From Gagool to Akasha: Black Characters in Horror Fiction (HAGL 2 Excerpt)

•May 27, 2022 • 1 Comment

Calling All Horror Fans! 
HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:  

Free excerpt from Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 

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From Gagool to Akasha 

Black Characters in Horror Fiction 

by Sumiko Saulson 

Black representation in Horror fiction is about both characters and writers. We need more Black authors, directors, screenwriters, and people behind the scenes to make sure that our communities are envisioned through our eyes. Yet, there is undeniable value to Black heroes and villains envisioned by other non-Black authors. The 2017 remake of Stephen King’s IT is a prime example of how betrayed Black audiences feel when representation is diminished by erasing or minimizing the presence of an important Black hero like Mike Hanlon. Outrage over whitewashing doesn’t disappear just because the character was written by someone who isn’t Black. And anger about Black actors portraying characters like Rue in The Hunger Games and Akasha in The Queen of the Damned suggest overwhelmingly, racism among audiences. The success of Black Panther demonstrates both the need for Black characters and the factual ability of Black characters envisioned by White writers to be handed over to Black production and writing teams. 

Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s authoritative work on the subject is called Writing the Other. It deals with the ins and outs of writing characters unlike oneself. This is crucial as many of the Black characters in Victorian fiction are hopelessly stereotyped characters of Black witch doctors and high priestesses like Gagool, the evil old hag who advises the twisted dictator King Twala in the Alan Quartermain novel, King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard. Haggard was one of the better-known writers in the Lost World genre. Modern takes on mysteriously hidden societies can be elevated, like 2018’s movie Black Panther’s take on Wakanda by Black director Ryan Coogler and writer Joe Robert Cole, or feature terrifying evil White overlords against spunky Black heroes, like Jordan Peele’s award-winning 2018 Horror film, Get Out. 

To read more, go to: https:/www.amazon.com/dp/B09YNF5QM3 

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Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre? Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horror addict’s life.  

Our month-by-month almanac with important dates, movie lists, puzzles, crafts, articles, and recipes will guarantee your whole year is occupied with delightful horror activities. Don’t miss our monster guide with articles about vampires, zombies, ghosts, and some creatures that just can’t be categorized. Enjoy interviews with creators of horror content and hear perspectives from different cultures and backgrounds. Read stories of real hauntings, nightmares, and vile vacations.  

Allow us to curate your horror lifestyle. 

With articles by: A. Craig Newman, A.D. Vick, Alyson Faye, Angela Yuriko Smith, Brian McKinley, CM Lucas, Camellia Rains, Carrie Sessarego, Chantal Boudreau, Courtney Mroch, Crystal Connor, D.J. Pitsiladis, Dan Shaurette, Daphne Strasert, Dee Blake, Emerian Rich, Geneve Flynn, H.E. Roulo, H.R. Boldwood, J. Malcolm Stewart, James Goodridge, Jaq D Hawkins, Jeff Carroll, Jonathan Fortin, Kate Nox, Kay Tracy, Kerry Alan Denney, Kieran Judge, Kristin Battestella, Ksenia Murray, Lee Murray, Lionel Ray Green, Loren Rhoads, M.D. Neu, Mark Orr, Martha J. Allard, Michael Fassbender, Mimielle, Naching T. Kassa, Pamela K. Kinney, Priscilla Bettis, R.J. Joseph, R.L. Merrill, Rena Mason, Renata Pavrey, Rhonda R. Carpenter, Russell Holbrook, Selah Janel, Steven P. Unger, Sumiko Saulson, Tabitha Thompson, Theresa Braun, Trinity Adler, Valjeanne Jeffers. 

Available now at: Amazon.com 

Black Women in Horror: Fierce. Fearless. Female. by Tabitha Thompson

•May 20, 2022 • 2 Comments

Calling All Horror Fans! 
HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:  

Free excerpt from Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 

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Black Women in Horror 

Fierce. Fearless. Female. 

by Tabitha Thompson 

The very first Horror movie I saw was Maniac Cop when I was five years old. Since then, Horror has always fascinated me. As the years went on, I found writing to be a great outlet for emotions and devoured writers such as Stephen King, Edward Lee, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jack Ketchum. But one day as I was looking through books at my local library for something new and an author caught my eye, her name was L.A. Banks. Reading her novels Minion and The Awakening, I fell in love with her writing style and how she incorporated dark fiction and Horror into her work. She was the first Black female that I’ve read who had an Anne Rice feel to her work, while her characters were relatable and interesting. Followed by Toni Morrison and her novel Beloved, I immediately became inspired by these women who were not just great dark fiction and Horror writers, but who were also Black. 

