contrary to the titillation of multiple women trying to have their way with a guy, against his true will, strutting with sensual purpose, and oozing with their sense of empowerment.

Bela Lugosi in 1931 film Dracula. Creative Commons

As I said, I am loving this role simply because it’s personally awesome to portray a vampire, and because it has re-ignited a long dormant creative rut. But I’m also seeing the story in another light, and despite the still erotic components, also seeing that Dracula is not the only one with debatable actions. As horror writers, we evoke and depict that which scares and unsettles us, weaving commentary into our spooky scenes and monsters’ motivations. We create atmospheres that often have much more layers for analysis than the surface impressions and words. As writers in general, we also tend to insert our own experiences into stories, either as catharsis or as in-your-face terror.

Do I now soften the vicious women I write about? Mirroring real life, there are indeed women who are just as awful and criminal as men, so whether I keep my characters as mortal or otherworldly, they shouldn’t all be victims or the nicest gals around. At some point though, I may incorporate my own #MeToo experience into some story, which hearkening back to reality, would be in the guise of a male character. It’s all an entirely new scope to explore, in step with this recent landscape we are carving….one which may take interesting turns when (re)interpreted in creative works.

Robyn Alezanders made her horror debut with the short story, “Soul Stains,” in Des Lewis’ Alezanders Bio Pic (002)critically acclaimed Nemonymous 5, and earned an Honorable Mention in the 19th Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. Her work has also appeared in The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra, Eternal Haunted Summer, and New Spirit Journal. She hopes to pursue more theatrical roles after Dracula, and to further explore the intricacy of haunting women characters.

https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/soul-stains-robyn-alezanders/

https://www.amazon.com/Mammoth-Book-Kama-Sutra/dp/0762433930

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Writing Update and Free Book Giveaway

More news on the writing front, which has kept me seriously busy.

erotica, books, writing, historical, Greek

Dance of the Minotaur, by T.C. Calligari

So, in reverse order: I write different types of fiction and have some late summer sizzlers now available. Until Thursday you can get a free download of two books on Amazon.com. That’s right! Absolutely free. They are Crossing the Line: Four Sultry Tales of Submission and Dance of the Minotaur. The second is historically set. Yes, these are erotic tales, so be forewarned. Go ahead and download them (click on any underlined title), spread the word, and if you are so inclined, please leave a review. The kindle app can be downloaded to your computer and you can read them that way if you have to reader device.

fantasy, myth, poetry, writing

Pantheon Magazine’s Nyx issue

New out in the last few months: “the moon: Fever Dream” has just come out in PantheonMagazine’s Nyx issue. Also available on Amazon. “Scar Tissue,” written with Rhea Rose, is coming out in Second Contacts from Bundoran Press and should be on the shelves soon. Another free to read poem is “Persephone Dreams: Awakening” in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Summer Solstice issue.

There are alas, some long delayed works that I’m still waiting to see from Nameless, Burning Maiden, Our World of Horror and OnSpec. I’m hoping those will all come out this year. Other recent works include “Asylum” in nEvermore: Tales of Mystery, Murder and the Macabre, based on stories from Edgar Allan Poe. It’s available on Amazon as an ebook and pre-order for paper, due Oct. 1. The Best of Horror Library Volumes 1-5 includes “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror is doing very well and currently #1 on Amazon in hot new releases.

Yet to come and recent sales include selling “Hold Back the Night” to Blood in the Rain. This is a vampire anthology and my story is a reprint first published in Open Space. It was shortlisted for several awards and received honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies of SF and of Fantasy. I’m pleased it’s going to appear again. I’ve also sold “Buffalo Gals” to Clockwork Canada. Edited by Dominik Parisien, this collection of Canadian tales will look at alternate histories where steampunk redefines the face of Canada. I believe both of these tales will come out last year.

