Thursday, 21 June 2012

CFP: 1st Global Conference: Making Sense of: Food

Wednesday 30th January – Friday 1st February 2013

Sydney, Australia

Call for Presentations:

‘You are what you eat’ is a saying that usually signifies the influence of diet on health and well-being. When we turn this adage around – ‘What you eat is what you are’ – we see more clearly the broader implications of our ways with food. Our history and culture as well as our economic and social circumstances determine, and in turn are reflected in, the nature of our food consumption. The same applies to our personal beliefs and predispositions. Eating is an everyday necessity – and yet there is an immense variety in the manner in which we nourish ourselves. Furthermore, mostly due to circumstances beyond our control, not all of us humans have access to adequate nutrition. It follows that eating requires our attention, one way or another, throughout our lives, pleasantly for some, and desperately for others. Indeed, it has been observed that in rich societies people obsess about food because they have too much, and in poor societies they think about it all the time because they have too little.

The vicissitudes of consumption do not constitute the whole story about food. What ends up on the plate has usually arrived there after a long and complex journey which involves not only time and distance – again, variably so – but also a multitude of processes. The extent to which these are understood is by no means equal in all societies and cultures; some people live much closer to their food supply than others, and/or are more personally active in its production and preparation. Food is central to the economy of social systems at all levels; on global scale, food is deeply implicated in the overall economic and political circumstances of the contemporary world.

The inter-disciplinary project seeks to open up a multi-faceted enquiry into the ways in which food and its consumption are enmeshed in all aspects of human existence. Certainly to-day there is no shortage of commentaries on this subject, both in the public arena and within academia, and there is broad recognition of the place of food in the globalised economy – as well as of its role in discourses about international inequalities, climate change and public health issues. A focus on the perceived problems of the day, however, often results in specific ‘fields’ of study where the high level of activity, productive though it is, may create barriers to an understanding of different perspectives. This project will provide a framework for a broadly based dialogue concerning food and eating. It is our hope that this will put on our table a variety of matters to be considered at a number of levels and from many different points of view.

Presentations, papers, performances, work-in-progress and workshops are invited on any issues related to the following themes:

Food and existential matters:
Eating and evolution
Food and group identity: food as manifestation of cultural origins and influences
Food as transmigration, diaspora and de-colonialism
Food and ritual
Eating as a need and as a want: what is appetite?
Food and philosophy

Representations of food and eating:
The histories of food; repasts of the past
Reflections of food and eating in literature
Food and the performing arts
Portrayals of consumption in visual culture
Food and the modern media
Food as metaphor

Eating and well-being:
Fearing food – fears and facts
Beliefs and controversies about food and wellness
Health, illness and food in medical discourses
The magic of food – ancient and modern; food as fetish
The role of ‘expert’ advice in eating practices
‘Diets’ – disturbed eating patters or rational action?

Food and society:
Food at the interface with class and culture
The politics of food production and consumption
Food security: issues of quantity and quality
The industrialisation of food production and its counter-movements
‘Foodism’: conspicuous consumption, or identity management?

Working with food:
Food production and provision; pleasures and problems
The restaurant: guests’ perspective
Cooking and serving for customers
Being a chef: the reality and the mystique
Behind the counter of the gourmet store
The daily bread; making and baking

What to Send:

300 word abstracts or presentation proposals should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs by 14th September 2012; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract.

E-mails should be entitled: FOOD Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:

Mira Crouch.

Rob Fisher.

The conference is part of the Making Sense of: programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.

For further details of the project, please click here.

For further details of the conference, please click here.

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.

CFP: Must Love Dogs - or Dragons: Animals in Popular Romance (Journal)

Journal of Popular Romance Studies

Deadline: October 1 2012

From the animal brides and bridegrooms in folktales to the dragons and werewolves and other shape-shifters in paranormal love stories, popular romance has long relied on animal heroes, heroines, and helpers (i.e., the leopard in Bringing Up Baby) to explore human romance.

How, though, do invocations of the “animal” in popular romance differ from text to text, culture to culture, era to era? What do they suggest about the nature of love, whether the love of humans for one another or the love we feel for pets, companions, and co-workers of other species? How might a focus on the “Beast” in a popular romance novel, film, TV series, or other text help us to understand the beauties — the artistry, the interest — of that text?

The Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS) seeks essay submissions for a special forum examining the role of animals in popular romance media—folk tale, fiction, film, TV, music video, etc.—now and in the past, from around the world. Essays may address either literal or figurative animals, including furry fandom, pony-play, and other fetishes, as long as the overarching context is the representation of romantic love.

Submissions are due by October 1 2012. The issue is slated for publication in April 2013.

Published by the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR), the peer-reviewed Journal of Popular Romance Studies is the first academic journal to focus exclusively on representations of romantic love across national and disciplinary boundaries. Our editorial board includes representatives from Comparative Literature, English, Ethnomusicology, History, Religious Studies, Sociology, African Diaspora Studies, and other fields. JPRS is available without subscription.

Please submit scholarly papers of no more than 10,000 words by October 1 2012, to An Goris, Managing Editor. Longer manuscripts of particular interest will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format. Please remove all identifying material (i.e., running heads with the author’s name) so that submissions can easily be sent out for anonymous peer review. Suggestions for appropriate peer reviewers are welcome.

Monday, 18 June 2012

CFP: The Middle Ages in the Modern World

University of St Andrews, UK
25-28 June, 2013

Preliminary Call for Papers

A multidisciplinary conference on the uses and abuses of the Middle Ages from the Renaissance to the 21st century

Provisional Keynotes

Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University): The Green Man and the Modern World
Patrick Geary (Princeton): European ethnicity: Does Europe have too much past?
Seamus Heaney (Nobel Prize-winning Poet): Translating medieval poetry
Bruce Holsinger (University of Virginia): The politics of medievalism
Felicitas Hoppe (Author and Translator): Adapting medieval romance
Terry Jones (Author and Broadcaster): Columbus, America and the flat earth

Medievalism – the reception and adaptation of the politics, history, art and literature of the Middle Ages – has burgeoned over the past decade, and is now coming of age as a subject of serious academic enquiry. This conference aims to take stock and develop directions for the future. We hope to address questions such as:

- Why and how do the Middle Ages continue to shape the world we inhabit?
- Did the Middle Ages ever end?
- Did the Middle Ages ever happen?
- Is there a difference between medievalism and medieval studies?
- Does the medieval past hold the key to understanding modern nations?
- What does “medieval” mean to non-medievalists?
- How has medievalism developed over the past 600 years?
Medievalists and modernists in all areas of the sciences and humanities, librarians, artists, curators are invited to submit proposals for papers, panels, public talks, exhibits, posters, concerts etc. The conference will be held during the climactic period of the University of St Andrews’s 600th anniversary celebrations.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

- the reception of the Middle Ages in literature, art, architecture, music, film, politics, economics, theology, popular culture, universities, sciences;
- periodization and the invention of the Middle Ages;
- modern misconceptions of the Middle Ages;
- the politicization of the Middle Ages and neo-medievalism;
- twenty-first century medievalisms;
- revivalism and re-enactment;
- medievalism, science fiction, fantasy and cyberspace;
- translating medieval texts;
- the legacy and influence of the University of St Andrews and other medieval institutions
- a special celebratory 600th anniversary session on the reception and representation of St Andrew himself.

Early bird proposals are welcome now to the conference convenors to assist planning, anytime before 31 August 2012.

