scop (noun):

Old English – bard, minstrel, storyteller

Connolly-Davis Band:
Ready to Shamrock the House for St. Pat’s

March 14th, 2018

The Connolly-Davis Band is ready to shamrock the house this Saturday.

The place will be Riley’s Pour House, where we’ll be performing alongside The Wild Geese, Young John Gallagher, and the Danny McGoo Duo.  The music starts at Noon and continues nonstop on two stages until St. Patrick’s Day 2018 ends at midnight.

Pittsburgh is famous for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, with niche.com ranking it the number-one place for March 17 festivities.

Not surprisingly, there’s no shortage of places to catch Irish music music in Pittsburgh. You can read about some of them at CBS Pittsburgh, but for me the place to be is the pub that Sean Collier of Pittsburgh Magazine called “the most authentic Irish bar in or around Pittsburgh” — Riley’s Pout House.

For this show, I’ll once again be joined by bassist Duane Davis, with whom I’ve been performing for going on 20 years, and drummer Pace Petrella.

We’ll open with a two hour show on the pub stage at 1:00, then move outside at 4:00 to open for The Wild Geese Band, who will take the spotlight at 8:00. In all, it looks to be the best St. Pat’s ever.

Come early, stay late, and get ready to shake your shamrock with some of the best people this side of the Blasket Islands.

Hope to see you there! (At Riley’s, not the Blasket Islands.)

Images:

The Connolly-Davis Band. Framed! (Left to right) Pace Petrella, The 21st Century Scop, and Duane Davis.

Promotional Banner for St. Patrick’s Day at Riley’s.

The Connolly Davis at Riley’s, July 2017.

Two Hundred Years Ago Today:
First Publication of a Misunderstood Classic

January 1st, 2018

On New Years Day 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein first appeared in a press run of 500 copies. Though published anonymously, readers at the time assumed it was written by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

That incorrect assumption proved to be only the first of many associated with Shelley’s greatly misunderstood novel.

A few years ago, the journal Dissections published “The Grave Misunderstanding,” an essay in which I address one of those  assumptions. Today, in honor of the novel’s bicentennial, I’m reposting that essay here. If it sparks your interest, you might want to check out the novel.

You will be glad you did.

The Grave Misconception:

The Textual Origins of Mary Shelley’s Monster

First published in:

Dissections:
A Journal of Contemporary Horror
University of Brighton
31 March 2013

A few months ago, a monster came to town. It started as a small disturbance south of Jamaica and grew as it headed north, picking up speeds and moisture, and finally developing into a hurricane as it ascended the eastern seaboard of the United States. Along the way, it earned the name Sandy, but that changed when it veered inward and merged with another storm blowing from the west. After that, the monster earned a new name: Frankenstorm.

I spent some quality time with that storm while driving north to The World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, plowing through its driving rain as I followed its path through Pennsylvania and on into Ontario – and all the way I heard people on the radio calling it Frankenstorm. Why? Because it was no longer just one storm. It was a collection of storms, woven together to form one raging entity – sort of like the Frankenstein monster, right?

Actually, no.

Not if we’re talking about the creature as presented in Mary Shelley’s novel. That creature, as a close investigation of the text will show, is not a combination of parts. It is an organic whole created through a mysterious process that is never fully explained in Victor Frankenstein’s story. And yet, the misconception – that Victor robbed graves for parts that he stitched into a gigantic patchwork man – seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Consider, for example, the back-cover synopsis of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Frankenstein, or a Modern Prometheus, which refers to the novel as “a story about a student of natural philosophy who learns the secret of imparting life to a creature constructed from bones he has collected from charnel houses.” Unfortunately, such misconceptions seem to be everywhere. Indeed, some esteemed readers and critics seem to be under a similar impression, which means that it might be time to return to the text and take note of the true nature of Shelley’s monster.

The roots of the grave misconception lie in Victor Frankenstein’s early accounts of the monster’s creation. Relating his story to Walton, he explains how he “was led to examine the cause and progress of [. . .] decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses” (pp. 51-52).

Clearly, he does spend time among the dead, but his primary reason for being there is to examine the process of decomposition, the inevitable decay of living matter that he wants to reverse. To cure death, he must first understand it.

