Libertarian Writer Says We Get "Frankenstein" Wrong, Should Celebrate Triumph of Science Over Limits of Nature
Every week I receive messages asking why I bother to cover topics the writer considers too discredited or ridiculous to have anything to do with the reality of daily life. And then we hear stories like yesterday’s revelation that British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and at least half a dozen other high-ranking party members were participants in a private Facebook group where they shared Holocaust denial claims, Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds (the timely subject of my forthcoming British history magazine article), and conspiracy theories from David Icke, the British personality who folded the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into a ridiculous tale of space aliens and lizard-people. The Labour Party confirmed the story to Britain’s Telegraph, but Corbyn said he made only a few posts and condemns the group’s Anti-Semitism.
This week Syfy debuted the third season of its Channel Zero anthology, entitled “Butcher’s Block.” This is not really a review since I have not seen enough episodes to form a final opinion, but I am apparently in the minority in that I watched the season premiere and felt it to be little more than a random mishmash of horror clichés held together by confusion masquerading as intrigue. But virtually every critic that saw the series gave it a glowing review. Rotten Tomatoes, as of this writing, gave it both a 100% fresh rating from professional critics and the popular audience alike. Granted, the reasons for that have little to do with the show’s quality. The critics surveyed numbered six, all of whom are horror aficionados, a group notorious for praising anything with shadows and blood; and the popular audience also numbered six, a self-selecting group of horror fans.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been catching up on obscure genre movies and series. I was amused to see that the Decades channel showed a few episodes of Circle of Fear (a.k.a. Ghost Story), a 1970s supernatural series that NBC commissioned as a companion piece to Night Gallery. I had never seen Circle of Fear, which only ran for 22 episodes over two years, and it turns out that it is a rather poor knockoff of Night Gallery. Episodes are overlong at an hour, and the production values are low, even for 1970s TV. The stories are a little flat, and the enjoyment of the episodes comes mostly from the retro stylings of the outrageously 1970s costumes and sets, and the appearance of celebrities like John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Martin Sheen, and others. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t think I’d want to watch it again.
A decade ago, a news story from Japan made flesh crawl around the world. A homeless woman in the town of Kasuya entered a man’s house and hid in the closet, where she lived undetected for a year while the man went about his life oblivious to the intruder. The homeowner installed cameras after becoming suspicious when food started disappearing from his kitchen, which led to the woman’s discovery. Not long after the story broke, horror authors incorporated variations on this bizarre event into their work, producing some creepy tales that I half-remember from old editions of Best New Horror.
The first in my new occasional series reviewing movies I watched over the weekend.
It is hard not to feel like there is a moral rot at the center of our civilization, one that has been festering for decades and threatens to become gangrenous. In the past few months, we have learned that nearly every man with any power is a sex predator. We have seen freedom redefined as a celebration of anger, hatred, and disgust. Self-interest has been remade as the new national interest. The crass vulgarity of Donald Trump has unleashed a toxic miasma of American ugliness that was always there but had hitherto been kept hidden by the fantasy that civility was a virtue. Johnson and Nixon were nearly as foul as Trump, but never before have large crowds cheered open displays of crudity. When historians tell the story of our times, I wonder how it will go? Perhaps future historians will punctuate chapters on America’s decline in the face of power and prosperity with vignettes of individuals who went mad and in self-destructive rage lashed out against the perceived enemy within.
This week the Screen Junkies team returned from a month of crisis following sexual harassment allegations against Andy Signore, and they released a parody trailer for Stranger Things. In the trailer, the overriding argument is that the show is basically nostalgia porn, a program hand-crafted for 40-somethings to relive their childhood. It’s funny, as they say, because it’s true.
It’s funny to think that it’s been a full decade since I published my book Knowing Fear, my study of the development of the horror genre. (The book was released a few months ahead of its official 2008 publication date.) Time goes by fast, but it’s more amazing to think that I used to be so deeply enmeshed in the horror genre that I once wrote a whole book about it. Maybe it was the weight of the explosion of media over the past decade, or my waning enthusiasm about devoting my decreasing free time to intentionally seeking out horror, but I’ve found it harder and harder to keep up, or to care.
Since the birth of my son, I’ve been a bit hard-pressed to make time for reading, and it is with regret that it took me several weeks longer than expected to finish Edgar Cantero’s new novel Meddling Kids, a mashup of Scooby-Doo and H. P. Lovecraft that earned rave reviews from critics earlier this summer. I found the book to be enjoyable, but a little less impressive than the critics made it out to be. Meddling Kids is a book I wanted to love, but it was one I liked instead. And to be frank, I think TV is ruining novels for me. It’s hard to pretend that 300 pages of a one-off novel can rival the hundreds of hours I spend with characters on TV series over the years of their runs. It takes, what, 20 hours to read this book, while, for example, a throwaway TV show on a similar theme like Teen Wolf has 100 hours of content spread over six calendar years. Perhaps that’s why I just don’t feel the same connection when I read reviews about how realistic and detailed the book’s characters are. I barely got to know them before they were gone. Each had, I believe, one personality trait. It seems like the CW’s Riverdale was more of a fresh and darker take on Archie than Meddling Kids is for Scooby-Doo
Why the Icelandic "Dracula" Adaptation Is Probably Not Evidence for a Lost Original Version of Bram Stoker's Classic Vampire Novel
Yesterday I discussed the “lost” Icelandic version of Dracula that was recently translated into English by Hans de Roos and published as Powers of Darkness. I was curious enough about the claims made by de Roos in his lionization of the 1900/1901 Icelandic adaptation of Dracula--that the book was based on early drafts of the novel and contained Stoker’s abandoned first ideas—that I ended up going to check out Bram Stoker’s notes (in facsimile) in order to evaluate whether de Roos is right that Stoker’s notes must be the source of some key details in the Icelandic adaptation called Makt Myrkranna produced by Valdimar Ásmundsson. When I first read de Roos’s claims, I wanted to believe them, and as you can tell from my blog post yesterday, I was more or less happy to go along with de Roos because the subject was so interesting and, with decades of Dracula scholarship under his belt, de Roos seemed like a credible scholar. But like the art historians who sensed the Getty Kouros was fake before they knew exactly why, my unconscious mind kept telling me something was wrong even before I knew what. The particular claim that caught my eye was the allegation that the mute housekeeper in the Icelandic version of Dracula must have come from Stoker’s abandoned notes for the novel. Once I started digging, everything fell apart.
"Dracula" Scholar Publishes Translation of "Lost" Version, Investigates the Mystery of "Dracula" in Iceland
Last night Rick and Marty Lagina appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to discuss The Curse of Oak Island. It was … I almost said interesting, but it wasn’t. After 52 years (!) of interest in Oak Island, neither Lagina was able to articulate the Oak Island story in anything resembling a concise or even interesting way. At one point Colbert needed to remind the brothers that while he knows the story of Oak Island, his audience contains many people who do not, so they need to actually explain why anyone should care about its supposed buried treasure. The closest they came to providing a reason was when Rick said he got interested in the idea in 1965 when he read about it in Reader’s Digest, with a close second coming when the brothers explained that there were lots of logs and rocks and stuff underground. Sadly, that was just about a perfect summation of The Curse of Oak Island.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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