Tag Archives: literature

The Literary Vampire – Part Two

[written by writer, editor and publisher, Tom English]

Part Two: Birth of the Modern Vampire

Prior to 1819, the literary vampire made its initial appearances in several poems. The earliest of these were penned by the German Romanticists, Heinrich August Ossenfelder (“Der Vampir,” 1748), Gottfried August Bürger (“Lenore,” 1774), and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (“The Bride of Corinth,” 1797). England’s Romantic poets quickly followed suit, with “Christabel” by Coleridge (written during the period 1797 to 1801 but not published until 1816); “Thalaba the Destroyer” by Robert Southey (1801); “The Vampyre” by John Stagg (1810); and “The Giaour” by Lord Byron (1813); among others. These works of Romantic poetry present the vampire tale in its most primitive form: the brief, often unexplained encounter with a seductive, controlling, and usually bloodthirsty spirit. There were at this juncture no set rules of behavior, no established conventions. The vampire tale had not yet evolved into the genre recognized today. All this changed with the 1819 publication of Dr. John Polidori’s The Vampyre.

In The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, Reverend Montague Summers wrote, “In the Gothic romance we have … mouldering abbeys, haunted castles, banditti, illuminati, sorcerers, conspirators, murderous monks and phantom friars, apparitions without number until the despairing reviewers cried aloud: “Surely the misses themselves must be tired of so many stories of ghosts and murders.” …but until we come to Polidori’s novel … nowhere, so far as I am aware, do we meet with the Vampire in the realm of Gothic fancy.”

The gifted Polidori received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in August of 1815. He was only 19 at that time. That same year he became personal physician to the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron. The impressionable Polidori was instantly star-struck. Byron was an impressive and imposing figure, handsome and charismatic, bold and unconventional; a worldly-wise Adonis out to enjoy life to its fullest. He was everything Polidori longed to be. Byron was also a successful writer with an adoring, almost worshipful public, something else the young doctor someday hoped to become.

Polidori’s new role of personal attending physician forged a relationship that for a time allowed the young man to be inseparable from his idol — though clearly on unequal footing: Byron was a royal celebrity, poor Polidori his servant, something Byron and his friends never let the good doctor forget. Still, the relationship allowed Polidori to shadow Byron during the poet’s travels across Europe. So, in the summer of 1816, when Byron vacationed at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Polidori was with him as usual, albeit in the background. Joining the two men were the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his young wife-to-be, nineteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and Byron’s lover, Claire Clairmont.

Unseasonable rains kept the group indoors where they whiled away the hours reading ghost stories. Afterwards, Byron suggested they should each attempt to write a truly convincing horror story. His challenge was essentially intended as a friendly competition between the writers present, himself and Shelley, and Byron must have been surprised (perhaps even perturbed) that out of it the only substantial and lasting works of horror produced were by a teenage girl and his own doctor.

Shelley and Lord Byron both started and abandoned their stories, but Mary began developing the idea that culminated in the 1818 publication of Frankenstein. The initial medical and scientific information for her story about a patched together and reanimated corpse certainly must have come from Mary’s conversations that summer with Dr. Polidori, but in her 1831 Introduction, she played down the role of “poor Polidori.”

John Polidori

Ah, yes, poor Polidori. A vampire tale related to the group by Byron inspired the young physician to compose his own story, one with an ingenious spin. Polidori had caught the writing bug in 1815 while working on his doctoral thesis on nightmares. He had a profound understanding of the workings of the human mind and must have realized the stark terror in the idea of an evil creature operating undetected among the upper classes, preying on an enlightened society. When he started to pen The Vampyre, Polidori jettisoned the crude Nosferatu of folklore, the uneducated, uncouth peasant who, through a curse, becomes a filthy, loathsome brute mindlessly killing his own family for the blood he needs. He then created Lord Ruthven, a nobleman, charming and erudite, rich and handsome, who circulates in the highest stratum of society with cunning and malevolence. Ruthven is motivated by the same passions and aspirations common to us all, but he is compelled by an evil hunger to destroy the innocent, with impunity and brilliant calculation.

If Polidori was in need of a model for his physically attractive yet ultimately destructive aristocrat, he needed to look no further than to Lord Byron, whose romantic escapades had enthralled the poet’s public. “Lord Ruthven,” by the way, is the name used by Lady Caroline Lamb, in her 1816 novel Glenarvon, for her thinly disguised characterization of Lord Byron. An inside joke pulled off by Polidori!

