26 Feb

WiHM Spotlight: Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Elizabeth_GaskellMy Spotify harpsichord music playlist was a constant companion while reading through Gaskell’s Gothic Tales. It was eerily appropriate. If you enjoy setting your books to music, I can’t recommend anything better than the London Harpsichord Ensemble.

Sometimes short stories can have the same, if not better, effect with the Gothic themed stories—looming houses or manors, fantastic villains, romance, yet with fewer pages to convey fear and the sublime.

Elizabeth Gaskell, friend and biographer of Charlotte Bronte, was a master when it comes to these short stories. Gothic Tales, published by Penguin Classics, was edited by Laura Kranzer who holds a doctorate in philosophy on Gothic Fiction from Hertfod College, Oxford. She includes an introduction, further reading suggestions, and notes on the text.

One warning about the introduction: it includes material from the stories that might be considered spoilers. If you want to remain surprised by the stories, read the introduction last. The collection includes nine stories, each published in in whole or in part in Victorian magazines.

I’ve selected what I think are the best of the collection to discuss.


In “The Old Nurse’s Story,” Hester relates a story to the child of Miss Rosamond, whose parents died when she was very young. Hester and Miss Rosamond move to the Furnivall manor house soon after.

Several mysterious happenings occur that the household seems to be used to: an organ built into the house is heard despite the fact, when Hester investigates, the inside of the organ is in shambles, a ghostly child continually beckons the young Miss Rosamond outside.

One snowy day, the nurse returns from church only to find that Miss Rosamond is nowhere to be found. After much searching, another member of the household brings her in from the cold, and, after warming her by the fire, the child tells an extraordinary story about being beckoned outside by a little girl and led to the Fells where the mysterious child’s mother was waiting. After hearing of this, the mistress of the house is adamant that Miss Rosamond should not be allowed near the other child, for it would lead to her death. Hester couldn’t believe it…until she saw the child for herself.

This one is probably one of my favourite short stories from this collection. Part of the reason for this is the old time radio program I listened to that adapted this story. There are a few radio plays that invoke strong emotions from me. I wish I could remember the production—it was so well done. If I manage to find it I will post it in the blog comments. I’m hoping I may come across it again.


The second excellent story in this book, set in 1691, is “Lois the Witch.” Lois Barclay travels to New England to live with an estranged uncle and his family after he own parents die, only to discover her uncle is bedridden and close to death himself.

Her aunt, a very strict Puritan woman, is not pleased with the arrangement, but lives with it. Lois meets her cousins, Faith and Prudence, who do not meet up to their names. Lois befriends Natte, the Native American servant who spends much of her time in the kitchen. She also meets Cousin Manasseh, who becomes obsessed with marrying his newly arrived relative.He insists he hears a voice demanding that they marry.

Lois, as she has a beau back in London, refuses him at every turn. Religious zealousness reaches a fever pitch when one of the daughters of a prominent townsperson is afflicted with fits, determined to be witchcraft.

The Salem witch hysteria, with special appearance by Cotton Mather, combined with Faith’s misunderstanding of a scene involving the man she loves and Lois, and her calling Lois a witch in front of the malicious Prudence, lead to the accusation of Lois being a witch.

This is a truly terrifying story. Kranzer, in her introduction, mentions that Gaskell researched the Salem witch trials and “Lois the Witch” was based on the persecution of a New England woman, Rebecca Nurse, whose ordeal, and death, came from Lectures on Witchcraft, written by Charles Upham, a Unitarian minister in Salem in the 1830s.

Knowing that numerous innocent women, and men, were fasley accused of witchcraft, and the ordeals they went through, makes this story that much more tragic. The way Gaskell writes this shows sympathy for what all of those people faced at the hands of powerful, superstitious people.


Much like Frankenstein and The Italian, the bulk of “The Grey Woman” tale is delivered in manuscript form. The story is introduced by a German server at a café who offers to give a manuscript telling the story of the Grey Woman to two women who visit the café and see a painting of an unusual looking woman hanging in the palour.

It turns out Anna Scherer, the woman in the painting, wrote the manuscript. It describes a fateful visit to her friend Sophie, and the meeting of Monsieur de la Tourelle at a social engagement. At first she is smitten beyond words, but then quickly changes her mind when she becomes familiar with his less than masculine behavior.

Sophie’s mother, obsessed with social class and prestige, insists they make their acquaintance better. This ultimately leads to their marriage and Anna’s separation from friends and family.

At his estate, she is given her own apartment and spends much of her time alone in her rooms, and she hears nothing from back home. Her husband hires Amante as a maid. Anna found her kind, and assertive without being rude to others. She actually, in her own way, stands up for Anna against her husband and his favourite servant, who is found to treat Anna rudely.

