In three months, my second book will be on shelves. Last year, I announced I was writing about vampires. Now, the writing and proofing is done and the celebrating and promoting begins! How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction is, as far as I can tell, the first book dedicated to all the ways to kill vamps. I am interested in vampire destruction rituals because I think they tell us much about the nature of human fear, and how the anxieties of the day manifest themselves in mythology. Today’s horror movies and scary stories are our modern myths, a way to grapple with, if not understand, the mysteries of the world. Few of us can name the constellations in the night sky but we know the intricacies of each season of Buffy. Because it’s the latter of those things that helps us to navigate in the darkness. It is my hope that this book will illuminate the power and importance of vampire storytelling in a new way. That it will bring new (old) ideas to the discussion of why we need monsters and horror. That people who love Twilight and True Blood will learn fun things about 17th century Bulgarian funeral rites and ancient burial practices. And that you will read it and share the journey that is authorship with me. Here is how…
A Toronto launch party is planned for Tuesday, September 17. It will be a vampire themed pub trivia night. Save the date! Before that, I’ll be at the Fan Expo/Festival of Fear convention in August, signing and talking. I’m also heading to Los Angeles for a book signing at Dark Delicacies on October 5, which is super exciting. More promo appearances and parties to be added, hopefully in your town. Invitations welcome. I don’t bite. (Much.)
Media friends: I’m happy to talk vampires any time and my publicist can send you an advance copy for review.
Many more announcements to come throughout the year. As always, thank you for reading.
My beloved friends at the House of Pomegranates have put together an evening of literary merriment and magic, a haunted world of art, music, and film, luscious chocolate, exotic cocktails and clever words. There will be readings by David Keyes, launching his new book I Do So Worry for All Those Lost at Sea. Vampire novelist Nancy Baker. Poet Lynn Crosbie. And me. Presentations by Belinda Chun of Gallery House and Prof. Richard Greene, talking of the Sitwells. A mystery String Quartet will play Ravel. And a short film about Carmilla, fashions from Gloomth, and fancy cocktails. Did I mention I will be reading brand new poems from a manuscript in progress called Requiem Birds? And that I’ll be accompanied by a surprise? Come, be surprised.
Sixty authors in the park, reading aloud to you. I’m stoked to be part of this year’s Luminato Arts festival. And even more excited to be part of an event truly designed for book lovers. Come and hear me read on the theme of “Beginnings.” You can even sign up to stay and spend time with me one-on-one on a picnic blanket and Ask Me Anything. Pack a parasol. Come.
Right away, my Twitter and Facebook feeds filled up with jokes. He was driving a Subaru Forester? Hilarious! The crime took place at 11:48 a.m. The vampire prince trying to drive in California high-noon? Well that explains everything. Peter Murphy and Bauhaus lyrics that could be considered ironic now were cut up and posted. Wink, wink. Plenty more wondered how their lives would be affected: would his upcoming tour dates be cancelled? Will I get a refund? It doesn’t escape me that when an artist we admire is sick, I mean physically sick, there is an outpouring of sympathy. But if someone is known to have depression, mental health struggles, relationship problems, addiction, well how quickly they are raked over the coals. Like it’s lame. Like it’s not sad.
I don’t think it’s funny. Not because he’s special, above ridicule. Just the opposite. Because he’s just a man. A man with problems, apparently.
We Goths, and plenty of 80s new wavers and 90s alt rockers, consider Peter Murphy A-list, an icon. Most people, like say the average L.A. Times reader, probably don’t know Peter Murphy from Adam Ant. They don’t remember “Cuts You Up” or “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” or his role in the Hunger. The paper tagged him as “lead singer of 1970s British goth-rock band Bauhaus.” That’s close enough to a celebrity to warrant news coverage. Which means we can expect more details to come out, probably not good. About why he’s on anti-depressants. About any personal issues that might shed a light on this behaviour. (Someone on his FB page posted he’s mourning the death of his sister.) They might rip apart his finances, although the fact that he is in jail because he can’t post the $500,000 bail and there’s been no swift press release or statement yet tells you he’s not exactly rolling with high-priced lawyers or pr firms these days. Fans can scream “leave him alone!” but that’s their job. the reporters, to report. And it’s his own fault. He didn’t have to crash that car. He didn’t have to drive away. Hit-and-run, that’s pretty low.
