You can imagine how thrilled to pieces I was when Todd Crawford made the offer to appear on my blog. He is a writer who holds his own, and at the same time he was more than willing to make any changes per my suggestion, though I had none. How can you make a suggestion upon perfection?
I was quite surprised by all of the kind things Todd had to say about me. It was very flattering to say the least! I adored this piece from start to finish, and as a lover of all things Halloween, it really kept my attention. Also, scroll to the bottom if you would like to find the official Todd Crawford links. Listed are the links to his new Youtube channel, Facebook Fan Page, and links where you can purchase his books.
Thank you, Todd, for allowing me the privilige of featuring your writing here.
Origins of The Black Season
Typically I save my Thank You’s, personal messages, and other formalities for the end of my analyses, but to mark the special occasion I’m going to start things off a little differently this time around. In fact, I’ve made it a personal goal to make everything about my month this calendar around a little different than any year past, but that’s another topic for another post (which has already been made in the format of a video by the time this shall have be “live”). Before we get all professional on this I’m going to give you readers and followers (Joslyn’s as well as my own) some insight into the conception of this holiday treat. In any case, the prompt of this article does not begin until the next paragraph, so feel free to skip my ramblings in favour of what you surely came here to read up on. A very short while back, I was feeling utterly dejected about the futility of what was then this coming month (October 2012, for you archivists out there) and how it would never live up to that of last year, especially with that having been the host of the first book signing I have ever attended (I refer to it as my own, but only in the context that the memories of it belong to me.) on a ritual walk which I try to perform nightly for two or more hours. Things since then have gone quite far downhill, leading me to this modern spleen, as Alexander Pope would have it, making it quite easy to reach my hand into any bushel flourished over the last year and pluck my daily excuse for not being happy or productive. It was on this monotonous journey traced time and time again over the map of Clarion that a Newtonian epiphany shone down upon me in the form of a brilliant ray of light. Things don’t have to be this way; this absolute voice of reason spoke to me in my moment of clarity. You don’t have to remain a slave to your former days; your best have yet to come. It commanded me to rush home, even more quickly than Charlie Bucket and to contact the names listed upon the address of my Golden Ticket querying of fun, seasonal promotions. Having recently reposted my history of the vampyre mythos, titled “Bloodlines,” and being so enthusiastic/supportive of that, Joslyn Corvis was at the top of my list. I don’t know each and every one of you readers here, (heck, I’d be surprised if I knew more than two of you!) or how aware you are of the rigorous scheduling involved in these guest posts, interviews, or any other blog event, but typically in my experience with bloggers, promoters, and authors is that these things are all set in stone at least one month ahead of time, leaving little-to-no room for walk-ins such as myself unless some cancellation occurs, Golden Ticket or no. Joslyn, on the other hand, was more than willing to put up with my impulsive query to make this guest post, much to my surprise. Even knowing Joslyn to be an altruistic, kind person, I was surprised that she didn’t reject my offer, and then chastise me for my hurried, excitable proposition about writing “something” for Halloween. She just made it happen. For all of these things I thank her, and I thank you all for giving me this time (whether I am worthy of your time is up to you, but your consideration is much appreciated) by reading my informative, personal history of Halloween. I hope that you all have a magickal, memorable holiday. (Well, except Lee Porterfield. I hope yours sucks.) I look forward to one that would be worthy of taking a vacation from Neverland to visit.
Halloween, as half of the four major religious holidays have, began as a Pagan celebration of the seasonal equinox (when the sun is neither away or directed towards the Earth, making it parallel to the globe’s equinox; the source of the other half of Pagan holidays would be the solstice, when the sun is either at its highest or lowest point in relation to the Earth). The Pagans, not to be confused with Wiccan or Neo-Pagan groups of today, were polytheistic tribal societies that populated Europe during the Iron Age. One may be familiar with gods such as Taranis, the god of thunder, or as we modern folks might know him as: Thor (literally making him the oldest member of The Avengers team), which are rooted in classical Pagan beliefs. Being an agricultural society, the seasonal changes were a major factor in their lives (much more so than simply having to put windshield wipers on their boats). The approaching of Winter (the season which Pagans believed to be the season from which the Earth began), or any other season for that matter, was truly something to be acknowledged. Samhain (later known as “Halloween”) was the season which the spirits of the dead travel on to the netherworld, and more so than any other time period they were an active factor in the lives of the mortals. Tributes such as bonfires, produce, and animal sacrifices (again, not to be confused with Neo-Pagan traditions of modern times, I assure you) were offered to the disembodied in order to preoccupy them until their spirits were at rest in the afterlife.
