Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some Comments on Published Re-Interpretations of Le Fanu's CARMILLA: Pastiche or Fanfiction? (An Update)

The 1872 novella, "Carmilla", by Irishman Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu is often credited with establishing the particulars of vampire lore and having a profound influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The question that will form the essence of this exploration is whether the modern re-tellings of the 1872 novella are actually pastiches or are they works of fan-fiction? In other words, are these works an imitation or re-interpretation of the original, or are they an extension / expansion of the novella?

The works under consideration in this essay are modern re-tellings of Le Fanu's Carmilla that have been formally published.[i] By "formally published," I simply mean available for purchase on; whether self-published or traditionally published; paper or digital. Only in one case, Carmilla: The Return, can the work even be considered a sequel; though here as well an argument can be made that this is simply a more creative re-telling of the original. This will be discussed and expanded upon further. What follows are not summaries or synopses of the works under review. Rather, more my thoughts as well as certain pertinent highlights I believed worthy of note.

For the purpose of this essay, I define[ii] the term "pastiche" as:

a dramatic, literary, or musical piece openly imitating the previous works of other artists;

and the term "fanfiction" as:

fiction written by fans as an extension of an admired work or series of works . . . 



Before entering into this discussion of published  Carmilla fiction and whether pastiche or fanfiction, I want to consider four versions of the original Carmilla as Le Fanu wrote it, to establish a baseline to compare the other works against.

A major theme all these works address is the passage of time within the story. Even in Le Fanu's original, the flow of time is vague and at times unclear. For my own understanding, very basically, this is how I interpret chronology within Le Fanu's Carmilla:

*The major events of the tale take place when Laura is 19 years old.

*Laura writes the narrative when she is 27. She states that she is writing the narrative 8 years after the events in the story, though later she states that 10 years have past; creating ambiguity.

*based on the above, Laura is also 27 when the narrative ends; when she perceives Carmilla's presence.

*It is assumed that Laura "dies" some short time after completing the narrative.


Carmilla (2015)


Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu


The first version of "Carmilla" I read was this stand alone version. For my taste, this was an excellent introduction to Le Fanu's classic tale. I was able to appreciate the significance of the story's place in nineteenth century supernatural literature as well as seeing how Stoker built upon it's foundation a little over twenty years later.


In a Glass Darkly

(Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural) (2007)


J. S. Le Fanu


This version, found in In A Glass Darkly, was a reprint of the 1872 collection, the final tale of which was "Carmilla" and was comprised of a series of letters written by Laura to some unknown person. In A Glass Darkly indicates that person is Dr. Hesselius.

This collection framed each of the stories as episodes or cases, documenting, sometimes in the form of letters, the work of Dr. Hesselius. Each tale was prefaced with commentary by Hesselius' editor. This is how the readers learn, for example, that Laura supposedly died shortly after completing her narrative.

This was the most enjoyable form of the tale I have read to date.


Carmilla (2012)


J. S. Le Fanu & Jamieson Ridenhour (Editor)


This scholarly, annotated edition of Le Fanu's Carmilla was not, in itself, nearly as helpful or as insightful as I had hoped. Though it did offer three things that made this edition worthwhile, in my opinion.

Firstly, I must state that the introducti0n by the editor is excellent. I highly recommend it.

Secondly, excerpted from the introduction, the author writes that "Carmilla— dark-haired, predatory, and highly sexualized— does indeed seem like a negative image of fair-haired, passive, virginal Laura." This quote  exemplifies the contrasting and complementary traits of both principle characters. To my knowledge, it is the best single statement on the nature of the relationship between Laura and Carmilla.

Lastly, and that which redeemed this edition in my mind is that it is not based upon the version of "Carmilla" found in Le Fanu's collection, In A Glass Darkly published in 1872. Rather the version of Carmilla presented here is the earlier, original serialized version from a journal, The Dark Blue, published in 1871-72. The narrative framework from In A Glass Darkly was not part of this early version, so no mention was made of Hesselius or of Laura's passing.


The Annotated Carmilla (2011)


Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Edited by D. MacDowell Blue


This is a superb annotated edition of Le Fanu's original. THE definitive scholarly edition, in my opinion. The annotations in this version are exhaustively in-depth and comprehensive. This is what I was hoping for when I first read the scholarly edition (see above).

Also, a note before we begin. This text includes the prologue from In A Glass Darkly.


The Preface contained wonderful literary commentary and was excellent overall. The introduction entitled "Any More Ghost Stories" provided historic context. Also, the introduction recognized and addressed the chronological contradictions in Le Fanu's text.

Of the Notes themselves, I will just call attention to a few which I consider interesting and pertinent to this study.

Note 007 - Wow! Just how long before Hesselius' editor's compilation were Laura's letters written? And were they originally written to and for Dr. Hesselius in the first place?

Note 008 - This lengthy note debates Laura's role as narrator / letter writer. See further discussion below.

Note 124 - The mysterious Matska and her weird role in the tale are examined.

Note 141 - The only physical description of Laura - blond with blue eyes.

Note 160 - This note touches upon the chronological inconsistencies as reported by Laura. Is she an unreliable narrator? Or does this represent a blending of two different manuscripts? If so, by who? Laura, or Le Fanu?

Note 164 - Laura seems to be addressing her letters to a female! Who is she? Were the letters that make up this story not originally intended for Hesselius as implied in the text? Also, here again, is there perhaps a blending of two different manuscript versions? Or is this yet another example of Laura as an unreliable narrator?

Note 198 - The montebank makes reference to Carmilla's unusual tooth: "...the sharpest tooth, long, thin, pointed like an awl, like a needle."

Note 301 - In the text between Note 298 and 299, there is a description of what Laura's mysterious bite on her neck felt like, "two needles piercing the skin." This note, however, implies only a single awl-like puncture (see Note 198 above), rather than a double-puncture bite. In addition, the description of the bite area is more like a small hickey rather than a bite mark.

Note 403 - This final note suggests that Laura is still haunted by her experience with and unresolved feelings for a vampire "who maybe really did love her."

