BAD GIRLS, BAD GIRLS, WHAT YOU GONNA DO?
An Intimate interview with Marge Simon, Mary Turzillo and Weasel Press about their new book Satan’s Sweethearts.
David E. Cowen. Author of The Madness of Empty Spaces (Weasel Press 2014) and The Seven Yards of Sorrow (Weasel Press September 2016); Editor HWA Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes III (2016) and IV (2017)
Hurricane Harvey is now here in Houston a memory though the gifts it brought still blossom with the mold growing on so many walls. Now poor Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are in the process of having to pick up and dry off. If you ever wanted to fully understand what the term “spooky” means walk through a dark mold infested house stripped of flooring and emptied of furniture. The black formations on the walls and ceilings, when viewed through moisture fogged protective eye wear, give the appearance of forming faces or symbols. As if some evil thing were oozing through the sheetrock
Of course black mold is undoubtedly an evil thing. This ruminating over the dark festering aftermath of receded floodwater is a perfect segue to this month’s feature and interview. Satan’s Sweethearts (Weasel Press 2017) is a collaboration between multiple Bram Stoker and Elgin Award winner and Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Grand Master Marge Simon and Nebula and Elgin Award winner Mary Turzillo.
Satan’s Sweethearts focuses on the darker element of female empowerment — the serial killer. Marge and Mary poetically depict infamous female murderers spanning the centuries. The volume is divided into themes such as A Mother Only Satan Could Love (pistol packing mama’s to those who offed their children), Sisters of Dreadful Mercy (caretakers who murdered those under their care), Stepmother Dearest (self explanatory), Sister Dread and Daughter Death (familial murderers), The Last Wives’ Club (she looked so good until she killed me) and Belial’s Bitches (Bad Girls Who Just Want to Make People Dead).
This wonderful volume is available on Amazon.
Q: The obligatory question to both of you. How did you come to decide to collaborate using this particular theme? Also, did you research each of these women to any extent?
Marge: The misdeeds of these women would make even Clive Barker quake in his boots! Yes, we did research each and all. We still haven’t fully recovered.
Mary: Marge has said it all. My sister, Jane Turzillo, to whom Satan’s Sweethearts is dedicated, has had a lifelong fascination with female miscreants, and has written two books about women who stepped on the wrong side of the law. Like my sister, I’m one of those people who are horrified and unwillingly obsessed with the evil in human nature. I wrote a couple of poems about women my sister had researched. I knew Marge has a fascination with the evil side of human nature. So I suggested this collaboration. It took off. We researched in all sorts of ways, digging for the odd detail, the lurid, the haunting.
And as Marge said, the true crime tales still haunt us.
Q: Many of the women in your book speak in terms of power, of control in a world where women were stereotyped as weak, docile and lacking the ability to think for themselves. Did you choose the characters with their motives in mind, or was the choice more random; which ones were the most infamous; which had the most victims?
Mary: It’s hard to explain why people get fascinated with villains and villainesses. I’m not sure I can speak for Marge, but I remember many instances where one of us would find some woman whose brazen disrespect for goodness or decency just exceeded imagination. And we’d email or call the other and say, “Look! Oh my God, we have to do HER.”
Marge: As I recall, we were on the look-out for your plain and simple EVIL women. I knew of some that I wanted to research more, and stumbled upon others from web searches of female criminals throughout history. Women are highly inventive when it comes to committing monstrous crimes; as well, sly, manipulative –just as good as any fancy talking evil minded guy. Several in our collection were also bisexual which shows their impartiality.
Q: How would you like a feminist to react to this book?
Mary: The word “feminist” has taken a pejorative meaning to some people in recent years. This is undeserved. To me, a feminist is somebody who thinks women and men should be treated fairly, that both genders have abilities and aspirations. I worry that some people, feminists or not, think that women are somehow kinder and more ethical than men. Ha! Yes, in the arenas of physical strength and maybe even temperament there are minor differences between the sexes. Testosterone can amp up muscle and increase rage. But morally? I can’t see why the genders are not equally endowed with the potential to choose evil over good. Because of the power structure of many cultures, women’s ill deeds are committed with more stealth and cunning. Men are more likely to bludgeon a partner to death; women are more likely to poison. And until recently, poison was much harder to detect than brute force.
In short, I would like this book to make a good feminist think about good and evil in relation to gender.
