Posts Tagged ‘Witches’

On a lovely afternoon one day after April Fools, the Bloomington Writers Guild/Boxcar Books “First Sunday Prose Reading & Open Mic” (cf. March 5, et al.) featured a heady mix of dark fantasy, science fiction, and mystery.  The first by many-time participant Shayne Laughter brought the ending of “Incident at Grandmothers Cottage,” a police procedural set in a fairytale forest which she had read the first part of at the premiere of the Players Pub Spoken Word series (at which I had also presented my TOMBS-set “River Red,” cf. February 10), followed by Karen Wylie who we have also met before (see November 1 2015 and August 3 2014) with an excerpt from her “science fiction of one sort or another” novel DIVISION, and mystery author, poet, and local WHFB jazz DJ/talk show host Ray Zdonek with a portion of his novel THE LAST ROUNDUP, fourth in his northern Indiana-set Lee Kosak mystery series.  This was followed by five open mike readers of which I was fourth with a 700-word dark fantasy/murder mystery on the subject of pets cooking women (with a bit of back story, that being a “prompt” a few years back at my writers group) called “The Death of Mother Carvey.”

Then yesterday brought the opening entry of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s Rhysling Showcase, each to include mini-bios of six of the poets in this years Rhysling competition (cf. March 29), for which press here.  These will continue with new posts every other day throughout the month — with (ahem) mine scheduled for April 19.

It occurred to me yesterday after posting the piece on witches, just below, that Mike Olsen had also posted a piece that day on Facebook’s ON THE EDGE CINEMA on BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (see September 24), including links to such sites as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.  To see for oneself, one may press here (though, warning, my glance through some of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews, including the professional ones, suggests to me that not enough attention may be being paid to the final few minutes of the film, especially in terms of its inspiration, Jules Michelet’s LA SORCIÈRE — but then that’s what this will be about).  So then, my next thought, it seemed to me BELLADONNA OF SORROW could stand 14517499_1004035183057088_7855174601020282731_nas an example of Sarah Gailey’s thesis of witches and power, for good, for bad, and possibly something new and more ambiguous:  They outline a new narrative for witches — that they might use their powers not for Good, and not for Evil, but for Greatness.  And they let us ask again the question we have always been asking of witches:  with access to unlimited power, what might they become?

And so my thought:  Consider the fate of Jeanne in BELLADONNA OF SADNESS as a sort of progress, where first she becomes the good witch.  When the lord goes to war and most of the men of the village follow, she becomes a sort of protector of those that are left, a ruler of sorts of the townspeople filling the vacuum left by their missing leaders, and ruling the village benignly and well.  Then, after the war as she seeks more power, she turns toward the evil — at the least as others might see her.  True, in the case of the lord’s wife and her would-be lover, some critics have pointed out that Jeanne does no more than what she had been asked.  But doesn’t that seem to be just an excuse?  That is, even without its violent ending, what she had been asked was in itself evil in terms of the society of its day (and probably, really, in our times too).

But then, the “new narrative” is what happens after Jeanne is herself crucified — the passing of her spirit to the onlooking women, and this is the all-important ending, consistent as well to the movie’s nineteenth century French source.  With the power of metaphorical witchcraft, “what might they become?”

In this case no less than the changers of their society from top to bottom through La Révolution.

Fictional witches come in many forms — good and bad, of the East and of the West, Baba Yaga and Sabrina.  They live in towers, or in boarding schools, or in castles, or in the woods.  They eat children or they brew tea.  But they all have one thing in common:  powers.witch-riding-broomstick

The power to ride across the sea in a teacup.  The power to disguise their withered husks as young and beautiful.  The power to make monkeys fly.

So begins the article “Why We Write About Witches” on TOR.COM, by Sarah Gailey (who we’ve met before on the bad, bad women of movie cartoons, see August 11).   And so, why indeed?  Why should we write about witches?   Do vampiresses count too?  In fairness, that last strays a bit from the subject, but I’ve written several stories about them (well, maybe one or two witch stories too).  But back to topic, and what the heck Halloween’s in only a few weeks anyway, for more press here.