At least nobody was hurt. I’ve read The Dirt. I know how Vince Neil of Motley Crue drove drunk and killed Razzle from Hanoi Rocks — and got 30 days in jail for it. (Then went on to beat up people and drive drunk again but still get off free to date and fuck and marry models and Playmates, because he clearly does have expensive lawyers.) I thought that made him a pretty awful human being, but it didn’t affect me. All those Hollywood celebs, glam rockers, whatever. Let them be bad. They’re not my heroes. This time though, I can’t stop thinking about it. I worry that Peter is not like Vince Neil at all, but like Dave Gahan. I think about Gahan’s heroin addiction, his suicide attempt, his near-death experience. Or Trent Reznor, whose struggles with depression and drugs, his descent down the spiral, thankfully led him ultimately to rehab, not jail. I remember how back then, in the mid-90s and even early 2000s, you mostly heard about these things much later, when the person was ready to talk about it. Not like now. People on the scene tweeted fuzzy cell phone photos of Peter Murphy being arrested. The infamy is immediate. Whatever happens in court, Peter will never be able to erase that mugshot. His Wiki bio— and his obituary — will have that mark.
Yes, there is a tour at stake. And his ability to work and to travel, if convicted. I don’t care if the shows are cancelled. I hope his friends have called. (I’m looking at you, Trent Reznor.) I hope someone bails him out.
In 2011, Peter Murphy put out a damned fine solo record, Ninth. I saw him perform on that tour, and he was marvelous as ever. His voice sounded great. His aging body still had the moves. He was still a master manipulator of the stage, of shadow and light. On two occasions I had the chance to chat with him after the show. In these tiny, unglamorous dressing rooms he held court, smoking cigarettes and telling stories. One of my favourites was of him walking through the Leipzig Festival (the world’s biggest Goth gathering) without make-up or costume and not being recognized. I gave him a copy of my book and he said, typically, “But I’m not Goth!” My sassy girlfriend replied, typically, “Well then you will learn alot from this book.” Sometimes the people there were really annoying. Drunks or ubergoths or both. He smiled at them anyway, listened to them, shared his cigarettes. And when he got tired he simply waved and said goodnight and disappeared out the backdoor. I like to picture him wandering off into the night to read poetry or write a song or call his daughter or go to sleep. I like to picture him singing, dancing.
I don’t like to picture him in a mug shot, a meth user, a man on the edge. And so I will not.
Today the Cardinals go into enclave and vote on a new Pope. They literally lock themselves in a room with no communication devices except a chimney. Yes, the way they let the world know a decision has been made is by burning the ballots and letting the smoke rise out of the chimney into the air over the Vatican, using chemicals to control the colour. White smoke = new pope.
While the world speculates on who will be elected, I ponder who I would vote for if asked. I do, after all, have experience in sequestered voting, having managed the Polaris Music Prize Grand Jury for a number of years. And I was baptized Catholic and taught partly by nuns before becoming Born Again Heathen so I know a few things about the Church. (Mostly fun things to do with the communion Host if you don’t want to swallow it.) But my religion has always been music. And so if I was allowed into the secret chamber to place a ballot, I’d be inclined to write in a musician candidate. Why not? The only official criteria for Pope is “Catholic” and “male.” There’s no law that says a rocker can’t also be the Pope.
And so I present my Top 5 Papal Candidates.
5. MARILYN MANSON
Cred: Attended Christian elementary school
Potential Pope Name: “God of Fuck”; “Antichrist Superstar”
Pros: Looks good in skirt
Cons: Card-carrying member, Church of Satan
4. TOBIAS FORGE of GHOST
Cred: May be an actual Cardinal. Or a Bishop. Or just a Swedish metal dude in a cool costume.
Potential Pope Name: “Papa Emeritus” “Mary Goore”
Pros: Multilingual; good at keeping secrets
Cons: Um, that whole Swedish pagan thing.