Organisers: Dr Chris Jones, School of English and Dr Bettina Bildhauer, School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

CFP: Gender and Medieval Studies Conference 2013

Gender in Material Culture

Corsham Court, Bath Spa University
4th-6th January 2013

Keynote Speakers
Prof. Catherine Karkov, University of Leeds
Dr Simon Yarrow, University of Birmingham

From saintly relics to grave goods, and from domestic furnishings to the built environment, medieval people inhabited a material world saturated with symbolism. Gender had a profound influence on production and consumption in this material culture. Birth charms and objects of Marian devotion were crafted most often with women in mind, whilst gender shaped the internal spaces of male and female religious houses. The material environment could evoke intense emotions from onlookers, whether fostering reverence in religious rituals, or inspiring awe during royal processions. How did gender influence encounters with these objects and the built environment? Seldom purely functional, these items could incorporate complex meanings, enabling acts of display at every level of society, in fashionable circles at European courts or amongst civic guilds sponsoring lavish pageants. Did gender influence aesthetic choices, and how did status shape the way that people engaged with their physical surroundings? In literary texts and in art, the depiction of clothing and objects can be used to negotiate symbolic space as well as class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Texts and images also circulated as material objects themselves, with patterns of transmission across the British Isles, the Anglo-Norman world, and between East and West. The exchange of such objects both accompanied and enacted cross-fertilisation in linguistic, political and cultural spheres.

The Conference will consider the gendered nature of social, religious and economic uses of ‘things’, exploring the way that objects and material culture were produced, consumed and displayed. Papers will address questions of gender from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, embracing literature, history, art history, and archaeology.

Themes will include:
• adornment, clothing and self-fashioning
• the material culture of devotion
• objects and materialism
• the material culture of children and adolescents
• the material culture of life cycle
• emotion, intimacy and love-gifts
• entertainment and games
• memory and commemoration
• pleasure, pain, and bodily discipline
• production and consumption
• monastic material culture
• material culture in literary texts

Please e-mail proposals of approximately 300 words for 20 minute papers to the GMS committee by 14 September 2012. Please also include your name, research area, institution and level of study in your abstract.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

CFP: Gothic Technologies/Gothic Techniques

Biennial Conference of the International Gothic Association, 2013
August 5-8, 2013: University of Surrey, United Kingdom

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Professor Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck College, University of London), Professor Fred Botting (Kingston University), other Keynotes TBA

Call for Papers

Recent Gothic studies have foregrounded a plethora of technologies associated with Gothic literary and cultural production. Its presence is witnessed in how techno-science has contributed to the proliferation of the Gothic: the publishing and print culture disseminating Gothic texts, eighteenth-century architectural innovations, the on-line gaming and virtual Goth communities, the special effects of Gothic-horror cinema.

One question raised by these new developments concerns the extent to which they generate new Gothic techniques. How does technology generate a new Gothic aesthetic? We are particularly interested in addressing how Gothic technologies have, in a general sense, produced and perpetuated ideologies and influenced the politics of cultural practice. However, we also want to reconsider the whole idea of what we mean by a Gothic ‘technique’ which arguably underpins these new formations of the Gothic. To that end we invite papers that question not only what we might constitute a Gothic aesthetic from the eighteenth century to the present day, but how that is witnessed in various forms such as the Female Gothic, models of the sublime, sensation fiction, cyberpunk as well as the various non-text based media that the Gothic has infiltrated. We also invite proposals which address how various critical theories help us to evaluate either these new technological trends or critically transform our understanding of the intellectual space occupied by earlier Gothic forms. Papers which explore the place of science, writing, and the subject are thus very welcome.

We thus seek to explore how Gothic technologies/Gothic techniques textualize identities and construct communities within a complex network of power relations in local, national, transnational and global contexts.

Papers exploring any aspect of Gothic technologies/Gothic techniques in writing, film and other media are welcome. Topics could include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Gothic Architecture and Technology
• Printing, Publishing and Gothic Disseminations
• Terror, Terrorism, Technology
• The techniques of philosophy – the sublime
• Colonizing Technology and Postcolonial Gothics
• Technology of Monsters
• Gothic Art
• Enlightenment Gothic and Science
• War, Violence, Technology
• (Neo)Victorian Gothic
• Gothic poetry
• Gothic Bodies: Modifications, Mutations, Transformations
• Weird Science, Mad Scientists
• Staging the Gothic
• B-movies, Laughter and Comic Gothic
• Demonic Technologies / Demonizing Technology
• Theorising the Gothic
• Gothic Geography – mapping the Gothic
• Cloning, Duplicating, Doubling
• Hybrids, Cyborgs and Transgression
• Digital Gothics and Uncanny Media

Abstracts (350 words max.) for 20 minute papers may be submitted to the conference convenors. The submission deadline is February 1, 2013. We also welcome submissions for panels (consisting of three papers) that address specific topics.

Coming Soon: Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny

lycogyny, n., the assumption by women of the form and nature of wolves

New title from Hic Dragones
Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny
Edited by Hannah Kate
Price: £8.99
ISBN: 978-0-9570292-1-7
Available: 29th June 2012

Feral, vicious, fierce and lost… the she-wolf is a strange creature of the night. Attractive to some; repulsive to others, she stalks the fringes of our world as though it were her prey. She is the baddest of girls, the fatalest of femmes – but she is also the excluded,the abject, the monster.

The Wolf-Girls within these pages are mad, bad and dangerous to know. But they are also rejected and tortured, loving and loyal, avenging and triumphant. Some of them are even human…

Seventeen new tales of dark, snarling lycogyny by Nu Yang, Mary Borsellino, Lyn Lockwood, Mihaela Nicolescu, L. Lark, Jeanette Greaves, Kim Bannerman, Lynsey May, Hannah Kate, J. K. Coi, Rosie Garland, R. A. Martens, Beth Daley, Marie Cruz, Helen Cross, Andrew Quinton and Sarah Peacock.

For more information, please visit the Hic Dragones website.

Hic Dragones will be having a launch party for the book on Friday 29th June 2012. This is a free event, but places are limited. For more information, or to book a ticket, please click here.

Monday, 4 June 2012

CFP: Putting England in Its Place: Cultural Production and Cultural Relations in the High Middle Ages

33rd Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus, Manhattan
March 9-10 2013

Keynote Speakers

Oliver Creighton
Elizabeth Tyler
Julia Crick
Carol Symes
Robert W. Hanning
Paul R. Hyams
Sarah Rees Jones
Kathryn A. Smith

Call for Papers

The rich culture of England’s mid-eleventh to thirteenth centuries is central to some disciplinary narratives for the High Middle Ages (for example, the political history of its ruling dynasties, analyses of visual and material
culture and of Latin historiography), but omitted from others (the period is often assumed, for instance, to have little to do with the history of English literature). This interdisciplinary conference aims to look in a fresh and integrated way at cultural production and cultural relations within England between England and other locales in order to explore what kind of place England as a region, a changing political entity, and a culture or set of cultures might occupy in our accounts of the High Middle Ages. We welcome papers dealing with England's cultures (local, regional, general) in themselves and in their many connections (diplomatic, economic, artistic, etc…) with further areas of the British Isles and other medieval regions.

The Deadline for Submissions is September 5, 2012

Please send an abstract and cover letter with contact information to Center for Medieval Studies, FMH 405,
Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458, or by email, or by fax to (718) 817-3987.

CFP: 1st Global Conference: Connectivity in the 21st Century

Sunday 4th November–Tuesday 6th November 2012

Salzburg, Austria

Call For Presentations:

Across many research disciplines and practitioner based institutions such as aeronautics, space travel design, religious studies, cognitive science, digital gaming, architecture, philosophy, business, business leadership and management, educational leadership and management, outdoor education, adventure therapy, school based education and childhood growth and development, the concept of ‘connectivity’ has begun to surface as a critical issue. Connectivity is defined as “a sense of being a part of something larger than oneself. It is a sense of belonging, or a sense of accompaniment. It is that feeling in your bones that you are not alone” (Hallowell 1992) Enlarging on this notion, Lerner (2010) believed it is the means by which people ‘fit’ into the world around them. In other words they gain ‘a sense of self’’ and identity by actively working on “enhancing their connectedness to others.” With the exponential creation of technological networks and avenues, humanity has on the one hand developed more opportunities to connect to one another in ways never thought possible, while at the same time there has been an increase of people expressing a deep sense of disconnection to those around them. “Human beings have a powerful need for connectedness” (Lee & Robbins, 2000). We appear to be at a cross roads to develop our sense of connectivity to bridge the gap between the perceived social, superficial ‘connectedness’ to a deeper sense of intimacy. Therefore, ‘connectivity’ has come to be an overarching spectrum that deals with how people connect within the coterie of the family, social emotional frameworks within friendship and community groups, and means of connecting across the globe through social media. Given the physiological, psychological and socio-emotional concerns and pressures humans face in this current era, this project seeks to give research and practical voice to what it means to define ‘connectivity’. It also aims to pull together how each discipline speaks to others as the planet digitally shrinks but the spread of humanity continues unabated with serious issues such adolescent suicide, loneliness and depression, all related to the notion of ‘connectivity’.

