Friday, November 28, 2014

How the Polish Used to Bury People to Prevent Vampires

(NEWSER) – To make sure certain people didn't rise from the grave to feast on the living, villagers in 17th- and 18th-century Poland buried them with sickles across their throats or rocks in their jaws, and researchers think they now know why.
According to a study published in PLoS ONE, the suspected vampires were not immigrants to the area but locals who probably perished in the cholera epidemics that swept the region at the time. Ancient lore says being the first to perish in an epidemic is one of the things that can turn a person into a vampire, study co-author Lesley Gregoricka tells LiveScience.
"People were up close and personal with death at this point, but didn't have a good way to explain what was happening," she says.
"People of the post-medieval period did not understand how disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it were explained by the supernatural—in this case, vampires," says Gregoricka, a bioarchaeologist at the University of South Alabama, in a press release.
Dying a violent death or being an outsider also put one at risk of becoming a vampire, according to lore, but the bodies bore no signs of violence and testing revealed they were from the area. The sickles were in place to decapitate the body if it tried to rise, and rocks or bricks were placed to prevent them from feeding, the study says — though strangely enough, the "vampires" weren't segregated in the cemetery but were buried among other villagers.

Read the Best Vampire Short Stories for this time period.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nab 30% Off My Books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble This Thanksgiving Weekend

Forget fighting the holiday crowds this weekend and save 30% off Andrew Barger's books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The savings applies to regular books, not ebooks.

At Amazon checkout use code: HOLIDAY30
At Barnes & Noble checkout use code: BFRIDAY14

Got a sci-fi fan on your holiday wishlist? Mesaerion:  The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849 will impress by the fire. I researched forgotten journals and magazines of the early 19th century to locate groundbreaking science fiction short stories in the English language. In doing so, I found what is possibly the first science fiction story by a female (and it is not from Mary Shelley). I located the first steampunk short story, which has not been republished since 1844. There is the first voyage to the moon in a balloon, republished for the first time since 1820 that further tells of a darkness machine and a lunarian named Zuloc. Other classic sci-fi stories include the first robotic insect and an electricity gun.

Classic Science Fiction Stories in the Anthology
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar - Edgar Allan Poe
The Aerial Burglar - Percival Leigh
A Visit to the Lunar Sphere - Captain Frederick Marryat
Glimpses of Other Worlds - Thomas Charles Morgan
Hilda Silfverling, A Fantasy - Lydia Maria Child
Rappaccini's Daughter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Rival Mechanicians - Lydia Maria Child
A Descent Into the Maelstrom - Edgar Allan Poe
The Artist of the Beautiful - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Iron Shroud - William Mudford

So mechanical has the age become, that men seriously talk of flying machines, to go by steam,--not your air-balloons, but real Daedalian wings, made of wood and joints, nailed to your shoulder,--not wings of feathers and wax like the wings of Icarus, who fell into the Cretan sea, but real, solid, substantial, rock-maple wings with wrought-iron hinges, and huge concavities, to propel us through the air. Knickerbocker Magazine, May 1835

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Get 15% Off My Books at BN This Weekend!

Just in time for the holidays, score 15% off my books this weekend at Barnes & Noble. Use code 2MEEK9Q4PEVR8 when checking out online.

Also get 10% off my books this weekend at Books-A-Million. Use code 3DYS4LE during checkout online.

A best bet is the recently released classic literature anthology of Leo Tolstoy. This Tolstoy anthology is edited by Andrew Barger, award winning editor of LEO TOLSTOY'S 20 GREATEST SHORT STORIES ANNOTATED. After reading "War & Peace," Fyodor Dostoevsky put the book down and said, "The fool hath said in heart there is no God." Yet, Tolstoy's shorter novels (i.e., novellas) are filled with all the war, adventure, comedy, religion, tragedy, and Russian tradition that inhabit the longer novels of the Russian bear of literature. But there is much more to this anthology. Andrew has included a short biography on Tolstoy and a chronology of his life and publications. Read these fascinating novellas today: 

1) The Invaders - A Russian team moves against Shamyl and his Islamic army in the Caucasus, which is based on Tolstoy's military experiences in the 1850s. 
2) The Death of Ivan Ilyich - When a man who has done good his entire life is stricken with an illness, it makes him question everything. 
3) Two Hussars - When a hell-raiser takes lodging in a small Russian city, debauchery is inevitable but will it be matched years later by his son? 
4) Father Sergius - The taboo subject of a priest being subjected to physical temptation is explored in one of Tolstoy's most scandalous stories. 
5) Master & Man - By the end of this snowstorm adventure, you will be asking yourself, Who is the master and who is the servant? 

What do some of the world's greatest literary minds have to say about the works of Tolstoy: 
"A second Shakespeare." Gustave Flaubert 
"No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy." E.M. Forster 
"The greatest Russian writer of prose fiction." Vladimir Nabokov 
"The greatest of all novelists." Virginia Woolf 

Read the shorter novels of Leo Tolstoy today.

Review of The Stand by Stephen King

I’ve just spent the last three months reading The Stand Uncut and I want Stephen King to know that I forgive him.

I took up "The Stand" for two reasons. First, I like the stuff King wrote in the 1970s and second, the novel is widely believed to be his best book.

"The Stand" is an apocalyptic novel that quickly turns into a post-apocalyptic novel when the world dies off from a very bad cold. Only a few hundred survive, or at least those are the ones who make an appearance, however brief, in the novel. You have your standard good guys (and gals) and bad guys (and gals) once the world has ended. A few trade sides. A woman gets pregnant. A ragtag government is formed. This was the first decade of king’s novels and way back then he was smart enough to keep his political beliefs out of his text unlike now, which he does in such an overhanded way. That is one bright point in The Stand. And so it goes . . . on and on and on until somewhere around page 600 (or was it 800?), we meet the really bad guy—Randal Flagg. Before that we meet the bad guy’s underling—Trashcan Man. Yes, that’s right, he has the nickname of a Sesame Street character, only not as artful. Then you get to experience the hundreds of paid-placement mentions of products throughout the nearly 1200 pages of pop horror. One gets the feeling that King was told by his agent back then that he was publishing too much, so he just kept writing The Stand until the coast cleared and he could publish again. There you have it in a nutshell.

“But wait,” you say, “there has to be more. What about the huge post-apocalyptic standoff between good and evil? Why else would it have been named ‘The Stand’?” Why do we have people in the world named Moon Unit Zappa? Who really knows?
I am sad to say there never is a battle of the good survivors and the bad ones. I kept waiting and waiting. Instead, around page 1000 King decides he should start wrapping it up. So the bad people get what they deserve and the good people mostly live.

If it is well-done horror you are after, you will get much more in a single episode of The Walking Dead. Pick any episode you want. If it’s a tight, well-written story you are after, pick a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Pick any story you want.

And if you want a much better King novel, try "Misery" or "Carrie." 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Did Edgar Allan Poe Have a Favorite Play?

Nathaniel Parker Willis

Edgar Allan Poe spent time in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. All of those cities were showing plays by American dramatists. Poe's parents were theatre actors in Boston and both died while Poe and his brother Henry and sister Rosalie were young.

When in Philadelphia in 1839, Poe saw "Tortesa; or, The Usurer Unmatched," which Nathaniel Parker Willis wrote. Poe called it "the best play by an American author." Poe was, however, only 20 at the time at and was perhaps trying to gain favor with Willis, a well-known editor. He would go on to help Poe and was one of his biggest supporters.