The Vampyre appeared in the April 1819 issue of New Monthly Magazine and was an instant and overwhelming success. The story went through several editions and translations, and inspired a number of plays and operas, many freely borrowing the character Lord Ruthven (a clear case of vam-piracy). These stage productions fueled a vampire craze which swept across England, France, and Germany, and which lasted for decades. Writing in Hollywood Gothic, Montague Summers proclaimed that “… Vampire plays of every kind from the most luridly sensational to the most farcically ridiculous pressed onto the boards. A contemporary critic cries: ‘There is not a theatre in Paris without its Vampire!’”

Part of the reason for the success of Polidori’s original story is that readers immediately made the connection between Lord Ruthven and Lord Byron, then the favorite subject of gossip. But the primary reason was that Polidori had succeeded in capturing the imaginations and sensibilities of a reading public obsessed with Gothic literature. Unfortunately Polidori’s triumph was stolen away; much to the doctor’s horror and Byron’s chagrin, The Vampyre was credited as a new work by Lord Byron — a “mistake” perpetrated by the publisher, who understood the selling power of Byron’s name. After all, who wanted to read a story written by Byron’s servant! (Okay, folks, everybody say “Vampire!”)

The Vampyre isn’t the best read you can pick up today, but it ain’t that bad, either. And it established the major conventions for the fictional vampire as we know it today: dangerously attractive, hypnotically controlling, descended from satanic nobility, and deathless. Similarities between the plots of Polidori’s novel (actually a short novella) and Dracula include the nervous collapse of the protagonists (Aubrey in The Vampyre, Harker in the Stoker novel) from the mental strain of their experiences with the supernatural; the calculated attacks upon Aubrey’s sister and Harker’s wife, each of these women being close to, and emotionally-connected with, the protagonist; not to mention the sexual appeal of both vampire characters, sufficiently undercover in Stoker’s Victorian novel but blatant in Polidori’s story.

In the character of Lord Ruthven, Polidori created the prototypical vampire and set the stage for a long succession of bloody counts. Many writers throughout the remainder of the 1800’s would elaborate on the conventions established in the The Vampyre. One of these writers was James Malcolm Rymer.

Rymer’s 868-page penny-dreadful, Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, began serialization in 1847. The novel held a new generation of readers enthralled, and made the vampire a pop-culture icon. As with Polidori’s tale, several elements of Varney’s comic-book adventures found their way into Dracula. I’ll confess here and now, I haven’t read the whole thing. Maybe I’ll get to it when I return from the dead.

Before I depart, though, allow me to hit one more high point: Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 novella Carmilla. LeFanu updated the femme fatale and gave us the female Dracula — a couple decades before Stoker gave us the Transylvanian Count himself! The character Carmilla, aka the Countess Millarca Karnstein, is charming, beautiful and dead. Her creator picked up several strands of folklore (remember those lamias?) and tied them together with several of Polidori’s conventions. Le Fanu may have been influenced, also, by tales of Elisabeth Bathory, a sixteenth-century Hungarian countess who reputedly tortured and murdered 650 virgins, and then bathed in their blood. (And does anyone know for sure if we get the word bath from Bathory?)

Carmilla is an intensely erotic novella that anticipates many of the defining traits of Dracula. Carmilla is essentially a nocturnal being, but she is not totally confined to darkness. She has an aversion to Christianity. She’s a shape-shifter, taking the forms of a cat and a snake. She can move through walls, defying locked doors. She has supernatural strength. She gets a foothold in the lives of her victims through false pretenses. She has fangs! She sleeps in her coffin and is confined, like the vampire of folklore, to the geographic area near her grave. Dracula was similarly confined to his native soil, at least until he hit upon the idea of travelling with boxes of Transylvanian dirt.

Le Fanu also anticipated the Dr. Van Helsing-type vampire hunter, as well, in the off-stage presence of Dr. Hesselius. He depicted the futile attempts to explain supernatural events in scientific terms, introduced the folk remedies for exterminating vampires, and used dream sequences to distort reality and cloud the victim’s judgment. There’s more, but the sun will be rising soon, and I must make an end.

