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.
I’ve been involved in so many online activities since the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 that I’ve lost count. There have been supervisions and meetings and hangouts, trainings and gaming sessions and seminars. Screenings, symposia, and workshops. And of course teaching.
There have also been conferences, continuing unabated across a huge variety of formats and platforms. Tomorrow I’ll be logging into Blackboard Collaborate to attend the 2nd International e-Conference on Translation, which has a focus on linguistic minorities and will have both live and prerecorded presentations. Last week I took part in the CHEP Learning and Teaching Festival (of a similar format) and the Intermedial Eighteenth Century conference, which was mostly asynchronous on forums and Vimeo. Before that came the Pratchett Project and the London Science Fiction Research Community, all synchronous on Blackboard Collaborate (but with some sessions recorded for posterity). And way back in June I presented at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies, where all talks were prerecorded, and delegates got together on the day for discussion and questions via Zoom.
I’m also a (guilty?) contributor to this surfeit of stuff online, organising a Mobilities symposium on MS Teams over the summer. This November I’m hoping to coordinate a series of online events for the UK’s annual Being Human festival.
Online conferences were already a hot topic of conversation in academia. We’ve begun to seriously consider the environmental impact of international conferences, not to mention the fact that such events are increasingly a privilege reserved for those with a stable income and institutional travel budgets. But COVID-19 has shifted these conversations into high gear. I guess the question on most people’s minds is whether the virtual realm is the future of conferencing. And if so, what works best?
The following is a call for presenters at the Romance, Revolution and Reform journal’s Virtual Conference, 13th January 2021. Please do consider submitting an abstract! You can visit their website for more information.
The Long Nineteenth Century saw immense changes in transport, travel, infrastructure, technology, exploration, journalism, and politics that dramatically transformed the ways in which places and people around the world were connected. Steam trains and telegraph cables, photography and newspapers made the world a smaller, more connected place for some, and alienated others. Yet these technological advancements, and the transnational networks they facilitated, are often viewed from a Euro-centric perspective.
Designed by Winchester School of Art PhD researchers Lesia Tkacz and Noriko Suzuki-Bosco, the Lockdown Larder began as ‘a fun, casual, and collective project for us all to share and document a snapshot of our lives during lockdown’. Contributors were invited ‘to respond or comment to the new situation we find ourselves in through the food that we eat, repeat, long for, make do with, find comfort in, speculate about, or have come to loathe’.
Now, over a dozen recipes have been assembled into a PDF cookbook, available here.
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.