Edgar Allan Poe's birthday is always cause for weirdness — like the strange black-clad figure who leaves roses and cognac at his tomb. But this year, he turns 200, and things are getting more intense.
Possibly the weirdest Poe-related event taking place this week is a Poe smackdown in Philadelphia, where a representative of the City Of Brotherly Love will take on representatives of Boston and Baltimore for the right to claim Poe's legacy. The event will include pro-wrestling-style music, and a legion of Poe impersonators to rile up the crowd. (But no actual Poe wrestling. I think.)
Is that not weird enough for you? Then how about the Baltimore Ravens sending a guy in a giant Raven costume out on the field to commemorate Poe's lingering death in Baltimore? (And hoping that the Poe connection will help end their
massive losing streakintermittent winning streak?)
And there's a Poe lookalike contest and scavenger hunt in Petersburg, VA. And a Poe-related amontillado tasting in Baltimore. A year-long celebration in Baltimore, "Nevermore," includes a lock of his hair and a chunk of his coffin.
But Poe's also inspiring some actual new literary contributions. Veteran editor Ellen Datlow just published a new anthology of Poe-inspired stories called simply Poe. They're not pastiches or parodies, but rather stories inspired by the master. They include Gregory Frost's "The Final Act," a murder/ghost story about a man dogged by his childhood friend. And in Nicholas Royle's "The Reunion," a school reunion leads to "doppelgangers, identity crisis and unease."
The guidelines for each author were simple: write a story inspired by any of the works of Edgar Allan Poe in whatever setting you'd like. As one might expect, the results range all over the place with some stories being funny, others mysterious, and some downright macabre. Yet what each have in common is that one way or another they have managed to capture the spirit of what made Poe's stories so effective. More than just your common garden variety horror story, filled with creaking floorboards and knife wielding maniacs (although he had his fair share of them, too) Poe was famous for his ability to create atmosphere, and in their own way each tale in this collection rises to that challenge in grand style.