Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Masque of the Red Death” nearly 180 years ago, yet its narrative and characters continue to mystify and captivate. The short story is driven by Prince Prospero’s attempt to evade the “Red Death” a fatal plague infecting his kingdom, by hiding in his abbey, where he indulges in pleasures and delights with other nobles. He soon finds out that no one can escape their end.
“I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
Artist and musician Steven Archer found himself entranced by Poe’s short story. When not recording, DJing, or producing art, he and his wife, author Donna Lynch, tour with their dark electronic rock band Ego Likeness. He has a BFA from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC and has shown his work at galleries and other venues throughout the east coast. He is the author of Luna Maris and he has also collaborated as illustrator on two books of poems by Donna Lynch: Witches and Daughters of Lilith.
Steven set about creating a graphic interpretation of Poe’s decadent, highly visual story, and John Langan graciously contributed a foreword … and the project sat untouched for a few years. Until the global pandemic. Steven dusted off the idea, regrouped with publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press, and The Masque of the Red Death Fine Art Edition is available now — and it’s been greeted with admiration and enthusiasm! (Watch the book trailer here!)
“Steven Archer is an inspiring artist of great talent and skill.” —Neil Gaiman, New York Times Best Selling Author of American Gods
“This is The Masque of the Red Death for our times. Faithful to Poe’s vision, Archer’s artwork expands and enriches the text with surreal elements of lust and debauchery only hinted at in the original. Thanks to Archer, ‘Darkness and Decay and the Red Death will continue to hold illimitable dominion over all.’” —Chris Semtner, Curator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Ever the creative genius, Steven began considering the idea of adding another layer to Poe’s story: narration and music. After listening to Skyboat’s Stefan Rudnicki voice other projects, Steven decided, “That’s it! That’s the voice! That’s the person who needs to be telling this story!” And, thanks to the handy internet, Steven got in touch with The Voice himself. Stefan was honored, and eager, to join this unique project.
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH audiobook includes an accompanying PDF of Steven Archer’s original illustrations and includes a conversation between Steven and Stefan, discussing their collaboration. Stefan describes Poe’s story as “a non-singing opera,” and he shares bits of his own musical training and its influence on his performance. Poe’s poetic language shaped Stefan’s nuanced performance, which in turn inspired Steven’s choice of musical accompaniment — talk about a vibrant collaboration. We hope this experience can become an inspiration to more projects with this kind of complexity.
Click here to listen to an audiobook sample on Skyboat’s SoundCloud. After you listen to the audiobook, we promise you won’t be able to get it out of your head either.
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Edgar Allan Poe
Enhanced atmosphere and music by Steven Archer
Performed by Stefan Rudnicki
Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Masque of the Red Death” nearly 180 years ago, yet its narrative and characters continue to mystify and captivate. The short story is driven by Prince Prospero’s attempt to evade the “Red Death”, a fatal plague infecting his kingdom, by hiding in his abbey, where he indulges in pleasures and delights with other nobles. He soon finds out that no one can escape their end.
Steven Archer has recast the characters of “The Masque” and illuminated the narrative in a novel and perhaps more visceral light, while remaining true to the raw darkness and decadence of the tale. His modern take on the classic story brings it into our new infected world. Perhaps it was prescience that drove him to create the illustrations in 2018, only to have them see the plague-filled light of day in 2020. Even now in our enlightened and modern world, “Darkness and Decay and the Red Death holds illimitable dominion over all”.
With a foreword by John Langan (The Wide Carnivorous Sky), this is an immersive audio-visual feast that breathes new life into this classic memento mori tale of disease, decadence, and inevitable mortality.
The audiobook features a conversation between Steven Archer and Stefan Rudnicki and includes an accompanying PDF of Steven Archer’s original illustrations.