Presentation, papers, artworks and performances could deal with, but are not limited to the following focal areas and questions such as:

Connectivity and Social Media

* How have current issues such as the Facebook and Twitter ‘Kony 2012’, Arab Spring revolution, Japanese tsunami discussions developed a sense of connectivity?

* What do these phenomenon reveal about current needs to connect?

* Do these modes develop genuine engagement with others?

* How does social media connectivity engender a sense of wellbeing, socio-global agency, and a more humanistic approach to problem solving?

* Does ‘open access’ software promote global awareness and change?

* How does the notion of ‘open universities increase humanities sense of connectivity?

* Who are the new techno-rich and new techno-poor, and what does it mean for global connectivity?

Connectivity and Gaming Communities

* Do gaming communities offer cross cultural learning and engagement?

* What are the various forms of obvious and unconscious learning that global gaming develops?

* What new forms of literacy does global gaming require?

Connectivity and Social Emotional Intelligence

* What types of educational systems and ideologies support optimal social emotional awareness?

* Where does social-emotional learning fit in an ever-increasing global village?

* What role does resiliency play in deepening connectivity in children, adolescents and adults?

* How can we develop systems of connectivity to ameliorate the instances of effects of bullying in school and in social media outlets?

* How do we ensure ‘connectivity’ in the adolescent years?

* Where does the concept, and practices that lead to connectivity, fit into the current school based curriculum?

Connectivity as a Precept of Wellbeing

* The definition of ‘connectivity’ for specific disciplines and how this definition has arisen within specific research paradigms

* The diversity of nature of ‘connectivity’ forms within specific cultures, or across cultures how these relate to the creation of societal health

* How have the older forms of ‘connectivity’ narratives, understanding and practices have migrated into new the digital age?

* Where, why and how the 21st century’s concept of ‘connectivity’ started, why it started where it ends in and amongst the current set of discipline understandings and research?

* Where does sexuality fit into the concept of “connectivity”?

* Connectivity and the need for creativity and the creative process

* What is the intersection between cognitive, psychological and psychological health and how this cross-section relates to a holistic concept of ‘connectivity’?

* Where does ‘self, and the notion of identity fit with the idea of connectivity?

* What forms of ‘connectivity’ need to be created so as to ensure societal and individual wellbeing for the coming decades?

* How does ‘service learning’ create connectivity and wellbeing?

What to submit:

The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals. Presentations will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 6th July 2012. 300 word abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 keywords.

E-mails should be entitled: CN1 Abstract Submission

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). Please note that a Book of Abstracts is planned for the end of the year. All accepted abstracts will be included in this publication.We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:

Edie Lanphar

Rob Fisher

For further details of the project, please click here.

For further details of the conference, please click here.

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.

OUT NOW: Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, c. 450-1450

The eagerly-awaited Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, c. 450-1450, edited by Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward and published by Brill, is now available to buy. I'm proud to say I have an entry on 'Cross-Dressing' (co-written with Gale Owen-Crocker) in the encyclopedia, which is one of over 500 entries.

From the publisher's website:

The single volume Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 is a unique work that intends to bring together in 582 signed articles the latest research from across the range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of medieval dress and textiles.

There has been a long-standing interest in the subject, which has recently manifested itself in a flowering of research and publications, including activities by the editors of the Encyclopaedia: the foundation of DISTAFF (Discussion, Interpretation and Study of Textile Arts, Fabrics and Fashion) as an umbrella organization for the presentation of papers at the major medieval congresses in Kalamazoo and Leeds (Netherton and Owen-Crocker); the establishment of the annual journal Medieval Clothing and Textiles (Netherton and Owen-Crocker); the Manchester Medieval Textiles Project (Coatsworth and Owen-Crocker); and the AHRC Lexis of Cloth and Clothing Project (Owen-Crocker and Sylvester).

There is a clear need for an interdisciplinary reference work which will introduce readers to various sources of evidence, and give clear information about the most recent discoveries and interpretations and bibliographical guidance to readers. The Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 contains also over 100 plates and diagrams to illustrate the text.

For more information, please click here. A free sample fascicle is available from the publisher's website.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Welcome (once more) to the Ancient and Medieval Carnival!

Slightly unexpected, but here I am hosting this month’s ancient/medieval edition of Carnivalesque: a blogroll of the latest posts related to premodern history. Hope you enjoy...


There’s a post on Hellenism and Christianity on Mike Anderson’s Ancient History Blog and Purple Motes has a piece on a Hellenistic ‘coronis’ epigram. A Blog About History has a short piece on the Trefael Stone, which has been revealed to be an ancient burial chamber cap, and Zenobia: Empress of the East asks Questions About the Queen of Sheba’s Gold. Spanning ‘ancient’ and ‘medieval’, the History Books Review has a review of Edward Luttwak’s Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.

Early Medieval

The History Blog has a story about an early Christian curse/cure stone found on a Hebrides island, and Heavenfield features a post this month on St. Michael, the Plague and Castel Sant’ Angelo. On Saints, Sisters and Sluts (Famous and Infamous Women in History), there’s a post on Emma of Normandy, Queen of England, The Renaissance Mathematicus tells the story of Gerbert d’Aurillac – a mathematician who became pope – and Leslie Hedrick writes on The Rebellion of Magnus Maximus in Britain. The Norse Mythology Blog posts A Middle School Student Asks About Norse Mythology and Norse Religion, and Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog has a piece on Procopius, Brittia and Britain.

Late Medieval

Esmeralda’s Cumbrian History & Folklore has a post on A Medieval Knight at Rest, Executed Today gives us the story of Peter von Hagenbach, executed in 1474 and L’Historien Errant has a post on Late Medieval Cityscapes. We also have some posts on life as a medievalist: Meshalim/Amthal/Exiemplos offers more Notes from the Life of a Medievalist, and, on In the Middle, Karl Steel bravely posts an outline (or a ‘prospectus of a prospectus’) of his new book, which follows on from the epilogue of How to Make a Human.

Other Stuff

For those who like their literature (and baked goods) inspired by the Middle Ages, there’s a video promo for K.A. Laity’s collection of short stories Pelzmantel on, a chance to win a copy of Blood Lance: A Medieval Noir on Getting Medieval, some information on Nicola Griffith’s forthcoming novel about Hild of Whitby (on Gemæcca), and these gorgeous illuminated initial cookies on Luminarium.

And finally, this month saw the arrival of the Manchester Medieval Society’s new blog. So far, only a ‘hello’ message, but more is promised soon.

Next month’s Carnivalesque will be an early modern edition, and will be hosted by Wynken de Worde. You can nominate posts for this edition via the Carnivalesque website.

Monday, 21 May 2012

CFP: Returning to Oz: The Afterlife of Dorothy

Thursday 7th February 2013
Manchester, UK


Papers are sought for a one-day conference in Manchester on representations and interpretations of Dorothy and Oz in popular culture. This conference seeks to address the perennial popularity of L. Frank Baum’s creations, and to explore their most recent incarnations.

Possible themes may include (but are not limited to):
• Film, TV and animated adaptations
• Sequels and prequels (other than Baum’s series); translations, editions and revisions
• Music and musicals
• Kitsch
• ‘Friends of Dorothy’ and gay culture
• MGM and Judy Garland
• Graphic novels and visual art
• Merchandise, memorabilia and ephemera

This conference is the sister project to our Further Adventures in Wonderland: The Afterlife of Alice project. As such, papers are also welcomed that offer some comparison of the respective afterlives of Alice and Dorothy, or that deal with texts featuring both characters. For more information on our Afterlife of Alice conference, please click here.