The Playground of Lost Toys has been completed by Ursula Pflug and I. It’s an anthology due out from Exile Editions this November and contains 22 tales about toys and games. They range from humorous to darkly disturbing and from fantasy to SF to horror. I think it’s a good collection that explores toys, games, childhood, nostalgia, loss, love and many other things very well. On top of that I completed my synopses for books 2 & 3 and have sent the whole kaboodle to an agent. I’m trying not to bite my nails. And last, but not least, I’ve written 33 new poems for a poetry book competition. They just need a few more tweaks and I’ll be submitting it.

This is why I haven’t been posting very often. I’ve just been far too busy of late. In October I’m going to the Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat in Colorado. This is the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining. I plan to start a new novel that will take place in the world of my Evolve story “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” but a few centuries before. I’m hoping I can post a bit more often, so stay tuned for more writing news and just other pieces about stuff. 🙂

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Women in Horror Month: Nancy Kilpatrick

Continuing to highlight Canadian fiction writers for Women in Horror Month I have Canada’s grande dame of vampires and all things dark, Nancy Kilpatrick. Originally I was going to do two women a day but right now I have enough to spread the love. Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera organization. www.facebook.com/WomenInHorrorMonth

Without further ado, here is: NANCY KILPATRICK

Nancy Kilpatrick, Women in Horror, horror, dark fiction, vampires

Nancy Kilpatrick, queen of vampire fiction

Award-winning author with 18 novels, 1 non-fiction book, over 200 short stories and 6 collections of stories, and 13 edited anthologies to her credit.  Currently working on short fiction, another anthology, and a 7-novel series.  Updates at nancykilpatrick.com and on Facebook.

1. Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?

I’ve also written some fantasy, mystery and erotica and like to think I would write anything that appealed to me.  I prefer horror and dark fantasy writing because it suits my nature.  If there’s ever anything negative from anyone it’s this comment accompanied by a scowl: “Oh, like all those slasher movies.”  I explain (briefly) what horror is about, from Stoker, Shelley, Stevenson and writers of other classic literature into the present.  Education is everything.

Edge Publishing, vampires, horror, dark fiction, women authors, women's rights

Vampyric Variations, by Edge Publishing is a collection of Nancy’s fiction.

2. Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you?

This is THE most important genre because it’s the only one that looks at the dark side of life by confrontation: “We humans don’t know everything.”  It’s rife with undercurrents  and always controversial.  The network of people who read and write in this realm are, like me, interested in the dark side, and that always flies in the face of the mainstream’s preference for happiness, as if happiness is a goal, rather than an occasional state of being.  Reality is more than the sun.  The moon is equally important and some of us prefer it.

Everything and everyone inspires me.

3. Do you feel women are under represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance).

writing, horror, dark fiction, Danse Macabre, women in horror

Danse Macabre, published by Edge Publications and edited by Nancy Kilpatrick.

Women in this realm are both underrepresented and undervalued.  I guess you could say that about a lot of areas.  Women still have a difficult time getting into major anthologies and magazines in this field–check most of these types of publications in this genre and you’ll see few contributors are women.  If a woman writes what’s deemed “women’s horror,” which is generally paranormal, supernatural and/or gothic romance, and/or YA, it’s much easier to get published.

4. Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, fathers, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are what we can do to stem the tide?

I have no answer for this.

5. Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.

women's rights, equality, sexism, women in horror, fiction writing, horror

Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Most horror was, in the past, written by men, and that’s still the case today. Many women write with a unique voice; female concerns naturally filter into our work.  We face more real-life horror–if we didn’t there wouldn’t be so many women’s shelters, or high statistics of rape and murder of women.

Horror is a difficult genre for women to move forward in (unlike, say, the mystery or romance genres, both of which feature large numbers of A-list women writers).  In horror literature, women are not taken seriously because some of what we face is not faced by men, who do not menstruate, give birth, or go through menopause.  Women have enough testosterone floating through their systems that it seems we can relate more to male situations than men can relate to female situations.  I’d like to see that aspect of publishing change, but that involves readers changing and maybe society changing.  In my years in this business, there have been several attempts at broadening the base of best-selling women writers in this genre and with each attempt women lurch forward a notch (mostly in paranormal and YA), but there’s still a very long way to go.

