Happy “Frankenstein Was Published Today” Day

Image result for mary shelley

Portrait of Mary Shelley. (Photo: Culture Club/Getty Images)

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” – Mary Shelley

Okay, so it might not be a real, recognized holiday, and yes, the big 200th anniversary was last year, but 201st is still pretty cool.

Mary Shelley published Frankenstein on March 11, 1818 and the worlds of literature, horror and story-telling haven’t been the same since. Few stories or characters have occupied the cultural imagination as long or as pervasively as Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstien and his monster.

How do you celebrate? You could…

  • Read Frankenstein
  • Write your own story (gothic horror optional)
  • Read up on Mary Shelley
  • Read something else that features her famous monster (there’s a lot to choose from)
  • Stitch together your own unholy abomination and bring it to life with chemical cocktails, lightning and hubris

We’re not telling you what to do, but all but the last of those you can do at the library… and we wouldn’t really recommend the last one. It didn’t work out well for the good doctor.

Learn Your Library Resources – Adult Genre Collection

Those of you familiar with the layout of the adult collection on the second floor of the library will know that our Fiction (FIC) section is only part of our fiction collection.

Image result for genres

Genre fiction is a part of fiction, of course, but fans of certain genres like to be able to browse books it their particular area of interest. As we can’t stand the idea of not being as helpful as possible, certain genres have been separated out from the rest so that readers can do just that.

Graphic Novels, Mystery, Romance, Speculative Fiction (an umbrella term that covers Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror) and Westerns all have there own area.

It can get a little confusing sometimes when a book could fit into more than one category – genre crossovers and mash-ups were always a part of certain genres (hence grouping sci-fi, fantasy and horror together under Speculative Fiction) but they are only becoming more common – so, if you are not sure what section to look in just ask.

We are here to help!

 

 

Genre Friday – Gothic Fiction

Is it Gothic Fiction?

Is it dark (in tone or in luminous intensity)?

Usually.

Is it creepy in an undeniable, but sometimes indefinite, way?

Most of the time.

Is death featured heavily, either as an event or preoccupation?

Absolutely.

Does it leave you with a deep distrust of old, palatial manners, moldering estates, dilapidated plantation homes and crumbly castles?

It would have if I weren’t already freaked out by those places.  

Is it focused on an individual (or small group or family) and their thoughts and feelings as they try to deal with everything listed above without going completely insane?

Yup.

That’s Gothic Fiction alright. This genre looked at the rugged individualism, intense emotions, introspection and focus on nature and the past (in particular the medieval period) of Romanticism and said, ‘Yeah, but where is all the deep, existential and psychological terror and death?’ It’s not necessarily terrifying in the way traditional Horror is but it will almost certainly get your skin crawling at some point. Or at least make you look over your shoulder as you walk down dark and deserted hallways, should you have occasion to do so.

Now that we have that established the real question is, where is it set? For Gothic Fiction, setting is what determines subgenre – American (or, more specifically, Southern), English or Space (you read that right, space).

American Gothic

As you would assume, we’re dealing with American settings here — the frontier or wild west, the deep south, sometimes even suburbia. The stories often explore the darker parts of American culture and history; slavery, war, genocide and the exploitation of the nation’s natural resources and wilderness come up fairly regularly. Horror is there in some form or another, but it isn’t always supernatural (as people are more than capable of being horrifying on there own), and when it is, it might be implied rather than clearly identified. This brings in the unreliable narrator and mental illness, which is another common theme in American Gothic stories. Set it in the sweltering southern heat, and liberally sprinkle in racial tension, degradation, and poverty left over from the Reconstruction era and you have Southern Gothic.

Examples:

The cover of the book We Have Always Lived in the CastleThe Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

Sanctuary by William Faulkner

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

English Gothic

Grappling with mental illness or spiritual angst, while dodging ghosts on the windswept moors or in a crumbling tower? In England? You’re in an English Gothic story. Watch out for untimely death, doomed romance, and villainous depravity – if it hasn’t happened already, it’s only a matter time. And, this probably goes without saying but, try to stay out of neglected graveyards, cobwebbed dungeons and, of course, haunted castles.

Examples:

The cover of the book The Castle of OtrantoThe Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Racliffe

Gothic Space Opera

You know those sci-fi stories where civilization and technology extended so far and so fast that when it eventually and inevitably collapsed the average person was suddenly left stranded in a pseudo-medieval, superstitious and decaying society despite the fact that they live on an alien planet or massive star ship? Well, they’re out there, and they are frequently the starting point for these Gothic Space stories.