The time has now come to give Bram Stoker his due. In his sensational Victorian novel Dracula, the Dublin writer drew on several hundreds of years of folklore and pulled together all the various forms of the literary vampire previously discussed here. He took inspiration from Carmilla as well as from the history of Vlad Dracul. He included all the major motifs, such as mind control, the absence of a vampire’s reflection, and the talismans used to ward off a vampiric attack (crucifixes and garlic). No, he wasn’t the first to tap into the rich vein of vampire lore, but he was the most thorough. Nor was he the first writer to stir up the smoldering embers of vampire literature to create a sexual inferno, but Stoker gave us a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. In so doing, he codified an entire subgenre of horror fiction, and guaranteed the literary vampire an enduring resting place in the hearts and nightmares of generations to come.


The Literary Vampire – Part One

[written by writer, editor and publisher, Tom English]

Part One: A Bevy of Bloodsuckers

Close to my side the goblin lies,

And drinks away my vital blood!

“The Vampire” by John Stagg, 1810

Our current interest in vampires, in both film and books, probably owes more to all those Bela Lugosi movies produced by Universal Studios in the 1930s than to anything else. The financial success of the Universal movies paved the way for those gorgeous Hammer flicks that depicted way cooler, way sexier vampires; and over the next several decades Hammer’s celluloid bloodsuckers inspired new generations of storytellers who continue to keep the Undead alive – uh, undead.

The Hammer Film opener

We can thank Hammer Films, for the good and the bad vampire movies being produced today. And again, Hammer owes a good deal to Universal Studios. But Universal in turn owes a good deal to Bram Stoker. After all, it was the 1931 film version of his novel Dracula that started the whole vampire movie feeding frenzy. Dracula (the book) was not an immediate success when first published in 1897. Stoker was not the most capable novelist of his day, and the book is uneven, with a few tedious passages that can be rough going. On the other hand, Dracula the movie was a huge success at the box office and inspired a whole slew of sequels and imitations. These films have kept the novel alive and helped secure its place as a classic; a fitting way for Universal to repay its debt to the man who gave us the quintessential vampire count and inadvertently launched a durable film genre.

While we’re settling matters, we should acknowledge that Bram Stoker also owes an incredible debt to scores of writers and oral storytellers who laid the literary foundation upon which Dracula was built. Indeed, the lore of the vampire is as old as history and the first charismatic neck-biters invaded popular fiction close to 200 years ago! Let’s take a look at the literary ancestors of Stoker’s Transylvanian count. (Warning: I’ve edited over two dozen chapbooks on the subject for Dead Letter Press, and lest we be here all night I need to go straight for the jugular. So I’ll try and note only the high points.)

Sir Christopher Lee once stated that a vampire is anyone who controls another person. By this definition most of us have at least one vampire lurking in our lives, perhaps more. Historically, the word vampire was used to aptly label self-serving politicians, tax collectors, Church officials, and anyone else bleeding the people at large of their money and freedoms. The vampire in literature, however, is far more difficult to nail down. (Forgive me. I promise it won’t be the last time.) In his book The Living Dead, James Twitchell describes the theme of vampirism in literature as any example of what Samuel Taylor Coleridge described as “desire and loathing strangely mixed.” Never was a description more apt. This theme runs throughout vampire literature, reaching a zenith in Dracula that has long since been surpassed by 20th-century fiction and films, and continues to the present.

But before we go any further, WHAT is this thing we call literature? According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s those magazines they hand out. I told the two old ladies who showed up on the front stoop that I was too busy to talk to them. They responded that they would leave me with some literature. (I’d like to say it ended up on my to-be-read pile, but it didn’t.) According to my high school English professor, literature is stuff of enduring value, like Shakespeare or Mark Twain. Okay, I can get behind that; but who decides what has value and what will endure? I doubt anyone thought at the time of its publication that “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” would still be read nearly 150 years later. And Shakespeare certainly wasn’t trying to create great art. He wrote to pay the rent and in the process managed to entertain the unwashed masses, the so-called “penny stinkards.” (No, it’s true, my teacher told me so.)

Does classic vampire fiction have enduring value? Well, we’re still reading it, aren’t we? Some of us are even studying it. And it’s very entertaining! But if we need a stronger defense on behalf of the literary vampire, we can simply point to a long list of great writers who scribbled about vampirism in one form or another; writers such as Byron, Keats, Goethe, Poe, and Baudelaire ensure the vampire its place in literature.

