Fiction Fragments: Sarah Read

Last week, Girl Meets Monster had a great conversation with horror writer, Todd Keisling, about religion in horror fiction and how COVID-19 has impacted his writing. This week, I have the pleasure of talking with Bram Stoker Award winner, Sarah Read.

Sarah ReadSarah Read is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in various places, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year vols 10 and 12. A collection of her short fiction called OUT OF WATER is available now from Trepidatio Publishing, as is her debut novel THE BONE WEAVER’S ORCHARD, both nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits. You can find her online on Instagram or Twitter @inkwellmonster or on her site at www.inkwellmonster.wordpress.com.

Three Questions

GMM: Hello Sarah. Welcome to Girl Meets Monster and congratulations on winning a Bram Stoker Award for your debut novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard. Tell me about how the book came about. What inspired the story, and what motivated you to finish your first novel?

SR: Thank you so much, Michelle! The book came about because I wanted to write a scary book that wedged between the gap of YA horror and adult horror. I had never been entirely satisfied with YA horror as a young reader–it wasn’t scary enough, or dark enough, it lacked honesty, and too often I could see the author pulling punches. I started reading adult horror when I was nine. I liked the scary side of it much better, but the stakes always seemed to hinge on grownup problems that I couldn’t relate to enough to fully sympathize with the characters. From there, I just took my love for Gothic lit and tossed in all my favorite ingredients. I wrote the novel for NaNoWriMo, I think back in 2014. My husband was working nights at the time, as a janitor in a hospital. Once I got our (then only) son in bed, I’d sit in my favorite chair with a notebook and pen and hit my word count for the day. I didn’t quite get that celebratory feeling when finishing it, because my inner editor had been keeping a tally of all the broken pieces I knew I was going to have to go in and fix. Writing “The End” was a moment of, “Oh shit, now the real work starts!” And it did, and lasted for several years.

GMM: Last week, I asked Todd Keisling to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his writing process. Many writers have shared on social media that they are struggling to focus on their work and haven’t been as productive as they normally would be. How has the pandemic affected your writing process? Has it inspired new stories? What advice would you give other writers who might be struggling to get words on the page?

SR: Oh gosh, my writing has been almost nonexistent for close to eight weeks now. I have two kids at home with me, stuck in the house. My eldest is 12 and has 4-6 hours of virtual classes a day, and my youngest is 5, and has no home schoolwork. My days are spent teaching 6th grade, playing with my youngest, troubleshooting eldest’s tech problems, fixing snacks every ten minutes, and I’m still also working as a librarian from home, doing virtual programs for our patrons. I’m also still freelancing (writing, editing), though I’ve had to cut back a bit on that. My husband is still at work full time. When he gets home and takes over with the kids is when my workday starts, and I’m usually not done until almost midnight. Honestly, though, even if my schedule wasn’t a shitshow, my anxiety would probably polish off any creative energy that might surface. I’ve had a few good writing sessions since this all started, but I’m definitely not anywhere close to my usual output. I’ve been at this level of anxiety once before, when I was pregnant with my second son and he kept trying to die in utero over and over and over. I was on bed rest for seven months. I thought I’d get so much done! But it was a terrifying time, and my creative energy was re-routed to self-preservation. Instead I burned through Netflix and played Age of Empires. Now it’s Animal Crossing, if I can catch a moment. I feel less guilty this time, and more comfortable focusing on taking care of myself and my family.

GMM: Your fragment has a definite fantasy feel to it, with a hint f Shakespearean drama with the death of the family patriarch and what is promising to be a dispute over who will take his place as Lord. Do you feel more at home writing fantasy or horror, or do you typically combine the two genres? Can you give a brief synopsis of The Atropine Tree?

SR: I definitely frolic in dark fantasy, and tend to blend it with horror fairly often, sometimes crossing into the Weird territory altogether. I don’t know that I prefer one style over the others. Each story feels like home while I’m writing it. The Atropine Tree definitely dances along the Weird line. It’s unabashedly paranormal, where I usually tend to keep my ghosties more ambiguous. I’m having a blast working on it, though.

The synopsis:

Alrick’s uncle Tredan has his father’s last breath trapped in a blue bottle in his lab. Which is good, because they’ll need him to weigh in on a matter of succession and the location of the missing will.

Alrick’s father is dead, but the lords and ladies of House Aldane are restless spirits. When Alrick’s half-brother Aemon (bitter and cruel) and his sister Nelda (whose mouth is stained black from poison and who sways on the line between living and dead) show up with a lawyer and a dodgy will, Alrick and his alchemist uncle must turn to some dark arts to harness the voices of their household spirits. They must win witchy Nelda’s loyalty and turn her against the powerful demonic specter of her mother, and learn to swallow her poisons in the process.

Tredan’s army of young urchins rescued from the streets of London—the scratchlings, only half of whom survived his medical administrations—will aid them in their quest to secure the land and title for Alrick.

