Fantomas By The Bay
April 6, 7, 8, and 9, 2011, City Lights Bookstore, Mechanics' Institute Library, and an Undisclosed Secret Location

(please scroll down this page for more details)

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

in conjunction with

the Cultural Services of the Consulate General of France

& the Mechanics' Institute Library



A Centennial Celebration of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain's Pulp Literary Sensation

WHO IS FANTOMAS?? Arch-villain? Mad genius? Master of disguises? Agent of chaos? In 1911 the pulp fiction writers Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain introduced a fictional character to the French reading public that was to capture their imagination and keep them yearning for more. The ultimate anti-hero, as enigmatic as he was treacherous, Fantomas executed the most appalling crimes with ruthlessness and precision. He spread terror and chaos amidst the lives of a bourgeois society that he took pleasure in ridiculing. Souvestre and Allain were in tune with the pulse of the public's fascination with shadow-side of modernity. Fantomas was to become one of the most popular serials in the history of French crime fiction anticipating the future arrival of Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse and the master villains of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. On the occasion of the one hundred year anniversary of the creation of the FANTOMAS series, City Lights Booksellers and Publishers joins centenary celebrations in Paris to commemorate this extraordinary literary event.

FANTOMAS BY-THE-BAY shall feature: readings, lectures, film screenings, art exhibitions, and performance art, featuring Robin Walz, Dominique Kalifa, Daniel Handler, Mel Gordon, Marc Ellis, Howard Rodman, Jonathan P. Eburne, Janaki Ranpura, Jill Tracy, Jim Nisbet, Kim Gill, The Slow Poisoner, and many more.

Fantomas-By-The-Bay is co-sponsored by St. George Spirits: Artisan Distillers Since 1982 (



Date & Time: Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 7:00 P.M.

Location: City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, 261 Columbus Avenue, S.F., CA 94133 (admission free)

Reception and Absinthe tasting followed by an evening of readings, diatribes, and manifestos – accompanied by a display of FANTOMAS book covers & artwork

Opening Statements by Peter Maravelis & Robin Walz

Readings and performances by Jonathan P. Eburne, Marc Ellis, Kim GillDaniel Handler in a musical duet with chantuese Jill Tracy, Andrew Joron, Dominique Kalifa, Brian LucasJim Nisbet, Joseph Noble, Howard Rodman, and Robin Walz, and more tba. Libations provided by St. George Spirits.

Dress up is optional but encouraged. Consult Al's Attire 1314 Grant Avenue (between Green & Vallejo) for advice. Al will take care of all of your outfitting needs elegantly.


An exploration of the origins of Pulp Surrealism

Date & Time: Thursday, April 7, 2011, 6:00 P.M.

Location: Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 (admission charge $12.00, members free) reservation line for tickets and seating: 415-393-0100

Join four erudite cultural explorers as they delve into the history and lore of one of the most notorious literary creations ever. Fantomas was the ultimate anti-hero who was adopted by the surrealists as a cultural mascot. On the occasion of the centenary celebration of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain's pulp serial, the roots of pulp literary history will be exhumed in evening of lively discussion.

-Opening Statement: Peter Maravelis/ City Lights

-Session 1: The Genealogy of Fantômas - From Lacenaire to Ravachol via Rocambole (Robin Walz)

-Session 2: From the Hills of Montmartre to the Bay of San Francisco : One Century of Fantômas's Friends (Dominique Kalifa)

-Session 3: The Shudder of History (Jonathan P. Eburne)

-Session 4: The Origin of Fantomas: Why there isn't one (Howard Rodman)

visit: The Mechanics' Institute Library Website



A performance piece and soiree by Janaki Ranpura

with a special musical appearance by The Slow Poisoner

Location: Undisclosed & Secret (admission free)

Date & Time: Friday, April 8, 2011, 8:00 P.M.

Engage in crimes of love, where visiting crime scenes is the dating game. Interactive environments and puppets take you on a noir journey to the human heart, which is made of candy. The spectre of Fantomas looms in the shadows.

(This event is by invitation only. Admission is free, but on a first come first serve basis. Invitations become available at the front counter of City Lights on 4/6/2011)

Libations provided by St. George Spirits.

Dress up is optional but encouraged. Consult Al's Attire 1314 Grant Avenue (between Green & Vallejo) for advice. Al will take care of all of your outfitting needs elegantly.



Location: Mechanics' Institiute Library, 57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104                                                                     Date & Time: Saturday, April 9, 2011, 7:00 P.M. (admission $10.00, members free)                                                                reservation line for tickets and seating: 415-393-0100

A screening of selected excerpts from the Fantômas films over the course of the last century. We shall visit the work of such directors as Louis Feuillade, Paul Fejos, Andre Hunebelle, Jean Sacha, and Ernst Moerman. Also included in the program will be a special focus on the Fantômas inspired films (i.e. Judex, Les Vampires, and more.)

-Opening Statement: Peter Maravelis/City Lights

-Commentary by Howard Rodman & Robin Walz

-Special presentation by Mel Gordon (Fantomas in French Musical & Brothel Culture)

(Films for this evening were curated by David King and Peter Maravelis)

visit: The Mechanics' Institute Library Website


Please return to this event listing. It will be updated regularly.


Please visit: The Fantomas Website

and the site of our co-producers:

The Cultural Services of the Consulate General of France in S.F.