In these cases, the rickety star ship serves as haunted mansion/castle analog and the inky, vast blackness of space the misty, eerie moors that surround typically surround them. Authoritarian regimes, oppressive cults and demonic alien forces are common issues, as well as the usual wear and tear of long space travel — time dilation, the assumption of death-like states of suspended animation, and the dementia-inducing isolation of space travel, to name a few examples — on human relationships and sanity are frequent topics.

Examples:

The cover of the book The Burning DarkBlindsight by Peter Watts

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

The Explorer by James Smythe

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Nightflyers by George R. R. Martin

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

 

10 Horror Books That Prove War is Hell

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Writing horror fiction that revolves around war can be a difficult task. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling a story centered around warfare itself, situated on its edges, or examining its aftermath: when you’re dealing with real events that have taken countless lives and affected even more, finding the right way to show awareness of the human cost of these events is crucial.

When done well, the addition of horrific elements into stories of warfare can accentuate certain themes, and can magnify the most chilling aspects of war. Here’s a look at ten works of fiction that add a dose of the supernatural into real-life horrors, creating something that blends the visceral power of history with the terror of the uncanny.

The cover of the book Frankenstein in BaghdadFrankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

As its title suggests, Ahmed Saadawi’s novel is set in the city of Baghdad. The year is 2005: American troops occupy the city, suicide bombings punctuate the landscape, and the abuses of the Baathist regime still haunt the memories of many. Into this landscape steps an ominous figure: a man created from the bodies of the dead, who seeks revenge on those who murdered the people whose limbs and organs now comprise him. As he replaces bits of himself, though, his quest for revenge grows murkier, leading the narrative into a complex and haunting place.

 

The cover of the book Blood CrimeBlood Crime

Sebastia Alzamora

The Spanish Civil War has been the backdrop for many tales of the supernatural: Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed films “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” both come to mind. Sebastià Alzamora’s novel Blood Crime sets up a morally tense situation from the outset, with different factions circling one another in a besieged town. The presence of a vampire lurking in the shadows ups the tension further, as the narrative moves from the surrealism of war to something akin to a nightmare.

 

The cover of the book She Said DestroyShe Said Destroy

Nadia Bulkin

The aftereffects of war and political unrest abound in the stories contained in Nadia Bulkin’s collection She Said Destroy. Key among them is “Intertropical Convergence Zone,” which draws its inspiration from the thirty-plus years when Hajji Suharto was President of Indonesia. The political crackdowns and repression that characterized his regime are, in this story, turned into something more surreal and ominous — and yet the weight of history gives it an increased power as well.

 

The cover of the book KokoKoko

Peter Straub

Some of Peter Straub’s most unnerving fiction takes readers far into the uncanny; others focus on a more human variety of monster. In Koko, the aftermath of the Vietnam War provides the backdrop for a harrowing story of memory and murder. Its central characters are a group of American veterans, reunited by the horrific actions taken by someone with whom they served. What emerges is a winding tale of shifting identities and secret histories, an unsettling novel with a sprawling scope.

 

The cover of the book The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous GeographiesThe Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

John Langan

The title story of this collection from John Langan blends a host of elements: a story of several friends being stalked by a sinister supernatural figure, with a science-fictional spin on a familiar figure from horror literature thrown in. The fact that this story centers around a group of veterans with PTSD, and that it thematically lines up with its larger themes of perception and violence, gives it an even greater weight.

 

The cover of the book DeathlessDeathless

Catherynne M. Valenti

There’s no shortage of conflict when looking at the history of Russia in the 20th century. In her novel Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente gives this history a supernatural spin, incorporating elements of Russian folklore that accentuate the sinister aspects of totalitarianism under Stalin. Think omnipresent ever-watching beings, immortal entities making sinister bargains, and the moral bargains ordinary people make in order to survive. Here, the presence of the otherworldly is far from escapist.

 

The cover of the book Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red BaronAnno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman

The Bloody Red Baron is one of several novels by Kim Newman set in an alternate timeline blending history from the 19th century onward with characters from the literature of the period. (The title of the first of these, Anno Dracula, might give you a sense of who’s at the center of this.) The Bloody Red Baron reimagines the First World War, leaving the very human horrors in place but adding in a layer of disquieting supernatural menace.