One night, when the master of the house is out, Amante finds what she thinks might be a letter to Anna from her family, but is prevented from taking it by another servant faithful to his master. Anna and Amante steal into her husband’s apartments to retrieve the letter, and others that might be hidden from her. Anna becomes trapped in one of the rooms and witnesses a grim scene which changes her life forever.

I recommend Gothic Tales if you enjoy your Gothic stories in short story form.


See you in the stacks,

Lizzy Walker, WiHM Librarian 

Further resources

The Elizabeth Gaskell Society was formed in 1985 by Joan Leach. The Society’s aims include such things as promote and encourage the study and appreciation of the work and life of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell; to record sources of information about the work of Elizabeth Gaskell and any other material relating to her life, family, work and memory; to arrange visits to places associated with her or her books; and more. I encourage you to check out the Society’s website for more information.


14 Feb

Mai Nakanishi Talks Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo!


After attending the Viscera Film Festival (RIP) in 2012,  Mai Nakanishi felt deeply moved by the experience. This post-show excitement lead to a sense of empowerment, hope, and action.

The following year, Nakanishi decided to submit her short zombie film, which she co-wrote and produced, No Place Like Home. The film went on to win the award for Best Cinematography.

A few years later,  Mai continued on her mission and successfully launched The Scream Queen Filmfest in Tokyo!

Now in it’s 3rd year, SQFF has become a much coveted stop on the festival circuit for women genre filmmakers. With the loss of Viscera, Mai has made sure to keep the spirit alive – providing women genre filmmakers from around the world opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

We are beyond grateful to Mai for taking the time to answer our questions and, as you will read, provide advice to other people looking to launch events in their communities as well. Mai is a perfect example of the power we all have, if passionate enough, to mobilize and build new opportunities for women in the industry.

Hannah Neurotica: What sparked the idea to launch the Screen Queen Film Festival? and Can you tell us a bit about the mission behind it? 

Mai Nakanishi: Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo was launched in 2013 in Tokyo, Japan but it originally stemmed from another wonderful film festival called Viscera Film Festival which was an annual L.A based horror film festival for women filmmakers. I got to know about visceraViscera Film Festival when I attended their one-night screening event in Vancouver, Canada and was blown away by some of the shorts that were screened there.

It was very refreshing to see genre films made from a female point of view and so many films had strong female characters opposed to stereotypical representations of women in the horror genre, which was terrific.

Being a filmmaker and a lifelong horror fan, Viscera Film Festival made a quite big impact on me and motivated me to submit my zombie short, No Place Like Home (which I produced in 2012) to Viscera Film Festival.

The short then won Best Cinematography the following year and the whole experience has made me realise how important it is to have a genre film festival dedicated to women in horror. And as I got to know more about other female horror filmmakers around the world and other amazing female centric genre film festivals such as “Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival”, I thought we should make a platform in Asia too. When I reached out to Viscera to organise a screening in Tokyo, Lori Bowen, who was the former tour coordinator at Viscera helped me tremendously with programming.

Despite our domestic lucrative market for J-horror films, there’s always been an unfounded prejudice towards genre films and genre filmmakers in Japan. And needless to say, if you are a women making genre films, people will look at you like you are a crazy person (which I get all the time!).

So, besides showcasing and promoting female genre filmmakers and their works, my other goal from launching the festival was to eliminate bias against women in horror and to raise awareness of the unique visions women can bring to the genre. Sadly, it’s rare to meet genre filmmakers in Asia but I hope Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo can help bring the Asian female genre filmmakers out in the light!


Hannah: Film Festivals are a huge undertaking!  Women in Horror Month just launched the Ax Wound Film Festival  and it was such a wonderful and intense process it is. Do you have advice for those starting festival/screenings that you wish someone told you when starting out? 

Mai:  Congratulations on the launch of the festival! This is really exciting and it’s so great to see more and more female centric film festivals launching!

Shannon Lark, who’s a founder of Viscera Film Festival (and also a talented actress and a film director) sent me a message just a few days before our very first event. She said that the first time around is always going to be small, so I shouldn’t get disheartened if we have a lower turnout. Her advice certainly took a weight off my mind so I would give the same advice for anyone starting festivals!

As you said, running the festival is hard work. For Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo, I do almost everything by myself from curating films, putting Japanese subtitles, creating publicity materials, booking venues …etc. So it needed far greater amount of work than I’d imagined. But I think if you have passion for it, everything else just falls into place!!

Hannah: As you pointed out, regardless of the the success of “J-Horror,”  the genre as a whole is still not seen as much more the a low-art form in Japan.  Have have found support in your own community? Have you met with any resistance? 

Mai:  I’m truly thankful for all the support I’ve been getting from the genre film communities around the world. We haven’t met with any resistance yet and all the feedbacks from the audiences have been very positive. We are by far the smallest women-centric film festival but I sincerely hope that the festival can help expand opportunities for the contemporary female genre filmmakers. I think we are slowly building up the recognition, so hopefully more people will join us in celebrating women genre filmmakers!