Marge: My first thought was that feminists would hate this collection, because it features some of the worst females in history. As I recall, I mentioned that to you, David Cowen, and you said that you thought quite the contrary. I first thought you meant that feminists would say that bad women should be recognized as capable of the most horrendous crimes as bad men are, perhaps even worse! Why should men always get the most attention! I scratched my head over that one, I tell you. But that’s not what you meant, right? You ask, how a feminist to react – well, I’d hope these poems would be of interest. Many of our choices were abused as children or grew up in unfortunate circumstances – regardless of sex, race, creed or color. And some were just born mean, like Aileen Wuronos.
David Cowen: To respond to Marge, one of the most fascinating aspects of this volume were the women who killed as an expression of power. Some even had lovers or husbands who sheepishly assisted in the deeds. Certainly there is no pride in claiming serial killers amongst your ranks, but the motivations of some who responded to abusive lives trapped by the gender based limitations their world imposed on them was both fascinating and frightening. When you have no outlet for frustration or anger where does it go? And when that negative flow of bad humors infects the mind poisoning it the evil that follows is truly abominable.
Q To Weasel Press: Weasel Press’ reputation is often described as a “beat” publisher, poetry and prose. What was it about this volume that appealed to you as a publisher?
Weasel: The foundation of Weasel Press is firmly rooted in the Beat Generation. Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and several other authors sparked the flame for us to start. At the core of the press, we focus on breaking down the norms of literature; on getting away from the ordinary literary fiction that’s on the shelves at most bookstores. A part of Beat Writing is exploring the human condition as explicitly as possible, and sometimes you have to get dark. Though this is one of the few horror volumes of poetry we carry, the horror genre isn’t new for us. What drew us to Satan’s Sweethearts is its explicit portrayal of each sadistic, and mostly tortured killer. The historical wealth of this book, the way the poetry gave a voice to each killer, it all came together and gave us a haunting visual that will stay with me for probably ever.
Q: Of all the femme fatales depicted in this volume, do you have any favorites?
Mary: Jodi Arias. I became so obsessed with her that I started writing the libretto of an opera, Jodi Agonistes. Her narcissism just astounds me. That, and the bedroom drama that started with over-the-top sex and ended with multiple stab wounds and a bullet to the head of her victim. My husband dissuaded me from writing the opera libretto. Then he wrote a Jodi Arias poem of his own.
Marge: Of my poems that fit the bill, it’s a toss up between Myra Hindley (Great Britain) and Kathryn Knight (Australia). They’re both very scary women. Kathryn had a string of husbands and lovers, but none turned her in, though they knew they should. But even while incarcerated, serial killer of children, “Murderess of the Moors”, Myra Hindley charmed Lord Longford, who campaigned to set her free because of her sparkling personality. I think she wins first place for charm.
Weasel: I enjoyed them all, but if I had to pick just one, I’d have to say Mary Bell stuck with me.
Q. The section of the book entitled “Sisters of Dreadful Mercy” centers on the theme of the caretaker murderer. The nurturer who kills. Some of the murderers seem to think that they were doing their victims a favor, sending them to “dreamland” as one poems states. From your reading of the history of these women do you think this professed belief of good intent was just a cover for something more insidious in these characters?
Marge: I think it depends on the individual and influences of her childhood environment (most frequently, but not always). For example, a women like “Mother” Enriqueta Marti had no remorse for prostituting her young charges to the Barcelona gentry. She probably told herself she was giving them a better home than living on the streets. Her history implies that she killed the ones who were no longer favored, or too old to appeal. Maybe she told herself she was freeing their souls from a miserable life – but maybe she was just being “practical”. I think she was a nasty old bitch, myself.
Mary: In a word, yes, they were just covering their intent. I mean, what would you do, if you were caught red-handed?
Q: Did either if you fight over who got to write about a particular murderer?
Marge: We never fought and never shall, because Mary is a gifted fencer and her foil is razor sharp. We did accidentally write poems about the same woman, Mary Ann Cotton – and almost came to blows. 😀 But we included them both, as we had different things to say about her.
Mary: I love Marge’s answer. We did a couple of call-and-response poems when we both were fixated on a particular villainess, or when we saw the possibilities of dramatic narrative. We relish doings readings at conventions of three poems about two nurses who killed their aging charges in order to get worked up for hot sex with erotic asphyxiation. This would be “Five Days of Forever Love,” “Breathless,” and “Still Breathing.” Read these, and you will wish for sudden death instead of being cared for in a nursing home.
Q: To Weasel Press: Do you anticipate any more ventures for your press in genre poetry?
Weasel: I would like to tackle more collections of genre poetry. We’ve worked on Horror poetry, furry poetry, and erotic poetry in the past.