There are 403 notes in this work, corresponding to 38% of the entire text. By any measure, that is impressive. A very few, I thought, were unnecessary or too in-depth. But I prefer "too much" rather than "too little" and am glad the editor chose to err in this way.

The editor of this exemplary edition, David MacDowell Blue, is also a playwright, one of whose passions is Carmilla. Lately, he has devoted digital ink on the blog Taliesin Meets the Vampires on Carmilla and the place of vampires in popular culture. In addition, he has published a one-act play entitled Carmilla: A Play in One Act. See my comments on it in the concluding part of this essay.

This annotated version of Le Fanu's original is a valuable and worthy addition to any library on 19th century supernatural horror. It's thoroughness and complete coverage of the story caused me to re-examine my understanding of the tale and re-open my mind to other possible interpretations.

Thank you, Mr. Blue.


When published in In A Glass Darkly, "Carmilla" and the other tales in the collection were each provided with a prologue that connected the stories. In the prologue of "Carmilla," we are informed that Laura has died. It states:

As I publish the case, in this volume, simply to interest the "laity," I shall forestall the intelligent lady, who relates it, in nothing; and after due consideration, I have determined, therefore, to abstain from presenting any précis of the learned Doctor's reasoning, or extract from his statement on a subject which he describes as "involving, not improbably, some of the profoundest arcana of our dual existence, and its intermediates."

I was anxious on discovering this paper, to reopen the correspondence commenced by Doctor Hesselius, so many years before, with a person so clever and careful as his informant seems to have been. Much to my regret, however, I found that she had died in the interval.

She, probably, could have added little to the Narrative which she communicates in the following pages, with, so far as I can pronounce, such conscientious particularity.

Of course, the "intelligent lady" informant was Laura. Regarding her passing, there is no other comment. No further detail. Just this mysterious statement . . . As if it is meant to be glossed over and forgotten. The writer of the prologue praised Laura and her record of the events of the story. Several reviewers and commentators have gone so far as to call Laura an "unreliable narrator" because of her ambiguity in presenting certain facts, events, and people.[iii] In actuality, it is Laura's letters alone that form the entirety of the tale. Not only Laura's recollections of events, but also her thoughts and feelings form her narrative . . . But only what she chose to reveal.

I do not believe that Laura is an "unreliable narrator." Rather, I believe that Le Fanu, through Laura, is providing the reader with possibilities. If the reader believed that Laura was keeping certain things out of her correspondence, it is because whatever it was, in Laura's mind, was private and not for public knowledge. The reader is left to their own devices to draw whatever conclusion regarding this that they wish.

In a December 2011 post in  the blog Victorian Gothic, entitled "Before Dracula, there was Carmilla" (in addition to an excellent summary of the tale) several very pertinent questions were raised regarding Le Fanu's intentions at the conclusion of the novella. Similarly, in a masterful article in the collection of essays on Le Fanu, Reflections in a Glass Darkly[iv], among the issues the author raises are questions surrounding the climactic fight scene as well as the postscript that closes the narrative. The article's author also notes that in that final confrontation, Laura choose to stand with her father instead of Carmilla. Though it appears this decision may not have been final:

Although Laura appears to choose her father against Carmilla, the glimpse Le Fanu provides of her future suggests that this decision is not an easy one. That Laura is forever haunted by Carmilla, continues to hear her step outside the drawing room door, and is actually dead by the time the narrative reached the Editor is highly suggestive of the possibility that she has ultimately revoked that choice of the father . . . and returned to her . . . Carmilla.[v]

Regarding the postscript in which Laura returns the narrative to her present time, the author further intimates that the end of the novella may not have been the end of Carmilla's and Laura's story:

However, the story ends on a profoundly ambivalent note. After all, we are plainly told that those who are bitten by the vampire will themselves become vampires and therefore there is no reason to suppose that Laura and Bertha are not now vampires as well–indeed, Laura's final line indicates that 'often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step of Carmilla at the drawing-room door,' and she is herself dead by the time the story is being published. This line might even indicate that far from being finally vanquished, Carmilla is still lurking somewhere.[vi]

Taking this into consideration, one possible interpretation is that in her "death," Laura was not so much dead and buried, but rather dead and risen. 

Perhaps to join Carmilla.


What I choose to infer from this is that Le Fanu, instead of laying all the answers out for the reader, provided an opportunity or an opening for the reader.

What happens after Laura "imagines" hearing Carmilla's tread outside her door?

What happens after Laura "dies" so quietly and abruptly?

So . . . What happens next? . . .

I believe Le Fanu is giving us the chance to answer for ourselves.


. . . to be continued . . .




[i] I choose to use the word "re-tellings" as opposed to "adaptation or "interpretation" because I feel that adaptation and interpretation are just a less pretentious way of saying pastiche.

[ii] Both definitions are taken from the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition (

[iii] A more succinct definition of "unreliable narrator" is a person telling a story that cannot be relied upon for the truthfulness of their narrative because of contradictions, half-truths and outright lies.

[iv] "In the Name of the Mother: Perverse Maternity in 'Carmilla'" by Jarlath Killen, a lecturer in Victorian Literature at Trinity College, Dublin.

[v] Killen, Jarlath. "In the Name of the Mother: Perverse Maternity in 'Carmilla'" in Reflection in a Glass Darkly. Page 383.

[vi] Ibid. Page 383.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Books Jonelle Made Me Read – 4 – HECK: Where The Bad Kids Go

Series Introduction

In this occasional series, I will be discussing books that a teenage girl (soon to be a fourteen-year-old), Jonelle, instructed me to read. And when I say "instructed me to read," of course I mean "commanded me to read." For those of you who don't know her, she is a highly intelligent, sweet, precocious and fairly bossy young lady.

A large part of the reason why I read this book, and the other works that will be discussed in this blog series, is that I want to understand how teenagers think. These posts will not be a review of the book per se as much as an exploration of my random thoughts on the book.

How did I get myself into this?


