Prince Lestat

I remember when I heard that Anne Rice was coming out with a new book in The Vampire Chronicles series. This was my reaction.

Why aren't you dancing like Ben Horne right now?

Why aren’t you dancing like Ben Horne right now?

On one of her Facebook posts, Anne Rice asked her readers when we discovered her books. This is my story. I was twelve or thirteen. I had mostly outgrown all the Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine books that I used to read. The stories were good but they didn’t challenge me. I was also a serious misfit in my small-town school. I was goth way before it was as accepted as it is now. I see business women with spiky purses and shoes but, once upon a time in the nineties, people freaked out if you wore stuff like that. If you wore spikes to school you could pretty much guarantee a trip to the guidance counselor. I was a sophomore in high school when Columbine happened and that’s when the media was blasting the Trench Coat Mafia and that made the ostracism worse since goths were officially being blamed for a school massacre. The only massacres I participated in were butchering the English language with terrible, mopey short stories and poetry. Anyway, this was back in 1995 or 1996, before Facebook existed. My family had its first computer and I spent a huge amount of time online on the Yahoo goth groups. I had maybe three friends at school but I could talk to people all over the world that liked what I liked and made me feel accepted. I’m still in touch with some of these people, actually, so that’s enduring friendships spanning sixteen years. The top book recommendations in these groups were always Anne Rice books. I picked up Interview with the Vampire and I was hooked. Louis’ theological problems were way deeper than anything I had ever encountered before but here was a story about a whole group of people who lived within society but not as a part of it.
The funny part was that I was in accelerated classes, I had been since I was eight-years-old. It was a small town so I was with people I had known since I was young and I wasn’t friends with most of them. Part of why I didn’t like them was because every single class was like a competition to see who could be the best. They were the kind of people who would snatch a test out of your hand to see your grade. I really hated the competitiveness and how people would read books not because they liked them but because they were considered advanced. Reading The Vampire Lestat gave me new insight and made me wonder why I was playing a game I hated and obeying rules made by other people. I kept doing the assigned reading but whenever I had a chance to write about books of my choice, I started turning in reports about contemporary horror, mostly books by Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, and I actually did turn in reports about Interview with the Vampire and The Silence of the Lambs. My own, small Lestat moment.
Hearing that there was going to be a new Vampire Chronicles book after something like eleven years was like hearing that a dear old friend was coming back. I grew up with these characters. I have a hard time reading fiction sometimes, since I’m so close to the Asperger spectrum. I have feelings, I understand feelings, but if you want me to interpret other people’s feelings then you may as well put me in the corner with a bucket over my head because I’ll have no clue what’s happening. I’ve never really had a problem understanding Anne Rice’s characters, though.
This introduction has been way too long so on to the book. Prince Lestat takes place after the events of Memnoch the Devil. Lestat is melancholy and living a life of isolation while contemplating his past adventures. He’s also having trouble coming to terms with today’s technology, regularly forgetting to keep his phone charged or how to use email. There are more fledglings than ever who stalk the elder, “celebrity” vampires, in between fighting each other. Some fledglings, including Benji (Made by Marius for Armand in The Vampire Armand, along with Sybelle) demand leadership within the vampire community that Maharet and Mekare seem unwilling to provide. An external crisis finally forces the elder vampires and those they care about to pay attention. That’s really all I can say without entering spoiler territory and I really want people to read this so I hope this summary is tantalizing enough to get you to pick up a copy.
Do not read this book if you have stuff to do. I had a very hard time putting it down. It just happened to be published during the convergence of my History of Funeral Service final, my last-minute preparations for Walker Stalker Con, and starting a new job. My lead pointer EXPLODED all over my Mucha-inspired portrait of Michonne. Just, exploded. Lead shavings all over a picture I’d been working on for weeks. So I’ve been furiously drawing and studying and reading in five-minute-portions.
This is the face of procrastination!

This is the face of procrastination!

