Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Jack Nicholson in the famous “Here’s Johnny” scene

Why do I love the horror genre? It’s something I’ve often asked myself especially when I see my friends shaking their heads vehemently and declining my invite to watch the latest horror film at the movies.

The fact that some people, like me for example, enjoy being scared out of their wits never ceases to baffle those of us who consider Freddy Krueger A Nightmare on Elm Street a slasher horror movie that should be put in deep freeze.

Cover of "Danse Macabre"

However, to those who love the genre, as well as to experts in media psychology, it makes perfect sense. Stephen King, in Danse Macabre, described “terror as the finest emotion, and so I will try to terrorize the reader.” Stuart Fischoff,  professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and senior editor of the online Journal of Media Psychology, adds: “One of the major reasons we go to scary movies is to be scared.” This enjoyment of being scared and paying to be scared applies to the horror movies. As Fischoff indicates, “We know that, in an hour or two, we’re going to walk out whole […] We’re not going to have any holes in our head, and our hearts will still be in our bodies.”

According to a 1995 study, the higher people score on a scale that measures sensation-seeking, the more they like horror films. As Fischoff states,“There are people who have a tremendous need for stimulation and excitement […] Horror movies are one of the better ways to get really excited.”

But does this explain why I continue to enjoy the horror gendre, both in its filmic and written modes? It has been suggested that horror continues to enjoy a resurgence because the genre provides an opportunity for catharsis, offering the viewer emotional release and escape from the real world of bills, mortgages, and the ever-declining economy.

The catharsis theory is an appealing one. Freud had, for instance, suggested that horror was appealing because it traffics in thoughts, symbols and feelings that have been repressed by the ego but which seem vaguely familiar.

There has also been the suggestion that horror films are enjoyed by those who prefer neat absolutes whereby the rights and wrongs are clear.  According to this standpoint, horror movies appeal to those who like predictability  and there is no question about who the bad guy is. And despite the often high body count and gory narrative settings, these movies tend to end on a good note, often with a happy ending. According to this viewpoint, the danger and scares produced by horror movies tend to be reduced by increased knowledge and predictability.

As for me, the reasons why I enjoy the horror genre is because that a good horror movie or book transports the reader/viewer to some other place. Through the process of defamiliarisation, the familiar becomes strange, whereby a sense of otherness pervades our sense of what constitutes the ‘normal’. A good horror movie or book helps us negotiate this sense of otherness.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey (Photo credit: ellebnere)

E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, was highly anticipated to be in this year’s most dreaded yet coveted prize have failed to make the shortlist.

The bad sex prize was established “to draw attention to the crude and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel – and to discourage it”.

The Literary Review‘s senior editor, Jonathan Beckman, who oversees the contest, explains that the Fifty Shades trilogy is not eligible “because the prize’s rubric explicitly excludes pornographic and erotic literature.”

He added: “I don’t think she needs any more publicity, does she?”

The shortlist includes:

Tom Wolf’s Back to Blood

Nicola Barker‘s The Yips

Nicholas Coleridge‘s The Adventuress

Nancy Huston‘s Infrared

Paul Maon’s Rare Earth

Ben Master’s Noughties

Sam MillsThe Quiddity of Will Self . This is a noteworthy nomination, since Self’s own fiction has been shortlisted on three occasions.

Craig Raine‘s The Divine Comedy.

The winner will be announced at a lavish ceremony in London next month. Apparently, among the literati,  it is considered a badge of courage for the authors to attend to receive it in person.

Here are some choice excerpts:

The Quiddity of Wilf Self, by Sam Mills: Down, down, on to the eschatological bed. Pages chafed me; my blood wept onto them. My cheek nestled against the scratch of paper. My cock was barely a ghost, but I did not suffer panic.

Rare Earth by Paul Mason: He began thrusting wildly in the general direction of her chrysanthemum, but missing — his paunchy frame shuddering with the efford of remaining rigid and upside down.

 

 

Fifty Shades of Grey Toys Picture Source: hypable.com

Mention E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and most people would either gasp in delight or groan out loud. Or, if they have been ensconced in an ivory tower or desert island far from any broadsheet, radio programme and the water-cooler chatter, you might receive a quizzical look.