Abstracts of 250-300 words (for a 20 min paper) should be sent via email to the conference convenors by 30th September 2012.

Selected papers may be invited for inclusion in an academic collection of essays following the conference.

For information, please click here.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Journal Announcement and Call for Submissions: Monsters and the Monstrous

Volume 2, Number 2
Special Issue on Monstrous Pedagogy: Teaching and Reading the Twilight Saga

As we approach the release of the final cinematic installment of the Twilight Saga we want to focus on monsters and pedagogy and in particular the relation between “Twilight and the Classroom”. How do we teach Twilight? Why do we teach Twilight? Should we teach Twilight?

The Editors welcome contributions to the journal in the form of articles, reviews, reports, art and/or visual pieces and other forms of submission on the following or related themes:

● Twilight and Gender and Sexuality Studies

● Twilight and Literary Studies

● Twilight and Cultural Studies

● Twilight and Film Studies

● Twilight and Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity

● Twilight and Disability Studies

● Twilight and Religious Studies

● Twilight and Psychology

● Twilight and Sociology

Submissions for this Issue are required by Friday 3rd August 2012 at the latest.

Contributions to the journal should be original and not under consideration for other publications at the same time as they are under consideration for this publication. Submissions are to be made electronically wherever possible using either Microsoft® Word or .rtf format.

Length Requirements:

Articles - 5,000 – 7,000 words

Reflections, reports and responses - 1,000 – 3,000 words

Book reviews - 500 – 4,000 words

Artworks and photographs (Copyright permissions required)

Poems, prose and short stories

Other forms of contributions are also welcome

Submission Information:

Send submissions via e-mail using the following Subject Line: ‘Journal: Contribution Type (article/review/...): Author Surname’ and marked "Monstrous Pedagogy."

Submissions E-Mail Address

Submissions will be acknowledged within 48 hours of receipt.

Contributions are also invited for future issues of the journal which will include: "Monstrous Spaces/ Spaces of Monstrosity" and "Monstrous Beauty."

We also invite submission to our special features on Non-English Language Book Reviews, and Monstrous Pedagogy. Please mark entries for these topics with their respective headings.

We look forward to folks getting involved in and with the journal.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Review: Graeme Reynolds, High Moor (Horrific Tales Publishing, 2011)

High Moor is the debut novel by UK writer Graeme Reynolds. The book – told in three parts – tells the story of John, Michael and Marie (though mostly John), three friends who live in High Moor (near Durham) in the North East of England. Part 1 (set in 1986) begins when the protagonists are children, spending their time making camps and dens in the woods, and being terrorized by Malcolm Harrison and his gang of sadistic little thugs. One night, when Michael and Marie’s older brother David returns alone to their treehouse to retrieve some tools, something awful appears from out of the woods...

That’s right (in case you hadn’t guessed, given my usual material), High Moor is a werewolf novel. And it makes no bones about it. Before we even get to Part 1, the prologue, set in 2008, reveals a man who struggles to keep himself contained during his monthly transformation, an attack on a man out walking his dog, and a news report about the return of the ‘legendary High Moor Beast’, thought to have been killed over twenty years earlier. As we are taken back to 1986, we can’t help but feel a certain sense of fear for the children who play in the woods. And sure enough, it’s not long before one of them falls victim to the ‘High Moor Beast’. As the story unfolds, we find first David, and then Michael and John having to face this lycanthropic foe.

Added to this, High Moor has a policeman who goes against his superiors after realizing they are dealing with werewolf attacks, and the grizzled ‘expert’ he drafts in to help him, but who is haunted by his own past experiences with werewolves. Cue lots of silver weaponry and tethered goats used as bait.

Make no mistake, Reynolds’s werewolves are old-school: good old-fashioned, rip-your-throat-out lycanthropes. These are the creatures we know from The Wolf-Man and An American Werewolf in London, and the book has echoes of both films throughout. Only at a couple of points are we led to feel any sympathy for the attacking werewolves, though we identify with the humans who are turned following a bite.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve read this sort of werewolf story. I think I put that down to the fact that I read more female werewolf fiction, and female werewolves have a tradition of their own (which is a subtle plug for the book I’m putting together on this very subject, of course). But I think I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy this type of story. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good ‘sympathetic werewolf just wants to find love’ tale. And I’m fascinated by all the stories out there about werewolves living (passing?) amongst humans. But, sometimes, you just want a creepy ‘there’s something lurking in the woods’ book. And Reynolds doesn’t disappoint on this score.

High Moor is a well-written adventure/horror, with a believable cast of characters and a nice dash of local colour. I have to admit, being in my early 30s, I enjoyed the 1980s setting of the first two parts of the book. It was evocative without being cloyingly nostalgic. Some writers do tend to go a bit overboard with presentations of the 80s – loading paragraphs with too many references to TV, technology, celebrities, music. Reynolds is a bit lighter in his touch. I loved the reference to the kids copying Spectrum games onto cassettes for one another, but these little period details didn’t detract from the overall story.

More seriously, Reynolds also includes some details that allow the story to avoid certain genre clichés that can be more problematic. Specifically, this comes in his inclusion of ‘gypsies’ in the narrative. Some people who have read some of my other reviews might know that the ‘gypsy’ in werewolf and vampire fiction is something of a pet peeve of mine. They are often used in a lazy way that panders to certain racial stereotypes. Now, the gypsy characters in High Moor have a lot in common with those in other werewolf fiction – particularly in their role as ‘keepers’ of lycanthropic knowledge. However, Reynolds adds just enough ‘reality’ to offer a bit of a challenge to the cliché. For example, when a character encounters the ‘gypsies’ for the first time, they (specifically the woman he meets) seem to be of the usual sort: ‘Dark, curly hair flowing down her back, curves in all the right places, and amber eyes that looked straight into your soul.’ Nevertheless, the man’s reaction seems more ‘real’, given that he is meeting the woman in 1944: ‘To tell you the truth, I was surprised to see anyone of Romany origin in the area. Most of them had been rounded up by the Nazis and sent to the death camps at Jasenovac.’ Back in the UK, ‘gypsy’ camps are presented more as our familiar ‘travellers’ camps’, rather than a romanticized version common to werewolf/vampire fiction. This causes one character to wonder whether people are suspicious of them because they know there are werewolves around, or because they are just generally suspicious of travellers.

If I had one criticism, it would be that the ‘bad’ werewolf that appears in the third part of the novel is a bit too powerful. In the world that Reynolds has created, werewolves can build up amazing power and skills, but this appears to be the result of years of living with the condition. The final showdown, though, features a newly-made werewolf who comes pretty close to defeating lycanthropes who have had a couple of decades to learn how to fight like a werewolf. I understand that this is necessary for a good climactic showdown (otherwise the fight would have been over pretty quickly!) but it seemed a bit hard to believe that this werewolf had become some a formidable foe so quickly. Nevertheless, perhaps I am being a bit unfair here, as the earlier parts of the novel had definitely set up that this character was pretty nasty as a human, maybe this would account for his brute strength as a werewolf? There’s a line in another werewolf novel (I think it’s Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, though I could be wrong) that states ‘angry people make bad werewolves’, and I think that certainly holds true in High Moor.

Overall, High Moor is an accomplished first novel. The writing is well-paced and enjoyable, the characters engaging and the ending intriguing (and definitely points to a sequel). This is not the most original take on werewolves. But though the reader is on familiar ground, it is well-loved ground, and this is no bad thing. For a first release from a (very) small press, High Moor is really promising, and I hope to see more from Graeme Reynolds and Horrific Tales Publishing.

