Oh, the Indie Horror: Boston Metaphysical Society & Nightmare Cafe

Halloween is my favorite time of the year. The darkness, the spookiness, and oh, the horror! I’ve always been fascinated by themes of the unknown creeping in and terrifying us, or the repressed finally erupting into chaos. One thing growing up that I always wanted, though, was to see more characters of color as the main characters and not as the “other” where our background were the source of horror or we were relegated to the side kick best friend who most likely died. And I’m sure other marginalized groups feel the same in terms of how we’re represented and I’m always down for some subtext and social commentary if provided, horror serving as a great backdrop for such stories. So for this feature in the days counting down to Halloween, I wanted to showcase some independent works featuring leads of color, women, LGBTQ+, disabled, especially if created by creators of the like. So without further ado…

Oh, the Indie Horror! Day 4 (Double Feature): Boston Metaphysical Society by Madeleine Holly-Rosing & Nightmare Cafe by Chris Johnson

Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the Boston Metaphysical Society graphic novel series, companion novel, and short stories, and has run a number of successful crowding campaigns and published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.  Winner of the Sloan Fellowship for screenwriting, and the Gold Aurora and Bronze Telly for a PSA produced by Women In Film, she has also won numerous awards while completing the UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting.  Source Point Press is set to re-publish the first six issues and the trade paperback of Boston Metaphysical Society original graphic novel in 2019/2020. Boston Metaphysical Society webcomic was the recipient of an Honorable Mention at the 2013 Geekie Awards and was nominated for Best Comic/Graphic Novel in 2014. Formerly a nationally ranked epee fencer, she has competed nationally and internationally. Madeleine is an avid reader of comics, steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, and historical military fiction.

GREG ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Can you give us a synopsis of what your book is about?

MADELEINE HOLLY-ROSING: Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series (Art by Emily Hu) is about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston. The first sequel, The Scourge of the Mechanical Men (Art by Gwynn Tavares), is a story that features Nikola Tesla and Granville Woods who are in a race against time to save Boston from a mysterious disease that turns men into machines. The second sequel, The Spirit of Rebellion(Art by Gwynn Tavares), features Caitilin O’Sullivan, the medium and spirit photographer who flees to Philadelphia only to discover a ghost, a rebellion, and perhaps, her destiny. There is also a prequel novel, A Storm of Secrets, which won a silver medal in the scifi/fantasy category and overall top pick in the Feathered Quill Book Awards.

I will be running a Kickstarter in mid-January 2020 to print the 3rd sequel, Ghosts and Demons. (Art by Gwynn Tavares)

Source Point Press picked up the original six issue mini-series to be re-published through Diamond in 2019. They will re-publish the trade paperback in early 2020.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Wow, you’ve been working! How long have you been working on this series and what inspired you to tell this story?

HOLLY-ROSING: The story began as a TV Pilot I wrote at the UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting which would have been in 2008-09. A few years later, I adapted it into a six issue graphic novel mini-series. I’ve been involved in comics for about seven years.  The story itself was inspired by my love of history, sci-fi, and the X-Files. I wanted to set Mulder and Scully in the 1800s, but with no aliens.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: I was really drawn to your main character. In a medium dominated by men, we’re used to seeing stories of women trying to overcome sexism in their field of interest. This story has a bit of that but there’s also the need to protect her as she is young. Can you tell us a bit about all of that, especially in this horror genre?

HOLLY-ROSING: I never really thought of Boston Metaphysical as being in the horror genre, but yes, I guess it is.  The main themes I deal with in everything I write is classism, sexism, and racism though not necessarily in that order. I try to make those themes an organic part of the story as opposed to lecturing. Caitlin O’Sullivan, the character your referring to, is a young woman of her time, but keeps pushing barriers when she believes it needs to be done or just doesn’t make any sense.  She’s very pragmatic. Granville Woods (a historical figure) and Samuel Hunter each have a different relationship to Caitlin. Granville is more of a father figure, and Samuel’s relationship is more complex since there are similarities between his deceased wife and Caitlin.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: You put Granville Woods in the book! For those who don’t know, Granville Woods was the first Black person to become an electrical engineer after the Civil War, helped usher a safer and better public transportation system for cities of the United States, and held 60 patents. What inspired you to include him in this book?

HOLLY-ROSING: When I first developed the story, most steampunk was set in the United Kingdom, but Boston Metaphysical Society was an American story. And you can’t tell an American story without including women and people of color. I also wanted to have a scientist as part of the team. So I did research on the scientists and engineers who lived during that time period and found Granville! I was thrilled. He was the perfect fit for the story. Unfortunately, he had gotten lost in history, which tends to happen to women and people of color. It has been in honor to reintroduce him to the world.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: What research went into creating this? Can you tell us about this process?

HOLLY-ROSING: The original research came about when I was writing a screenplay to submit to the Sloan Fellowship while at UCLA. If you don’t know about the Sloan, it focuses on bringing accurate science to the screen as well as depicting scientists and engineers as real people and not stereotypes.  My script was called, Stargazer, and it was a biopic about Mina Flemming, a Scottish immigrant who came to this country pregnant, abandoned by her husband, who then got a job as a maid for the director of the Harvard Observatory in Boston. He eventually hired her to become what was known then as a “female computer.” By the end of her career, she had discovered over 10,000 stars and created a new stellar classification system.