3. DAVE GAHAN of DEPECHE MODE
Cred: Proponent of resurrection — died and came back to life after overdose
Potential Pope Name: “Personal Jesus”
Pros: Someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares
Cons: Divorced (twice)
Potential Pope Name: “Bono Vox”
Pros: Already acts like he has the job
Cons: An Irish Pope? Hahahhahahahaha.
1. CAROL POPEof ROUGH TRADE
Potential Pope Name: Ms. Pope the 1st
Pros: For God’s sake look at her name—she was literally born for this job! Also, 60s is considered prime age for starting your career in the papal arts.
Cons: Her band’s biggest hit is about same-sex crush on hot teenager, probably not the theme song the Church is looking for. Oh, and there’s that whole woman thing. Well, maybe next century….
So, won’t you please click on “Like” and join me there? I will always update this site as well with any public events, news and assorted musings but from now on will also be actively updating on Facebook for those of you who like to hang out there. Drop by, say a virtual “Hi” and let me know what you are up to as well.
It was the year of the Apocalypse. Nothing to do with the Mayan doomsday. More that so many things in my world came to an end, some for the better but mostly for worse. But then….life goes on. And art saves. These are some of the things from 2012 that made me think, made me dream, made me happy to be alive.
The Music. For all that I talk about Goth, there is precious little Goth music I get excited about anymore.Well, of the stuff that gets tagged as Goth by its creators anyway. But there is a never-ending supply of new music that is dark and romantic, dangerous and danceable, minimal and macabre. In other words, Goth. They just file it somewhere else in the shops.
One of my favourite new-ish groups is Britain’s The XX, a love child of The Cure and various Northern soul, if said baby had died in childbirth and become a ghost. Their second album Co-Exist has been on repeat for me for months, a haunting listen in the truest sense. Bat For Lashes had a new one, and while I wish The Haunted Man was something more, something truly extraordinary, it has its moment of grace and beauty. The Raveonettes continue to delight me with fuzzy garage noise in a way the J&MC never quite could. Both their Into the Night EP and Obsverator album were never far from reach.
In the not at all Goth but still rocking my world category, I finally came ’round to overlooking the stupid band name Grizzly Bear and all the indie hipster accolades to embrace that band’s beautiful 21st century rock album Shields. Ditto psychedelic Aussies Tame Impala, but I guess with an album called Lonerism, I was destined to eventually fall for them. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead reminded me how much I used to dig that band with its raucous Lost Songs. I welcomed the return of the Deftones too. But of all the loud rock records this year I kept coming back to Japandroids‘ Celebration Rock. It made me dance wilder. Run faster. Scream louder. And feel better.
As for disappointments, well, I still can’t get into How to Destroy Angels. And that solo album from Interpol’s Paul Banks seems to have gone in one ear and out the other for me. But to make up for it, I had the discovery of Canada’s Cold Specks. Her debut album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, a collection of very old-school mournful soul, topped my ballot for the Polaris Music Prize here, and I had the pleasure of introducing her at the gala awards ceremony, where I did my best to convince the industry crowd that her “death blues” was in fact, Goth. Also quite surprisingly, watching Dead Can Dance at the Sony Centre, live for the first time in a decade and realizing that, with the elimination of their organic (and presumably expensive) band of live drummers and the introduction of more samples and keyboards, they’ve finally turned into a Goth band. Next to hearing Lisa Gerrard sing “Sanvean” one more time, my most memorable live show was Justice headlining the Hard outdoor festival here at Fort York in the middle of a downpour. We didn’t know if the show would go on, but we waited, so, so, so soaked. And then it did. And we danced. And it was grand.
But what might in fact surprise you, gentle reader, is that my favourite album of the moment seems to be from Alicia Keys. Girl on Fire doesn’t have the best title track/lead single, but “New Day” got me out of bed more than once, and the ballad “Not Even the King” is one of those tunes that I simply cannot listen to just once. I’ve worn out the replay button on that one. In years to come, I think it will be a classic. Here is it, for you….
