Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Pity and Horror of Frankenstein

In 1818 Mary Shelley published a book about the relationship between two men, a relationship forged in blood, unrequited love, rage and unbreakable hatred. Both men in the tale of ‘Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus’  have the capacity for doing great good, yet only evil comes of their relationship.

The pity of the tale is that the main character, Victor Frankenstein, is a good and loving man marred by two fatal flaws; his compulsion to take science into a new realm and his inability to feel empathy for the creature he creates. For its part the monster contains within its massive and ugly form a vast capacity for love and passion and learning. Yet like a child it feels things to extreme. When it suffers rejection, first by its creator and then by the other people it meets on its journey, it is overwhelmed by a blinding need to revenge itself on Dr Frankenstein and all that he loves. Far from the clunking brute of the movies, Mary Shelley’s original monster is a sophisticated being whose acts of savagery have an eloquent and awful logic to them.

It is well to remember that the title of the story is ‘Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus’. In the ancient Greek myth it is Prometheus who stole fire from the eternal Gods to give to it to the mortal humans. Fire is essential for human development but the focus of the myth is on the deeds, thoughts and suffering of the stealer of fire. Likewise the focus of Mary Shelley’s story is on Doctor Frankenstein, the stealer of the ultimate secret, how to create life. It is his deeds that create the monster, his deeds that compel the monster to carry out such awful acts. It is Dr Frankenstein who is central to the most gruesome and terrible sections of the tale. It is he who plays with the gore and flesh of the dead in order to create a creature, and it is he who is responsible for one of the most tense and dark moments in the book.

It is this event that for me proves (if proof were needed) how important and constantly relevant and contemporary Mary Shelley’s tale is. The doctor returns to his family home to find it filled with awful suffering. His youngest brother, a mere child, has been strangled. Worse, it is the family’s much loved maid who has been arrested for the crime. Yet Frankenstein has no doubt that it was his creature that committed the murder. But he does not speak out. As the evidence is gathered the doctor is racked by guilt but he will not reveal his secret, that he has created a living being that is bent on murder and revenge. The maid is put on trial, is found guilty, and sentenced to die. Yet still the doctor remains mute. On the evening before her execution, the maid asks for Frankenstein and his adopted sister Elizabeth to visit her in her cell. But though Frankenstein is possessed of a ‘horrid anguish’ he chooses not to speak out. The maid is hung. 

Though the story is two hundred years old, it resonates in this era of monstrous crimes and monstrous enemies – crimes and enemies often created by those who now oppose them. One result of this seemingly endless new normal of fear, paranoia and hatred is good, passionate and clever men - and it is inevitably men - take decision every day that cause great hurt to the innocent. Often those decisions are made to ensure that important secrets remain hidden: secret agendas, secret negotiations, secret alliances, secret Intelligence sources, secret (and shameful) responsibility for the whole awful, gory and yet entirely avoidable mess.

The true horror of Mary Shelley’s book is the same horror that plays out on today’s twenty-four hour news cycle: the impossibility of knowing who the real monster is.

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A creature with many similarities to Frankenstein’s monster is the Golem of Jewish folklore. In 1911 a version was written down for children by ‘Aunt Naomi’. To hear the audio version check out The Golem ofPrague 
I read a lot of horror stories. One of my favourites is We Are Wormwood  by Autumn Christian. I highly recommend you go get a copy now.
Stay tuned to my blog to read more of my articles about horror stories. 
My workshops on writing dark tales of Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy begin January 2016. For details see: Writing Dark Tales - creative writing workshops. 

For more about my work as a storyteller, blogger, author, tutor and performer see rabfultonstories Follow me on twitter @haveringrab

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Writing Dark Tales – creative writing workshops

From ghost stories to tales of cosmic horror, there is nothing more enjoyable than a story that sends a shiver of fear through you. Now, Rab S. Fulton, Galway’s master of the macabre, will be teaching lovers of dark tales how to write their own tales of terror.

Over eight weeks, the workshops will examine stories from myths, fairy tales, folklore, sci-fi, fantasy and horror to show the techniques and tools needed to create tension, narrative drive, new worlds and mesmerising creatures and characters. Participants will also be set tasks to improve and deepen their creative writing skills. As well as studying stories, the workshops include games and group work that will encourage positive criticism, critical listening and how to let the imagination run free. Workshop participants will also have a one on one session with Rab to discuss their writing

For details / booking contact:
Price: 110 Euro
Location: Crane Bar, upstairs venue
Time:        7.30pm to 9pm
Dates: Thursday evening on the following dates
January 14th, 21st, 28th
February 4th, 11th 18th 25th
March 3rd

About Rab
As well as teaching creative writing, Rab writes novels and short stories. His horror stories include Transformation a tale of terror set in Galway, described by Galway City Tribune as: "A dark, supernatural story that manages to make you cry, laugh and scare you to bits"  

Some of Rab’s dark tales can be read on line, including the werewolf story The Water Bowl, and his ongoing sci-fi blog novel Marcus Marcus & the Hurting Heart.

Rab also performs dark tales from Ireland and Scotland at his internationally acclaimed CelticTales storytelling sessions.

