Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Today the Samhain 2018 issue of OKLAHOMA PAGAN QUARTERLY arrived, with my story “The Great Man” next to last (as second place winner — see October 19; September 23, 16) in a special section of top ten “Spooky Samhain Contest 2018” winners.  Or to quote Editor-in-Chief Belwoeth Harbright:  This year we have a specially curated concoction of creepy chronicles for you especially eerie individuals. . . .  Our silver honorable mentions come first; then our four finalists round out our 2018 Samhain Edition.  The contest itself had had three divisions of which I had chosen number two, “Spooky Semi-True Stories,” that is tales which are purported to be true or, at least, that the spooky element might be real, as opposed to the other two, of accounts claimed to be absolutely real (ghost encounters, etc.) and those presented as entirely fiction.

So “The Great Man,” anyhow, has to do with certain beliefs that came up during the French Revolution, about guillotining and when an executee’s brain becomes truly dead.  Is there an interval of maybe a few seconds in which one still has consciousness enough to realize that he’s been killed?

The issue actually has been out since October 1 in print-only format, but if you missed it and have a hankering to check out the fuss, just press here.  You get news and features on  pagan subjects plus nine great stories along with mine (well, just having received it myself, I haven’t yet read the other stories, but if they had the taste to give mine the second prize, I assume the others are good as well), which makes for a nice package of Christmas Eve reading while waiting to see if the snare you set to catch Santa this year will actually work.


Technically received lateish on Halloween, though I only opened the email this morning.  But back to the call earlier this spring:  The story must address the “Oath and Iron” theme in some way.  To us, oath and iron is a reference to fairies and the treacherous bargains they make.  We’re interested in both classic and new interpretations of fairies.  We’re interested in clever, dangerous, unpredictable creatures, bargains and promises that aren’t what they seem, and bright, brave characters rising to the challenge.  We expect a fairy, faery, fae, elf, pixie, kobold, nixie, dryad, brownie, or other creature of Faerie in the story, but the role this character plays is up to you (protagonist, antagonist, contagonist, innocent bystander, etc.).  The anthology, from Spring Song Press, was to be called OATH AND IRON and would reluctantly accept a few reprints.  Also noted in the guidelines, [w]e  prefer “clean” stories and strongly prefer noblebright stories.

So “noblebright” isn’t really all that much my thing, but there was one story, originally published in DARK REGIONS MAGAZINE for Winter 1998-99 as well as reprinted in my first collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE.  The tale was called “Nixies” and had to do with wicked water sprites who collected men’s souls, including that of a charcoal burner’s husband who wanted her man back.  Noblebright enough, perhaps?

Thus the reply came from Editor C. J. Brightley, a nice top-off for the end of October:   I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you with a decision — we had many great submissions to this anthology.  I enjoyed “Nixies” and am pleased to accept it for the OATH AND IRON anthology!  We will ask for a few edits, which I will pass along to you when we’re through the copy-editing phase.  You’ll have the opportunity to approve the edits before signing the contract.

Thanks for writing a wonderful story! 🙂

More to be reported here as it becomes known.

“…and to this hour the image of Carmilla returns to memory with ambiguous alternations — sometimes the playful, languid, beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend I saw in the ruined church; and often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step of Carmilla at the drawing room door.”
– From J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla

So this, the final reading on THE POETS WEAVE, on radio station WFIU, was actually broadcast Sunday, October 28.  But that was simply because that’s the Sunday closest to Halloween, while here we can greet today officially with its recording.  Two previous segments were aired on October 14 and October 21 respectively (see October 17, 21), on the “Who” and the “Where” of vampirism.  And now, to end it, are four poems on the “Attraction of Vampirism,” as produced by LuAnn Johnson and introduced by Romayne Rubinas Dorsey:  “Moonlight Swimming,” “The Aeronaut,” “When She Won the One Million Credit Galactic Lottery,” and “The Esthete.”  All poems are still from my collection VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) and may be heard by pressing here.

Well, yesterday probably as you read this, but October 29 is National Cat Day in the US “to bring awareness to the number of homeless cats,” as Triana herself was before I found her at the County Animal Shelter.  And what better way to combine that with a Monday Pre-Halloween movie than . . . well, as the Indiana University Cinema explains:  Making its U.S. debut at IU Cinema on the 80th anniversary of its original release in Japan, THE GHOST CAT AND THE MYSTERIOUS SHAMISEN is a rare surviving example of a pre-World War II Japanese horror film.  Suzuki Sumiko, Japan’s original horror star, plays a jealous stage actress who murders her romantic rival — and her lover’s cherished pet cat for good measure!  But her bloody past comes back to haunt her … literally.  In Japanese with English subtitles.  Yes, a cat horror movie!  And, one may add, Suzuki Sumiko is not your Western-style “Scream Queen” either, but more often played the monster itself or, in this case, the second best thing.

As to the monster itself, though, there is a Japanese tradition of the ghost cat that comes upon a murder victim and drinks its blood, becoming itself a kind of ghost-monster.  Here it has evolved a little, however, with Kuro the cat as a go-between in what becomes a love triangle.  Or maybe not — our shamisen player is already promised to Ms Sumiko’s character as he explains to the second woman, a samuri’s daughter — and too high-born to be a musician’s girlfriend anyway — who had found and returned his missing Kuro to him.  He does end up giving her his shamisen though just before his betrothed takes matters into her own blood-stained hands and, well, the ghosts of the cat and the rival combine.  And the shamisen thus becomes a cursed object being passed from person to person — assisted by visitations by the cat/woman ghost, depicted through a sort of kaleidoscopic effect — until it winds up in the hands of the dead woman’s little sister, while in the meantime the actress has dumped the musician, becoming instead the mistress of the local feudal lord.  And then it happens there’ll be a kabuki theatre performance where actress, musician, lord, little sister, and ghosts come together. . . .

But let us end now with a guest review, courtesy of IMDb, which I will agree with for the most part.  I will add via the IU Cinema docent, though, that only about four of these pre-war Japanese horror movies have survived in complete form (after 1940 the Japanese movie industry turned to propaganda films, and afterward “revenge” films were banned until the American occupation ended in the early 1950s) and the print we saw, while less than perfect, was probably the best now in existence.  Also the Japanese described such movies, including the 1930s Universal films (e.g., DRACULA,  FRANKENSTEIN, which were shown there too) with a word that means not so much “horror” as “weird.”

Charming movie which lets itself down with poor horror special effects
19 February 2012 | by oOgiandujaOo_and_Eddy_Merckx

Seijiro is a shamisen player for a kabuki troupe (a shamisen being a type of stringed instrument).  He is engaged to Mitsue, a sociopathic actress.  Seijiro’s kindly behaviour towards his cat seems to prove good karma when the cat (Kuro) brings home Okiyo, a kindly and beautiful lady from a higher caste, with whom he forms a friendship.  For this gesture the cat is murdered by Mitsue.  Movies with ghost cats are apparently a genre in Japan, the only one I had previously been aware of is Kaneto Shindo’s Kuroneko, but this is an early example.

A number of scenes feature subsequent hauntings by the cat’s ghost.  The special effects in these moments unfortunately come across as fairly ludicrous.  The ending of the movie revolves around a kabuki performance that’s fairly unintelligible to a modern audience and some frankly pretty unwatchable action/horror scenes.

All that said though, I felt that the movie was very beautiful at points and was rather elegantly framed and shot.  I think what I love about black and white cinema is busy frames full of detail, and the contrast of light and shadow in these busy frames.  This movie, especially in the first half, is quite voluptuous and ornate, and shows a very idealised form of Japanese life, it’s easy to sense that the Japanese are a people who turned living into an art form.

Only four days left!  (Say what?)  That’s four days from now, to October 31, for a chance to purchase THE TEARS OF ISIS, my 2013 Stoker(R) nominated collection, at fifteen percent off its regular price.  And that’s for both editions, both print and electronic.  Or, to quote publisher Max Booth III:  Hey!  Speaking of Halloween, starting right now until the end of the month, everything in our webstore is 15% off.  All you gotta do is enter discount code ThisIsHalloween upon checkout.  Go get some spooky lit for your spooky self.

So for celebrating Halloween right, here’s a chance to read THE TEARS OF ISIS if you haven’t but might want to try it.  For information/ ordering, with links to other Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing titles as well, one need but check it out in the PMMP store by pressing here.  Or for more information on TEARS itself, including reviews, just click its picture in the center column — then come on back to the publisher’s store for this special discount.

And remember, if you read it and like it (this goes for any author’s books), please consider writing and posting your own review on Amazon and elsewhere as well.

It starts with a longish poem from Marge Simon, “Robert Browning and the Spider Poet,” and ends with a flurry of poetry by Christina Sng (a fun one, her second, “Catsitting on Halloween”).  No, Triana, don’t get any ideas.  But what it is is a “Gallery of Poetry” in a jam-packed October/Halloween edition of the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.  And, between the two poets already mentioned, are three mini-poems (two haikuish, the third a four-liner) by me.

But for extra fun, the three I chose were all published first on this very blog, on February 14 2013 (yes, that’s Valentine’s Day) and February 14 and September 24 2017.  And one at least, the first, is a love poem (well, sort of a love poem — a warning perhaps).  The others, perhaps, a bit more on the dark-humored side.  The poems themselves are titled “Best Appraise that Diamond Fast,” “The Vampiress’s Embarrassment,” and “Land of Milk and Honey,” and all may be seen (Marge Simon’s, Christina Sng’s, and mine) by pressing here.