The Films. So many bummers. Dark Shadows. The Dark Knight Rises. And yes (sigh) even Prometheus, which I didn’t hate like most Alien fans but it certainly did not blow my mind as I had hoped. Instead I had the insanely hilarious and clever Cabin in the Woods, a cinematic love letter to monster movie fans if ever there was. And thanks to more stellar programming from the Toronto International Film Festival, I thoroughly enjoyed tons of scary flicks new and old this year, from Neil Jordan’s return to vampires, Byzantium to Guillermo del Toro giving a master class in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. Most arresting: the TIFF world premiere of West of Memphis, another documentary about the West Memphis Three case, but this time produced in part by Damien Echols himself, the man who spent almost 20 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, mostly because he was a freak in a very wrong place in a very wrong time. More than all the Paradise Lost films, it will shell-shock you by the injustice, then and now. Being in a theatre with Echols, now free, but not yet exonerated, was kind of surreal. So was witnessing what happens when you put Johnny Depp (one of the film’s producers) in a room. I thought I had seen celebrity frenzy before but this was some next level hysteria. I hope it brings attention to this powerful documentary, and to this case, which is not yet over.
Truth be told, I spent most of this year writing my own new book, How to Kill a Vampire. Which meant powering through dozens of novels and non-fiction titles about the various aspects of the nosferatu. I was pretty happy to finally get around to reading all the American Vampire comics, because they seriously rock. But in all honestly, much of it is a blur. So tell me what to read next. I need new poetry, new horror, new cultural studies, new classics, to take me new places in 2013.
The Newtown, Connecticut killer is not a Goth. And so I shouldn’t even be writing this. And yet here we are. Again.
“He was a nerd, genius, Goth”: Profile of gun killer Adam Lanza” (Daily Mirror UK)
“Adam Lanza Described As ‘One Of The Goths’” (CBS Connecticut)
‘Brilliant but remote’: Police still hunting for motive that drove ‘goth’ Adam Lanza to kill 27” (National Post, Canada)
“SCHOOL MASSACRE SUSPECT ‘ONE OF THE GOTHS’” (Breitbart.com)
The first I heard of this alleged Goth connection Saturday afternoon, from someone who suggested it might prove to be good publicity for my book. How you could even think the word “publicity” in connection with this massacre of children, I simply don’t know. (And I’m someone pretty prone to macabre thought.) So I’d like to start by saying that I’m not writing this post to bring attention to myself, or to my work. Rather, because I have something to say about what happens when you link a criminal, especially a mass murderer, with an entire subculture of people he or she has absolutely nothing to do with. How it not only doesn’t help to answer the question “why?”, it actually causes more hurt, more harm. And most importantly, to flesh out what I tweeted yesterday into more than 140 characters, namely: dear media friends, please stop calling the killer a Goth in your headlines. Not because I’m Goth and it gives us all a bad name, but because it’s not the truth.
The fact that the most media outlets who have run with this are generally tabloids or right-wing is not a surprise. That’s what they do best, inflame and demonize. And so they picked up on one comment from one rather dubious source. The Associated Press quotes Newtown-area parent Catherine Urso outside a vigil on the Friday night as saying her college-age son knew the killer. “He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths.” And so the wire story goes out and some newspapers decide that of all the heartbreaking, shocking, absurd things about this crime and this killer — his mental health issues, his mother’s interest in doomsday prophecy and shooting guns for just two examples — what they’re going to run with for the headline is the “goth loner” tag. Based on a description offered by someone who does not appear have ever personally met the killer, whose son may or may not have ever spoken with the killer and may or may not have any clue at all what a Goth is or isn’t.
The fact that AP didn’t bother to check on this, or even add a phrase explaining what Goth is, isn’t just a result of tight deadlines and a chaotic environment in those first few hours after the massacre (let’s remember media outlets originally mis-identified the brother as the culprit and also claimed his mother worked at the school, which she didn’t). Rather, it says alot about how Goth is perceived by the public at large. Most people do have an idea of what the subculture is, and that idea includes the potential for violence. They got that idea because other fucked up school shooters have been described as Goth (namely, the Columbine killers). But those reports were wrong. Just like this one is wrong.