Following suit with other spiritual holidays, the original event of Samhain soon came to an end after Christian missionaries caught wind of this “season of the dead” business. As one is inclined to assume, (rightfully so in this case) anything associated with Pagan religions was considered blasphemous to the Christians, and must be done away with. As efforts of simply vanquishing the festivities did not prove as fruitful as his people had hoped, Pope Gregory The First had the brilliant idea of converting these Pagan rituals into Christian celebrations just as they intended to persuade the Pagans into the concepts of their religion. This, as we all probably could have guessed, paid off in spades. Those who remained faithful to their beliefs were persecuted as witches and cast into hiding, marking the origin of the term “Druids,” as well as that of the “Season of the Witch” (and you kids thought that Halloween III was the first recorded instance of its use)! Halloween itself is derived from the term “All Hallows Eve,” which soon translated to “Hallow Evening,” and finally “Hallowe’en.” (For a more in-depth recital of this history, check the source listed below from which I fact-checked this document. What is recorded here was merely meant to give a sufficient understanding of the backstory of the season.)
Just as the Celtic tradition fell prey to Christianity, all traces left of morality were soon forfeit upon the eve of Capitalism and what we now have today was born: a consumerist holiday ripe with candy, costumes, and late night Horror marathons. And I, for one, loved it as a child! It was around this time that I was presented with many classic icons of fright that have haunted my mind for years to come such as Michael Myers, Pennywise the Clown (otherwise referred to as “IT”), and Marlon Wayans’ afro in the original Scary Movies. The culmination of this obsession with the macabre accumulated in my 9th Grade year when I watched over one hundred holiday-themed films in the month of October, topping it off by watching the four Phantasm movies (let’s get moving on that fifth, Coscarilli and Co.!) and the entire A Nightmare on Elm Street series (starring Robert Englund, none of that remake nonsense). The next two years it was spent with high school friends who held no interest in the Horror genre, which is perfectly fine. I realized during this time that Halloween isn’t about being frightened, or who watches the most Horror movies, but rather enchantment. I used the comparison to Peter Pan earlier, and I think that is the most appropriate example out there, as left-wing (or the right, I don’t care, whichever the goblins are on) as it may be. The Black Season, my third book, and what I consider to be a “narrative anthology” was titled in part after the Autumnal season, in fact. The book debuted the weekend before Halloween, and had very Horror-esque themes to it (a dramatic inversion of martyrdom and also “Hansel & Gretel”, to name a few). What began as a superficial title meant to reflect my favourite time of year later became an introspection of my own state of mind, The Black Season itself representing a long period of time I spent depressed and how with the passing of this allegoric season, I could return to my former creative self. I think that really encapsulates what the “season of the witch” means to me, expressing yourself creatively in ways typically viewed as unacceptable and finding the fantastic in the literal world (rather than the literary). Perhaps spirits and demons don’t make visitations at this time of year, but that doesn’t make it any less grotesque. My challenge for those of you participating in Halloween this year is to become something that you never thought you could be, if only for this one Eve. I don’t care if you achieve it by putting on a mask, make-up, or just by indulging in a side of yourself kept locked away for a long time (please, nothing violent). I think that by taking this challenge up, we may find that whatever it is inside of us all that we are afraid of is actually quite delightful!
For those of you who would like a more thorough examination of the beginnings of Hallowe’en, I recommend this page, from which I fact-checked everything included in this document (aside from personal statements, of course):
“Todd Crawford is the author of the independently published novels a Clockwork in the Stars, The Final Gospels, and The Black Season. Born in Mercer County, PA, on February 16th, 1994, he is currently attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania. His writing style is recognized as descriptive, cynically honest yet whimsical. His works obsess over the geography of the human mind, existentialism juxtaposed with the politically religious, and nature hearkening back to the Romantic era of literature. He first published a Clockwork in the Stars through Lulu publishing, but released his latter works under the CreateSpace banner before reissuing Clockwork with his new label. Although his only currently released works have been of the literary outlet, he has indulged in other orientations of Art such as music (having composed a companion piece for his novel, The Final Gospels), film (having adapted his novella, Brighter, into a short film), and comic books. Crawford is currently working on his third (traditionally structured) novel, The Pilgrimage, an abstract commentary of politics as he is browsing agents to market the release.He enjoys and seeks collaborative opportunities with other authors such as his good friend Joslyn!”
My short story, “The Eraser” on the Amazon Kindle:
My novel, a Clockwork in the Stars on the Amazon Kindle:
A Clockwork in the Stars in paperback:
“Just another Star” on the Amazon Kindle:
The Final Gospels in paperback:
My anthological novel, The Black Season in paperback print:
My (new) official YouTube channel:
And of course, and finally, the link to my “professional” Facebook page:
Guest Blogger: Mark C. Scioneaux – On Hollow Shell and why the Zombie Genre is Coming Back from the DeadPosted: October 24, 2012
Guest blogger Mark C. Scioneaux, talking about his book Hollow Shell! Mark provides a lot of insight into pop-zom-culture for those of us who are total zombuffs! Are they really becoming a dead subject, so to speak? Read on, and check out the links below. Once you read his story, Hollow Shell ( http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Shell-Zombie-Epic-ebook/dp/B009QRX20I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350429640&sr=8-1&keywords=hollow+shell+zombies ), I think you might see zombies as still being a driving…or staggaring…part of pop culture.