 

The cover of the book Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel

Josh Malerman

The middle of the 20th century found the United States military involved in a number of actions overseas, from combat to covert operations. The novel Black Mad Wheel involves a small group of musicians summoned by the military to investigate a strange sound in the desert. What ensues is an unsettling story about the nature of time and the unanticipated perils of conflict.

 

The cover of the book When the World WoundsWhen the World Wounds

Kiini Ibura Salaam

Conflicts abound in the stories found within Kiini Ibura Salaam’s collection When the World Wounds, from tales of aliens clashing with the rules of their society to a surreal account of post-Katrina New Orleans. Among the most gripping works in the collection is “Hemmie’s Calenture,” about a woman who escapes from slavery only to find herself caught up in a long-running supernatural conflict set against the backdrop of the War of 1812. Here, questions of power and the human cost of warfare remain in the forefront of the narrative.

 

The cover of the book The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Laird Barron

Laird Barron’s forays into horror rarely shy away from the phantasmagorical or the ominous, but he simultaneously never loses sight of the human scale at which these works play out. That blend of psychological veracity and imaginative terrors makes for deeply compelling reading. The protagonist of the story “The Men From Porlock” has seen unspeakable things in Europe during the First World War; after returning back to the United States, he finds himself witnessing uncanny echoes of that time and glimpses of the impossible.

So You Want to Read Literary Horror: Here’s Where to Start

Horror, as a genre, has a tendency to get a bit of a bad rap outside of its rather ardent fan base, despite the fact that more than a few literary icons made their bones on the backs of some truly spine-tingling tales (Ray Bradbury, anyone?). There has long been a strong relationship between literary fiction and the horror genre – the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde can attest to that. While violence and gore and things that more traditionally go bump in the night certainly have their place, so too do well-crafted sentences and deeper philosophical underpinnings. Over the last decade or so, there has somewhat quietly been a resurgence in literary horror as immensely talented writers pick up the genre trappings of horror, tear them apart and fuse them back together into wholly original and truly unsettling creations. Writers like China Mieville, Brian Evenson, and Jeff VanderMeer are following the footsteps of Bradbury, Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson and creating some stunningly imaginative and extraordinarily unsettling prose. Here are a few of our (relatively) recent favorites.

The cover of the book House of LeavesHouse of Leaves

MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

If you haven’t read House of Leaves, go grab a copy now. We’re happy to wait, it’s just that good. I’m pretty confident saying this literary head-spinner is unlike any other novel you’ve read. Part epistolary novel, part haunted house thriller, with a bit of weird fiction thrown in for good measure – House of Leaves is a difficult book to pin down or describe. It’s a narrative as twisting (literally) and expansive as the house it chronicles.

 

The cover of the book White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching

HELEN OYEYEMI

The fairy tale form is built on a dark undercurrent that, in many ways, is the perfect foundation for horror. That’s something that Helen Oyeyemi illustrates with terrifying brilliance in White is for Witching. The story centers on the Silver family, specifically the four generations of Silver women who have lived in the family home. When her mother passes, Lily, the latest in the family line, begins experiencing strange ailments and soon the Silver house itself begins to manifest malevolent intent. It is at once a dread-inducing mystery and powerful examination of race and family legacy.

 

The cover of the book The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char

SCOTT HAWKINS

Literary horror is at its best when writers play with readers’ expectations to create something that is at once familiar enough but also wildly original. Scott Hawkins draws from a wide range of influences for The Library at Mount Char – there are hints of Gaiman, a bit of Lovecraft, a little King. Hawkins takes inspiration before proceeding to tear it all to shreds and glue the pieces back together into something truly original, grotesque, and oddly beautiful.

 

The cover of the book A Head Full of GhostsA Head Full of Ghosts

PAUL TREMBLAY

A Head Full of Ghosts owes a nod to The Haunting of Hill House and The Exorcist for its slow-burn, constantly-shifting narrative. The novel centers on a suburban New England family coming to grips with a fourteen year old daughter who’s suddenly showing signs of schizophrenia – or so they hope. What follows is a novel that riffs on unreliable narration, reality TV, and familial tragedies in ways that are both unexpected and truly unsettling.

 

The cover of the book The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

SARAH WATERS

With The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters reinvigorated Gothic fiction in a way that would’ve made Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe proud. Part haunted house horror, part unreliable narration, and part social critique, The Little Stranger is a deeply unsettling descent into madness and dread within the walls of a crumbling Georgian Mansion where a malevolent presence may or may not be lurking.

