Almost two years after I announced I was writing it, my chapter in Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling is now out with Rowman & Littlefield (EU) / Lexington Books (USA)!
My chapter, ‘Do the Monster Mash: Universal’s “Classic Monsters” and the Industrialization of the Gothic Transmedia Franchise’, takes the Universal Monsters as a prime case of early Gothic transmedia and mashup, as well as highlighting the importance of unoriginality to Gothic storytelling more broadly.
At long last my first book, Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture, is available in paperback from Bloomsbury!
The bestselling genre of Frankenfiction sees classic literature turned into commercial narratives invaded by zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other fantastical monsters. Too engaged with tradition for some and not traditional enough for others, these ‘monster mashups’ are often criticized as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture. These hybrid creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation.
Featuring 23 black-and-white illustrations, this book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. Taking a multimedia approach, case studies range from novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, to television programmes such as Penny Dreadful, to popular visual artworks like Kevin J. Weir’s Flux Machine GIFs. In Gothic Remixed, I use these monstrous works to show how the thrill of transgression has been contained within safe and familiar formats, resulting in the mashups that dominate Western popular culture.
This year, a huge collection of literary and artistic works will make their way into the US public domain. Interestingly, this is only the second time this has happened automatically since 1978, when the 1976 Copyright Act came into effect (the first time was January 2020). Garin Pirina at Mental Floss explains how this happened:
Sonny Bono—who was not only half of Sonny and Cher but also the mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988 to 1992 and a California congressman—is one person who is responsible The Great Gatsby‘s public domain delay. In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extends the Copyright Act of 1976. The latter established that works like The Great Gatsby would become public domain 75 years after the date of publication. But the 1998 act extended the publication date for certain works—namely: those published with a copyright notice and with copyright renewed—20 more years, giving The Great Gatsby a total of 95 years copyright protection. (The bill was named for Bono when the law passed the House of Representatives shortly after his death in 1998.)
On 1 January 2021 then, 95 years after its publication, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) will be released into the public domain. This also means that F. Scott Fitzgerald and S. A. Klipspringer’s The Late Gatsby (self-published by Shay K. Azoulay) will finally be eligible for publication in the USA—it is currently only available overseas, where different copyright laws prevail. First published in 2012 (three years after Quirk Books’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), The Late Gatsby flew largely under the radar. In the trend of the many literary mashups before it, The Late Gatsby combines Fitzgerald’s text with Klipspringer’s to reveal a dark secret: Jay Gatsby was a vampire.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies has just announced its Spring 2021 semester, and I’m very excited to be part of the lineup, talking about monster mash! The Miskatonic Institute has been running for over ten years, and features regular talks and events with horror scholars and creators. In their words, Miskatonic are “an international organization that offers undergraduate-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses. The Miskatonic is a largely volunteer-run endeavour through which established horror writers, directors, scholars and programmers/curators celebrate horror history and culture with a unique blend of enthusiasm and critical perspective.”
Over the past year I’ve been slowly working on a chapter for a new edited collection, Gothic Mash-Ups: Hybridity, Appropriation, and Intertextuality in Gothic Storytelling, and I’m pleased to announce that both chapter and book are now finally confirmed! Adapted from the CfP:
Under contract with Lexington Books’ Horror Studies series, Gothic Mash-Ups will theorize and trace the way that producers of gothic fiction – from the 18th century to today – appropriate, combine, and reimagine elements from earlier texts and genres. In particular, it will include essays about individual texts (or groups of texts) that bring together characters and storylines from two or more prior gothic narratives or cross gothic storylines with other kinds of stories. From Walpole’s early generic hodgepodge and Universal Pictures’ monster film crossovers to such contemporary “Frankenfictions” (De Bruin-Molé) as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Penny Dreadful, this collection will examine the fundamental hybridity of the gothic as a genre.
My contribution to the collection will be (tentatively) ‘The Franchise That Just Won’t Die: Universal Studios and the Industrialization of the Cinematic Monster Mash-up (1931-2020)’, and will look at the use of mashup as a branding and trademarking tactic in early Hollywood.
The remix, the mashup, and the reboot have come to dominate Western popular culture. These texts are the ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a safe and familiar format. And like other popular texts before them, they are often read by critics as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture.
With this context in mind, my research explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix culture and its Others (adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, postmodernism). It often does so by examining remix culture’s most ‘monstrous’ and liminal texts: Frankenfictions, or commercial narratives that insert fantastical monsters into classic literature and popular historical contexts. In this definition, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein serves as a touchstone, offering an ideal metaphor for appropriative creativity in the twenty-first century.
Frankenfiction includes direct appropriations of classic literature, like the bestselling Quirk Classics novels, but also literary-historical dramas like the Sky/Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful(2014–2016), the depiction of monsters through an historical aesthetic in Travis Louie’s photorealistic paintings, and much, much more. It is monstrous not only because of the fantastical monsters it contains, but because of its position on the boundary between remix and more established modes of appropriation. Too engaged with tradition for some, and not traditional enough for others, Frankenfiction is a bestselling genre that nevertheless remains peripheral to critical discussions of remix.