Strength Comes in Many Varieties: Leanna Renee Hieber and Strangely Beautiful

Last week, I posted a review of the new edition of Strangely Beautiful. Today, the author Leanna Renee Hieber has a guest post for us about the different ways in which characters can be strong. Read on to find out what Leanna has to say about the hidden strength of Miss Percy Parker…

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As my beloved and most well-known series, the Strangely Beautiful saga, is about to re-issue in a revised edition with new scenes and content from Tor Books, I’ve been doing a great deal of reflection and discussion about the oft beleaguered Gothic novel and my heroine Miss Percy Parker.

I believe in fiction that represents all people, types, perspectives, physiologies, tropes, gender identities, races, faiths, backgrounds, statuses; the whole beautiful complicated intricacy of humanity. There should be fiction featuring the vast lot, and in any genre it pleases. Continue reading Strength Comes in Many Varieties: Leanna Renee Hieber and Strangely Beautiful

Strangely Beautiful Review—New Life for a Strangely Beautiful Book

Strangely Beautiful coverAn amazing series is back from the dead—and full of new, vibrant life! You may have noticed by now that I love Leanna Renee Hieber’s gaslamp fantasy novels. I have previously read and reviewed Darker Still and The Eterna Files, the first books in her Magic Most Foul series and Eterna Files series, respectively. My obvious next move was to go back and read her first published series, the Strangely Beautiful saga. The only problem: it’s been out of print since the publisher went out of business several years ago. But we have good news! Leanna is re-releasing the series with her new publisher, Tor! Strangely Beautiful—the updated “author’s preferred edition” of the first two books of the series—comes out April 26th.

Preorder the book now, or pick one up from your local bookstore in just over a week. If you’re in the New York City area, you can also come hang out with me and Leanna for a Strangely Beautiful event at the historic and haunted Morris-Jumel Mansion on Saturday, April 30! Grab a book, get it signed by the lovely Leanna, and stick around for refreshments, storytelling, and sartorial extravaganza. And if that’s not enough Leanna for you, check back with The Gothic Library next week—I’ll be hosting a guest post by the author herself on the varieties of feminine strength as it relates to the protagonist of her Strangely Beautiful series. Continue reading Strangely Beautiful Review—New Life for a Strangely Beautiful Book

The Devil & Demon Literary Canon

So I’ve already done the Vampire Literary Canon and the Zombie Literary Canon. I feel like at this point, I’ve got to make one for all the Big Bads of gothic fiction. And who could be bigger or badder than the Devil himself? Devils and demons have been an important part of the tradition of disturbing and macabre literature long before Gothic even became an official genre. As the personification of all of humanity’s fears, the Devil is arguably a touchstone of the horror genre.

Now obviously, the literary tradition of the Christian incarnation of devils and demons begins with the Christian Bible. But as that can’t really be considered a gothic work in its entirety, I won’t be including it in this canon. Instead, I begin my list many centuries later with works that will take you through different depictions of the Devil and demons throughout the literary tradition.

1. Dante’s Inferno (1321)

Dante's inferno coverInferno is the first section of Dante Alighieri’s three-part epic The Divine Comedy, in which the protagonist, Dante, is led through hell by the Roman poet Virgil. This medieval work is most well known for establishing the image of hell as composed of different circles embodying various layers of sin. At the very center of hell, in the ninth circle reserved for traitors, is Lucifer himself frozen in a lake of ice. Rather than the ruler of hell, Lucifer is here depicted as being as much a victim of its tortures as any of the other prisoners. He is a massive three-headed, winged creature, but despite his terrifying appearance he is passive, impotent, and mute, his main function seemingly to simply show how unrewarding sin can be.

2. Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667)

Paradise Lost cover 2Paradise Lost is one of my favorite works of literature, and one of my favorite depictions of the Devil. Widely considered the last great epic poem, Paradise Lost is also controversial among a great many scholars of epic poetry, as it doesn’t seem to have a central hero–one of the major tenets of the epic genre. Instead, the most interesting and fully developed character is the anti-hero Satan. An eloquent speaker and passionate thinker, Satan is a stalwart believer in both democracy and ambition, traits that resonate deeply with modern American readers and make him appear more sympathetic than perhaps Milton originally intended. Having been cast out of heaven for inciting a revolution against the God he views as a despotic ruler, Satan first establishes his own new kingdom and then journeys to earth to tempt God’s new play things into sin. A far cry from Date’s pathetic Devil, this Satan is active, charismatic, and relatable.

3. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1808, 1832)

Faust coverThe story of Faust comes from an old German legend which was highly popularized two centuries earlier in Chirstopher Marlow’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. However, I much prefer Goethe’s nineteenth-century drama/epic hybrid. Faust tells the story of an ambitious scholar who is unsatisfied with his academic pursuits and makes a wager with a devil named Mephistopheles, promising to serve the devil in hell if he ever feels a moment of pure satisfaction and contentment in life. Mephisto, as he is called for short, first appears to Faust in the form of a poodle–which I can’t help picturing as a ridiculously shaved show dog, even though I know that’s not what the author intended. As the story progresses, Mephisto stays by Faust’s side, helping him to seduce the poor Gretchen and trying to turn him away from righteous pursuits. Goethe’s Mephisto is witty and skeptical, whispering in Faust’s ear and scheming like Milton’s Satan to bring about the fall of one of God’s favorite creations. Unlike Milton’s Satan, though, Mephisto is ultimately unsuccessful.

4. The Screwtape Lettersby C.S. Lewis (1942)

Screwtape Letters coverThat’s right, C.S. Lewis wrote more than just fairy tales about children finding magical worlds inside wardrobes. In fact, Lewis was a devout Christian and wrote a number of works involving his faith, including this fun, satirical novel. The Screwtape Letters is written in an epistolary format in the form of letters from one senior demon named Screwtape to his young nephew, Wormwood. In these letters, Screwtape tries to advise his nephew on how to best lead his human target astray. These demons are comical and a little pathetic, but the satire also makes some cutting jabs at the flaws of humanity.

5. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)

the exorcist coverThanks to the highly successful film adaptation of this novel by William Friedkin in 1973, The Exorcist has had a profound influence on cinematic depictions of demons and is emblematic of the role that devils and demons usually play in horror today. The novel was based on stories of an actual exorcism that Blatty had heard about while attending college in 1949. In the novel, a twelve-year-old girl is possessed by a demonic spirit, and two Jesuit priests are called in to perform an exorcism. The child goes through a horrifying transformation as her possession begins to manifest through more severe psychological and physiological symptoms. The priests finally manage to rid her of the demon in an intense exorcism, but at a high cost.

Which of these have you read? Are there any great works of the devilish and demonic that you feel I’ve left off the list? Please let me know in the comments!

Review of The Graveyard Shift–Stephen King Short Stories

Graveyard Shift coverI’ve been really trying to make good, lately, on my goal to expand my reading and get back into genres I used to enjoy. As you saw from my Bourbon Street Ripper review, I decided to start by trying my luck on a detective thriller series from an author I’d never heard of before, with mixed results. Having finished that, I was struggling to decide what direction to go in next when I remembered my general reading philosophy: when you don’t know where to start, start with the classics. Now, this usually means I go digging through my collection of literature from the Romantic or Victorian era, but a book doesn’t need to be centuries old to be a classic! Some authors become classics in their own time, like the father of contemporary horror and suspense, Stephen King.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I really haven’t read much Stephen King before. I decided the easiest way to start would be with a collection of his short stories. So while doing menial tasks at work last week, I downloaded and listened to the audiobook of The Graveyard Shift which seems to be a small made-for-audio selection from King’s larger short story collection Night Shift, read by John Glover. The audiobook contains five of King’s short stories that showcase the versatility of his writing and the range of emotions he can evoke in the reader. Here are my impressions of each story: Continue reading Review of The Graveyard Shift–Stephen King Short Stories