"Now, now, Cerberus," she cooed. "They always smell like that at first."

Milton nervously cleared his throat. "So is this . . . you know . . . he—?"

Principal Bubb shook her swollen claw at Milton. "There will be none of that potty mouth down here. Or course this isn't . . . that place. You're in Heck."

Marlo leaned forward, her brow knit. "Heck? What the . . ."

Bea "Elsa" Bubb glowered. Her–inky black pupils adrift in a pus-yellow sea–glowed like fanned embers.

". . . heck," Marlo faltered, "is Heck?"

Bea "Elsa" Bubb smiled coldly and clasped her claws together.

"Rather like an h-e-double-hockey-sticks for children," she said. "Heck is where the souls of the darned toil for all eternity–or until they turn eighteen, whichever comes first."


Books Jonelle Made Me Read

Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go (2008) by Dale E. Basye.


Old Sins Cast Long Shadows is very pleased and proud to announce that this episode of "Books Jonelle Made Me Read" is the first – hopefully far from the last – collaborative effort. Co-Authorship credit of this post is shared with Miss Jonelle herself!

Now, things become interesting . . .


Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go is the first part in a projected nine-part series (ennealogy), Nine Circles of Heck, by Dale E. Basye.

This work is a charming, whimsical and weirdly educational re-telling of Dante's Inferno. It is almost as if Dr. Seuss collaborated with Stephen King to produce this book and series. Seven of the nine parts have been published to date. The eighth is complete and, according to the author, trapped in the "limbo" between publishing houses.


The center piece of Dante's Inferno is the image of Hell that is presented. Dante's Hell is made up of nine layers or circles. Each circle focused on tormenting those damned souls guilty of a particular category of sin.

Hell name

Heck name

Heck tagline

1st Circle



First place where kids arrive after they die, where their souls are weighed and assessed.

2nd Circle



Where the greedy kids go.

3rd Circle



Where the hungry kids go.

4th Circle



Where the lying kids go.

5th Circle



Where the whiny kids go.

6th Circle



Where the smarty-pants go.

7th Circle


Wise Acres

Where the sassy kids go.

8th Circle



Where the bullies go.

9th Circle



Where the back-stabbing kids go.

The image below provides a good visual representation of Dante's Hell as well as describing the sins and corresponding torments.



So much for literary background.


The Nine Circles of Heck series follows the adventures of a young brother and sister; the good but scheming brother, Milton, and the rebellious and scheming sister, Marlo. As a result of a freak accident, they both end up in Heck. A young audience can relate to this book, in part, because Milton is put into situations where he has to come up with plans to get his friend-from-Hell, Virgil, as well as Marlo out of trouble and back home. And just as often, he is overruled by Marlo who believes she knows best how to get back home.

A favorite feature of the book were teachers who were people that a YA audience would actually know. Life in Heck is basically school 24/infinity. So, there are classes like Ethics, Physical Education and Home Ec. For teachers, they have Richard Nixon, Blackbeard the Pirate and Lizzie Borden. Even the school principal is Bea "Elsa" Bubb . . .

Get it? Bea "Elsa" Bubb . . . Beelzebub.

It was interesting how these teachers reacted to the children, as well as the situations they were put in by the students (i.e. Marlo and Milton). For example, in chapter 12, Milton is a student in an Ethics class taught by Richard Nixon. During the class, Milton brings up Watergate. President Nixon starts freaking out, exclaiming "I was NOT a crook." This scene was quite humorous even though a YA audience might be forgiven for not knowing much about Watergate.


Even though this book is suited more for a young audience, it was both interesting and amusing for a YA and an adult reader.

Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go is sincerely recommended.

We at Old Sins Cast Long Shadows and Miss Jonelle look forward to continuing this series with the next volume: Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck.




Friday, December 2, 2016

A Comment on F. Marion Crawford's KHALED, A TALE OF ARABIA.

The under appreciated F. Marion Crawford is one of my favorite 19th century authors of supernatural fiction. Naturally, when I stumbled across his Khaled, A Tale of Arabia, I absolutely had to read and comment upon it.


Khaled stood in the third heaven, which is the heaven of precious stones, and of Asrael, the angel of Death. In the midst of the light shed by the fruit of the trees Asrael himself is sitting, and will sit until the day of the resurrection from the dead, writing in his book the names of those who are to be born, and blotting out the names of those who have lived their years and must die. Each of the trees has seventy thousand branches, each branch bears seventy thousand fruits, each fruit is composed of seventy thousand diamonds, rubies, emeralds, carbuncles, jacinths, and other precious stones. The stature and proportions of Asrael are so great that his eyes are seventy thousand days' journey apart, the one from the other.


This commentary utilizes the 1971 edition of Khaled, A Tale of Arabia, part of "The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series," published by Ballantine Books. Originally published in 1891 by Macmillian & Co. in London and New York (see cover image below), Khaled is more a novella than novel coming in at 207 pages in the 1971 edition.



As often seems the case, I am finding that the blog Vintage Pop Fictions has an exemplary summary of this story. So, rather than quoting Vintage Pop Fictions in bulk, I will provide a link out to the excellent post (here). This is the second post I have written on a Crawford work. My own take on The Witch of Prague was posted on this blog July 26 (link here).

This work was of great interest to me for several reasons.

First, as I said above Crawford is an author who deserves far more credit than he has been given. Having had a cosmopolitan upbringing and drawn to the Orient, Crawford would spend years in India. In the introduction to the 1971 Ballantine edition, Lin Carter, himself a renowned author of fantasy and horror, said this of Crawford:

His taste for Oriental mysticism and the supernatural led him to the writing of a number of novels still remembered by fantasy collectors, such as Zoroaster, or the better-known novel of Gothic horror, The Witch of Prague (1891).