Another arrival in my groaning mailbox, BLURRING THE LINE (see June 12 this year; December 3, November 26 2015, et al) is finally here!  Published in Australia by Cohesion Press, BLURRING THE LINE, with Editor Marty Young, asks us the question of when fiction starts and reality ends.  That is, these are stories that are fiction, aren’t they?  But tales nevertheless of the kind that just might, possibly, maybe, like wasn’t there something like that last week on the Discovery Channel, be true.  And so, my action in the anthology is blurringtheline“The Good Work,” of young Christmas carolers in a Dickensian London who actually have a different agenda, getting invited in people’s houses to hunt for witches.  There are witches, aren’t there — at least in people’s beliefs back then?

All in all there are 20 stories, arranged in sections interspersed with factual essays.  For more, one can check the Amazon listing, including several detailed reviews, by pressing here.

Then second, consider this from MONKEYSFIGHTINGROBOTS.COM:  “Ranking The Top 3 Horror Films From EVERY Decade Since The 1920’s” by EJ Moreno, brought to our attention courtesy of Jamie Carpenter on Facebook.  I wouldn’t say I necessarily agree with all choices, or rankings, but given his criteria (which I do agree with, reminiscent in a way, I might add, to discussions when I was on the jury for the HWA’s 2012 special award for Best Vampire Novel in the 100 years since Bram Stoker’s death, cf. April 3, 2 2012, et al.) I think he’s made a noble attempt.  Or, to let EJ explain it himself, “[t]his list was tough to create because limiting myself to only 3 movies over the span of ten years within each decade is maddening.  Also, where do you begin ranking films?  So I attempted to form this list by including films based on the film itself, the quality, the legacy, the impact to the genre, and audience reception.”

Agree yourself?  Disagree?  Or just to find out which ones you’ve seen (or not yet seen) press here.

Loosely inspired by La Sorcière, Jules Michelet’s 1862 history of witchcraft and the occult, BELLADONNA OF SADNESS tells the story of a young woman who makes a pact with the devil to exact revenge after being raped and driven from her home.  This brief synopsis, however, does no justice to the visual spectacle of the film, which proceeds as a series of still images flashing onscreen.  Spectacular watercolor paintings by Kuni Fukai belladonnaofsadnessmarry the art nouveau artifice of artists like Aubrey Beardsley to ’60s psychedelia; the film’s North American distributor, Cinelicious Pics, describes it as “equal parts J.R.R. Tolkien and gorgeous, explicit Gustav Klimt-influenced eroticism.”  So states Amazon’s blurb for not the movie, but for a companion book with, among other things, pages and pages of stills.  And make no mistake, the visual art of this film is exotic and stunningly beautiful.  And also erotic — although animated, this is not for children.  It is for the most part a series of stills with relatively confined motion, not to mention a dollop of Freudian symbolism where sometimes not entirely expected (and thus at times, at last night’s Indiana University Cinema midnight screening, also provoking giggles).  And, oh yes, while based on a book by a French author, with very French subject matter, BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is a Japanese movie.

To quote Amazon once more, this time from its page for the movie itself:  One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, never before officially released in the U.S., BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is a mad, swirling, psychedelic light-show of medieval tarot-card imagery with horned demons, haunted forests and La Belle Dame Sans Merci with J.R.R. Tolkien influences.  . . .  [P]roduced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka and directed by his longtime collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (ASTRO BOY and KIMBA THE WHITE LION), BELLADONNA unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together.  A young woman, Jeanne (voiced by Aiko Nagayama) is belladonna2assaulted by the local lord on her wedding night.  To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself (voiced by Tatsuya Nakadai, from Akira Kurosawa’s RAN) who appears as a sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire.   But the book it is from is not a novel, but a treatise on witchcraft in the Middle Ages by highly nationalistic French historian Michelet (1795-1874) whose works include a multi-volume, impassioned account of the French Revolution.  This, in its way also, informs the movie.