Nowhere does he indicate that he hopes to assemble various pieces of decaying matter into a living creature. Even when he admits to taking some bone with him, it is so that he can continue his observations back at his workshop, not because he plans to assemble them into a creation. As he puts it: “I collected bones from charnel-houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame” (pp. 54-55). Note the actions. He is probing and examining, not assembling, and we should keep these actions in mind when he later claims that “the dissecting room and slaughter-house furnished many of my materials” (p. 55). Materials for study, not assembly.

The most compelling indication that Frankenstein is not assembling his creation from scavenged materials comes after he has spent some time studying his collected pieces. It is here that he reaches the conclusion that “as the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large” (pp. 53-54). Thus, since human-size parts are too small to work with, he must “make” something larger, and although the means of this making is never revealed, the text suggests that whatever he is doing, it is not creating a patchwork man.

One must also wonder why Frankenstein would bother building his monster out of pieces in the first place. Why do all that stitching when he could simply animate an already intact corpse? Logic, as well as the text, suggests he is up to something else.

It is also worth considering the novel’s subtitle: A Modern Prometheus. The Prometheus here is not so much the pyrphoros who stole fire from the heavens, although that would seem to be the case from watching the antics of Henry Frankenstein in James Whale’s Frankenstein(1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) [right]. Henry might use kites to steal lightning, but Victor does no such thing. Despite an early scene in the novel where he learns about the power of nature by pondering a lightning-struck tree, it is arguably the case that Victor does not employ any electricity in his creation process. The single use of the word “spark” (p. 57) in the novel’s creation scene is metaphorical, and his work on the mate later in the book includes no mention of electricity at all.

Instead, Victor is more of a plasticator, a shaper of lifeless (as opposed to dead) materials, a natural philosopher who “tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay” (p. 54).

Finally, we should note that the first visual representations of Frankenstein’s monster show an organically formed creature. Consider, for example, the monster as performed by T. P. Cooke in the 1823 stage play Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein [pictured at left], or Theodor Von Holst’s frontispiece illustration for the novel’s 1831 edition [pictured below].

In both representations, the monster appears much as described in Shelley’s text: “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness” (p. 57).

Nowhere in any of these images do we detect signs of scarring or stitching. The creature is a single, organic entity, with an outsized physique and intellect far exceeding that of a natural man. As such, I think Victor Frankenstein’s original creation poses a much more frightening adversary than the one most people think of when they hear the name Frankenstein. Moreover, I feel we do a disservice to the complexity of the source material when we accept the misinterpreted vision that is accepted as common knowledge today.

As for Frankenstorm, its makeup also seems to be based on a misconception. It wasn’t really a collection of isolated storms that stitched themselves together and became a monster, but a single entity, an organic whole spawned not by isolated weather patterns, but by the current state of global warming that some people still deny.

But that’s the topic of another essay.

Source
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (1818) Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus, ed. Joseph, M.K. (Oxford: Oxford UP), 1998.

A Place at the Table with
Lawrence M. Schoen & “Eating Authors”

December 18th, 2017

One of the more interesting blog themes to come down the pike in recent years is Lawrence M. Schoen’s Eating Authors, which features some of the biggest names in fantasy and sf reminiscing about memorable meals.

Since launching the blog in 2011, Schoen has featured hundreds of stories by the likes of Gregory Benford, Brenda Clough, Joe HaldemanCat Rambo, and many more. And this week I get to join the feast with a story of my own that takes place half a world away, behind a barrier they used to call the iron curtain. It centers on a meal of cold meats, chilled vodka, and cool music.

Got a few minutes? Pull up a chair and click here. I’ll meet you on the other side.

Don’t Sleep: Nightmares are coming!

October 14th, 2017

They enter the Rialto only to have their darkest fears brought to life by The Projectionist – a ghostly figure who holds the horrifying futures of all who attend his screenings. And by the time the viewers realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, all fates are sealed.

That’s the premise of Nightmare Cinema, a film project that began coming together when producer-director Mick Garris first assembled his team of writers, directors, and producers in the fall of 2015.

