Guest Blogger Todd Crawford: Origins of The Black Season

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.

~JC

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):
http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/Samhain.htm

Author Bio:
“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!”

Links:

My short story, “The Eraser” on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Eraser-Black-Season-ebook/dp/B007RGZ9W4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343274168&sr=8-1&keywords=todd+crawford+the+eraser

“Brighter” on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Brighter-Constellations-ebook/dp/B007WYGK42/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344320113&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+crawford+Brighter

My novel, a Clockwork in the Stars on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/A-Clockwork-Stars-Constellations-ebook/dp/B002E1A6P2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1343274217&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+crawford+a+clockwork+in+the+stars

A Clockwork in the Stars in paperback:
https://www.createspace.com/3680266

“Just another Star” on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Just-another-Star-Constellations-ebook/dp/B003VYBG50/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344319986&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+crawford+just+another+star

The Final Gospels in paperback:
https://www.createspace.com/3518480

My anthological novel, The Black Season in paperback print:
https://www.createspace.com/3688627

My (new) official YouTube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/ToddCrawfordBooks

And of course, and finally, the link to my “professional” Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/ToddCrawfordBooks


Guest Blogger – Todd Crawford

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.
http://www.facebook.com/messages/?action=read&tid=id.160704377387041#!/ToddCrawfordBooks

It can be found on the blog of Dan Dillard, Demon Author, where it was originally published.
http://www.demonauthor.com/2011/06/bloodlines-history-of-modern-vampyre-by.html?zx=d5f2d1ac414f3f4f

(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.

-Todd Crawford