Tomorrow I bring you E.M. MacCallum.

women in horror, viscera organization

THE MISSION

Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM) assists underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. WiHM seeks to expose and break down social constructs and miscommunication between female professionals while simultaneously educating the public about discrimination and how they can assist the female gender in reaching equality.

THE VISION

A world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression.

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World Horror and its Aftermath Part II

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Saturday started with vampires. I was the lone female and the one who hadn’t published a vampire novel on the vampire panel at 10 am, a full 1.5 hours. Other members of the panel were Steve Niles, Marcus Pelegrimas, Joe Garden, David Wellington and Nate Southard moderating who confessed to disorganization. However they started the panel with a short video highlight movie vampires and various book titles.

The interest in vampires seems as eternal as the creatures themselves. We talked about the monster vs humanity aspects, the romance vs grotesqueries, the myths, legends and variations throughout place, time and culture, memorable vamps both horrific or noble, movies and books. We talked about our portrayals of vampires in our stories (I have three published stories and two unpublished) as well as other author portrayals, and once in a while zombies and a few other monsters like werewolves would sneak into the discussion. All in all the panel went well and we didn’t run out of topic.

I had my pitch sessions in the early afternoon, where each person who signed up had about 10 minutes with an editor or agent. I

Horror Library Vol. IV

pitched to agent Robert Fleck (who does indeed look like Clark Kent) and to Katharine Critchlow of Tor. Both said to send the novel on but now I must work to finish it. There were many readings throughout the convention besides those as part of book launches. Unfortunately I missed many of them though I did catch Claude Lalumiere’s dramatic presentation. I then read “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” published in Horror Library Vol. IV and an honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror. While my name hadn’t been on the program and I was replacing Wayne Allen Sallee who couldn’t make it, I think it went well. I’m used to having not many people at a reading because you tend to stay relatively unknown until you have a book published but there was enough of an appreciative audience.

Many of the panels throughout the weekend involved selling, publishing, writing, editing and what happens along the way, as well as the future of books, horror and writing. I missed the rest of the panels and opted to wander through the dealer’s room again. I chatted with the people at Damnation Books and Dark Continents, including Sylvia Schulz, Adrian Chamberlin (who had the hugest Cadbury chocolate bar I’ve ever seen) and J. Prescott. I also met S.L. Schmitz as well as writers Brent Hayward, Bob Boyczuk, Ron Marks, Lincoln Crisler, Ron Marks and John Nakamura Remy who read a sick and twisted tale from Edge Publications’ Rigor Amortis (zombie love). There were so many people and conversations that I just can’t list them all.

I went off for dinner with a few Canadian writers to Papadeux, a Cajun restaurant that was across the street. I didn’t find it fantastic but I did find the prices high for what it was. After we came back and mingled through the mass author signing. I chose not to have a spot as I have no book published except for a chapbook of my speculative verse (which I forgot to bring) so I grabbed a drink and wandered through the signing talking with authors. I met fellow poet, the lovely Rain Graves and bought a book of her poetry.

Saturday night wound up with the Cutting Block Press party. The Austin publisher includes R.J. Cavender as editor on some of the anthologies and Boyd Harris. I have to give a special shout out to Boyd and award him the most awesome host dude award. Not only did he open his house to some authors the night before the convention he ferried us back and forth for dinners and lunches, constantly schlepped hot dog and margarita machines, kegs of beer, bottles of wine and other items for all of the parties. The parties were all in the con suite and Boyd never stopped, even on Saturday which was his birthday. I got to see what was meant by Southern hospitality and Boyd embodied that. We need more people like him in the world, so thanks very much, Boyd.

If I had a criticism it’s only that some of the rooms in the hotel were far too cold and it would have been great if there been a band because Austin is famous for music. The hotel was too far from the downtown so it’s the one thing I missed. The committee should have supplied itineraries for all those doing readings or panels and updated changes on schedules. Some were updated, others weren’t. But those are fairly minor criticisms. I’ve been to many World Fantasy cons and this was my first real World Horror con. I can say it rates as one of the top four cons I’ve attended for content, friendliness and never-ending amounts of food and alcohol.The Austin crew should be proud of the convention they put on and the overall camaraderie of the attendees. It’s sold me to attend another.

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Writing: Horror Library

Today, another wee chat about writing and reviews. Horror Library Vol. IV has had fewer reviews (and maybe I’ve post this already) than Evolve but there are still many who could review or post yet. Since both of these anthologies are on the long list for a Stoker award I figured I’d post some of the reviews here. My story has not been mentioned very much in the Horror Library volume either. Wah! So it goes for the little monkey.

http://www.paperbackhorror.com/2010/12/horror-library-volume-4-ed-by-rj.html

http://hellnotes.com/horror-library-volume-4-book-review did say:


Horror Library Vol. IV

Mental metamorphosis and mutation of the mundane are themes in “I Am Vision, I Am Death” by Erik Williams, and Colleen Anderson’s “Exegesis of The Insecta Apocrypha.” In the Williams story, dreams/visions blur with the seemingly substantive. Perception of identity is fragile and dicey. Persona pales when a mysterious hitchhiker catapults the central character into a twilight zone of recognition and acceptance. The final tale in the book belongs to Anderson: It is a doozy. Insects rule in this yarn. They are the protagonist’s objects of focus and desire. Obsession is taken to horrific heights, as the author weaves and

buzzes; bites and burrows; getting firmly under the skin.

http://www.zone-sf.com/wordworks/horlibv4.html

http://shroudmagazinebookreviews.blogspot.com/2011/01/horror-library-vol-4.html

For Evolve there are so many reviews that the central site to find most of them is here: http://www.vampires-evolve.com/NEWS_Page.html There are also many interviews with Nancy Kilpatrick on the same site. It may not list every review but has a goodly number and a few I hadn’t see before.Black Static’s magazine says:

Evolve

This is a book however in which the good outnumber the indifferent by a considerable margin, with a satisfying amount of stories that put moral dilemmas at their centre. ‘An Ember Amongst the Fallen’ by Colleen Anderson is one of the highlights of the collection. The story is set in a world of vampires, where humans are cattle and their masters discuss if they are capable of intelligent thought and feeling, and the worst crime is for a vampire to have sex with one of the beasts. It’s a clever reversal of traditional stereotypes, reminiscent in a way of Planet of the Apes, with a subtext about racism and the story brutal enough in places to horrify, both on the visceral level and intellectually.

Montreals Rover Arts http://roverarts.com/2010/05/stretching-the-vampiric-envelope/said:

In “An Ember Amongst The Fallen,” Colleen Anderson gives the reader an all-too-visual/tactile glimpse at a world where humans are used as cattle for food and blood – and the results when the metaphoric apartheid barriers are crossed.

And one more sample from A Novel Approach where he said:

An Ember Amongst the Fallen by Colleen Anderson was another troubling, yet clever story. In this version of reality, humans are relegated to the status of cattle and are harvested as such. It is ever so slightly reminiscent of Planet of the Apes in the role reversal it applies to humans as animals. If you are squeamish, you will find this story very disturbing. It was sometimes difficult to read but played interestingly to how we view our food.

So if you want to vote for Evolve or Horror Library IV or even me in the case of the Auroras http://www.prix-aurora-awards.ca/wordpress/, then I suggest reading these very good volumes (and not just because I’m in them. Writers and other artists do want to be known for their art. We monkeys of all sizes do have some vanity. All humans do.

And if you want to give input on the new cover of Evolve II then you can go to this site and vote. http://vampchix.blogspot.com/2011/02/which-appeals-more.html The two covers are called Banshee for the more blue colored one and Embrace for the darker cover. I’m not in the second volume because I didn’t submit anything. Just ran out of time with other projects.

