Zion’s Fiction

About a year ago, a book arrived in the mail. It was right after I had finished some reading I had to do for some projects and right before I was scheduled to leave for my daughter’s graduation in New Orleans. The book went to the back of my desk and I’m afraid it disappeared behind other work that arrived after I returned from that trip. I recently uncovered the book, started reading and couldn’t put it down.

The book is an anthology of Israeli science fiction stories called Zion’s Fiction, edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emanuel Lottem and features a foreword by Robert Silverberg. Each story is accompanied by a compelling illustration by Avi Katz.

Here in the United States, with the possible exceptions of England and Canada, it can be difficult to find science fiction first published in other countries, especially if that science fiction wasn’t published in English. I find it fascinating to see how people in other parts of the world see the future and I like to learn about the “what if” questions they’re asking.

Silverberg’s foreword and the introduction by the editors help the reader understand the development of Israel’s community of speculative fiction writers against the backdrop of Israel’s history. After that, the anthology presents sixteen stories, many of which were first published within the last decade.

I enjoyed all of the stories in the collection, but among the standouts were “Burn Alexandria” by Karen Landsman, which tells the tale of a time-traveling, future Library of Alexandria that appears every couple of centuries, Brigadoon-like. In this story, it finds itself in a post-apocalyptic future and the librarians must ask whether there is a point in continuing to go forward.

In “The Perfect Girl” by Guy Hasson, a woman enters a school for psychics and is assigned a job watching the morgue, where bodies are donated for study. She learns to read the mind of a girl who killed herself and learns not only about the girl but about herself.

Some stories look at the choices we make and ask what if we could change the course of our lives such as “In the Mirror” by Rotem Baruchem. Other stories take a hard look at faith and religion and ask what they mean. In “The Believers” by Nir Yaniv, God comes to Earth as a violent, vengeful spirit.

“The Stern-Gerlach Mice” by Mordechai Sasson tells the story of scientists who experiment on animals resulting in size-shifting mice who infiltrate homes in a town to overthrow the humans. In this world, the artists are mechanical beggars who people take advantage of, but these automata may be humanity’s only hope.

In “Death in Jerusalem” by Elana Gomel, a woman literally courts death. In this case, it’s death by gunshot personified. He introduces her to his extended family and she begins playing a dangerous game reminiscent of the chess match between a knight and Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

“Two Minutes Too Early” by Gur Shomron shows us a puzzle-solving contest of the future my wife and daughters would envy while hinting at a darker mystery.

I was delighted to read this sampling of speculative fiction from Israel. The editors hint at the possibility of more collections in the future, which would be great. Of course, I would love to see collections from other countries as well. Zion’s Fiction is available at online retailers Amazon.com and BN.com and I’m sure you can ask for it from your favorite, local independent bookstore.

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The Department of Curiosities

Today, I would like to welcome my friend Karen J. Carlisle to the blog. Our works have appeared together in three different steampunk anthologies: Denizens of Steam, Den of Antiquity, and DeadSteam: A Chilling Collection of Dreadpunk Tales. Karen has a new novel coming out tomorrow and she has agreed to share an excerpt from it. So, without further ado, I will turn the floor over to Karen.


Good morning everyone and thank you to David for allowing me to guest post on his blog.

So far on this blog tour, I’ve written about why The Department of Curiosities was written, introduced our heroine, Tillie Meriwether, and other characters and exposed some background on one of the many competing groups.I’ve chatted about mechanicals (gadgets), shared book trailers and a new short story and The Department’s Australian connection.

The Department of Curiosities is a tale of adventure, a heroine, a mad scientist, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.

Buckle up and get ready for the adventure…

Now there’s just one more day until my new book goes live on 22nd May. It’s also Tillie Meriwether’s birthday! (I chose Tillie’s birthday in the first draft – and had forgotten the date. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was the week of the intended release date. So why not make them the same day?)

To celebrate the official release, and Tillie’s birthday, here’s an excerpt… Everyone does the first chapter, so this time I’m sharing the second scene from chapter eighteen:


Of Airships, Trains and Flying Machines

The crew had assembled in Little Nessie’s lower hold. Only the pilot and boilermen remained at their posts. The General had yet to arrive, and Harrow was conspicuous by his absence. Tillie frowned, and wondered what mischief he was orchestrating.

She stood behind the troop of operatives gathered before her. She stretched up on tiptoe to observe the proceedings.

