It’s almost a decade since Ahmed Saadawi wrote and published Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013). Yet with its English translation by Jonathan Wright only published in 2018, its impact has been felt belatedly in many Anglo-centric literary circles. One can’t help but wonder at the conjunction of the novel’s publication with the two hundredth anniversary of its predecessor. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was first published in 1818, and it’s tempting to think that the introduction of English-speaking readers to Frankenstein in Baghdad was deliberately timed, however unlikely that may be. In any event, Saadawi’s novel functions not only as a fascinating retelling, but also as a darkly funny and moving story about war, loss, and vengeful bodies.
There are some cities that are entirely transformed by the writers who reproduce them. Dickensian London is a unique entity entirely distinct and yet strangely akin to the real city that spawned it. Dostoevsky’s St Petersburg is a dark mirror of its more tangible yet no less monumental counterpart, filled with strange characters that channel the warped, often fantastical spirit of their surroundings. James Joyce’s Dublin is made up of multiple, unique voices and their own experiences of the city, a tapestry of individual spaces.
The Boatman’s Daughter begins with an epigraph, taken from line two hundred and forty-three of The Tempest. If what’s past is truly prologue, then Shakespeare’s play undoubtedly proves to be the genesis of Andy Davidson’s second novel. But displaced to the bayous of the Deep South, with a gloss of supernatural horror, this tale of power and betrayal undergoes its own transformation, a mutation that seems less the work of charms and baseless visions than of some rough, unhallowed magic.
Rial Majur (Wunmi Mosaku) sits across the table from her husband Bol (Sope Dirisu). She looks him in the eye. “After all we’ve endured,” she says. “After what we have seen…what men can do, you think it is bumps in the night that frighten me?” Her husband says nothing. Rial presses him, “You think I can be afraid of ghosts?”
There’s often a temptation, with the gothic, to believe that it all began with the paragons: with the first stirrings of Victor Frankenstein’s monster or the tapping of the raven at Poe’s window. But a vast and significant portion of its history lies with a different group of authors, many of whose works have been largely lost to time, whose names are no longer known and who have been commonly represented as unoriginal, unimaginative authors dealing as much in melodrama as in moralism.
Whether or not our school days turn out to be, as the saying goes, the best days of our lives, there can be little doubt that they leave formative, potent memories behind. Positive or negative, unique or mundane, even the most latent recollections can have power.
It’s no stretch to say that the games produced by From Software – among them Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne – have all contained an obvious gothic influence. From sprawling cathedrals to lonely protagonists who transgress the rules of their worlds, it’s clear that these hallmarks of gothic horror have proved a significant source of inspiration for creator Hidetaka Miyazaki.
If there’s anything Bethesda’s Dishonored franchise is known for, it’s whiskey, whales, and brilliant stealth mechanics.
From ancient myths to Victorian serials to Hammer Horror: monster stories have had a lifespan almost as long as the weird, unearthly creatures that are their subject. And if monsters, as many readers and critics have discovered, embody moments of cultural upheaval, then it’s unsurprising that they continue to populate every culture of the world.
The idea of a staunch anti-Semite writing about the Holocaust might sound like an entirely different kind of horror story than those we usually enjoy here at Sublime Horror.