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Writing: The Process

I’m sure I’ve written about this before but right now I’m in the middle of the full-fledged process. I’m trying to get a story done for the World Horror Convention writing contest, as well as doing and online interview with the other Evolve authors on Bitten By Books. Go over there now if you have questions to ask or want to see a bit of how different authors view the process of writing or writing specifically about vampires: www.bittenbybooks.com I’ll also be at Orycon from Nov. 12-14 in Portland to talk about writing and to do a reading, maybe two. Right now I think I might read this virginal story I’m working on.

Indirectly, perhaps, it involves the picture to the left. Those are barrow mounds in Ireland, at Knowth. However, to back up to the beginning of this process is the kernel of an idea I had. Perhaps it started with Nancy Kilpatrick saying she was doing a second anthology of vampire fiction. I wrote one page and couldn’t think of a plot. I had atmosphere, a character and…that was it. Well, sure there was a thin plot showing itself but it was a cliché vampire tale and I didn’t want to write that, nor would anyone want to buy it.  So I put it aside and pondered. And pondered.

And came up with nothing. Thinking this one page still had something I finally emailed a bunch of people and said, “Is anyone willing to read one page of fiction and tell me what you think the story should be.” About five people responded. One went for humor, which this story was not, two gave suggestions not really suitable even to the first page, and two others gave me enough suggestions that I could kickstart the thinking process again. Sometime we need a mental smack upside the head to knock us out of those cliché grooves.

Often my next step in the writing process is this: ruminate. Turn the ideas over, think about this or that factor, literally sleep on it and work out a whole bunch logistics in my head before even hitting the paper. Then I start to make points, bits of conflict, images that come together. I went to Ireland a few years back and I’ve never used anything Irish as a setting for a story. Once I started thinking that my story started to come together better and the characters inhabiting it made more sense. Then those thoughts lead to the ability of my character to change or not and the depth of the conflict.

Next, I start writing. And stopping. And writing. And going to clean. And writing. And napping. Sometimes the story pours out and sometimes it creeps shyly. I wrote six pages last night after taking a day to write one page. And now I’m stopped (procrastinating writing this) as I try to work out the next stage. My character has overcome one conflict, but is that it? No. A good story usually has internal and external conflict so I need to bring up her internal conflict and whether she succumbs, fights or changes will remain to be seen but I have to make sure there are enough stakes in the game for my character (whose name is changing as I write this) to either emerge triumphant or changed by her travails.

Some stories have taken me years to finish because I can never satisfactorily work out the plot and conflict to my satisfaction. Some stories leap fully grown from my head like Athena from Zeus’s brow. And some are a bit of both worlds; parts flowing out while others turn to concrete in my head.

And now that I’ve defined my problem, the internal conflict, I guess I need to decide if in fact the theme that I often write about in my stories will be the same here. Morality. “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” was a morality tale. “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” is maybe an immorality tale and this one, well, yeah her morals are question. I’ll see what the character decides.

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Writing & Life

Last night I did, not my first reading, but my first reading at the Vancouver Public Library. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a reading and the last was at Orycon, Portland’s science fiction convention, last November. Strangely, I was nervous all over again but since I’ve done enough acting and readings in front of people I reminded myself to take breaths and not rush. My most common nervous issue in reading is to start talking too fast. It must have worked because my friends didn’t notice I was nervous.

I read part of “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” from the Evolve anthology to a moderate sized audience. Rhea Rose, Mary Choo and Sandra Wickham also read from their works. Since we had a time limit, I chose the beginning of the dinner scene and the mounting conflict between some of the guests and my main character Buer, who wants to rekindle a relationship with his old flame.

If anyone ever asks, the names are significant in the story. Beside Buer, there is Camiel, Sammael, Ronobe, Arkon and Jeanine. Except for the very human name of Jeanine (the person who is bucking trends and the equivalent of a vegetarian in a vampire world), the rest are names of angels or archangels, or fallen angels. And yes, this does refer to the title of the Fallen, for in this world the vampirii call themselves the Fallen and their religious system is rooted in this belief and that God is the Great Deceiver. Some of the names have specific meanings, while others don’t in reference to my story. I will often use some subtle symbolism of names in my stories, if I think it’s important, though the reader may never know.