Six strapping men, some of England’s finest; each wore a harness wrapped around their torso. A life-line of thick silk rope attached them securely to the winch. They were armed with pistols, grappling hooks and devilish-looking knives. Strapped to their backs were over-sized blunderbusses: a silver ball jutted from one side surrounded by brass tubes, which coiled along the rifle’s barrel to the muzzle. A mini-grappling hook perched on top of the barrel end; its cord funnelled along a tube back to a cartridge on the other side of the rifle body.

The troops eagerly jostled each other as they circled a large hatch in the floor of the hull. They checked their equipment, donned their goggles and readied to jump into oblivion below. The hatch intrigued her, as did the large brass winch secured to the floor near its rim. Sir Avery checked the gauges on the body of the winch assembly and swallowed. The colour drained from his face, until he resembled a wide-eyed Ghostman. His moustache twitched.

<<It quivered,>> said the Orb.

<<Don’t be horrible,>> said Tillie. <<If you can’t say something nice, then don’t speak at all. Or I’ll ask the General to bring his cane.>>

The Orb shuddered. The corner of her mouth curled in satisfaction. She’d finally discovered something to curb the Orb’s increased bullying.

“Are we not joining them?” she asked Sir Avery.

He stared at the floor hatch and didn’t reply.

<<Reckless,>> said the Orb.

<<Not your choice,>> she said.

The Orb fell silent.

The door behind them clanked. The men snapped to attention.

There was a faint chuckle beside her ear.

“Yes, you are going, my dear,” said the General.

“We get to fly?” Tillie squealed with delight. “How?”

Sir Avery managed only a weak smile.

“You get these.” Harrow stepped into view, carrying a large cylindrical contraption on each arm. “Personal Flying Machines.”

“Confiscated from an Australian smuggler,” said the General.

Sir Avery relieved Harrow of one of the flying machines and held it at arm’s length.

“The cylinder contains a pressurised gas…”

His words faded as Tillie ogled the brass cylinders. So shiny. She could see her own reflection in their brilliance. She ran her hands along the pipes and grabbed the harness.

“How do I put it on?” She spun around, slipped her arms through the harness straps and pulled the contraption onto her back.

Sir Avery halted his lecture and blinked; his hands, still holding the harness straps, now encircled her waist. Her bustle nudged his arm as she snatched the ends of the straps from his hand and buckled up the harness.

He took a quick step backwards, transferring his hands to cradle the gas tanks until the straps were secure. The colour had returned to his cheeks.

Harrow handed Sir Avery the second Personal Flying Machine. Sir Avery donned the contraption and demonstrated how to adjust the pack to sit securely.

“You’re not accompanying us, Harrow?” she asked.

“I have my orders,” he replied. “I am to stay here with the General. The Personal Flying Machines are restricted to those with Lower Level clearance.”

Harrow’s face remained fixed, showing no emotion. He was up to something.

The Orb jittered. Tillie eyed Harrow out of the corner of her eye. She was not comfortable with leaving him alone with the General, in such close proximity of a gaping hole hundreds of feet above the countryside.

Harrow smiled at her. It was faint, but it was there.

<<He knows I suspect him. What should I do?>>

The Orb did not reply. She frowned; this time she wanted its opinion. She glanced at the General’s cane and frowned. Blessings could also be curses.

Sir Avery jiggled the gas canisters and tapped on the pressure gauge. Tillie relaxed her muscles, trying to look as calm as possible, and returned her attention to the Personal Flying Machine.

“How do I start it?” she asked Sir Avery.

“First we…”

He swivelled two metal pipe-handles over her head. They clicked in place. She grasped them.

“Steering?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “Just apply pressure in the direction you wish to travel.”

She pushed forward. The handles moved under her guidance.

“This,” he indicated a switch at the bottom of the main body of the pack, “is the ignition switch. And this…” He indicated a large button on the right side of the pack, about elbow height. “This will get you back to the ground if you lose power.”

Tillie grinned. It seemed simple enough.

The General stepped forward.

“Miss Meriwether and Gentlemen, I will remind you this is a retrieval mission. I have direct orders from Her Majesty. We need the Inventor alive.” He turned to the troops. “And intact. Is that understood?”

The men nodded.

“Once he is retrieved, and you are clear of the train, Little Nessie will descend to facilitate your extraction.” He turned to Harrow. “There is an extra flying machine prepared for you. Stop the train if there is any danger to the passengers.”

Harrow narrowed his eyelids.

