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Between the Gothic and the Plague

Why we can't have nice things

Edited by Jan Kostka
LIST PRICE $22.00

This volume contains five stories about plague – some short, some long. Each that builds upon the heritage of the other.

This volume contains five stories – some short, some long. Each that builds upon the heritage of the other.  It starts with The Castle of Ontarato (1764) by Horace Walpole which is considered the first, “Gothic Novel”; Vathek, An Arabian Tale (1782) by William Beckford, was influenced by Walpole and Arabian Nights; The Last Man (1826) by Mary Shelley carries on the theme of the previous works, but could be viewed as one of the first science fiction post-apocalyptic novels; The Masque of the Red Death (1842) by Edgar Allen Poe also focuses on apocalyptic forces and society’s efforts (or lack thereof) to deal with it.  Finally, The Scarlet Plague (1912) by Jack London describes a world-wide pandemic that humanity cannot control.  Even the cover illustration, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, by Goya is influenced by the Gothic art and forms a sort of double-entendre of monsters made in our mind and by doing nothing. 

Horatio Walpole (1717 – 1797) was the 4th Earl of Orford, an English writer, art historian, antiquarian and Whig politician; son of the first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. He had Strawberry Hill House built in Twickenham, south-west London, reviving the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors. His literary reputation rests on the first Gothic novel, "The Castle of Otranto" (1764), and his Letters, which are of significant social and political interest.

William Beckford (1760 – 1844), was born in 1760, and died in the spring of 1844, at the age of eighty-four years. His great-great-grandfather was lieutenant-governor and commander of the forces in Jamaica, and his grandfather president of the council in the same island. His father was a large landed proprietor, both in England and the West Indies, was lord mayor of London, and distinguished himself in presenting an address to the king, George the Third. When his grandfather died in 1770, he was the wealthiest commoner in England.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797 – 1851) was an English novelist who is most famous for writing the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country's earliest practitioners of the short story. He is also generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. Poe was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Poe and his works influenced literature around the world, as well as specialized fields such as cosmology and cryptography. He and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. The Mystery Writers of America present an annual award known as the Edgar Award for distinguished work in the mystery genre. He died in Baltimore on October 7, 1849, at age 40. The cause of his death is unknown .

John Griffith London (born John Griffith Chaney;1876 – 1916) was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. A pioneer in the world of commercial magazine fiction, he was one of the first writers to become a worldwide celebrity and earn a large fortune from writing. He was also an innovator in the genre that would later become known as science fiction. His most famous works include "The Call of the Wild" and "White Fang", both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories "To Build a Fire", "An Odyssey of the North", and "Love of Life". He also wrote about the South Pacific in stories such as "The Pearls of Parlay", and "The Heathen". London was part of the radical literary group "The Crowd" in San Francisco and a passionate advocate of unionization, workers' rights, socialism, and eugenics. He wrote several works dealing with these topics, such as his dystopian novel "The Iron Heel", his non-fiction exposé "The People of the Abyss", "The War of the Classes", and "Before Adam".