Big thanks to Mark for allowing me the opportunity to feature this wonderful piece on my blog!
On Hollow Shell and why the Zombie Genre is Coming Back from the Dead
By: Mark C. Scioneaux
I cannot speak for all horror writers, but I think the first subject an aspiring writer tries to tackle is the zombie novel. There are a few reasons why the zombies are the popular choice, but mostly I believe it is due to the simplicity of the subject, and the way the story develops.
First, you have undead monsters. Scary, right? There is nothing more horrifying and heartbreaking than the thought of your mom, dad, sibling, child, etc. coming for you with no remembrance of who you were to them. All you are now is a meal. Second, it lets the writer craft a tale of survival, and doing what it takes to persevere during trying times of the walking dead. Third, and lastly, the aspiring writer can make a choice of where they want their novel to go. Gratuitous amounts of sex and gore? A cast of characters, ranging from your basic stereotypes to original and unlikely heroes? The writer is free to do what they want, for the world has ended and they are at the control panel. Writers are free to carve their own paths, and zombies help pave the way.
Why am I rambling about this? A few weeks ago, I received an email from a publisher. He was cancelling an anthology of which a story of mine had been submitted. His reasons were honest and understandable, but one didn’t sit well with me. He said the genre was flooded with bad zombie books. He wouldn’t make any return on his investment for the anthology he’d planned. The zombie genre was dead; a bullet put right between the eyes of the literary ghoul. To a point, I agreed. With the surge of self-publishing, it appears any and all aspiring authors, who don’t venture through traditional publishing venues for their work, have a zombie novel uploaded to Kindle. I’ve read more than my fair share. Some are great. Plenty are bad, often filled with poor editing and even worse writing. With the popularity of The Walking Dead leading the way, zombies have infiltrated every aspect of our pop culture. The public is burnt out, and who can really blame them? But I think they can be saved and restored back to the prominence and respect they deserve. It is my hope that my serial, Hollow Shell, assists in the revival of the zombie book.
When you start Hollow Shell, you’ll see I jammed my foot on the gas, and very rarely do I let up. The tale centers around one central character, Chris. He isn’t special, really; just an ordinary guy trying to do the right thing. He’s not a super soldier, or someone who can make headshots while sprinting through a field. He’s you. He’s me. I wanted to make him that way so you, the reader, would feel for him, think like him, and ultimately place yourself in his situation and contemplate over the choices you’d make if you were in his shoes. There is another character, Dawn, who joins Chris on a most epic journey. I won’t spoil it for you where they are going, or why, but it will be something pivotal that drives our main character forward, much to the dismay of the young woman accompanying him.
Chris and Dawn make a good pair, and I think they represent real people in a tragic situation. There is tension, violence, sex, and gore; all things one expects to happen when the laws and rules of society have been thrown out the window, but it’s kept in check. It’s balanced. It’s real. When I write, I try to put myself in my character’s shoes. How would I react? What would I say? How would I get out of this predicament? The result, I feel, is a story with realistic consequences to actions. I want to show the reader that yes, zombies are scary, but humans are so much worse. There will be times when you cheer for the zombies. Hopefully I’ve written enough moments that make your jaw drop and your fingers fumble your e-reader when you go to turn the page.
I plan to update the series every quarter. It will take time to not only write, but also go through the proper editing and proofreading channels. Self-publishing isn’t a bad thing. As a person who has been traditionally published and is co-owner of Nightscape Press, I feel this is what the Kindle was made for. But the key is you have to give the customer a professional product, and one you’d be happy to put your name on. I hope I have done this for you, the reader.
Hollow Shell is violent and tragic. It also has moments of humor and raw emotion. It is charged with a certain tension that I feel would exist in a situation like the one our two characters are thrust into. What I love the most about zombie literature isn’t so much the zombies, but the interaction of characters as the world falls apart. There are so many great opportunities for me as a writer to explore the human condition and psyche. That’s what draws me to post-apocalyptic books. The zombies are awesome. They give your characters a reason to act the way they do. But they’re only a part of the story. In Hollow Shell, you’ll care about the characters and realize that these are normal people trying to survive with the zombies as a backdrop. I hope you will keep up with Hollow Shell, because it’s going to be a wild ride.
In closing, I’d like to thank Joslyn Corvis for allowing me to share my thoughts on zombies. I hope you enjoy Hollow Shell and follow the series to the end, whenever that may be. Don’t abandon the zombie story. There are many good ones out there, and like the undead, they are going to just keep coming!
Aim for the head,
Mark C. Scioneaux
Talk about it on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollowShellAZombieEpic
Friend the author: https://www.facebook.com/mscioneaux
A sample from Hollow Shell: Part 1
“What have I done?” Chris said as he slid down the living room wall.
