Love Never Dies

It took me awhile to get around to indulging Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, not in small part because I didn’t want the original musical to be spoiled. Some stories are perfectly encapsulated in a single telling. I have long been a fan of Gaston Leareuxe’s original novel. Though not particularly great writing, the story has always been one that struck a chord with me. Weber’s original musical told the story in a way that other productions, the movies and such coming out of Hollywood, typically do not. The Phantom musical recognized the story for what it is, a tragic love story, whereas most of the movies concentrate more on the horrific and climax with violent ends. In the end of Gaston’s book the Phantom, Eric, escapes but ultimately dies of a broken heart after letting Christine free.

So when I first heard of Webber’s extension of the story, I was both intrigued and perplexed. The production never came to American shores, and the reviews were mixed to lacking. All of which made it pretty easy to ignore. But as we were browsing about the used book and music store I happened across the cast recording. I enjoy most of Weber’s music, so I determined it was time to give this show a whirl. The music did not disappoint, and I found myself frequently going about my day-to-day business with its melodies echoing in my mind.

Enough of the angel of music’s songs resonated in my head that I was willing to give the video production of it a go as well. Not to mention that it’s a lot easier to listen to a musical if you can “see” what’s happening in your head. There are a number of substantial alterations to the arrangement order and telling of the story from cast recording (2010)  to video (2012) that smooth the story out, so given a choice I recommend the video production.

The story? The story boils down to a Phantomphile’s wet-dream. Set ten years after the original in Coney Island (don’t pay too close attention to the dates, as some liberties are taken here), the Phantom, with the help of Madame Giry and Meg, has escaped Paris to run an amusement park full of freaks called Phantasma. And, if the story must be allowed to persist, sending Eric to America and that period of Coney Island works for me. It’s a perfect setting for the Phantom, and puts Eric in a new world. Webber seems to have taken off the Phantom movie theme that portrays Eric as a much younger man. Hey, a decade later the original Phantom would be much less limber and even less a prospective partner. Age doesn’t improve ugly unless you’re Sean Connery.

At Phantasma, the Phantom pines over his lost love Christine and plots to get her back into his life. Conveniently, Christine’s childhood love and now husband who confronted the Phantom in the original musical has become a drunken lout with massive gambling debts. That’s okay, we never liked him anyway. Christine and Raoul come to America with their ten-year old son, Gustave (seriously, Gustave??),  for that same age-old reason–they need the money. Christine is set to sing, and her services are (secretly) outbid by the Phantom. Madame Giry and Meg, who has her own bit of infatuation going on with Eric, have been patiently plying their own plans to launch Meg into stardom. Neither are very happy to find that Christine is back on the scene.

Not long after her arrival, the Phantom reveals himself to Christine. The biggest leap in story imagination here, and the least tenable of all this, is the revelation that a decade past Christine returned to Eric “under a moonless sky” the day before her marriage where they consummated their love. Then, ashamed and afraid of Christine rejecting him again, Eric leaves her before she wakes, and so she ends up marrying Raoul after all. After meeting Gustave and showing him his world, it doesn’t take the Phantom long to do some mental math here.

Later the Phantom would prey upon Raoul’s predilection for gambling, wagering that if Christine sings for him, Raoul must leave alone. If she does not, the Phantom will wipe away all Raoul’s debt. If there was ever doubt that Raoul might come out the winner here, that star fades quick. In the meantime, Madame Giry has learned that Gustave is Eric’s son, and that he plans to give his fortune to him, even though the boy turned away from him in terror. Giry imparts this information to her daughter Meg, and it shatters the young starlet’s dreams for the future. While Christine is singing, Meg kidnaps Gustave with the intent to take him to the pier and drown him. The Phantom and Christine catch up to confront her, and Eric learns that Meg prostituted her body in order get him money to build his enterprise. Phantom tales aren’t given over to happy endings without heartache, and Meg accidentally shoots Christine with a pistol she brought along. Christine reveals to Gustave that Eric is his real father before dying in Eric’s arms. Gustave, who ran off at the news and somehow manages to find Raoul, returns. Eric gives Christine’s body over to Raoul (she’s dead, you can have her now) and despairs. Gustave unmasks him and touches his face without fear. Curtain close.

That’s the quick synopsis. Nothing as good as the original story, but they seldom are. What it does fulfill is all the PTO lover’s earnest desire that Christine and Eric were really meant to be together, even if that tragically doesn’t work out. Webber isn’t the first to imagine Christine and Eric having a child, as Susan Kay’s 1991 novel Phantom, which recreates Eric’s story from birth to death, also ends with progeny. The music is worth giving a listen if you enjoy Webber’s work. It is darkly rich and intriguing, and probably sold short given the original’s notoriety and this production’s lackluster fanfare.




The Gorgon’s Love

Love fantasy? Steampunk? Then you should check out the latest collection of short stories from Nevermet Press in Stories in the Ether Vol. 4. It’s an ePub, and should be compatible with all readers. It is my honor to have my story featured on the cover, and kudos to Paul Hagwood for the outstanding Medusa art he created to compliment the tale. Follow the link below to check it out, and while you’re at it give a look at A Feast of Frights if you haven’t already, which holds within it my short story Midnight Passage.

With two works available on Amazon now, it seemed appropriate to start an author profile there, although that is still a work in progress when it comes to the finer deatails.

