Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal thrillers. Visit http://blakemont.com/
The adjective “amazing” was invented to describe the kind of experience I had in Whitby, a small town located in North Yorkshire, UK. This is where Bram Stoker found inspiration for his famous novel Dracula (1897). Now I understand what he felt when he visited this town – I felt it too.
Read the blog post Whitby, in the footsteps of Dracula (Part 1)
The Hugo Awards are among the most prestigious awards in science fiction and fantasy. The list of 2015 finalists was announced on 4 April. I must admit the feelings it evokes in me are mixed. The Hugos now look more like political elections than literary awards – there are parties campaigning for their favorites and against one another.
To make a long story short, a group of people who were unhappy with the previous year’s Hugo results launched a campaign called Sad Puppies to propose their own Hugo slate. This campaign was surprisingly successful, but not everyone agrees with Sad Puppies' choices (to say the least).
Let’s take a look at the 2015 Hugo finalists in the Best Novel category.
Discover fantasy and science fiction bestselling books of the month: New York Times bestsellers, Amazon’s “Best Books of the Month”, and B&N bestsellers.
In March three fantasy books made it to the New York Times best seller list (Hardcover):
I’ve compiled for you a list of science fiction, fantasy, and horror book awards with descriptions and links to their websites. Brace yourselves for the book awards season – it starts in April!
I have the pleasure to announce the launch of my new website and blog devoted mainly to science fiction and fantasy. I will post news, reviews, in-depth articles, occasionally interviews and guest posts. If you would like me to cover a particular topic, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Happy reading!
Sad news: Terry Pratchett died today from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 66. He was among the most successful and prolific fantasy writers of his generation: he published over 70 books that sold 75 million copies worldwide. His most notable accomplishment was the “Discworld” series, a witty parody of classic fantasy works such as “Conan the Barbarian” series by Robert E. Howard and “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien. Now he walks with one of the most colorful characters from his novels – Death himself.
Terry, we wish you fair winds and following seas on your final journey. You will be missed!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Myrmi
Coming soon – April 2015
MIRROR SOULS: a Prelude
A haunting paranormal thriller with a tinge of poetry
Natasha Scharf is an author, DJ and broadcaster of all things dark and beautiful. Her new book 'The Art of Gothic' was published by Omnibus Press Halloween in 2014.
Dressed head-to-toe in black, often with extreme make-up, the gothic look has been a popular once since the 1980s. Gothic art is about more than just album covers and ephemera; it's about fashion, book jackets, cinematography, computer graphics and fine arts. And its influence frequently seeps through into mainstream culture. The first ever English language collection of gothic images available. Features 224 pages of gothic photography and artwork. Contains up to date references that encompass the modern gothic movement as well as the original movement that came from punk. Gathers imagery from around the world, including previously unpublished photographs and artwork. Each chapter includes two special features, including profiles of influential artists or styles. Features articles on the work of well-known artists such as Anne Sudworth and Roman Dirge as well as graphic design teams Parched Art, Leisure Process and 23 Envelope.
Meet Natasha Scharf, Sarah Channing Wright and A J Blakemont on Saturday 28th February 2015 at 3pm, The Penderel's Oak Pub in Holborn, London, UK. See you there!
Further information available at http://www.blakemont.com/events.html
Well, 2014 is almost over. It has been a difficult year for me, but it ends on a positive note. My first nonfiction book has been published and is now available in every major bookstore. I am already working on my next book, a paranormal thriller. If you like supernatural thrillers, science fiction or urban fantasy, stay tuned; this one might interest you!
All the best for 2015!
What are your favorite books featuring vampires?
Vampires have a special place in literature, art, and popular culture. Historically, the myth of vampires resulted from our ancestors’ poor understanding of the processes that occur inside a decomposing body. At a certain stage of decomposition, the corpse inflates, creating the illusion that it fed on the living. Beliefs in creatures feeding on human blood are so ancient that it is difficult to determine their origins, and there is historical evidence showing that these beliefs existed in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance.
In 18th-century Europe, cases of mass hysteria where people exhumed corpses to burn them forced the authorities to launch scientific investigations into the existence of vampires. Scientists concluded that the bloodsucking undead were only a product of popular superstition and tomb profanations were outlawed.