Read my interview with Graeme Reynolds here

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Review: Simon Bestwick, The Faceless (Solaris, 2012)

The Faceless is a new horror novel by Simon Bestwick, and published by Solaris. Set (mostly) in the Lancashire town on Kempforth, it tells the story of the investigation into a series of missing person cases, and the apparent appearance of the local bogeymen, ‘the Spindly Men’, previously only known as a nursery tale used to scare children. The blurb on the back of the cover promises that it will be ‘a breath-taking tale of the supernatural’.

I must admit, I was a little worried about reading this book and writing a review. Simon Bestwick was one of the writers I contacted in my role as Project Co-ordinator for Hic Dragones, and, as a result, he took part in the Manchester Monster Convention that my company organized. Simon was a great guest speaker – funny, engaging and supportive – and his novel, The Faceless, sounded so fascinating, so I was just a little bit nervous… what if the book was disappointing and I ended up having to write a bad review? That would have been awful!

Fortunately, and I’ll say this upfront, my worries were completely unfounded. The Faceless is well-written, compelling and utterly creepy.

Although the missing persons investigation is an important part of the plot, this is not a police procedural story. Sure, as detectives Joan Renwick and Mike Stakowski (and the rest of their team) begin their search for four people who don’t seem to have much in common – except that the ‘Spindly Men’ were sighted around the time each one disappeared – there are moments that will be recognizable from other crime fiction: the team don’t always trust Renwick’s methods; there’s pressure from a boss desperate for ‘results’; the lead detectives are haunted by the demons of their own pasts. However, Bestwick’s detectives (particularly Renwick and Stakowski) are three-dimensional and sympathetic – much more than simply generic stereotypes.

In addition to this, the police investigation is only one aspect of the story. It is intertwined with two other plotlines. The first involves Anna Mason, her brother Martyn and his child Mary. Anna is a local historian who has moved back to Kempforth to be with her family. Early on in the book, Martyn (recovering from a breakdown) has experienced a serious trauma, and Anna is trying to help him cope. After an early confrontation with the ‘Spindly Men’, Anna and Martyn become dragged into the horror that is beginning to engulf Kempforth.

At the same, celebrity psychic Allen Cowell is called by his apparent ‘spirit guides’ to return to his home town and assist the police investigate the disappearances. Allen and his sister, Vera, escaped their brutal childhood in Kempforth years earlier, and had vowed never to return. However, in order to escape his own personal ghosts, Allen must do as his guides instruct and head back to, as Vera puts it, ‘the bastard North’. I wasn’t expecting to find Allen and Vera particularly interesting – as, on face value, a celebrity psychic involved in a police investigation doesn’t seem to be anything too new – but Vera was, probably, my favourite character of the entire novel. The bleakness of the pair’s lives, and the brutality of their history, was really gripping.

These three main storylines weave around one another, before eventually coming together, as Renwick and Stakowski, Anna and Martyn, and Allen and Vera must team up to work out what exactly is going on. Again, while this might seem like a bit of a cliché, there is a fresh and engaging quality to the way Bestwick constructs it. A lot of this is a result of his ability to create real and believable characters. There are no cardboard cut-outs in this book.

That said, The Faceless is a horror novel. And while my own preference might be for horror that is driven by compelling and well-rounded characters, some of you might be wondering when I’m going to actually say something about the dark stuff…

In this respect as well, Bestwick’s novel does not disappoint. I must admit, I was somewhat skeptical about the return of childhood demons as actually figures of horror – I’ve read that in other books, so was not sure whether the ‘Spindly Men’ could go where other nursery rhyme monsters have not gone before. In fact, these are not the real vehicle of horror. Although they are truly creepy creations, they are far from being the most horrific things the protagonists must face. Readers, like the characters in the novel, might initially blame the deaths and disappearances on these supernatural beings, but the truth (as it is slowly revealed) is much, much more disturbing.

As the novel progresses, the cruelty and brutality (some might say ‘evil’) that runs through Kempforth’s history begins to come to light. As Anna Mason’s historical research is added to Allen’s visions and the detectives’ investigations, the extent of the dangers becomes apparent and the protagonists’ search for answers leads them inextricably to the long-since abandoned hospital at Ash Fell. This hospital is at once a grotesque and a chilling creation. Like all good horror locations, Ash Fell has its ‘real life’ historical basis, but it is taken to its ultimate and terrible conclusion. Perhaps, again, this my own personal preference, but it was the historical basis for Ash Fell that chilled me the most, and it was this that lingered with me after I’d finished reading the book. I won’t say any more, plot-wise, as this book has a lot of twists and I don’t want to stumble into spoiler territory – suffice to say, a lot of things are not what they seem.

There is a lot of plot of in The Faceless, but this is not a bad thing. The main strengths of Bestwick’s writing, for me, lie in his constructions of people and place. (As I said, my own preference is for books where I am genuinely rooting for the characters, but I also like to feel immersed in the ‘world’ of the book.) However, I would say that Bestwick has also created a story that is original and memorable, and it unfolds at just the right pace. His version of ‘ghosts’ and ‘hauntings’ is also unusual, and unlike much recent horror and supernatural fiction.

Overall, I highly recommend The Faceless, as one of the best UK horror novels I have read recently. I always slightly distrust reviews of horror where the writer claims to have been left scared after finishing the book, so I won’t say that. I will say, though, that The Faceless left me distinctly unsettled and disturbed. And what more could you ask from a piece of horror fiction?

Friday, 27 April 2012

OUT NOW: Journal of Monsters and the Monstrous, Vol. 1, No. 2 (September 2011)


Freeing Woman from Truth and the Unknown: Using Kahlo and Irigaray to Liberate Woman from Haggard's She - Cameron Ellis

The Monstrification of the Monster: How Ceauşescu Became the Red Vampire - Peter Mario Kreuter

Monster as Victim, Victim as Monster: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Redemptive Suffering and the 'Undead' - Sarah Malik Bell

Digging Our Own Grave: Monster Trucks and America - Callie Clare

Monstrous Literature: The Case of Dacre Stoker's Dracula the Undead - Hannah Priest

Film Reviews:

The Dreamers of Dreams: Inception - Sarah Juliet Lauro

The Status is Not Quo: Reflections on Villains as Heroes in Despicable Me (2010), Megamind (2010) and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008) - Harvey O'Brien

Thirst - Colette Balmain

Book Reviews:

Monsters of the Gevaudan: The Making of a Beast - Lance Eaton

Monsters or Martyrs? A Review of Blood That Cries Out From the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism - John Donovan

Umwege in die Vergangenheit: Star Trek und die griechisch-römische Antike [Detours to the Past: Star Trek and the Greek-Roman Antiquity] - Peter Mario Kreuter

The Victorians and Old Age - C. Riley Augé

In a Glass Darkly - Lee Baxter

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Lee Baxter

Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film - Colette Balmain

For more information, or for subscriptions, please click here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Review: Naomi Clark, Dark Hunt (Queered Fiction, 2011)

Dark Hunt is the sequel to Naomi Clark’s first werewolf novel, Silver Kiss, which you may remember I reviewed on this site in October 2010, and the third instalment of her Urban Wolf series (which began with a short story published in the Queer Wolf anthology in 2009. Silver Kiss is an urban fantasy, telling the story of werewolf Ayla and her human girlfriend Shannon, who must deal with pack politics, a sinister drug being sold to young lycanthropes, a missing teenager, and, of course, the strain that all of this puts on Ayla and Shannon’s relationship.

This follow-up picks up where Silver Kiss left off. To recover from the horrors they have faced, Ayla and Shannon travel to Paris for a romantic holiday. Things don’t go to plan, however, as they soon find that there is a brutal creature (known as “Le Monstre”) stalking the Parisian streets. Is it a rogue werewolf? A human? Or something else altogether?

