Thursday, October 27, 2016

Historical Inspiration for Liches

Need some inspiration for the villainous Big Bad Lich of your campaign setting?

Let these two historical lists guide the way:

List of sexually active popes

List of occultists

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ghost Souls

Proposed: Ghouls n Ghosts is actually a Dark Souls prequel. Discuss.

And while we're on the topic, check out Wisecrack's "The Philosophy of Dark Souls"; it made a lot of Souls fans angry, so you know it's good:

And if you want to catch up on the lore of Dark Souls, check out EpicNameBro's playlist.

Or VaatiVidya's Youtube channel, which is chock full of awesome Dark Souls content.

Finally, here's the Ashes of Ariandel trailer:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Night Gallery: More Krevborna Influences

A Knight of Lilith
The Knights of Lilith are sent forth from dreaded Lamashtu by Countress Alcesta to find a consort who will quicken her with the foretold Child of Blood. The Polnezna believed that the birth of the Child of Blood will complete an ancient prophecy and transform Alcesta von Karlok into the Mother of Evil.

The Grail Tombs
Labyrinthine catacombs located beneath the earth, the Grail Tombs are the uncanny remnants of the eldritch Lamian civilization. The Church sends cunning agents into the depths of the Grail Tombs in search of something they seek it to safeguard it or to use it for their own ends? 

The lonely mansion of the Sellvek family
In recent years, it has been whispered and wondered whether some horrible curse has fallen on this once noble house. The younger members of the family line are snuffed like candles that gutter on the wind. The House of Sellvek teeters on the brink of an unfathomable tarn.

A northern church devoted to the Saintly Blood
Even in the far reaches of Krevborna, the Church practices rites that involve blood drinking or blood baptism. Since motifs involving the imbibing of blood appear throughout the Grail Tombs, one must wonder what the Church of Saintly Blood has inherited from the Lamian civilization that predates the rise of man.

Making a pact with a fiend
The deep woods, and other wild places, are greatly feared as places where fiends lay their temptations bare, ensnaring those who hunger for power with promises of occult knowledge and fell witchery. One hardly dare speak of how such pacts are sealed, but the making of a pact always leaves a tell-tale mark upon the unholy supplicant.

Monday, October 24, 2016

My Sweet Audrina

The potboiler Gothics of V.C. Andrews were beloved by adult women... and their tween daughters. Both Jack and Kate are new to the author's infamous tales of female woe, and they discuss what it's like to read her work for the first time during this discussion of Andrews' 1982 novel My Sweet Audrina. This claustrophobic tale of a girl raised with family secrets in the shadow of her dead sister proves to be a surprisingly traumatic experience for Kate who is forced to confront some of her darkest fears, including the horrors of inheriting someone else's kids.

Here to read an especially sensational passage from the book is Wendy Mays, hostess of Pet Cinematary, the podcast dedicated to taking a deeper look at the role of animals in film. This is her first time reading the work of V.C. Andrews as well, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than your hosts imagined to find a woman unfamiliar with these macabre little novels.

How does the domestic nightmare world of My Sweet Audrina effect your hosts? Did V.C. Andrews' life experiences add to the intensity of her stories? What were your hosts reading as tweens? Why did tween girls love these depressing forays into mental illness and isolation so much? Find out all this and more on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Listen to the podcast here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Wake

The King is Dead! Long Live the King! The death of Morpheus is, ultimately, a costume change as Daniel Hall assumes the mantle (and dialog font) of the departed Dream.

Having, at this point in its run, amassed an ensemble cast of characters, it's time for the curtain call and final bows. Among the break-out stars are Nuala, Rob Gadling, Lyta Hall, Rose Walker, et al. Everybody really. Even you.

And so it's Whatever Happened to King of Dreams, before that style of wake became a thing--a precursor to the notion of a wake as a celebration not of life but rather as a celebration of the surrounding mythology. Goodnight Dreaming, Goodnight Matthew the raven, Goodnight, Goodbye, Goodnight.

Having exhausted mythic Greek tragedy, the final act had to bend the knee to Shakespeare--covering both ends of how a British man forges the links between his epic and what we might think of as The Epics. Of course, the Shakespearean reference in the denouement has to be to The Tempest; if you fancy that you've written something lasting, you must also fancy yourself to be a (if not the) Prospero. You don't go into this business if you haven't enslaved Ariel only to set him free, if you aren't a bit afraid that Caliban is your reflection in the glass, and if you don't have a deep and abiding need to set things to right and be seen as the real hero for doing so.