The “vampire” in literature has many different forms. There is, of course, the insatiable bloodsucking fiend most associated with the term; but there’s also the femme fatale, the pretty gal who manages to destroy the lives of all who find themselves entangled in her web of cunning manipulation. In The Romantic Agony (1930), Mario Praz describes “the beautiful woman without mercy” as a sexual cannibal “who stands in the same relationship to (her victim) as does the female spider to her male.” According to Praz, “The fascination of beautiful women already dead, especially if they had been great courtesans, wanton queens or famous sinners, suggested to the Romantics, probably under the influence of the vampire legend, the figure of the Fatal Woman who was successively incarnate in all ages and all lands, an archetype which united in itself all forms of seduction, all vices and all delights.” The defining example of “la belle dame sans merci” is the character Clarimonde in Théophile Gautier’s 1836 tale “La Morte Amoureuse” (“The Dead Lover”).

There’s the energy vampire, which grows steadily stronger while its victim, usually not knowing why, falls increasingly ill. Edgar Allan Poe subtly but effectively depicted this type of vampire in his 1835 story “Berenice.” And wherever you discover an exchange of energy between two or more characters, an exchange of health or potency, you’ve found another example of vampirism in literature. (Algernon Blackwood’s 1912 story “The Transfer” is a good example.) Even the often-fatiguing “artistic process” has been viewed as being vampiric, due to the energy and creativity the artist must pour into his or her art, as exemplified in Anne Crawford’s 1887 story “A Mystery of the Campagna.”

There’s the psychic vampire, too, of which a great example is the effete Reginald Clarke, in George Sylvester Viereck’s 1907 novel, The House of the Vampire. Clarke invites artistically gifted young men to stay at his home in New York where he visits them during the dead of night, his fingers piercing their brains and sucking away their intellects, appropriating for himself all their creativity, all their talents. Spend a night at Clarke’s house and you’ll wake up with more than just a headache. Depending on your avocation, you’ll have writer’s block or some other form of creative constipation. So, you think you’re a pretty good singer? Clarke can guarantee that after you spend a night with him you won’t be able to carry a tune in a bucket! On the other hand, Clarke will soon be launching a new career at the Metropolitan Opera!

Lamia

There’s the shape-shifter. If you have the stamina you can check out John Keats’ long (very long) 1820 poem “Lamia.” The lamia was a favorite bogey of ancient Greek myth, a hideous gorgon-faced creature with fangs and a snake-like tongue. Lamias had the power to take the form of beautiful young women, who then waited on the outskirts of town where they would seduce unwary men travelling to Greece from other lands. The seductions were merely the prelude to sucking out their blood, however — sort of an early form of immigration control. The eroticism of these oral legends was extremely appealing to the predominately male writers and readers of Victorian fiction, and paved the way for stronger stuff in such works as J. S. Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Stoker’s Dracula.

There are also bloodsucking plants in fiction. Long before Roger Corman’s “Little Shop of Horrors” there was Phil Robinson’s 1881 tale “The Man-Eating Tree.” Other, better-known examples include H. G. Wells “Flowering of the Strange Orchid” (1894) and E. Nesbit’s “The Pavilion” (1915). There are bloodthirsty parasites, like the one in “The Feather Pillow,” a 1907 story by Horacio Quiroga, Poe’s South American counterpart. And Phil Robinson gave us a vampiric “man-lizard” in his 1893 tale “The Last of the Vampires.” More, you cry? The thing in E.F. Benson’s 1922 chiller “Negotium Perambulans” is a loathsome caterpillar-like creature. Read it, and you’ll come face to face with “the pestilence that walketh in darkness”!

Sometimes these vampiric fiends take the form of malevolent ghosts (as in H. B. Marriott Watson’s 1899 story “The Stone Chamber” or M.R. James’s 1904 tale “Count Magnus”); and may manifest themselves only in nightmares (as in Hume Nisbet’s 1900 story “The Old Portrait”). Sometimes they only come out at night. Sometimes they raise hell in broad daylight. There are other variations, as well — too many to cover in a few paragraphs. And sometimes the theme of vampirism is simply used as metaphor to highlight some sinister aspect of human nature — checkout F. Marion Crawford 1899 story “The Dead Smile.”

