Welcome to The FrankenPod a podcast stitched together from the corpses of mystery, noir and gothic literature and cinema. This is just a short bitesize episode this week.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the castles, monasteries and estates of the gothic tradition. The dramatic architecture featured in countless gothic tales such as The Castle Otranto, Northanger Abbey, The Monk and even isolated estates like Wuthering Heights are hard mental images to shake when conjuring up images of a gothic backdrop.
However, if we can depart from these places of heritage and means to more recently fabricated structures, the roads and slums of the city are certainly fit for our sinister gothic purposes.
The cold unfeeling city with its grit, grime and smog have become a staple in gothic literature since the industrial revolution. The distrust of mechanisation and the visible incorporation of the poor into that mechanisation made the city into a monstrous spectacle of poverty barely hidden from the upper and middle classes from whom a great deal of the literature of the time emanated. The impoverished and the working class were vulnerable, expendable and silent, as they had been for time immemorial, through feudal systems and imperialism. Things were beginning to shift in 19th Century England however as the industrialised city placed the new middle class in a position in which they could become socially mobile and have means to rival the aristocracy. And all classes were seemingly perched on a precipice, one false move and they could end up penniless in a poorhouse, at least that was the perception. This anxiety around class and poverty paved the way for writers like Dickens and Henry Mayhew who show the perils and pitfalls of a class system in crisis.
Henry Mayhew is not one of our gothic authors but is an early investigative journalist who spent a lot of time interviewing the poverty-stricken of London. One of my favourite writers William Makepeace Thackeray wrote of Mayhew’s work ‘London Labour and the London Poor
‘A picture of human life so wonderful, so awful…so exciting and terrible’
The city of Paris in a state of revolutionary crisis is the not only the setting but key to Guy Endore’s portrayal of the Werewolf in The Werewolf of Paris. Paris is continually cannibalising itself in much the same way as the Werewolf does to his victim. Endore’s story is one I would love to examine further, but that will have to wait. Here, however, is a quote from the narrative that explores the inhumanity and mass atrocities that occur when a city beset with internal conflict:
“Why should this one wolf be shut up for an individual crime, when mass crimes go unpunished? When all society can turn into a wolf and be celebrated with fife and drum and with flags curling in the wind? Why then shouldn’t this dog have his day too?”
I’ve never felt more Like we need a prepared statement. We have seen the trailer for Mary Shelley! Thank you so much to everyone who emailed and a special thank you to Nick of Nick and Vince’s podcast on Twitter, I love that I’ve been fan girl enough about Frankenstein that people saw the movie come out and though, shit I wonder if The Frankenpod has seen this. I’ll be honest I’ve been nervous about the theatre release of this one since I heard about it being screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year.
I’ll be honest I saw some things included that made me happy, but a few that really made me concerned that I may not like this film. I’ve also seen some interviews that lead me to believe that there was a very passionate Mary Shelley enthusiast in Haifaa Al-Mansour and I looked up the pronunciation but I bet I’ve botched it anyway and that is entirely on me.
Early reviews do not seem to be favourable, and they do seem to have gone for a sensationalised approach, but at least it seems to be intended as a feminist reading of the events so even if it’s a bit outlandish, there might be some value to it. That being said there seem to be no definitive dates for an Australian release so if anyone gets to see it in late May in the U.S. and June in the U.K. you must tell me what it is like!
This actually ties in quite nicely with the story I’m going to tell you tonight actually, sort of…
This time we are going back to our origins, both the podcasts and my own with My Life as A Fake by Peter Carey an entry into the Australian gothic literary canon.
I was obsessed with a Bushranger, other countries read horse stealing, bank robbing outlaw type called Ned Kelly at about the age of 10 or twelve. During this time I read every book on the Kelly gang I could get my hands on, except one. There was one book that I was warned about, a book never to read, a book that crossed the line… IT EMBELLISHED THE FACTS. It is impossible to convey exactly how repulsive that book was to me as a result, creative nonfiction and historical fiction are two of my great genre loves, but back then I viewed the whole matter as a betrayal.
That book was Peter Carey’s True Story of the Kelly Gang. I still haven’t read it, I kind of still fear that I might turn to dust or explode if I tried.
A little more recently I was introduced to the novel discussed today, My Life as a fake. Still incensed by the horror of his Kelly gang book I assumed it was an autobiography. I am not joking.
I was glad he was admitting to his transgressions.
Then I found out it took inspiration from both Frankenstein and one of my favourite literary scandals, yes I have a favourite literary scandal (Welcome to The Frankenpod) the publishing of the posthumous works of Ern Malley
To explain the book in any real way you need to know about Ern Malley
And to tell the tale of Ern Malley you need to know about Angry Penguins
Angry Penguins was an artsy experimental Avante Garde literary publication started by Max Harris in 1940 in Adelaide Australia. He was just 18. The magazine flourished and took submissions, art, prose and poetry. The publication had been going for 4 years when Ethel Malley contacted him via letter, offering up her brother Ernest’s Poetry as a submission to Angry Penguins.
Max Harris was very excited by the works and even commissioned artwork by Sidney Nolan for the front of a special edition featuring Ernest’s poetry.
Sadly Ernest had passed away in 1943, so he would never see his work published. Would you like to hear a little of one of his poems?
Opening of Perspective Lovesong
It was a night when the planets
Were wreathed in dying garlands.
It seemed we had substituted
The abattoirs for the guillotine.
I shall not forget how you invented
Then, the conventions of faithfulness.
It seemed that we were submerged
Under a reef of coral to tantalize
The wise-grinning shark. The waters flashed
With Blue Angels and Moorish Idols.
And if I mistook your dark hair for weed
Was it not floating upon my tides?
The poetry was fresh, new and exciting and the poet was completely oblivious of his own talent, coming from working-class roots. A real diamond in the rough, and Max Harris was determined to give this underdog poet his moment to shine. Ernest, known as Ern to his friends was born in Liverpool in 1918 and migrated to Sydney Australia with his mother and sister just after his father’s passing in 1920. They lived in Perth until his mother’s death in 1933, after which the Young Ern Malley dropped out of school to become an auto mechanic, then moved to Melbourne at the age of 17. In Melbourne, he held a series of jobs before being diagnosed with Graves disease. He moved back to Sydney to be with his sister and died at the very young age of 25, refusing to get treatment for his illness. It seems that unbeknownst to those closest to him the young man had been writing a compilation of poetry called the Darkening Ecliptic. His sister had found his poetry in his belongings and sent it to the magazine.
Except she hadn’t.
Ern Malley wasn’t dead,
No one dies of graves disease
In fact he never existed
He was a hoax by two quite conservative modernist poets named Stewart and McAuley who met during military service, they thought that Angry Penguins and Harris published ridiculous rubbish and put together the most ludicrous submission they could come up with.
And the editor bought it, hook, line and sinker. would you like to hear part of one of the poems?
This is the opening verse of Culture as Exhibit
“Swamps, marshes, borrow-pits and other Areas of stagnant water serve As breeding-grounds …” Now Have I found you, my Anopheles! (There is a meaning for the circumspect) Come, we will dance sedate quadrilles, A pallid polka or a yelping shimmy Over these sunken sodden breeding-grounds! We will be wraiths and wreaths of tissue-paper To clog the Town Council in their plans. Culture forsooth! Albert, get my gun.
The opening lines are from an Army Directorate on mosquitoes, called Anopheles.
The scandal destroyed the magazine
The press had a field day and then the fuss died down and the incident became a bizarre part of Australian literary history.
Except not quite… in Peter Carey’s version of events, with names and details changed subtly. The hoaxer, by creating this tragic poet out of whole cloth creates an actual person, like Victor Frankenstein creating his creature Christopher Chubb has conjured up Bob McCorkle with words alone, and the man has been rendered flesh and blood by the publisher Jack Slater through the simple act of printing the works, and like any act of tremendous hubris in a gothic setting, disaster ensues.
This is another one of those books that I would loathe ruining the story.
However we do have unnatural creation, a crazed creator, the resurrectionists are name-checked, there is murder, kidnapping and aloof hyper-sexualized poets galore. Sound familiar?
Also, this clearly falls in with our theme the gothic city as the bulk of the early action takes place in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia which is depicted from a self consciously post-imperialist British viewpoint. Kuala Lumpur is depicted as a gritty monsoonal labyrinth that smells mainly of fish and tries to reject the visiting Brits, making them ill. There is racism within these pages, and the brutality of the 1969 race riots, is not long past when the books take place, as our narrator Sarah reflects on as she sees a resident using a machete during harvesting.
Sydney and Melbourne also get the Gothic treatment, the gravesites, bleak working-class residences and bohemian multistory abodes. Not quite as vibrant as Kuala Lumpur, or maybe I just don’t find the description of Melbourne that gothic and outlandish, bare in mind I spent about a third of my goth phase passing the time broke and stupid in the alleyways of Melbourne. The book is rife with depictions of the cultural cringe, from Australian ex-pats wanting to deny their heritage to an artist called Noisette actually being Mary Moriss from Wangaratta. We also get a British character saying that an Australia has a tiny antipodean brain.
