Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Off Kilter TV: Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head on Family Television

(Here we discuss TV shows that do not fit the mold of the themes and topics usually associated with a particular series; that off kilter story that questions darker subjects within the framework of family television).

Now onto our episode for today: The Andy Griffith Show: Mr. McBeevee (1962)

The Andy Griffith Show

Season Three, Episode One (1962).
Episode: Mr. McBeevee.
Director: Bob Sweeney

Discussed by Anthony Servante

Fans of The Andy Griffith Show are familiar with the characters Andy, the sheriff of the small town of Mayberry, Barney Fife, the loveable but awkward pseudo-intellectual and aesthete, Aunt Bee, the mother figure, and Opie, Andy’s young son. We, as I am one of the show’s biggest fans, are also acquainted with the themes often addressed on the series: Friendship, bravery, trust, family, and honesty, family friendly subjects that can be addressed with humor and compassion. Our episode for discussion is Mr. McBeevee (1962), where the theme of existential truth pits fact against faith. We shall explain.

Let’s summarize the episode first.

SPOILERS!!!                                      SPOILERS!!!                                      SPOILERS!!!

If you haven’t seen the episode before and would like to watch it first before reading further, scroll down to find the video. However, if you prefer to read the piece first and watch the show later, then read on.

Opie & McBeevee 

Opie’s new friend whom he meets in the woods dresses in a shiny hat, a tool-belt that jingles, and climbs on the treetops; that's because he's a phone line repairman. Andy and Barney believe that the person known as Mr McBeevee is a figment of the boy’s imagination, so when Opie begins coming home with gifts from McBeevee (a hatchet and a quarter--a huge amount of money for a boy of this year), Andy decides to “spank” his son if he does not admit to McBeevee’s nonexistence. Opie refuses reluctantly, knowing he’d be lying if he denied his forest friend’s existence. Andy takes a leap of faith in his son’s belief although he still does not accept the jingling man as real. He faith is rewarded as he runs into the telephone wire repair man and realizes that Opie was telling the truth all along.

From the beginning of this episode, the “truth” is fodder for a game of the imagination. Both Andy and Opie pretend to have a horse. Barney asks to see the horse and later realizes that it does not exist. At their office, the sheriff and his deputy discuss the dangers inherent when playing with the truth. Andy apologizes for misleading his deputy on the matter of the pony.

Opie enters the courthouse and mentions his friend McBeevee for the first time. With the imaginary horse incident only a day old, both Andy and Barney believe that Opie is making up the man in the woods. He sees his son as a liar and a thief and plans to spank the boy for a crime he didn’t commit.

The truth up to this point is subject to the whims of Andy’s humor with Barney and his humoring Opie by going along with the imaginary horse. For the first time, the usually savvy Andy seems uninformed and lost when the truth is right in front of him. What he found funny with his joke on Barney (that it is okay to stretch the truth) has now come back to punish him.

Opie is sent to his room to await his spanking. Andy gives him one last shot to avoid the beating (yes, beating, because that’s what it is), and that is for Opie to admit that Mr. McBeevee doesn’t exist. Opie cannot lie and faces his punishment, but not before asking, “Don’t you believe me Pa?” After a moment of clarity, Andy says he does believe his son, though he clearly does not.

Andy asks Opie to deny Mr McBeevee's existence

So what happened here? We should take a moment to distinguish reason from revelation. Reason works from evidence and empirical data, mental processes as well as emotional (instinct, for instance) to gather the “truth”; revelation gathers the truth by supernatural faith, factless belief.

Barney exemplifies the former by believing in Mr. McBeevee and even questions Opie for evidence of the jingle man’s existence, but the boy’s outlandish descriptions of the phone wire repairman (he has 12 hands, for example) soon has Barney backpedaling from his data gathering investigation. In a second, Opie is found guilty. Andy exemplifies the later; he gathers evidence from “things unseen”. Andy chooses to believe that the impossible is possible because his son accepts it, and father accepts son, the tangible, as a truth-teller and chooses not to punish the boy, as opposed to accepting that his son is a liar and punishing Opie.

Opie looks up to McBeevee

Andy summarizes his leap of faith, There comes a time “when you’re asked to believe something that just don’t seem possible; that’s the moment that decides whether you got faith in somebody or not.”

When Andy returns to the woods to contemplate the mystery of his faith, he murmurs aloud, “Mr. McBeevee, who climbs down from the tree with his jingly belt and shiny hat. It may as well have been a real fairy who materialized. Andy realizes, through empirical proof, that the phone man is a fact. But his leap of faith kept him from making the mistake of punishing his son because he believed in the unbelievable. Even if it were true.