Last but not least, there’s the nosferatu, an animalistic creature of Eastern-European folklore, usually depicted as a scruffy peasant with bad breath and a taste for the blood of his own kinfolk. If deprived of this blood he’ll settle for a swig from the family livestock (bringing new meaning to the phrase “drink a cow.”) The legend of Arnold Paole is one of the earliest recorded examples from folklore, but we don’t encounter the nosferatu so much in fiction. I think E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Aurelia” (a segment of his longer work The Serapion Brethren, 1820) comes closest to capturing this type of vampire. Writers in the 19th century evidently preferred more tasteful characterizations for their bloodsuckers. They essentially traded in the dirty face of the peasant for the refined features and cultivated manners of the noble class. The first writer to do this was not Bram Stoker, either. 80 years or so before Stoker created Count Dracula, Dr. John Polidori gave the world Lord Ruthven, the first modern vampire.

[Tomorrow you can read all about the ‘Birth of the Modern Vampire’]


Time to vote – The Preditors and Editors Poll awaits!

I’ve been sitting back and watching goings on before getting ready for my own involvement in the awards, then realised there are only three days left…

If you think we did good work over at Morrigan Books last year, then this is your chance to vote for us, so that others can also see how well we are doing and cast a glance our way in 2010. We’ve already been nominated for a few things this time but if there is something you think of (short story, editor, etc.) that hasn’t been nominated then you can also do that.

The main voting page can be found below:

Preditors and Editors voting page

but I’ve given you a link to a few of the categories, with comments about who/what I think should win or who/what I’ve voted for.

Best Horror Novel

I’ve not read enough here to have a qualified opinion but The Harrowing, Alexander Sokoloff is being talked about in all the right circles. I’m also aware Jeremy Shipp has a rather fine voice and would expect Cursed to be worth a buy.

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Novel

I actually think this should be two sections but anyway…not read one on the list and struggle to think of any that were released last year that grabbed – I didn’t read many new novels though.

Best Horror Short Story

We have a few in this section, most coming from Dead Souls (my own little solo editing anthology). Tatsu by Reece Notley is riding high, as is Licwiglunga by T. A. Moore. Also in the list (from the same book) are A Shade of Yellow, Gary McMahon, Wayang Kulit, L. J. Hayward and The Blind Man, Carole Johnstone.

I’m only allowed to vote for one and so went for The Blind Man, as Carole Johnstone is always brilliant but this is easily one of the best things she’s ever done, and is probably my favourite of all those in the anthology. I read a lot of horror short stories last year and believe Carole’s stands very high among them all.

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Short Story

There’s some bloody cracking stories in this list, and I notice a few from Grants Pass, our science fiction/horror anthology. I’m actually going to nominate KV Taylor’s Boudha, which isn’t in the list and was my favourite from that book (well that or Carole Johnstone’s…)

Best Anthology

You may well notice a bit of bias here but I direct your attention to Dead Souls, the anthology I edited for Morrigan Books. If that didn’t grab you, you could vote for Grants Pass, another worthy anthology, also (strangely) published by Morrigan Books…

Best Book Art

Both Dead Souls and Grants Pass are in there, both done by the wonderful Reece Notley. I shall be voting Dead Souls cause I love me that spider!

Best Zine Art

I see that Reece Notley has been nominated for Three Crow Press, yet I see no mention of Drops of Crimson, which I think will get my vote.

Best Author

I can’t decide here between Carole Johnstone or Gary McMahon, as they’ve both done cracking stuff over the last year or so. I think I might vote Carole and get the wife to vote Gary, that seems fair eh? 😉

Best Poet

I’ve gone for Ian Hunter here, who is nice enough to put some of his stuff on his site. He reminds me I need to get some poetry done this year!

Best Artist

Reece Notley isn’t nominated, which makes no sense to me, and so I’ll be nominating her and then voting for her.

Best Book Editor

I’m in there, as is Amanda Pillar and Alisa Krasnostein. Can’t decide between Alisa or Amanda and so have let the wife vote for Alisa, seeing as she’s read some Twelth Planet stuff and I voted for my personal fave, Amanda Pillar.

No Jennifer Brozek though, which is strange.

Best Zine Editor

Here we have Jennifer Brozek, Jenn Moffatt, Reece Notley and Lea Schizas, making it a very tough one. Think I’ll have to go for Reece Notley here.

Best Ebook Publisher

We’ve been nominated here, which is crazy, as we don’t do ebooks, yet. I voted for Samhain Publishing.

Best Review Site

I nominated Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews for this and then got the wife to vote for ASif! (Australian Specific in focus). Covering all the bases you know…

Best Fiction Zine

I’m thinking Shroud, Necrotic Tissue and Three Crow Press here. No prizes for guessing where my vote has to go.

