Thirteen Days to the Suicide Woods: Day 12 — Vineyard Horror

One year at my favorite writers’ conference, NECON, I was standing in the hotel lobby, staring at the flyers beside the check in desk, trying to find a menu for a local pizza place, when I ran across a card that showed a wet, red foot. Intrigued, I pulled the card and saw it was advertising a local winery. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I love wine. More than any beer or other spirit (yes, more than whisk(e)y), I love dry, tannic, earthy reds—pinot noir especially, but also barbera, and tempranillo wines. None of these varietals grow well in New England, but I was still intrigued by the image of a glistening red, nude woman’s foot.

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This wasn’t the picture, but you get the idea.

The picture was sensual, but it also more than hinted at gore with the red juice and dark grape skins sticking to the foot in the image. To me, in that setting, there was something very sinister about the implication of what that woman had done. How she had become stained. She had crushed something delicate and wore the evidence of its destruction on her skin.

Yes, yes, I know. Most people who’d see this advertisement would think of people laughing and having fun getting dirty making something delicious, meant to be drunk in fun. Maybe they think of that episode of I Love Lucy. I’m not most people. I think about the violence of winemaking. I think about the intimacy of that violence, the sexuality of it done with nude feet (though mostly by press, but let’s indulge our imaginations) and rolled up pants, or even better, a playfully lifted skirt.

The thought of it immediately made me recall the Poème de la vigne (Poem of the Vine) sculpture by Gustave Doré in front of the de Young Museum in San Fransisco.

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Gustave Doré created this vase for French winemakers, who exhibited it at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair. It represents an allegory of the annual wine vintage, taking the shape of a colossal wine vessel decorated with figures associated with the rites of Bacchus (the Roman god of wine). The revelers include cupids, satyrs and bacchantes, who protect the grape vines from pests. [source]

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That, naturally, made me think of Frederick Hart’s Ex Nihilo sculpture on the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. (and how its design was stolen and inverted—or perverted as he successfully charged in his lawsuit—for the movie The Devil’s Advocate). My imagination was off to the races.

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I’d long wanted to write small town occult horror story in the tradition of Thomas Tryon or The Wicker Man, and by the end of the conference weekend, the story of an outsider coming to an insular and somehow threatening wine making community was finished in my head. I just needed to get it down on paper. Most of the time I come home from any conference, but after NECON in particular, I am driven by creative inspiration that burns bright and hot. This fire was uniquely kindled, however.

I wrote the whole thing in about forty-eight hours, inspired by an image of a single woman’s foot, and all the sensuality and carnage it implied. I’d joked at the con that I wanted to start a new movement as a subset of what I thought of as “Harvest Horror,” titled instead, “Vineyard Horror.” Scary stories that revolve around wine and intoxication. Since then, I’ve met a couple of kindred spirits (notably Michael Griffin, whose Dim Shores novella An Ideal Retreat is something you NEED to read) who feel the same way about the subject. Like other writers provide soundtrack listening suggestions for their work, we’ve discussed pairing our stories with wine recommendations and tasting notes. The world of Vineyard Horror is ripe on the vine, in my opinion.

So, please, open a nice Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, have a couple of glasses, and enjoy The Blood of the Vine.

The Woods Have Been Waiting

NEXT STOP: The Thirteenth View

 

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~ by poǝןɔɐɯ uǝʞɔɐɹq on 12/03/2017.

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