Ironically, Barney does not believe that Andy met McBeevee and calls the doctor to examine the sheriff. Andy teases Barney as he did at the beginning of the episode. Even though the truth won out in this episode, there were dark themes at work. Imagine that Andy had punished Opie. The truth for both of them would have been gone. The dynamics of the father/son bond would have crumbled. 

Barney makes the call.

Similarly, Andy's relationship with his deputy, based on humor, (even as Andy is relieved to find the real Mr. McBeevee), reverts to his playful ways with the facts and fragile beliefs of his deputy, the naive Barney, teasing him about having dinner with the phone linesman while the deputy sincerely believes that the sheriff may be suffering a break-down. But Andy’s invitation to Barney to join the phone repair man and the Taylor family for dinner that evening is sincere. With the horse at the beginning of the episode, the joke led Barney to a lie, whereas, at the end of the show, Andy’s jest on Barney will lead him to the truth about Mr. McBeevee. 

Andy has learned to play with the truth while leaning toward fact and discovery. By denying his own dark thoughts about beating Opie for lying, he discovered that the truth can be found in ridiculous circumstances or absurdities. We all must face Mr. McBeevee at one time or another in life . All it takes is a leap of faith over darkness.

Scene where Andy takes a leap of faith. Click the link below to watch. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators: Tortured Soul (2013)
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

In 2005, Nicole Willis joined the Soul Investigators for the Keep Reachin’ Up CD. This collaboration was followed by a series of live shows, critical and popular response, and led to their new CD Tortured Soul (2013). 

A throw-back to the Motown sound of the 60s, Tortured Soul boasts a horn section that is part funk and part Count Basie. The Hammond organ common to the songs here also exemplifies the 60s Rock sound often associated with bands like Procol Harum. The guitar work is sassy and concludes most of the tracks with just the right amount of free-style—although I felt the guitar solos should have been freed up and let loose, fading out rather than ending abruptly, but I’m a critic, not a producer.

Still, I enjoyed the totality of the LP enough to recommend it. I’ve included a few of my favorite songs that I found on youtube. Enjoy.

 It’s all because of you.

 Light years ahead

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bridget Wishart Interview: The First Lady of Psychedelic Rock
Conducted by Anthony Servante

I’d like to welcome Bridget Wishart to the Darkness for a discussion on music and performance art. But first, let’s meet this artistic talent:

Bridget Wishart; Singer/Songwriter

Bridget Wishart might be best known for the many talents which she brought to legendary space rockers Hawkwind during her tenure with the band in the early 1990s, providing her vocals, poetry, mime and dance, and playing a major part in rejuvenating their sound and vision for a whole new generation of fans, but that’s only a small part of her story.

When Bridget joined the Hawks, she was already well-known to the free festival crowds as having been the singer for The Demented Stoats and, mostly notably, with the all-girl punksters The Hippy Slags. Although those alliances were, sadly, never committed to vinyl, her time in Hawkwind (for which she left her job teaching ceramics at Bath’s Prior Park College) delivered up albums such as Space Bandits and Palace Springs, an appearance on the television music show Bedrock and a number of DVD releases. The epic magnum opus, ‘Images’, which she co-wrote and provided lead vocals on, is still a live favourite for the Hawkwind faithful, whilst her evocative vocals on the Native American-influenced ‘Black Elk Speaks’ is a high-point in 90s Hawkwind output.

Leaving Hawkwind in 1991, she moved on to contribute dance and choreography with Techno Pagan and then in 1995, along with Tim Carroll, formed the UV design company, Temple Decor, who, amongst their credits, provided backdrops for the WOMAD festival.

Having left the music scene in 1997, little was heard from Bridget until she was, thankfully, lured out of musical retirement in 2003 by American composer/musician Don Falcone. Since then, she’s worked with Don and his space rock collective, Spirits Burning, on two full-length CDs, Earth Born and Bloodlines (both released by Gonzo Records). Their third CD Make Believe It Real is due for completion in 2013. She has recorded for many other bands, including Astralfish (Far Corners) Mooch, Space seed, Omenopus (Portents ,Time Flies, The Plague), Hola One (Moments) and Djinn, with Alan Davey (Last Wish).

She is co-author, alongside Ian Abrahams, of the long awaited book, Festivalized, which recounts the rise and fall of the free festival scene as told by those who were there.

Bridget’s latest live project is Chumley Warner Bros, which consists of Bridget on vocals and EWI, alongside Martin Plumley on guitar and vocals. They describe themselves as having a ‘semi-acoustic fireside sound’, harkening back to the festivals campfires of yesteryear. Catch them where you can!

The Interview

Anthony: Thank you for joining us today, Bridget.
Bridget: My pleasure J thanks for the invite.