For more on his books and live shows see RabFultonStories 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Lafcadio Hearn / Koizumi Yakumo celebrations in Ireland

From the moment he was born on a Greek island to a Greek mother and an Irish father, Lafcadio Hearn (also known as Koizumi Yakumo)  was marked out for a life pushed and pulled and often nearly swamped by the cross currents of many different cultures. The genius of the man was his ability to master the squalls and calms of many competing identities and traditions while writing essays, short stories and novels that added much to our common humanity.

Today he is best known for the work he wrote after he settled in Japan in 1890. In a series of articles, talks and books Lafcadio documented Japanese traditions and beliefs that were still extant even as Japan's rulers pursued a policy of opening the country up to western influences. His work included a collection of Japanese folktales Kwaidan, which H. P. Lovecraft praised as a book that ‘crystallises with matchless skill and delicacy the eerie lore and whispered legends of that richly colourful nation’.

In Japan Lafcadio is a household name and his Japanese folktales are studied by Japanese school children. Whilst there are occasional echoes of Irish folktales – in one tale a blind musician is taken to a magical realm that no one else can see – what strikes the reader is the contrast between Irish and Japanese traditions. In Irish (and Scottish) tales the Other World intrudes on this world causing mischief and even mortal danger. This intrusion is often defeated by proper religious observance, but can also be defeated by trickery and deception.

In Japanese tales the Other World does not intrude; it is enmeshed and engaged fully with this world. The magical can be as grotesque and menacing as anything in the Celtic tales, but it is an integral part of the complete world that we mortals live in. Religious observance plays an important part in most of these stories, but faith is not used to defeat magic. Instead priests negotiate between the magical and the profane to bring back balance between the two.

Lafcadio’s attraction for Japan’s dark and weird folk lore may be explained by his childhood upbringing in Ireland, where he was often left in the care of an elderly great-aunt from the west of Ireland who told him many of the strange and fantastic stories from that part of the world. He lived in Ireland from the age of two to thirteen and this October there will be a number of events celebrating Lafcadio’s Irish heritage.

The highlight of these celebration will be the Lafcadio Hearn Reading performances of Maraudo — Visitors from the World Beyond by Shiro Sano and Kyoji Yamamoto, which will be held in three locations in Ireland. Sano and Yamamoto have been performing Hearn’s works for ten years, and their performances play an important role in introducing the literature of Hearn to the world.

The Galway event takes place on the 13th October in The Nun’s Island Theatre. Before the main performance I will be telling one of the stories from my book Galway Bay Folk Tales. For times and prices see GAC Events.

For more see:

Embassy of Japan in Ireland: The Open Mind of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn Gardens: The story of Lafcadio Hearn 
Shiro Sano and Kyoji Yamamoto: Lafcadio Hearn ReadingPerformance

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For more about my work as a storyteller, blogger, author, tutor and performer see rabfultonstories
Keep up to date with my weekly CELTIC TALES show on facebook
Follow me on twitter @haveringrab

Friday, 11 September 2015

Up periscope: live broadcasts from Galway storytelling sessions

Audience at Crane Bar storytelling sesssion

At my storytelling sessions I’ve long grown accustomed to people taking pictures, tweeting and Facebooking and recording what I do. But then one of the friends of the Celtic Tales show, Máire Ní Mhaoláin, asked if she could do a Telescope TV broadcast of one of the evenings. 

I asked what she meant. She explained it very clearly and very precisely. I did not understand a word, so she explained it again. As she spoke my mind drifted off to a happy place filled with dragons and witches and all manner of exciting adventures. When Máire finished her simple introduction to live streaming I nodded and said ‘Yes’. (I say Yes to lots of things, I even wear a big red badge with the word Yes on it).

As a result of Máire enthusiasm, this week the show went live on air. As well as the packed out audience in the Crane Bar, people tuned in on their smart phones from all manner of places; from South Africa, Canada, and the USA. People even tuned in from Japan, where it was still only 4 in the morning.

Periscope logo
So now Máire is going to do a Telescope TV broadcast of all the shows. Which means that every Thursday, no matter what part of the planet you reside in, you can watch the show on your phone. Now, whilst I find this utterly stunning and mind blowing, it is apparently a very easy thing to do. Here is the explanation that Máire emailed me:

1.   If people cannot get along to the Crane Bar they can watch the show on Periscope.
2.   If they have a smartphone or iPhone, they can download the Periscope app  from the Google Store or Apple Store for free.
3.   Then, add Máire’s twitter account which is @kittee83
4.   After 8pm Irish Time on Thursday nights, Máire will broadcast Periscope live feeds from @kittee83 .
5.   As it can't be one long live video, the show will be broadcast in sections.  (There might be slight internet connection difficulties. Do not worry, that happens.)
6.   Viewers will get a notification every time saying that she is broadcasting.
7.   Viewers can text Máire by tapping on the screen to open the text dialogue, and they can also tap the screen to give "hearts" to show the love.
8 If you miss the show, do not worry, the broadcast will be available for 24 hours.

So there you go. If you feel the need for a blast of amazing storytelling, tune in Thursday evenings from 8pm. Oh, and to work out what time that is in your part of the world, check out this Time Zone Convertor 

See you all Thursday!

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For more about Rab's work as a storyteller, blogger, author, tutor and performer see rabfultonstories
Keep up to date with Rab's weekly CELTIC TALES show on facebook
Follow Rab on twitter @haveringrab