In my review of Silver Kiss, I said that one of the real strengths of Clark’s writing is her creation of a believable world in which werewolves live alongside human beings (though not always completely comfortably). This is developed further in Dark Hunt. What I particularly liked was that, on arrival in France, Ayla and Shannon discover that the status of werewolves in Paris is subtly different to that in the UK. The relationship between werewolves and humans is not quite the same as they were expecting. This puts a nice lycanthropic spin on the ‘tourist abroad’, as Ayla must not only deal with not understanding the language, but must also quickly learn what werewolf behaviour is acceptable in this new city. As with Clark’s first novel, once you buy into the premise that werewolves exist, the world-building is consistent and plausible.

Another strength I commented on in my previous review was Clark’s creation of character. The presentation of Ayla and Shannon’s relationship was certainly one of the most compelling aspects of Silver Kiss, and this is developed even further in Dark Hunt. I find myself genuinely caring about Clark’s protagonists – I’m happy when things go well for them, and I sigh in frustration at their misunderstandings and miscommunications. For me, this is a very important part of a novel, and a lot of fantasy writers often sideline it in favour of world-building and plot. Whether or not she is a werewolf, Ayla is a well-rounded and three-dimensional character, and this really drives the novel’s story.

Dark Hunt also features an interesting supporting cast. It’s really good to see so many variations on the female werewolf in one novel. Early on, we are introduced to the heavily-pregnant werewolf Sun, who has left her pack (and the father of her unborn “cub”) in order to pursue a relationship with a human. In many ways, Sun’s story mirrors Ayla’s own, but she has chosen a different path. A werewolf’s relationship to her pack is a complex thing, and there are different ways to negotiate this. In later chapters, we meet Clémence and Thérèse, who (like Ayla and Shannon) are trying to deal with coming out as a couple as much as with their lycanthropy. Again, while their story (in some ways) mirrors that of the protagonists, they have chosen a different path.

That said, Dark Hunt is not simply a book about (wolf)women and their relationships. It is a thriller, and the hunt for “Le Monstre” is the main ‘meat’ of the story. As in Silver Kiss, Clark creates a mystery, throws her protagonists into it and has them try to survive and solves it. Again, as in the first novel, this means that Ayla and Shannon will have to face violence from both supernatural beings and angry and confused human beings. There is a puzzle that they must solve, and the answer to this shocks the protagonists as much as it will surprise the readers.

However, though I did enjoy Dark Hunt a lot, I didn’t find the storyline quite as compelling as that of Silver Kiss. I don’t want to say too much about what is responsible for the “Le Monstre” attacks, as I don’t want to give away the plot and its twists. I will say that I found it a really interesting and unusual take on a classic paranormal trope. But the overall story arc wasn’t as strong as that in Clark’s earlier novel. Much more attention was given to the ways in which the women dealt with what was going on, and the impact the attacks had on their everyday lives. While this was enjoyable, I did feel more could be have been made of the ‘scary monster stalking the streets’ story.

The fallout from the final showdown was, perhaps, the weakest part of the novel, and the ending seems rather abrupt. After a great climactic battle, the storyline seemed to be resolved so hastily that I was left almost expecting there to be more still to come. This was a shame, as the rest of the book was very gripping.

Nevertheless, it seems that there is more to come from Ayla and Shannon, and the (somewhat abrupt) ending does definitely leave room for a third instalment of the series. I certainly hope this is the case, as I’m very taken with Clark’s werewolves.
Dark Hunt also includes some bonus material – a short story entitled “A Wolf in Girl’s Clothing”, which tells the story of Ayla and Shannon’s first meeting, and a “sample chapter” from Desire by Moonlight, the “pulp novel of a werewolf assassin who takes out vampires for the government” (the “trashy novel” Ayla is reading throughout Dark Hunt). The former is a really nice addition to the series, and was definitely a “bonus” for me. The latter, though intended to be a parody, was actually completely believable! I have read my share of that type of urban fantasy, and, in fact, Desire by Moonlight was much better written than a lot I have read. But coming at the end of the second novel, it seems all the more silly and over-the-top, as it just doesn’t fit with the world of werewolves created in Silver Kiss and Dark Hunt.

So, overall, I recommend Dark Hunt, as a well-written and plausible story of female werewolves (and humans) who are much more than simply lycanthropic. If you enjoyed Silver Kiss, then you should certainly give the sequel a go. If you haven’t yet read any of Clark’s work, then I politely suggest you start.

Click here to read my review of Silver Kiss.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Grimmfest's Zombie Night - Friday 27th April

Grimm Up North Presents...

A trio of unrelenting zombie films for you to get your teeth into.

Venue: The Dancehouse
Tickets: £8.00
Start Time: 7.30pm
Cheap bar: Bottle beer from £1.50 per bottle!

It's gonna be a blast! Fancy dress (optional), beer from £1.50 per bottle, late night bar, three great zombie flicks (two premieres and one HD remastered classic) on the big screen. What more could any self respecting horror fan want?

Juan of The Dead (Pre-Release Screening): Official media refer to the attacks as isolated incidents provoked by Cuban dissidents paid by the US government. Little by little Juan and his friends start to realize that the attackers are not normal human beings and that killing them is quite a difficult task. They’re not vampires, they’re not possessed, but they’re definitely not dissidents; a simple bite turns the victim into other violent killing machine and the only way to beat them is destroying their brains…

War of The Dead (Northwest Premiere): A platoon of American and Finnish soldiers is driven deep into a Russian forest where its Captain discovers a terrifying secret.

The Return of the Living Dead (Remastered): In this genre defining classic, , three men and a gang of punks must do what they can to quell the threat that the now undead pose to an unsuspecting town., after the accidental release of chemicals that bring the dead back to life.

For more information, or to book tickets, go to the Grimm Up North website.

CFP: Medievalism Transformed: Putting Women in their Place(s)?

Constructions of Femininity in the Middle Ages

Postgraduate Conference
Bangor University
8-9 June 2012

Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Carol M Meale (University of Bristol)
Dr. Susan M. Johns (Bangor University)
Dr. Mari Hughes-Edwards (Edge Hill University)
Dr. Sue Niebrzydowski (Bangor University

Call for Papers:

The eighth annual Bangor University Medievalism Transformed Conference will be held 8-9 June, 2012. This is an interdisciplinary postgraduate conference and we warmly invite papers on women in the medieval period from graduate students working in literature, art, medicine, music, theology, archaeology and history; other subjects will also be considered.

Suggested topics are as follows, but are not limited to:

• Traditions and settings of women’s writing and reading practices
• Gender and place
• Construction of gendered spaces
• Relationships between verbal and visual artifacts
• Women’s use of devotional images
• Gendered architecture/architectural spaces

Please send a 250-300 word abstract to the conference convenors by 18 May 2012. Papers will be of 20 minutes duration with an additional 5 minutes for questions. In addition to your abstract, please include a short (no longer than 50 words) paragraph describing your area of study, institution and contact details.

Medievalism Transformed Conference
c/o School of English,
Bangor University,
Gwynedd LL57 2DG

This event is supported by the Centre for Medieval Studies, Bangor University and the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS – Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Monster High vs. Sweet Valley High

A while ago, I wrote a post on Mattel’s range of ‘Monster High’ dolls, particularly on their female werewolf, Clawdeen. Not long afterwards, I picked up a copy on Lisi Harrison’s first Monster High novel to see if Clawdeen shaped up any differently in print than in plastic. Like the toy range, Harrison’s novel is aimed at the ‘tween’ market – specifically pre-teen girls – which made me think back to what I used to read when I was a pre-teen girl myself. Some people may be surprised by this, but I actually devoted quite a scary amount of my ‘tween’ years to working my way through Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series. (For those of you who either don’t remember, or don’t want to remember, this series, the Sweet Valley High books were about identical twins, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, from California, who had to deal with all the usual high school problems of growing up, falling in love, being ridiculously rich and beautiful, and coping with jealousy from people marginally less rich and beautiful than themselves.)

Reading the Monster High novel stirred a distant memory of a werewolf-themed Sweet Valley High mini-series. I got rid of all my Sweet Valley High books when my tastes turned to more blood-thirsty fare, but I seemed to remember keeping hold of one of the werewolf books (A Date With a Werewolf)… obviously knowing where my future career would lead me. Sure enough, I managed to dig it out (along with a whole load of other books from my pre-teen/teen years that I don’t think I’ll mention here).