The Atropine Tree is a weird, Gothic Victorian ghost story about family loyalty and feuds that span generations, both living and dead. They all want a home of their own—and they all want House Aldane. It’s like Downton Abbey set in Hell House with the characters of Oliver Twist and a chaser of nightshade.

The Atropine Tree, Sarah Read

Chapter One

Alrick had arrived in time, but only just. The collar of his shirt strained against his throat, his cuffs pinched his wrists like ropes binding him to his father’s bedside.

Lord Drummond’s chest rose with a sound like chalk on slate, like plough on stone—each exhalation a surrender against the struggle to draw breath.

Alrick’s uncle Tredan leaned in and held a blue orb jar to the old Lord’s slack mouth. The fog of his breath that had clouded the glass only an hour ago now barely reached past the rim.

Tredan stood poised with the lid.

Alrick counted the breaths. Counted the beads of perspiration gathered in his uncle’s beard, counted the coarse ridges of his father’s knuckles that he held between his hands. The Lord’s cold, dry hands seemed to wick the moisture from Alrick’s hot palms. He spun the ring that hung loose on his father’s finger. Those hands had once been thick with callous, rough with half-healed tears, but now the skin draped from his fingerbones like half-drawn curtains. Like the end of an act. The end of everything.

Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. He counted.

He wondered if his school had somehow been frozen in time. If in his six years there, a hundred years had passed at House Aldane.

“Thirteen. Twelve. Eleven.” His half-sister, Nelda, counted, too. Whispered, so that the fine veil across her face barely stirred.

“Three. Two.” Nelda’s voice faded.

His father wore at least a hundred years across his brow. The jar pressed into the greying skin, burrowed in thinning whiskers. Covered the lines Alrick had watched as a child, searching for that rare trace of humor. The lines that had faded, erased after his mother died.

The lid of the jar snapped into place—and that was how Alrick Aldane learned that his father, Lord Drummond Aldane, was dead.

Uncle Tredan held the jar up to the candlelight. The mist of Alrick’s father’s last breath stretched like a ghost down the side of the jar.

While Alrick watched the light play over the droplets condensing in Tredan’s bottle, the other eyes in the room watched Alrick.

He had come home to bid his father farewell, but he would not be returning to school.

The gold signet ring stuck at his father’s knuckle. He feared he’d tear the soft crepe skin if he twisted or pulled too hard. Alrick looked to Tredan.

“I’ll take care of it. I’ll have it back to you this evening.” He slid his blue bottle into the pocket of his long coat, and for a moment, Alrick thought the bulge it formed moved as if it were breathing.

Alrick nodded and laid the slack hand on the sheet.

“Best to wait.”

Alrick turned to the voice, to his half-brother Aemon who sat in the far corner beyond the reach of the candlelight, save for its shine off his eyes and teeth.

“And why is that?” asked Alrick. If a hundred years had passed at House Aldane, a thousand had passed since he’d seen his brother. Not since his mother sent Nelda and Aemon away, to live with their mother’s family. Just before she had died. Their return to House Aldane was a special exception. Alrick himself had granted it. Lord Drummond had been their father, too, and now the four of them—Alrick, Aemon, Nelda, and Tredan—were all that remained of the ancient Aldane family.

“Father’s will hasn’t been read, yet.” The shine of Aemon’s smile stretched wide.

“Let’s not speak of such things now,” Tredan said. He waved the housekeeper Merewyn over and she began to see to Lord Drummond, a half-hitch in her breath that stirred Alrick’s own grief.

The powder smell of her apron pulled at his heart like a chain yanking him back to his childhood, to her lap, the soft cushion from which he had learned his home—the whole world. His whole world.

He reached up and ran his fingers over the wood of the wide beam that spanned the low ceiling. It had seemed so high when he was young. How he had leapt, in this very spot, to reach these distant beams. Landed there on the bed where his father now lay.

Fallen. Already sinking through the linens into the straw, as if life itself had buoyancy, and now the Lord was leaden.

Merewyn rolled a bit of blanket under his chin to hold his mouth closed. A sliver of rheumy yellow flashed from beneath his eyelids, the stillness of those soft folds uncanny. It sent cold down the back of Alrick’s neck. No living eyes could ever be so still.

“He’s with Mother, now,” Nelda said.

“With Burgrune.” Aemon put his hand on his sister’s shoulder.

Tredan nodded. “Yes, and Eleanor. He loved them both.”

“I know,” Aemon said, “I saw.”

“So you did,” agreed Tredan. “We should go. Give Merewyn room.”

Three children entered the room. All wore undyed linen smocks, their heads shaved close. Their faces were scarred with the ravages of old pox that left their skin like masks. They were urchins from London—orphans that Tredan claimed and cured.

I’m an orphan. The thought came unbidden to Alrick’s mind.

No, I’m a young man. Not a child. A Lord.