And, as said above, the film is infused with eroticism, more terrifying, however, than sexy, especially in the earlier sequences.  As for the Tolkein, I think it can be overstated, but is it horror?  Yes, in its own way — where’s a good exorcist when you need one (in this case, wherever, it’s too little too late)?  Yet also domestic drama gone bad, the sad married life of Jean and Jeanne, medieval French peasants, which brings the rise of Jeanne to much more, and not necessarily for evil either.  And a paean to feminism as well, as a number of other reviewers have seen it.

In any event a beautiful film and one worth viewing.

On a weekend marred by real-life terror in Orlando Florida, perhaps there was a bit of prescience in Editor Marty Young’s request Friday evening for address updates for authors’ copies of BLURRING THE LINE.  BLURRING THE LINE is the Australian anthology (cf. December 3, November 26 2015, et al.) that asks the question of when fiction starts and reality ends.  Where, precisely, may that line be drawn.  But various other realities forced changes in the book’s publication schedule, the electronic version being released way back in late November last year, the printed book only available now (Sunday, although being fair, it might have come up as early as yesterday).  Don’t believe me?  Check it out on Amazon here.  Though in fairness too, all has not been idle during the interim, blurringthelineBLURRING THE LINE also recently winning an Australian Shadows Award for best anthology, not to mention having extremely good sales in its Kindle edition!

My offering in this one (on a day when it’s ninety-plus degrees outside with a summer thunderstorm just coming up) is a Christmas tale of young Dickensian witch hunters in London called “The Good Work.”  Could it really have happened?  Well maybe, maybe not, but there are claims at least that those caroling urchins we see in the movies, so cute, so sweet, so out of tune, may have actually been running an extortion racket.

And then one thing more:  It’s not easy to find in printable form, but I finally have a list of the contents of BLURRING THE LINE, with some powerful names including the late Tom Piccirilli (to whom the volume is dedicated), for which see below.

.

Blurring The Line

Introduction – Marty Young
“Our Doom is Nigh” – Tom Piccirilli
Blurring the Line (non-fiction)
“Woolen Shirts and Gum Boots” – Lisa Morton
“Clown’s Kiss” – Tim Lebbon
Seeing is Believing (non-fiction)
“Empty Cars” – Lia Swope Mitchell
“How Father Bryant Saw the Light” – Alan Baxter
Candlelight and Circles (non-fiction)
“The Good Work” – James Dorr
“Fearful Asymmetries” – Peter Hagelslag
Big Brother is Watching (and Predicting) You (non-fiction)
“1-2-3 Red Light” – Gregory L. Norris
“Miskatonic Schrödinger” – Steven Lloyd Wilson
Monsters Don’t Exist (non-fiction)
“Old Green Eyes” – James A Moore
“A Peripheral Vision Sort of Friend” – Alex C. Renwick
The Undiscovered Supernatural (non-fiction)
“Consorting with Filth” – Lisa Hannett
“Hoarder” – Kealan Patrick Burke
Human Monsters (non-fiction)
“With These Hands” – Brett McBean
“The Body Finder” – Kaaron Warren
Building Frankenstein’s Monster (non-fiction)
What’s A Monster without Resurrection? (non-fiction)
“Salt on the Tongue” – Paul Mannering
“Every Time You Say I Love You” – Charles L Grant
“Honey” – Annie Neugebauer
The Voices Told Me To Do It (non-fiction)
“Distorted and Holy Desire” – Patricia J. Esposito
“Nita Kula” – Rena Mason

.

(The book also begins and ends with two Biblical quotations, from DEUTERONOMY 28 and LEVITICUS 26 respectively.)

A quick note this time to say Bards and Sages Publishing’s second GREAT TOMES volume, THE GREAT TOME OF DARKEST HORRORS AND UNSPEAKABLE EVILS (cf.March 4 ), is available now in print on Amazon, with a June 17 release date expected for Kindle.  Other online sellers should be on board by the end of the week as well, according to Bards and Sages Publishing.