“Sir?” he said. “I thought-”

“Change of plan. We need to ensure the safety of the other passengers on board. That is your priority.”

Harrow slipped on the flying machine and clicked the harness in place.

“Miss Meriwether, you are to accompany Sir Avery to First Class to apprehend the Inventor. The rest of the men will keep the Ghostmen from interfering.”

There was a murmur of assent.

She carefully lifted her goggles over her head, hoping it would not disrupt her coiffure, and wrangled a ringlet back in place. The dirigible and the General would be safer with Harrow on the ground, though she’d have preferred to have someone accompany him, to keep an eye on him. At least he wouldn’t have a chance to warn the Inventor.

The floor vibrated beneath her feet. A loud ratcheting echoed throughout the hold. A jet of air rushed through a crack at the rim of the hatch. The crack widened slowly, as the hatch slid open in front of them. Wind roared beneath them, whistling at the edge of the gaping maw.

Harrow stepped toward the hull hatch, flicked the ignition switch and stepped into the chasm. He hovered for a second, then plummeted out of sight.

She leaned forward and watched as he turned and sped northward toward the engine as it neared the bridge.

Little Nessie was now directly above the middle carriage, almost in position to drop the rest of her human cargo.

Sir Avery closed his eyes and ignited his flying machine. He winced as it rumbled into life, then took a deep breath and edged toward the hatch.

Tillie flicked the switch on her own contraption. A dull twinge gripped her rib cage as the initial vibration knocked on her spine. She took a, not too deep, breath and struggled to relax the muscles in her torso. The vibration settled into a gentle rhythm. The twinge eased until it was only a mild irritation.

Sir Avery leaned close to her. “Are your ribs still causing discomfort, Miss Meriwether?” he whispered. “You should inform the General.”

“They are healing as expected,” she replied. “There is no need to bother the General.”

He nodded. “Very well. Then follow me, Miss Meriwether, into the heavens.” He stepped into the air, screwed his eyelids shut and lowered himself out of sight.

Tillie stepped up to the edge. Her skirts fluttered in the churning air currents.

<<Oh dear, I didn’t think this through.>> She grabbed the back of her overskirt with each hand and folded the edges forward, tugging them tight to tie a knot and tucked the ends into the harness strap, then stepped forward and descended into the void.


The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.

Watch the book trailers: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/the-department-of-curiosities/book-trailers-the-department-of-curiosities/  or on Karen’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/kkZKisvU1Ks

If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on Karen’s blog post: https://karenjcarlisle.com/2019/04/14/the-department-of-curiosities-book-blog-tour-schedule/

You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976

or sign up for Karen’s newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/

Follow Karen on:

Or support Karen on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle


Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

www.karenjcarlisle.com

Phoenix Fan Fusion

From Thursday, May 23 through Sunday, May 26, I will be at Phoenix Fan Fusion in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a major pop culture event featuring numerous celebrity guests from television and the movies including such folks as Jeff Goldblum, Paul Reubens, Nichelle Nichols, Catherine Tate and many more. There are also numerous writers and artists from the comic industry, many writers from Arizona and beyond, and a huge dealer floor where you can find toys, videos, comics, books, and much more. You can learn more about the event at: https://phoenixfanfusion.com/

I will have a table at the Amazing Wykid Writer’s Island in the vendor hall. This group is organized by talented author, artist, and jeweler, Terry L. Smith. She writes mythology/science fiction fusion, sells jewelry to match her books, and now has art. Her paintings continue the theme of space mythology fusion. Also in our group are a wide array of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and non-fiction writers, artists, and editors such as DuAnn Black, Dr. Bruce C. Davis, Hal C.F. Astell, Deena Remiel, K.C. Klein, Jenn Windrow, Sara Fujimura, J.F. Castillo, The Klute, Ross Caligiuri, Patrick Tylee, Joel Cunningham, Mariann Asinuma, Mark Rude, John B. Newsome III, and David Mogan. I have no doubt if you visit us, you will find a book or some art you will want to take home. Andrea Ritschoff has written a terrific introduction to all the authors and artists of the Amazing Wykid Writers and you can read that at: http://www.duncansbooksandmore.com/phoenix-fan-fusion-one-more-week/

You can find the Amazing Wykid Writers in the lower level exhibitor hall at tables A1701 through A1814. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you can probably remember that first table number pretty easily. Here’s a map of the lower level exhibitor hall. We’re the group of tables marked with the red oval.