I was fortunate to have access to UCLA’s massive library system and pulled in research from all over the world about Mina, her boss, astronomy, and (this is important) life in 1800s Boston from an immigrant and a woman’s point of view.  At one point, my entire office floor was covered in stacks of books. This research was the basis of Boston Metaphysical Society.

By the way, I won the fellowship.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Congrats on winning that fellowship!

HOLLY-ROSING: Thank you!

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: What are some of the enemies and creatures we’ll be coming across in this series? And any particular motives?

HOLLY-ROSING: Some creatures are supernatural and some are man-made. (Not all of the supernatural creatures are bad.)  Based on their experiences, Caitlin and Samuel have different viewpoints on ghosts and the like, but depending on the circumstances either one can be right or wrong. Motives range from boredom, wanting attention, to world domination.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: In time for Halloween season, what other horror series or popular stories/movies can you compare it to or which category of horror fans will feel right at home in checking out this book?

HOLLY-ROSING: Penny Dreadful would be the closest comparison, I think. Also, Carnival Row and The Frankenstein Chronicles. And if you like historical fiction, then I’d recommend Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders, and The Knick.  They are all set around the late 1800s time period.

Social Media: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series is currently being re-issued through Diamond, but you can purchase the individual issues at Source Point Press.

The Scourge of the Mechanical Men: Storenvy Amazon Print Version Digital Version

The Spirit of Rebellion: Amazon Print Version Storenvy Digital Version

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets (novel):Amazon (ebook and print), Nook, Smashwords

Chris Johnson is the writer/letterer of Anomalous Comics, responsible for Hoody, Mind Things of a Dirty Zombie, Send in the Clowns, and everything else published by the brand. Born in 1985, Chris grew up writing and telling stories, and now is lucky enough to do it for a living, creating comics since 2010 with his friends in the Anomalous Comics Art Studio. He currently resides in his hometown of Wichita Falls, TX where he runs his own store selling comic books and CBD products with his partners at Texans for CBD.

GREG ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Can you give us a synopsis of your book, Nightmare Cafe?

JOHNSON: When a spring break road trip to South Padre Island is cut lethally short by the deaths of five hard partying teens, the characters delve into a fresh hell as their internal horrors are projected before them at the hands of two macabre and merciless lunch ladies. In order to save their souls, the five dead teens must face the nightmares that reside in the fringes of their imaginations, and bring their friends along for the ride. One thing, though: the house always wins.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Well dang! That sounds pretty trippy! Where did this idea come from?

JOHNSON: This one was personal, so the core themes and connecting fears stem from my own five personal fears, either for myself or fear for a loved one. But I think most of all, this story was born from my love of all things 80s and Texas, to be honest.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Who are these lunch ladies? Where did they come from and why the interest for these teens?

JOHNSON: I believe mystery is the reason why some horror stories and characters work. So I’m going to keep the book’s antagonists’ origins just that for now, but I can tell you the lunch ladies are sisters, they have a brother who appears in a spin-off Type mini series called Thrill Killers, and they are ruthlessly and brutally evil.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Can you tell us about these teens individually and what some of their own personal journey of hell is?

JOHNSON: Sure, so each kid has a particular fear they struggle with, ranging from Jansen’s irrational fear of clowns to Dean’s very valid fear of gun violence being visited on his friends at the hands of the police. Jane, Jansen’s sister, is afraid of spiders, but her friend Sarah is deathly fearful of being raped, so there’s a sort of juxtaposition in the types of hell inflicted on each person, but they are all equally shaken to their cores when face to face with their deepest, darkest nightmares.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: In time for Halloween season, what other horror series or popular stories/movies can you compare it to or which category of horror fans will feel right at home in checking out this book?

JOHNSON: Nightmare Cafe is a quirky, unique mashup; 2001 Maniacs meets a combination of Cube and Hellraiser. A 32-page psychological survivalist horror comic with an 80s horror movie vibe.

ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Where can people go to purchase the book?

JOHNSON: I own a store at 1516 Monroe Street Wichita Falls, TX 76309 and we have a website where they’ll be able to purchase the books and merch online.

Day 1: Diary of the Mad, Black Werewolf by Micheline Hess

Day 2: Oh, the Indie Horror: Home & Crescent City Monsters

Day 3: Oh, the Indie Horror: WitchDoctor by Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall

 

About Greg Anderson Elysee

Greg Anderson Elysee is a Haitian-American comic writer, educator, filmmaker, and model. He is the writer and creator of the comic series Is'nana the Were-Spider, which has garnered 5 Glyph Awards including Best Writer and Story of the Year. He is also the writer of The Gentleman: Darkness of the Void and Marassa, both for Evoluzione Publishing.

Anderson Elysee's work frequently incorporates various themes of Black spirituality in hope of showcasing often misinformed beliefs into more positive narratives.

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