Second, the subject matter is so . . . out there, how could I not look into it? In fact, the love triangle dynamic between Khaled - who needed Zehovah in order to attain a soul, Zehovah the wife - who just wanted to be a good wife to Khaled and did not understand love, and Almasta the want-to-be-wife - who loved Khaled and wanted to be his wife so killed each of her husbands until only Khaled was available, is, frankly, bizarre. As I read through this book, the phrase that repeatedly came to mind was "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"[i]

Third, Khaled, A Tale of Arabia is the only work of fiction in the style of a fantastical, supernatural and Arabian-Nights-esque tale to my knowledge actually written in the 19th century that reflects Victorian society's abiding fascination with the mysteries of the Middle East.[ii]

This interest manifested itself on one hand, in Egyptology and Assyro-Babylonian studies and on the other hand, via Orientalist art, fashion and decor. Interestingly, religion, i.e. the study of Islam, was not really popular and not a significant part of this movement.




Crawford, Francis Marion. Khaled, A Tale of Arabia. Ballantine Books, Inc.: New York, December 1971.

Vintage Pop Fictions. "Khaled by F. Marion Crawford." 06 April 2011. 20 October 2016.

Wikipedia. "Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series." 22 November 2016.

Wikipedia, "Francis Marion Crawford." 27 October 2016.

Wikipedia. "Khaled: A Tale of Arabia." 27 October 2016.

Wikipedia. "The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night." 30 November 2016.



[i] Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III Scene II.

[ii] Sir Richard Burton's The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885), is considered to be a translation of a much earlier Arabic collection; certainly not an original work of the 19th century.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Review of Nina Auerbach's OUR VAMPIRES, OURSELVES.

My investigation into the history of vampire fiction continues with a side trip into Nina Auerbach's study, Our Vampires, Ourselves.

Auerbach (1995) Our Vampires, Ourselves

Essentially, this scholarly work explores the evolving nature of the vampire from its first appearance in English literature in the early 19th century through the final decade of the 20th century as well as the impact film had upon this development; all in four densely packed chapters. In the commentary to follow, I would like to touch on a few of the salient points of each chapter and highlight the changing development of the vampire in literature and popular culture. It is essential to keep in mind that this work was published in 1995 and thus any related material, print or film, subsequent to the early 1990s was not included.

Auerbach TOC

Auerbach lays the foundation of her work with a discussion of Polidori's (The Vampyre) Ruthven, Rymer's (Varney, the Vampyre) Count Varney and Le Fanu's (Carmilla) Carmilla as characters and how they interacted with the other characters. The strong same-sex relationships (close though not necessarily intimate) reflect a time when such was viewed as less threatening, albeit still not acceptable. Also noteworthy was the fact that it was the light of the full moon that was the source of healing and immortality for the vampire and not blood, which was simply nourishment. Sunlight had little or no affect on them.

By the late 1890s, there had been a shift in popular perception of vampires, in no small part to changing attitudes concerning close same-sex relationships, platonic or otherwise. In 1895, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for two years for homosexuality. In 1897, Dracula by Bram Stoker was published. Reflecting the times, Stoker was very careful to not include close male-to-male relationships of any kind in Dracula. Conversely, in the story, women who were outside the bounds of strict society (or not under a male's influence) were seen to be wicked, immoral and evil.

In the 1930s film took the lead in the presentation of the vampire primarily through Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Count Dracula. However, vampires in cinema first appeared in 1922 (1929 in the US) with the release of the German silent film, Nosferatu. In this film, for the first time, sunlight was lethal to vampires. By the 1930s, Lugosi's Dracula emphasized the vampire's "other-ness." His interpretation highlighted the contrast between the old world of Europe and the new world of America. It also marked the establishment of the caricature of the figure of Dracula with flowing cape, overly dramatic moves and such.

Beginning in the late 1950s through the 60s and early 70s, under Hammer films, the representation of vampires began to shift again. The idea of sunlight destroying vampires became entrenched; while moonlight offered no benefit at all. Here as well, same gender relationships were non-existent. By the mid 70s, literature took the lead with Stephen King's Salem's Lot and Anne rice's Interview With A Vampire. Vampires became intelligent beings again, rather than merely beasts obsessed with biting.

Through the 80s and early 90s, the idea of drinking blood became more . . . suspect; even in fiction. This was the result of the advent of the AIDS epidemic that lead to a cultural swing toward conservatism.

Overall, this study offered a provocative re-examination of the evolution of the perception of the vampire through popular culture.


HITM Logo - Copy

Sunday, November 6, 2016

CLOCKWORK. Carmilla: The Series Fan-Fiction in Trade Paperback!

For a long while now, I have been a supporter / reader / enjoyer of the literary phenomenon of fan-fiction. I have even tried my hand at writing a few times, but never had the guts to post it. For the past year or so, I have been a follower of the Canadian web-series, Carmilla: The Series as well as the resulting fan-fiction found on

One of my favorite works of fan-fiction is Clockwork by Muse92 (a.k.a. Tash Morgan). Clockwork is a flower shop AU[*] based on the characters from the web-series. Very basically, the story is Carmilla, who works at a flower shop and Laura, who is a reporter for the local newspaper find love and happiness with each other. But life is never that simple.

I have to say that I really really enjoyed this work of fan-fiction.

Clockwork comprises 33 chapters and is over 100,000 words in length. The first chapter was released on Archive of Our Own on November 2, 2015 and the concluding 33rd chapter on August 2, 2016, with an author's note and special offering on September 9, 2016 as a 34th part.

I want to talk about the September 9 author's note. It is reproduced below:



Hi Guys –

Just a quick update about the physical version of Clockwork

Since nootvanlis’s post on Tumblr about receiving their copy I’ve had quite a few people ask me if I have any physical copies left – unfortunately I have run out of the batch I had made up for myself and they have been (or are soon to be) posted.

I have however looked into the website I ordered them through and have been able to make it available to purchase in a way that doesn’t result in any revenue for myself. The book is only available by the direct link below and the cost is $8.13 (I think this is in USD but don’t trust me on that) – that is for the cost of having the book printed by the company. Then you will also have any shipping charges on top of that. 

Obviously any books ordered through that link will not be coming directly from myself and won’t have a little hand–written note on the inside cover like the 18 lucky people that managed to get in early enough for my batch. If some of you would like this (although I’m not sure why you would) please send me a message via Tumblr and we can work something out.

