Scandalous Gothic Classics for Halloween

Hello lovely humans. It’s late October which means Halloween which means it’s time to read some spooky spine-tingling scary stories.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GEzLKNdrmM8

Did you know that the spooky has also been tied up, shall we say, with the sexy for oh so many years. So today prepare your loins to be aquiver as I tell you of some shocking gothic classics from the 18th and 19th centuries. Beware my children these stories contain vampires, and ghosts, and monsters – oh my.

anticipation


 

The Monk by Matthew LewisFirst off is The Monk: A Memoir by Matthew Lewis. Not the most promising naughty title I’ll grant you but this little ditty from 1796 is amazeballs. Lewis was 19 when he wrote it and well it’s like a 19 year old’s dirty movie of ridiculous gothic silliness and death. It was scandalous when it came out. Mostly because fornicating nuns. Seriously.
Everyone has fantastic tragic backstories, there are secret pregnancies, mysteries prophecies, everyone is shagging everyone else, and everyone and everything is awful. Somehow it all makes sense at the time like the most insane soap opera populated by nuns and the cast of The Borgias. Yeaaaaaas. You will love it.


 

Carmilla by J Sheridan Le FanuAnd then comes Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu. Who just has the best name. It’s from the 1870s and it’s about a young beautiful girl called Carmilla who because of dramatic circumstances comes to stay at the secluded house of an English gentleman and his pretty innocent daughter Laura.

Laura and Carmilla become desperately, passionately just good friends. And then Laura starts having the strangest dreams and Carmilla really does have palest skin, and the reddest lips. And what could possibly be going on?

Plus the it’s really short, available to read for free online, and the YouTube adaptation that came out last year is simply marvellous.


 

The Great God Pan by Arthur MachenAnd to, erm, finish us off may I suggest The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen from 1897. Machen isn’t hugely well known but he’s incredibly influential in the horror genre. he was one of the biggest inspirations for H.P. Lovecraft’s whole schtick, and Stephen King is huge fan.

It tells of weird science done on a dark dark night where an old god is called down onto the body of an innocent(ish) woman who nine months later gives birth to a girl. And then the horror begins as a beautiful girl grows up and tempts and corrupts and terrifies those around her.

I mean, a woman who likes sex?! How can such a monstrous creature be defeated? Read this book to find out.


And there you have it. A few suggestions for a shiveringly good time this Halloween. What are you going to be reading on that dark dark night? I know what my plans are!

EJ at home

My glamorous life: watching youtube, eating crisps!

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Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon | TBR

Hello lovely humans! In today’s video I’m talking about the things I’m aiming to read this weekend as part of Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon.

If you’d rather read a text version then skip below the video and get started.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GQFSEEp1QXo 


 

About Dewey’s Readathon

According to the official readathon website: “for 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Tumblrs, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It was created by the beloved Dewey (her blog has since been taken down, so the link won’t work). The first one was held in October 2007. Dewey died in late 2008. We’re still saddened by her absence, but the show must go on. The read-a-thon was renamed to honor its founder in 2009.”


 

The readathon is always great fun with lots of youtubers and bloggers joining in and chatting about what they’re reading.

For the eighteen month’s I’ve always ended up not joining in with any of the various readathons and challenges that have happened on YouTube because I’m always busy with something (essays, work, etc). And this weekend is no different to be honest (I’m in the process of writing up a dissertation chapter) but I just realised that if no time is ever good then I’m just going to join in anyway!

To make it a little easier on myself I’m going to be reading a TBR made up of entirely short fiction! The hope is to read 24 short stories over 24 hours. Which, to be honest, is fairly ambitious but I figure it’s worth a go!

I’ll be picking and choosing stories from a few different books and websites depending on what takes my fancy over the day. So here are some of my picks:


 

Accessing the FutureAccessing the Future by Kathryn Allen & Djibril Al-Ayad 

A collection of speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. From space pirates to battle robots every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity.

Get it from Book Depository: http://goo.gl/yr9Vuw 


 

 

Book Smugglers

Book Smugglers Publishing

Book Smugglers have now released two collections of short fiction under the themes of First Contact & Fairytales Reimagined. I’ve read a few of them but now is the ideal time to catch up with the ones that I’ve missed!

Find them at: http://booksmugglerspub.com/ 


 

Uncanny Magazine 

Uncanny Magazine

Uncanny Magazine has been a favourite of mine since it started last year. I reviewed both Issue 1 and Issue 2 on the blog (sneaky preview: I LOVED them) but I’ve been falling behind on recent issues. Now seems that right time to catch up with some of their great authors.