Each of you pick three of your favorite poems (yours or written by the other):
Marge: Mary’s poems are so cleverly enriched with ancient history. She eloquently brings them to life, as in a play; “Agrippina Chats with a portrait of the Former Empress” is absolutely divine. You should hear her read it aloud! I love our collaborations –so I’ll pick “Broth and an Occasional Teaspoon of Orange Juice” –the story of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard. Of my own poems, as it was the most profoundly shocking, “Delphine Lalaurie’s Upstairs Room”. It always makes me shudder, just thinking about it.
Mary: Marge always surprises and rivets me with at least one poem so transgressive that I shudder me every time I think of it. In this book, it would be “Delphine Lalaurie’s Upstairs Room.” Marge has amazing power to horrify. “Delphine Lalaurie’s Upstairs Room,” to me, is the centerpiece of the book. Another of her poems that I adore is “M Is for Murderess,” about Marie-Josephte Corriveau, whose bones, in a cage, are displayed in a Boston museum. And I have to say, I really love one of our collaborations, “Broth, and an Occasional Teaspoon of Orange Juice,” about a fake doctor who methodically starved all her patients to death and appropriated their worldly wealth. Of my own poems, I like “June Wedding, far from the Temple.”
Weasel: How to Bake a Wedding Cake (Mary Turzillo), Mary’s Tale (Marge Simon), The Piano Teacher (Marge Simon & Mary Turzillo).
Selected Poems from Satan’s Sweethearts:
Delphine Lalaurie’s Upstairs Room
Her slaves they were,
with spiked collars
to remind them who was boss,
nails pulled out by the roots
two boys with mutilated privates
none knew their names –
but there was pretty Kitta,
strung out on a bed,
intestines wrapped around her waist,
her brother, Sol, with
empty holes where once
his brown eyes shone,
guts nailed to the floor,
and her mother, partly skinned,
and amputated arms
“like a human caterpillar”
someone later notes,
and young Sam,
hair already white,
chained like the rest
to the wall,
lips sewn shut
over a mouthful of dung.
No voices left to speak
the horrors of that room.
Is all false or is some true?
only the ghosts of the victims know,
if only their bones could tell.
Broth and an Occasional Teaspoon of Orange Juice
Dr. Hazzard had a clinic
Cancer? Obesity? Hair loss? Mini-penis? Mental fog?
All healed by Dr. Linda’s miracle regime.
The cure? So simple: starve!
Live on veggie broth just twice a day.
hair loss will happen anyway and cancer,
why that’s a natural thing as well,
you get it fat, you get it thin –
A man’s endowment is enhanced by starvation,
genitals appear much larger than they were –
as for mental fog—no common sense?
that’s why you’re here.
If you lacked the moral strength to fast,
Dr. Linda ran this sanitorium.
She locked you up
she took your cash
she stowed your jewels
she censored mail outgoing.
She only asked
about your bank account and deeds.
That only happened to my sister.
She lost more weight than I,
though both of us were under sixty pounds,
she was the first to die, but at least she got the treatment
that she was hoping for,
being able to squeeze into her burial gown,
the same dress she wore as an infant,
And if you tried to run
(that’s if you had the strength),
a bullet to the head became a final cure.
It wasn’t very sanitary
yet it did complete the job
to stay on diet: there are nutrients to be found
in the soil of one’s grave,
To prove her panacea worked,
in the bathtub
of Wilderness Heights
her miracle cure resort,
which some called just Starvation Heights,
she did her own autopsies.
And confirmed her own diagnoses
just before cremation.
glucose used up
after just six hours in Dr. Linda’s sanatorium.
You use ketone bodies to run your brain.
And so, as self conserves its fats:
(However, if you’d ever used your brain
you wouldn’t be in Dr. Hazzard’s sanitorium.)
Yet it was beautifully advertized
with impressive credentials
even if she didn’t have a medical degree,
Then, once your fats are all used up,
it’s time for autophagy.
Think what that means:
You’re eating your own body!
I preferred not to think of that
when I noticed my eyes turning yellow
and I started pissing blood.
Next, marasmus: loss of energy, then putrifaction.
Kwashiorkor: oh, sure, you’ve read the news.
So, until the Williamsons got wind of her
and tried to rescue sisters Claire and Dorothea,
Dr. Linda’s scheme worked like a charm.
It did indeed, but only one of us was saved
by smuggling a telegram beyond the gates of hell
From our detached and lofty vantage
it seems that Dr. Linda was a quack,
or even worse, a predator.
But then, she chose to cure her own complaints
by the same anorexia she prescribed
to her unwary invalids:
and died a withered, bloated husk.
