At the same time I’ve been working on Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers, I’ve been pulling together another book. It’s called Thoughts and Fears: Essays on Horror and Culture. A chunk of it will consist of essays I’ve written previously for the Internet, each given a lick of paint – sometimes quick a few licks, in fact. One essay in particular spiralled from a single blog post to a 15,000-word beast. I’m presently trying to prune it down to a more manageable four-figure wordcount.
Meanwhile, a full third of the book will be taken up by all-new essays. This aspect’s been a real journey for me: I still haven’t decided what each topic will be, and the ones I have chosen are taking me into interesting research areas. The most recent addition to the line-up is an essay on the work of Whitley Strieber, whose background as a horror writer is often treated as a footnote to his later role as alleged alien abductee; I’m planning to give equal weight to both of these elements to his curious career. There’s potential for some fascinating psychological insights into the creative process to be had
Here’s a (still incomplete) list of the essays that you can expect to find in the book when it’s published:
Lost Boys and Girls Next Door: Jack Ketchum on Film
Fascist Ghosts: Racism and the Far Right in British Horror
The Life and Times of Countess Zaleska, Dracula’s Daughter
I Was a Teenage Stanist: My Immortal, The Last Resurrection and Millenial Adolescence
Wary in Wonderland: Christina Henry’s Alice Books
Cartoon Nightmares: Creepypasta, Elsagate and Pup Culture Horror Online
Corpses in Cottingley: The Folk Horror of Alison Littlewood
Fish Fingered: The Sex Life of the Creature from the Black Lagoon
Jack Chick’s Unhappy Halloween
Poltergeist Girls: Hauntings, Possession and Coming of Age
Streets Blue and Red: The Vampire Comics of Nancy A. Collins
Giving Cthulhu Forty Whacks: Cherie Priest’s The Borden Dispatches
Grey Wolves: The Strange Career of Whitley Strieber
If any of that piques your curiosity, then perhaps you could help fund the book with a donation via Ko-Fi or Patreon!
For those of you just joining this series, MAGA 2020 & Beyond is an anthology of short stories put out in 2017 by right-wing science fiction publisher Superversive Press. The book was based on the premise that Trump was destined to win the 2020 election, and the assembled authors all predicted the glorious spectacle of an America made great again. Part 1 saw the border wall defended by a giant robot and zombie voters purged; part 2 saw Hillary on trial and the Musk family on Mars; now, here’s part 3.
One thing I’d like to mention before going on is that not only did the anthology fail to predict the actual result of the 2020, it failed to in any way predict the MAGA narrative of how the 2020 election panned out.
The Trumpist interpretation of the past months is bursting with dramatic potential: the dastardly Democrats win an election by cheating, forcing the POTUS into the role of underdog hero; a string of shock betrayals take place, up to and including Trump’s own vice president; the Capitol is stormed by a rag-tag band of patriotic rebels and/or Antifa false-flaggers; and the day may yet be saved by Trump pulling a rabbit out of his hat and remaining president/Trump being elected in 2024/one of Trump’s family members being elected in 2024 or later (delete where applicable). Any one of these elements would have made a juicy premise for a story, yet none of them turn up in MAGA 2020 & Beyond (well, except the one about the Trump family winning elections after 2020). Instead, the book generally relies on the assumption that the Donald will have plain sailing throughout his administration.
So, yes. Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Speculative Fiction in the Culture Wars. That book I announced back in 2017 and envisioned as a fairly small project as most of it would just be blog posts from WWAC stapled together with some original for-the-book content… and then spiraled into something bit broader in scope.
I currently have three chapters finished as drafts, with a fourth very near that stat; between them, I’ve taken 6400 words’ worth of blog posts and spun them into 25,350 words’ worth of essays. Once we factor in the other chapters I’ve got at various states of completion, the wordcount gets another boost – yet the book’s still a long way from completion.
One issue I’ve had to confront is datedness. Of course, since the main topic of the book is the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies/Hugo Awards dispute that ran from 2013 to 2016, I knew from the start that I’d be writing in past tense. But the problem is, some of the topics I plan to cover in the book are still ongoing. For example, I’m going to include a chapter on debates over H. P. Lovecraft’s legacy and revisionist spins on his work; but because of the book’s main subject my overview will have the arbitrary cut-off date of 2016. As a result, the chapter’s going to have to wilfully ignore more recent years’ worth of Lovecraft re-interpretations (N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became and the television version of Lovecraft Country being two obvious examples.)
Last week I started a story-by-story review of MAGA 2020 & Beyond, an anthology released back in 2017 by right-wing science fiction publisher Superversive Press. As its title suggests, the aim of the anthology was to predict the glorious future that would arise from the landslide re-election that Trump was destined to win.
Having read the entire thing and experienced an unusual mixture of pain, tedium and hilarity, I felt the burning need to share my emotions with the wider public. Here are three more stories from the timeline of Bizarro Trump…
“M.A.G.A.I.” by Arlan Andrews Jr. For the first time, the anthology gives a story that actually manages to utilise Trump-era political concerns as anything other than a pinball background. Here, the president obtains advice from a science fiction writer – possibly a self-insertion on the part of Andrews, who has worked at the White House Science Office – and commissions an artificial intelligence (or more accurately, a developing intelligence) called Gepetto to monitor international crime.
Time for another look at the often fraught relationship between Marvel’s Thor comics and Norse mythology…
The issue opens with a story about Thor in his more conventionally superheroic incarnation. “The Cobrta and Mr. Hyde!” open with the god of thunder hanging out alongside his fellow Avengers (who are bored because there’s nothing to do) before setting off on his own.
He runs into his previously-established, non-mythological foes the Cobra and Mr. Hyde who have been tailing him with the aid of Hyde’s latest invention: a “time reversal ray” that projects images of the target’s history. Using it, they find that Thor entered the office of Dr. Blake – but they don’t see enough to realise that the two are the same person.
Back in 2017 a right-wing science fiction publisher by the name of Superversive Press put out a book entitled MAGA 2020 & Beyond. The volume offered a set of short stories by various authors imagining the rosy future to be brought about by the newly-minted President Trump.
The book has a tangled history. It started life at British publisher Horrified Press, which had previously released the anti-Trump anthology Trumpocalypse and intended to follow it up with a companion volume called Trumptopia. Publisher and authors had different visions for this project: while at last some of the writers were sincere in their affection for 45, editorial appear to have envisioned something more ironic and tongue-in-cheek – not to mention a bit twisted (Horrified Press does, after all, specialise in horror).
The breaking point came when Horrified Press unveiled the cover, which showed Trump admiring the severed heads of Kim Jong-Un and Fidel Castro. A number of contributors objected to this macabre vision of the POTUS’ interior décor (you can read an account by one author here) so they migrated from Horrified to Superversive. House artist Dawn Witzke slapped on a new cover, curiously showing a brick wall being built between Trump and the US flag, and MAGA 2020 & Beyond was born.
Well, for the second time, my Killer Horror Critic column on the history of werewolf films has led to me reviewing a half-century-year-old porno. This time it’s a film from ’69 (insert joke here) called Dracula the Dirty Old Man…
In Daphne Byrne, writer Laura Marks and artist Kelley Jones take us on a tour through the iconography of late nineteenth-century Gothic. The comic depicts place in a New York where séances reach out to the hereafter, crumbling graveyards provide places of refuge, dusty libraries hold forbidden secrets, occult societies practice unhallowed rites, and the emotions repressed by polite society are prone to bursting forth in the guise of warped visions.