The Barnes and Noble reviewer thought I should be writing novels on vampires but I’m not sure I could do one in this world. Perhaps I could but I would have to tread carefully, not because of religious leanings of the vampirii, but to make sure this does not replicate the Planet of the Apes scenario. That’s been done and I’m aware of the similarities of that world and mine. However, whereas Planet of the Apes was a social comment on racism and black suppression (just as District 9 was), my story is different with humans as food. But both have a hominid as a lesser being.

“Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which went to press yesterday and should be out in Horror Library Vol. 4 in the next month, is quite a different story. If “Ember” is a morality tale, then “Exegesis” is an amorality tale. It is a story of otherness and the alien. Not aliens but alien. I’ll be interested to see what people think of this one.

In the meantime, VCon is this coming weekend, Oct. 1-3. It’s Vancouver’s SF convention (gaming, media, costuming, writing) and unfortunately it’s often plagued by disorganization and a lack of communication with the local writers. Despite that, some people have managed to get us down for a reading on Sunday (somewhere around 2 or 3). And considering I wasn’t invited to attend and they never answered my emails, I’ll be at the book launch on Friday at 7 pm. More info can be found here: http://www.vcon.ca/

And I will most likely be at Orycon in Portland on Nov. 12-14. “Exegesis” will be out by then so perhaps I’ll read from that. And in the meantime, I am determined to finish off this Mary Magdalene story, so I can start on another, darker story that might be vampire and might be something else entirely. I’m working that out, and I think it’s time to visit Ireland in a story since I’ve been there and the setting is needed.

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Superhero Fashion

Marvel, X-Men, heroes, capes

Could Mystique’s outfit even be called a costume? Or is it just skin?

When looking at superhero fashion, there are several things we must remember:

  1. The heroes have perfect or godly physiques. Even if slim, or buxom, superheroes are muscular and perfect. (There are exceptions like the Blob.)
  2. They have powers or abilities beyond the normal human.
  3. They are superbly fit and agile, as well as being able to withstand physical abuse that would disfigure, cripple or kill most other people (they never lose teeth for instance).
  4. They’re exhibitionists. This goes for the evil fellows too. Everyone wears flamboyant clothing, even if it’s subdued, flamboyant clothing. That type of style doesn’t make you invisible and suggests a certain level of arrogance.
  5. They rarely get paid unless it’s by the government or supported by benefactors, or they’re millionaires (Batman, Iron Man).

With these suppositions it’s obvious that superheros might not have their wits about them, evidenced by outfits both form-fitting and often more provocative than the sane person would wear. But if in fact there were people who fit the above paradigms in our world today, what would these costumes do for them?

First, capes. I mean, seriously, they were once great for the people of the middle ages, before coats came along, because they could keep a person warm or wrapped up for the night. And okay, vampires. The Bela Lugosis out there need a nice big cape to wrap their victims, and just in case they can’t turn into a bat, well it gives the impression that they can. And speaking of bats; let’s look at one of the more famous superheroes.

Batman, superheroes, hero, supervillains, costumes, fashion, leotards

DC’s Batman by Neal Adams. That’s a lotta muscle to see through a suit.

Some would call him vigilante, some would call him hero, all would call him dark. Batman. The dude is caped and hooded, unlike the caped but barefaced Superman who somehow naively believes that glasses and dashing his hair to the other side will confuse everyone as to his identity. But let’s look at the capes. Whether long and voluminous, or short and sparse, they are not used in most every day criminal or do-gooder capers (get it?). The capes flow behind the hero, denoting movement or speed, but should you have to battle someone or whip around the corner you risk the criminal element grabbing your cape or getting choked, or worse, tripping over your costume and looking stupid. How bad would it be if the bad guys laughed at Batman? Pretty bad for them I guess.