 

The cover of the book Mr. ShiversMr. Shivers

ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

Mr. Shivers reads like the literary love child of China Mieville and John Steinbeck. It’s The Grapes of Wrath by way of Lovecraft. Bennett’s tale of a father on the trail of the possibly otherworldly killer who murdered his daughter is a slow-burn piece of dread-fueled Americana. Robert Jackson Bennett has quietly positioned himself as one of the more talented voices in the New Weird genre, and Mr. Shivers remains among his best work.

 

The cover of the book The HikeThe Hike

DREW MAGARY

Weird fiction and literary horror have long been comfortable bedfellows, and novels don’t get much weirder than Drew Magary’s The Hike. In this tale of a hike in rural Pennsylvania gone terribly wrong, Magary manages to infuse his pop culture references and classic folklore tropes with a nearly suffocating sense of existential dread.

 

The cover of the book DarkansasDarkansas

JARRET MIDDLETON

Jarret Middleton’s Darkansas is a novel that begins as an examination of familial strife and quickly progresses to one of preternatural dangers lurking just beyond the page and a century-old curse at its center. The story centers on itinerant musician who is his family’s black sheep. Unfortunately, any hope of reconciliation may have been doomed decades before he was born. It’s a dark, twisting page-turner with hints of Southern gothic lurking around the corners of its horror tinged sense of dread and juxtaposes its gritty reality against a mounting sense of surrealistic terror.

 

The cover of the book ThreatsThreats

AMELIA GRAY

“CURL UP ON MY LAP. LET ME BRUSH YOUR HAIR WITH MY FINGERS. I AM SINGING YOU A LULLABY. I AM TESTING FOR STRUCTURAL WEAKNESS IN YOUR SKULL.” Imagine you’ve just lost your spouse and you suddenly begin finding messages like those above hidden throughout your home: that’s the disturbing premise for Amelia Gray’s wholly unnerving examination of death, grief, and memory. The novel follows David, a man attempting to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death against his increasingly unreliable recollections and a world that no longer makes sense.

 

The cover of the book A Collapse of HorsesA Collapse of Horses

BRIAN EVENSON

Brian Evenson is the sort of writer who simply knows how to get under a reader’s skin. A Collapse of Horses is a short story collection that grapples with some big existential questions on reality and perception while simultaneously veering into the sort of grotesquerie that will leave you haunted long after you finish the last tale.

Loved A Quiet Place? Here’s What To Read Next

Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in A Quiet Place (2018). Photo Credit: Jonny Cournoyer © 2017 Paramount Pictures

Being alone in the dark, unable to make a sound, unseen creatures waiting to attack – these are some of humanity’s most primal fears, fears that lurk deep within us all. These sorts of fears, and the anxieties they pry from us, have long been fertile ground for horror and thrillers across all mediums. “A Quiet Place” is set to arrive in theaters on April 6th, telling the story of a family surviving in total silence out of fear of unseen creatures who hunt purely by sound, so naturally these sorts of deep-down fears are firmly on our minds. While there’s undoubtedly something special in catching a great horror film on the big screen in a dark theater, nothing quite compares to the chill that comes from curling up with a terrifying read. Fortunately, there are an abundance of frightening and unnerving reads to scratch this particular itch – silently, of course.

 

The cover of the book Bird BoxBird Box

Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman’s debut novel is an unrelenting excursion into suspense and tension. Set in apocalyptic near-future, Malerman imagines a world beset by mysterious creatures who drive anyone who catches even a glimpse of them into a volatile and deadly mania. Malorie and her young children, who were born after the creatures appeared and have been trained to navigate the world under blindfolds, set off on journey downriver to what they hope is a safe haven. But something is stalking their every move.

And if this sounds like your cup of tea, good news – a Netflix adaptation of Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock is due out later this year.

 

The cover of the book BlindnessBlindness

José Saramago

Blindness is among José Saramago’s finest novels and was cited by the Nobel Committee when Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. The novel follow seven strangers stuck in an epidemic of blindness. As the city around them descends into chaos and becomes more and more dangerous, a woman who has miraculously retained her sight attempts to lead the group to safety and keep them alive. It is a haunting parable of loss and man’s capacity for violence and degradation.

 

The cover of the book The RoadThe Road

Cormac Mccarthy

Cormac McCarthy took home a Pulitzer Prize for The Road, which centers on an unnamed father and son making their way across a an America devastated by an unexplained apocalyptic event. Their bleak and harrowing journey is both shockingly violent and unexpectedly hopeful. It is an unflinching meditation on man’s capacity for brutality as well powerful love between a parent and child.

