I’m hosting this. See you in the dark.
Ah, exhale. The end of another year. It feels that way tonight, surrounded by snow and twinkling lights and bits of shiny paper on the floor, with only a few squares remaining on the 2013 calendar. Time to plot the future. But first, a look back at the music, books, films that inspired me, excited me, provoked me, made me think, laugh, dance, rock out, dream, scream.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I find conflicts between my passion for all things tagged “goth” and “horror” and the reality of what I enjoyed and thought was good quality. I have never been a super fan of blind faith in terms of genre. Tell me a good story. If there be monsters, all the better. Sing me a song. If it’s sad and romantic and melodramatic, I shall sigh and swoon all the more. But I still get excited by many, many other genres of music, from folk to disco and beyond, as well as poetry and documentaries and all kinds of things. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Like what you like.
In 2013, I put out my own book, which impacted how much other stuff I could seek out, and really absorb, to recommend. But for the sake of posterity, and in the interest of spreading the word about what I find worthy and wonderful…. a few of my favourite things…
Live shows were more exciting to me than records this year. Probably because I saw Nick Cave perform two nights, back to back, and it was a much more satisfying experience than listening to his latest release Push the Sky Away on its own. First in Montreal, at the always amazing Metropolis club, than at the even more amazing Massey Hall, where I managed to push myself up to the front of the stage. There were strings and children’s choirs making the new songs sound great, and St. Nick doing “Stagger Lee” and “The Mercy Seat” with as much vigor as ever and my friend and I giving he and Warren flowers like lovesick teenagers and all I really remember is thinking how if I could see only one act in concert ever again for the rest of my life, it would be him. Hands down. Have I purchased tickets for his summer 2014 tour already? Hell, yes.
There were other live shows for the books, many of them verging on nostalgia trips — Rocket from the Crypt rocking my Riotfest, two intimate sets of triumphant, glorious Patti Smith at the AGO, Nine Inch Nails proving they can add funk and back-up singers and still blast out the industrial hits. But also some new favourites: The XX beautiful in the rain at Echo Beach, Iceland’s Legend at a basement bar, Majical Cloudz making my NXNE with his intense solo performance.
As for the records, I made a Top 10 Canadian Albums list for Huffington Post Music with my critic hat on; those that I personally adored were Basia Bulat’s Tall, Tall Shadow (heartbreaking folk), Majical Cloudz’ Impersonator (very minimal, very dark), Young Galaxy’s Ultramarine (fresh, feel-good synthpop), and Daniel Romano’s Come Cry with Me (hurtin’ traditional country).
Beyond our borders, I got and will give love to Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight, was all over the Siouxsie-like post-punk of Savages’ Silence Yourself, realized I actually do like Alkaline Trio with My Shame is True, and finally discovered Agnes Obel thanks to Avetine — she’s my Goth Who Isn’t Goth alert for 2013.
Like everyone with a pulse, I also gleefully danced to “Get Lucky” way too many times.
Only Lovers Left Alive! Jim Jarmusch’s arthouse vampire movie, starring Tilda Swinton, is exquisite, and was a highlight of my TIFF 2013. Sadly, no actual release date in sight. Ditto Horns, the most excellent adaptation of the Joe Hill novel, transformed into a superior dark comedy/horror/fantasy. Watch out for those next year. I join the chorus celebrating American Mary the indie Canadian horror flick about body modification, for being smart, sexy, nasty and driven by kinky, crazy, outrageous female characters. Thanks Soska Sisters for bringing back Katherine “Ginger Snaps” Isabelle to the big screen. And I really dug the sweetness of Warm Bodies. A zombie who plays vinyl records for a girl is my kind of zombie. As for documentaries, I had much to ponder about violence and appropriation of voice after watching The Exhibition, about an artist painting women killed by Robert Pickton; and I couldn’t be happier to see BlackFish changing perceptions and policies about whales and dolphins in captivity.
Or, this is what I was doing alone in the dark when not obsessing over Klaus in The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.