The picture above of different DC superheroes shows Batman, the Martian Manhunter (guy in green, doncha know) and Shazam in capes. Oh and Robin in a little demi cape. But really, if your cape is flowy, it’s only good for show but not for battle. And if your cape, like some of the versions in the Batman movies, is stiff and ribbed, well, you won’t trip over it or have it flap in your face but you’re as likely to have trouble going through doorways and windows as getting into a car. Unless every caped hero is stupid, even the most arrogant wouldn’t want to limit the chances of just taking down the bad guys. And these guys do it for truth and justice and because it makes them look good.

Now we can leave some aspects up to artistic expression, but you have those old pre-60s costumes and the morality codes that once ruled the comic world bringing out those shorts over the tights look. If some guy dressed like that and yes, I’ve seen some women do this, it’s a bit of a geekathon fashion nightmare. But you will notice that these guys to a one have great tailors and their clothes are form-fitting, so tight in fact that I wonder that their butt cracks never show nor underwear lines.  And we have to hope that, like dancers, these guys are wearing a dancer’s cup or codpiece underneath, or you’ll know whether they’re circumcised or not. Flash, in the background, is superfast and his costume is okay because it won’t get in his way.

Hawkman wears a harness of wings and can fly so his costume makes sense, unless he’s in the Arctic. Actually most of these guys would freeze in inclement conditions but that’s part of their powers. They can wear barely nothing and still survive. Hulk wears an abomination of torn purple pants, always. Bruce Banner is certainly a science geek with a limited wardrobe. Utility belts and other paraphernalia make sense if you’re scaling walls and swinging from rooftops. Gadgets are especially the guys’ domain, as is the real world.

I would think though, should these heroes walk/fly down the street in broad daylight, no one will miss them. And they will have

capes, heroes, superheroes, Storm, X-Men, costumes, fashion, skin tight

One version of Marvel’s X-Man Storm, with cape. By Greg Land.

to have something of steel to withstand the catcalls, wolf whistles and propositions they’ll receive for such outfits. Hell, they’d be noticeable in a total eclipse. I’ve only mentioned the guys so far but the women have costumes painted on in a much more provocative way. Not all artists go to this extreme but the pic to the right shows navels and nipples through their incredibly thin and skin-tight suits, what there is of them. High cuts, bare asses, low-cut bustiers; really every female superhero is a wet dream or perhaps just a call girl gone wild.

I already talked about capes and how they’re a bigger problem than not. Some exceptions are the X-Men’s Storm. She’s a weather witch and her cape buoys her on the elements she stirs up. Banshee has a sonic power which buoys his wings on the power of sound. But on top of capes some of these gals wear skirts, short short skirts. Of course they all have matching pants underneath, like tennis players, but it’s just something else for your supervillian to hang onto. Perhaps distraction is a diversionary tactic.

superheroes, female costumes, Wonder Woman, Zatanna

Female superheroes show a lot of butt and cleavage and wear high heels.

The gals above have been modernized a bit but Wonder Woman (far right) and Zatanna (right) are wearing fairly tight corsetlike tops. Corsets restrict breathing and movement and should they be made of more supple material, the adequate to the amply endowed gals would pop out of their tops, especially doing acrobatics or hanging upside down. Some accessories, like Wonder Woman’s, serve a functional purpose. Her armbands deflect bullets, her head band is a boomerang (long before Xena’s) and her lariat binds and forces truthful answers (not just for bondage). Very few of these heroes worry about armor or weather with their outfits.

I’ve already touched on the overtly sexual nature of the women’s costumes. They are as sexual, maybe a bit moreso than the men’s, but when you define every indentation and muscle, well, the costumes are just like paint over nekkid bodies. And perhaps their beauty is one way to stun perpetrators. If archvillian Doctor Doom gets mesmerized wondering if Power Girl is going to pop out of her top, that does give her an advantage. I won’t bother going into the high heel boots and the fishnets. We know what it’s like to run and kick in those. (For more on this see The Problem With Supervillains )

Suffice to say, superheroes really aren’t dressed for action, unless in the bedroom. Send Prince Namor or the Angel my way and I’ll find out if their costumes are painted on. I’ve looked at the functional aspects of the costumes but if you want another take on the style, check out the links below for Tim Gunn of Project Runway’s opinion, on Crazy Sexy Geeks.