I continue to hone away at my novel. I’ve discovered as a writer that perhaps my greatest weakness is a penchant for long-ass paragraphs. So a lot has been going back and breaking those babies up with the word hammer. Plus I’ve had several ideas that add some layers of complexity and depth to the story. In the mean time, I’ve also had a short story tickling the back of my brain that I’m probably going to have to spill onto paper here soon.



Feast in Hand

Today I was finally able to put my hands on my own copy of A Feast of Frights from The Horror Zine.  It’s a good-sized book, has a great cover and feel to it. Weighing in at 473 pages, it’s a big chunk of dark horror and fantasy. If you love the genre at all, there is bound to be something in it for you. And there is my story, right on page 223. But since there is so much more to the book, I don’t feel a bit narcissistic. But there’s a nice warm fuzzy from seeing my work in such a well-presented attractive volume. My thanks to Jeani Rector at The Horror Zine for all her hard work and dedication to bringing this book to print, and including me within its pages. You can find A Feast of Frights on Amazon here:

It should be available in both print and kindle format. If it isn’t available on kindle yet, it will be very soon. The only thing better than seeing your name in print is hearing that other people enjoyed your work, so give it a read and come back and tell us what you thought!


Waiter, there’s a cross in my horror.

I’m a person of skeptical bent, which means I remain dubious of most any and all faith claims as fact. But my mind postulates that without religion and myth, two of the things I enjoy most in life, namely supernatural horror and fantasy, would not exist. What creature of the night or flighty god of fancy does not owe something to a mythological predecessor?

Perhaps that explains my continuing fascination with theology and mythology, which to me are much one and the same. Asked to concisely define mythology, Joseph Campbell answered, “Mythology is what we call someone else’s religion.” Mythology today has come to be equated to “a fiction,” whereas I prefer to think of it as Campbell put it, “symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.” Myth is storytelling with meaning. It can carry truth, and it carries on today.

In the past,  as often as not, supernatural horror did not come without the inverse supernatural good. There was kind of a karmic balance. That’s changing somewhat in this modern era, and can particularly be seen with vampires. Anne Rice writes about vampires that can be fond of crosses, taking away the Church as antagonist and leaving the vamps to a carnal, dark underworld of their own making. In fact, being a vampire these days seems more of a sleek, sexy lifestyle with a couple of social glitches and hang-ups than being a curse. An American Werewolf in London (best werewolf movie EH-ver) dispensed with the notion of silver bullets. What seems to be happening is that the mythology surrounding the core ideal is stripped away, leaving just the creature. Sometimes that mythology is reimagined and replaced with a more modern interpretation, which can be a lot of fun. Or it can result in plain, unadulterated Evil, like sparkly vampires. Regardless, that is the nature of myth for each new age. It is never static. The novel I am currently working on carries many theological and religious overtones, drawn from a variety of  sources. These are our metaphors for relating to the universe.

I doubt supernatural horror will ever be completely free of religion, any more than man will. Like horror and fantasy, religious myths adapt and move with us too, and give birth to new ones. There is a natural progression. Scientology comes to mind as a recent example.  In many respects, belief in alien life is only the transference of belief in gods to belief in gods with space suits. Religion, in one form or another, will continue adding flavor to our cups of horror for many moons to come. We are hard-wired for it.

For my part, not all religions are built equally, though, and some make for more entertaining storytelling than others. The aforementioned Scientology is prebuilt for sci-fi. Given its creator wrote science fiction, perhaps that is not really surprising. It gives me pause that its faithful don’t quirk an eyebrow at this. But then again it makes sense–our myths come from our storytellers. Modern storytellers tend to be entertainers; L. Ron Hubbard went the extra mile to establish a new religion. The Mormons took us to space with Battlestar Galactica. Star Wars carried a quasi-Eastern religious feeling with the Force, until Lucas went and screwed that all up with “midi-chlorians.”   And the Roman Catholic Church gave us rich tradition and the cross which was the bane of evil for hundreds of storytelling years and remains so today. Catholicism is the standard foil for many a horror flick. It’s filled with awesome pageantry and ritual, making for great storytelling and visuals. It’s played such a huge role in history, both positive and negative, its influence on myth and faith is found across the globe. Modern day Protestantism, in comparison, is just damn boring. They don’t do flashy.

It’s also trendy to cast the man of god into the dark role, which may be somewhat a product of our age, but something the Church has lent itself to both historically and in current affairs. After all, when your local preacher gets busted for porn or theft, they’re guaranteed to make headlines. You can’t preach a higher standard and not expect to be excoriated for it when you yourself fail. Stephen King’s werewolf in Silver Bullet was the town preacher and the Da Vinci Code stirred the Catholic conspiracy pudding to such a degree some people thought it was real. But it’s good, even refreshing, to have an unspoilt (even if troubled) man of the cloth now and again. Father Karras and Father Merrin from the Exorcist come to mind. I liked those characters. I may not be a person of by-the-book faith, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t positive metaphors there to be used, one that most often involves sacrifice or atonement.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing fantasy and horror reestablish themselves in today’s culture. When it comes to fantasy, I credit a lot of that to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings films. Being a fantasy and horror lover is no longer equivalent to being a social pariah, as a rash of new book series and movies will attest. It has begun to enter television media now, with HBO launching Game of Thrones last year (a personal fan favorite for me), and networks airing Once Upon a Time and Grimm. And forget Disney, these are shows with something of a darker bent–as is right and proper.

No matter how they are used, these are powerful themes and archetypes used to build the fantastic metaphoric tapestries that spring from our imagination and express the depths of the human mind, and I welcome them.