So again – if you want a physical copy and haven’t got the confirmation from me on Tumblr (wontyouinspireme or flowersinmyapartment) please use the above link.

And super re-iterating – I am not making any money off this, the price covers the printing only and then add in shipping costs.

Thank you all again for your love and support for this story. Much love.

Tash (Muse92)


To celebrate the completion of her story, the author printed through, at her own expense, a small number of copies of Clockwork to give to a select few. The response was so positive that the above note was necessary and the author made it possible for anyone to order the printed version of Clockwork from Once I had read this, I was more than happy to order the book from

clip_image002 clip_image004

Please remember, this is a printing not a publishing. This work is not published nor even self-published. If it were, it would violate copyright. Also, as the author, Muse92 (or Tash Morgan as the book reveals), rightly points out, she makes no money on this. Those who order the book pay for printing and shipping only. The author makes nothing.

Aside from a little more than a few editing slips, this physical book is a wonderful tribute to an exemplary work of fan-fiction. I strongly recommend purchasing Clockwork, especially if you are a fan of Carmilla: The Series and enjoy fan-fiction. Having a physical bo0k in my hand while reading a work of fan-fiction was a new experience for me.

I liked it.

I would like to experience it again.




Once again here is the link to order the physical copy from 



HITM Logo - Copy


[*] Typically, fan-fiction continues the story of the original work (a.k.a. "canon") - whether book, film, TV or web-series. It can explore what happened after, before or even along side the canon storyline. Fan-fiction can also take a name or event perhaps mentioned in passing in the original and tell that story.

AU stands for "alternate universe." In fan-fiction, this genre allows the author to explore themes, issues and situations more freely by varying the particulars or shifting the situations that the characters experience. For example in Clockwork, Carmilla is not a vampire. Nor is there a single supernatural element. Though the base personality traits of the characters are preserved.

In other fan-fiction, the nature of the characters' inter-relationships may be altered. As well, the age of the characters may shift. For example, Laura may be older and in a position of authority over a younger Carmilla. However, the appearance of the characters are set, for the most part.

Of course, these are only a couple of examples. All of this is completely up to the whim of the fan-fiction author. This is an "alternate universe" after all.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vampiric Update

Currently, in addition to several smaller posts, I am working on two large blog projects:

1) the conclusion to my piece on Carmilla and,

2) a not-so-brief consideration of Varney the Vampire.


Regarding the first, the conclusion has been delayed because I have come across a lot more source material; both primary and secondary sources. I need some time to ponder all this.

In addition, I am conflicted as to how I should present this new information; as a supplement or addendum to the first part or simply incorporate it into the first part and reissue it in its entirety. I am leaning toward the later option.

Regarding the second, this massive, 200+ chapter, penny-dreadful brings vampire literature up to the late 1840s. In addition to my analysis and comments on this work, I am returning to an old favorite exercise of mine of preparing a twitter summary of the book; one tweet-sized summation for each chapter. It will be available as a free kindle download when the article is posted.


I had not intended to devote so much time and digital ink to nineteenth-century vampire fiction. I must say, however, that I am enjoying the experience.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Books Jonelle Made Me Read III – THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT.

Series Introduction
In this occasional series, I will be discussing books that a teenage girl (now a thirteen-year-old), Jonelle, instructed me to read. And when I say "instructed me to read," of course I mean "commanded me to read." For those of you who don't know her, she is a highly intelligent, sweet, precocious and fairly bossy young lady.
A large part of the reason why I read this book, and the other works that will be discussed in this blog series, is that I want to understand how teenagers think. These posts will not be a review of the book per se as much as an exploration of my random thoughts on the book.
How did I get myself into this?

"Are we stealing that car"? the Gasman asked. "Let's."
I frowned. "No, we are thinking about borrowing it." On the one hand, I really didn't want to become a teenage criminal. On the other hand, every minute that ticked by was another minute closer to Angel's being the number one dissection lesson for a bunch or rabid geneticists.
"That's like Grand Theft Auto," the Gasman said helpfully. " I saw it on TV. It's popular with kids."
"Better 'borrow' it soon," advised Iggy. "I hear a chopper."
I made an executive decision. And yeah, I know -- my karmas' going to come back and get me, too.
In movies, people always "borrow" cars by yanking some wires out from under the dash and connecting them. But the real way it works involves a screwdriver and the starter thingy, under the hood. My personal ethics prevent me from giving you more information. That'd be just what I need a rash of car thefts across America committed by dedicated readers.
I don't think so.
Anyway, I did the engine thing while Iggy sat in the driver's seat, pressing the gas. The motor grumbled into life, I slammed the hood, and we jumped into the van.
My heart was pounding at about two hundred beats a minute.
Then I just stared at the controls.
"Oh, my God," said Fang. "None of us has ever driven."
It wasn't like him to have missed this important detail.
"I've seen people drive on TV," I said, trying to sound confident. "How hard could it be?" I knew about the whole neutral, park, drive thing, so I put it into D.
"Okay, guys," I said. "Here goes nothing."
Books Jonelle Made Me Read
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (Book 1) by James Patterson
Time now to jump back into the mind of a young teenage girl and explore its inner workings...[i]
The Angel Experiment is the first part in nine-part series (ennealogy), Maximum Ride by well-known and very successful author, James Patterson.
This book, the fifth that I was told to read, is the fourth I actually read, and the third I will blog about...[ii]
While trying to work out what I was going to discuss in this post, I sought out Jonelle's thoughts on the book as per usual. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she hasn't actually read it yet! Only part of it! What! It seems that a friend had recommended it to her. She got a copy, began to read it and stopped due to school commitments.
Well, whatever the back-story, I am very glad she suggested The Angel Experiment to me.
Briefly, this story concerns a group of teens who, by means of advanced and mysterious science, are given wings and the skill to fly really well!
While on the run from their creators/captors, they group goes through danger and adventures trying to be free. They uncover the fact that the man they truly believed was their mentor was actually their captor! This revelation brought emotional turmoil and shattered confidence which was more a threat to the teens safety than any number of goons or thugs.
Several common themes in this sub-genre of YA novels are present. These themes have appeared regularly in the works I have been tasked with reading.
-A group of kids, who are outcasts, have to band together and look after each other. There is no one else to help them. Adults cannot help or do not understand the nature and/or the complexity of the problems so also cannot be called upon.
-Even though they are forced into grown-up situations and have to come up with grown-up solutions, they are still kids.
-The kids find themselves, over and over, at the non-existent mercy of cruel and capricious adults who absolutely cannot be trusted. In fact, the only adult figure that is seen in any kind of a positive, supporting, and compassionate light is a veterinarian who is enlisted to help mend one of the children's injured wing.
Add to all the above, a secret organization conducting experiments on hapless children; with the goal of creating super soldiers!
Coupled with the themes, I liked the fast-paced and action-oriented short chapters; revealing the back story in bits as the story progressed added to the suspense and overall enjoyment of the tale.
I really enjoyed Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (Book 1) by James Patterson. I think I might even continue reading this series on my own.
Thanks, Jonelle.
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[i] A scary way to begin this essay to be sure. Not inaccurate, but a little unsettling, nevertheless. [ii] Don't ask. It's a long story. I will explain another time.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Brief Consideration of THE SIMON IFF STORIES AND OTHER WORKS by Aleister Crowley

