So this week I’m reading The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, a horror/dark fantasy/historical/possibly semi-autobiographical novel by the violinist and pop/punk/cabaret/sort-of-unclassifiable singer Emilie Autumn.
If I remember correctly, I picked up The Asylym after purchasing Emilie Autumn’s album Opheliac from her web site, when the book was being offered for free to her listeners. Here’s one of my favorite tracks from Opheliac, a song called “Swallow”, which is a pretty good Argentine tango, but ummm might be a little too weird to be played at the studio.
This novel is divided between present-day Emilie and Victorian-era Emily, both of whom find themselves in the titular asylum (although in Emilie’s sections the “Wayward Victorian Girls” part of the name has, of course, been dropped). Victorian Emily is, apparently, somehow leaving nightly notes for present-day Emilie to find. (Or is Emilie leaving notes for herself? I suppose we will find out eventually. Maybe.) In any case, this excerpt is from one of those notes, in which Emily enumerates various reasons why various patients have found themselves at the Asylum:
Besides falsehood and treachery*, there are reasons enough why any female may be thought insane by the medical community, her family, and society in general. Opposing an arranged marriage, for example; expressing ambivalence towards the non-negotiable prospect of motherhood; being melancholy after giving birth (or being melancholy at all); lacking enthusiasm for religion; evidencing a particular fondness for her fellow females; being too high-spirited, too low-spirited, mildly disagreeable or simply ‘moody’—any behaviour thought aberrant by the impossibly narrow standards of our day is attributed to the inherent weakness and waywardness of the female gender.
Incidentally, this is an interactive, multimedia book, meaning that if you read it on a tablet or (theoretically) e-reader, it contains hot links you can follow for Internet content, secret videos, hidden pictures, etc. I say you can “theoretically” do these things on an e-reader because that’s what I’m reading it on and with the grey-scale text and less than stellar image rendering, I can’t always tell what’s a hot link and what’s just something that’s a different color. I did try one of the links from a reader on the computer, and it took me to a passworded web page that said something to the effect of “You’ve found the portal, but do you have the key?” The key is apparently something that can be ascertained by reviewing the images and figuring out the puzzles that the book contains. I quickly decided that I couldn’t be bothered with all that and went back to just reading it like a regular book. And this is why I would never, for example, win something like the Easter egg hunt in Ready Player One. Although the prospect of winning a few hundred billion dollars would be pretty motivating …
Meanwhile, editing continues on my decidedly not interactive multimedia novel, Father’s Books! As I’m getting close to the end of this round of editing, it’s becoming difficult to follow the Teaser Tuesday “no spoilers” rule, but let’s give it a try.
The room had no windows to the outside, so he decided to risk it. He reached over and flicked the switch. An overhead fluorescent circle sputtered to blue-white life.
He stepped forward and studied the machinery, a collection of flat surfaces and teeth and bars and arms, and the stuff in the nearby cubbies―pinkish paper, empty blue covers―and concluded that he was looking at book binding equipment.
Yeah, somebody’s taking self-publishing to an extreme there!
* The “falsehood and treachery” in question refers to people who get allegedly wayward Victorian girls committed under false pretenses, not the actions of the girls themselves.