Although I’ve relished the fact that I’m a Black female writing Horror, it felt good that there were women out there like me writing a genre I loved. In the following years, I’ve also discovered Linda Addison, Pheare Alexander, Sumiko Saulson… 

To read more, go to: https:/www.amazon.com/dp/B09YNF5QM3 

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Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre? Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horror addict’s life.  

Our month-by-month almanac with important dates, movie lists, puzzles, crafts, articles, and recipes will guarantee your whole year is occupied with delightful horror activities. Don’t miss our monster guide with articles about vampires, zombies, ghosts, and some creatures that just can’t be categorized. Enjoy interviews with creators of horror content and hear perspectives from different cultures and backgrounds. Read stories of real hauntings, nightmares, and vile vacations.  

Allow us to curate your horror lifestyle. 

With articles by: A. Craig Newman, A.D. Vick, Alyson Faye, Angela Yuriko Smith, Brian McKinley, CM Lucas, Camellia Rains, Carrie Sessarego, Chantal Boudreau, Courtney Mroch, Crystal Connor, D.J. Pitsiladis, Dan Shaurette, Daphne Strasert, Dee Blake, Emerian Rich, Geneve Flynn, H.E. Roulo, H.R. Boldwood, J. Malcolm Stewart, James Goodridge, Jaq D Hawkins, Jeff Carroll, Jonathan Fortin, Kate Nox, Kay Tracy, Kerry Alan Denney, Kieran Judge, Kristin Battestella, Ksenia Murray, Lee Murray, Lionel Ray Green, Loren Rhoads, M.D. Neu, Mark Orr, Martha J. Allard, Michael Fassbender, Mimielle, Naching T. Kassa, Pamela K. Kinney, Priscilla Bettis, R.J. Joseph, R.L. Merrill, Rena Mason, Renata Pavrey, Rhonda R. Carpenter, Russell Holbrook, Selah Janel, Steven P. Unger, Sumiko Saulson, Tabitha Thompson, Theresa Braun, Trinity Adler, Valjeanne Jeffers. 

Available now at: Amazon.com 

Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 is Here!

•May 13, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Calling All Horror Fans! 
HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:  

Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre? Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horror addict’s life.  

Our month-by-month almanac with important dates, movie lists, puzzles, crafts, articles, and recipes will guarantee your whole year is occupied with delightful horror activities. Don’t miss our monster guide with articles about vampires, zombies, ghosts, and some creatures that just can’t be categorized. Enjoy interviews with creators of horror content and hear perspectives from different cultures and backgrounds. Read stories of real hauntings, nightmares, and vile vacations.  

Allow us to curate your horror lifestyle. 

With articles by: A. Craig Newman, A.D. Vick, Alyson Faye, Angela Yuriko Smith, Brian McKinley, CM Lucas, Camellia Rains, Carrie Sessarego, Chantal Boudreau, Courtney Mroch, Crystal Connor, D.J. Pitsiladis, Dan Shaurette, Daphne Strasert, Dee Blake, Emerian Rich, Geneve Flynn, H.E. Roulo, H.R. Boldwood, J. Malcolm Stewart, James Goodridge, Jaq D Hawkins, Jeff Carroll, Jonathan Fortin, Kate Nox, Kay Tracy, Kerry Alan Denney, Kieran Judge, Kristin Battestella, Ksenia Murray, Lee Murray, Lionel Ray Green, Loren Rhoads, M.D. Neu, Mark Orr, Martha J. Allard, Michael Fassbender, Mimielle, Naching T. Kassa, Pamela K. Kinney, Priscilla Bettis, R.J. Joseph, R.L. Merrill, Rena Mason, Renata Pavrey, Rhonda R. Carpenter, Russell Holbrook, Selah Janel, Steven P. Unger, Sumiko Saulson, Tabitha Thompson, Theresa Braun, Trinity Adler, Valjeanne Jeffers. 