Continuing my explorations into 19th century supernatural fiction, I discovered The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works by Aleister Crowley from the second decade of the 20th century.


'Now,' said he, 'the problem is to find the inoffensive stranger. I had better leave Scotland. Everyone in Scotland is offensive. Also, in the matter of motive, our common humanity urges us all to kill Scotchmen. So good-bye, land o' cakes!'


The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works is the first complete collection of all 23 Simon Iff short stories together with a further 8 stories comprising the Golden Twigs series inspired by the works of James G. Frazer and his The Golden Bough. All of these tales were written by Crowley between 1915 and 1919 while he lived in the U.S. This particular edition was published in 2012 by Wordsworth Editions and is part of the Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural series. A fine series of reprints and collections which I wholeheartedly endorse.

One Simon Iff tale is not included in this collection. The only novel to include Simon Iff, it is also the only Iff story where occult practices play a part in the plotline. When written in 1917, it was known as The Butterfly Net. However, by its first publication in 1929, its name had changed to Moonchild.



Yes, I know. The Simon Iff stories presented here are not from the 19th century and, honestly, have almost nothing to do with the supernatural. But bear with me a little bit. Born in 1875, Crowley was a product of the time in which he grew to adulthood, the late Victorian Age. His generation was among the last to grow from birth to adulthood entirely under Victoria's shadow.

From a literary standpoint, Crowley's Simon Iff short stories fit prominently into the "occult detective" sub-genre along with Hodgson's Carnacki and others. However, Crowley's infamous reputation both as an occultist and as a person, deserved or not, has handicapped his accomplishments as an author of fiction. For myself, only knowing him via his "wicked" reputation, I was hesitant to read this collection. Now, I am so glad that I got past my reservations.


Among occult or psychic detective tales the Simon Iff stories are rather unique. There are no supernatural elements whatsoever. Not even paranormal phenomena. The cases that Simon Iff investigates are all very human crimes.[i]

There is a superb review of this work on the Vintage Pop Fictions blog, so I shall not go over the same material. I have referenced this site's excellent work in a previous posting and probably will again in a future post. I strongly encourage a careful perusal of this blog.

Honestly, I have only a few comments to add and offer a few pertinent details to Crowley's occult background.

Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1898.[ii] He rose through the degrees rapidly, but not without controversy.[iii] At that time, known as the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn, it was the final flowering or the culmination of the Victorian Occult Revival. Everything that came after the Golden Dawn's fall would be a pale shadow of it. While there is much more to this story and Crowley's not insignificant role in the collapse of the Golden Dawn, it will suffice for this blog post.

In 1904, Crowley was initiated into the Freemasons and by the end of that year had received the 3rd Degree, under the jurisdiction of the Grande Loge du France.[iv]

The earliest members of the Golden Dawn, from the late 1880s, were all Freemasons. The organizational structure of the Golden Dawn was based strongly on that of Masonic lodges. For Crowley to be initiated into the Golden Dawn first and then a few years later join the Masonic order was uncommon in the late nineteenth-century.

I mention all this, not just for the sake of providing background. There is at least one Masonic reference in nearly each Simon Iff story.

If one has the eyes to see.



Crowley, Aleister. The Simon Iff Stories and Other Works. Wordsworth Editions: Hertfordshire, 2012.


Jones, David Richard. "Aleister Crowley Freemason? Revisited." 26 July 2003. Revised 26 May 2011. 2 September 2016.

Starr, Martin. "Aleister Crowley: Freemason." Reprint AQC Volume 108 1995. 2 September 2016.

Vintage Pop Fictions. "Aleister Crowley’s Simon Iff Stories and Other Works." 29 May 2013. 25 August 2016.

Wikipedia. "Simon Iff." 28 August 2016.




[ii] Starr, Martin. "Aleister Crowley: Freemason." Reprint AQC Volume 108 1995.

[iii] Flamboyant, eccentric and a bit of a megalomaniac, Crowley had a real knack for pissing people off...Just like Simon Iff.

[iv] Starr, Martin. "Aleister Crowley: Freemason." Reprint AQC Volume 108 1995. This affiliation was cloudy and very irregular.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Freemasonry in San Diego County," c. 1934 from The San Diego Times.