Anthony: What influences led you as a child to follow a career in music and performance art?
Bridget: I loved art, acting, singing, choral speaking, playing recorder and clowning as a child. As I grew older I was torn between acting and art but decided to follow art. When I went to Art College I was lucky to be accepted by Newport Art College (Gwent College of Higher Education) Roy Ascot was running a new course entitled The Gentle Touch (Hah! a more inaccurate title I have yet to come across J ) Unlike most art courses there were no barriers between media, if you wanted to paint with mud in a home made swimming pool on top of a mountain you could, if you wanted to make cardboard replica tanks you could, if you fancied hanging upside down in a cocoon on the ceiling to a sound track of  vocal cries you could, if you wanted run your own project you could, the stranger and more weird the better…in that environment you sank or swam…I bubbled under for a bit but ended up flying…hmmm, well, hanging from a ceiling. J

Anthony: What defines “performance art” for you?
Bridget: Performance Art first and foremost is art using your body and anything it can do. All else, like soundtracks, smells, installations, images, machines and lighting might be an integral part of the show but is extra.  Performance Art, when you see it, happens ‘Now’, it’s art in creation, communication, in front of your eyes, it’s personal, it’s never the same, no one ever sees or experiences it from the same view point… You can’t bottle it or sell it. Some performance artists are pretentious oiks and just want to be weird (IMHO!); others like Richard Lazell are genuine people, talented artists, presenting life and all its parts in fresh and illuminating ways.

Anthony: Can you tell us about your career before Hawkwind?
Bridget: My first band was the Demented Stoats; we lived in a squat called Stoat Hall, we practiced in the basement, we played a mix of space rock and punk; our influences were Hawkwind and Nina Hagen. Richard Chadwick, Hawkwind’s current drummer played drums and Steve Bemand (TOSH, Timelords, Hawkwind) played bass and guitar. We played the free festivals. The band split and in 1981 I moved to Wales and went to Art College in Newport getting into video and Performance Art. When I came back to Bath I formed a band with Pete and Lol called Next Year’s Big Thing. We played festivals and gigged in the South West. I moved to Reading to do a Masters Degree and kept the band going for a while with the addition of Huw on bass and Marion on flute and keys with a succession of drummers. The band folded just before I graduated and when I returned from Tewkesbury after doing a Sculpture Fellowship at Cheltenham I had the chance to join the Hippy Slags. I had also found a great job as a sculpture tutor at Prior Park College in Bath.

Anthony: And how was it that Hawkwind was graced with your talents? Can you share some favorite experiences? I loved the costumes you wore in concert.
Bridget: The Hippy Slags were a festival band, our drummer was Richard’s girlfriend, we knew members of Hawkwind from way back. When they did the Travellers Aid Trust album they invited us to do a couple of tracks on it and to support them on a few dates on the tour. At one of the gigs they invited us to sing on a jam called Back In The Box. I was the only one who did, I continued to sing the track if we were playing the same festivals as them. Then when they recorded the track for Palace Springs they invited me to sing it. That was my first recording for Hawkwind, though it came out after Space Bandits. As I became more involved in the band and recorded songs at Rockfield: Wings, Black Elk Speaks and Images; I realized I couldn’t be a teacher and tour with Hawkwind. I chose Hawkwind. I chose and designed my costumes for the tours, working within a limited budget, but unlimited imagination J I listened to the songs, worked on dance moves that expressed the words. I learned semaphore, I wore layers of costumes for quick changes and had many accidents because I couldn’t see where the hell I was going in a mask, in the dark with the smoke and the strobes! 

Favourite experiences…Uhmmmm…not fav experiences but some unforgettable memories … I loved the American tour of winter 1990. We were in Grateful Dead’s old greyhound tour bus, it had winged horses painted on it…the bunks were small and snug, the windows opened, the driver was bonkers J the scenery was unbelievable, the crew were fantastic and the audiences were great. Lemmy came on the bus to say hi; we drove across the Rockies through the night in a blizzard with only the passenger windscreen wiper working, Harv sat there, directing the driver from one bollard to the next…the cliff edge was just on the other side of those bollards! I remember being backstage after doing the vocals for Golden Void listening to Dave play his guitar solo with tears running down my cheeks, it was so moving. When we did the European Tour the following year, it was a real mixed bag of chaos and disorder with moments of hysterical hilarity. The gold taps with dolphins and naked little boys in Rome were totally bizarre as was the parrot in Greece, I wanted to free it. The German audiences were brilliant, they clapped they cheered they shouted and stomped; it was really heart warming. The soldiers in Yugoslavia were a bit worrying and war broke out just after we left.

Anthony: “Images” and “Wings” were two of my favorite songs on the Space Bandits lp. How do you view your contribution to the music of this psychedelic mood piece?
Bridget: Images is a great song, I was lucky they were writing it when they did and that I had lyrics that fit it perfectly.J This was the first song I recorded at Rockfield, my first in a professional studio, I was nervous and the band worried me when they all sat around in the room and I thought I’d have to sing in front of them…Paul (Cobbold) chucked them out…even so I had got jittery and promptly ‘lost’ my voice after singing it through once. Luckily it returned and after a grueling five hour session we had then vocals done to Paul’s exacting standards. I remember later in the week listening back to it on the huge wall speakers in the studio…it was jaw droppingly magnificent! Recording Wings was altogether a more painless process, Paul liked the strange harmony I had selected and got Alan and me to sing both the top and bottom harmonies, when we did the song live I did the low harmony which was hard to do as my voice was quiet that far down my range.

Anthony: How has your career changed after Hawkwind?
Bridget: I felt pretty low after leaving Hawkwind, it was all a bit confusing. I formed a band with Danny Smith (guitarist from 2000DS) we called ourselves Daze, wrote a set, did a few gigs but Dan had personal issues to deal with so it didn’t go any further. I then decided to focus on getting a job and did a TEFL course. Just as I finished and got some work Klive (Farhead) invited me to be part of Techno Pagan. I became a dancer and choreographer for them. The music was hard core dance and our dance was UV and on the edge with sculptures, masks, stilts, and costumes of jellyfish, robots, androids etc. Klive and I are both quite opinionated strong headed folk and sadly we fell out so I went my way. Jumping straight into another project, that of UV Décor. I met Tim Carroll (RIP) doing a gig at a Temple Ball (rave); he was putting up some drapes that were good but I could sense how much better they could be. We formed an Ultra Violet Décor Company called Temple Décor. I designed the drapes for big scale raves and festivals, we made and painted the drapes and hung them at the venues. We made the venues look like giant psychedelic temples We worked for WOMAD, Pukkelpop, Glastonbury and many others. I became overworked, underpaid and totally stressed. In 96 I resigned and suffered a serious breakdown. After 4 months in hospital I got a job as a care worker looking after children with special needs in a respite home, after two years moving on to a home for young adults with profound special needs. At this time in my life I had nothing to do with music or art; I couldn’t bear the thought of it. Luckily I met Martin and we fell in love. In 2002 we had our daughter Hannah and the following year we got married. I was lured out of ‘musical retirement’ by Don Falcone of Spirits Burning, in around 2004, I have worked with him ever since. I also work and release music with Astralfish, Mooch, Spaceseed, Omenopus, Djinn and Hola One and have recently contributed to CD’s with Sky Burial and Melodic Energy Comission.

Plus, the latest Mooch collaboration...the ep Beltane To Samhain was released on May 1st... Download from or available from Stephen "Steve" Palmer in a handprinted cover. I haven’t stopped doing live gigs but they aren’t as easy to do with a family and a job. Martin and I form the acoustic duo, the Chumley Warner Brothers and we play a few favored festivals (e.g., Sonic Rock Solstice and Kozz Fest) plus a few  local gigs every year.

Anthony: Can’t help but notice we have a mutual friend in Dave Cousins, founder of the Strawbs. I could see you contributing to their folk rock style. What do you think?
Bridget: I’d love to. J Some of the Chumley’s music falls into this category. We do covers as well as our own material so maybe we’ll learn a Strawbs song next.

Anthony: What does Bridget Wishart have planned these days musically and artistically?
Bridget: Don and I are working on our third full length Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart CD (to follow Earth Born and Bloodlines) It’s called Make Believe It Real; it has a sci fi/fantasy theme. I’ve just designed the cover; the tracks are plentiful, varied and in addition to the usual SB crew, feature guest appearances from Nigel Mazlin Jones, Keith Tha Bass of Here & Now, Jay Tausig of Chrome, Nick May (The Enid) and Hawk family members: Alan Davey, Dan Thompson and Simon House. Release with Gonzo Records is due around autumn of this year. This release will also include a surprise CD with unheard music written by myself and Don…I shall say no more, just that you haven’t heard us do anything like this before. J
I have just this month finished a third and fuller collaboration with Marek Orgorzalek of Hola One. The EP Moments is pretty much finished and will be available for free download.
This year I have also been working with my fav spacerockin band Spaceseed. I have contributed vocals to four tracks for their next release ‘The Fraternal Order of’. Also, Chumley plans to record a CD.

I’m also very much enjoying making psychedelic bracelets for friends and family.