A faint trail of gray smoke rose from the gun, slowly dissipating into the atmosphere and stinging his running nose. His hands shook uncontrollably, so bad the gun almost fell from his limp grasp.
“Why, God? Jesus…Why?” he gasped, the tears starting to roll down his stubbly face.
With each passing moment, panic at the realization of what he had just done started to settle in. It was a sickening feeling developing deep in the pit of his stomach. He felt a wave of nausea wash over him. He closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly.
Why am I calling out to God? he thought, as the idea of asking an all-mighty and benevolent creator for help had proved to be a waste of time. God didn’t seem to be present at the moment he put a bullet right between the eyes of his loving parents and once beautiful sister. Those same eyes that gazed down on him the day he was born. Eyes at one time filled with unconditional love, now glazed over in a pale aqua-blue glow. The look they once bore replaced with an insatiable hunger. Chris couldn’t let them live like that. His sister, so beautiful and caring; so young and full of dreams, had been turned into a deformed creature. There was nothing left of who she once was. The same sister Chris beat up a playground bully for. The same sister whose ice cream cone hit the floor and Chris readily gave her his. The thought of her pain made him tear up and the urge to scream rushed up through his throat like vomit.
She had come toward him with the same look as his parents, those hungry, lifeless eyes. His hand made steady by a surge of adrenalin gave him a brief moment of clarity and precision, though his vision had become blurry with tears. The sound of her moaning and shuffling feet became louder as she moved closer. He aimed, closing his eyes as he pulled the trigger, feeling the hammer kick back and the gun jolt in his hand. The abrupt discharge was followed by a soft thud. He opened his eyes and in that moment came to the sick realization that he was an only child and an orphan. All done by his own hands.
One more bullet left in the chamber, he thought to himself, and that one is going to be for me.
The searing heat of the gun singed the inside of his mouth, but he didn’t care. One squeeze and everything would be all right. Just a loud noise, maybe a little pain and his troubles would cease to exist. Or maybe there wouldn’t be any pain at all. It would be a coward’s way out, but given the current events and his decaying mentality, it felt like the right thing to do. He closed his eyes tight as his finger slowly depressed the trigger. Just a little more, he thought. Just do it!
Every generation has a symbol that defines horror. Someone who represents our demographic. Someone we find we can relate to in some way. Someone with adoring fans all across the map. Someone that just leaves an imprint on the genre.
That someone in the new generation of horror is Shawn C. Phillips. I began watching him on youtube ever since I stumbled upon his channel a few years back. I was impressed by his movie knowledge and by how genuine he comes off on video; the camera does not lie! And don’t forget to LIKE his Facebook fan page!
You can also check out his youtube channel, where you can also find his other links, such as his IMDB page and Twitter:
Without further delay, here is my interview with SHAWN C. PHILLIPS!
JC: What drew you in to horror?
SCP: Have always loved horror films. Not sure what it was about them but ever since I can remember when I used to go rent videos and buy movies I would always go right to the horror section. Just have so much fun watching horror.
JC: I love your “Collection” and “Review” videos on youtube. I’m particularly fond of your 80’s horror movies since that’s what I grew up with. What’s the best decade for horror in your expert opinion?
SCP: I love 70s and 80’s horror. Hard to pick but I think I own more 80s horror. I think when it comes to my horror section of movies just about half are 70s and 80s horror.
JC: For me, the “crabwalk” in The Exorcist defines horror, even though I believe it was deleted from the original. And I gotta say the sleeping bag scene in one of the Friday the 13th movies was one of my favourites as well. What are some scenes that come to your mind when you think of classic horror at its finest?
SCP: I would say the ending to Sleep Away Camp is a horror moment I dont think I can ever forget. Same goes for the Tar man zombie for Return of the Living Dead, which is one of my all time favorite horror films.
JC: Some movies are just *bad*, but you know those movies that are so bad they’re good? What would you say falls into this category?
SCP: I find myself liking alot of films that most people dont. There are so many. One I always think of which I know has a following is Troll 2.
JC: Out of all the movie monsters, which one would be your absolute favourite?
SCP: That is a tough one. Really is hard to pick.
JC: If you could be any character in any movie remake, who…or what…would you be?
SCP: I always love to be the victim in horror films. It would be awesome to be killed by a character like Jason or Chucky in a horror remake.
JC: I’m sure that since you see the behind-the-scenes magic during your performances that very few roles would scare you, but as a viewer I always wonder how the actors are able to sleep at night! Are there any existing movies that you would have declined a part in because it would’ve been too disturbing?
SCP: Well on some films if you have a very crazy death scene and are screaming all day, it can be tough to sleep at night. I also try and make myself feel as upset and terrible as possible during a death scene so sometimes that can follow you a bit that night.
JC: What do you love most about acting?
SCP: It is such a fun time and getting to work on the kinda films that I watch is such a blast. I feel like with each movie I’m learning more and growing. I will admit looking back on some of my early films I really feel like I have learned a lot since then.