Of course, Phoenix Fan Fusion is not just about exhibitors. Several of the Amazing Wyked Writers will be on panels over the course of the weekend. I will be on a panel from 1:30-2:30pm on Saturday, May 25 called “Global Warming and the Future World We Build in Books.” Earth is changing, whether we want it to or not. Global Warming is real, as are the consequences. As authors, have we built these changes into the books we’re writing? Probably not. Should we? How might Global Warming actually change Earth beyond what we recognize today? How might it change the populations of our world? Come listen to our authors as they share their insights, professionally and prospectively. On the panel with me are Dr. Bruce Davis, the Klute, Lloyd Pulley, Katie Salidas, and T.L. Smith.

I last had the chance to go to Phoenix Comic Con in 2015. I missed 2016 because I was in Baltimore for the release of the anthology Gaslight and Grimm. My observatory schedule prevented my attendance in 2017, and in 2018 I was attending my daughter’s graduation in New Orleans. So, it’ll be good to be back in Phoenix for Memorial Day weekend. If you’re in town, I hope you’re able to join us!

The Vampire Lovers

In my story “Fountains of Blood” that appears in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, the vampire Marcella hands the protagonist, Billy, a copy of J. Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 novella Carmilla to help him understand what vampires are. I used Carmilla partly because the story my story is centered around the 1896 Albert Fountain disappearance and Dracula was still a year away from publication. I also chose it because I thought this story of a female vampire would resonate well with my vampire character, Marcella.

Because Carmilla predates Dracula, it does not contain many of the tropes we often associate with vampires. Like many vampires of folklore, Carmilla has ghost-like qualities. She can move through locked doors and haunt people’s dreams. If she’s bothered by religious iconography, LeFanu doesn’t say. I have wondered if any good films were made of LeFanu’s story and I recently discovered that Hammer Studios produced one in 1970 under the title The Vampire Lovers. Just to note, the poster reproduced on the Blu-Ray case does not reflect the film’s content. We never see a hapless male victim chained up and being ravaged by a horde of female vampires.

Overall, the film is remarkably faithful to LeFanu’s novella. The story is more linear. The novella opens when a carriage topples. The passengers prove to be Carmilla and her mother. The mother pleads with an English gentleman to allow Carmilla to rest and recover while she continues her journey. The gentleman agrees and Carmilla enters his home where she seduces the gentleman’s daughter, Laura. Over time, Laura begins to succumb to a mysterious illness. Later, we learn that a similar incident happened in the home of General Spielsdorf when Carmilla, then calling herself Millarca, seduces his ward Bertha. Over time, Bertha grows pale and weak and eventually dies. In the movie, we see the incident in General Spielsdorf’s house first followed by the second incident. For some reason, the filmmakers named General Spielsdorf’s ward Laura and gave the second young lady the name Emma.

That noted, there are more than a couple of superficial changes. For some reason, we get a lot more men in the filmed version. There’s a male vampire overseeing the Countess and Carmilla. There’s a love interest for Emma who comes riding to the rescue at the end, although he doesn’t seem to do much else in the film. The characters of Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De LeFontaine from the novella are combined into the character of “Mademoiselle Perrodon” and a male butler is introduced. What’s more, at the ending of the Victorian novella, Laura, Madame Perrodone and Mademoiselle De LeFontaine are all out hunting the vampire with General Spielsdorf and Laura’s father. In the movie, Emma is wasting away at home while the men are out hunting.

Carmilla is very much a story of a female vampire seducing young women and it feels like the filmmakers in 1970 were trying to imply that the victims needed real men to both defend them and show them how much better love would be with a man. It’s interesting to see that the Victorian author didn’t do this, though LeFanu often nods and winks to his audience telling us how scandalous the women’s behavior is.

If you’re as fascinated by vampire stories as I am, you definitely should not miss Carmilla. It’s a short read and available for free at Project Gutenberg. The movie is also worth a watch and features notable performances by Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla, Peter Cushing as General Spielsdorf, and Kate O’Mara as Mademoiselle Perrodon. Be aware this is the era when Hammer started undressing its female leads at any opportunity, so if that offends, you might want to skip this film. If you want to know more about my vampires and the history of Marcella, be sure to read Vampires of the Scarlet Order. You can find more details and the first chapter at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html.

Tending to Busy-ness

I read an interesting article on the New York Times website about a week and a half ago that suggested that being perpetually busy has become something of a status symbol. I can see that. I know a lot of successful and ambitious people and judging from our conversations and their social media feeds, they are in demand and on the go and they like to talk about how they are in demand and on the go. The article also suggests that there’s a danger in people becoming too busy, that we need to allow some idleness to creep into our lives. As someone who has two careers, one in astronomy and one in writing, the article definitely spoke to me.