The children set to helping Merewyn—cleaning the room and folding clothes. Alrick almost wished himself in one of those smocks. Something to do. A duty. A place in the world, instead of spinning uncertainty.

Tredan’s hand rested on his shoulder and steered him toward the door. Alrick stole a final glimpse back at his father. His eyelids had slid further back. His pale eyes stared out into the room, each rolling to the opposite side. Perhaps there was a wife at each bedside and he greeted them both. Perhaps one eye looked to the past and one to the future. Or perhaps he was roving, surrounded by devils.

Do you have a fiction fragment? How about your friends? Would you like to recommend someone to me aside from yourself? Drop me a line at chellane@gmail.com. See you next week!

Guidelines: Submit 500-1000 words of fiction, up to 5 poems, a short bio, and a recent author photo to the e-mail above.

Fuckable Fictional Characters: Lawrence Talbot

Human behavior is often weird and scary. And, unless real monsters actually walked the Earth in days of old, all monster myths are most likely inspired by some truly terrifying things people did to their fellow humans. Rape, torture, murder, cannibalism and trophy collecting are not just products of the imaginations of horror writers. People have been brutally killing each other since the dawn of time. Violence is part of the natural world, no matter what the new age hippies try to tell you. Humans are animals, and no matter how many civilizations we erect, how many Starbucks we build, or how many PTA meetings we attend, the truth is humans are the scariest things on the planet. Humans like to kill things and each other, and whenever possible, they like to blame these icky feelings on someone else. Scapegoating is a national pastime in many cultures around the globe and it has been that way since before the Romans started nailing Christians to crosses.

On October 31, 1589, Peter Stumpp, the Werewolf of Bedburg, was executed for killing and cannibalizing 18 people. Stumpp’s trial and execution is one the most famous cases of reported lycanthropy in European history, and it has fed the imaginations of writers ever since. Werewolf trials occurred simultaneously with witch trials, but the sheer volume of executed witches places these atrocities at the forefront of our dark past, and often overshadows the werewolf hunts that also took place in Europe and colonial America. Peter Stumpp was caught, sentenced to death, brutally tortured and executed after he confessed to killing 14 children, two pregnant women and their fetuses, which he later described as “dainty morsels.”

Werewolf

He admitted to killing and eating parts of his victims, but claimed that he only did these terrible things while wearing a magical belt given to him by the Devil. When he wore the cursed object he transformed into a wolf-like creature with sharp teeth and super-human strength. When he removed the belt he would revert to his normal human form. This type of werewolf, one changed through the use of a magical belt, is called a Boxenwolf, and doesn’t require the bite of another werewolf to achieve transformation, but it does require a pact with the Devil.

Stumpp was a cannibal and claiming to be a werewolf may have made it easier for him to deal with his own insanity. Blaming the Devil makes it easier to sleep at night I suppose. Stumpp also had sex with his daughter and a female cousin, and claimed that he had sexual relations with a succubus, which was another gift from the Devil. Is it just me, or was Peter Stumpp batshit crazy?

Clinical lycanthropy is a rare form of mental illness in which the patient believes himself to be transforming into something animal-like, and is classified as a form of schizophrenia due to how it manifests, with the first criteria being delusions.

I have a special place in my heart for the mentally ill. My father was a therapist, but before he earned his master’s degree in counseling, he started at the bottom of the crazy ladder by “driving the van of retards” (his words…and my mother’s), then he lived in a group home, then he worked nights at the hospital doing crisis intervention, and then he worked on the psych ward, and then he became a licensed therapist with a specialty in hypnotherapy. No shit. My dad was a hypnotherapist. Guess who was one of his early test subjects. Yep, me. In grade school. I was a great test subject, because I suffered from night terrors, and he used hypnosis and basic relaxation techniques/meditation to help me fall asleep at night. My nightmares were so bad that I was afraid to go to sleep, and had panic attacks when confronted with bedtime.

Because I was taught to respect as opposed to fear mental illness, and view it as a medical condition that can be treated with medication and/or therapies, I gained an appreciation and a simultaneous fascination with madness. I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. And, the town crazies, at least the ones with a diagnosis, were very familiar to me because of what my dad did for a living. They liked my dad, so they would talk to him when they saw him in public. They liked me too. Sometimes a little too much.

When I was about 13 or 14, a man who I knew to be a schizophrenic, and who preferred to medicate himself with booze as opposed to taking his prescribed medication, followed me home from school one day. I’m not sure what his plans were, but he would always try to engage me in conversation when we would see him around town. I liked him. And, I had done some reading about schizophrenia in the school library and knew it was something he couldn’t control. Like I said, I have a special place in my heart for the mentally ill. Anyway, once I was safely inside the house with all the doors locked, I called my dad. He called the police, but made sure to get there before they did. While I watched from inside, my dad tried to talk to the man and explained the situation to the police. He never followed me home again.