Best Poetry Zine

Goblin Fruit, without a shadow of a doubt!

Best Writers Workshop

My vote goes with The Muse Online Writers’ Conference. I was lucky enough to take part last year and it was excellent!

And here is where you can see the current standings and just where everyone is at the mo.

Current Standings

Looking forward to seeing where we end up in all our categories!


Confirming I’ve not read as much Science Fiction and Fantasy as I have Horror and Contemporary stuff

As seen on mylefteye and today:

50 years of Spec Fic Books …
According to the Science Fiction Book Club, these are the 50 most significant SF & Fantasy Books of 1953-2002. Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you hated, italicize the ones you couldn’t get through, asterisks for the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
*5. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin*
*6. Neuromancer by William Gibson*
7. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
*10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight by James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway by Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

29. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big by John Crowley
32. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
35. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld by Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
*42. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut* (one of my top five books of all time)
43. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

46. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
49. Timescape by Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer


Books you really should be buying #1: 2012

Where will the world be in four years’ time?

Eleven of Australia’s top authors take a guess in 2012. Each story imagines the world as it might be, presenting unique possibilities for the very near future. There are dark visions of water and oil shortages, terrorism, climate change, global and regional politics, the limiting of personal freedoms such as free speech, struggles with the ethics of genetic engineering and bioengineering, alien conspiracies, and the impact of technology on industry. There are personal stories here too – of the way these things might impact on families, and how we at an individual level might react to the catastrophes predicted to lie ahead.

Each of these stories presents an original take on the imminent future of humanity. Each has something to say about who we are and who we might want to be. 2012 is both a call to imagine the future of the world and a call to create it.

Deborah Biancotti Martin Livings Dirk Flinthart David Conyers
Simon Brown Lucy Sussex Tansy Rayner Roberts Kaaron Warren Angela Slatter
Ben Peek Sean McMullen

Pre buy it for $20.

(Yes of course I ordered a copy, I mean who wouldn’t?)


2008 means assessing 2007 resolutions

Normally I would summarise the year on 31st December and then attempt to add the new resolutions as soon after 1st Januaryas possible. In truth I haven’t actually thought about any resolutions this year but had at least decided if I do them they would run from today until 12th November, as I agree that this New Year is the arbitrary one and the year between my birthday is the real ‘New Year’. Let’s see what happens there.

Anyway here was 2007 in resolution form:

(have just realised that the ‘Zokutou Word Counter’ is not working and so this is to be a draft version of the original.)

(have also just realised that I have various documents I can’t access, due to my recent computer problems and so they will need to be updated too.)

Health:

Water consumption (in litres):
I began this with a chart, thinking this might help me to achieve the goal. I could see quite early on that that wasn’t a good idea and moved onto a normal wordy assessment. The first half of the year was really good and over my cycling summer I drunk much water. This last half of the year has been terrible and I consider this a failed resolution.

Weight loss (in kilos):
3 kilos out of a hoped for 6. The end of the year sees me weighing less than the beginning and that is a real plus. I hold my hands up to a failed resolution though.

Exercise (twice a week):
72 out of a possible 102. This figure is different when taking into account how long the sessions were but that needs an inaccessible document. Will be looking to update this sometime soon. However, another failure.

Life:

Move home:
Showing what a difference a year makes. This was a dead certainty that we would be leaving this flat and this city before year’s end. Lots of things have happened this year but the big decider would seem to be losing our brother. I think Etina’s parents need Maddoc around just now and I haven’t got the heart to deny them that.

Meet 5 people on flist:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
18 / 5
(360.0%)

The total here is 18, making this a 360% success rate. After a few failures in this section, this was a great one to achieve, especially seeing as I got a real kick out of it!

Films seen:
This is another I can’t access but due to the fact I had already succeeded here and after my mammoth film month in December, this ended up even looking a bit solid with around 70 films seen I think.

Literature:

Books read:
I started the year with Jonathan Stange and Mr. Norrell, which I still haven’t finished. I managed 35 out of 52 and although it’s a failure, I never would have gone for 52 had I known how much the editing would take out of me. Saying that though there were lots of game moments this year and in truth I could have read 52.

Best of the bunch was A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Dickens books:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1 / 4
(25.0%)

Pretty much the same from year start. I add it every year and fail every year. I may just not add this for 2008.