Initially appearing on fanfiction.net as a Twilight Fan Fiction Master of the Universe it has since taken on a life in the publishing world when it was published as Fifty Shades of Grey. Love it or loathe it, Fifty Shades of Grey is now regarded as a modern publishing phenomenon and one of the bestselling book in British history. Dubbed “mummy porn”, the erotic book has now sold in excess of 5.3 million copies in ebook and print. The second and third books, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, are also selling fast. UK sales are in excess of 3.6m and 3.2m respectively and combined UK sales for the trilogy are over 12m copies, with rights to the book sold around the world and published in languages including Polish, Albanian, Chinese, Russian, Serbian and Vietnamese.

E.L. James - Vijftig tinten donkerder

However, critics have not welcomed the book with the same unbridled enthusiasm as E.L. James’ fans. For instance, in his recent article in the London Review of Books, Andre O’Hagen described the “mummy porn” books as a “multi-million-selling contributor to the art of terrible writing about sex”.

He continues: “300-page gala of repetitive sex, most of it – give or take a few smacks on the arse – completely conventional. I suspect the book has taken the world’s mums by storm because there’s no mess on the carpet and there are hot showers afterwards. Everybody is comfortable and everybody is clean: they travel first-class, the rich give presents, the man uses condoms, and everything dark is resolved in a miasma of cuddles.”

Andre O’Hagen added: “It’s not that Fifty Shades of Grey and EL James’s other tie-me-up-tie-me-down spankbusters read as if feminism never happened: they read as if women never even got the vote.”

However, while it may be on the bestselling list, Fifty Shades of Grey is also on another list. It appears that E.L. James’ erotic novel is also the book that Britons are most likely to leave behind in their hotel room.

According to Travelodge, the budget hotel chain, around 7,000 copies of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey have been recovered from its rooms since its release earlier this year.

Apparently, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett; Stephen Fry’s The Fry Chronicles; and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, by John Le Carre, made the top 20 of books left behind in hotel rooms.

Cover of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

                     Books left behind

1. Fifty Shades of Grey E.L. James
2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo     Stieg Larsson
3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest Stieg Larsson
4. Fifty Shades Freed E.L. James
5. The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
6. The Girl Who Played With Fire Stieg Larsson

7. Fifty Shades Darker E.L. James
8. Catching Fire Suzanne Collins
9. Mockingjay Suzanne Collins
10. The Help Kathryn Stockett
11. One Day David Nicholls
12. A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French
13. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography Steve Jobs
14. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney
15. The Brightest Star In The Sky Marian Keyes
16. The Fry Chronicles Stephen Fry
17. Room Emma Donoghue
18. StrengthsFinder 2.0 Tom Rath
19. The Confession John Grisham
20. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carre

Personally, I can’t imagine leaving behind Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy much less The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. However, with Fifty Shades of Grey

Twilight Saga -Breaking Dawn - "End & Beg...

Yesterday, I wrote about fan fiction. While updating the post, I stumbled across a strange and wonderful world of fan art. They range from Twilight and Southern Vampire Mysteries fan fic banners. While I’m familiar with these, I also encountered fan art inspired by Spock and Kirk, most of which were inspired by a scene in Star Trek.

This scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture ...

The enthusiasm that Star Trek fans  have for a Spock and Kirk pairing is such that a weird and wonderful world exists out there where the Spock/Kirk pairing have inspired ‘slash’ homoerotic fan fiction and assorted fan art.

Cowboy Kirk and Indian Spock

Cowboy Kirk and Indian Spock (Photo credit: joeltelling)

Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries have also inspired thousands of fan fiction on fanfiction.net.  The banners that accompany these stories are some of the most accomplished I have seen. These banners and SVM fan art give professional graphic designers a run for their money.

Eric Northman - beautiful undead

Eric Northman – beautiful undead (Photo credit: katmary)

Eric & Sookie "My Biggest Regret"-Tr...

Eric & Sookie “My Biggest Regret”-True Blood Fan Art Wallpaper (Photo credit: Mystic Soul Fan Art)

Here’s an example of the talented banner maker, Ange de l’aube.

Which is your favourite fandom? Your favourite pairing? Your favourite banners and banner artist? Let me know!