Available now at: Amazon.com 

((direct link if needed: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09YNF5QM3)) 

Buffie Peterson review of Happiness and Other Diseases

•April 3, 2022 • Leave a Comment

From Buffie Peterson’s first edition review of Happiness and Other Diseases:

“You will not be able to put this book down. From page one it is captivating, pulse raising, and definitely makes you question your own sanity; it’s a complete page turner! Ms. Saulson plays on every fear we have in our dreamland and in our reality. She takes our emotions and purees them in a blender. And worse yet? Every one of us can relate to these characters. Prepare to fall in love, be filled with fear and dread, and be drawn into a tale that may just give you nightmares. Sleep well…”

— Buffie Peterson

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1065784780

Review of Happiness and Other Diseases by Jim Fahs

•April 3, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Check out this first edition review of Happiness and Other Diseases, now available on Mocha Memoirs Press: https://mochamemoirspress.com/product/happiness-and-other-diseases

“This is not just a lovely novel, it’s a whole universe and mythos brought to life. Take a dash of Toni Morrison, a healthy dose of Neil Gaiman, and take a trip down Clive Barker street and you get a taste for what this experience is about, but Sumiko Saulson brings it to life with (their) own unique voice. Don’t miss this!”

– Jim Fahs

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1076277420

Amy Bellino’s Review of Happiness and Other Diseases

•April 2, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Check out this first edition review of “Happiness and Other Diseases,” now available on Mocha Memoirs Press. https://mochamemoirspress.com/product/happiness-and-other-diseases

“There was nothing I could not love about this novel. It made me laugh out loud and made me cry. It made me squirm in fear and squeal in delight. The main characters are very well written and you will fall in love with them. The dark humor is perfectly balanced to off set the horror. I found the interaction between the Greek Gods, Demigods and mortals fascinating. But above all, I loved that Flynn likes being tied up and tortured as long as Charlotte is the one dispensing the pain.” – Amy Bellino

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1045316757

When Black Women Say They Don’t Get Protected Enough, Believe Them

•March 30, 2022 • Leave a Comment

The latest controversy is very telling in terms of the complete lack of intersectionality in many people’s feminism. A bunch of people are completely ignoring black womens’ lived experience, and making statements that lean heavily into the “strong black woman” trope by talking about how Jada Pinkett Smith could have “easily put Chris Rock in his place.”

When black women say “we don’t get protected enough” BELIEVE THEM. Ask yourself what it is that we as a whole are NOT DOING FOR BLACK WOMEN that makes a bunch of us feel so unprotected. Please stop with the “strong black woman” stereotype statements bout Jada.

No matter how you feel about the men in this situation, please understand that these statements lean heavily into strong black woman tropes and are problematic. They also ignore large numbers of black women saying things like “black women do not get protected enough.” The strong black woman trope is used to communicate the idea that black women do not deserve the same protection as white women.

Using the idea that wanting protection is antifeminist against black women is to deny the privilege that white women have.

The notion of “chivalry” was a European notion that involved knightly codes of behavior towards European noblewomen. The feminist rejection of such codes as patriarchial should be enjoined with the intersectional understanding that such codes NEVER APPLIED to black women.

While women of entirely European heritage initially fought for equal rights in America, my black ancestors under chattel slavery were still only regarded as three-fifths of a human being.

Ignoring these facts is called white centering.

When black women say they don’t get protected enough, you should BELIEVE THEM. Not ignore them and keep telling them how strong they are. Believe me, all of us have heard that since we were children, along with numerous messages about how we should protect and nurture others while expecting nothing in return. These messages have been forwarded from the days of slavery, when we were expected to put in a lot of free, hard manual labor and be the wetnurses of the children of the people who kept us in chains.

I implore you to consider that this DOES have something to do with race. When a black man comes at another black man about things he said about the first black man’s black wife, all three of those people being black matters. Their blackness matters to other black folks, and only your privilege allows you to be color blind.