Hannah: Mai, you are an artist/writer as well. Can you talk about what you do when not curating/running the fest?

Abcs_of_death_2_theatricalMai:  Running the festival is pretty much a year-round work as we organize tour screenings throughout the year but besides running the festival, I help curate Japanese films for foreign film festivals as well as assisting acquisition of films for online video platform and Japanese distribution companies.

I occasionally write scary stories for kids and have been working on a number of film projects. Last fall, I produced a sci-fi horror short, Thorn, with a director I worked with for a horror anthology called “ABCs of Death 2.”

The film is on the festival circuit now and has screened at international genre film festivals including Fantastic Fest and MOTELx – Lisbon International Horror Film Festival. We are developing it into a full-length feature and I’m co-writing it, so hopefully we can get the movie made!



12 Feb

WiHM Spotlight: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

MTE5NTU2MzE2MzY5NjE4NDQzMary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, may be one of the first names that springs to mind regarding women writing horror.

The origin story of her novel has been covered by many sources, including the selected edition of the novel I will mention shortly.

Mary, her stepsister Clair Claremont, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and his physician Dr. John Polidori, vacationed at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva during the rainy summer in 1816.

On a particularly stormy evening, the party read ghost stories to pass the time, when Byron suggested a ghost story writing contest of sorts. Mary was having a difficult time of it for a few days until after a vivid nightmare, she had the germ of a story to frighten the weakest of hearts. While several p9680_p_v8_aaliberties were taken with the film, Gothic (1986) gives one perspective on what happened that night, and is worth watching if only for the late Natasha Richardson’s portrayal of Mary Shelley.

With Percy’s encouragement, she expanded it into a novel which she published anonymously in 1818.

Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural science and anatomist who constructs a living being out of dead tissue in an unusual experiment. His story, more of a confession really, is told by Captain Robert Watson while on a dangerous mission in the seas of the far north. Watson chronicles the details to send to his sister, Margaret. Victor begins with his family history and education at university before he gets to the meat of his problem.

Victor’s drive to create life from the dead becomes an obsession, but his enthusiasm fades when he is faced with his creation. He ultimately abandons it, only to be followed and tormented. After a conversation with his creature, who learned language and further betrayal before he returned to his creator, Victor has to come to terms with what he made, what he wants, and what befalls his family and friends when Victor does not deliver.

51SHWNzYU9L._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_My favorite edition Frankenstein is the second Norton Critical edition, edited by J. Paul Hunter. Among the material he includes with the 1818 text are selected contemporary material related to the Mary’s writing of the novel, her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, responses to the novel, including early reviews and accounts of later adaptations, and more. He also provides a brief chronology of Mary Shelley. He also took pains to include excellent footnotes and a great introduction. I recommend this for those who want further reading on the creation and reception of the novel, as well as texts regarding feminist readings of Frankenstein.

Hunter is the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His name should be familiar to some fellow English majors as he edited the first nine editions of The Norton Introduction to Poetry, as well as being a co-editor of The Norton Introduction to Literature and New Worlds of Literature.

Do you have a favorite version of Frankenstein? Comments? Questions? Feel free to ask!

See you in the stacks,

Lizzy Walker, WiHM Librarian

Further resources

Bodleian Library
The Godwin-Shelley Archive

The Bodleian Library in Oxford purchased Mary and Percy Shelley’s manuscripts for the first three-volume edition in 1818, and Mary Shelley’s copy for her publisher. Check it out if you’re interested in primary source material!


28 Jan

The Women in Horror Month Librarian is In!

12552629_10208495835415589_1406096798062881777_nGreetings! I’m Lizzy Walker, and I currently work at Wichita State University Ablah Library as metadata & digital initiatives librarian.

I am also a rabid horror fan.

Last February, I created a WiHM display for the Library. The feedback I received, internal and external to the Library, was very positive.

As a result of my display the collection development librarian invited me to recommend titles for our collection, including horror and sci fi genres and graphic novels. I wanted to do more with my knowledge, so late last year I reached out to our lovely Hannah.

We’ve come up with, hopefully, a great addition to the WiHM blog. Starting this February, ‘The Librarian is In!’ I will be using my library science skills to hunt down horror titles across medium to share with you, dear reader.

These posts may include reviews, recommendations, treasure hunts, and sometimes interviews with the creators of materials presented. Libraries are treasure troves of digital collections, and I will be including these as well.  

For the month of February, I will be concentrating on the Gothic novel. Every week, I will present a title, and provide you with a brief history of the author, the work, literary criticism, and the particular edition of the novel I am reviewing.

I look forward to seeing you in the stacks….