Read Uncanny here: http://uncannymagazine.com/


 

I’ll also probably check out a few stories from both Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons – both consistently publish amazing short stories that I love.

strange horizons Clarkesworld


 

If you have any suggestions for other great sources of short fiction then do let me know. And let me know if you’re joining in with the readathon – what’s your TBR for the weekend?

Author Spotlight | Isaac Asimov

Hello lovely humans! Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the books of one particular author – this week I’ll be focusing on Isaac Asimov. So I’ll give a bit of an outline of his life and then tell you about my favourite books by him.

If you’d rather read a text version then skip below the video and get started.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/nlTUQYX8Pb4 


Isaac AsimovIsaac Asimov, for anyone who hasn’t heard of him, is probably one of science fiction’s best known authors. He was incredibly prolific, writing, editing or contributing to over 500 books in his 72 years. Seriously, just check out his wikipedia bibliography pages! It’s kind of scary!

But there’s no need to be scared! Lots of Asimov’s works are very accessible and readable even to those who aren’t familiar with science fiction. He was one of the first science fiction authors I read as a kid and I was hooked immediately.

He was born in 1920 in Russia to a Jewish family though he himself was a renowned humanist throughout most his life. His family immigrated to America in 1923 and as a kid he read and loved the pulp fiction magazines that were super popular at the time and began writing his own stories at a really young age. He published his first short story at 19 and basically never stopped after that point! He also studied biochemistry at Columbia and went on to become a professor at Boston University. So he was a real deal scientist. He wrote a lot of popular science books as well as fiction.


 

So now onto my favourite works of his Like I said before Asimov was one of the first science fiction writers I read as it was the Foundation series that I picked up.

Foundation by Isaac AsimovThe first book, Foundation, begins in the centre of a vast galactic empire where a genius mathematician called Hari Seldon uses incredibly complex statistics and things to predict the future of humanity. He says that the empire is going to crumble and when it does it will bring a sort intellectual dark ages as planets are cut off from learning and knowledge. He persuades the empire to establish two colonies of humans at the far flung edges of the galaxy who will work to preserve the knowledge of civilisation and reduce the period of the dark age to a little as possible.

Of course it turns out to be far more complicated and devious than that and we get to watch the Foundation planet fight to survive the turbulent political upheavals of the following decades. It’s fascinating and fun and there’s spaceships and cunning plots and clever people winning the day.


I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation series is still beloved amongst many science fiction fans though it hasn’t got the popular cultural impact of my other favourite the Robot stories.

 

I, Robot, the most famous of these, is a collection of some of the many Robot short stories that together tell the tale of a fictional history of robotics and how robots and humans have interacted. It deals with ideas of morality and intelligence and how we interact with non-human entities. A fair few focus on how we as humans can understand what robots think or how they think and he invented the term robotics (not robot, that came earlier) and set out the Three Laws of Robotics that are still familiar to us today.


 

The End of Eternity by Isaac AsimovAnother of his books that I think is totally great is The End of Eternity. In this Asimov deals with the concept of time travel. The protagonist Harlan is time-engineer who works in a place called The Eternity. It’s separated from the rest of time and the people who work there move up and down the timeline to adjust what happens at different points to try and minimise human suffering over all history. The problem is that Harlan falls in love with a woman from a particular time period and takes her out of it. It turns out that she’s not really what she pretends to be and that the entire process of adjusting time to reduce suffering is not a beneficial or benevolent as the Eternity engineers have been led to believe.


 

Now I can’t be totally positive about Asimov – he had his flaws just like all of us. The main issue is his treatment of women in his books. In some they are lacking completely and in other they are portrayed as crappy dated stereotypes. He did get better as he got older and this treatment of female characters was fairly par for the course for a lot of sci-fi written at the time but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point it out. It also doesn’t make his books totally bad. It is perfectly possible to love something and find it problematic at the same time.

And I do love his writing. There’s a common theme in most of Asimov’s books which is the importance of knowledge and wisdom but also of the potential perils of cleverness and information without emotion and morality. He’s held up for his hard science fiction based in his real knowledge of science but actually what I always find makes me love his work is his exploration of how science interacts with these more human qualities. Family, love, compassion, understanding, thinking beyond our own achievements toward the betterment of society and future generations. Asimov balances these two areas and brings them together to make really readable fiction.

Thanks for reading!