A Starker, Darker Brothers Grimm

November 14, 2014 § 3 Comments

dezso_grimmsI’m excited to finally have in my possession a copy of Jack Zipes’ The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, a new translation of the original 1812 & 1815 Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales (I say finally because my local post office made we wait one extra, excruciating day). You may have seen some buzz around the interwebs about it, praising Zipes for restoring the “darkness and gore” to the tales. While I think that particular line is a little misleading, there’s no doubt that this is an important book, and worth celebrating. And, with its cut-out illustrations by Andrea Dezso and gorgeous book design by Princeton University Press, it’s lovely to boot!

First, some context. « Read the rest of this entry »

Through the Woods: Macabre Beauty by Emily Carroll

July 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

carroll_woodscoverEmily Carroll’s Through the Woods comes out next week from Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), and I am certain about one thing: you, yes you, will love it.

Author/illustrator Carroll is best known for her grim, campfire-story webcomics, which, like the web hit “His Face All Red,” have been virally disseminated online in a manner not unlike urban legends. Now her first print collection of graphic stories,Through the Woods, delivers more original tales about the things that go bump in the night.

“His Face All Red” is joined with four new stories, all richly macabre homages to scary fairy tales, Lovecraftian horror, and the gristly darkness in between. In one, a trio of sisters are led away, one by one, from their dreary home by an unseen smiling man. In another, a lonely woman tells of her best friend’s possession by a strangely veiny spirit. Perhaps most chilling is “The Nesting Place,” in which a teenaged girl who has recently lost her mother moves in with her brother and sister-in-law, but finds that the couple’s perfect demeanor disguises, quite literally, an indescribable horror. « Read the rest of this entry »

“The Nursemaid” up @ Lightning Cake

March 6, 2013 § 1 Comment

Just in time for AWP, I have a new story stretching its legs out in the wide world: “The Nursemaid,” a flash fiction piece, is now posted on Lightning Cake! Lightning Cake is a beautiful new online magazine of speculative bites, and not only am I in great company with a handful of other talented writers, but the editor, LiAnn Yim, creates a delicate, unique illustration for each piece. Take a look, and enjoy!

drawing by LiAnn Yim

drawing by LiAnn Yim

A Warped “Barbe Bleue”

January 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

A very short post for you today, inspired by Will Schofield’s “Nitrate Nocturne” posts over at 50 Watts: Will has posted several of these images of decomposed film clippings from the Turconi Collection, on which the nitrate has warped, leaving behind surreal blotches that turn the film clippings into their own bits of abstract art. Scrolling through, this one in particular caught my eye:


It’s a clipping from a 1907 film version of “Bluebeard,” or “Barbe bleue” by the Pathé Brothers Company (Pathé frères). The nitrate has warped in such a way that the doorway to Bluebeard’s murderous den appears to suddenly catch flame–but that’s just a coincidental effect. What’s really happening in the scene is that Bluebeard’s wife has opened the forbidden door, seen the other dead wives, and is turning away in horror. She’s easier to see in the top frame, holding her head in her hands. The nitrate is doing something very cool here, totally unplanned, and accomplished only by time and decay–it’s making Bluebeard’s wife’s inner horror look like a conflagration that overcomes her and the dead women behind her.

Cool, right?

I haven’t been able to find any surviving film online of the 1907 “Barbe bleue,” (though if you read French, you might be able to find a copy through this site). But if you’ve got the itch now to watch some early Bluebeard films, there’s always George Melies’s 1901 version, complete with Melies’s infamous special effects:


On Hansel and Gretel & Good (Very)Old-Fashioned Humor

January 2, 2013 § 8 Comments

Ok, so have you guys seen this?


I’m not even mad, I mean, how could I be? It’s hysterical. I can see how some loyal readers might expect me to get all up in some steampunky arms about the ridiculous-looking romp that will surely be Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you, because I’m too busy cracking up.

It looks like fun. I’m gonna see it. At least, I’ll Netflix it when it turns up on Instant, and take a shot every time a witch dies in an unexpected and hilarious manner.


Because there are times for snobbery and contextual hand-wringing, and there are times to just gather around the fire and laugh and laugh and laugh when someone tells a story about a witch getting her just gingerbread desserts.