In Gothic literature, vampires made their first appearance in The Monk before becoming an emblematic character of dark Romanticism. Byron introduced the theme of vampirism in his poem The Giaour (1813):
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
John William Polidori, one of the closest friends of Byron, created the iconic image of the undead aristocrat in his novella The Vampyre (1819). Female vampires also haunted 19th-century literature (The Dead Woman in Love by Theophile Gautier; Carmilla, In a Glass Darkly, by Sheridan Le Fanu). After Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), the vampire became associated with the concept of otherness. Dracula comes from Eastern Europe, and he also comes from the past, which makes him not only alien, but also anachronic. He is a reminder of our medieval past, viewed as dark and violent, and he is also representative of a non-Western culture.
The vampire represents the other, the heretic, the deviant, the marginal, the immigrant, the homosexual – anyone who belongs to a minority and is perceived as a threat to the established way of life in a given society.
A text key to understanding the evolution of the vampire as a fictional character is I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson. I would strongly recommend reading Matheson’s book as the film adaptation by Francis Lawrence (2007), despite its qualities, betrays the spirit of the novel. Matheson uses a postapocalyptic setting to portray an extreme case of xenophobia. A pandemic decimates the human population all over the world, and the most horrific aspect of it is that the dead, transformed into vampires, return from their graves to infect the living. Robert Neville manages to survive this apocalypse by barricading himself during the night and, during the day, he hunts and kills the undead. He doesn’t even suspect that, meanwhile, his foes are developing their own culture, and that he, Robert Neville, gained in this culture the status of a legend: he became the incarnation of death.
The theme of vampires enjoyed a phenomenal success after the publication of the Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. An important trend in this type of literature is the humanization of the undead; nevertheless, they always remain a source of fear. Particularly popular are narratives in which vampires revealed their existence to the human society, for example The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris and the TV drama inspired by this series, True Blood (2008-present). This kind of fictional universes allow an interesting commentary on xenophobia, racism, religious intolerance, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and other burning social problems.
The times when vampires were merely a product of superstition are long gone; nowadays, these beings are part of our popular culture. They represent the liminal state between life and death, the past and the present, the normal and the transgressive. They are “the others”, the barbarians, the Goths who live at the borders of our “civilized world”, who frighten our safety and our way of life; yet they are also our image in the distorting mirror of our collective unconscious. They are projections of our repressed fears and
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From The Gothic: 250 Years of Success by A J Blakemont. Copyrighted material.
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In December 1764 appeared a curious book titled The Castle of Otranto. Its preface stated:
"The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the black letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written does not appear. The principal incidents are such as were believed in the darkest ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct have nothing that savours of barbarism."
The preface went on to speculate that this story had been written during the Crusades, between 1095 and 1243. A haunted castle, a mysterious prophecy, an evil and manipulative aristocrat, two young and beautiful heroines, a forbidden love and lots of action – such are the ingredients of this wildly imaginative melodrama.
Despite an initially positive critical reception, this unlikely story could have remained a footnote in the history of literature, as did other literary curiosities. However, the following year, a second edition of this book was published, and, this time, its true nature was revealed by the author. The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story was a work of fiction written by Horace Walpole, a forty-eight-year-old English aristocrat known for his passion for the medieval period and Gothic architecture.
In this stylish, rationalist 18th century, dominated by the baroque and the Classicism, Walpole was viewed as an eccentric. He went as far as to transform his villa at Strawberry Hill (just outside London) into an imitation of a Gothic castle. In the preface to the second edition of The Castle of Otranto, Walpole explained that his book was “an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern”. In other words, he transposed his love for medieval art into literature and thus created the first neo-Gothic fictional work in history.
In the 1760s, the world was not yet ready for the onslaught of the Gothic. However, two decades later, England was ready, as were other European countries that went through radical social changes.
The Gothic novel exploded in the 1790s and the 1800s, when, in England, up to 20 per cent of all published titles belonged to this type of literature. Paradoxically, the effects of this cultural phenomenon were as profound as the books that caused it were shallow. Few Gothic novels published in the 18th century had literary merit (those by Ann Radcliffe being among the rare exceptions). More than their intrinsic quality, it was their ability to excite the imagination of a broad readership that made them so influential. The 18th-century Gothic fiction was probably the first popular genre in the history of Western civilization; it was the prototype of what we call a genre nowadays.