Justice for all who perished, if such a thing can be.
–Mary Turzillo & Marge Simon
Agrippina Chats with a Portrait of the Former Empress
Messalina, dear, you got your just desserts,
sneaking off at night from your Imperial bed
to wear a she-wolf’s name, and bed all comers
at an upscale house of prostitution.
Your boast? You bedded twenty-five one night.
How many knew you were the Emperor’s wife,
when you spread your thighs in the house of Priapus?
And now you’re dead and now I’m Rome’s first lady.
Didn’t Claudius smell the truth?
Well, maybe. He never cried when you were executed.
Plus, he married me. And disinherited Brittanicus
who you claimed is his son. You minx!
He likes my son much better, thanks a lot.
Nero will make a fine Emperor — so like a god!
Now let me see: I’ve gotten rid of you
without staining my white hands.
They claim I poisoned Passienus, my dear ex,
and killed Lollia, my rival for the hand of Claudius.
But Lucius? Please! That was suicide.
And it was only right Sosibius should die:
Sosibius was poisoning Brittanicus’ mind,
teaching he could supplant my own dear son,
my precious Nero, for the crown.
Then there was that slight dispute about those gardens.
Did Taurus kill himself because of me?
Oh dear! I only hinted — but that was just enough.
Now, where’s my ornatrix? It’s time to dress my hair
to make me chic for Claudius’ dinner party.
What shall we have tonight? I ordered honeyed wine
lobster, wild pig, and dormice rolled in poppyseeds.
And don’t forget those mushrooms, plump and earthy.
I gathered just this morning. Ah, too rich for me!
But Claudius will find I picked them just for him.
Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees. She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF &F Association with a Grand Master Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Urban Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, YOU, HUMAN, CHIRAL MAD 2,3,4 and SCARY OUT THERE, to name a few. www.margesimon.com
Mary Turzillo’s latest novel is Mars Girls, Apex 2017. Her novelette ”Mars Is no Place for Children” won the 2000 Nebula. Her Lovers & Killers won the 2013 Elgin Award. She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction, Stoker, Dwarf Stars, and Rhysling ballots. Her work has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Goblin Fruit, Ikarie, Strange Horizons, and other magazines and anthologies, and has been translated into French, Mandarin, Italian, Czech, German, and Russian. Sweet Poison, with Marge Simon, won the 2015 Elgin Award. Bonsai Babies, a dark fantasy short story collection, came out in 2016. A Professor Emeritus of Kent State University, she lives in Berea, Ohio, with her NASA scientist-author husband, Dr. Geoffrey Landis. She represented the US in the 2016 Veteran World Championships in foil fencing in Stralsund, Germany.
Weasel is a degenerate author and The Dude of Weasel Press. He got his Bachelor of Arts in Literature at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and he uses it as scrap paper to fuel his publishing endeavors.
Nasra Yussef Mohammed Al-Enezi (1986 — 2010)
How to Bake a Wedding Cake
1 polygamous society
1 23-year old pregnant, jealous wife
1 new bride
1 adoring husband (adores both wife and bride)
1 large tent, one exit only, not up to fire-code standards
1 tender but obdurant heart (marinate in jealousy)
5 gallons petrol
(alternative carb-free recipe) 5 gallons of cursed water
tears of rage to taste
Procedure: Wait until all guests (women and children only) are seated. Pour petrol around four sides of tent.
Broil at 900° F for three minutes.
Allow bride to escape, seared.
Serves 60-90, including small children.
(From Satan N Satin, Hearts on Fire: a Cookbook of Carnage, 2010)
Mary Bell (1957-)
“What’s done to children, they will do to society.”
– Karl A. Menninger
You didn’t know my mom.
She was a whore, didn’t want me,
made me do things with men,
when I was only four,
I just did what I was told.
So when I got older,
I had some things to do for myself.
My first was Martin Brown.
I was ten, he no more than four,
so pathetic, all alone,
nobody watching him in that dirty house,
condom wrappers on the floor,
broken glass and rats.
Maybe I saved him from a sad life.
But I didn’t give a damn, back then.
I told my friend Norma,
She said she thought it would be fun
to kill another little boy,
carve our initials in his tummy,
make a mess of his little prick.
We took our time on Brian Howe,
I wrapped my fingers around his neck
until he stopped screaming.
It was what I wanted to do.
Nobody cared about me,
so why should this thing matter?
After twelve years in a place
with serene green walls and
starched blue uniforms,
I came of age and was released,
still wondering what it might be like
to be a normal little girl.