It was a great year for me to see some of my favourite writers in the flesh, and hear them read aloud. After many years of adoring Anne Carson from afar, she came to town for the International Festival of Authors. My favourite living poet, she claimed in her humble introduction to lack charisma. Hardly. Her words make other worlds possible, and when she brings them to life in her own voice, even the most obtuse things became completely clear. (This particular event provided me the opportunity to experience a woman shhhhhushing a man for taking notes because she found the sound of his pencil on paper too loud. Seriously. ) Carson is a strange woman. The very best kind. I cannot recommend her books more highly. Also, did I wait several hours to talk to Neil Gaiman at the Toronto stop for his Last Tour Ever for Ocean at the End of the Lane? Indeed I did. His reading was marvellous, the Q&A hilarious, the long queue well worth it to chat with him after about my own new book. He continues to say very kind things to me about Gothica and it's such a blessing to have these interactions with someone so beloved, and so generous.
(For a list of the books I enjoyed reading this year, visit my Good Reads page.)
Neil signed my copy of Ocean that night with "Dream dangerous." And so I shall. In fact, it's my resolution for 2014. See you then/there.
I love to read aloud. So I’m delighted to announce my first public performances/readings of 2013! It would be lovely to see you. It’s been too long.
Thursday, May 9
LOST AT SEA: An Evening of Magical Things
(152 Augusta Ave in Kensington Market, Toronto)
7:30 pm FREE
My beloved friends at the House of Pomegranates have put together an evening of literary merriment and magic, a haunted world of art, music, and film, luscious chocolate, exotic cocktails and clever words. There will be readings by David Keyes, launching his new book I Do So Worry for All Those Lost at Sea. Vampire novelist Nancy Baker. Poet Lynn Crosbie. And me. Presentations by Belinda Chun of Gallery House and Prof. Richard Greene, talking of the Sitwells. A mystery String Quartet will play Ravel. And a short film about Carmilla, fashions from Gloomth, and fancy cocktails. Did I mention I will be reading brand new poems from a manuscript in progress called Requiem Birds? And that I’ll be accompanied by a surprise? Come, be surprised.
Saturday, June 22
A LITERARY PICNIC AT LUMINATO
Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto
noon to 4pm FREE
Sixty authors in the park, reading aloud to you. I’m stoked to be part of this year’s Luminato Arts festival. And even more excited to be part of an event truly designed for book lovers. Come and hear me read on the theme of “Beginnings.” You can even sign up to stay and spend time with me one-on-one on a picnic blanket and Ask Me Anything. Pack a parasol. Come.
How do I know summer is over? No, not when the CNE opens, or when my local dollar store puts out its first Halloween toys. (Although that did happen today.) It’s the arrival of Festival of Fear, the annual horror convention that Rue Morgue Magazine presents as part of FanExpo, Canada’s geek central. This weekend, August 23 to 26, will signal the end of beach parties (um, OK, I only did that once) and the countdown to dead leaves and autumnal treats. As always, besides the FOF’s horror junkies, the Fan Expo will sure to be jammed with anime loving cosplayers, stormtroopers and streampunks. But for me this year, it’s all about the vampires!
I’ll be appearing at the Festival of Fear all day Saturday doing panels and a book signing. I must have been a very good goth this year because I’ve been asked to moderate Q&As with stars of True Blood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And of course, it’s a great pleasure to be promoting Encyclopedia Gothica with Gary and ECW Press. Please come say hello. I won’t bite. (Well, maybe a little.)
Liisa’s bloodsuckingly awesome Saturday FOF schedule:
12 noon What is Goth? panel with Voltaire and Nancy Kilpatrick, moderated by Tomb Dragomir (Room 703)
1pm True Blood celebrity Q&A with Nelsan Ellis, moderated by me! (Room 701)
3pm Buffy’s Spike and Dru Q&A, James Marsters and Juliet Landau, moderated by me! (Room 701)
4pm Encyclopedia Gothica book signing, with Gary Pullin (ECW Press, Booth 556)
5pm Life After Twilight panel on vampire fiction, with Nancy Kilpatrick, Crissy Calhoun, moderated by Monica S. Kuebler (Room 703)
Download the complete Festival of Fear horror schedule here.
And while you’re shopping, keep your eyes out for some of my favourite artist friends selling beautiful things on the convention floor: Ghoulish Gary Pullin, Bird Behind the Mask, My Pet Skeleton and Phantom City Creative.