Although I was genuinely afraid that afternoon while that man stood outside the house pacing back and forth, as if arguing with himself about what to do next, there was a part of me that still felt compassion for him. His illness had taken control. An illness without a cure. Would he have hurt me? I don’t know. I’m also glad I had the sense not to find out.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, theorized the existence of libido, “an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt.” Lawrence Talbot is Freud’s wet dream. A truly tragic character, he is a textbook example of how repressed memories and emotional abandonment in childhood can lead to mental instability that manifests itself in inappropriate behaviors in adulthood.

What could be more inappropriate than allowing your rage to transform your id into a monster that rampages through the countryside (and London) ripping, tearing, murdering, and eating everyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in your path? If you had the ability to control this transformation and continued to kill people, that would make you a true monster. But, if like Lawrence Talbot, you were cursed with this terrible illness and not only despised your own actions, but sought to put an end to the curse, would you still be considered a monster? Not in my opinion, but I’ve been called crazy a few times, too.

Crazy is the New Black: The Wolfman

facebook_1459693523357

There are several versions of Lawrence Talbot’s story. The first time I encountered Lawrence (Larry) was in the 1941 Universal film, The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. I loved this movie when I was a kid. A Gypsy curse, fortune telling, lycanthropy, Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, pentagrams, and a werewolf transformation involving nothing but makeup and lap-dissolves. What’s not to love? I mean, seriously this film set the standard for 20th century werewolf tales and inspired writers, filmmakers, and TV producers to take the legends of old and turn them into the iconic monsters we love so much.

1369339006_2643_wolfman

Modern audiences would most likely find this version kind of cheesy and not very scary. To be honest, I enjoy watching The Wolf Man now because of its canonical importance, nostalgic value, and the fact that it makes me laugh hysterically. Besides, CLAUDE RAINS and BELA LUGOSI. We’re talking Universal monster movie gold here.

Here’s the basic premise (I stole from IMDb):

When his brother dies, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns to Wales and reconciles with his father (Claude Rains). While there, he visits an antique shop and, hoping to impress Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), the attractive shopkeeper, buys a silver walking cane. That same night he kills a wolf with it, only to later learn that he actually killed a man (Bela Lugosi). A gypsy (Maria Ouspenskaya) explains that it was her son, a werewolf, that he killed, and that Larry is now one himself.

While we feel sorry for Larry for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time…although the fortune teller might say otherwise, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Talbot doesn’t inspire a whole lot of empathy. I mean, sure I feel bad for the guy, but the level of tragedy he experiences pales in comparison to the 2010 Universal film, The Wolfman, starring Benicio Del Toro.

Here’s another basic premise (I stole from IMDb):

Though absent from his ancestral home of Blackmoor for many years, aristocrat Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to find his missing brother at the request of the latter’s fiancee, Gwen (Emily Blunt). He learns that a creature has links to an ancient curse turning people into werewolves when the moon is full. To save the village and protect Gwen, he must slay the bloodthirsty beast, but he contends with a horrifying family legacy.

Sounds a bit more compelling, doesn’t it?

In this version, which takes place near the tail end of the Victorian Era (post Jack the Ripper), Lawrence Talbot is a celebrated actor who has lived in America since childhood. When we first meet Lawrence he is performing Hamlet on the stage, which we later find is part of a London tour, conveniently placing him near his ancestral home, Talbot Hall in Blackmoor, Northumberland.

7260_0_screenshot

Why do I never see men who look like this when I ride the train?

After receiving an unexpected visit from his brother Ben’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe, he returns home. Lawrence learns of Ben’s disappearance soon after he goes missing, but by the time he makes the train ride from London to Blackmoor, his brother’s corpse has been found in a ditch near Talbot Hall. He arrives too late to save his brother, and memories of his dark past are stirred up when he must face his father for the first time since childhood.

facebook_1459693543030

Victorian werewolves are un-fucking-believably cool.

Like most people confronted with the mysterious and violent death of a loved one, Lawrence wants answers. But that’s not all he seeks. He is also desperate for the love and acceptance of his father, an emotionally crippled man full of dark secrets and brimming with alpha male testosterone. Lawrence never fully recovered from his mother’s death. When he meets Gwen, who not only looks remarkably like his mother, but also seems to embody many of her rare feminine qualities, he finds himself almost immediately attracted to her. Ben and Lawrence are emotionally and sexually attracted to a woman who reminds them of their mother. While Lawrence has repressed the exact details of his mother’s death, he still blames his father and hates him for sending him away at the age of nine.

Poor young Lawrence witnessed something so terrible that he had a mental collapse. He was sent to an asylum, presumably after he recounted what he saw the night his mother died. Due to the fantastic nature of his story, he was believed to be insane and treated as such until he accepted the story that was fed to him over and over: His mother committed suicide. She did not die at the hands of his father, who killed her because he is a monster. Once Lawrence was “healed,” he was shipped off to live with his aunt in America. Much like our dear friend Oedipus, Lawrence desires to be back in the arms of his loving mother and wishes his father were dead in her place.

Soon after Lawrence arrives in Blackmoor, he begins his investigation into his brother’s death. Against his father’s wishes, he examines the body, which is so terribly ravaged that…well, it’s worth watching the film just to see the look on Benicio Del Toro’s face. It’s one of those moments in horror where you know something really awful has happened, but instead of reacting the same way the character does, your brain interprets the horror as something inappropriately comical and despite how gruesome the situation might be, you laugh out loud.

image19

Get ready to laugh in 3…2…1.

After the shock of seeing his brother’s mangled corpse, Lawrence seeks refreshment in the local pub, which immediately made me think of The Slaughtered Lamb in An American Werewolf in London (1981).

americanwerewolfharbinger

That’s Rik Mayall in the turtleneck if you never noticed before.

Apparently, pubs in the UK are a great place to learn about werewolf lore. And the locals will most likely interpret your lack of knowledge as a sign that you’re going to be the werewolf’s next victim.

americanwerewolfdavidjack

Maybe it’s just my hormonal pre-teen self talking, but David Naughton was a totally fuckable werewolf, and he was the first werewolf I ever lusted after.

Despite the intentional humor of American Werewolf, there are still some pretty chilling scenes that bore deep into my subconscious mind, where fear and sexuality meet up in some very weird ways.

41b763791582bc3fd6a46af8bdf4edb9

I had a lot of dreams about this monster. Not all of them were scary.

ANYWAY. Lawrence hears the local bumpkins talking about werewolves, their hatred of Gypsies, distrust of Sir John Talbot, and their belief that Lawrence’s mother was not only a Gypsy, but a whore to boot. You know, pointing fingers and making wild accusations. Scapegoating. But, in this case, they aren’t too far off the mark. Except for their beliefs about Gypsies. Oh and, the rumor about the late Mrs. Talbot having questionable morals. Because, as everyone knows all of Victorian (and our current) societal problems can be directly linked back to foreigners (and anyone who isn’t White) and overt female sexuality.

gallery_1850_gents

Nothing upsets these dudes more than Blacks and vaginas.

19071964-mmmain

And, apparently the same things upset these dudes.

Truly, nothing warms the heart or makes you feel more at home than when you overhear some local jackass talking shit about your dead mother as you mentally prepare for your brother’s funeral.

wolfman_movie_image_benicio_del_toro

Remember that moment when you first realized that Victorian funerary garb is totally a fetish? No? Me neither.

After the funeral, and again, against his father’s explicit instructions to stay in the house, Lawrence continues his investigation into Ben’s death by visiting the nearby Gypsy camp. Shortly after he arrives at the camp, so do some of the local bullies. They threaten the Gypsies and blame Ben’s horrific death on an elderly trained bear. Lawrence isn’t an idiot. He doesn’t think the bear hurt anyone, but he’s sure that something is up and the Gypsies might have some insight. As he begins questioning people in the camp, some major carnage happens. Did I mention there’s a full moon?

Unlike the men from the village, Lawrence grabs a weapon, protects women and children, and chases whatever has been slashing its way through the camp with a shotgun. He’s a pretty good shot, but the creature is too fast. He stalks the beast to a misty stone circle where he quickly loses his bearings due a complete lack of visibility. This is a really intense scene that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You feel Lawrence’s fear and adrenaline mounting as he tries to find the creature he’s been chasing. When the beast attacks Lawrence, you anticipate it with your nerve endings, but you don’t see it coming until it’s too late. Just like Lawrence.

Almost mortally wounded, Lawrence receives battlefield surgery Gypsy style in a scene that always sends chills through me. Watching someone getting stitches is one thing, but watching them get stitches in a bacteria-ridden Gypsy vardo with a hooked needle to essentially reattach their head to their neck and shoulder takes you to completely new levels of body horror, Mysophobia, and trypanophobia. Realistically, even if he survived the injury, the ensuing infection would have probably killed him. But that wouldn’t be a very satisfying end to this story, would it?

Lawrence not only survives the attack, but over the course of a month he has a complete recovery that raises some questions for his doctor and an Inspector from Scotland Yard, Aberline, who comes to Blackmoor from London to follow up on Ben’s murder. Aberline is aware that Lawrence spent time in an asylum as a child and insinuates that his ability to portray so many characters on the stage may stem from a deep-seated mental illness like schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. Without coming right out and saying it, he suggests that Lawrence may have had a hand in the carnage at the Gypsy encampment. Again, Lawrence is no dummy. He knows what Aberline is getting at and asks him to leave.

wolfman4

Hugo Weaving in a psychological pissing contest with Benicio Del Toro? Is it getting hot in here?

After Lawrence’s miraculous recovery, he and Gwen get to know each other a little better.

facebook_1459693600145

Fig. 1 – Victorian Flirting 101: Devise clever excuses to press your body against a lady’s.