Presenting a talk at the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces

I see this attitude of equating busy-ness with status and success starting in school days. My daughters were and are encouraged to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible, partly with the justification that listing them on college applications would make them more appealing to those institutions. For that matter, I was told much the same thing back in the days when I applied for college.

I feel like this attitude of busy-ness being a status symbol is easily exploited by the powers that be. I won’t go so far as to say there has been any kind of conspiracy on the part of business owners to make this environment happen, but the powers that be are often quite adept at exploiting and encouraging trends that function to their benefit. After all, if being busy is a status symbol, it makes it easier for an employer to ask an employee to take a larger work load for no added benefit, other than the benefit of the status the employee gains from being busier. In all fairness, there can be benefit from this, a busier-looking employee might be the one looked at first for promotion, as long as that busy-ness produces results and is recognized.

The New York Times article extolled the virtues of idleness. It suggested that true idle time where are thoughts are not directed are important to both creativity and productivity and we are in some danger of not allowing ourselves enough idle time. I would certainly agree that when I don’t take enough idle time for myself, I have a hard time coming up with ideas for my writing or being at my best on my astronomy job. Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of getting eight hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle (at least as close to eight hours as my work life allows. That can be a challenge at the observatory in winter!) I also find it’s important to have quiet time each day just to let my mind wander and daydream. When the weather’s cooperative, I often combine this with a walk through my neighborhood. This way my mind not only gets some idle time, but I’m doing something healthy as well! At any rate, these daydreams often lead me to story ideas. About the time I’ve become bored with the wanderings, is about the time I feel compelled to sit down at the keyboard and write.

Twenty-five years ago, when I was writing The Pirates of Sufiro, and before being busy was a status symbol in its own right, I wrote a scene where Manuel Raton, the son of a farmer and a bit of a dreamer, was speaking to Sam Stone who aspired to be a powerful businessman. Manuel chided Sam for not taking enough time to relax and explore the world around him. He said he didn’t want to turn into the kind of person who was all work and no play. Somehow that seems like it’s become a timely scene. That’s one of the reasons I’m working on a new edition of the novel. If you want to see the updated chapters as they’re rewritten and also help me reach the goal of making this an ad-free blog, you can support my Patreon campaign at http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers.

Troubleshooting

My friend Darla Hallmark sells buttons that say, “The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble often shoots back.” In my job operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory, I often get to see the truth of that statement. Here I am in my natural habitat at the control station of the WIYN telescope.

My actual title at Kitt Peak is “Senior Observing Associate” and my job is more than being a telescope driver. I see myself as the person whose job it is to make sure the astronomers who use the telescopes actually get the data they hope to obtain. At night, especially at the WIYN telescope, I’m often the only person in the building. It’s quite common for observers using the telescope to control the cameras over the internet and talk to me all night on a Skype connection.

The observatory has a daytime staff of engineers, electricians, mechanics and more. Most of them are tucked snug in their beds when I’m working through the night. So, if something goes wrong, I’m the guy who has to fix it, or find a workaround until the next day when the daytime staff returns to work. I think its a real testament to the design and maintenance of the telescopes at Kitt Peak that serious problems don’t crop up all that often, but when they do, they can be a challenge.

We had one such problem this week at WIYN. We were using the Hydra spectrograph. Instead of an eyepiece or a camera looking directly at the sky, there is a metal plate. Fiber optics in magnetized housings sit on that metal plate and face the sky. A robot within Hydra can move those around so they’re in a position to capture light from distant objects. This week, each fiber was placed to catch light from galaxies approximately 11 billion light years away. As you can imagine, you need to place that fiber in just the right place to catch that tiny bit of light. This is what the inside of the Hydra spectrograph looks like. You can see the fibers on the left-hand side. The robot that moves the fibers is on the right.

The problem we had was that some of these fibers were missing the light. To confuse matters, not all the fibers were missing the light. We saw light from some galaxies. We saw light from all the stars that let us do fine corrections to our pointing on the sky. My first thought was that there was a calculation error and not all the fibers were being placed correctly. The astronomer looking at these galaxies checked and eliminated that possibility. Next, we used a camera on the robot to watch the fibers as they were being moved to see if they were being placed where we put them. The robot did just what it was supposed to do.