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Glimpses by shahula

Review by: mephis1

Anne Sexton’s poem All My Pretty Ones has always intrigued me. Much of Sexton’s poetry is autobiographical and concentrates on deeply personal emotions, especially anguish and loss and her life-long battle with a variety of emotional states. Yet, it would do a great disservice to her poems if one were to reductively describe them as ‘confessional poetry’. To be blunt, it’s a category critics often invent so as not to talk about poetry as poetry. Instead, it would be more accurate to suggest that Sexton’s poems capture the sense of personal urgency; they are positively full of extraordinary observations of people and places remembered, of familiar patterns of emotional states and people recalled in stanzas of captivating lyricism.  In short, Sexton’s poems are not, to use that ludicrous term, ‘confessional poetry’. Rather, they depict recurrent symbolic themes using poetic techniques and colourful imagery. They capture universal themes which make them so readily accessible to readers.

All the above was a prelude to saying that Sexton captures both the reader’s and writer’s imagination; her poems provide the threshold to the human imagination, allowing re-imaginations of her poetry within one’s own terms. Glimpses by shahula is an example of a writer who takes an extract (‘These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places’) from Anne Sexton’s All My Pretty Ones and re-envisions it within the context of a Twilight fanfiction oneshot.

Glimpses was a Fanfiction Quote Me Contest submission. It won the 1st Place Judge’s Choice and I have the great pleasure to review it. An AH E&B oneshot, Glimpses re-interprets the Twilight canon and spans the lives of Edward and Bella as they meet, fall in love, marry, start a family and grow old together. It’s a story of love told in sentences constructed with confidence, culminating in scenes rendered with such lyrical grace.

In short, this is what drew me to this story: the gentle, lyrical cadence of this story is one I don’t often encounter in fanfiction. One could even suggest that this stately gentility is what makes this oneshot special as we move along with Edward and Bella as they meet and fall in love, eventually marrying. But life isn’t a bed of roses for Edward and Bella. And I think this is what makes Glimpses all the more human and believable because we see that Edward and Bella are oh so fallible. They are capable of mistakes but it is their undying love and devotion to each other that they are able to forgive, understand and move past these hurdles that often bring down couples with less sturdy relationships. In their marriage, we catch a glimpse of this fallibility in the following scene:

“Bella. You know how important being a doctor to me is. I can’t help it if your work programs conflict with that. It’s not as if writing is-” his stops himself before he can get too far.

He can’t say what he wants to. Even if it is just in the heat of the moment, it will hurt her. And he knows it.

He may be angry at her reaction but he wouldn’t hurt her on purpose like that.

“Oh! You’ve got to be kidding me!” She is screaming now. “Go ahead, Edward. Say it. Say what you’re thinking. My writing isn’t what? Not as important as YOUR WORK?”

His thinly held control snaps.

“Goddamn it!” Edward booms into the space between them, throwing a glass across the room. It breaks against the far wall, pieces cascade down in splintered rain. She has pushed him too far.

“I save lives, Bella. Every. Fucking. Day. And I can’t help it if that interferes with your work! It’s not like I planned a five car pileup on the freeway just so I wouldn’t have to attend the fucking gala!”

His is towering over her now. Her back pressed firmly into the cabinets and counter top behind her.

She isn’t frightened he will hurt her.

She knows he never would. He may be outraged but he would never harm her.

His face, while still beyond beautiful even in all his fury, is inches from her own. Green eyes blazing into the deep cinnamon of hers. She glares back.

She hates that he is right.

She hate nights like the one before when he should have been with her. He should have been dancing with her across a twinkling white lit floor.

They should have laughed and teased

Reading moments like these in Glimpses captivated me; they demonstrate a writer who is not afraid to tackle anguish. She doesn’t shy away from writing difficult emotional states. Moreover, when she does write moments of devotion, love and forgiveness, those scenes also come to live. Her writings bring a level of emotional realism which is also not often encountered in fanfiction. The above extract also demonstrates a writer who is capable of writing a difficult emotional scene without resorting to melodramatic hyperbole or gesturing to the usual stereotypes that one so frequently encounters in fanfiction. She writes that scene confidently and uses it to great effect to show and not tell, a mantra that writers are often told to repeat to themselves as they write.

This Edward and Bella love story is depicted with such moving poetic lyricism that it makes it a joy to read and re-read. Their journey through life which takes us to inevitable heartaches, joys, loss, forgiveness bereavements is written with such emotional credibility and heartfelt sentences that is makes it a joy to read. And it was indeed my pleasure to read this oneshot.