There are lots of grim gothic allusions, webs, blood, the man upon the stair, a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the stitching together of the visage of Ern Malley.
There are still those who see something remarkable about the poems. In fact, the work of Ern Malley inspired postmodern poetry overseas, particularly in America where the context of the hoax was easier to disassociate from the work itself. The conservative poets McAuley and Stewart accidentally wrote a pivotal piece of experimental poetry and helped inspire poets and painters for years to come.
Sidney Nolan cited the Ern Malley hoax as the inspiration for his Ned Kelly paintings… see what I did there.
Here is a talk about why we shouldn’t let the story of Ern Malley die.
Look I make poor dietary decisions on the regular, so it’s probably not particularly surprising that as soon as local restaurants in our smallish rural city started operating through Eat Now I took advantage of this new and exciting way to be incredibly lazy and eat bad food.
One day I realised that for every order, I placed I was earning points… points towards what I have no idea, but this is just a poorly executed version of gamification.
Gamification is the practice of applying traditionally video or computer game elements to everyday experiences. Accruing points towards a goal, levelling up or completing challenges out of the context of a game still ignites that competitive spirit that keeps us pushing to achieve the next goal.
One industry that has embraced gamification is the education industry. Even on the Deakin Cloud, we are encouraged to fill completion bars and achieve goals through quizzes. I’ve enlisted some help to find out more about the user experience of gamification in education at a primary school level…
Games like Mathletics are made available to kids all over the world with over 5 million students learning through games aimed to maximise learning and keep them focused. There are similar online tools such as ABC’s Reading Eggs for early literacy.
Important components in gamification for the purposes of education include setting realistic targets that cater to children at different academic levels, too hard and they will give up, too easy and they won’t be learning, or they may just get bored and wander off.
Gamification isn’t just about academic learning teachers can use tools like Class Dojo to introduce gamification into the realm of behaviour modification. Kids get their own “monster” avatar and every time they do something great, academically or behaviorally they get awarded a prize. Many of these teachers tools have an influence outside the school, with tools like class dojo sharing a students progress with parents and with learning tools like Mathletics children can access the games from home.
Teachers have been using charts and points systems for years to encourage and engage students but digital gamification presents children and teachers with a multitude of ways to interact with learning environments in the classroom and at home.
As students move beyond primary school they ways that they interact with technology becomes more complex and gamification can be decentralised according to specific areas of study. For example, the ABC’s online education hub provides educational games such as the history orientated QED Cosmo’s Casebook and the geography and conservation game Resort Rescue that cater to students studying different subjects.
The key factors that need to be established in order to achieve effective behavioural, educational and professional goals include:
Some method of tracking user progress such as levels or a progress bar.
A clearly identified loop of behaviour. For example, good behaviour gets rewarded prompting good behaviour which gets rewarded.
The rewards need to be limited so the user strives to achieve new goals, unlocking new rewards.
Attachment and ownership of a game element such as an avatar
It is easy to see how these elements are applied to Mathletics and the other educational tools
The adventure by Komiku is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License.
Good Fellow by Komiku is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License.
Poupi’s Theme by Komiku is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I’ll often post uni work that is relevant to the literature, podcasting and writing nonsense that you will often find here. This time my first assessment is a blog post. This blog post.
I was going to try not to do this assignment on podcasts, but it is basically all I do.
I don’t watch TV or movies, I listen to Podcasts.
I get on social media to talk about podcasts.
I read books, but only so I can talk about them on my podcast.
I have a podcast problem. It started about 4 years ago.
I have always loved audio books, I grew up with storybook cassettes (I can still quote the entirety of the Lion King audiobook, just saying), then moved on to Amazon’s Audible app as an adult (all because I wanted that free copy of “The Chicken Gave it To Me” because I am an adult person who has definitely moved past my childhood reading list).
I think I knew about podcasts or they were at the very least on the periphery of my consciousness. I knew Ricky Gervais had one, and that BBC released their radio dramas as podcasts, but it wasn’t until Serial that I downloaded a podcast app. Serial definitely had a huge impact on the mainstream acceptance of the podcast as entertainment and has inspired a whole host of incredibly popular true crime podcasts, with true crime being one of the most, if not the most popular podcast genres (Bruzzi, 2016). Serial had me hooked, from there I went on to audio dramas like The Black Tapes and horror comedy podcasts like Last Podcast on The Left.
Then I discovered the often silly, very nerdy underbelly of the podcast world. I discovered the smaller podcasts that sprouted up in the wake of Serial and My Favorite Murder, and the indie podcasts that had been there the whole time but by virtue of not being true crime had only amassed a modest, albeit devoted following. It can be tough out there if you aren’t a crime related podcast as there is a huge swing in listenership towards true crime as a genre (Bruzzi, 2016).