 

The cover of the book The SilenceThe Silence

Tim Lebbon

They are blind and hunt purely by sound, twisted creatures that emerge from an underground cave system to feed, tracking their prey by the slightest sound. A young girl and her family watch the news in horror as the creatures lay waste to mainland Europe. When the creatures begin to appear in the UK, the girl – who has been deaf for most of her life – set out for a safe haven, hoping silence will shield them from the terrifying creatures.

 

The cover of the book The FiremanThe Fireman

Joe Hill

Beginning in the early days of a devastating global pandemic, The Fireman centers around the journey of a nurse named Harper Grayson. A deadly spore causes its victims to break out in beautiful gold markings and eventually spontaneously combust. When Harper spots the gold markings on her arms, her only goal is to survive long enough to give birth to her child, but as she struggles for survival she soon discovers there is far more to the outbreak than she ever could have imagined – and that perhaps it isn’t the death sentence she thought it was.

 

The cover of the book The TroopThe Troop

Nick Cutter

It’s Lord of the Flies meets an apocalyptic contagion! I’m not really sure I need to say more than that, but here goes: Nick Cutter’s novel centers on a scout troop’s annual weekend camping trip to an island in the Canadian wilderness. What begins as a reliably fun experience quickly deteriorates into an exercise in survival and terror when an emaciated, pale, and disturbingly hungry stranger wanders into the group’s camp.

 

The cover of the book HexHex

Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Black Spring is a seemingly picturesque community harboring one unsettling secret – the streets are haunted by seventeenth century woman whose eyes and month are sewn shut. Known as the Black Spring Witch, she enters homes at will and menaces townsfolk as they sleep in their beds. The town elders have kept the town effectively quarantined to keep their secret and keep the curse from spreading, but when a group of teenagers break the long-established traditions, the town descends into chaos and darkness.

 

The cover of the book The Beast of BarcroftThe Beast of Barcroft

Bill Schweigart

Barcroft is like any other well-to-do commuter suburb, except for one major difference – a ferocious creature is stalking the community. Ben McKelvie bought a house in Barcroft with his fiancée before everything fell apart. Now he’s square in the sights of the otherworldly creature, and he needs help. Now.

 

The cover of the book Wytches Vol. 1Wytches Vol. 1

Scott Snyder & Jock

The Rooks moved to the remote community of Litchfield, NH, hoping to find relief and a safe haven from their family’s recent traumas. Unfortunately, Litchfield harbors a dark secret stretching back generations. An ancient and hungry power lurks in the forest just beyond the town, and it’s watching the Rooks.

 

The cover of the book WatchersWatchers

Dean Koontz

On a hike through the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, Travis Cornell runs across a disheveled golden retriever. Soon he and the remarkably intelligent dog are on a run for their lives from an unseen and terrifying creature intent on destroying the dog and anyone who gets in its way.

 

Genre Friday – Rampant Technology Horror

Toaster

Like this except, you know, evil.

It’s late, the wind is howling outside, you’re all alone in the house… and then your computer comes to life with malevolent intelligence and takes over all your appliances. Next thing you know your chased screaming from your home with sinister kitchen appliances and a surprisingly angry vacuum cleaner close on your heels only to find your lawn mower and snow blower waiting to ambush you in the front yard. Through the creative and unrestrained use of a shovel and framing hammer (thank goodness the simple tools haven’t turned against you) and running, lots of running, you manage to barely survive the night.

We’ve all been there.

Rampant Technology Horror (aka “The machines are alive and killing everyone!”) is a small but memorable horror subgenre dealing with exactly what it sounds like – technology and machines that have either taken on a life of their own or are being controlled by some mysterious outside force and subsequently turned on their erstwhile masters. It all exploits the fear that man has gone too far and dared too much, creating machines and technology that we can no longer understand (who knows how an iPad works? *crickets*), let alone control. The best (read most ridiculous and therefore entertaining) of the subgenre, in my humble opinion, comes from the late 70s to early 90s when it was all evil automobiles (see Stephen King’s film Maximum Overdrive, based on his short story Trucks) and horrifying home appliances (again, Stephen King provides an example with his story The Mangle about a violent washing machine). Once the digital age was upon us and computers became a household item though they stole the limelight and it all became frighteningly plausible.