The success of this early wave of terrifying novels was short-lived, and, in the 1820s, readers grew tired of this kind of story. Nevertheless, 19th-century literature would not be the same without the spark of wild imagination brought by the Gothic novel. This genre created a portal between the mysterious past and the rational present through which the power of medieval fancy could relive to inseminate the modern culture. It inspired Jane Austen to write her first novel, Northanger Abbey, a satirical, yet respectful parody of the Radcliffean Gothic. It influenced Walter Scott, the father of historical fiction. It paved the road for the budding Romantic Movement, in particular its darker forms, and we can see its imprint in Byron’s poems or in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Some literary critics viewed the Gothic as biologists view extinct species, like a relic of the past, something that had a role in evolution, but was now history. As a genre the Gothic is no more; nevertheless, as an artistic style it is as strong nowadays as it was two centuries ago. It was its ability to evolve beyond the boundaries of a genre that made it so influential and widespread.
By the first decade of the 19th century, the Gothic had invaded literature and, to a lesser extent, theatrical drama and visual arts. By the first decade of the 21st century, the Gothic was everywhere: cinema, TV, comic books, music, internet, role-playing games, video games, digital art, and fashion. Not only was it adopted by every form of art and media, but it also penetrated most genres; we can find its influence in fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, romance, historical fiction, and literary fiction.
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From The Gothic: 250 Years of Success by A J Blakemont. Copyrighted material.
What is the Gothic? A genre, a style, a movement, a subculture? The Gothic is all of this, and so much more; it is one of the most enduring and fertile artistic traditions in the history of modern civilization. Since the publication of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole in December 1764, the Gothic has constantly rejuvenated and reinvented itself, taking on new forms while remaining true to its aesthetic principles.
From old castles to futuristic cities, from corrupt priests to urban predators, from medieval poetry to modern rock, the Gothic evolved over the centuries, transforming the popular culture in the process. Like Frankenstein’s creature, the Gothic is alive and one can feel its beating heart in every art form and media.
This guide provides an overview covering all facets of the Gothic culture, from its philosophical basis to its practical applications in literature, comic books, cinema and television, music, games, digital art, and fashion.
H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) had a particularly grim vision of the future. He created a dark, yet sublime fictional universe. What Lovecraft brought to speculative fiction is the concept of world building. He did not only create a myth; he created an entire fictional world to illustrate his cosmological views. This is how he summarized his vision in the introductory paragraph from “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926):
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
Science fiction would not be the same without H. G. Wells (1866-1946). His ideas became an integral part of SF culture: time travel (“The Time Machine”, 1895), human/animal hybrids (“The Island of Doctor Moreau”, 1896), invisibility (“The Invisible Man”, 1897), alien invasion (“The War of the Worlds”, 1898), antigravity (“The First Men in the Moon”, 1901), and many others. Wells also wrote brilliant short stories that bordered on fantasy: “The Sea-Raiders”, “In the Abyss”, “The Valley of the Spiders”, “The Empire of the Ants”, etc.
“The Time Machine” is my favorite. In this novel, an inventor builds a machine that allows him to travel to a distant future. He discovers that humanity evolved into two species: the Eloi, who live in a utopian society above ground, and the Morlocks, who live underground and prey on the Eloi. Wells used this dichotomy as a metaphor for the continuous struggle between the upper class and the underclass. I believe, however, that the main interest of this novel lies not in its socio-political overtones, but in the fascinating vision of evolution it presents. “The Time Machine” is a reflection on the future of our species and, more generally, the future of life on Earth.
The ocean is the most mysterious place on Earth. We probably know more about the other planets of the Solar system than about the depths of this vast expanse that covers 71% of the surface of our planet. Deep-sea exploration has been fascinating humankind since antiquity. In the “Alexander Romance” (earliest version traced to the third century BC), we find an episode in which Alexander explores the bottom of the sea in a glass diving bell. But the ultimate classic novel dealing with oceanic exploration is “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne (French: “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers”, 1870). This literary masterpiece is one of the earliest science fiction novels, and it features a particularly interesting postromantic character, the “tragic villain” Captain Nemo. Jules Verne shows us that the human soul is like the abyss; one can find light even in an ocean of darkness.