THE PROTECT BLACK WOMEN AND GIRLS ACT OF 2021

Please read about the act here: https://robinkelly.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/reps-robin-kelly-clarke-watson-coleman-fitzpatrick-introduce-bipartisan

From the article:

While the data collected on the experiences and conditions of Black women and girls is often insufficient and incomplete, we know the following to be true:

  • Black women die from pregnancy-related complications at 3 times the rate of their non-Hispanic white counterparts;
  • For every US dollar that a white man earns in the United States, Black women are paid 61 cents;
  • 60% of Black girls experience sexual assault before they reach adulthood.
  • In comparison to white girls, Black school-aged girls are four times more likely to be arrested at school and five times more likely to be transferred to another school for disciplinary reasons.

Mummies, Threesomes and Russians, Oh My! Ramses the Damned: Reign of Osiris review

•March 29, 2022 • Leave a Comment

When The Mummy or Ramses the Damned debuted in 1989, I was just beginning my love affair with the writing of Anne Rice, having started with Queen of the Damned which had been released only a year earlier. I quickly became enamored with the mysterious Ramses, who had swallowed a secret elixir granting him immortality. Going by the pseudonym Reginald Ramsey, he quickly embarked upon a steaming hot romance with Julie Stratford. She’s the daughter of Lawrence Stratford, the British archaeologist who unearthed Ramses’ seemingly mummified body, but was sadly murdered shortly afterwards. 

The love quadrangle between Mr. Ramsey, Miss Stratford, Alex Savarell (a low-ranking noble Miss Stratford is engaged to but does not love), and a partially revived but insane and monstrous Cleopatra (Ramses’ ex, but ironically, in love with Alex now) was sort of like the supernatural Bridgerton of the late 90s. Although all of the immortal characters have supernaturally glowing blue eyes, the obvious inclusion of people of color was thrilling for people like myself, people of color who came into the Anne Rice fandom with Queen of the Damned. I had heard of Anne Rice a few years earlier, in 1985, when all of my friends in the goth community were raving about her then newly-released The Vampire Lestat (sequel to the 1976 Interview with the Vampire). I was intrigued by Akasha and other non-white vampires in QOTD

But The Mummy or Ramses the Damned was an entirely different vibe. Despite the truly terrifying scenes with Cleopatra later on in the book, it never pretended not to be a paranormal romance. Julie and Ramses’ love affair was up front and center in this novel. However, it substantially exists in the realm of horror as well, and is a fine example of horromance, the horror-romance genre. If you like paranormal romance, you’re apt to enjoy all three of the books in this series. 

Like many fans, I’d read the inscription at the end of the book, “The Adventures of Ramses the Damned Shall Continue” and was anxiously awaiting his return. I would wait another 28 years, until the release of Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra, in 2017, the first of the two books co-written by Christopher Rice. It picks up immediately after the end of The Mummy, still in the year 1914, with Ramses and Julie now engaged to be married. It introduces some new characters, notably American novelist Sybil Parker, who’s novels about Egypt seem to be inspired directly by Cleopatra’s memories. It also goes into the history of how the Elixir which granted Ramses immortality was created.

Ramses the Damned: Reign of Osiris is the third book in Anne Rice’s Ramses the Damned series, and the second one co-written by her son, Christopher Rice. It is also Anne’s final novel, as she sadly passed away on December 11, 2021. It is to the credit of both writers that the book works very smoothly and cohesively as a work, as much so as if it had been written by a single author. Furthermore, all three of the books work very well as a series, and maintain a consistent tone. While her passing makes it tempting to give Anne sole credit for this work, having read interviews with both of the Rices, and having read considerably from both of their works, I will say that Christopher’s mark is also evident on both Reign of Osiris and The Passion of Cleopatra. Most obviously, in terms of the brisker suspense/thriller type pacing. Reign of Osiris comes in at just 368 words, compared to 416 for Passion of Cleopatra and 509 pages for The Mummy. Anne Rice’s novels tend to take a more languid stroll to their conclusion, and spend more time on character development than Christopher’s do. 

In The Reign of Osiris, Queen Bektaten (first introduced in Passion of Cleopatra) is calling together all of her subjects in the months leading up to World War I. Although her intentions seem pure, even protective, not all of the immortals have agreed to be her subjects. In fact, Ramses is fairly bristling at Bektaten’s haughty manner, and Cleopatra suspects this is secretly a plot to execute her.  