Seriously, this book is a joy to read. It has a tension and an urgency that I really didn’t feel with the other books, maybe that’s why I couldn’t put it down. Plus, instead of following one point of view, there are lots and lots of points of view. It’s good hearing from characters that we haven’t heard from in a while and there are some new characters to get to know. Not a lot, it isn’t like Battle Royale which I also liked but every chapter had a new narrator. It got to the point that you were numbed to what was happening to the characters and it was hard to care since there were just so many of them.
The writing feels very lush, decadent, and sensuous. That’s why you read a book by Anne Rice and that’s why I ignore most contemporary fiction. What’s currently popular feels very sterile so I avoid it. If you don’t like that style then you might not like this book. Some of Ms. Rice’s writing reminds me of Arthur Machen, especially his work The Great God Pan.
You don’t necessarily have to read The Vampire Chronicles to read this book but I honestly wish I had reread them more recently. It would have been helpful to have a refresher in whether or not they had agreed to not make any more fledglings and what Marius’ advice for making fledglings were.
I’ve heard people criticize Ms. Rice’s writing for being too theological. I have to say that as an atheist there isn’t anything in particular to be offended by. It’s more like gentle spiritual undertones that even a heathen like me can accept. There’s this kind of optimism in some of the characters that reminds me of Carl Sagan. There’s no “Believe in Jesus or you’re going to heeeeeeeellllllllllllllll.” You’ll hear so much worse at Thanksgiving with my extended family.
Science played an interesting role in this book. It’s always irked me that none of the characters in the past tried a scientific study of themselves. I’ve always wondered, aren’t you curious about yourself? And it’s not like Marius or Lestat couldn’t afford an MRI machine, although I’m not sure if they could figure out how to use it. I think Marius could but I’m not sure Lestat would have the patience and he admits that he’s hopeless with science. Happily, this is addressed.
The only problem I really had with the novel was the branding within. Phones aren’t smartphones in the book, they’re iPhones and speakers are by Bose. As a culture jammer that tags every single ad I get a chance to, I really hate the way companies have lodged themselves in my brain. I dislike living and working in a world where free space isn’t for art or quiet contemplation, it’s for ad space. That’s why I love the work of Jillyballistic so much. So it’s really jarring in this beautiful narrative to suddenly see Apple products mentioned. These vampires are so rich that I can pretty much assume they’re using all Apple products, even if they may not know how to use Illustrator, so why bother naming them? I don’t have this issue with the clothing, though, because each brand of clothing has a different artist behind it. You say Armani blazer and your mind conjures up an image that’s different from say, Alexander Wang or Commes des Garcons.
I think my favorite part of the book is when Marius is painting flowers in an abandoned house in Brazil. There’s something so lonely about that image. (As an artist, I was happily surprised to see Marius using acrylics. I thought he’d be oils or go home. I’d love to give him some spray paint and see what he makes with that). That sums up the series for me, living on the outside of the human world but not being able to let people in because bad things happen to mortals that linger in the vampire world. Being a vampire doesn’t mean these characters need love any less than a human, it also doesn’t mean they have any more insight into what it means to be alive or how we choose to make our way in the world. I guess that in the end you have the choice of either creating or destroying but, regardless of what you choose, do it whole-heartedly. Also, we don’t get to choose the families we’re born into and share genes with but we can choose our friends and allies. That’s a good lesson for vampires and for humans.
Recommended Music: I listen to music while I read because my neighborhood is loud and I rarely ever have silence. These pieces went well with the reading. “Montage From Twin Peaks–Girl Talk/Birds in Hell/Laura Palmer’s Theme/Falling” from the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. “Patria Opressa” from Verdi’s Macbeth. Requiem in D Minor by Mozart. Anything by Bat for Lashes, especially off of the Two Suns album. The song “Daniel” also seems oddly suitable. An amazing person put most of the music played on Hannibal on Spotify and that goes really well. Pretty much anything by The Decemberists. “The Infanta” really captures the grandeur of the lives of the elder vampires. I also respect any songwriter that rhymes “folderol” with “chaparral” and actually makes it work in a song. The Crane Wife album also goes very well. Old goth music like Sisters of Mercy. “Motherless Child” by Ghostface Killah.
Moderately edited on 11/12/2014

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Walker Stalker Con 2014 is coming to the Meadowlands the weekend of December 13th and 14th. I’m urging my Northeast readers to attend. Cast members from The Walking Dead will be there, plus the original casts from Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead. I’m very excited for this!
More importantly, for me, I’ll be there selling original artwork that’s From the Vault, my companion Etsy shop. I just ordered prints of my sketch cards, I’ll be selling original sketch cards, and there will be larger works, like my Soviet propaganda poster of the Governor.
There will be prints of that picture too, so if you think you can’t afford a piece of art that’s a couple of hundred dollars, well now you can afford a version of it.
Come visit, meet the stars of your favorite show, and get a chance to help a local artist.

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Weekly Weird Roundup

This week’s Weekly Weird Roundup is live! Come read about dead babies, killer fish, and towns for sale and be sure to visit horror-writers dot net.

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I was visiting my mom again and by now you should know what happens when I visit my mom. We go to the movies. I didn’t want to see Dracula: Untold because I hate movies that humanize Dracula and I already know the ending to Gone Girl so Annabelle it was.
Honestly, I had a problem with this movie from before it started and this is it.
When you have a killer doll that looks like that, there’s really nothing to build up to. She looks a little cleaner at the beginning but, she’s immediately incredibly threatening and creepy-looking. It’s hard to believe that anyone would find her lovable or want her in their house. You don’t really see her evolve, it’s just always “WHAM! LOOKAT THIS DOLL!” I know that James Wan likes to design creepy dolls but this is a real drawback for this movie.
The movie opens with the same scene from The Conjuring, where the nurses are telling the Warrens about the creepy doll, Annabelle. I was hoping Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson would reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren but no such luck. John R. Leonetti, the cinematographer from The Conjuring took over the role of director for this movie, while James Wan stepped back as producer. The footage from the beginning looks very distinct from the way the rest of the movie looks, that’s a very jarring way to start a movie.
Anyway, Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton star as newlyweds Mia and John Form.
John buys Mia the Annabelle doll. She seems perfectly normal, just hideous. Mia puts Annabelle in the nursery for the baby they’re expecting because it’s never too soon to emotionally scar your child. John and Mia are woken up by a commotion from next door. It turns out the neighbor’s estranged hippie daughter (Tree O’Toole) is back and feeling murder-y. She and her boyfriend kill her parents and try to kill Mia before hippy daughter kills herself in the nursery while holding the doll.
Oh, what’s hippie daughter’s real name? Annabelle Higgins! SIGNIFICANT.
The attack leaves Mia on bed rest. Creepy things start to happen around the house. This culminates with evil doll forces setting a tin of Jiffy Pop on fire and pulling Mia towards the fire.
She escapes and gives birth to a daughter. Mia and John decide to leave the house and move into a less haunted apartment. But ghosty stuff keeps happening at the apartment too. The homicide detective investigating their neighbors’ murder tells Mia that Annabelle and her boyfriend were part of a satanic cult. Lurking neighbor Evelyn (An underutilized Alfre Woodard) and Father Perez (Tony Amendola) help Mia realize that the cultists were trying to summon a demon with the promise of a soul. There’s a minor scuffle, some heavy-handed suicide talk, and boom, the movie’s over.
I guess we should all be happy that a movie set in the sixties didn’t open with “Fortunate Son?” Let’s take a moment to be thankful for that.
This movie is just the definition of missed potential. Here’s a picture of the “real” Annabelle–I put real in quotes because Lorraine Warren seems to believe that Annabelle is really haunted by a demon but I don’t believe it’s possessed.

That’s a creepy doll. That’s a doll you can see starting off benign but becoming increasingly malevolent.
Ultimately, the movie just doesn’t have a lot of scares. The only sequence I really liked was when Mia was in the basement storage unit of her apartment. There’s genuine creepiness and tension as Mia’s stuck between something in the dark and an elevator that won’t work. Even that moment is ruined when you see that the demon looks like some guy dressed as Pan for Burning Man.
The story managed to be equal parts tedious and boring. I didn’t really care about any of the characters. There’s nothing really established about Mia and John except for their blandness. They barely even fight about the paranormal activity in their house. And Evelyn is basically a Magical Negro who exists to impart wisdom to the suffering white woman and then die.
This movie felt like a cheap grab for money, which it probably was considering that there’s the possibility for yet another Annabelle movie and The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist.
Honestly, I’d even take Dolly Dearest over this. At least Dolly Dearest has this!

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All the News that’s Fit to Print!

Tired of the media not covering the creepy stories you care about? My second weekly weird news roundup is live!
Learn about two cases of killer fashion, angry clowns, Bulgarian vampires, and haunted house renovations.

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More Ways to Find Me!

I’ve started a weekly collaboration with Horror-Writers Dot Net. I’m writing a weekly news roundup, with the grossest and strangest news I can find on the web. Check out my first article at Scarina’s Weekly Roundup and keep an eye out for more.