To celebrate the latest release from HITM Press, both HITM Press and I are pleased to offer as a special bonus, a reproduction of the article “Freemasonry in San Diego County.” The material is well worth your time and consideration. It raises many interesting tidbits of information regarding the early days of the Craft in San Diego. The source for this piece, The San Diego Times, is unknown to me. Most likely, it is a Masonic or fraternal publication due to how the author is listed. Also, while no date is indicated in the original article, based on people mentioned and the offices they held as reported in the piece, I believe a strong argument can be made that this article is dated c.1934. Finally, a copy of the original article can be found in the Archives of the San Diego History Center under the entry: Cyrus Field Willard, “Freemasonry in San Diego County,” The San Diego Times, no date, “Masons” document file, San Diego History Center.


Freemasonry in San Diego County

by Cyrus Field Willard, 32°

(From The San Diego Times, Circa 1934)
Freemasonry in SD county--small
The history of Freemasonry in San Diego County is one that all Freemasons regard with pride. The first Lodges in the State were formed around San Francisco and the gold regions, where, the Masons coming from the Eastern states and foreign countries gathered together in their Lodges to assist each other in a strange land.
While San Diego was the place of beginnings on the Pacific Coast yet the Spaniards under Galvez and the Franciscan monks who established the mission of San Diego in 1769 before Father Serra came, were not Masons.

There was nothing much done here until the discovery of gold near Sacramento in 1848, after the breaking out of the Mexican war. It was a Mason, Commodore Sloat, a member of St. Andrew's Lodge No. 3 of New York City, who hoisted the American flag at Monterey and seized that seat of the Mexican government in California, in July 1846. On Dec. 5, 1846 the battle of San Pasqual was fought and Kit Carson and Lieut. Beale, both Brother Masons, crawled through a triple cordon of Mexican soldiers and reached San Diego where Commodore Stockton, also a Mason, had taken possession of the town. They sent a force of marines and sailors who rescued Gen. Kearney from the dangerous position in which he was after the battle, and turned defeat into victory.

Then came to San Diego in 1850, John Judson Ames, editor of the "San Diego Herald," which he established in this city in that year and first suggested the formation of San Diego Lodge, which is the oldest Lodge in California south of the Tehachapi with its first Master, William C. Ferrell, who had been sent out from South Carolina as the first Collector of the Port, by the Southern Democrats who then controlled the government. It was Lieutenant George H. Derby, an officer in the U. S. Engineer Corps of the Army, who, under the name of "John Phoenix" wrote "Phoenixiana" and the Squibob Papers, which gave him a great reputation before the Civil War. He was the originator of that American school of humor, of which Mark Twain, Bret Harte and many others were exponents and which is distinctively American. Derby was the acting Master of San Diego Lodge No. 35 for several years, as it did not receive its charter until May 6, 1853, on account of lack of knowledge of procedure and some friction of a nature which has never been disclosed. Derby as Army engineers, was sent down to San Diego to build the dike which diverted San Diego river from San Diego bay into False Bay, sometimes called Mission bay for some mysterious reason, as there is no Mission near it. He had been the Master of Temple Lodge No. 14 Sonoma, before he came down here and he acted as Master when the first elected Master declined to serve. Ames was his Senior Warden, who was 6 feet, 6 1/2 inches tall and weighed 240 pounds, while Derby was short and stocky–only about 5 feet 6 inches, which makes his story of his fight with Ames over his changing politics of the Herald all the more amusing

Other members of this Lodge were Philip Crosthwaite, a cattle-man who was the third Master, and was sheriff at one time and furnished the meat for the poor, blind starving Indians that the Lodge fed when the Mission of San Diego refused to help them. The Lodge paid the bill from July 1st, 1855 to Jan. 5th, 1857, after they had been left to starve. All the public offices at the time were filled with Masons. E. W. Morse was the energetic secretary of the Lodge and held many public offices. He helped to plant American institutions in the then Mexican town. Rev. John Reynolds was army chaplain at the barracks and preached the first Protestant sermon in San Diego in the Lodge room of San Diego Lodge No. 35, thus establishing religious toleration in Southern California. James W. Robinson, leading lawyer for years, had been Governor of Texas.

Ames had been sent down by Democrats of San Francisco to establish the Herald to advocate the division of the State into North and South California so the Slavery forces could get two more votes, as California had been admitted as a free State in 1850. It was the wife of Governor Robinson who proposed and insisted that we have free public schools such as we have had ever since. Another prominent man then was William Heath Davis, who was the principal owner of New San Diego, called by Derby after he came here in 1853, "Davis' Folly." Davis built the first wharf on San Diego Bay. There were quite a number of secessionists in the lodge at its inception, but after Derby came, he either made them ridiculous or converted them. There was Capt. J. Bankhead Magruder, who was afterwards General Magruder of Confederate fame, who fought a duel with Tibbetts and was made ridiculous by Derby, who made the bullets out of tallow candles and charcoal, one of which struck Tibbetts in the forehead and spattered all over his face. Tibbetts was a strong Unionist and landlord of the Gila House, Mayor of the City in 1852.

There was also John C. Cremony, founder of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, who came out with the Boundary Commission as interpreter. He had worked on the Boston Herald and later went to San Francisco to reside. When the Civil War broke out, he was appointed Major and commanded a body of troops, cavalry and Scouts, who guided the "Column From California" of 2,000 men, across the Colorado Desert under Command of Colonel James H. Carleton, also a Mason, without their losing a man. This column from California prevented a rebel detachment from capturing Fort Yuma and drove the rebels back from Gila Bend into Northern New Mexico and Northwest Texas, where Canby finally was joined at Santa Fe lifting the siege that had prevented him from doing anything to help Carleton, until the latter arrived and joined forces. It had been intended to send a privateer into San Diego harbor once the Fort at Yuma have been captured, and from here prey on the Commerce of the North, but Derby and other Unionists, and Masons prevented this. Louis Rose of Roseville and Rose Canyon was also an officer and early member of this lodge and a strong unionist, as were Col. J. J. Warner of Warner's Ranch, and J. F. Jaeger, who owned a ranch near the mouth of the Colorado river and was a member of this Lodge. He and Warner furnished the meat and hay that fed the men and horses of the column from California that saved California to the Union and gave the gold and silver to the Union that enabled it to buy its munitions of war. These facts are taken from War Department records. These men had been made strong in the faith by Lieutenant Derby, who was born at Dedham, Mass., and as a Northern man was naturally a devoted Unio0nist. At that time it was proposed, if the movement to divide the State of California was successful, to build a railroad from Charleston, S. C., right across the country to San Diego, Calif., and that was the reason Ferrell had been sent from Charleston, S.C., to be the first Collector of the Port. It was Derby who changed all this sentiment and brought many of the officers at the Fort into San Diego Lodge No. 35.