I’ll say it again: Adam Lanza was not a Goth. At. All. There are no photographs of him dressed as a Goth. Just because someone dresses all in black does not make them a Goth. That’s like saying someone is a jock because they wear track pants. Declaring yourself a Goth makes you a Goth. There is no evidence that he did this, or listened to any Goth music, or participated in any Goth communities on-line or in his school. In fact, since there are no area Goth kids quoted in any of the news reports reacting to this claim I think there’s a pretty good chance that there were no Goths in Newtown for him to a be “one of.” An article in England’s Daily Mail quotes Urso (identified as Kathryn because, you know, it’s not like spelling the names of the sources right matters) as adding, “He and his brother hung around with a weird little gang.” We now know that he and his brother were actually estranged so that seems unlikely. But who cares if it’s true or not….because he was WEIRD. A-ha.
You see, shitty sensationalist journalism doesn’t just doesn’t just make for First World Goth Problems™ like arguing with your parents that wearing black nail polish doesn’t make you a Satan worshipper, or getting turned down for a job because the HR person secretly suspects you may be a psychopath. It affects the quality of life of all manner of misfits. Video gamers. Heavy metal headbangers. Fans of gory horror movies. Geeks of all kinds. All these young(ish) people hanging out in the shadows, keeping to ourselves. We all seem suspicious to some parents, teachers, religious leaders, law enforcement authorities. In the worst of the worse case scenerios, you end up on death fucking row because you were the weirdest looking guy in town when some really bad shit happened and someone, anyone, needed to be locked up. (See: The West Memphis Three.) I’m not suggesting there is a Goth witch-hunt afoot, or would be even if the Newtown murderer was a card-carrying member of the Siouxsie Sioux or Emilie Autumn fan clubs. I’m saying that when the media flashes “Goth” and “Killer” in the same headline it does more than just make a bunch of strange kids angry on the internet. It reinforces the notion that one kind of deviance directly leads to another, worse, kind. It implies that subcultures, no matter how harmless they may seem, are inherently filled with unstable, anti-social people, (TICKING TIME BOMBS! to quote the always outraged Daily Mirror) who are up to no good and shouldn’t be trusted. Something less than you, or less than human. I understand the need to do this. To distance ourselves from what we fear is evil. To say “those people are not me.” But the truth is, most Goths and other freaks are not that different from anyone else —just different from what someone else expects of them. That’s all.
The thing with Goths is, we choose to be misfits. Death-obsessed misfits, sure. But not because we hate the world and want to destroy it. Because it makes sense for us, of us. Goth may look evil to outsiders and sometimes we play that up for humour or shock value, but it’s really not. In fact, it’s a shield — a weapon even — against the evils around us. Because evil does exist, I am convinced of that. On Earth. In nature. How else to account for how over in England back in 2007 five teenagers stomped on Goth girl Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend until they were unrecognizable, until they slipped into comas, and she died — simply because of the way they were dressed? How to reconcile that masses of innocent people continue to die of hunger in a world of plenty, that so many of us with privilege and power care more about Black Friday deals than stopping human trafficking? And how could anything explain why a young man could murder an entire classroom of innocent children – people’s babies, at Christmas time — without some motive?
You can try to find a way to explain by pointing out how he dressed, who he hung out with (or didn’t) or what he considered fun. You can even delve into the dark and complex topics of gun control and mental health care in America. But all you’re doing is distracting yourself, and worse, fuelling the culture of fear. No, all we can really do is to counter evil with love. And that doesn’t come from focusing on our differences, or stirring up hate for young people who dress funny and act strange.
No doubt over the next few days and weeks every aspect of Adam Lanza’s life will be dissected. (Not to help heal the hearts of a community, a nation, or to prevent further tragedy, but to feed the 24-hour news cycle.) And it’s possible we may discover he had a Goth phase. Maybe there’s a Cure album under his bed or an actual plastic skeleton in his closet. At that time, we can talk about it. Until then, live and let live. Oh, and fact-check.
I don’t have a goth sister. Or wife. Or an eldergoth for a mom. If I did, I would so love shopping at Christmas. I’ve been asked more than once this season for tips and suggestions on what to buy for the darkly inclined. I tend to say books, music, handmade art, theatre tickets, and the like. I think it’s important to consume culture, not plastic crap from China nobody needs, even if it happens to be in the shape of a bat.