Review by mephis1

Banner by Ro Nordman

To read the other entries in the contest, please click on this link: Quote Me Contest

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Glimpses by shahula

Review by: Rose Masen Cullen

There are stories that make you laugh.

There are stories that make you cry.

There are stories that you read, like, forget and move on to the next one.

There are stories that you may have read months ago, but one fine day you stumble on it again, and it makes you smile.

Then, once in a long, long time…along comes a story like ‘Glimpses’.

It makes you smile. It makes you cry. It sticks with you till it becomes a part of you. And five months later when you read it again, you will be just as moved.

“These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places.” ~ Anne Sexton

That was the prompt on which this one shot was based. But you know what makes this story so special?

The fact that it’s not only about the snapshots of marriage…but about life itself.

It’s not only about the magic of falling in love. It’s also about feeling.

It’s not only about the complications that two people face when they enter matrimony. It’s also about the simplicity with which human relations can touch your heart.

It’s about feeling love, anger, sadness, forgiveness…all at once. It’s about seeing Edward and Bella’s relation grow, blossom, prosper…among the conflicts, hurt and even loss.

It’s about Edward finding Bella just as flawless years after marriage, as he found her the day he met her.

It’s about reading a story that is not bound in the constraints of fanfiction, but that is universal in its wonder.

When I read this story as part of the Quote Me Contest (I was a judge), I already had my winner. I was so in love with this story that I read it multiple times, and knew in my heart that no other entry would be able to top it.

I’m glad to say I was right. This story, to me, was a standout. Be it the whole journey through different stages of life, or the poetic language, or the emotions that it evoked within me…I found it perfect then, and I will continue to find it just as perfect even if I read it years from now.

Some writings are just that – Immortal.

I don’t know what else to say to convince you how brilliant and quietly beautiful this story is, so I’ll just leave you with a glimpse into the world of ‘Glimpses’.

 

Lying there, moonlight bathing the floor, the bed and their bodies, she knows it’s true. The stars can see it, the moon can feel it and the ocean outside reaches for it.

His voice breaks the stillness of the air. A gentle whisper floats between his softly parted, cherry blossom lips to caress her soul.

It’s his night song. The one he sings each night.

With her snuggled tightly against him, he sings his song. Just for her. Only for her. Always.

It’s her name.

Knowing his heart beats beneath her ear gives her peace. She is comforted by the heat of their skin as it touches. His arms pulling her closer, even as he slumbers, fills her with contentment. His breath exhaled is the only oxygen she needs to sustain her own life.

Her eyes close. She can rest.

She can sing her night song now. To him. For him. Always him.

Their song is the same.

It is their heart, their life.

Their love.

It is everything they will ever need. Ever want.

She is his Bella.

He is her Edward.

Please go read, and leave the author much deserved love.

To read the other entries in this contest, please click on this link: Quote Me contest

 

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Snapshots of Marriage by wmr1601

Review by mephis1

Snapshots of Marriage was placed first by Public Choice. Using the Anne Sexton’s quote ‘These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places’, wmr1601 weaves an Edward and Bella tale of love, romance, courtship and marriage.

Similarly to the canon tale, Snapshots of Marriage starts with Bella leaving sunny Arizona to move to small town Forks, located in rural Washington. Needless to say, Bella is not looking forward to the move. All she can envisage is cold, wet weather filled with endless grey, drizzly days.

Despite her initial fears, Bella settles down in Forks. It helps, of course, that she catches the eyes of a certain green-eyed bronze haired boy in her class. The attraction between them is mutual and instant:

 

When a bronze-haired boy catches my eye, I’m stunned. I’ve never been boy-crazy, but I can tell just by looking at this boy that there’s something about him; it goes deeper than his obvious good looks, too. He holds my gaze like no one ever has before. I feel like I’m trapped, and I can’t look away. Honestly, I don’t want to. His eyes are green and intense, and his face, though not more than a year older than mine, is already showing signs of maturity: a rugged jaw line and even a smattering of facial hair. I swallow noisily. It feels noisy, anyway; I hope no one has actually heard my gulp.

