Jess Nevins’ latest piece at io9 looks at the badass women of pulp, how can you resist?
As always there are some great examples that make you wish you could read them (even though you secretly suspect they’d be disappointing) but one I wanted to flag up is Hans Heinz Ewers’ Alraune. His links with the Nazi party during the 1930s have meant that his books have been overlooked by a modern audience, but he did fall afoul of them which might redeem him slightly and his fiction, written long before this period, still stand up today. The greatest of these is Alraune, a very strange story of a more occult Frankenstein:
1911: Hans Heinz Ewers (1871-1943) was a German actor and writer who is best known now for his horror fiction and his association with the Nazi party. His most famous creation was the Nietzschean übermensch Frank Braun, but Ewers also created the femme fatale Alraune, who appeared in Alraune: Die Geschichte eines lebenden Wesens (1911), and then later in films, starting with Alraune, die Henkerstochter (1918). In medieval German myth the semen of hanged men, collected from the dirt beneath their bodies, would produce the Mandrake root, which had various magical properties. In Ewers’ novel the mad scientist Dr. Ten Brinken scrapes the ground beneath a freshly hanged man and uses the semen gathered thereby to impregnate a prostitute. The prostitute gives birth to a daughter, Alraune, who grows up to be “uncannily beautiful.” However, when Alraune discovers her origin she turns to evil and becomes a heartless, depraved, “somnambulant vamp” who uses her occult and possibly vampiric powers of seduction on everyone, including her father. She becomes Frank Braun’s lover and dies accidentally.
Luckily, Joe Bandel has been translating Ewers’ work and Alraune is available as an eBook from Amazon.co.uk and .com, as well as Lulu.com and Smashwords. He has a blog for the translation with excerpts, so you can get a taster.