And so, I humbly present some ideas for beautiful, useful things most goth girls I know would love to find under the tree. (After you’ve already purchased my own Encyclopedia Gothica, of course.) Note: I have stayed away from any clothing or things that need to fit properly to enjoy. Otherwise, this whole list would be Alexander McQueen and Fluevog shoes. And since most of these things are mail order for delivery, I apologize for waiting so long but hey, there’s always express mail, or Valentine’s Day, or next Halloween!
Gothic Gardening Seeds ($3.00 and up)
The blackest hollyhock. Purple carrots. Moonflowers. For a girl with a black thumb, these gifts will bloom forever.
Goth Girl Bedroom Bliss
Black Magic Playing Cards ($7.88)
I just cleared out Sonic Boom Reco rds of their stock of these because I think a playing card that feels like it’s made of vinyl records and is so-black-on-black you can barely read the suit is going to be my lucky way to win at Goth poker.
Skulls & Stripes Knee-Highs ($8)
I know I said no clothing. But I own these and can assure you they fit all calf sizes. Plus they come from one of my favourite on-line stores in the world, Sock Dreams. Where you can also order some bat shoe laces.
Dyptique “Baies Noire” or “Feu de Bois” candles ($90)
Ninety dollars for a single candle? WTF? I almost bought one of these once, standing in their luxurious shop on boulevard St. Germaine, because they are truly exquisite. I didn’t. But I still dream of them. Hey, it’s cheaper than a trip to Paris.
“Bella” red bow Latex Gloves ($60)
I have a love/hate relationship with latex clothing. I love the way it looks, the way it feels, even the way it smells. But it’s so unforgiving. So it’s been a long while since I’ve felt like I can bust out the latex catsuit. But gloves fit all shapes and sizes and fingerless ones are especially practical. These ones are quite seasonal, and cute, and made by the very nice people at House of Etiquette in Toronto.
Save a Skull! ($200)
Help preserve one of the historical specimens at the Mutter Museum by “sponsoring” the skull of a teenage suicide, a victim of TB or other unfortunate soul.
Adopt a Vampire Bat ($100)
Skull too scary? Does she like bats, plush toys and charitable giving? The World Wildlife Fund has you covered.
Universal Monsters Coffin Blu-ray set ($150)
Dracula. Frankenstein. The Mummy. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Why choose? And if you’re going to have movies on your shelf, why not in a coffin-shaped box?!
Musical Tea Set (59 Euros)
Mariage Freres is Paris’ famous teashop. They sell an overwhelming variety of teas, some at mind-boggling prices. This set, filled with packets of the loose green teas they call Nocturne Oriental, Thé des Rois, Thé au Sahara, Casablanca and Thé Sur le Nil and a silver-plated measuring spoon, comes in a pretty music box that plays the opening notes of Franz Liszt’s Liebestraume nocturne: a dream of love. A more budget friendly option is 100 grams of the splendid Tea of the Solitary Poet.
I couldn’t miss putting something from McQueen on here. And those skull scarves are overpriced/overrated, imho. This, however, is a perfectly reasonable unreasonable luxury. Because while it can’t rain all the time, sometimes it does.
Ray Caesar book and print ($500)
One day, perhaps my favourite Canadian visual artist Ray Caesar will release prints of his extraordinary magical paintings, which sell for upwards of $5,000. Until then, this book, especially if you can afford the limited-edition that comes with a print of his study for Consort, is a total treasure.
Elvira pin-ball machine ($5,000, aprox)
Hey, why does it always have to be a “man cave”? Girls can be gamers and geeks with the inability to resist blowing money on stuff too.
Catacombo Sound System (£23,500)
You can take it with you. Music, at least. This coffin has a built-in stereo system that plays music from your Spotify playlist using the CataPlay app. So if zombie Ian Curtis reunites with Joy Division, you won’t miss out.
On behalf of Goth Girls who dream of beautiful things, thanks for reading. Enjoy your gift giving.