JC: Aside from acting, do you plan to write or direct in the future?
SCP: I have made a few shorts in the past. Some are in the Treasure Chest of Horror series. Part 1 of that series is on dvd now and part 2 and 3 are on the way.
But I will admit, I don’t love directing. Don’t have as much fun with it.
JC: What are some of the things you enjoy in your spare time?
SCP: Watching movies, Going dvd shopping, Going to the movies. As you can see I do love movies. Lol
JC: Do you have any plans for Halloween?
SCP: No major plans. I do plan to go to Son of Monsterpalooza which is a fun horror con in Burbank.
JC: As most of my friends can tell you, I’m really into zombies. Maybe to an annoyingly obsessive degree. Since you’re actually in horror movies, do you think you would be more prepared for an outbreak than the average person? What weapons and tactics would you use to survive a Zombie Apocalypse?
SCP: Sometimes for fun I think of places to hide if a zombie outbreak happened but I think if it somehow did happen I would be in trouble.
JC: Is there anything you would like your fans to know about you?
SCP: I would say that I owe it to them for helping me to find what I love doing.
I would like to thank Shawn C. Phillips for taking the time to do this interview.
Greetings, Horror Fans!
P. A. Douglas has a brand-spankin’-new book out called The Darkman. Available in print and on Kindle. Click here to get your copy:
You can also check out his website: http://www.indie-inside.com
The horror genre has become richer with the addition of Douglas’ books. P. A. Douglas is the author of Watchers, Rancid, and several other Must-Reads as well as his latest book, The Darkman! It’s sure to be a hit with P. A. Douglas fans, as well as lovers of the horror genre.
There is something to be said of a writer that can make you feel pity, fear, hate, love, and anything in between toward his characters, and make you experience the action from a storytelling P.O.V. as if it had actually happened. As if it actually could happen. That’s what makes this author stand out the rest. And that’s why I’m really excited about P. A.’s online book tour to promote The Darkman! Seven days only, don’t miss it!
(Link will be available as an archive after October 8th, 2012, but until then, don’t miss out on what’s to come! Join, participate, and be part of the action!)
Wanna know more about The Darkman? Read the summary below.
“The human mind holds within its infinite reaches many of the greatest mysteries in the universe. Some are vast and wondrous, while others are chilling and nightmarish. Some mysteries are better left hidden in the dark corners of our minds, never breaking free of our subconscious. Six high school students set out to explore these depths by sharing a mind altering substance on a night meant to be filled with both wild hallucinations and crazy antics. But the fun and games come to a shuddering halt when a strange man appears. This isn’t just any stranger. He is the Dark Man. Haunter of dreams and purveyor of nightmares. Dressed in a black suit and top hat, his pale skin and twisted grin promise a very deranged night of entertainment.”
When I read this piece last year called “Bloodlines: A History of the Modern Vampyre”, I was more than shocked to find that the author was seventeen years old. There is an esoteric knowledge behind his style, and you can tell that he knows his subject matter inside and out. Not only that, but I love how he keeps to the vampires of tradition. I enjoyed reading it so much that I asked Todd Crawford if I could repost it, and he kindly granted me permission to do so. If you enjoy this piece, be sure to like his Facebook page.
It can be found on the blog of Dan Dillard, Demon Author, where it was originally published.
(The following is reposted with Todd Crawford’s permission.)
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Bloodlines: A History of the Modern Vampyre by Todd Crawford
“The vampire cult is the last and most damnable step in [the] exploration of Satanism”. William Schnoebelen
Mankind has always had a fascination with the morbid side of his own subconscious, a temptation luring his mind to probe the graves of his deepest thoughts in the half-hearted attempts of a child to rouse some unsettled demons that may lie there like a ghost inside the local haunted house waiting for a vain child to come knocking on its rickety doorstep. Just as Horror as a genre has become a staple of pop culture, spawning all types from Stephen King to the Two Cory’s and Dan Dillard, the self proclaimed “Demon Author” and myself, but just as deep a staple in the modern culture of cinema, literature, and song as the domain from which its title belongs, the fangs of vampires are as firmly planted. Never can one scan the shelves of Wal-Mart’s already-cluttered magazine and literature aisles without finding themselves immersed in the glittering undead. Rarely does one browse the internet without being plagued by the pale face of Edward Cullen, looking fresh off the set of Tim Burton’s abysmal adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Only, this isn’t the latest lackluster Burton outing, this has become one of the most prominent figures of our times, and one can only ask themselves “What happened?” What has happened to audiences today? What has become of our beloved Hollywood studios (well, beloved may not be too accurate) and the publishing houses we once trusted? (Okay, trusted is definitely an exaggeration.) Well, that is why I, Todd Crawford, am here to tell you exactly what has become of the traditional vampire mythologies, and why it may be too soon to throw the curtains open and cast away all thoughts of successful future vampire endeavors.