Writing:

Short Stories:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
7 / 12
(58.3%)

I’m still not 100% about this as there are stats I can’t access. If it’s not 7 it’s 8 and that still makes it a failure. I can’t say I’m annoyed at this though as there’s been something telling me my short story production was going to be affected by editing and publishing.

ASif reviews:

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5 / 12
(41.7%)

This really annoyed me as I thought it was doable and I have two that are written and just waiting for an edit. *sighs*

SF Reader reviews:

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4 / 12
(33.3%)

This one fell apart early on and has also really annoyed me. I think reivews is going to be one of my key areas next year, especially when I think of how impatient I get waiting for them…

Edit book:
This is an interesting one now, as I didn’t even look at this book all year but instead started another. I think this is another area that may get some attention in 2008, as I think my editing skills may be more apparent than my writing.

Find publisher for In Bad Dreams:
Well this didn’t go according to original plans but the result was far more rewarding! Not only did we find a publisher but we published it and launched it!

Start publishing company:
This was achieved in big style and is accompanied by a jazzy website and the aforementioned book!

There seems to be more failures on the list than successes, although in truth the majority of the successes are much bigger and it is also a big list. I was pushing it with this one and it proves my belief about these things, which is I draw up a list that I think is doable but not easy and then I challenge myself. If I don’t succeed with everything, I don’t automatically see it as a failure, more of a way to assess the previous year and set myself up for the next.

I’m very pleased with Eneit Press and In Bad Dreams and very disappointed with the reviewing stats. Everything else is in the background.

That was 2007.


2007

A year that started off pretty brightly, with work on In Bad Dreams in full swing, gained in momentum as it progressed. First was the engagement of Andreas (my brother-in-law) to Kristina, followed by Berolin (my sister-in-law) and her engagement to Ninos. There was much to do, both with Maddoc and with the company and it wasn’t long before summer came around and the almost ‘double’ weddings with the aforementioned family members took place in July and August.

 

It was a stressful but fun summer, involving both weddings, much planning, running Eneit Press full time, along with much cycling on the improved racing bike. Many mentioned that after a problematic and painful 2006, there was much to be celebrated this year.

 

Sometime in May, a decision was made that the Deniz family would travel to Australia to launch the flagship of Eneit Press, In Bad Dreams – Volume One: Where Real Life Awaits at Canberra’s Conflux 4. This would be a perfect chance to meet my business partner, several authors and friends and prove that we were extremely committed to the company (and the book.)

 

The trip took place in September and October, around five weeks in total and it was a very rewarding experience for all of us. We learned many things about the workings of a publishing company and book launch and we came away much more prepared (and enthusiastic) about future projects.

 

It was moving on, we came to November and birthdays and visits from family, and apart from my recent birthday woes; things were full of laughter and joy here too. We were only six weeks away from Christmas, meaning not only a very exciting time but me enjoying the privilege of my best friend in the world,

, spending a full ten days with us over Christmas and New Year. This promised RPGs, board games, film, TV, and music aplenty.

 

And then the year took its twist, what had been merely snippets of sorrow in an otherwise joyful, productive, positive year, came and brought with it pain and misery, the like has never been seen before within this family.

 

I lost my mother, January 2006, yet nothing, not even that (or my Grandma leaving us 23rd February 1983 – effectively my mother at that time) could prepare me for the wave that would hit from 11th December 2007 onwards.

 

My brother-in-law Fuat, who we had been lucky enough to see several times this year (Etina constantly complains that she doesn’t see him enough and in fact for two years we realised that we saw my sister, who lives in England, more than we saw him) was stabbed in the neck and on Wednesday 12th December at 11:02 was declared brain dead.

 

Today is Monday 31st December, almost three weeks since that date and things have not begun to formulate into any kind of normalcy yet. In some ways things will never go back to normal, and this is a tragedy that has hit the family far more than we have realised (or will realise).

 

I sense the impact the most when I see Etina’s pain and when I think of Fuat and Maddoc. Maddoc has lost an Uncle that cared deeply for him, thought of him often and would have done so many things with him and definitely been a favourite in my son’s eyes. The realisation that Maddoc will not remember him hurts. I have heard people say that we can keep his memory alive in various ways and I accept that. But not for Maddoc. I have talked to too many people who have lost family members early and they do not remember them, they cannot relate to them in the same way that the people who knew them as older children and adults.

 

It was a year that started off so well, progressed nicely and then came to earth with a crash. The fact that the funeral will not take place until some time in January also sets up a negative 2008.