 

The boy is, needless to say, Edward Cullen. What follows are teenage years, which will no doubt trigger our own memories of those times, of friendship and budding feelings of the romantic sort, feelings which they initially keep quiet about until Edward is on the cusp of leaving for Dartmouth upon which Bella blurts out, “I love you.”

What follows this confessional is the start of the next phase, that of Edward and Bella romance. Snapshots of Marriage is a tender series of vignettes which charts the youthful first love between a boy and a girl. It is the story of Edward and Bella discovering the meaning of friendship and affection only to discover that it blossoms into youthful love. We can all remember those days of our first love, our first kiss, our first date, right? Well, Snapshots captures those moments beautifully and with such tenderness.

Snapshots of Marriage is a heart-warming portrait of two people in love. It provides us a glimpse of Edward and Bella’s lives as they embark on their lives together. We watch how their youthful love blossoms into adult romance and courtship. It provides snapshots of their struggles through college, their navigation through adult lives, their subsequent marriage and the birth of their child along with their twilight years together. It is a moving story of two soul mates meeting and falling in love and what it means to love truly, madly and deeply.  

Banner by Ro Nordman

To read the other entries in the contest, please click on this link: Quote Me Contest

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When Polidori wrote The Vampyre in 1819, he spawned two branches of vampire fiction: an aristocratic romantic hero of Gothic fiction, and the vampire as undead monster. But if Polidori spawned the vampire, the most well known vampire was created by Bram Stoker in 1897. However, before Polidori, Heinrich August Ossenfelder published the German poem The Vampire in 1748. Even Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights made a reference to the vampire when the housekeeper suspected Heathcliff of being a vampire.

Unsurprisingly to us, at least, it seems that our gorgeous blood sucking friends have long dwelled among us; a highly adaptable species, they have changed with the times and have moved into the 21st century barely recognisable from their original incarnations. Originally regarded as an alien nocturnal species, sleeping in coffins, living in the shadows, drinking the blood of humans in secrecy, vampires are too easy to stereotype, but it is their variety and adaptability that makes them survivors.

They may seem to be creatures living on the margins of society but they have been central to the stories humans tell each other and these stretch back through to ancient folklore. But as long as there are beliefs in the existence of vampires, there also exist beliefs in methods of protecting ourselves against the undead. In some folk legends, for example, it was believed that eating blood bread, a bread made from vampire blood and flour, would give immunity against vampire bites. And as long as people believe that the undead walk amongst us, they also believe that there are ways and means of hunting down the vampire.

In some folklore traditions, it is said that the killing of the vampire can only be performed by vampire hunters, priests and monks. In the folklore of the Balkans, for example, the tales of the vampire hunters were as much part of the Romani beliefs about the vampire. Referred to as a dhampir in Romani or a vampirovic in Serbian, these folklores depict the vampire hunters using other less well known methods to entice the vampire to their traps. Aside from the well known methods of execution, such as staking, decapitation, crucifixes and holy water, it was also believed that vampires can be drowned in clear flowing water.

In literary fiction, the most well known vampire hunter is Professor Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But now that the undead are returning with a vengeance to walk among us again, a new generation of vampire hunters also stalk among our midst. When thinking of a vampire slayer, Buffy and Blade no doubt comes immediately to mind.

Judging from their portrayals in Blade, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and From Dusk till Dawn, the arsenal of the modern day vampire hunter usually includes holy water, firearms with silver ammunition, silver nets, the appropriate religious symbols, crossbows that fire wooden stakes and even waterguns filled with holy water.While predominantly human, there are also other examples of vampire hunters. Blade, the eponymous hero of the movie and comic books, is said to be a hybrid, half human and half vampire.

In HBO’s True Blood, we encounter a particularly vile species of the vampire hunter in the first episode of Season 1. They are the Rattrays. From the minute Sookie Stackhouse lays eyes on Vampire Bill, her curiosity is piqued. Her friend Tara is not amused: “That’s trouble, looking for a place to happen. Tall, dark….and dead”. And Tara is right. Within half-an-hour, panic ensues in the vicinity of Merlotte’s bar when there’s an attempted murder and people are being beaten up. Sookie, the feisty heroine, played by Anna Paquin, comes to rescue Vampire Bill from the Rattrays, vampire hunters who are draining his blood to sell on the black market. “Low rent backwoods trash”, Sookie hisses as she sends them running with their tails between their legs. The Rattrays don’t take too kindly to Sookie‘s disruption of their draining of Vampire Bill; inevitably they return to seek their revenge.