Bram Stoker, (in)famous for writing the masterwork Dracula, is often cited as the pioneer of the vampire genre, but although his classic novel undeniably brought attention to the vampire in the mainstream eye through its pages and countless film adaptations the legends of the undead rising to drain the living of their blood and virginity had long before existed. Every society has had its share of deities and devils explaining that which science could not, from the Romans and Greeks to modern-day Christ. The most common relation to vampires was real-life illnesses that plagued civilizations before health care was as advanced as it has become today. Tuberculosis is the guiltiest by association, sporting symptoms that could invoke the most damnable offenders of the underworld in the uneducated minds of the Victorian-era population. The pale discoloration of the ill’s flesh, and sensitivity to the light by their swollen, reddish eyes was certainly questionable. The weak heartbeat and rapidly declining temperatures then, were alarming, but not nearly as undeniably supernatural as the coughing up blood, which in the old ages could only mean one thing: the vampire-in-question had previously consumed the blood of others. How else could one explain the spreading illness of those who shared a household with the sickly? Well, back then that seemed like a much more logical answer than Tuberculosis having been a contagious and fatal disease. A similar ailment of the times, known as Porphyria, a unique brand of hemophilia which causes those under its spell to suffer from receding gums and lips, gave the illusion of fangs to become more and more apparent as the sickness infects its host. There has been one recorded case of one inflicted from Porphyria’s condition to actually heal with the digestion of external blood, which replaced the lack thereof in their own system. The now-primitive medical standards of the times had caused for subjects of both disorders to have been prematurely buried, resulting in cases of the dead appearing to rise from the grave once the buried are roused from their not-so-eternal slumber. Another debatable source of the vampire’s rise is the defilement of the Christian religion. The first ever recorded mention of a vampire was in fact from a Babylonian prayer! To quote Nick Kushner, “The Vampire in one regard is an inversion of the mythology of Christ. Both entities rise from the dead but as Christ offers his body and blood for his disciples to feast upon in communion with him, the vampire as contrary to this, devours the flesh and blood of his victims in order to make them one with him.” As a fellow author, and also a self-proclaimed wordsmith it comes across as a degradation to one’s ego to admit another superior in conveying a message, but sometimes, as is the case in this study, it’s better to appreciate a quote of such perfection rather than lamely attempt (and fail) to imitate it.
Now what did Stoker bring to the table? First of all, a modern (at the time of its release) update on the Forbidden Fruit connotations The Bible had established in the Book of Genesis. If one considers Jonathan Harker and Mina as the proverbial Adam and Eve’s of the tale, and Dracula the serpentine agent of Satan tempting them not with eternal knowledge, but eternal life in immortality. Stoker’s interpretation of the vampire was already decked in the style of the modern vampire, as a seductive and decadent figure. The Count Dracula resides in the golgothic estate of a Victorian (well, of modern architectural design for the time of its writing) mansion, which some have speculated to be a phallic symbol of itself. It should be explained, without any further ado, that during the Victorian Era, sexual repression was at a high due to cultural and religious contradictions, and it took an unholy being to indulge in such “Satanic” (or human, but that’s a Blog for another day) practices. The homoerotic undertones of biting another man on the neck would have more men sleeping with stakes at their bedsides than eternal damnation on Earth. The act of submitting to a superior being than a human, (I can hear Tony Todd purring as Candyman “Be my victim…” as I type this) has its Freudian connotations, as well as the oral gratifications of fangs as phallic symbols. To further this Freudian psychology, it has been said that the image of the vampire withdrawing in the daylight to its tomb to be allegoric for the rejection of society and symbolic of crawling back into the mother’s womb. The triumph of a human ritualistically slaying the vampire being that of an Oedipal nature. (Kimberly, 40,41) After being stalked and bitten by a vampire, the women he pursued (notably soon-to-be-wives) forfeit their innocence in favor of sexual dominance over their male peers. Although Stoker’s Dracula was not the first effort to bring the dead to life, the popularity of his novel ushered in literally countless vampire novels, films, and both film adaptations and unofficial sequels to his own book. (The latest deemed an “official” sequel, being that of Stoker’s own great grand-nephew, Draco Stoker.)
In the 70’s and 80’s, a new breed of vampire was born. Rising star and current voice of Horror, Stephen King, his own interpretation of the bloodsucking mythologies in a novel called Salem’s Lot, which would go on to be adapted into a television miniseries by Texas Chainsaw-director, Tobe Hooper. Clive Barker, introduced to the mainstream by King himself, offered his own unique vision of the undead in the sixth and final Book of Blood in his debut series of short horror fiction, Cabal. Barker later went on to direct a film version of the tale under the title Nightbreed. Anne Rice was also gaining popularity in the literary world with her vampire-oriented Lestat series, before renouncing the undead late in her career and becoming an evangelical novelist. On the silver screen is where the modern vampire really began to take its form with outings such as the cult hits Lost Boys, Fright Night, and Near Dark. Each of the films demonstrated the traditional portraits of the undead, but rather than an unholy state of being haunting the foreskin of the Earth, the vampires were plagued with addiction as blood junkies. The faces of this new generation of the undead were depicted as alarmingly human in stark contrast with their more demonic predecessors, and a newfound edge was given to the then-old traditions of the parable.