The goal: gather some of the most exciting practitioners of dark cinema and give them free reign to create a series of short horror films, mini nightmares for the Rialto Projectionist to queue up and screen for each unlucky patron.

If you’ve been following this blog or reading the trades, you’ll recall the buzz from two years ago, starting with an official announcement at the Morbido Film Fest in Mexico, a fitting venue to unveil an international roster of talent that includes Alejandro Brugues (Cuba), Ryuhei Kitamura (Japan), David Slade (U.K.), and Sandra Becerril (Mexico). Check out the clip below, and don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish. Most of the video is in English.

Additional announcements followed the Morbido unveiling. Some appeared here at 21st-Century Scop, others appeared in the trades. Here are a few links from Fall 2015:

After that initial buzz, further developments were kept under the radar until Mick announced the latest details at last month’s Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank. There, accompanied by fellow directors Joe Dante and Alejandro Brugues, Mick lifted the veil on the project once again, this time announcing that it was being prepped for a 2018 release.

Following Son of Monsterpalooza, the press is once again humming with details, including the casting of Golden Globe and BAFTA Award winner Mickey Rourke as The Projectionist and Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Mirari, a key character in a segment penned by horror master Richard Christian Matheson.

Also in the news is the announcement that Cinelou Films (the development, financing, and production company behind Jennifer Aniston’s award-nominated Cake and the upcoming Iraq-war drama The Yellow Birds) has teamed with Fortitude International to coordinate the film’s release.

And just this week, at Podcast One’s Post Mortem with Mick Garris, director David Slade can be heard talking about his life in film — an impressive career that has brought us Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, Twilight Eclipse, Hannibal, and American Gods. David and Mick cover all of those productions, and although I was pretty sure I already knew a lot about them, David managed to reveal quite a few intriguing revelations during the hour-plus podcast.

Bottomline: if you’re a fan of dark cinema, you’re going to love listening to David’s interview on Post Mortem. Give it a click. And while you’re at it, take a moment to subscribe to the series. It’s free … and the interviews are priceless.

Naturally, David also talks about This Way to Egress (a.k.a. “Traumatic Descent”) and the seventeen-year journey that finally put it in the hands of The Projectionist at the Rialto.  It’s a journey that I’ve written about in the past, covering the first ten-years in the introduction to my book This Way to Egress, and it was great hearing David recount the entire tale from his perspective,  including the recent turn of events that led to our new screenplay becoming part of Nightmare Cinema.

(BTW — That’s David and me in the above-right photo, a sureal forward-and-backward view courtesy of a conveniently-placed mirror in an L.A. bistro.)

It’s great to have things coming together on this project. I was on set for filming this past June, and a few weeks ago I screened a rough cut of the Egress segment. It was intense. Even without the final score or completed effects, I found it profoundly unsettling and moving. As David says in his Post Mortem interview: “It really surprised me how intense it was.”

As of this writing, Nightmare Cinema is moving toward a release in early 2018. But the story won’t end there. As Mick tells Simon Thompson in a recent Forbes interview, there are plans “to create more […] Nightmare Cinemas either as feature films or as a TV series.”

And so the journey will continue.

For now, there are certain to be more exciting developments as our release date approaches. When news breaks, I’ll be sure to report it here.

Until then, scop on … and stay awake for the nightmares!

Images & Videos

  • Promotional image for Nightmare Cinema.
  • Nancy Leopardi (line producer), David Slade (director), Joe Dante (director), Joe Russo (producer), Mick Garris (producer, director, writer) Ryuhei Kitamura (director), Alejandro Bruges (director). Photo taken in the Rialto Theatre. June 2017.
  • Joe Dante and Mick Garris reveal plans for Nightmare Cinema at the Morbido Film Festival. Puebla, Mexico. October 2015.
  • Joe Dante, Mick Garris, and Alejandro Brugues announce the completion of Nightmare Cinema at Son of Monsterpalooza. Burbank, CA. September 2017.
  • David Slade and Mick Garris in the Podcast One Studio. October 2017.
  • Two David Slades (frontward and backward) with The 21st-Century Scop (background, far left). November 2010.
  • The 21st-Century Scop with Mick Garris. December 2016.
  • Nightmare Cinema teaser.