For a preview of sorts, to quote Amazon’s blurb:  “This volume features eleven tales revolving around monsters, evil aliens, and otherworldly entities.”  Included in these, of course, is one by me, “Pavlov’s Dogs,” of a brash young scientist with a plan, and his possibly overly helpful girlfriend.  For the contents in full, see just below, but to New Imagedecide whether mine falls in darkness or unspeakability one has little choice but to buy the book, for details on which one may press here.

Taylor Harbin: The Black Lady
Breath of the Black God by Robert Lee Whittaker
Bone Man and the Sleeping Kings by Heather Morris
Back for Blood by Milo James Fowler
Pillar of Fire by N. Immanuel Velez
Twenty Steps by Francis Sparks
The Taking of Michael McConnelly by Kevin Wallis
Hybrid by Lucas Pederson
Pavlov’s Dogs by James Dorr
Metamorphosis by Barbara Harvey Carter
A Candle for Imbolc by Julie Ann Dawson

‘Twas that time again, the first Sunday of the month and the Bloomington Writer’s Guild “First Sunday Prose Readings and Open Mic,” held in conjunction with Boxcar Books.  Featured readers were Indiana native Charles Culp with an excerpt from “a story that takes place between the Ohio and the Wabash,” BETWEEN THE LINES; Anne Cabe with a poem to recognize National Poetry Month, “Hungry Witches,” a flash prose piece, and excerpts from a longer story, “Talk to Me”; and Frida Westford with a period fantasy story, “The Third Raven,” followed by a poem about dragons.  After the break there were four walk-on readers, with me batting cleanup with a 75-word all-dialogue take on fairy tales, “As Fine As Frogs’ Hair,” originally published in MISCELLANEA:  A TRANSDIMENSIONAL LIBRARY  (see November 14 2013, et al.).

Also, briefly, while perusing my email etc. just prior to Sunday afternoon’s readings,  through luck and blunder I came upon, from BBC.COM/FUTURE, “The Seven Ways to Have a Near-Death Experience” by Rachel Nuwer.  It seems there has been some serious research on this kind of thing, with resuscitated patients reporting a variety of experiences while they were technically dead, which generally fall into seven categories, some pleasant, some fearful.  Details can be found by pressing here.

Do you know what’s real and what isn’t?

There are many tales and urban myths of monsters that shouldn’t exist, of demons and devil possession, of serial killers wearing human skin, of ghosts terrorizing families . . .

But these tales also sound like fiction, don’t they?

We hope so.

But . . .

But what if . . .

So begins the description from Editor Marty Young for Australian publisher Cohesion Press’s upcoming anthology BLURRING blurringTHE LINE, currently due out the third quarter of this year.  And yesterday, late night by US clocks, the word came to me:  a story of mine of witch hunters in Victorian England, “The Good Work,” will be among its contents.

But is it fiction or is it a true tale.  Ah, that is the question — it could happen, couldn’t it? Stranger things have.  The guidelines last fall noted that, for instance:

A man called Arnold Paole was accused of being a vampire in 1732 in Yugoslavia, after his body was dug up five years after his death and found with long pointed teeth and nails, with blood in his mouth.

The Mothman of West Virginia was a winged man-sized creature with glowing red eyes and huge moth-like wings sprouting from its back, seen repeatedly during 1967 and 1968.

In 1977, a dead creature that looked a lot like a plesiosaur was caught in the nets of a Japanese fishing vessel, the Zuiyo-maru, offshore east of Christchurch, New Zealand.

The sage Apollonius of Tyana, born in Turkey at the start of the first century AD, hunted demons, and once saved one of his students from a vampire who was going to drink his blood and eat his soul.

These are all supposedly true stories . . .

So to see for yourself this fall, check back here for more information on BLURRING THE LINE as it becomes revealed.

 




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