There’s a misconception pretty widely spread about fairy tales which concerns their morality. When I was in graduate school and teaching freshman writing courses, I used fairy tales—namely, “Little Red Riding Hood”—as tools for students to learn about critical thinking and rhetorical narrative in a low-stakes setting. As we looked at the many iterations of LRRH, the students could see how some fairy tale tellers would manipulate the tale to serve their own purposes. Those purposes ranged from 17th century European court morality to 20th century feminist narrative-reclaiming. But the first thing I had to do for those students, before we dove into the tale, was erase their incredibly pervasive notion that fairy tales are inherently morality stories. Many of them showed me in their very first blog post that they believed that all fairy tales, regardless of edition, historical context, or even Disney film status, were intended to teach a lesson.

Not so. « Read the rest of this entry »

We Are the Folk, Vol. 2: Cinderella in the Closet, Blood in the Shoe

November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

You might remember my post on three odd news stories that, to this blogger, had the ring of Grimm to them: a woman who wished for children and instead collected over 500 cats, a man who had a fight with his wife about soup and then became lost in the frozen woods for three months, and a girl who was promised in marriage to a man only to be shut away and replaced by a false bride who, together with the groom, tortured the young woman for years. For links, see my original post here.

All of these are real, contemporary stories, and all are perfect ammunition to use against those who claim that we no longer live in the world of “fairy tales.” What, exactly, do these folks believe fairy tales are? It doesn’t take much—certainly not an entire feudal caste system, as some have suggested—for someone to embody an archetype. Shit, brides do it all the time. Cinderella gowns! Fairy tale weddings! And if you pay attention, it isn’t just the ones tossing “Cinderella” around as an adjective who are unwittingly playing what could very well be parts in some of our darkest tales. Let’s stick to our Cinderella theme, shall we, and take a look at the news. « Read the rest of this entry »

3 Spooky Radio Stories

November 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

Because Halloween should last all autumn, don’t you think?

I’m mourning the end of October by sharing what was a pretty exciting Halloween present for me, to have three–not 1 but 3!–short stories of mine read by actors and performed for the radio on OSU’s Writers Talk, for its 4th annual Halloween show. Plus, at the end, an interview with RL Stine! LITTLE KNOWN FACT: RL Stine was an OSU alum like myself, and was known, both there and in his days at MAD Magazine, as “Jovial Bob Stine.”

The first, a longer short story, is called “Good Creatures, Small Things,” and is chock full of strange creatures in the Appalachian woods, and–sorry, narrative purists–it goes backwards. Fun!

The last two (about halfway in) are short-shorts: “Her Honeymoon,” featuring a jealous telekinetic lover, and “The Nursemaids,” a study in infant vampirism and its effects on matrimony.

Take a listen to an access-anytime stream here, or download it for free on iTunes.


photo by Joanna Monger

The 13th Post: Stephen King’s On Writing, and an Excuse for Genres Everywhere

January 11, 2012 § 6 Comments

A milestone in the young life of my blog is reached: the 13th post. Superstition tells me not to make it a long or arduous one, because as soon as I have it all written, wordpress will find a way to destroy it. That, or turn it into some kind of hidden, haunted gem, findable only by the most specific and evil search terms.

What better to write about in a 13th post than Stephen King?

I’ve just finished the Master of the Macabre’s On Writing, which I got as a Christmas gift from my parents. It was a fitting gift–before traveling up to Maine to visit said parents for the holiday, I had been reading King’s Bag of Bones. The goal was to finish it before the miniseries premiered so I could write here on the blog about the adaptation (you know  just love picking apart adaptations) But the miniseries came and went (to little acclaim, I hear), and I resolved to save the book instead for December, and to start a tradition of reading a Stephen King novel every Christmas.

Here’s why: my parents live on an unassuming street in Bangor, Maine. If you walk out their front door, you’ll see a neat little park where two roads come together in a triangle. You’re walking your dog, say. The dog pulls you across your parents’ street into that little park to do her business. From there, at the meeting point of those two intersecting roads, you can look up one block and see a gas station, a row of plain but cozy 19th century houses (one of which is where my parents live), and a florist’s shop. It’s a pretty busy street. If you look up the other road, though, which is a tad more stately, you’ll see at its end a huge red Victorian with white-painted trim and a black iron gate.

Yep, just  an odd triangular block away from my parents’ front door is where Stephen and Tabitha King live. « Read the rest of this entry »

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