Anthony: What do you recommend to young artists seeking to follow in your footsteps?
Bridget: Have a website. Make some videos, get them on You Tube, have a track or two that is well recorded that you can send to promoters and have as free downloads. Choose a good band name and good artwork will help.
Play live, write songs, write more songs, dump the bad ones, record yourself, listen to your sound, ask your friends for their honest opinions.  Just be you, learn a few covers, they’ll help you to understand other ways of building songs. Create a stage presence, if you’re shy prepare a few things to say or say nothing at all! Write more songs, and above all, have fun, if it’s not fun, do something else.

Anthony: How can fans gather more information on you and your projects?

Anthony: Can you share with my readers the Top Ten List of Songs that have influenced your career to date and tell us a little about each one?

1. Cymbeline, Pink Floyd (Soundtrack from the film More) this album was one of a pile my aunt gave me when I was 14 and she left London to join a commune in the Lake District. Melody plays such a big part in my enjoyment of a song and this is just beautiful. (Version from movie:

2. Mushroom, Can (Tago Mago) The rhythm and the pitch of Damo’s vocals is mesmerizing.

3. Broadway Hotel Al Stewart (Year of the Cat) Great melody, glorious voice, great story, great song writing and violin! 

4. Dreamer, Supertramp. I loved Roger’s unique vocals, and the piano just works! Crime of the Century was my fav album for a long time.

5. Kashmir, Led Zeppelin (Physical Graffiti) Oh that guitar riff, the drums and Plant’s searing voice…the unrelieved tension… fantastic. 

6. Shakedown Street, (Shakedown Street) Grateful Dead A good all round happy song…happy songs are HARD to write! 

7. Black or White, Michael Jackson (Dangerous) whatever you think about MJ as a person, OMG, he was a great singer, dancer and performer, so much to admire and aspire to. 

8. Psycho Killer, Talking Heads (Talking Heads 77) David Byrne is a genius, this song starts the film ‘Stop Making Sense’ you just have to watch it.

9. Peaches The Stranglers (Rattus Norvegicus) This was my first punk album. Before this I had been listening mainly to Led Zep, The Eagles, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and Peter Frampton. The change to include punk was shockingly instantaneous. 

10. Demented Man, Hawkwind (Warrior On The Edge Of Time) Not many acoustic guitar songs in the Hawkwind repertoire but this is one and it’s great and it’s deep, I saw Hawkwind play it on their recent tour and we want to cover it J 

As a bonus, Bridget has sent along six extra songs for new and old fans to hear.

11. Images—Hawkwind

12. Wonderland by Chumley Warner Bros

13. Le Chapeau Rouge, Omenopus

14. Jay Tausig - Billy Sherwood - Bridget Wishart 'Twisting The Tail’ 


16. Nick Drake: Day is Done (a wonderful and inspirational influence for me--Bridget Wishart).

Anthony: Thank you for joining us today. You are most welcome here with the Servante of Darkness anytime you’d like to promote something or simply like to share your artistic adventures. It’s been a pleasure.
Bridget: Thanks Anthony, it’s been a real pleasure to chat with you, all best to you and your readers.


Buy Make Believe It Real by Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart CD DVD from Gonzo Multimedia

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fairy Tales and Horror: Fears in the Light, Comforts in the Dark
by Anthony Servante

Fairy Land

Welcome to the Darkness, dear readers, for our latest venture into the literary side of horror. This time out, the Servante of Darkness explores the darkness inherent in the traditional fairy tale, discusses the latest in fairy tales that maintain the element of “innocent fear”, where childhood anxieties are mitigated through metaphoric situations and creatures, analyzes the "adultifying" of fairy tales, focusing more on the drama than the fear, and examines the invasion of the fears in fairy form into our adult world. 

I will discuss by way of Karina Wilson The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (1976) by Bruno Bettelheim and his assertions that these tales target children’s fears. Then we shall have a look-see at modern versions and interpretations of the fairy tale form, beginning with An Ill Wind Blows by Lori R. Lopez; Kayla, Enchanted: Dark Fairy Tales with a Modern Twist by Christine Sutton; Spindle's End (novelization of Sleeping Beauty) by Robin McKinley; Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist; and Once by James Herbert. Finally, we shall remember James Herbert and his influence on your host.

Let’s begin.

In The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (1976) by Bruno Bettelheim, the author psycho-analyzes the subconscious effect that fairy tales hold for children, themes too intense to face without a cushion, the cushion that works such as the Brothers Grimm may provide. According to Karina Wilson in her June 1, 2012 Column, LURID: Grimmly Fiendish - The Horror in Fairy Tales, “These traditional fairy tales, with the darkness of abandonment, death, [supernatural creatures], and injuries, allowed children to grapple with their fears in remote, symbolic terms. For a child, the basic human predicament is terrifying. Children fear death, of a parent, of a sibling, especially a newborn infant. They fear abandonment. They fear the giant adults who tower above them. They fear the dark. They fear the things that lurk in [dark scary places: closets, backyards, new environments]. Fairy tales deal with all these fears, spinning them into a safe, fictional framework.”