“Listen to them—the children of the night. / What music they make!”
– From Bram Stoker’s Dracula

So begins the second of three readings, by me (cf. October 17), on the topic “Let Us Explore Where Vampires May Be Found,” on the Indiana University Public Broadcasting Station WTIU.  The program:  THE POETS WEAVE, produced by LuAnn Johnson and announced by Romayne Rubinas Dorsey, and which may be heard by pressing here.  Thus, to repeat the introduction:  Today, [James Dorr] will read on the subject of vampires and things vampiric from his all-poetry collection Vamps (A Retrospective), which is available from White Cat Publications or Alban Lake Publishing.  More information can also be found on James’ blog.

James reads “Why She Started Writing Poetry,” “California Vamp,” and “Chagrin du Vampire.” 

Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly’s 2018 Deluxe Samhain Edition has ten tales of terror to frighten the pants off you, interviews, ghost hunts, recipes, and more!  Showcasing the results of our 2018 Spooky Samhain Contest, our literary journal is now a spooktacular scare-a-thon!  Grab it today for all of your Halloween reading wishes!  Yes, it’s available and, according to Amazon, has been for a couple of weeks, OKLAHOMA PAGAN QUARTERLY’s special Spooky Samhain 2018 Contest issue (see September 23, 16) in which we may recall I won second prize.  The story, “The Great Man,” a tale of post-revolutionary France and the magic of guillotines — or at least as was imagined by some then — originally published in THE STRAND MAGAZINE for Spring-Summer 1999.

But that isn’t all.  The first place winner is there as well plus TWO (count ’em!) stories tied for third.  And added to that are sufficient “honorable mentions” to make an even ten with plenty of time still for Halloween, all of which can be found by pressing here.

Saturday brought my author’s e-copy from Editor Eric S. Fomley of SINS AND OTHER WORLDS (see August 13, et al.), with the added note that both electronic and print versions of the book will be able to be released “in the next couple of weeks.”  Or, if all goes well, the book should be out just in time for Halloween.  And it’s filled with stories, with authors well known as well those less so — my own, for instance, is in the contents just below a story by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn.  To quote from the Editor’s introduction:  Within these pages are thirty-five dark tales of science fiction brought to you by thirty very talented authors.  I’ve always had a love for the darker side of the genre, though I’ve found there are few anthologies that collect dark science fiction in one tome.  So I’ve created one, put together with some of the biggest names writing short sci-fi right now.  I hope you enjoy this anthology of the best short dark science fiction in recent memory.

And so it goes.  My own part in the potpourri is a tale of “The Cyclops,” originally published in DARK MOON DIGEST YOUNG ADULT HORROR in June 2013, about a very, very young man whose own mother thinks he might be a zombie.  Say what?  Well it actually may be worse than that, but for more, including info on ordering SINS AND OTHER WORLDS when it’s ready, keep watching these pages.

Yes it was, the Bloomington Writers Guild “Second Thursday Player’s Pub Spoken Word Series” (see October 9; October 13 2017, et al.) with a special early Halloween lineup to honor October.  How special?  Even the five open mike readers at the end chose at least some poems, etc. specifically for spookyness while featured musical guest Travis Puntarelli also went out of his way to play and sing numbers with, let us say, Gothic overtones.  Then of the headlined readers, the first one was . . . moi.  Or to read from the blurb, JAMES DORR is a short story writer and poet, working primarily in dark fantasy and horror with some forays into science fiction and mystery.  . . .  The story he’ll be reading tonight is called “River Red,” and appears in THE TEARS OF ISIS.  It is set on a far-future dying Earth, populated by various creatures including ghouls — eaters of the dead — and is in the same universe as his latest novel-in-stories, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, out from Elder Signs Press.  This was followed by another musical interlude, then by the main event, a dramatic reading by Writers Guild members of . . . well, to quote again from the blurb, DRACULA is a screenplay for a never-made film by the late, notorious Ken Russell, Britain’s cinematic sultan of excess and outrage whose films include TOMMY, ALTERED STATES, LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, and GOTHIC.*  The script was written in the late 1970s and published in 2009.  The film came close to being made only to be abandoned when Universal put its Frank Langella headlined version of DRACULA into production.  Russell’s script, however, allegedly formed the impetus for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version, whose screenwriter James V. Hart was directly involved in the inception of Russell’s interpretation.

In a departure from usual practice, the evening ended shortly after 8 as opposed to a more normal 9 p.m., to allow for an additional band Players Pub had scheduled for the night.  This specifically cut down the amount of time set aside for the play, allowing for only two or three scenes, but enough to give an idea of its flavor, set in the 1920s, that of a vampire motivated by a love of music and on a quest to confer immortality on dying artists.  However, the Writers Guild also announced plans to present the play in its entirety at some time in 2019.

*Re. GOTHIC, cf. October 5, September 30.  But readers may recall having met Mr. Russell before as creator of THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER (July 17 2015, “E. A. Poe Meets Alice in Wonderland”), described as a buggy interpretation “for the 21st century” of not just Poe’s “House” (which possibly more deflates than falls at the end of the picture) but almost everything else Poesque beginning with a wink of the eye to “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

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