The Mechanics' Insititute Library


A word about our co-sponsor:

St. George Spirits has been leading the artisan distillation movement in the United States for nearly 30 years. Since 1982, they have been relying on superlative natural ingredients to make delicious, aromatic spirits that are remarkably true to the raw materials they are made from. Their mission is to maximize flavor and aroma, not profitability. Their spirits are made by hand, working in small batches on German copper pot stills that were custom designed for the purpose. They are proud to be thought of as cratfsmen and inventors, and are passionate about what they do. The distillery is located in an old airplane hanger on Alameda's former Naval Air Station. They face toward San Francisco Bay and enjoy stupendous views of the city skyline. They invite you to visit for tours and tastings. You'll be given a warm welcome. See them at work and have a chance to taste everything they produce.

About the participants:

Jonathan P. Eburne is Josephine Berry Weiss Early Career Professor in the Humanities and Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and English at The Pennsylvania State University.  He is the author of Surrealism and the Art of Crime published by Cornell University Press.

Marc Ellis is from the New Orleans area. Hurricane Katrina blew him to Southeast Asia, where he has lived and worked as a lawyer for the last five years.  He specializes in immigration law and has written numerous articles on the subject. He's a published poet, author of the play "Coffeehouse Cosmos"  and is the composer of The Funeral March of Fantomas, the Fantomas Waltz,  and the Fantomas Bop.

Mel Gordon is Professor of Theater Arts at University of California in Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books including The Grand Guignol: The Theatre of Horror and Terror; The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber;  Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin, and many more. He has authored over one hundred and thirty articles and entries on American, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Yiddish theater and cinema. He is the director of over twenty productions internationally, is the former Associate Editor of The Drama Review, and has taught at Lee Strasberg Institute, Michael Chekhov Studio, New York University, and Yale University.

Daniel Handler is an author, screenwriter and accordionist. He is best known for his work under the pen name Lemony Snicket for the collection titled A Series of Unfortunate Events. His published works also include: The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, and the short story collection Adverbs. His work has been adapted for the stage and screen. He has performed accordion in several groups including: The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths and The Gothic Archies,

Andrew Joron, Joseph Noble, and Brian Lucas form the ensemble known as Cloud Shepherd.

Dominique Kalifa is a French historian, professor at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, where he is head of the Doctoral School of History and director of the Centre of 19th Century Hystory.[1] A student of Michelle Perrot, he specialises in the history of crime, transgression, social control, and mass culture in 19th and early 20th France and Europe. He taught at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) from 2008 to 2010. He also reviews for the French newspaper Libération. He is currently completing a new book about the Underworld and its role in the Western imaginary.

Janaki Ranpura
creates sexy and ridiculous performances. She's interested in exploring the interface between people and technology through puppets. She uses puppets to add charm and humor to our engagement with the digital world. She builds lighting systems, designs soundscapes, and makes gigantic and microscopic puppets from a huge variety of materials. She directs and facilitates large community art events, where hundreds of people collaborate on outdoor moving art pieces. She trained at Ecole Lecoq, and she apprenticed with Larry Reed's San Francisco shadow play company, Shadowlight Productions. J-J Trinket's Series is Janaki's production company.

Howard A. Rodman
is a screenwriter, novelist, and educator. He is professor and former chair of the writing division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts; a member of the board of directors of the Writers Guild of America, west; and an artistic director of the Sundance Institute Screenwriting Labs. His films include Savage Grace, nominated for a Spirit Award in the Best Screenplay category.  He has adaptated the work of Jim Thompson, David Goodis et. al. for Showtime's Fallen Angels anthology series. He has written numerous articles for such media outlets as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, and the Village Voice (for which he was a monthly columnist).

The Slow Poisoner (alias Andrew Goldfarb) is a one-man-surrealistic-rock-and-roll-band from San Francisco. is also the author and illustrator of the long-running underground comic strip "Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows" and the novels "Ballad of a Slow Poisoner" and "Slub Glub in the Weird World of the Weeping Willows."In keeping with the tradition of the one-man-band as snake oil salesman, he sells his own patent medicine. Bottles of The Slow Poisoner's Miracle Tonic are brewed with pure egyptian oil and have proven effective in the treatment of Consumption, Women's Troubles, Gout, Neuralgia, Wandering Limbs, Stoutness, Onanism, Disinterested Bladder, Elephantiasis, Cholera, and much more.

Jill Tracy is a singer, pianist, writer, composer, and performance artist based in San Francisco and known for her  dark, evocative, cinematic style. She has performed live with a variety of artists that include filmmakers, musicians, and writers. She recently composed the music score for Bill Domonkos film "Nervous96". She has released four albums: Quintessentially Unreal, Diabolical Streak, Into the Land of Phantoms, and The Bittersweet Constrain. She is working on a fifth album to be released in 2011 titled BENEATH: The Bittersweet Constrain.

Robin Walz teaches courses in history and European popular culture at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. He is the author of Pulp Surrealism: Insolent Popular Culture in Early Twentieth-Century France published by University of California Press and  a volume in the "Short Histories of Big Ideas" series (for Pearson/Longman, 2008) titled Modernism. He has written for McSweeney's, contributed to the anthology The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age, edited by Joshua Landy and Michael Saler, published by Stanford University Press, and written introductions to several books and art exhibits dealing with French popular culture. Together with Elliot Smith he is the founder of the Fantomas website: