It Pleases the King to Perform at the Feast

“Loren Niemi is one of my life and writing heroes. If you don’t know his work, you have wasted your life. Start over and do it right this time, dumbass!”
– Mike Finley, King of St. Paul Poetry

Mike Finley joins the august troupe of performers at the celebration of Loren Niemi’s new book What Haunts Us. Free admission! 7 pm April 13, 2019. Black Forest Festaal auditorium, 1 – 26th Street East, Minneapolis, MN.

Mike Finley’s work has appeared in over 200 books, 400 magazines and periodicals, 2,000 blogs and essays, and more than 25 textbooks and anthologies, including Pushcart Prize IX. He is the 2011 winner of the KPV Kerouac Award for Writing. Mike makes his living writing in St. Paul, Minnesota. He recently made his debut as a bad singer. Kraken Press has been publishing in paper and bits since 1974.

Jim Stowell Knows What Haunts Us

Jim Stowell will be performing tonight at the Release Party for What Haunts Us.
Jim’s been called – “the area’s primer storyteller”… “the area’s most compelling storyteller”… “the best storyteller in town”… “a master at work”… “a treasure”… “a genius”…“a mix of humor, truth and passion”… “unforgettable and unnerving”… “not to be missed”… “passionate and eloquent.”

Here’s a clip from “The Things They Carried” a play based on a novel by Tim O’Brien, Adapted by Jim Stowell.

Haunt the Black Forest!

Rebecca Ramsden is one of the headliners at this event. Please join Rebecca in an evening of music and haunted tales performed by Loren Niemi at the Black Forest Inn Festaal Room on April 13th, 2019 from 7:00–8:30 pm. This event will celebrate the release of Loren’s new story collection What Haunts Us. The Black Forest Inn is located at 1 East 26th Street, Minneapolis MN, 55404.

  • Featuring Performances by Loren Niemi, Jim Stowell, Mike Finley, and Rebecca Ramsden.

  • Music by Carl Franzen and friends.

  • Special Guest Jack Zipes will offer a few words about ghost stories.
Stop by the Black Forest Inn Festaal Room on April 13th for a haunting and enchanting evening of great performances! The Facebook link for this event can be found here.

Haunt the Black Forest!

Join Loren Niemi and Moonfire Publishing at the Black Forest Inn Festaal Room on April 13th, 2019 from 7:00–8:30 pm. This event will celebrate the release of Loren’s new story collection What Haunts Us. The Black Forest Inn is located at 1 East 26th Street, Minneapolis MN, 55404.

  • Featuring Performances by Loren Niemi, Jim Stowell, Mike Finley, and Rebecca Ramsden.

  • Music by Carl Franzen and friends.

  • Special Guest Jack Zipes will offer a few words about ghost stories.
Stop by the Black Forest Inn Festaal Room on April 13th for a haunting and enchanting evening of great performances! The Facebook link for this event can be found here.

What Haunts Us Book Release Event April 7th in Northeast Minneapolis

Join Loren Niemi and Moonfire Publishing at Eat My Words Bookstore on April 7th, 2019 from 2:00-4:00 PM. Eat My Words Bookstore is located at 214 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis MN, 55413.

This will be a book release event for Loren’s first published story collection titled What Haunts Us. This evocative compendium of stories includes tales he has performed on stages for many years, along with new explorations of paranormal mysteries.

Come on down for some top-notch storytelling, and check out the new book. This promises to be an exciting and intriguing afternoon! The Facebook link for this event can be found here.

Moonfire Wants You!

We publish words of wyrd and fascination; the humorous, the Marvelous.

Magical realism. Paranormal thrillers. Speculative fiction realized through both text and image.

Food for the moon to feed the heart and mind, and new expressions of all that is dark and enchanting.

Moonfire Publishing seeks out the strange, the unusual, the macabre, and the unconventional, and our titles reflect that vision.

We know that you are both strange and unusual – and we want you to submit your words and art today! Moonfire Publishing currently has an open submissions period. We have a new book in the works which we’ll be announcing soon. Some other projects under consideration right now including novels, a novella (yes, we’re looking at these!) and a gothic-flavored series of art trading cards.

But there’s room on our plates for more! If you have a manuscript or sample chapters, feel free to send a Word doc (or PDF, if you prefer) to submissions@moonfire.com, along with your contact information. View our Submissions page for more information.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Iceland’s Dracula

draculaHere’s an odd piece of literary trivia. People in Iceland have been reading an entirely different version of Bram Stoker’s famous vampire novel Dracula than anyone else in the world, and we all were none the wiser. The Icelandic translation of Dracula is titled Powers of Darkness, and while the book starts out the same way, it is really not a translation at all. It’s more like Dracula fan-fiction that tells a similar tale.

In 1900, Icelander Valdimar Ásmundsson translated and published Makt Myrkranna in his newspaper. It purported to be a translation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the horror story of a young lawyer who finds himself imprisoned by Count Dracula, and the exploits of his friends who help defeat the vampire. But in 1986, Dracula scholar Hans Corneel de Roos realized the Icelandic text was wholly different from the one originally published in English. For 86 years, any Icelandic readers of Dracula were unknowingly reading a different book than everyone else in the world.

The biggest difference between the Icelandic text and the original is that the former takes place almost entirely in Dracula’s castle, whereas the latter moves between England and Transylvania. It takes about three-quarters of Powers of Darkness for the protagonist—”Thomas Harker” instead of the “Jonathan Harker” of the original—to finally uncover the count’s secrets. (In the original, this section comprises just a quarter of the book.)

There are also significant differences between the later sections of the two books. In the original, after we leave Harker in the castle, the narrative continues in an epistolary style, with the plot unfolding across letters and newspaper clippings. In Powers of Darkness, the point of view suddenly flips from Harker’s diary to an omniscient narrator:

“While Thomas Harker hovered between hope and horror in the castle of Count Dracula, his beloved fiancée, Wilma, spent her time at the bathing resort at Whitby, on the east coast of England.”

In essence, Powers of Darkness is an expanded, more grotesque version of Harker’s adventure in the castle, followed by 50 pages of summary describing what happened after he left. It’s like a detailed Cliffs Notes. There is also an over-the-top ritual sacrifice of three nubile women.

So it sounds to me like the author set out to translate Stoker’s work, but found the novel’s unique storytelling style that involves newspaper clippings, diary entries, and so forth too difficult to work with. Then, after summarizing the end of the book, he decided to pad it out by including more action involving Harker in Dracula’s castle. It wasn’t until an English translation of Powers of Darkness became available that the differences were clear for readers around the world to see.

Where Modern Vampires Came From

Vampire myths have appeared in various forms all over the world from time immemorial. The discovery of “vampire burials” in eastern Europe confirm that the myth is quite old in that part of the world as well. However, our modern image of the vampire has little to do with the original folklore. The vampire stories that most of us know, involving aristocratic, sophisticated immortals who attract at the same time that they repel only date back to the 19th century. The first vampire of the modern type was probably John Polidari’s Lord Ruthven who appears in his novel The Vampyre.

There is evidently little appeal or attraction felt for these early revenant figures. Unlike the English aristocratic vampire, modelled on Lord Byron, these early folkloric vampires are peasants and tend to appear en mass like modern-day zombies. Agnes Murgoci explored this folk belief further. She argued in 1926 that the journey from death to the afterlife is perilous – in Romanian belief it took 40 days for the soul of the deceased to enter paradise. In some cases, it was thought that it lingered for years, and during this time there are a myriad of ways that deceased family members can succumb to vampirism.

It was thought that dying unmarried, unforgiven by one’s parents, through suicide or being murdered could all lead to a person returning as a vampire. Events after death could also have the same effect – beware breezes blowing across corpses before burial, dogs or cats walking over coffins, or leaving a mirror (a soul trap) not turned to the wall at this precarious time. It was a treatise written in 1746 by the French monk Antoine Augustin Calmet that famously gave British writers access to a number of encounters with vampires. Calmet took inspiration from Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, a botanising man of science, who had earlier claimed to have come face to face with a plague of bloodsucking vampires in Mykonos in 1702. His account was still being read in 1741.

Three decades after Tournefort’s encounter, the London Journal of 1732 reported some enquiries into “vampyres” at Madreyga in Hungary (a story later referred to by John Polidori). Greece and Hungary feature prominently in these early accounts – and this is mirrored in Romantic literature: Lord Byron for example makes Greece the setting of his unfinished vampire story A Fragment (1819). But it was Polidori who was responsible for the vampire’s English pedigree and its elevation of social rank. There seems never to have been an urban, nor an educated bourgeois bloodsucker prior to The Vampyre (1819). A predatory sexuality is also introduced. We see for the first time the vampire as rake or libertine, a real “lady killer” – a trend that metamorphosed into Bram Stoker’s Dracula and anticipated the arrival of vampire romance in the beautiful undead form of Twilight’s Edward Cullen.

As this all reveals, the history of vampires is a disputed and uncertain one whatever your perspective, scientific or literary. But the “vampire” burials discovered by archaeologists of late do cohere with practices that are known to suggest a belief in vampirism (such as piercing the corpse, nailing down the tongue, putting a needle in the heart and placing small stones and incense in the mouth and under the finger nails to stop blood sucking and clawing). These “vampire” corpses do therefore go some way towards finding out how old our belief in vampires actually is.

As an interesting aside, John Polidari was Lord Byron’s physician, which explains his vampire’s suave image and aristocratic manner. And Polidari began The Vampyre in response to the same writing challenge that produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel in history, and vampires of the Lord Ruthven type, including of course Count Dracula, have long dominated the genre of Gothic horror. So the sheer amount of genre fiction that owes its genesis to that one particular writing challenge is staggering.