So, I thought it would be kind of interesting to compare Monster High and Sweet Valley High’s take on werewolves, and to see if anything has changed in the world of tween lycanthropes in the last two decades.

Monster High

Harrison’s novel, in a wonderfully late-capitalist way, is an adaptation of a toy range. While the Monster High dolls are simply ‘characters’ with profiles, outfits and accessories, the book seeks to offer some backstory and ‘depth’ to their presentation. The story takes place in Salem, Oregon, where monsters (or RADs – Regular Attribute Dodgers – as they call themselves) have taken refuge, believing a) they are in Salem, Massachusetts and b) Salem, Massachusetts is a safe haven for monsters, given that a lot of witches live there happily. I’ll just leave that odd logic to one side for now, as Harrison does in the novel.

The story follows the parallel experiences of two new girls at Merston High. The first is Melody Carver, a human (or ‘normie’ as the monsters call them) girl who has experienced bullying due to her physical appearance at her old school. Her father, a plastic surgeon, has ‘corrected’ her face, leaving Melody feeling hollow as people now only like her because she is pretty. Her airheaded and materialistic sister, Candace, ignores any sign of Melody being bullied, calls her by the name (‘Smellody’) her bullies have used, and seems only to care about designer labels and expensive accessories. The second new girl at the school is Frankie Stein, the newly-created and green-skinned ‘daughter’ of Viktor and Viveka Stein, and granddaughter of ‘Dr. Viktor Frankenstein’ (a weird amalgam of the creator and the creation of Mary Shelley’s novel, viewed through the lens of subsequent films and Hallowe’en costumes). Though Frankie has had 15 years of memories and knowledge placed into her head – including, apparently, literature, art, culture, science and history – she is an extraordinarily shallow creation, who is absolutely obsessed with fashion and celebrity. Both Frankie and Melody are desperate to make friends at their new school, but both encounter problems with ‘fitting in’.

On her first day at Merston High, and in a scene which should be familiar to anyone who has seen any films about high school girls, Melody bumps into one of the popular girls and is humiliated in front of the entire cafeteria. The difference here, though, is that the girl she gets on the wrong side of is Cleo (a mummy), who is accompanied by Claudine (a werewolf). Melody is consistently snubbed and mocked by Cleo and Claudine, and also by Blue (a mermaid) and Lala (Draculaura, a vampire). The only friends she can make are a couple of rather odd human girls, who have also been slighted by Cleo and are out for revenge. Frankie, on the other hand, is immediately accepted by Blue and Lala, who introduce her to Cleo and Claudine, and soon the girls are all heading off to an expensive spa for the day. They admit later that they all suspected she was a monster, even before this fact was confirmed. Despite its tagline of ‘Fitting in is out’, the message of the book seems fairly clear: in a world where the popular girls are all monsters, you’re nothing without monstrosity. In fact, Melody’s experience at Merston High seems to suggest that the monsters are just as superficial, cliquey and bitchy as the girls she has left behind in Beverly Hills – only the criteria for acceptance have changed.

But what of the werewolf (since Clawdeen/Claudine was the creature that sparked my interest in the first place)?

The first description of Claudine reads as follows:
Two attractive alternative girls, consumed by their own conversation, tried to squeeze past them. The Shakira-looking one, who had auburn curls and a tray stacked with Kobe beef sliders, made it by Jackson. […] ‘Untrue!’ barked the girl with the sliders. […] The barker wore purple leggings and a black bomber jacket lined in fur the same color as her hair. (pp. 54-5)

The second:
Claudine turned away from the window. “Hey,” she said, tearing open a bag of organic turkey jerky. Her looks – yellowish-brown eyes, a mess of auburn curls, long manicured fingernails painted bronze – were just as striking as Cleo’s but in a more wild, feral way. Her style, however, seemed tamer: all-American with a touch of old-world Hollywood glamour. (p. 83)

It should be remembered, at this point, that Harrison has not actually revealed that Claudine is a werewolf. In fact, apart from Frankie, we’re not yet sure that any of the other characters are ‘RADs’. However, there are a good few clues as to Claudine’s nature here. She is often seen eating meat, unlike the rest of the characters who are remarkably picky about food (Lala is a vegan, and the school cafeteria is divided up into coloured ‘zones’ for people with restricted diets). Not only that, but she eats larger quantities of meat, and eats them impatiently: her tray is ‘stacked’ with beef sliders and she tears into the bag of jerky. Perhaps a bigger giveaway is her fur, which she is always seen wearing, and which is the same colour as her hair. Later on, it is revealed that this is because it is her hair. Notice as well that Claudine has a ‘mess’ of curls and ‘wild, feral’ eyes. Compared with the Elizabeth Taylor –esque look of Cleo and the pale Goth-look of vampire Lala, and it’s not difficult to play spot-the-werewolf.

In my previous post on Mattel’s Clawdeen Wolf doll, I commented on the focus on her sexual identity. The character’s profile on the official website, for instance, refers to one of her hobbies as ‘flirting’. This is not as evident in the novel, as all the female characters are obsessed with either attracting males or with punishing other females who have attracted the males they were after. What is introduced in Harrison’s novel, however, is that other mainstay of recent female werewolf fiction – the pack. Apart from Frankie’s creators/parents, Claudine’s family is the only monster family introduced in any detail. She has a large group of overprotective brothers, who are leery, hairy and generally hyper-masculine (in a frat-boy kind of way). Claudine is both resentful of their protectiveness and mindful of the need to stay loyal to them, which is fairly typical of the way the ‘pack’ is presented in much recent fiction.

What is interesting, perhaps, in the Monster High book and toy range (and I’ve only read the first book in a series, so I don’t know if this comes up later on) is that any question of transformation is avoided. Claudine/Clawdeen appears to be more a hybrid half-wolf, half-woman than a woman who transforms into a wolf. She has a pelt while clearly in ‘human’ form, which allows her to hide her lycanthropy by getting body waxes at an exclusive spa (where mermaids can take salt baths and mummies can get massages). At no point is it suggested that she, or her brothers, will undergo a complete bodily transformation, nor that she will pose any particular threat to human beings should this happen. Indeed, the only monster who causes harm to humans is the (bizarrely male) gorgon, Deuce, who accidentally drops his sunglasses and turns an innocent bystander to stone (which is dismissed rather callously by the narrator).

Sweet Valley High

How, then, does this compare to a tween novel of nearly twenty years ago? In many ways, the world of Sweet Valley High and Monster High are scarily similar. High school cliques, ‘girl politics’ and the need to attract good-looking males are consistent themes of both series. The materialistic world of these teenagers is also similar in both series. The characters of Monster High are so obsessed with designer clothes and labels, it is difficult to read some passages due to the sheer number of brand names. Even the supposedly ‘alternative’ Melody, who is explicitly described as rejecting her contemporaries’ obsession with fashion, doesn’t wear trainers, but ‘Converse’, and is attracted to a young man when she notices that he also wears this brand of shoe.

This is not a million miles away from the world of Sweet Valley High, where Jessica Wakefield’s focus on appearances is often held up as a contrast to Elizabeth’s studious and serious persona (studious and serious while dressed in expensive clothes, of course). At one point in A Date With a Werewolf, Jessica is musing on a series of gruesome murderers which may have been perpetrated by her boyfriend (who may also be a werewolf); her reaction to this, and to the discovery of a mutilated body in her own bed, is to go to Harrods. After all, she thinks, ‘If shopping wouldn’t cheer her up, nothing would.’ (p. 131).