So, I mentioned that the doctor is a little more than concerned about the fact that Lawrence not only healed quicker than medical science could explain, but also, he doesn’t seem to have any scarring, disfigurement, or signs of an injury that should have permanently crippled if not killed him. Those darn Supernatural Forces laugh in the face of Science. Which apparently, the villagers don’t find funny. They show up to a) prove that he is a werewolf, and b) kill him once they have their proof.

image37

Fucking nosy neighbors.

When the lynch mob shows up outside Talbot Hall demanding blood, Sir John Talbot comes to his son’s rescue and threatens to kill anyone who trespasses on their land again. Before Sir John comes outside, the villagers grab Lawrence (it takes three to subdue him), and in the struggle he sustains a minor injury. A cut on the lip that sends Gwen into nurture mode.

facebook_1459693450586

Fig. 2 – Victorian Flirting 101: When seeking a man’s affection, dab blood from his sensually open mouth with a pristine, white handkerchief to metaphorically suggest that you’d like him to violently shove the candles off that table and deflower you in the most face-flushing, bodice-ripping way he knows how.

Clearly, there is mounting sexual tension between these two characters. But, since there is a lot of taboo wrapped up in their feelings, and this story is set in Victorian England, they dance around each other as if they are made of glass. Psychologically, that may not be far from the truth. Especially for Lawrence. His brother’s death has forced him to return to his childhood home that he has avoided his entire adult life. His chosen profession is as an actor, a career in which he literally pretends to be someone he is not. The ghosts of his past still haunt Talbot Hall. He’s attracted to Gwen, but he must be experiencing some level of guilt for having lustful thoughts about his brother’s fiancee. And, he is aware of the physical changes in his body. He is freaked out about the fact that all signs of his injury are gone. When Gwen administers first aid and they are only inches away from each other, he recognizes that his appetites have become heightened. His yearning to touch her is palpable, but he’s afraid he might do something to hurt her.

facebook_1459693478482

Does she really want me to tear off her clothes and fuck her on this table, or are the voices just messing with me?

Lawrence’s fears continue to mount. He knows something terrible is going to happen. He’s experiencing an increase in what Freud referred to as libido. He’s had sexual relationships with other women, so he isn’t afraid of touching Gwen. What has him concerned is the weird connection his brain is making between fucking, fighting, killing and eating. As the full moon rapidly approaches, Lawrence’s sense of propriety is quickly eroding away. The werewolf is about to emerge, and it terrifies him. Fortunately for Gwen, Lawrence truly cares for her well-being and sends her away before he or anyone else has the chance to harm her.

facebook_1459693502157

I’m sorry, but I can’t stop thinking about tearing open your throat to gulp down hot, coppery mouthfuls of your blood, and it’s making me insanely horny. Seriously, pack your shit and go.

Soon after, Lawrence goes through his first transformation. He basks in the light of the full moon in all his skin-flaying, tendon-ripping, face-biting werewolf glory. I mean, he tears the shit out of all those nosy neighbors and leaves a trail of carnage through the forest and onto the property of Talbot Hall. When he awakens with a murderous rage hangover, he has no memory of the atrocities he’s committed, but fortunately his father is there to get him up to speed and let him know that he’s done “terrible things.”

facebook_1459693426597

Maybe some coffee and a long hot shower will help…

Next stop, the asylum.

The Wolfman movie Benicio Del Toro (5)

Hydrotherapy: the waterboarding of the 19th century.

If this film were a history of mental illness in European cultures, it would fit perfectly with Freud’s theories of mental illness. However, it’s a horror film and we’re talking about literal monsters. In the world of The Wolfman, werewolves are real and when left to their own devices, they kill anyone who happens to be in their path of destruction. It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not. They are a fact and a very real threat to modern living in 19th century England.

facebook_1459693561988

This is not a manifestation of a disturbed mind. This is a fucking werewolf.

Several characters refuse to accept the truth that werewolves exist, even when they are witnessing their manifestation. Unlike Peter Stumpp’s neighbors who wanted to believe that the Devil was at work, and supernatural forces made him kill and eat 14 children, science and logic are at the core of the accepted belief system in Victorian England. The doctors and staff at the asylum and Inspector Aberline refuse to believe that werewolves can exist in their world. That’s pure nonsense, crazy talk, tales of superstition shared among backward cultures. These men only believe in what they can see and quantify.

One of my favorite scenes in the film takes place in the asylum, when Lawrence is able to exact revenge on the people who tortured him. After Sir John Talbot visits Lawrence and finally tells him the truth about the night his mother died. The repressed memories are unleashed, and Lawrence relives that night in his mind. Everything he believed was true. Sometimes, having your beliefs confirmed isn’t a good thing. Lawrence’s father is much worse than he ever imagined. Not only is he the monster that killed Lawrence’s mother and brother, he’s also responsible for turning Lawrence into a werewolf.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a8b277ad970b-800wi

Men of Science.