In Alan Ball’s hands, the True Bloodvampires are unlike the crucifix-fearing vampires of legend and folklore. Having emerged from the coffin and with the synthetic blood Tru Blood designed to satisfy their thirst without having to resort to draining humans, the vampires of True Bloodshatters the traditional mythology of the vampire. Based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the vampires of True Blood reveal that they have been tricking humans that the traditional vampire mythology is true when they actually aren’t at all. Now, our vampires can pick up a case of True Blood at the local Wal-Mart and pop a bottle of ‘O’-positive in the microwave to satisfy their hunger. They own businesses, like our very own Eric Northman, the 1000-year-old Viking vampire who owns Fangtasia; they pay taxes, they go to bars and they are highly fashion conscious denizens of the night. There are tourists who go to vampire bars; ‘fangbangers’ who lust after vampires and long to be used by these creatures and there are the ‘drainers’ who hunt vampires for their blood because of its extraordinary properties. And then there is the Fellowship of the Sun who believes vampires are an abomination and should be destroyed. It doesn’t take a genius to see the clever socio-political themes lying just beneath the surface of HBO’s True Blood. In Ball’s hands, a new vampire mythology emerges, particularly the energising side effects drinking human blood has on the body.

Vampire killing kit (walnut case) circa 1800

This brings us to the question as to whether these antique vampire killing kits, recently up for auction, are capable of harming our Louisiana vamps. Some of these kits are incredibly well-designed and beautiful objects. Made out of rosewood or mahogany, these beautiful ornate cases come complete with the usual assortment of items designed to kill vampires. They include silver daggers, wooden stakes, garlic powder, a syringe (for injecting a garlic solution), an ivory crucifix, metal teeth pliers, and revolvers with the requisite silver bullets. These are definitely not cheaply made plastic novelty items; they seemingly tap into our utmost primal fears and fascination about these creatures of the night. Dwight Stevens, of Stevens Auction Company, has sold four vampire killing kits in twenty-seven years as an auctioneer, most recently in Natchez, Mississippi, for $14, 850. He states:

“I don’t believe in vampires – I’ve never met one. But somebody believed in them, something drove people to believe […] From New Orleans to Vicksburg, these old boxes remain”.

 

Apparently, some of these kits date to circa 1880 Romania. Another was supposedly a Victorian kit, and was purported to have been sold at The Great Exhibition in London 1851 for $12,000. Tapping into our primal night-time terrors, these kits capture our fears of the undead originally evoked in those early folklores and legends, and there are indeed several of these kits in existence. One was seemingly made by a Professor Ernst Blomberg and was believed to be genuine. However, a man named Michael de Winter has stepped forward recently, claiming that he created these kits and made up the name of Professor Blomberg.

And while hoax and urban legends seem to pile up whenever the vampire is concerned, one does wonder if these vampire killing kits are even capable of harming our modern Louisiana vampires. Could they harm our quixotic, cunning 1000-year-old Eric Northman? Or will our Viking see them off easily? And if the drainers come armed with these vampire killing kits, is Edward Cullen capable of protecting himself? Will Vampire Bill require the services of our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse?

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Crown of Love banner made by Ange de’laube

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Crown of Love was picked for 2nd Place Judge’s Choice in The Jukebox Contest. The wonderful Ange de’laube made this banner and I’m grateful for it and to her; she is a tremedously busy woman and I find myself wondering how she juggles everything.

Gothic Temptress , a highly talented writer whose writings I’ve followed avidly, wrote an eloquent review for Crown of Love in the Wayward Pushers Blog. It has left me humbled. Here is her review:

2nd Place Judge’s Choice:  Crown of Love by mephis1

Summary:  What happens when she returns to remind several friends, who are scattered to the four winds, that it’s time to go home? “They say it fades, if you let it”.

The poetic beauty and the dark tone of this story captivated me from the very start. As each scene unfolded, I became more ensnared in Bella’s lurid motivations and cringed as she achieved her revenge.