This is a brief, sketchy background to the reasons for forming San Diego Lodge No. 35 and which Derby changed into an instrument of good for his beloved United States, when the Civil War came.

In giving this short synopsis of the events attending the birth of San Diego Lodge, it is done for the purpose of relating the effect it had on all the Masons in the territory of Southern California, as it was organized a year before Los Angeles Lodge, and is the mother of some 18 or 19 Lodges in and around San Diego.

The eldest child of San Diego Lodge is South-West Lodge No. 283, which was chartered October 14, 1886 and of which Carl S. Owen is Worshipful Master for 1934. The next oldest is Silver Gate Lodge, chartered Oct. 10th 1889, of which Edgar Fergusson is master for this year. There are 580 Lodges in the State and the numbers thus show their seniority. Next is Fallbrook Lodge No. 317, whose charter was issued Oct. 11, 1893. Then comes Consuelo Lodge No. 325, of Escondido, chartered Oct. 11, 1895, with Leslie K. Wharton as Maser for 1934. Next is Oceanside Lodge, No. 381, charter issued 1906, present Worshipful Master is Courtland W. Shanick. Next is La Mesa Lodge No. 407, chartered October 13, 1910. Earl R. Clayton is Master this year. The Charter of Coronado Lodge No. 441 dates from October 15, 1914. Its present Master is Edward L. Pfieffer. Blackmer Lodge is No. 442, named after an old resident of San Diego, Col. E. T. Blackmer, and its master for 1934 is Charles B. Frailey. This Lodge is a joint occupant of the Masonic Temple, Fifth Ave. at Ash St. La Jolla Lodge, No. 518, chartered Nov. 4, 1922, is located at Masonic Temple, Gerard Ave., La Jolla, and its Master is Clarence E. Johnson.

East San Diego Lodge, No. 561, chartered Oct. 11, 1923, meets in Masonic Temple, 3879 43rd St., East San Diego, with John Gunsallus as Master. S. W. Hackett Lodge, No. 574, chartered October 11, 1923, meets in the same Temple as San Diego Lodge, at 5th and Ash, and Royal L. Parks is Master for 1934. It is also named for an old resident who was a Mason. Next is El Cajon Valley Lodge, No. 576, which meets in Masonic Hall, Bank Bldg., El Cajon, with Roy L. Fuller as Master. Santa Maris Lodge No. 580, chartered October 18, 1924, meets in Masonic Temple, Ramona, with Louis H. Baldwin as Master. Point Loma Lodge No. 620, was chartered October 15, 1925, and meets at Point Loma Masonic Hall, Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach, with William E. Nelson as Worshipful Master. Chula Vista Lodge No. 626, chartered October 15, 1925, meets in Masonic Hall, 3rd Ave. and F St., Chula Vista, with Charles M. Whitaker as Worshipful Master.

Normal Heights Lodge No. 632, was chartered October 14, 1926, and meets at 3339 Adams Avenue with Elmer Muhl as Master. Next is John D. Spreckels Lodge No. 657, which meets at Masonic Hall, 3919 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, with Horace H. Blair as Worshipful Master.

These 18 Lodges have all grown far beyond the expectations of those who started them. Most of them, except the older Lodges, are "neighborhood Lodges," near the members' homes, where they can drop in on an evening without being obliged to go a long distance. This is only a bare recital of the names of the various Lodges and their present Masters, while a much more detailed account might reveal many incidents of historical interest in the several localities in which they are located. All these Lodges teach the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, without religious discussion which, as well as political matters, are expressly forbidden in the Lodge as a corollary of the idea of the Brotherhood of Man. Many charitable and benevolent acts can be credited to each Lodge as it is one of their cardinal principles to look after their own. The several Lodges have a board of Masonic relief and employment bureau whose offices are at the Masonic Temple, 5th Ave. and Ash Street, to which most of the Lodges mentioned send representatives to conduct it business. This Masonic Board of Relief looks after Masons from Lodges outside of San Diego County, and the Lodges in the County look after their own members. The Board of Relief spends from $15,000 to $20,000 every year on Masons from outside the County and State for distressed Masons who find themselves out of employment in San Diego. While it is a strict rule never violated, that no religious or political discussions shall be allowed in the Lodge while in session, yet no one can prevent men getting together in the ante-room, before or after the meetings and talking over candidates. Yet no concerted action could be taken as a Lodge without running the risk of their charter being taken away by the Grand Master when he heard of it. It is tradition in Boston Freemasonry that the tea was thrown overboard in Boston Harbor by men disguised as Indians, after St. Andrew's Lodge of that city had closed its meeting.

San Diego Lodge used to meet in Old Town until the county records were moved from there one night, when a descent was made on them and they were taken in 1872 by wagon to the New Town established by Father Horton, also a Mason. The Lodge then met in a Hall at the Southwest corner of Fifth and F Streets. After that, San Diego Lodge No. 35, met in the old Masonic Temple at the Northwest corner of Sixth and Market, until 1910, when it was moved to the present Temple at the Northeast corner of Fifth Ave. and Ash Street, which is now too small for the many activities conducted there. Nothing has been said of the many appendant or dependent orders which require a man to be a Mason before he can belong. Such are the Royal Arch Masons, the Royal and Select Masters, the Knight Templars, the Scottish Rite Bodies, the Shrine, the Order of DeMolay, the various Chapters of Eastern Star which are mainly composed of women with Masonic connections and which also admit husbands of its members. All of these conduct much philanthropic and altruistic work of which no mention is made outside the outer door of their meeting places.

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