Once upon a time, therefore, offers a sanctuary for children, a place where their subconscious fears dissipate like a mist in fog, or a droplet in the ocean.

Mother Goose rhymes also provide a similar place for children to feel safe from normal fears of youth and innocence. As adults, we understand that these rhymes tell dark tales in sing-song rhythms, with carefree characters. In London Bridge is Falling Down, the common interpretation has it that children were sacrificed to prevent a bridge from falling, but other meanings have it that “London Bridge” was simply in need of repair and may collapse at any moment, killing hundreds. In either case, the nursery rhyme offers a safe retreat for children to control their possible deaths by offering up sacrifices (think Children of the Corn) or by protesting the bridge’s ill condition to adults. “Jack and Jill” also has dire interpretations. The scariest has it that two children fetching water from the well were kidnapped and possibly killed; the Norse version of the poem has the kids taken away by the moon (Wiki).

Jack and Jill

Karina continues, “Fairy tales are horror stories at heart, not fantasy action adventures.  They function on a deep psychological level, tapping into our primal selves. Good struggled against Evil, but always won in the end.  Victory came through intelligence, not brute strength.  Those who sided with Good lived happily ever after, but those who cleaved to Evil were burned, pierced, broken, transformed and condemned, never to be seen again.” The grotesque elements inherent in the fairy tales were circumstantial to the kids (and still are—consider that children today view Family Guy and South Park innocently, without the horrors understood by adults); for every prince and princess, there was an evil witch or dangerous dragon.

The balance of good and evil, and the inevitable happy ending shone like a lighthouse for the imagination of the child on stormy seas. Adds Wilson, “Children over the aeons have made no objections to the macabre details: the cannibalism, the bloodshed, the amputations, the kidnappings, the murders, or the red-hot iron torture devices. The more monstrous the threat, the more grotesque the punishment, the easier the lesson was to understand and remember. When we read horror, we’re tapping into the things that fairy tales taught us, re-experiencing the powerlessness of a child.”  Here we must visit the horror novels at hand and discuss the elements that make them attractive to the child in adult readers.

We begin with Lori R. Lopez.

Lori R. Lopez

Lori R. Lopez is the author of works spanning multiple categories from Nonfiction to Fiction; novel to story to verse collection; children's fiction, storybooks and more, usually with a blend of genres such as Humor, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller, Epic-Adventure and so on. Her titles include OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ: THIRTEEN TORMENTOUS TALES, and her award-winning novel AN ILL WIND BLOWS.

The unique adventure AN ILL WIND BLOWS depicts one night when an ordinary person lacking confidence must battle a wicked wind. The stakes are high as she, along with friends and foes, travels through a magical storm world that culminates in a ghost town populated by more than just spirits. This is a story that keeps delivering action and fun throughout. It is more than a single tale in a single genre. The book blends Humor, Horror, and Fantasy.

Lori R. Lopez creates a whole new fairy tale for the modern age. She tackles the fears of her heroine with otherly world creatures and fantastic situations worthy of Grimm’s tales.

Arletta "Meezly" Trimble exemplifies the fairy tale heroine. She fears being alone, although she does have friends. But in typical tale fashion, she has suffered the loss of her parents, and is tossed into a cruel world. The escape from this sad fate begins with a letter from her father. Thus her journey begins; she enters a great vortex controlled by an evil creature.

In normal circumstances, Meezly's journey would simply be one of being placed in an orphanage or with “wicked” stepparents, but within Lori’s fairy tale structure, her heroine quests for answers and learns to control her own fate by taking on the challenges in this fantastical land (or wind as is the case). Although her fears are real, Measly must find the strength to solve the mystery of her parents’ disappearance.

Lori has created an old-fashioned fairy tale that utilizes the elements of the traditional form but with her own imaginative signature. She maintains the childhood fear element in developing her story, while utilizing fantastical creatures and situations to help direct our heroine to overcome her fears by empowering her with self-reliance. It is a story worthy of entering the Fairy Tale oeuvre.

While Lopez envisions a new version of the tale, our next two authors mimic the old form. Robin McKinley and Christine Sutton recycle traditional fairy tales with a modern spin.

Let’s turn to Robin McKinley first. Her fairy tale retells of the tale of Sleeping Beauty.

Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson.