It was not until the 90’s and New Millennium that the final stake in the proverbial coffin of the traditional vampire is driven home with action and romance shit-oriented films such as Underworld and Twilight. Vampires have become something to aspire to, the Forbidden Fruit traded in exchange for baseball bats and the Book of Mormon. (And I don’t mean tickets to South Park-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s controversial play!) Vampires have become followers of the religions and victims of the sexual repression they were created to defy, and in this juxtaposition their nature is demystified, leaving the purpose of their existence unfulfilled and hollow. Not all has been lost in the cycle of the vampire, drawn and complete, as demonstrated in such films as Let The Right One In based on the “awe”-and gag-inducing novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Try pronouncing that one!) or The Thirst by Oldboy director Park Chan Wook. Although the present day may seem bleak for vampires and fans of the undead alike, the future is looking continuously more promising as the pretentiously-dubbed Twilight Saga draws to an end and the Dawn of the Vampire is fading to black. After all, it is nightfall when the vampires are at their best.
I’m here with Jeff Patrick, scribe of the e-tome Funeral Feast of The Dark Angel Chronicles, to chat about the book. I have been waiting for this opportunity for such a long time, and now that it’s here I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.
You can listen to another version of this interview on youtube:
JC: Just from reading Funeral Feast, I can tell that The The Dark Angel Chronicles will be an enjoyable series while maintaining a certain amount of complexity, something that might appeal to comic book lovers. You want to keep reading to find out what happens, and hope that a future book will go into more detail about Michael’s past and how he came to be. It’s obvious that this wasn’t written overnight. How long had you been rolling the idea around before you started to actually write it?
JP: Well, the idea just came to me way back in the summer of ’93. I’d been wrestling with a bout of writer’s block for about a year, and I’d just seen the obscure Rutger Hauer film Split Second, in which he played a gun-toting detective in black leather who was investigating some grisly murders that turned out to be the work of some sort of demon. I thought it might be cool to have sort of a mercenary type character in that vein, who hunted down and destroyed classic supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, with nothing more than his wits, skills and blazing guns. I kicked the concept around for really the better part of two years, until finally, on Labor Day 1995, I put pen to paper and started on the first tale chronicling Michael, ‘The Scarlet Kiss.’ Yes, it involved vampires (laughs).
JC: Now since Funeral Feast is the first book out there in the series and involved zombies, I’m assuming ‘The Scarlet Kiss’ is archived. Will we ever see that book on the market, or a variation of this story?
JP: No, it was actually quite terrible, in my opinion (laughs). Moreover, so much has changed since those first stories, most notably there was something of a ‘secret identity’ element, where Michael lived in a mansion by day and assumed the guise of the ‘Dark Angel’ by night…sort of a Batman/Bruce Wayne duality. I’ve long since abandoned that aspect, and made his mantle of the Dark Angel more of a title than an alter ego…now he’s pretty much a badass monster hunter 24/7. However, I will do a ‘re-do’ of Scarlet Kiss sometime in the not-too-distant future.
JC: Can’t wait for that one! Now, I love Paladin. Everything about him from his name to his physical description. Was he in the first books, and what was your inspiration for this character?
JP: Oh yeah, Paladin’s been part of the series from the start. As for the inspiration…well, I’ve always been fascinated by wolves for one thing. Timber, the wolf companion of Snake Eyes, my favorite character from the classic G.I.Joe series, was likely another. Oh, and probably most importantly, the old Slavic legend, that despite what you see in the Dracula films, wolves, especially white wolves, were the natural enemies of vampires. They were believed to prowl graveyards at night and devour the undead if they rose from their graves.
JC: Interesting concept! Do you use a lot of supernatural beliefs to base certain aspects of the story upon, or do you like to use a mixture of things such as monster movies from the mainstream?
JP: A good question, actually. I suppose for more traditional monsters, like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, it’s a mixture of folklore and material from mainstream horror films. My vampires are most comparable to those from the classic Hammer Studios films and the original Fright Night (1985), my werewolves most similar to those seen in the original Howling (with touches of American Werewolf in London), and my zombies are most based on the old Italian zombie films of the ’70s and ’80s, especially those of Lucio Fulci.
JC: A fellow Fulci fan! Did these films have some impact on your desire to become a writer?JP: Actually, no. I didn’t really discover those films until years later as a young adult. It was the classic horror monster films from Universal and Hammer involving Dracula, Werewolf, Frankenstein, etc. that had the most impact…as well as the monster comics published by Marvel in the ’70s like Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing, and Tales of the Zombie.