The final step in this procedure is that the metal plate on the left gets warped, because the telescope’s focal plane isn’t actually flat. We watched the fibers as the plate was warped. The fibers in the center “jumped.” That’s not supposed to happen. As of this writing, I’m not sure why warping the plate made some fibers jump but not others, but the obvious workaround is not to warp the plate. What this means is that some galaxies will be better focused than others, when we take data, but since we’re taking spectra, that’s not a showstopper. We just care that the light makes it down the fiber. Once that happens, the astronomer can see what elements exist in that galaxy and get information about how far away it is and how fast its moving. As the weeks goes on, that team of engineers and technicians will take the information I learned about the problem and work to find a solution.

If you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at my job operating telescopes, you might enjoy my novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt. It tells the story of ghosts, gangsters, astronomers, and a dangerous Apache spirit colliding at a New Mexico observatory on a dark and stormy night. You can learn more about the novel and watch a cool trailer at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html.

If spooky stories aren’t your thing, but you’ll be in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday, May 9, you can join me at the next meeting of the Phoenix Astronomical Society, where I’ll be talking about the DESI project on the Mayall 4-meter telescope and sharing some behind the scenes photos of the installation. You can get more details about the meeting at: http://www.pasaz.org/index.php?pageid=meetings

Dracula: A Toy Theatre

Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, worked as the manager of London’s Lyceum Theatre for some 27 years. By the accounts I read, Stoker fell in love with the theatre during his childhood days when he would watch pantomime performances in Dublin. Because of his close association with the theater, it’s perhaps no surprise that Dracula adapts well to stage. In fact, famous film Draculas, Bela Lugosi and Frank Langella, both performed the role on stage before they performed the role on film.

Langella’s debut as Dracula came in a 1977 adaptation that used sets designed by illustrator Edward Gorey. In fact, Gorey designed his sets for a 1973 revival that began its run on Nantucket, the same island where I had my first full-time astronomy job. Gorey’s designs would be used in performances starring not only Langella, but such notable actors as Raul Julia, Jeremy Brett, and Terence Stamp each taking a turn as the famous count. As a fan of both Dracula and Edward Gorey, I was curious about whether Gorey’s designs had been preserved in photographs. It turns out, Pomegranate Press went above and beyond preserving the set designs and actually created a whole miniature toy theatre. I was delighted to learn that the toy theatre was still in print and promptly ordered one.

I soon discovered the toy theatre is not small. Assembled, it’s about a foot tall and sits on a 16-inch hexagon. I ordered my copy of the toy theatre soon after Christmas, but only recently cleared enough shelf space to set it up, because as an Edward Gorey and Dracula fan, this is something worthy of display. It shows the three sets of this stage production including some simple furniture and standup figures of the cast. There’s also a short four-page booklet that describes the play’s acts. Of course, as with most theatrical adaptations of Dracula, it simplifies the plot and emphasizes certain elements.

Close up of Dr. Seward’s study. Count Dracula meets Lucy.

Although the toy theatre is large, it was easy to assemble. The pieces are printed on light card stock, perforated at the cuts and scored at the folds. The instructions call for tape to hold it together. That does seem to be the best choice since the floors don’t have overlapping tabs to hold them together. I used a combination of light strapping tape, magic tape and double-sided tape to hold it together. I did use glue on a couple of small seams and that worked well. I do imagine the tape will eventually dry out and the poor theatre will no longer stand up, but that’s the nature of the theatre. It doesn’t last forever.

I’m sorry to say I’ve never seen an adaptation of Dracula using Gorey’s designs. The 1979 movie starring Frank Langella went for a more realistic approach. I did see a lovely adaptation of the novel performed on stage at New Mexico State University in the early 2000s, shortly after my novel, Vampires of the Scarlet Order had been released. In fact, the producers raffled off a copy of the novel and asked me to come up on stage to present it to the winner. As someone who enjoys stagecraft, it was a delight to make a brief appearance on stage. What’s more, the play was great, too.

If you would like your own copy of Edward Gorey’s Dracula: A Toy Theatre, you can find them from the publisher at: https://www.pomegranate.com/a648.html. They’re also available from many online retailers. You can learn more about Vampires of the Scarlet Order at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html. The ebook edition is available for only 99 cents, but I highly recommend the print edition which includes lovely black and white illustrations by Steven Gilberts. Like Edward Gorey, Gilberts’ illustrations are lovely and stir the imagination.