Today we launched the web version of the Goth Band Family Tree that appears at the back of my book. Check it out here: http://www.encyclopediagothica.com/
The concept for the tree was lifted, admittedly, from the documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey by Banger Films. They took all the subgenres of heavy metal and grouped them into a genealogical-type chart, listing the key bands for each style. I knew (because I worked at Banger after the film came out) how insanely popular this chart was. I also knew Goth had a similar kind of evolution, and thought it would be fun to chart its course. And so…
I drew up my Goth Band chart and the book’s illustrator Gary Pullin make it work visually. Then, my design and development hero Deane Hughes was enlisted to bring it alive for the web. I’m personally very anti-piracy and it was important to send visitors to the band’s sites while also giving them a taste of music. I am delighted with what Deane came up with.
Of course, I expect people to argue over the list. I couldn’t possibly include everyone on there. I forgot some, and others were left out for a reason. It’s also difficult to slot certain bands into one category. (Really, what would you do with Marilyn Manson?) But I felt it was important to try. Because for me, music is the centerpiece of Gothdom. I realize that for some, in fact many, babybats, it’s all about the clothes and the lifestyle accessories. But music was my gateway into this world, and it remains what binds me to it, as much as my obsessions with velvet, poetry and graveyards. Even if I don’t like all that many new Goth bands. And so I await the hate mail, and hopefully suggestions to make the tree better, or expand my musical horizons. I remember showing the chart-in-progress to one Goth friend who recommended I include the Virgin Prunes. They were a new discovery for me, one I now recommend to others. So whether visitors are learning about new bands or old bands for the first time, this pleases me. It is the point.
I am grateful for the work that Gary and Deane did for me on this project and I hope that you will help us spread the word about it far and wide. Think of it as a very cheap Christmas present from you to me. Tweet, tweet!
“If you have perchance produced a book which has met with some little measure of success, you are certain to get a letter from some lady whom you scarcely known to bow to, asking you “how it can be got.” She knows the name of the book, its author, and who published it, but how to get into actual contact with it is still an unsolved problem to her. You write back pointing out that to have recourse to an ironmonger or a corn-dealer will only entail delay and disappointment, and suggest an application to a bookseller as the most hopeful thing you can think of. In a day or two she writes again: “It is all right; I have borrowed it from your aunt.” — Saki.
My friend Russell recently related to me that quote. It’s as good an answer as any I’ve heard to the question, “Where can I get a copy of your book?”
My answer to that is simple. “A bookstore!” This is especially exciting since, for many years, procuring my writing involved attending small press book fairs, readings, or other events where I was physically present to sell it. Now, with Encyclopedia Gothica, I have a publisher and a distributor getting my book on shelves all around the world. In North America right now you can buy it from on-line shoppes like Amazon USA and Chapters and my publisher ECW Press. Many Chapters/Indigo/Coles stores across Canada have it in stock, or they will order it for you. Some of my favourite independent bookstores seem to be carrying it, such as Quimbys in Chicago and St. Mark’s Bookshop in NYC. I heard that Sunrise Records on Yonge has a stash.
The book is also in the library system, and I couldn’t be more delighted. There are copies coming soon to the Toronto Public Library. According to World Cat, it can be borrowed from public libraries in Cleveland and Denver, too, and what fun to see a copy in the British Library! I know my hometown public library in Penetanguishene will have a copy as I am delivering it myself this weekend. And my favourite librarian has assured me it will soon be in the stacks at York U.
All this doesn’t mean you can’t still get a book from me directly. Soon, I will have a mail order system set up on this here site, offering signed copies and deluxe packages including Gary Pullin’s art. For now, send an email to email@example.com with a special request and I’ll take care of you. And you can still track me down at special events. Oh, look! There is one this very weekend…..
6 Nobel Street (West of Dufferin, steps North of Queen) 11am to 7pm. FREE.
A marketplace of independent artists and craftspeople and entrepreneurs with a macabre bent. I will have a booth selling/signing/stamping books. Come and say hello!
Here in Canada, it’s the start of Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t generally make a fuss about that; I don’t eat turkey after all, and when you’re a freelance writer, you don’t really take those long weekend holidays off from work anyhow. But I am feeling particularly grateful this year. It’s been a dizzyingly wondrous week for me. Encyclopedia Gothica hit bookstores in North America. I held my Toronto launch party, an evening filled with friends and supporters and much laughter, not to mention glittery Ouija boards, after which The Onion’s AV club called me “Goth as Fuck.” I’ve been guest blogging for the National Post’s Afterword. My home office is perfumed by the many flowers I’ve been showered with all week long, smelling now of that period between bloom and decay.