If the reference to Harrods threw you there, I should probably give some summary of the plot of A Date With a Werewolf. This is the second book in the Horror in London mini-series (I’m afraid I haven’t kept, or maybe never read, the other two). Elizabeth and (implausibly) Jessica have won prestigious internships with the London Journal, and are spending the summer in England. Jessica has caught the eye of Lord Robert Pembroke, a member of the aristocracy, and Elizabeth is sort of cheating on her long-time boyfriend with ‘sensitive’ poet Luke. Meanwhile, a series of brutal murders are occurring in London, and are being covered up by the papers. Luke has persuaded Elizabeth that these murders are the work of a werewolf, and, worse, that the lycanthrope is none other than Robert Pembroke. Believing her sister to be in danger, Elizabeth investigates further…

I could dwell on the ludicrousness of this storyline, but I won’t. Suffice to say, the version of lycanthropy in Sweet Valley High is quite different to that presented in Monster High. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the werewolf is a vicious killer. Within the opening pages of this book, Elizabeth finds a dead woman: ‘And her throat had been ripped open… as if by a wild beast.’ (p. 2) In case we didn’t get the beast reference, we are then told: ‘And as if to add credence to the werewolf theory, some of the Pembrokes’ sheep had been found with their throats ripped open – just hours before Joy’s murder.’ (p. 3)

As the story progresses, it’s clear that we’re in ‘Wolfman’ territory (in fact, the sequel to this book was called Beware the Wolfman). The werewolf is a lone predator, possibly an aristocratic male transformed by some sort of curse, who is changed from human form to wolf, and is consumed by an uncontrollable blood lust. To underline this, the book contains a veritable encyclopaedia of lycanthropy, including warnings from gypsies, a silver talisman with a pentagram on it, wolfsbane, full moons, ‘wolf imagery in Native-American rites and rituals’ (p. 37), silver bullets and ‘medieval werewolf trials’ (p. 90). The book owes much of its presentation of werewolfism to The Wolfman, particularly in the presentation of the alleged werewolf’s father, who seeks to both protect his son and understand his curse. Weirdly, the book seems almost prescient, as its presentation of Lord Pembroke Sr. seems to point forwards to the recent remake of The Wolfman more than the original.

Obviously, with the books being set in London, there are nods to An American Werewolf in London, particularly the fact that Luke takes Elizabeth to drink in a pub called ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’. I can only assume that this pub is a little different to its famous namesake, as it is in central London and apparently serves coffee.

The London setting of the book is not very convincing, to say the least. This version of London is a couple of miles away from Stonehenge, has large country estates (with sheep) close by and has a royal family who all live cosily in Buckingham Palace. One of the subplots features the ‘youngest daughter of the Queen of England’, who has escapes from Buckingham Palace, pretends to be a ‘working-class girl from Liverpool’ and helps her boyfriend to set up ‘free medical care for the poor’ (clearly, all that time locked up in Buckingham Palace means she hasn’t heard of the NHS).

This inaccurate and romanticized version of ‘London’ has a direct impact on the version of lycanthropy in A Date With a Werewolf. We are in the Victorian Gothic world of the tortured, but killer, werewolf, rather than the North American world of the wolf pack. The London that Elizabeth and Jessica visit is the home of Jack the Ripper, and an ‘eerie werewolf exhibit at the wax museum’ (p. 16). It is a world in which a member of the aristocracy can murder his servants with impunity, as his father has ultimate control of the press. There is even a secret door that opens from a wood-panelled library, activated by removing a first edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Gothicism of this fictional London is what allows for suspension of disbelief, both on the part of the implied readers and on the part of Elizabeth, the supposedly ‘level-headed’ heroine. This is noted clearly in the book, when it is stated that: ‘…ideas that would have sounded ridiculous to Elizabeth under the bright California sun somehow seemed more reasonable when voiced through an English fog’ (p. 4). (I’m sure it goes without saying that, for the entire duration of the girls’ trip, London appears to be engulfed by an inexplicably nineteenth-century fog).

So, what have we learned from this? Anything?

The differences in the werewolves in these books points to diverging traditions of lycanthropy. A Date With a Werewolf is the older, Western European tradition (which was dominant from the late Middle Ages onwards, and was refracted through the lens of late Victorian Gothic), in which the werewolf is a tortured, yet brutal and animalistic, loner, whose human form disguises the beast within. Monster High belongs to a newer pattern of presenting werewolves – particularly female werewolves – that is rapidly superseding the older type. I call this the ‘American’ tradition, as it is more common in countries with native wolves. These werewolves are not loners, but rather members of a hierarchical (and often patriarchal) pack structure, which is constructed as both a source of support and constraint. That the earlier book takes place in a foggy and Victorian-esque London, the later in a small town in Oregon, highlights this.

While the werewolves may be different, the modes of femininity presented in tween fiction have sadly not changed much over the past two decades. Materialistic, narcissistic and obsessed with attracting the most popular and best-looking boys (despite occasional nods to ‘sisterhood’ and ‘friendship’), the girls at Monster High are little different to those of Sweet Valley High. Sadly, the only lesson I can really take from my comparison of these two books is that this particular construction of the vain and shallow teenage girl clearly transcends species.

It's enough to make you howl, really.

Manchester Monster Convention

Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th April 2012
Sachas Hotel, Tib Street, Manchester

Weekend Tickets: just £10
For more information on this event, and to book tickets, please visit the Hic Dragones website.

Saturday 14th April
Doors open at 10am

Talks (Jefferson Suite)

11.00am Before Dawn - a new British horror film set in Yorkshire
Dominic Brunt (Actor/Director) and Neale Myers (Cameraman/Digital Effects Artist) will be showing clips from their new Yorkshire horror movie, Before Dawn, talking about the movie and answering questions

12.30pm Q&A with Sam Stone and David J Howe
Sam is the author of the Vampire Gene series, and David has written numerous books on Doctor Who. Both authors will be reading from their work, answering questions and generally talking vampires, monsters and Who.

2.00pm Tales from the Crypt: Two Real-Life Vampire Cases
Talk by Geoff Holder, author of Paranormal Glasgow and Paranormal Cumbria, covering the hunt for the Vampire with Iron Teeth, and the infamous case of the Vampire of Croglin Grange.

3.30pm In Search of Real Monsters
Talk by Richard Freeman, Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology

Signings (Washington Suite)

1.20pm Sam Stone and David J Howe
2.50pm Geoff Holder

The Monster Market (Washington Suite)
Stalls will be open from 10am to 5pm

Film Screenings (Jefferson Suite)

From 6pm Monster Movie Triple Bill (sponsored by Grimm Up North)
Island of Lost Souls
Whisperer in the Darkness
Reel Zombies

Sunday 15th April
Doors open at 10am

Talks (Jefferson Suite)

11.00am How to Make a Monster
A talk on creative writing, horror and monsters by Rick Hudson. Rick's work has been published by a wide variety of magazines in the UK, US and Europe as well as appearing in collections and broadcast by the BBC. He is currently working on a documentary for the BBC and a film for a leading Hollywood studio.

12.30pm Psychopaths, Deviants and Serial Killers, Oh My!
A talk on the psychology of 'human monsters' by Jacquelyn Bent, who is currently completing a doctorate in Criminal Psychology at the University of Huddersfield

2.00pm Q&A with Leah Moore and John Reppion
Graphic novelists, creators of the Wild Girls series, the Albion series (with Alan Moore and Shane Oakley) and the Raise the Dead series (with Hugo Petrus). The duo have also created The Complete Dracula and The Complete Alice in Wonderland, and are currently working on the Thrill Electric, a motion comic set in Victorian Manchester.

3.30pm Writers Panel: Readings and Q&A
With Wayne Simmons (author of Flu and Fever) Simon Bestwick (author of The Faceless, Tide of Souls and Pictures of the Dark) and Scott Stanford (author of Dorothy - The Darker Side of Oz and Abaddon Rising)

Signings (Washington Suite)

2.50pm Leah Moore and John Reppion
4.20pm Wayne Simmons, Simon Bestwick and Scott Stanford

The Monster Market (Washington Suite)
Stalls will be open from 10am to 5pm

Convention closes at 5pm
Tickets for the event cost just £10. To book, please visit the Hic Dragones website.