(1) ORIGIN STORY. Paris Review kicked off a series of posts about the author of Dracula with “Something in the Blood, Part 1”.
To celebrate the spookiest of holidays, we’re publishing a selection of excerpts from David J. Skal’s Something in the Blood, a biography of Bram Stoker, published this month by Liveright. First up: the origins of Dracula.
There are many stories about how Bram Stoker came to write Dracula, but only some of them are true. According to his son, Stoker always claimed the inspiration for the book came from a nightmare induced by “a too-generous helping of dressed crab at supper”—a dab of blarney the writer enjoyed dishing out when asked, but no one took seriously (it may sound too much like Ebenezer Scrooge, famously dismissing Marley’s ghost as “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese”). But that hasn’t stopped the midnight snack of dressed crab from being served up as a matter of fact by countless people on countless occasions. While the nightmare aspect may well have some validity—Stoker’s notes at least suggest that the story might have had its genesis in a disturbing vision or reverie—it exemplifies the way truth, falsehood, and speculation have always conspired to distort Dracula scholarship. An unusually evocative piece of storytelling, Dracula has always excited more storytelling—both in endlessly embellished dramatizations and in the similarly ornamented accounts of its own birth process.
(2) SOFT OPENING. Quill & Quire previews the new Toronto Bar “Famous Last Words”.
For readers looking for a casual haunt to sit down with a good book and a drink (or writers looking for a few strong ounces of liquid creativity)‚ Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood [is] home to a literary-themed bar‚ slated to open Oct. 14. Famous Last Words – echoing CanLit legend Timothy Findley’s 1981 novel of the same name – will feature craft cocktails “with a literary twist‚” with book-inspired names like The English Patient‚ Cryptonomicon‚ The Perks of Being a Wallflower‚ and Fahrenheit 451.
The bar’s bookish decor includes a Scrabble-tile-topped bar‚ bookshelf wallpaper‚ washrooms for Jane Austens or Oscar Wildes‚ typewriters‚ and‚ of course‚ plenty of paperbacks to browse on a bar-spanning book wall.
This chapter does not mention the array of sneaky means by which we sci fi authors try to weasel our way around causality and temporal protection. One is the universe branching point. When Spock accidentally lures a vengeful Romulan to go back in time and destroy Planet Vulcan (in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek flick) many fans consoled themselves that this is just a branching-off of a newborn parallel reality… that the older timeline still stands, where Shatner-Kirk and all the rest remain, along the original timeline, like a trellis for the new one to grow alongside.
Well, well, that’s an artistic representation of one of many ways that physicists (at least a few) think that paradoxes might be resolved. Speaking as both a physicist and a science fiction author, I must say that this very loose partnership is one of the most fun that our unique and marvelous civilization offers, during a unique and marvelous… time.
(4) FELINE FEST. For National Cat Day, Jeff Somers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has compiled “The 25 Best Cats in Sci-Fi & Fantasy”. (Not all of them are cats strictly speaking – for example, Aslan is on this list.)
Lying Cat in Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples If you Google “lying cat” you’ll be rewarded with a slew of images of a fierce-looking cat saying the word “lying” in various tones—from vicious to interrogative. Lying cat can always tell if someone is deliberately lying, and thus is an invaluable companion to bounty hunter The Will in this remarkable comic series. More than just a very large cat that acts as a lie detector, Lying Cat is also a fierce warrior, and fiercely loyal. The fact that a cat that comes up to The Will’s shoulder was the runt of its litter should disturb you.
(5) DON’T YOU THINK SHE LOOKS TIRED? Fansided’s “Doctor Who Watch” uncovered scandalous facts in a candidate’s leaked emails — “Hillary Clinton Reportedly Calls Doctor Who ‘Boring Garbage’”
However, there is one email* that has come out that may truly signal the end of her hopes for the Presidency. Instead of being political in nature, or housing secret government information, this email discusses Doctor Who — or, rather, how she just does not appreciate the show, calling it “boring garbage” and feeling as though she is being left out on a joke that everyone else understands
— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) October 24, 2016
…But to say that Doctor Who is boring garbage? Well, that crosses a line that few would dare to verbalize. In saying that, she has, in effect, removed the Whovian demographic from her voting population. Yes, she has a somewhat higher opinion of Sherlock, which has a great deal of overlap in terms of fandom, but to attack the Doctor?
