From Outbreak to The Walking Dead, apocalyptic narratives of infection, contagion and global pandemic are an inescapable part of twenty-first-century popular culture. Yet these fears and fantasies are too virulent to be simply quarantined within fictional texts. The vocabulary and metaphors of outbreak narratives have permeated how news media, policymakers and the general public view the real world and the people within it. In an age where fact and fiction seem increasingly difficult to separate, contagious bodies (and the discourses that contain them) continually blur established boundaries between real and unreal, legitimacy and frivolity, science and the supernatural. Where previous scholarly work has examined the spread of epidemic realities in horror fiction, the essays in this collection also consider how epidemic fantasies and fears influence reality. Initiating dialogue between scholarship from cultural and media studies, and scholarship from the medical humanities and social sciences, this collection gives readers a fuller picture of the viropolitics of contagious bodies in contemporary global culture.
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.
The University of Southampton has just launched a new series of Ask The Expert videos, called ‘Tea Talks’. These 20-to-30-minute videos feature Belinda Milestone, Teaching Fellow in the university’s Academic Centre for International Studies, as she interviews staff from WSA about their lives, careers, teaching, areas of specialism—and, of course, favourite cups of tea.
In the most recent episode I talk to Belinda about remix, monsters, and the posthuman over a cup of Chinese white tea:
You can watch the entire first season (six interviews) on YouTube. It includes discussions about festivals, advertising, luxury, fashion and sustainability, and more. Season two will hopefully be on the way very soon.
A few weeks ago I posted about the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies spring 2021 lineup of classes. This week I’m excited to share more information about my own contribution to this series. Join me and Miskatonic London on Zoom, 13 April (7pm UK time, tickets £8) to talk about remix and appropriative horror, from magic lantern to monster mash to meme. At the event we’ll also be celebrating the paperback launch of Gothic Remixed.
Happy New Year in advance!
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.”
Are you a fan of podcasts, or popular fiction? If so, you might enjoy this 30-minute episode of Words to That Effect I contributed to, on ‘Mashups, Remixes, and Frankenfiction’. Come for the opening remix, stay for the zombies—teaser below:
In one sense, all culture is a remix, nothing exists in a vacuum. On the other hand, some people may take a dim view of lifting almost the entire text of Pride & Prejudice and republishing it with additional zombie action. Which is where Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling 2009 classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, comes in.
In this episode I talk to Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé about mashup novels, or what she calls ‘Frankenfiction’: commercial fiction that takes out of copyright texts from the 18th and 19th centuries, and reworks them into something new. We chat about everything from the best (and worst) Frankenfictions, to the history of the mashup, to the power of adaptation and remix to subvert and parody the great works of literature and our own contemporary culture.
I’ve been sitting on this review of Leila Taylor’s Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul for almost a year. It’s not difficult to summarise my feelings—Darkly is a brilliant book. I’ve mainly been unsure how to do it proper justice. Darkly is everything I love about the Gothic as a mode: it contains multitudes. As Taylor writes, ‘Goth alone is too big, too broad’ (20) to capture, and likewise ‘Black contains multitudes…literally. As a pigment it is all colors at once, but black is also the complete absence of all light. Black is […]everything and nothing at the same time’ (83). There are many ways to be a Goth, and to be a Black Goth.
Back in May I wrote that I was working on the final manuscript for an edited collection called Embodying Contagion, co-edited with Sandra Becker and Sara Polak. Now, I am excited to announce that the collection is available for preorder with University of Wales Press, and will be coming to a bookstore or library near you in April 2021. The book will be released in paperback (retailing at £45), but most importantly it will also be coming out in Open Access, thanks to a generous grant from the Dutch NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities.