Steampunk Discovered (and rediscovered)

If you (like me) are new to Steampunk, here is a good definition : "A subgenre of science fiction, it typically (but not always) employs a Victorian setting where steam power and advanced technologies like computers coexist and often features themes, such as secret societies, found in mystery novels."

Though steampunk has been around since the 1980s, (check out these classics) there is a recent crop of exemplary new titles. A personal favorite is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - a must-read for alternative history fan. It's the 2009 winner of the PNBA Award; and has been nominated for the 2010 Hugo and the Nebula Awards.

Seattle, 1860, rumors of gold, greedy Russians and inventor Leviticus Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine set the stage for this "impressive and auspicious genre-hopping adventure". When this machine inadvertently triggers the release of a deadly gas that transforms people into the living dead, a wall is built around the uninhabitable city to contain the epidemic. 16 years later, teenage Zeke Wilkes, Blue's son, impetuously decides that he must go into the walled city to clear his father's name. His distraught mother Briar, follows in an airship to try to rescue him.

Boneshaker is exceptionally well written. The plot credibly builds around zombies, steampunk technology, underground societies, mad scientists in a mix of horror/mystery. The fast-paced action is balanced by captivating characters, a strong female protagonist, and tender mother-child relationship. The young courageous Zeke will appeal to the YA crowd.

I first discovered the versatile YA author and an associate editor for Subterranean Press Cherie Priest in her genre-bending adult debut Fathom : a chill/thrill fantasy tale set in her native Florida. Part fairy tale, part modern gothic horror, it had me sleepless for a week.

Teen vampires...before Twilight?

It's hard to believe, but the incredibly popular vampire "genre" for teens existed before Twilight.

Authors such as L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, Meredith Ann Pierce, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Annette Curtis Klause, and Mary Downing Hahn created vast literature for teens on the subject of vampires before the year 2000. While it is easy to find a score of vampire fiction written today for teens, it is very interesting to take a look back, before the apparent influence of Stephenie Meyer.

That is not to say that these authors haven't gained from the success of Twilight. L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries series turned to television last year, and her Night World series was recently re-released. Annette Curtis Klause had one of her books made into a movie in 2007.

One of the more inspirational of these authors would be Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She was first published--in novel form--in 1999 at the tender age of 14. She is still going strong today, too!

So, if you're looking for some good teen vampire fiction, as I know we all must be, take a look at some of their works. I'm not necessarily saying they're better than Twilight, but I might be saying that you can certainly see some eerie similarities.

World Fantasy Awards

DragonDragon
Created in the mid-1970s, the World Fantasy Awards, associated with the annual World Fantasy Conventions were established as a fantasy counterpart to the SF-oriented Hugo and Nebula Awards. If you enjoy reading/watching/writing fantasy or science fiction, the annual conventions are definitely for you! Think about attending the 2010 convention. It will be close by in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of October 28-31. A great way to celebrate Halloween by dressing up as your favorite fantasy character- a Volturi anyone?

Here are the winners for best novel:

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford: In the wake of a classmate's disappearance, a sixth grader and his older brother observe strange events in 1960s Long Island, including the appearance of a man in a large white car and the deteriorating mental state of the school librarian.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: A young woman who has endured unspeakable cruelties is magically granted a safe haven apart from the real world and allowed to raise her two daughters in this alternate reality, until the barrier between her world and the real one begins to break down.

Best Anthology:
Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, by: Ekaterina Sedia, ed.
A collection of urban fantasy stories featuring cities--whether real or imaginary and throughout history--and how they affect the lives and experiences of their inhabitants.

Best Collection:
The Drowned Life by: Jeffrey Ford: In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic.

A new "Phantom"

Just in time for Halloween, Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced that his long-planned sequel to the smash hit musical The Phantom of the Opera will open next March in London, and November 2010 in New York. Titled “Love Never Dies”, it continues the story of the Phantom, who has left the Paris Opera House and moved to the fairgrounds of Coney Island in New York. According to an interview with Lloyd Webber, many of the characters from the original musical will be returning, including Christine, the Phantom’s love interest.

The musical The Phantom of the Opera is based on a book of the same name (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra) by French author Gaston Leroux, originally published in 1910. The musical premiered in 1986 in London and 1988 in the US, starring Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine. It is the longest-running musical in Broadway history, and the highest-grossing as well.

While Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is the most famous adaptation of the story, it is not the only one. There is a 1925 silent film starring Lon Chaney, a 1943 movie featuring Claude Rains as the Phantom, and the 2004 film version of the musical, starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson. Several authors have also written their own sequels to The Phantom of the Opera. Susan Kay’s 1990 novel Phantom is a reinterpretation of the story from the point of view of Erik, the Phantom. Frederick Forsyth’s The Phantom of Manhattan (1999) is a sequel to Lloyd Webber’s musical (rather than Leroux’s novel) in which the Phantom has moved to New York. Andrew Lloyd Webber's new sequel is said to be inspired by the same ideas as Forsyth's novel.

200 Years of Poe

The circumstances surrounding the exact nature of Edgar Allan Poe’s death still remain a mystery. The celebrated author was found wandering the streets of Baltimore confused, in a “pitiable condition,” and was taken to the hospital where he died four days later, at age 40. An also pitiable funeral was to follow, with a meager ten people in attendance and barely a footnote in the newspaper.

So it is only appropriate that this Sunday, October 11th, a funeral will be held in Baltimore, MD for the master of the macabre. 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth in 1809, and the 160th anniversary of his death on October 7th, 1849. Along with the funeral services to come this weekend, an open casket “visitation” service was held yesterday at the Poe House - complete with a creepy lifelike replica of Poe’s corpse.

Actor John Astin - better known as “Gomez Addams” of the original Addams Family television show - will be serving as Master of Ceremonies for the special event on Sunday, which will begin with a police-escorted funeral procession and two “services” in the afternoon. If you can’t make it to Baltimore this weekend to pay your respects, be sure to honor Mr. Poe this October by checking out some of the many materials available at the library.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #177

10 years ago, rumors of human sacrifice, ghosts and magic were just that - until journalist Paul Seaton came face to face with unspeakable evil at the abandoned Fischer House and barely escaped with his life. Still haunted by his loss, he is asked to return to prevent the house from claiming more unsuspecting souls.

Riveting and seductive, The House of Lost Souls* is a brooding and sinister tale of supernatural horror that unfolds gradually, building up suspense, and drawing the readers in. Atmospheric and cinematic, rich with historic details, a complex plot, engaging narrative devices, nonstop chills and gore, this U.S. debut from British F.G. Cottam terrifies and entertains. Likely first of a projected series. Don't miss it.

For fans of horror master Stephen King's Duma Key*; and newcomer Christopher Ransom's spanking new The Birthing House* (another FFF); and of course, a perennial classic - The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

* = Starred reviews

HOT HOT Zombie Lit.

A ton of pre-pub hype didn't prepare us for the reception to Pride and prejudice and zombies: the classic Regency romance -- now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem! In Seth Grahame-Smith's Austen spin-off (with 85% of Jane's original text), life in Regency England has been disrupted by undead brain-eaters so aggressive that even young ladies are trained in the deadly arts of zombie defense. Elizabeth, skilled with sword, musket, and kung fu, is an especially gifted warrior, making her even more irresistible to Mr. Darcy, who is himself a fearsome slayer of zombies. A bloody good time is guaranteed.

The dark horse of the bunch (and a personal favorite) is perhaps Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne.

Andy Warner, newly risen zombie from a fatal car crash finds life after death sucks. The Undead are shunned, fearful of capture by Animal Control and subject to recreational zombie-bashing by Breathers (the living). Thank goodness for Undead Anonymous, where he meets gorgeous Rita, and Ray, a hunter who simmers a mean stew. So, what is that tasty special ingredient anyway? By turns funny, tender, and gruesome, you won't be disappointed.

For teens, there is Daniel Waters' Generation Dead, where dead teens are coming to life at Oakvale High. Goth girl Phoebe is drawn to the undead Tommy, while Adam, Phoebe’s best friend/secret admirer broods. What begins as a macabre teen love triangle swiftly morphs into a thought-provoking examination of intolerance. Utterly absorbing.

Take a peek at the eclectic list of recommended zombie flicks, soundtracks and playlists, in Devour Books, Not People: A Librarian Picks the Best Zombie Lit., this timely round-up of top picks in this hot genre will chill and entertain.

DVD Genre Spotlight: Silent Films

The AADL owns over 100 silent film DVDs, and now this high-quality collection has a DVD genre shelf for easier browsing. To the novice silent film viewer, some tropes of these films can seem stilted, but become rather seamless as you grow familiar with them. For example, the musical score is an omnipresent and integral component as it must perform several functions. The music must reflect a character's emotions, advance the action in a sequence, and set the tone for a scene. Also, intertitles appear frequently as brief frames of textual narrative or dialogue that help deliver the story.

Filmmakers during the silent film era (1888-1927) embraced several types of feature films, including comedy, drama, and fantasy. Some primers for silent film fandom that the AADL owns are the surreal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for those interested in the darkly psychological, The Birth of a Nation, a perennially controversial drama, and almost any film from comedic geniuses Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin.

MAY

This 2003 movie is a sleeper. MAY is an awesome movie with great acting.

Tha main character, May, who is shy and quirky, is wonderfully played by Samantha Adams. May has been an outcast since childhood due to her lazy eye. She turns into the neighborhood joke because her mother insists she use a "pirate patch" to cover her lazy eye. Instead of making things better, it actually makes the situation worse. For her birthday, in order to cheer her up, May's mother gives her a doll that she cannot take out of the case and play with. Even though she cannot hold her new friend, she ultimately becomes best friends with the inaccessible doll in the box.

As May grows into an adult she stays best friends with her doll. She works at the animal hospital, and sews her own clothes in her spare time. One day she sees Adam, played by Ken Davitian, and instantly falls for him. They run into each other in the town's laundry mat, and soon begin a friendship. Through heartaches that follow, she begins to realize that only certain parts of people are perfect. May snaps, and her "macabre fix" of her disappointing life ensues.

Terrifically terrifying

Ready for a scary book for those cold winter nights? Get your hot chocolate and jammies on, you will need them since this book will NOT make you any warmer! International Horror award winner, the Terror by multiple award winning author, Dan Simmons, brings the reader up close to the trials of the 1840s Franklin Expedition to the Canadian Arctic. The expedition, while searching for the famed Northwest Passage, was besot by foul weather and eventually became lodged in the ice, never to be seen again. Simmons takes these true events and adds some horror and a touch of the supernatural. It is a very suspenseful book and extremely well-written. You won't have to go outside to get the feeling of the freezing Arctic temperatures, Simmons does it all for you!

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