Part 1 with Tim Gunn

Part 2 with Tim Gunn

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Writing: News & The Rannu Competition

I’ve finally received my issue of Evolve and the reviews continue to roll in. It’s interesting how reviewers pick different favorites. I’m not mentioned in one but I am in the other and my story continues to intrigue and disturb, as I intended. Overall, it’s getting good reviews. Following are two more reviews.

http://roverarts.com/2010/05/stretching-the-vampiric-envelope/

However, there are also some stories that will stand out and sparkle, that come across as an exceptionally new take on what some think is rapidly becoming an over-plowed field.

Among these is Claude Lalumière’s “All You Can Eat, All The Time,” his female-narrated first-person take on vampirism as an extension of the hyperactive, quick-to-burn, fear-of-growing-old generation being spawned at this very moment. In “An Ember Amongst The Fallen,” Colleen Anderson gives the reader an all-too-visual/tactile glimpse at a world where humans are used as cattle for food and blood – and the results when the metaphoric apartheid barriers are crossed.

http://www.sfsite.com/05b/ev320.htm

As well, my poem “Of the Corn” is about to come out in Witches & Pagans. The poem was lost for about two years due to computer crashes and restructuring of the magazine. I have “Secrets of Trees” about to come out in Pinecone. It likewise was stuck in a two-year limbo.

Once again I entered the Rannu competition, in fiction and poetry. Last year one of my stories made it onto one of the judges’ shortlists. Again, this year, my story (unpublished at this point) “Freedom’s Just Another Word” made it again onto at least one judge’s shortlist. I didn’t win but that’s still not bad. And one of my poems, “A Good Catch,” bout a modern-day mermaid, did get an honorable mention. This comes with a small cash prize and I’m quite pleased by that.

Competitions are even harder than magazines to get into. Whereas you may be competing for several spots in a magazine, this repeats monthly or quarterly. A competition has only one spot (and up to three often) and everyone is competing for that one spot. Like the Olympics and getting Silver or Bronze, I’m happy with the honorable mention.

I know the winners of the fiction and poetry prize and they are both excellent writers.  I recommend finding their work. I believe the winning entries may be printed in the future on the CZP site but I’m not quite sure.

Fiction Winner:
“Foretold” by Barbara Gordon

Fiction Honourable Mentions:
“Little Escher” by Robert Borski
“A Swarm of Shadows” by Francine Lewis

Fiction Judges: Don Bassingthwaite, Nick Stokes, Sandra Kasturi

Poetry Winner:
“Barren – A Chronicle in Futility” by Steve Vernon

Poetry Honourable Mentions:
“A Good Catch” by Colleen Anderson
“Manifesting Universes” by Francine Lewis

Poetry Judges: Gemma Files, Helen Marshall, Sandra Kasturi

We would also like to note the entries that made it onto one or more judges’ shortlists:

Fiction:

“Freedom’s Just Another Word” by Colleen Anderson
“Water of Life” by F.J. Bergmann
“Bat Story” by Michael Colangelo
“Book of Kishon” by Ivan Faute
“Gentle Awakening” by Maybelle Leung
“The Official” by Eric Sandler
“Simulove Industries, Model #69” by Myna Wallin

Poetry:
“Nephology” by F.J. Bergmann
“Overtures” by F.J. Bergmann
“Polterguest” by Robert Borski
“Yeti-Nessie: A Cryptid Love Story” by Robert Borski
“Persephone Depressed” by Adrienne J. Odasso
“For the Reverend Adelir Anton de Carli” by Matt Schumacher
“From a Little-Known Collection Entitled ‘Legends of Spiders & Water'” by Matt Schumacher

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