I am determined to enjoy every small moment of this, and celebrate each small victory. And I thank you, unknown reader, if you’ve had any part of it. Happy Thanksgiving.
It’s been a year since I submitted my manuscript for the Encyclopedia Gothica and a few days ago now I got the finished product in my hands.
So many authors must suffer with ugly book covers. Not me. The design, courtesy Gary Pullin, is perfect. The heft of the hard cover is perfect. The frayed paper edges is perfect. It’s a joy for me to behold, and to hold.
The official publication date is October 1. But I’m already starting to get reports back from media colleagues who’ve received their review copies, and American friends who pre-ordered from Amazon. My librarian friends have copies ordered for their collections. It was on sale at last weekend’s Word on the Street book fair, and I hear it’s on the shelves at Sunrise Records on Yonge Street. This thing, that not long ago was only in my head, it lives. I am grateful. I am proud.
For some people in Toronto, the end of summer is heralded by the opening of the Ex. For me, I know it’s about the time to dust off the autumnal velvets by the arrival of Festival of Fear, the horror convention presented by Rue Morgue as part of the massive FanExpo con. It’s where fans of all things spooky or gory queue up for hours/converge to buy stuff, get said stuff autographed by cult heros of the genre, geek out with others about the stuff they just got signed. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of this kind of frenzied consumption, but I am very pleased to be involved in some of the programming that is not just about buying shit. This year more than ever, I have a bunch of FoF activities to crow about for those coming out to the show. Because of the Encyclopedia Gothica, I’m even listed as a “Guest.” Neat! (Sadly, copies will not be available for sale, the book is still at the printers.) Here’s where to find me:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 26
Q&A with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark! You read that right… I’m going to be interviewing one of the universe’s most famous vamps. No, I will not be competing with her cleavage. Yes, I will be asking her about the pinball machine. 1pm (Hall G)
My own signing! Well, alongside Ghoulish Gary Pullin. We’ll be promoting Encyclopedia Gothica with posters and handshakes and kind words written in blood. Also swing by Gary’s own booth for exclusive prints from the book. 4pm (ECW Booth 219)
SUNDAY, AUGUST 28
Horror Non-Fiction: From Passion to Paycheque. On a panel with vampire/Goth Bible author Nancy Kilpatrick, vampire diaries expert Crissy Calhoun and Nikki Stafford, moderated by Rue Morgue’s Monica S. Kuebler. We’ll discuss how to “make it” as a fan-turned-professional. 1pm (Room 715B)
Steven Severin’s Music for Silents. A perfect way to end your weekend, with art and ambience. Severin you may remember was co-founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and thus, a bonafide original Goth music legend. He’ll be performing solo, a live score to Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet, followed by a Q&A interview by myself, and a meet/greet. Come early for the dark drones of Toronto duo Kalte. 9pm (Drake Hotel)
So please, once you’ve braved the queues and the crowds, do come say hello in person, as I do not bite much during the daylight hours. Much. You can also follow my adventures from home as I will be tweet tweeting throughout the weekend.
This week, Encyclopedia Gothica officially went off to the printers. And I got details about the format: paper overboards (hardcover, sans jacket), matte finish, debossed printing for the cover design, ragged paper edges and black tail bands. I am thrilled that ECW Press imagined the same kind of book that I did, and can’t wait to hold one in my hands! One person was even more excited than I about the geeky printing details: Ghoulish Gary Pullin, my illustrator. Which reminded me that I haven’t shared with you yet the awesome sneak preview Gary has posted of the Gothica illustrations on his newly vamped website.
So please, without delay, visit Gary’s Gothica Gallery to see a sample of what he’s cooked up for the book. There are more than 20 original Ghoulish Gary drawings in the Encyclopedia, most of which blew my stripey socks right off. Of these preview pieces, like V for Vampire Dispatching Kit and H for Halloween, I am most fond of this one, for the letter E: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. (I hope this doesn’t need saying but I will anyway: if anyone dares steal these images without permission, I will personally hunt them down and stab them in the neck with a sharp stiletto shoe, in front of their children or pets. So don’t be a jerk.)
Stay tuned for details of our fabulous launch parties in Toronto and London, On and special limited-editions of these extraordinary goth prints!