I became a serial subscriber, I would, and still do subscribe to anything, listen to a few episodes and only delete it when the unlistened to episodes number in double, sometimes triple digits. I also began to engage with other fans of these podcasts and often the hosts themselves on Facebook and Twitter.
I work listening to podcasts, I walk listening to podcasts, if I could read listening to podcasts I would (and sometimes do if Librivox has a copy of the book up). There was a day about a month ago in which I thought I could listen to West Cork and parent at the same time, I was wrong.
“Oh, by the way, have I told you about my podcast…”
We started making The FrankenPod in December 2017, and released our first episode in on January 2018, and we have a bit of a following, but the most meaningful outcome of blasting another podcast into the 500,000 others out there (Lopez, 2018) that has surprised me the most is the online podcasting community.
According to Markham (2012) one of the most commonly cited reasons for podcasting community fostered through producing, promoting and creating, and that has certainly been our experience. Within a week of us releasing our first episode, I had an email from Nick who hosts Nick and Vince’s Podcast asking us if we wanted to come on their show and talk about Frankenstein.
I often interact with the podcast community in Facebook groups set up for podcast promotion, or to share podcasting resources such as Underdog Podcasts and Lady Pod Squad. Both of these groups also have Twitter hashtags that you can attach to podcasts as a signal to other “Under Dog” or “Lady” podcasters to retweet and promote, under the understanding that you will do the same for them.
The Twitter interactions between podcasts can move in genre groups. As our podcast, The FrankenPod is about gothic books and cinema and our relationships with other podcasters have not really stayed within that genre, but it is easier to collaborate with people who are doing something similar to what you are doing. The special interest groups tend to interact more closely together but podcasters will often promote across genre. Twitter has been my main point of contact with other podcasters and those interactions have allowed us to guest on other podcasts and set up some wonderful interviews with other podcasters.
The most valuable part of these interactive relationships with other podcasters is the relationships that are forged (Markham, 2012). Aside from everything else I have met some amazing, generous and intelligent people who love what they do. Podcasting is like a long rambling conversation with people across the world, many of them alone under doonas with a microphone to block out the noise of the outside world.
It sounds a bit sad, but really it is a very beautiful way to nerd out with other people who enjoy the same very specific stupid set of things that you do.
Eat → Sleep → Podcast → Repeat
Podcasts not mentioned that should be:
If I’m going to go ahead and talk about podcast promotions I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the independent podcasts I love who I haven’t name-checked so here are some of my #ff and episode release posts from the past few weeks.
The film Nosferatueine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) which is used in the Tweet GIFs is out of copyright according to section 94 of the “Copyright Act 1968” (Australia Government, 2017) which states that copyright extends 70 years after publication took place.
Brent let me tell you a tale of Sin City, where the women are gorgeous and vulnerable and the men are muscly, obese or Kevin. And everyone has a sinister past (except most of the women who don’t get pasts at all) and everyone owns a gun, except the stereotypical Asian character who has swords and ninja stars. I read the Hard Good Night, the big fat kill and I started a dame to kill for before I realized it had zero to do with the first film. The only two story arcs I really missed were Nancy and Bruce Willis’s storylines and Josh Hartnett’s storyline as the Colonel or Salesman. I’m not sure why I read the books because I can tell you with the two narratives I read they took the text verbatim from the novel when they adapted it to film.
The film in question is the 2004 film Sin City directed by Robert Rodrigez which Brent watched repeatedly and with gusto.
This falls within both urban gothic and the gothic graphic novel, two aspects of the gothic genre we had not tackled previously. In the urban gothic detective novel there tends to be a particularly two-dimensional view of women, tending to treat them as objects. Sin City definitely does nothing to buck this trend. Every time a woman does something to forward the plot, or displays any kind of agency she gets slapped down. Often literally. I am so over these this whole damn franchise. But here are some sources we used
For this episode, I talked to Erin who is the host of SubverCity Transmit and voice actor on No Sleep Podcast and Congeria Podcast. She also runs an awesome, spooky online store called Never Not Clever. So I’m incredibly grateful to Erin for making the time to talk to us.
The film we are chatting about is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) also known as Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Erin knows so much more about the movie than I could possibly hope to learn and among the many insights she has to give, she touches on the influence of Winona Ryder in the production, the Academy Award-winning costume design by Eiko Ishioka and the very deliberately rudimentary special effect that can be such an obstacle to new audiences discovering and engaging with the film.
Other subjects we touched upon include:
Lord Byron, because he always pops up
The Symbolist Movement
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The 1991 movie Hook
and armadillos… because I just cannot get over this