Renowned fantasy writer Robin McKinley, author of the lush "Beauty and the Beast" retellings Beauty and Rose Daughter, has produced another re-mastered fairy tale, this time about the dreamy Sleeping Beauty. Much like in the original story, the infant princess, here named Rosie, is cursed by an evil fairy to die on her 21st birthday by pricking her finger on a spindle. That same day, Rosie is whisked away into hiding by a peasant fairy who raises her and conceals her royal identity. From that point on, McKinley's plot and characterization become wildly inventive. She imagines Rosie growing up into a strapping young woman who despises her golden hair, prefers leather breeches to ball gowns, and can communicate with animals. And on that fateful birthday, with no help from a prince, Rosie saves herself and her entire sleeping village from destruction, although she pays a realistic price. In a final master stroke, McKinley cleverly takes creative license when the spell-breaking kiss (made famous in "Sleeping Beauty") comes from a surprising source and is bestowed upon the character least expected.

Book review:
McKinley enjoys refashioning traditional fairy tales to suit an empowered heroine, rather than one who relies on her prince to rescue her. In essence, she pumps her children’s tales into adult stories by pumping them full of feminist steroids, so to speak. This is a welcomed retelling as young girls need a hero to identify with. My sister and I often complain about boys being issued toy guns and girls given toy dolls to play with, a case of the environment shaping the child, of assigning roles that the kids can grow into in a male-dominated society. By reaching into the childhood psyche of the adult with the fairy tale medium, Robin reverses roles with seamless ease within an entertaining story.

As young boys and girls begin to feel different about their roles as assigned to them by society, it is good to see literature that teaches them that “different” is okay. Girls can play with guns, and boys can play with dolls. In McKinley’s fairy tale world, her Sleeping Beauty flexes a bit of muscle and still remains attractive. That’s fine by me.

Now on to Christine Sutton.

Christine Sutton

Christine Sutton is an accomplished author in the fields of horror, thriller and horror/fantasy. When not writing, she enjoys expressing herself as a sculptor and artist. Christine lives in Central California.

Kayla Burkheart has had a hard life. When she finally decides to clean up her act and get her life back on track, she believes that she has it all. A new job, a man that she loves, and finally, a feeling of peace. As she embarks on a journey down a California highway, she finds herself being trailed by a menacing figure in a black car. This is only the beginning. She finds out that there is more to her life than she ever imagined possible. Join her on her journey through four tales, tinged with fairy tale magic and filled with werewolves, vampires, witches (good and bad) and all other manner of magic and monsters. With nods to Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel and a few more, these are not the fairy tales you read as a child. Kayla's life is sometimes dark, often frightening and always, enchanted.

This book contains some language and adult situations. Not recommended for children.

Christine retells a number of fairy tales while reworking them into a modern day setting. She foreshadows what Feist and Herbert will do in their tales. The fear element emerges through Kayla’s encounters with the creatures and situations reserved for fairy tales. It is the tale of an adult reliving childhood anxieties, only in real backdrops, so that the dread becomes real as the fantasies taking flesh. Our heroine must drive a “red” car worth a lot of money to Texas; on the road she is followed by a “black” car, whose presence begins to menace her. Using the Red Riding Hood story, Sutton delves into the childhood fears one experiences when confronted by the unknown. Who hasn’t been unnerved by a prank call from a silent caller? With Snow White, our author touches on how fragile the truth can be for youngsters. A “mother-in-law” bewitches her son into canceling his wedding to Kayla (which is why she needed a lot of money) by lying about the future bride. Kayla must set the truth right to win back her man. In the third tale, Kayla takes on The Three Little Pigs tale with themes on some very gory alienation. Hansel and Gretel rounds out the quartet of novellas. I don’t know if Ms. Sutton plans to continue Kayla as a series; she has created a fine character here, and with the continued use of fairy tales to backdrop her adventures, it would be a series I’d recommend highly.

On to Raymond E. Feist.

Raymond E. Feist 

Raymond Elias Feist is an American author who primarily writes fantasy fiction. He is best known for The Riftwar Cycle series of novels and short stories. His books have been translated into multiple languages and have sold over 15 million copies.

Phil Hastings was a lucky man-he had money, a growing reputation as a screenwriter, a happy, loving family with three kids, and he'd just moved into the house of his dreams in rural of magic-and about to be altered irrevocably by a magic more real than any he dared imagine. For with the Magic came the Bad Thing, and the Faerie, and then the cool. . .and the resurrection of a primordial war with a forgotten people-a war that not only the Hastings but the whole human race could lose.

