American Gothic Inspiration

Flame Tree Press is set to publish its latest anthology, American Gothic Short Stories, which includes a new tale by me titled “Gothic American.” In conjunction with the book’s release, Flame Tree has asked the contributors to discuss the genesis of their story idea. My response, along with 18 others, has been posted on Flame Tree’s Fantasy & Gothic blog. So head that way to find my verbal signpost pointing to one of the greatest landmarks of our Macabre Republic:

Art for Horror’s Sake

Recently, I was browsing on Amazon and stumbled across this 1988 anthology featuring a parody of American Gothic on its cover. I love the macabre makeover Grant Wood’s painting receives–in particular, the uncanny cameo the woman now wears and the witchy weather vane in lieu of a lightning rod. In choosing/adapting the iconic image for the cover of A Treasury of American Horror Stories, the bookmakers clearly recognize the dark undertones of Wood’s masterwork. Judging by the book cover art, Iowa is a field of nightmares and there is something unholy about the Bible Belt.

No less arresting than the grim image is the cover’s presentation of the anthology’s subtitle: 51 Spine-Chilling Tales from Every State in the Union plus Washington, D.C. (check out the table of contents here). The promise of comprehensive terror, a national archive of frightful narratives (which genre editor extraordinaire Martin H. Greenberg helped assemble), makes this belated discovery an instant addition to my must-read list.


American Gothics: Ten Terrific Parodies of the Classic Painting

The spoofs are innumerable (as any Google search quickly demonstrates), but here are ten of my personal-favorite reworkings of Grant Wood’s famous 1930 painting:

This wild darkening of the original seems strangely fitting, considering that a rural farmhouse served as the centerpiece of the film that gave birth to the modern zombie mythos. Here the notoriously tight-lipped pair bare their teeth in a display of carnivorous desire and grim decomposition. Perhaps the most gloriously mordant detail of all: the reflection of the pitchfork in the man’s overalls being further accented by a graphic skewering.


Further proof of the ubiquity of these goggling Twinkies. An apropos parody, too, given the Minions’ penchant for wearing overalls and also dressing in drag.


Parody of parodies: playing on traditional images of Presidential couples cut-and-pasted into the American Gothic scene.  Palin and Trump’s kooky expressions are brilliantly glossed by the punning title of the piece.


The perennially sex-starved Amy forms a perfect substitute for Wood’s spinsterish female figure, while Sheldon’s nerdy turn as the male figure is deserving of a “Bazinga!”


Irony-rich, with Bob Ross as the least likely painter of such a joyless couple.  Not even the “happy little trees” added to the background can brighten the mood of this piece.


A splendid transposition, capturing Miss Piggy’s dominance in this inter-species relationship. Kermit, with his trademark distressed expression, also forms a remarkable match with American Gothic’s female figure.


The Gothic theme of false appearances resounds here in this portrait of chem-teacher-cum-meth-kingpin Walter White. It’s a spurious memento, for sure: Skylar’s scowl, not to mention the fiery debris streaking down towards her husband, show that this family is about to go nuclear.


The induction of the prim-and-proper couple into the
Kiss Army makes for some hilarious incongruity. Gene Simmons’s Demon makeup proves particularly effective on the man’s long face. The thought of a monstrous, lascivious tongue lurking behind the man’s lips only enhances the wicked wit of this parody.


An extra-clever invocation of The X-Files: Scully and Mulder prove perfectly oblivious to the evidence of the extraterrestrial in their midst.  The transformation of farmer into rooftop Martian, though, is the crowning detail here.


One of Wood’s upright figures is strikingly leveled in this black-humored portrait of murderous misogyny. We finally find out what it takes for Mr. Sourpuss to crack a smile!