Also, you want the privilege of being the one to tidy things up in the end, I reckon. Sometimes that cleaning of one's own doll house means killing off your protagonist, your proxy, your shadow-self in the shadow box you built with your own two hands.

Death is not the end, we're told. And it isn't. It's exile from life and from dreams. But never an exile from stories, no, never that. For that is the kingdom and key, even after you have abjured your rough magic, broken your staff, and drowned your book.

Stories end, and go on.

* * *

Previous installments in this series:

Preludes and Nocturnes
The Doll's House
Dream Country
Season of Mists (part 1)
Season of Mists (part 2)
A Game of You (part 1)
A Game of You (part 2)
Fables and Recollections
Brief Lives
Worlds' End
The Kindly Ones

Friday, October 21, 2016

Morbid Fantasies

Morbid Fantasies, a book I wrote about Gothic literature, is now available to purchase directly from Heretical Sexts.

Here's the ad copy for the book: Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader's guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new over the ever-changing face of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It's a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.

This is what I want you to know about the book: I can honestly say that this is the publication that means the most to me. The ideas in Morbid Fantasies came directly from me researching and teaching Gothic literature for over ten years. And yet, this isn't an academic book; Morbid Fantasies is a book for anyone with an interest in Gothic fiction. My aim was to give the casual reader a primer on the Gothic's history, an idea of what to look for as you read, and a road map to what to read as you venture into the literature. Gothic novels were written to be enjoyed by people who read for pleasure, who want to experience wonderment and fright, and I want to help you find the enjoyment, wonderment, and fright I've experienced while reading these books.

This is what I want you to know about the artists who illustrated the book: the women who lent their talents to this project have taken my words and elevated them into something resplendent and fine. I was a fan of each artist who contributed to the book long before they were approached about working on Morbid Fantasies; each of them is ridiculously talented, and I am humbled that they deigned to gild my book with their art. Becky, Carisa, Dana, Kate--thank you.

This is what I want you to know about the publisher: Kate is a stalwart friend, and the best collaborator I could ever hope for. Not only do we have a reciprocal appreciation for the other's talents, we like to inspire each other to run with our ideas to see where they lead. Morbid Fantasies wouldn't exist if Kate didn't say "I want to publish that" when I mentioned the notion of writing a reader's guide to the Gothic. More than anyone else involved in the book, Kate kept the fires burning and the target in sight. And since Kate hand-assembled each book, the accolades for the book's aesthetic value are hers to collect. Kate--well, you already know how dear you are to me.

The hardcover version of Morbid Fantasies has already sold out. The softcover remains available, but only in strictly limited quantities. It's only available here, at the Heretical Sexts shop. And if you want to add any of the other 'zines for sale from Heretical Sexts, you won't be sorry.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Many Crimes of John La Tier's The Tell-Tale Heart

Hold me closer, tiny lantern
  • Okay, why are some rooms inexplicably smokey in the background? Are they covering up unfinished sets with a fog machine? Or is the police station on fire?
  • I'm pretty sure "Carve me a chess set" is not an approved psychiatric treatment.
  • In a reversal of the Gothic trope of a woman exploring an old house by the light of a flickering candelabra, our protagonist is exploring with the world's tiniest lantern. He's also using the lantern in a hallway that is already remarkably well lit.
  • "I'm pretty sure this used to be a ballroom," Rose McGowan says, leading the protagonist...outside the house to a porch.
  • The white flakes falling around them during this sex scene makes it seem like they are trapped in an erotic snow globe.
  • "You've carved all the pieces for the chess set, but they still need to be stained," he says, looking at a chess set that already has two differently-colored sets of pieces that they are currently and successfully playing a game of chess with.
  • "Sorry to disturb you so late," the cop says in front of a window through which seems to stream daylight. I guess the lights on the porch could be hella bright or something.
  • Better movies this movie appears to be alluding to: Seven, Audition, Marathon Man, every film noir ever.
  • Someone read Poe's story and thought, "You know what this needs? A plot line about PTSD." Poe's story about perverse and murderous impulses is now a statement about the under-funding of VA hospitals. Send help.
  • This movie is clearly a labor of love--it took a series of failed and semi-successful crowd-funding efforts to get it made--so I really don't want to slam it too hard, but woof this not a good movie.