By the end of this beautifully written story, I found myself rooting for her. I especially loved the final scene between the two separated lovers, the couple reunited beneath a romance consisting of the darkest complexity.

mephis1 was able to craft a story that was frightening and captivating. Even in death, Edward’s features are peaceful. I felt the same, when I finished reading this story. I felt as though he was finally able to wear his crown of love, and so might she. The author made me believe that it was exactly as it should be, and that we should feel peaceful too. It was superbly done!

~GothicTemptress

 

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The blood suckers are everywhere. Everybody is talking about vampires these days; in books, movies, magazine covers, TV and the Internet – lately, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that these pale skinned creatures are stalking us.

Those who aren’t enamoured with these fanged creatures of the night would no doubt wonder what it is about these creatures that inspire the current fascination. Similarly, those who are au fait with literary and cinematic vampire mythology are probably wondering at what point 2011 became the Year of the Vampire. Vampires, a seemingly highly adaptable species, can now be anything and everything. From the highly sexual charismatic vampires in the Southern Gothic universe of HBO’s True Blood, to the guilt ridden vampire John Mitchell in Being Human to the chaste sparkly creatures of Twilight, it seems that the modern vampire is quite comfortable being the trendy hero on our screens.

But was the vampire always thus? Undoubtedly, vampire like creatures have been around for some time, but much like fashion trends, undergo phases of popularity. Dating back to ancient folklore, most cultures have their own tales of some form of soul-sapping, life-drawing creature in either human or animal form. But it was Bram Stoker’s literary vampire, Dracula, which discreetly used sexual metaphors to sexualise the vampire into a male predator stalking a virginal maiden. Consequently, since Bram Stoker unleashed Dracula in 1897, this literary vampire has come to epitomise our impression of what a vampire is. The traits commonly associated with this alien nocturnal species include, for example, sleeping in coffins, sleeping by day and walking by night, and drinking the blood of humans.

Now that vampires have become very much part of our popular culture, it is tempting to ask if these creatures really do exist. As hard as it is to believe, some people do claim that real vampires actually do exist. Apparently, there are some medical conditions that mimic traits commonly associated with vampirism, for example, porphyria and catalepsy.

Those who suffer from porphyria, a condition often associated with vampires, are highly sensitive to light. Consequently, as a result of an imbalance of heme, porphyria sufferers also exhibit other signs associated with vampires, such as having bleeding gums and blood-stained teeth.

Catalepsy, a condition which affects the central nervous system, causes the patient’s heart rate and breathing to slow down to the point whereby the body become so immobile that they appear to have died. Before the advances made in the medical sciences, the unfortunate sufferers of this condition were often mistakenly assumed to have died and were either buried or embalmed.

Both of these conditions, while extremely rare, do not account for either the sexual terror or sexual anarchy associated with the vampire. For example Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare is the consummate image of sexual terror.  Ever since it was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1782, Fuseli’s The Nightmare has become an icon of sexual terror and the night horror. The painting depicts a young woman lying in a restless sleep while an imp sits on her stomach. The Nightmare made Fuseli’s name as an artist and established his name as a painter who delighted in shocking his audiences.

Fuseli’s The Nightmare has, for example, inspired writers, artists and film-makers from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) to Ken Russell’s Gothic (1986). The Nightmare has also provoked discussion about theories of sleep paralysis and nightmares. For example, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s International Classification of Sleep Disorders, isolated sleep paralysis, accompanied as they often are by terrifying hallucinations of demons and vampiric visitations, occur at least once in a lifetime of 40% to 50% of normal subjects.

The Nightmare has also provoked contemporary discussions about the veracity of those ancient folktales about our nocturnal vampiric visitors who prey on young maidens. 

Although sleep paralysis might provide an explanation of a variety of supernatural occurrences, providing the grounds for a number of beliefs about the supernatural, this phenomenon, along with the medical affliction of porphyria and catalepsy, this still do not explain how the vampire has evolved to a creature associated with uncensored sexuality of pure impulse and appetite or the Gothic Romantic idea of the troubled isolated and mysterious stranger who beckons to us from the margins of society.

But if I were ever forced to choose between having a real visitation of sleep paralysis and a visit from the True Blood vampires, I would unhesitatingly choose a visit from a particular vampire. Guess which one?

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A version of this article originally appeared in truebloodnet.com

 

Vampires seem to be, to borrow a phrase from the fashionistas, the new black right now. Unsurprising, really. They are hot, they don’t age, don’t need botox and judging from Twilight’s Edward Cullen, and the raunchy HBO True Blood’s Eric Northman and Pam, they look good in anything – from a grey pea-coat to black and leather.

The word vampire has almost become synonymous with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one of the best-selling books of all time. Stoker’s Dracula is said to owe something to Vlad III of Wallachia who lived in the 15th century and had a habit of impaling his victims on stakes. But Stoker’s conception of the vampire has shape-shifted and fragmented throughout the world in ways he would barely comprehend, and probably not even recognise.

Indeed, the vampire may seem to be a creature living on the margins of society, but we’ve always had a contradictory relationship with the vampire. Central to the stories humans tell each other, these creatures exist in folklore that stretch back through to ancient times. Almost every culture appears to have some sort of legend about vampires or hungry ghosts who feed on the energy of the living, in one way or another. Yet, very few of them bear any resemblance to Bela Lugosi descending the staircase, holding a flickering candle that improbably lights the cavernous great hall of his castle for the legendary cinematographer Karl Freund. And while some of these other folklores around the world are similar to the traditional Central European myths that have been incorporated into Gothic literature and cinematic lore, there are quite a few which depart from the traditional vampire lore.

The earliest account of these creatures of the night derives from Mesopotamia. Lamatsu was a serpent demon who reportedly stole children from their homes and devoured them. Another incarnation of Lamatsu appears later, in the guise of Lilith. In early Hebraic writings, Lilith took the form of a winged demon with the body of a woman with owl-like talons for feet. She was reported to be the first wife of Adam (before Eve was created). Lilith was formed of the same earth from which Adam was created, therefore she considered herself his equal. That being the case, Lilith refused to be submissive. She was subsequently banished to the demon realm. Lilith’s offspring were damned to become demons with Lilith taking the title of “Mother of Demons.”

In China, a vampire is created when a recently deceased corpse is possessed by a demon, usually after suicide or a violent death without a proper burial. Unlike the vampires in the West, the Chiang Shih (also known as Jiang Shi) is said to be covered with white or green hair over its entire body. It is also said to have long claws, teeth and glowing red eyes. I think it’s safe to say that it is hardly an attractive specimen when compared to the highly decorative vampires of True Blood. Breathing the Chiang Shih’s breath can be lethal but apparently, it can be repelled by garlic, salt and barriers of rice, thunder or a bullet.

In the Philippines, we have the Aswang. Apparently, the Aswang appears as a beautiful woman but at night, it is compelled to seek victims. It attacks by using a long tubular tongue to drink their blood. After feeding, it appears pregnant. One of the most fearsome creatures of Malay folklore is the Pontianak, a vampire like entity, she (the Pontianak is always female) is characterised by ear-piercing shrieks, long flowing hair and a penchant for the blood of children.

In Japan, we have the Gaki. Similar to the vampires in the West, it drinks the blood of corpses and appears pale-skinned, cold with hollow features. The can also shape-shift, transforming into animals or impersonating living people. Some of the oldest can stalk their prey invisibly. In Scotland, we have the BaoBahan Sith that usually disguises itself as a beautiful maiden who preys on young men, lured the victims to their deaths through song and dance. In folklore, it is said that this vampire always dresses in green to hide their cloven feet.

 

The Dearg-Due is a dreaded creature of Ireland whose name means blood sucker. An ancient vampire who dates back to Celtic times, it is still feared. The only way to curb its vampiric activities is to pile stones on the grave of any who might be suspected of housing such a beast. On the other hand, the Upier, a Polish vampire, is said to sleep in blood, rise at Midday and go to sleep at Midnight. It is also said to have a barbed tongue with which it consumes large amounts of blood. The Asanbosam, West African vampires, are unlike their European cousins, preferring to live in trees rather than coffins.  They take human form but instead of feet, they have iron teeth and hooks. 

Let’s face it: unfortunately, the vampires of folklore pale in comparison when compared to The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ Viking vampire, Eric Northman, who is really interesting. In Eric Northman, we have a powerful, dangerous, yet captivating 1000-year-old, leather-wearing, club owning vampire. Compare to these other loathsome creatures, what’s not to like about this particular Viking vampire?

oOOo

A version of this article originally appeared in truebloodnet.com