Feist poses the question: What if you placed real children in a real fairy tale? The creeps and fears kids experience in fictional tales would become real, I would think. This is the premise of Faerie Tale. The horrors in such tales invade the real world, converge on a real family. This is Disney by way of Gullermo Del Toro. The cushion for childhood fears has been lifted. It reminds me of seeing Arachnophobia for the first time at the Cinerama Dome. There were two kids in the row in front of me giggling and mocking their parents’ choice of movies. They hemmed and hawed throughout the film, causing more than one theater-goer to shush them. When the finale of the movie came, when the “general” spider fights to the death with Jeff Daniels, the two rowdy kids are cowering in terror, tears running down their face. This is what happens without the cushion for suspension of disbelief. The fears run rampant without sight of a happy ending. Where “once upon a time” leads to “happily ever after”, one can face the anxieties brought on by monsters and evil adults; however, in a world such as Faerie Tale, life exists between Once and After, there where only monsters exist without the hope that they will be vanquished.

When the creatures from Irish Lore make their appearance, it is not magical fantasy but terrific horror. As with Kayla’s adventures, the Hastings family enters fairy territory. Cute gives way to corruption. I always enjoy tales where fiction breaks the fifth wall, as it does here by having fairies living side by side with humans in New York, although they are generally unaware of their fantastical presence. When the Hastings become aware of their existence, the real fear begins, both for the family and the reader.

As a fan of Raymond Feist, I was dying to include this work into this piece about fairy tales and horror, but it itself is not a fairy tale; it takes elements of the tale and incorporates them into a modern story. The monsters in this horror book are fairies. I’d recommend the book to any reader of any age, even though there are those who may say the book is too intense for children. But, hey—fairy tales are for children. 

And now, James Herbert.

James Herbert

James John Herbert, OBE (8 April 1943 – 20 March 2013) was a best-selling English horror writer who originally worked as the art director of an advertising agency. A full-time writer, he also designed his own book covers and publicity. His books have sold 54 million copies worldwide, and have been translated into 34 languages, including Chinese and Russian.

James Herbert-Once: Remember the faery stories you were told as a child? Tales of tiny, magical, winged beings and elves, wicked witches and goblins. Demons ...What if one day you found out they were true? What if, when you became an adult, you discovered they were all based on fact? What if you met the fantasy and it was all so very real? That's what happened to Thom Kindred. The wonders were revealed to him. But so were the horrors, for not far behind the Good, there always lurks the Bad. And the Bad had designs on Thom. The Bad would show him real evil. He would see the hellhagges and the demons. He would be touched by perverted passion. And corruption. And he would encounter his own worst nightmare. The Bad would seek to destroy him. And only the magic of the little beings would be able to help him. Once, James Herbert's masterful novel of erotic love and darkest horror, will take you to a realm where fantasy and reality collide, where faerytales really can come true.

James Herbert in his novel “Once” also combines fantasy and reality, fairies and humans in a modern setting, reversing the fairy tale structure so that the fairy tale comes to us in our lives rather than we going to them in our story books. We are confronted by the unreal and must overcome our suspension of disbelief in fairies to deal with the real creatures. Often fans will romanticize encounters with vampires, the living dead, even Jason Voorhees, because they imagine meeting them would excite the senses, when, in reality, these creatures would terminate one’s senses. Only religious fanatics romanticize death.

Here in Once, Herbert demythifies the romanticizing of true horror. Feist does the same thing, but limits the extremes of the fantastical creatures, whereas Herbert does not. His fairies are rabid sexual animals. Witches have insatiable appetites, as do Pixies and Fairies. This adult element takes the mythic element into the human realm. If these creatures eat, drink, sleep, and fornicate, as we humans do, then they are not only similar to us—they are like us in good and evil. That’s what is scary about this book. It makes us look at ourselves a little too closely. Unlike the fairy tales of yore, which filter children’s fears through its story structure (Once upon a time to Happily ever after), here one’s confrontations with our fears only reveals the perverse in ourselves. What else is one to make of a masturbating fairy?

This one I cannot recommend for children, but adults will appreciate the grotesque extremes of fairy land.

As you all know by now, James Herbert passed away on March 20, 2013. As a teen I read his first book, The Rats, and became an instant fan, reading his every book thereafter. As I attended college, I studied “horror” because of authors like Herbert, F. Paul Wilson, and Graham Masterton, for they represented the second wave of dark fiction after the first wave, Lovecraft, Bradbury, Matheson, Bloch and others. To me, and in my writings, James Herbert ushered in the Silver Age of Horror, and I write on the subject today because of him. Thank you, sir, for the body of horrific work you leave us fans and future fans. Rest in Peace.

James Herbert R.I.P. 

Join us again soon, dear readers, as we discuss a new topic in literary horror. Till then, leave the darkness on.