Lawrence is so overwhelmed by this information that his mind shuts down and he falls into a deep sleep. When he awakes, he finds himself strapped in a wheelchair by the orderlies of the asylum and prepped for a demonstration prepared for his doctor’s colleagues, the police, members of the press, and other community leaders to prove that werewolves don’t exist. He insists that Lawrence suffers from a mental illness, delusions that are related to the trauma he experienced as a child.

Benicio-Del-Toro-Kill-All-Of-You-GIF-1437439523

Caring more about the plight of his fellow humans than the asylum staff, Lawrence attempts to warn them that they are in danger. The moon is full and he will transform at any moment. When the doctor and Inspector Aberline finally see Lawrence’s transformation they are unable to completely process the facts before them, and they are momentarily crippled by their mind’s desire to shut down. The doctor meets a well-deserved violent end at the hands of the creature he refused to believe in.

facebook_1459693677592

Told you so.

Aberline is made of stronger mettle, because he forces himself into action to deal with the reality of a werewolf running amok on the streets of London. And I suppose you could consider him a hero of sorts in this tale, but I was too busy rooting for Lawrence to care.

After Lawrence kills most of the asylum staff and escapes from the mental institution, he whoops it up and kills a whole lot of people in London. Aberline is committed to stopping him, but soon realizes traditional methods won’t work.

The next morning when Lawrence wakes up hungover again, he has a better sense of his Fate. He knows he has to put an end to the curse. He has to return to Talbot Hall to avenge the deaths of his mother, his brother, and ultimately himself. But, before he resigns himself to an untimely death, he goes to the one place he knows he can hide, regroup, and find a little human compassion.

giphy.gif

Holy shit, finally!

Yes, it’s true. I am a monster sympathizer. Judge me if you must, but Lawrence Talbot is an excellent example of a monster we feel sorry for and wish we could help. Fate has dealt him a terrible hand, and no matter what he does, his story will have a tragic end. Traumatized as a child, he witnessed the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, the true villain of this tale.

As an adult he seeks the love stolen from him when his mother died, but doesn’t find it until he meets Gwen. Even if Benicio Del Toro didn’t play Lawrence Talbot, I would still feel sorry for this character. However, I’m a sucker for a handsome man in Victorian garb, especially if he transforms into a tragic monster of myth and legends.

TheWolfman_1920x1080

Seriously, werewolves are hot.

If by the end of this tale you don’t feel sorry for Lawrence Talbot, there is seriously something wrong with you. Yes, he’s a monster, but he did not choose his fate. And, all he ever wanted was to be loved and accepted. Who can’t relate to that? A life of hurt, betrayal, and tragedy is bound to end badly. Lawrence never had any hope of a happy ending.

Lawrence_Talbot_death

Hot and tragic.

I waffled over talking about yet another version of Lawrence Talbot. I’m not going to talk about him extensively, but I think I should at least mention him in this post. For those of you who haven’t seen a single episode of the Showtime masterpiece, Penny Dreadful, SPOILER ALERT.

One of the main characters has a secret that we don’t find out about until the final episode of the first season. In hindsight, there were plenty of clues, but when all the pieces fell into place, it was a glorious revelation. Prior to this wonderful surprise, this character has a lot of other personality quirks that make him incredibly interesting, mysterious, but totally likable. If he chooses to befriend you, you have a reliable friend and ally. Unless you betray him.

facebook_1459693794199

Victorian clothing should totally make a come back.

Like I said, I’m not going to talk about him too extensively because I will probably write about him in another post. I’ve considered dedicating an entire post to the cast of Penny Dreadful. What I will say is this, when we’re first introduced to this character he’s working as a sharp shooter in traveling wild west show like Buffalo Bill Cody’s. I thought that was pretty cool considering that Penny Dreadful is like porn for people obsessed with Victorian literature and culture. And monsters. First and foremost, Victorian monsters.

facebook_1459693737501

Fuck yeah, werewolves!

Anyway, we are led to believe his name is Ethan Chandler all through season one and two. It’s not until near the end of the second season that we learn his true name. When I heard it spoken, I literally raised my hands over my mouth in a gesture of mock surprise with my mouth forming a perfect O. I felt pure delight. Actual giddiness. The revelation that the mysterious Victorian werewolf character, who I already adored, is actually one of my favorite werewolves was like an extra special treat. Think what you will, but stories about werewolves in Victorian England make me happy. And Lawrence Talbot’s story is one of my favorites. Penny Dreadful‘s take on the story is fascinating and fresh. And I love the fact that when Ethan/Lawrence is in his human form, there is no doubt that he is one of the good guys. His relationship with Vanessa is a complicated one, and their sexual tension is maddening.

Outwardly, they seem like a great couple. They trust each other, care deeply for one another, accept each other’s flaws, and let me tell you, their flaws aren’t things you could easily ignore. But hey, he’s a werewolf, and he’s trying to deal with the guilt of killing a whole bunch of people and yeah, eating them. And she is a witch coming into her true powers and, oh yeah, Lucifer wants to make her his bride. A relationship would be difficult at best, and sometimes when Vanessa has sex it brings out the demon in her. Literally. Like I said, the sexual tension between them is pretty intense. So much so that sometimes Ethan has to channel his energies elsewhere.

facebook_1459693879150

Chopping down trees keeps your mind off having sex with witches possessed by the Devil.

Afterward

For those of you who have been following along with my series, “Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck,” this is the first installment of my now monthly blog series. If you haven’t been following along, back in February I challenged myself to write a blog post a day about some of my favorite fictional characters and why I think they are totally fuckable. That was no small task. Out of 29 days in February, I managed to write 21 posts. Still not too shabby if you ask me. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this post and have a chance to read others. I’m having a great time writing them and look forward to your feedback.

Fuckable Fictional Characters: Captain Homer Jackson

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. Why? Because I am exhausted and may very well be getting sick. But, I didn’t want to miss a day of my month-long blog series. So far this week, I have focused on some very fuckable fictional characters. Today’s offering is no exception.

Before we get started, I need to tell you a few things about my taste in fiction – many of these things have already been revealed, such as the fact that I love speculative fiction. If that fiction involves vampires, British librarians, Asgardian princes, demon hunters, cartoon spies, or serial killers, then all the better. Something you might not know about me is that I’m totally a sucker for just about anything produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Yep. I’m an anglophile. I have been a fan of the BBC since I was a toddler watching All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. Over time I developed a love for many British TV shows and characters on said shows. I’ll be discussing some of them in the days to come. But now, I’m going to talk about Ripper Street, a BBC TV show set in 1880’s London in the Whitechapel neighborhood just after Jack the Ripper’s killing spree. As a life-long anglophile, a BBC TV show set in Victorian London that deals with violent crimes totally rocks in my opinion. Ironically, the character I find most attractive on the show is an American.

February 7: Homer Jackson

Jackson-portrait-gun.jpeg

Captain Homer Jackson, formerly a U.S. Army surgeon and Pinkerton agent, teams up with Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake to investigate the Ripper murders. Jackson’s understanding of medicine and work with the Pinkerton’s provides him with a unique skill set for investigating crimes at the dawn of forensic science. He is a valuable member of the three-man crime fighting team, but his hedonistic habits and secret past often makes him a liability.

There are a lot of holes in Jackson’s backstory when we first meet him, but Reid respects and desperately needs his expertise if he has any hope of finding the Ripper and solving the murders. Jackson likes to drink, gamble, use opiates, and his female companion who came to London with him from America, Long Susan, is the madam of one of the local brothels. But his skills as a forensic investigator, his growing friendship with Reid, and his protective instincts when it comes to the women in his life make it possible to overlook some of his shortcomings.

Jackson-Collage-2

Performing an autopsy with a hangover isn’t for wimps.

Jackson lives in the brothel, and despite his romantic attachment and business relationship with Long Susan, think common law marriage (he refers to Susan as his wife), he also has sex with some of the prostitutes who work there. Susan usually turns a blind eye to his extracurricular sexual activity, but when Jackson develops a fondness for Rose, one of the brothels most popular prostitutes, their relationship becomes strained. His increasing involvement with the police creates some conflict between them as well since their main source of income comes from running prostitutes.

Jackson-Rose-Susan

Ain’t nothing like pimpin’.

Jackson is an interesting character. He kind of looks like a cross between a pimp and a Victorian cowboy. He’s street smart, with an eye for police work, and he is a skilled doctor with a firm understanding of science. He likes to drink until he’s drunk, enjoys the company of women, and judging by how happy they are, we can assume that he is a skilled lover.

He’s sexy passed out drunk or stoned in the gutter, working in his lab, shooting a gun, or reclining in a bathtub. He has a wonderful grasp of human behavior and is often the voice of logic and reason despite his love of chaos and pursuit of pleasures of the flesh.

Jackson-Collage

Yep. Fuckable from any angle.

There’s a lot to like about this show – a fantastic ensemble cast, interesting characters with their own stories, beautiful Victorian costumes (I’m especially fond of Jackson’s unique dress sense), plots that incorporate enough actual historical events to make them authentic, and plenty of conflict and misery. If you haven’t watched the show, seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix. Handsome men in plaid suits with accents solving murders in the gritty streets of Victorian London. What’s not to like? I could watch period British crime dramas all the livelong day. Especially when there’s plenty of yummy eye candy, and references to some of the more unsavory and fascinating aspects of Victorian culture. We get a peak at the birth of pornographic films, a religious cult that resembles the Golden Dawn, the rise of Socialism, and the famous human oddity, Joseph Merrick.

Listen-quote

You have my full attention.