JC: What sort of style and atmosphere do you hope to project with this series?
JP: Well, for atmosphere, something of a ‘neo-gothic’ backdrop, much like the backdrops of films such as Blade Runner or The Crow, as well as the oil painting covers of Marvel’s black-and -white magazines from the ’70s. As for style…well, my other major passion besides classic/gothic horror is hard-rock/heavy metal music. Let’s face it, Michael would look just as much at home rocking out on stage with Black Sabbath or Type O Negative as he would hunting the undead in a corrupted graveyard (laughs.) So, what I try to create in the mind of the reader is a dissemination of imagery of what you might find on heavy metal album covers, kind of like what would be on those mirrors I’d win as prizes at carnivals, or see airbrushed on vans all over the country. And I hope that through my meager writing talents I’m able to evoke such imagery.
JC: So we can pretty much bet if it’s ever on the big screen and you get to pick the soundtrack it’s going to be pretty kick-ass! Do you listen to music when you’re writing, or perhaps have other little rituals to get into what I call…”The Zone”?
JP: Yes, I do often listen to music when writing, typically of the metal/goth/industrial persuasion. Usual choices include Rob Zombie, Type O Negative, Danzig, Pantera, Slayer, Alice Cooper, Lacuna Coil, and Children of Bodom, among many others. However, I also listen to a radio program every Saturday night/Sunday morning on NPR called Echoes, which showcases a variety ambient, goth, and electronica that helps inspire my work. If I get tired of listening to music, I’ll pop in a horror film, usually one relevant to the story (i.e. a zombie film if I’m writing a zombie story.) It all helps contribute to the ‘goth-metal-horror’ aesthetic that I strive to create.
JC: A lot more is usually expected out of a first in order to set the characters and the tone for the rest of the series. Did you find it to be more stressful or difficult to write this one compared to writing the others?
JP: Not at all, because this actually wasn’t the first story in this series I wrote (laughs). I’d written several previously, but most of my stories are pretty self-contained. I chose to publish this one first because it’s one of my more popular pieces, plus an excellent introduction to new readers as it fast-paced and action-packed with the usual hallmarks: the grim and gritty death dealer, a provocative, nubile damsel in distress, scary monsters (in this case, zombies), and lots of blood and guts. Really, what’s not to love? (laughs)
JC: What is your main goal with The Dark Angel Chronicles? Do you want people to focus on the horror, the storyline, or the sheer bad-assery that is The Dark Angel?
JP: I suppose the main goal would be to restore interest in traditional gothic, supernatural horror, something desperately needed in this age of Twilight. Ideally, I’d want readers to enjoy everything the series has to offer. But if I really had to choose something, it would probably Michael’s sheer bad-assery. (laughs)
JC: (laughs) That’s what really struck me about this book. Michael just oozes cool. Now this is a question I ask most people simply because it’s something I genuinely want to know on a personal level. There are people who take zombies very seriously nowadays, so much that they’re dropping tons of cash on custom zombie-proof houses and I believe it’s in Maryland where they’re even preparing for an outbreak. Do you really believe in the Zombie Apocalypse, or do you think it’s overrated?
JP: Well, my vivid imagination prevents me from discounting the possibility altogether, but I do think the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. Moreover, I feel the ‘zombie apocalypse’ in fiction and film has been done to death, no pun intended.
JC: If a Z-War were to happen, what would be your weapon of choice?
JP: I’ve mused on that and decided that I’d probably take a page from Hobo With A Shotgun and bind a sawed-off shotgun to an ax with duct tape. For back-up, I’d carry my brushed steel Colt Combat Commander (.45 ACP), a gift from my father, and my collection of knives.
JC: Excellent choices! Now, before I let you go, could you tell me what you would like to see happen with The Dark Angel Chronicles?
JP: I’d undoubtedly love to see it branch out into other forms of media. Most people seem to agree that it’s tailor-made for a comic book/graphic novel format. My ultimate goal is an animated series, in a style similar to the 1981 Heavy Metal film…animation would be better suited to Michael’s gothic, spooky world. I’m less enthused about the idea of a live-action film or series, unless it was an independently produced with old-school monster make-up and animatronic FX. I wouldn’t trust Hollywood with it…I’m somewhat lukewarm to CGI effects, and they’d probably want to cast Ashton Kutcher as Michael. (laughs)
JC: Casting Kutcher would have Dark Angel fans everywhere engaging in mass protest! (laughs) So, what projects can we expect to see from you in the near future.
JP: Well, I hope to have my first collection of short stories about Michael out by the end of this year, if I can find an affordable cover artist soon enough. There’s enough stories for two or three volumes at least. Then there’s a novella involving him taking on a coven of gothic vampire chicks, a novella with him fighting zombies on cemetery island currently in production, and two more in the planning stages involving a ‘carnival of evil’ and werewolves. Then more will follow. (laughs)