Things that brought me delight in February, 2020:
Cochlea & Eustachia
Surreal body horror or an excuse to draw pert young bottoms? Why not both? Identical twins (or doppelgangers) (except ultimately there are three of them) awaken in a strange house that is buried in bird skulls. Things become less and less heimlich by the panel. Stay for the voyeuristic exploration of the house, invasive medical explorations, a kaiju-sized monster woman, the bio-mechanical contraptions, and a leisurely rafting expedition.
Ostensibly a tale of three languid, sensual young women who look after the children of a married couple in a secluded manor house, this book is a macrocosm of human longing painted in miniature. We're told of the appetites that propel these women, of how they lure strange men into the woods and suck them dry. But aren't we all maenads in our private little fantasy lives? We're told of the old man who watches the women through a spyglass, of how he assumes he can tell their moods and personalities based on their movements and the color of their dresses. But aren't we all different people in different moments and merely just figments dreamed of in the lives of others? We're told of the couple's common story of estrangement-in-partnership, the passing fancy of motherhood, the necessary push and pull of order against chaos, how the shifting tides of alliance rule the lives of children, and the final diminishing that comes for us all at the end of things. A few short pages to this, yet somehow it feels comprehensive.
The King's Story
The King's Story is a comic book in zine format that follows up on a story in Cloonan's By Chance or Providence. It's definitely in the realm of my beloved medieval Gothic fairy tale fantasy genre, but it's also squarely in dark "cautionary tale" vein, as per the comic's subtitle. The king's bastard son wants what his legitimate brother has inherited, but as always getting what you want doesn't necessarily satisfy--and it definitely comes at a price that is not immediately obvious.
Where Lovers Mourn, Arcane Rain Fell, The Burning Halo, Turning Season Within, A Rose for the Apocalypse, Sovran
Apparently I have arrived at the age where instead of searching out music that confronts me with new ideas and undreamed of sounds, I seek music that reminds me of past glories. Draconian brings to mind the Gothic doom of my youth; the heavy riffs, the sepulchral atmosphere, the orchestral touches, and the beauty-and-the-beast style vocal interplay all conspire to put me in mind of days gone by. Although their sound is reminiscent of Theatre of Tragedy, Paradise Lost, and My Dying Bride, I don't want to paint them as derivative--rather, think of them as a continuation of that grand tradition, a line of descent that more than earns its own share of repeated listens.
Widow's Weeds and Beyond the Veil
Sometimes you discover that there is a band that serves up music in the style you love, as with Draconian above, sometimes you discover that you missed something essential the first time around. Tristania's early albums definitely fall into the latter category. They date from the period of some of my favorite Gothic doom records, and they do all the things I like: funereal guitars, choirs of the damned, orchestral flourishes--and they add clean male vocals to the beauty-and-the-beast style of delivery. I hadn't explored Tristania's back catalog because the newer albums I had heard by them seemed firmly in the "symphonic metal" genre that doesn't really grab me. Widow's Weeds and Beyond the Veil are exactly what I want; beyond that, the band loses the main songwriter on those albums, but I may cautiously explore what comes next in the discography in the months to come.
Hand-knitted mittens and scarf
Does anything really compare with the incredible softness of a scarf and mittens that were knitted for you by a friend? The generous Mlle Ghoul made these for me, working her fingers to the very bone--so I assume. These gifts were are so nice that I honestly don't even mind that the temperature is scheduled to take a cold dip; just another excuse to indulge in these!
Sean T. Collins, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Julia Gfrorer
All Fucked Up: Erotic Tales from the "Road House" Expanded Universe
Erotic Road House fan fiction? It exists. Reading the stories in this zine is like looking through a kaleidoscope; startling patterns emerge as the colors collide in surprising ways. Pairings you'd never dream of, muted desires that you now realize were lurking under the taught skin all this time, and one hell of a hot breakfast.