Anne Rice’s recent death added an initial tinge of sadness to the reading of Bektaten’s letters for me. Without knowing who knew what, it is still hard not to compare  Bektaten’s grand and protective pronouncements to the younger immortals, whom she seems to hold in some maternal regard, to Anne Rice’s own social media posts to her Facebook fandom over the years, her self-styled People of the Page. In fact, I will say it is entirely impossible to divorce the reading of the work from grief about her passing if you’re a devoted fan. But Bektaten is definitely not Anne, and very soon, I find myself sympathizing with Ramses’ aching desire to rebel against her, as she starts to seem like a nag. Despite Ramses’ understandable feelings, everyone except he and Cleopatra seem to be madly in love with the otherwise charming Bektaten.

While Bektaten is busy composing her four-page missives, scolding the other immortals like little children, and warning them not to engage in the upcoming human war, a bunch of Russians who don’t seem to know what they’re dealing with are trying to assassinate everyone who cared about Lawrence Stratford. Fortunately, most of them are immortal now, and not in any immediate danger by the mysterious arcane magic that the Russian assassins have been toying with.

When they are not being attacked by Russians, the immortals are having hot threesomes. Cleopatra has patched things up with Sybil Parker after some initial trepidation in the second book, and is now sharing her bed, and Alex Savarell as well as her memories with the American novelist. Bektaten shares her bed with her sexy guards, Enamon and Aktamu, who are partners, which doesn’t stop Aktamu from eyeballing Elliot Savarell, who is eyeballing Aktamu and possibility Bektaten. If you’re a fan of the paranormal romance genre, none of this surprises you. 

The Russians, meantime, have some fancy necklaces that they can use to animate statues of people, and get them to go on murderous rampages. No one is really sure how they are doing this. Okay, well, maybe not noone. Someone seems to know something about it. Our hero, Ramses. But for reasons that are not yet clear, he isn’t telling anybody.

My essay is in “It Came From The Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror,” edited by Joe Vallese

•March 24, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Remember last year when a bunch of us went to see Nia Da Costa’s Candyman? I’m really happy to say that my essay about the movie (which includes talking about that particular group outing) is one of those included in It Came From The Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, edited by Joe Vallese. It is an honor to be include amongst such greats as Carmen Maria Machado. This wonderful cover artwork is by Braulio Amada.

I am happy to announce that my essay “Centered and Seen,” a reflection on the 2021 Nia Dia Costa film Candyman (based on the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker) and the intersection of Blackness and Queerness, is one of those included in It Came From The Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, edited by Joe Vallese. Available for pre-release purchase, it is to be released on October 3, 2022 on Feminist Press.

Through the lens of horror–from Halloween to Hereditary–queer and trans writers consider the films that deepened, amplified, and illuminated their own experiences.Horror movies hold a complicated space in the hearts of the queer community: historically misogynist, and often homo- and transphobic, the genre has also been inadvertently feminist and open to subversive readings. Common tropes–such as the circumspect and resilient “final girl,” body possession, costumed villains, secret identities, and things that lurk in the closet–spark moments of eerie familiarity and affective connection. Still, viewers often remain tasked with reading themselves into beloved films, seeking out characters and set pieces that speak to, mirror, and parallel the unique ways queerness encounters the world.It Came from the Closet features twenty-five original essays by writers speaking to this relationship, through connections both empowering and oppressive. From Carmen Maria Machado on Jennifer’s Body, Jude Ellison S. Doyle on In My Skin, Addie Tsai on Dead Ringers, and many more, these conversations convey the rich reciprocity between queerness and horror.

Book Release Party on Saturday, April 16

•March 24, 2022 • Leave a Comment

If you’re in San Francisco on Saturday, April 16th between 7pm and 9pm, I would like to invite you to the book release party for “Happiness and Other Diseases,” which is coming out on Mocha Memoirs Press on March 30. The book release party, which is being put on in conjuction with the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District, will feature champagne and hors d’oeuvres, as well as a book reading, book signing with books available for purchase at $15 each. If you bring a book with you, I can also sign that.

In addition to the book reading, signing (with books available to purchase) and Q&A session, there will be prints by cover photographer Garrett Sohnly on display, with select prints from the cover photo session being available for purchase.

The event is taking place at the Folsom Street Cultural Center, at 145 9th Street, San Francisco, CA. Proof of vaccination is required to enter the Community Center.