 

I mentioned before that 1915 was the year of the sword in Assyrian culture, the year that the people were nearly wiped out in their history’s tragic genocide, and that 2008 would be the Deniz family’s year of the sword. I cannot make too many plans for 2008; the year will be a difficult one.

 

There are no New Year honours as such this year, being as I haven’t had the energy or motivation for them. However there are two best ofs that I feel I must name, due to the fact that two members of the family will receive packages based on the choices I make every year.

 

First up is album of the year – Editors: An End has a Start, which I was impressed was my favourite, due to the band’s name and that significance to my career move for 2007. However, the album becomes more appropriate for the situation with Fuat. The album is the songwriter’s obsession with death in words and music and it is a bleak, dismal, powerful interpretation of that which we all must deal with at various times in our life and with varying severity.

 

I couldn’t bring myself to do my regular top five but if pushed it would be as such:

 

2. The National: Boxer

3. The Twilight Sad: Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters

4. Kristin Hersh: Learn to Sing Like a Star

5. Efterklang: Parades

 

The best book (that I read) in 2007 has to go to Philip K. Dick and A Scanner Darkly. I saw the film earlier in the year and loved it. After the credits came up I knew I had to read the book and the day after borrowed it from our local library.

 

I was in tears by the end and have not been in a situation where I have constantly thought of a book I have a read for almost a week after I finish it. It is an extremely powerful representation of how fallible we are as human beings and how truly horrible we can be to each other.

 

It is a sign of a crumbling society on the brink of despair and the way in which he words it has a resonance today and, I suspect, long after.

 

Goodbye 2007, I will not remember you fondly but be assured I will never be able to forget you.


Those evasive resolutions for the year

I don’t seem to have updated these since July, which although I can’t quite believe, there’s not a lot I can do about it now…

Anyway here they are today, as I don’t think I’ll have a chance to do them next weekend, what with NaNoWriMo and promos and stuff…

Health:

Water consumption (in litres):

Have pretty much failed abysmally here, I was keeping on track for a while but then it fell apart.

Weight loss (in kilos):

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4 / 6
(66.7%)

The muscle growth is still affecting this but it’s dropping anyway!

Exercise (twice a week):

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64 / 102
(62.7%)

or

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78 / 102
(76.0%)

There have been chats about this in terms of what a session is, we usually talk about a session of fitness in terms of one hour (as practised in gyms and the like). If we are counting my three hour bike rides as three sessions then the bottom shiny bar applies. If however we are looking at the strict one session = one session rule, regardless of how long you are out for, then the top shiny bar applies.

This is still do-able although Australia and preparation for the book just before put a big dent in it all. etina has been pushing me with runs over the last two weeks though…

Life:

Move home:
Not a chance, there have been so many other things taking priority and we have to give the agency three months notice before we leave.

Meet 5 people on flist:

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18 / 5
(360.0%)

Bye bye sucker, yet another that makes its last appearance here (until the December assessment)!

Films seen:

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53 / 52
(101.9%)

Another one off the list, although this one is not that impressive, being as it is such a paltry goal… oh well.

Literature:

Books read:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
30 / 52
(57.7%)

This has been getting worse as the weeks are going on. I complained about being eight behind last time and now it’s thirteen. It’s not going to happen is it?

Dickens books:

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1 / 4
(25.0%)

*looks at to-read pile and chuckles*

Writing:

Short Stories:

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7 / 12
(58.3%)

I need to double check this, as my stats haven’t been updated for a while. It’s not looking do-able though as I’m only working on one and the novel starts soon.

ASif reviews:

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5 / 12
(41.7%)

I’ve just written one that needs editing and I’m reading one that’s for this but not as good as planned.

SF Reader reviews:

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4 / 12
(33.3%)

Not happy with this one, seem to have been stuck on one of the reviews and it won’t let me go!

Edit book:
Knocked on the head, just not gonna happen. Going to write a book instead… squee!

Ups and downs here but as the beginning of December’s chart should look a little lighter, I can maybe concentrate on what’s left as there’s only a few guaranteed failures.

*writes a to-do list*


“I would go out tonight…

… but I haven’t got a stitch to wear”

(pah, how easy?)

It’s resolution time!


Me is reviewing again…

Big welcome to

and

hope you enjoy your stay!

Huge Birthday Wishes to

hope your day is filled with fun stuff!

Another positive review?

Hal Spacejock – Second Course

(second one down)

*checks temperature*