(6) SAVE OUR STOTTIES. Fanhumorist and distinguished geezer Graham Charnock is in jeopardy of being denied access to an essential food group. He has launched a petition at Change.org
Greggs have ceased to sell ham and pease pudding stotties, a staple food of the Tyneside community. Let’s persuade them they are wrong that there is no demand.
Our goal is to reach 100 signatures and we need more support.
You can read more and sign the petition here.
And to reassure yourself this is not (entirely) a hoax, you can study up on Tyneside cuisine in this Chronicle article.
(7) ZACHERLE OBIT. Horror movie TV host John Zacherle died October 27 at the age of 98 reports the New York Times.
[He] played a crypt-dwelling undertaker with a booming graveyard laugh on stations in Philadelphia and New York in the late 1950s and early ’60s…
In 1953 he began appearing as characters on “Action in the Afternoon,” a live western series shot in a vacant lot behind the studios of WCAU. “The idea was to get somebody in trouble on Monday, and either get him out of trouble, shoot him or hang him by Friday,” he told The Daily News in 1959.
One of his recurring characters was an undertaker named Grimy James, whose frock coat came in handy when the station bought a collection of 52 old horror films from Universal. The station manager, reviewing his new acquisition, decided that most of the films were so bad, he would have to build a show around them to add entertainment value.
Mr. Zacherle put on the frock coat and, in October 1957, went to work as the host of “The Shock Theater” (later simply “Shock Theater”), bringing with him an endless supply of sight gags and ad-lib patter.
A rabid fan base developed. When the station held an open house, expecting about 1,500 viewers to turn up, 13,000 stormed the studio to meet the Cool Ghoul, as Mr. Zacherle was known.
(8) CONVENTION IN A SYNAGOGUE. The first Jewish Comic Con takes place in Brooklyn on November 13.
All it took was a Shabbat dinner between the President of Congregation Kol Israel, Fred Polaniecki, and comic book creator Fabrice Sapolsky. Together, they outlined the Jewish Comic Con – a place to explore how Jewish identity has influenced comics both on the page and behind the scenes. Featuring panel discussions, artist tables, and lots of shmoozing,…
Now, Congregation Kol Israel is proud to organize the first ever Comic Con in a synagogue, our synagogue!
(9) PLAID AND PROUD. A kilt reference in yesterday’s Scroll prompted John King Tarpinian to remind me about the local Pasadena specialty store Off Kilter Kilts.
Southern California’s only multi-brand modern kilt store is celebrating its first anniversary on August 27, 2016.
Kilters from across the region will be converging on the store to mark the occasion with owner J.T. Centonze and the rest of the OKK crew. With more than 800 kilts sold in the first year, Off Kilter Kilts has a lot to celebrate.
Off Kilter Kilts has become a regular sight at local Renaissance Faires, Highland Games, and Celtic Festivals. They can also be seen around Pasadena hosting Kilts and Drinks nights at local restaurants.
(10) THE WINNER. Jonathan Maberry explains that the Canyon Crest Academy Writers Conference is the nation’s only absolutely free writers conference for teens. This year the conference inaugurated an award and named it after an author – him — the Jonathan Maberry Inspiring Teens Award. Then they turned around and made Maberry the first winner. Says Maberry, “I’m insanely honored to be the recipient of an award that is named after me. Yeah…I know. That’s surreal.”
(11) HAM ON VINYL. Someone sent along a link to William Shatner Live, a 1977 spoken word album. With the assurance, “No, I’ve not listened to it.” I must confess I have honored that choice myself, beyond about the first 15 seconds of the YouTube recording listed below.
The Wikipedia article on the album includes the text of William Shatner’s explanation for doing this one-man show on stage.
If I were good, it would be the actor’s dream– but if it failed I would be alone. Alone up there with thousands of eyes peering at me — opera glasses raised for a closer look, and the unasked but heavily felt question “what’s he going to do?”
All this was going through my head as I learned the lines — all this was in front of my eyes as I lay down at night — and when the day came that I was to open at Texas A&M University I was filled with fear.
A very primitive fear — the fear of the actor. The nightmare that all actors have from time to time is appearing naked in front of an audience — not knowing the lines, not knowing the play — I was living the dream.
Thirty-five hundred people awaited me expectantly; the buzz of their voices reached me backstage, the lights dimmed, the M.C. announced my name and I walked out. The spotlight hit me like a physical force and I was on — oh muse, be with me know — I took a breath & started to speak…
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jonathan Edelstein.]