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American Mary

Sometimes, you watch a movie and it just clicks with you. You understand the movie and the movie understands you. I’ve felt that with Interview with the Vampire and The Silence of the Lambs and I felt it with this week’s movie.

You know how people talk about women’s movies and they mean the movies they show on Lifetime and Hallmark channel and romantic comedies? Those aren’t women’s movies, American Mary is a movie that shows what it’s like to be a woman.
The movie stars Katharine Isabelle as Mary Mason, a medical student hoping to become a surgeon.
She’s very poor and deeply in debt. Getting the scary calls from the student loan people, that kind of in debt. Mary peruses the help wanted ads and finds a job looking for strippers. Her audition is cut short when one of the club owner’s thugs is brought in, injured. Billy (Antonio Cupo) offers Mary $5,000 to fix him up. She operates on him but is scared and remorseful afterwards.
Afterwards, Beatress (Tristan Risk) approaches Mary. She’s a dancer from the club who’s spent thousands of dollars to look like Betty Boop.
BeatressAmerican Mary
Beatress wants Mary to help her friend, Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg), become more doll-like and offers Mary $10,000 to perform the surgery. This draws Mary into the world of extreme body modification.
Mary continues with her residency and is invited to a party with other surgeons, including her former professor, Dr. Alan Grant (David Lovgren).
Thankfully, not this Dr. Grant.

Thankfully, not this Dr. Grant.

Dr. Grant drugs Mary and brutally rapes her. Mary pays Billy to have his enforcers kidnap Dr. Grant. She drops out of medical school and practices extreme body modification on Dr. Grant.
Mary opens an underground practice performing extreme body modifications on people, which culminates in her performing surgery on the Demon Twins of Berlin (The Soska Twins, in a cameo).
The movie is basically Mary’s journey and I’m not giving away the ending because you have to go watch this right now.
I love when horror fans make horror movies because it’s like we all speak in the code of shared movies. It’s fun to unravel this code.
The movie opens with intense closeups of Mary suturing something that we eventually realize is a turkey, with “Ave Maria” playing the background. This feels very like something you’d see in the Hannibal movie.
When Mary is at her office, she wears a black apron over a white shirt. She wears something similar when she practices on Dr. Grant. It feels very similar to Asami’s outfit in Audition.

There’s the surgical outfit that Mary wears when she operates on the Twins. It’s very reminiscent of Dead Ringers.
This movie just feels very personal, but that may reflect on my age and status in the world. i remember looking at the stripper ads in college and wondering if I should try it. What kept me from doing it is remembering that I hate absolutely everyone and I dance like Elaine Benes. I think a lot of us know the pain of being so desperately poor when we’re just trying to make the right life decisions to not be poor.
There’s definitely the pain of seeing Mary being devalued and degraded just because she’s an attractive, competent woman. She views herself as a colleague of her professors and they repay her with abuse. Billy, when he first meets Mary, is also completely vile and gross. It isn’t until Billy sees what Mary’s capable of that he treats her with any respect.
And there’s the pain as a woman where your outside doesn’t match your inside. I actually really liked Beatress and could relate a lot to her and Ruby Realgirl. We live in a world where if they had gotten mainstream plastic surgery they’d be celebrated for being so in control of their bodies, but anything alternative is laughed at. Plus, I legitimately understand being drawn to the cute aesthetic. I think I’m the only white person ever who’s tried eyelid tape to try to make their eyes look bigger.
There’s this really touching moment that I really loved, between Mary and Lance (Twan Holliday), one of Billy’s enforcers. Lance says to Mary, “Don’t you ever devalue what you do, Mary.” He then tells her about how his mom walked in on a home invasion burglary and how he wishes he knew Mary then. Mary becomes a monster but she’s a kind of benign monster. Maybe sometimes the world needs monsters, to get rid of the other monsters.
The movie is pretty much the right mix of gore and humor. The effects are practical, which I appreciate a lot, especially for an indie movie. If a practical effect goes wrong it can definitely cost you time and money, so I respect the risk they took using them. Plus, they look great and gross! Tristan Risk looks especially awesome as Beatress.
I especially liked the music. The movie starts with a simple version of “Ave Maria” and this increases in complexity as the movie proceeds. It’s like it’s reflecting the increasing complexity of Mary’s character.
“Unique” is the word that comes to mind when I think of this movie. I can’t think of any movie that’s quite like this and it has to be one of my favorite 21st century movies.

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