03 Nov

Folk Art Meets Horror: An Interview with Vikki Sin (The Queen of Blades)

vikki sin horror artistSaw blades, butcher knives, an old Ax! These are some the killer canvases utilized by fine artist, Vikki Sin.

As one of the official sponsors of the inaugural Ax Wound Film Festival, her custom saw-blade was one of the most coveted raffle prizes.

If you are a fan of the genre, your home is just not complete without a beautifully painted weapon.

Read on to learn more about the incredible woman behind the blades.

Hannah Neurotica: When did you discover your love of horror? When did that transition into creating art based on the genre? 

Vikki Sin: I grew up in the 80’s. Going to the local video store and picking slasher movies from all crazy VHS covers was what we did. I’m still terrified of Critters. Some of my earliest memories are of my uncle leaving giant plastic skeletons in my bed and putting the vintage flaming skull cutout under the toilet seat. I tell him he messed me up for life. It’s just something I’ve always been around. I’ve been fascinated by spooky things since I was born. From the time I started painting, that’s what the focus was. I think my third painting was a Gremlin. It was awful, but I was like, “Hell yes, Gremlins.”

Hannah: How did you get the idea to paint knives/real weapons with horror imagery? Its such an awesome and perfect canvas!

Vikki: Thank you! I live in the middle of nowhere and there is a ton of country places out here that have old painted saws with landscapes and things like that on them. One day, it just occurred to me that I could take that idea and make it darker. So, I ran with it and people responded really well so I kept going. It’s folk art for people that are into horror.

Hannah: Is there a certain image on the the blades that are more popular than others?

Vikki: Freddy Krueger is popular, as is Jason. Otherwise, there’s been a pretty good mix of orders.  I’m working on a Carrie (the original) knife right now, and starting a Natural Born Killers hand saw. 

Hannah: You make jewelry, paint, and are an all around creative woman. Any art forms you haven’t experimented with yet that you would like to?

Vikki: I would love to paint a mural. That’s my next goal. I think street art is a huge weapon in the war against conformity To have something I painted be up on a wall in a city I love, with people looking at it and thinking about it…that’d be excellent.

Hannah: Will your mural be horror themed? 

Vikki: It will definitely be dark, but I’d like to do something along the lines of my original art rather than just horror characters. Somthing dealing with society’s impact on nature.


Hannah: Have you experienced any challenges as a woman horror artist and fan? 

Vikki: Personally, I haven’t experienced too much of that nonsense. There are misogynists everywhere, but for the most part people have been just lovely to me.  My supporters and friends see how hard I work and how much art means to me.  If anyone has something negative to say, it’s only because they’re rotten inside.

Hannah:  There is this idea that teenage boys are the target audience for horror but recent box office numbers say otherwise. This is hardly a new phenomenon though; growing up horror movies were a huge part of the all-girl slumber party experience. I remember seeing most of the 1980’s slashers during these sleepovers. Growing up did you have girlfriends who dug horror as well?

Vikki:  Growing up, we watched horror movies at sleepovers all the time.  It was like “hey, let’s play with some puff paint and watch Sleepaway Camp.” It’s never been hard for me to find like-minded people. I’ve always ran in the right circles for that. People that like hanging out in cemeteries and discussing serial killers tend to gravitate to one another, thankfully.  

Hannah: Where can people find your work and contact you?


Vikki: VikkiSinArt.com 

Offline my work is currently part of art shows, including  63 Bluxome St in San Francisco, Sidestreet Gallery in Portland, Oregon,  Mercury Tattoo in Doylestown, PA,  and Gallery X in New Bedford, MA.


07 Oct

Little Lamb

LittleLambAxWoundFilmFestivalWritten & Directed by Heidi Lee Douglas

A young convict woman desperate for freedom rashly chooses a new master, but alone on his isolated farm her hopes for a new life are undermined by the grim truths she discovers.

07 Oct


seirenWritten & Directed by Kat Threlkeld

After a supermodel is bitten in the water by a mysterious creature while on a photo shoot at the beach, an infection takes hold that changes her behaviour and appearance. Over time she turns into one hell of a demonic sea siren who’s thirsty for blood.

07 Oct

El Gigante

ElGigantePosterDirected by Gigi Saul Guerrero
Written by Shane McKenzie

After attempting to cross the US/Mexico border in search of a better life, Armando (Edwin Perez) awakens in an unknown room, his body broken down and a Lucha Libre mask sewn into his neck. He attempts to escape, but is surrounded by a sadistic family, who watch him with hungry eyes. The only chance for Armando’s survival in this hellish nightmare is to last in a wrestling match against the most terrifying villain of all: GIGANTE!

07 Oct


SubstanceAxWoundFilmFestivalWritten & Directed by Barbara Stepansky

An innocent mix-up leads to disaster when two girlfriends encounter an extraterrestrial substance at a winter music festival.