A brief post to let you know my newest book, Enter Darkness: Talking With Horror Writers (1984-1989) is now available from Oblivion Press. Authors featured are Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Poppy Z. Brite, Dennis Etchison, Dean Koontz, Joe Lansdale, Bentley Little, Elizabeth Massie, William F. Nolan, Peter Straub and other voices: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09RQR6Z7L/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1
Right now, I’m drafting a new novel under the working title Metanoia. Frankly, I’ve made several false starts on this project. Why? Well, this requires a brief-as-possible digression.
As a writer/reader (and actual living person), I’ve never forbidden myself from exploring any subject matter—nothing. Roughly two years ago, I began scouring the academic papers for work covering the “absolutes” of human existence, ranging from the cosmic to the global, the collective to the individual, and the individual to its very no-thing-ness: unmanifest, raw potential swarming in quantum foam. All things, organic and inorganic, emerge from this “realm.”
Billions of years ago, some inconceivable force, probably the same responsible for developing consciousness in some living matter, emerged from no-thing-ness. Its presence can be sensed whenever we involuntarily (through some trauma), or voluntarily (reading speculative philosophy/academic papers) experience fragmentation—or shattering—of our core coherence. Depending on one’s chronic emotional/existential state, and ability to integrate the visceral (feeling) and the abstract (thinking), this invasion of meaninglessness will provoke catastrophic instability—breakdown, denial, escape into fantasy or, in my case, an enduring anxiety/dread.
For an athiest, excepting physical wounding, there can be no event more terrible. Everything once “secure” and knowable proves to be illusory—it always was, for you also. Everyone. The fundamental fact of existence is a brutal, indifferent transcendence. The reknown psychologist William James called this experience vastation. Uncovering the truth is not even slightly redemptive, but pointless.
You might—or might not—ask: “So, what ‘saved’ you from the terrors of the void?”
An honest fear, not of death, but of dying without doing anything to cultivate meaning.
Which brings us back to Metanoia, and what is known as Critical Horror. Author Thomas Phillips massively deserves some personal form of thanks for leading me to core coherence.
I’ll quote from his work: “. . . critical horror is ultimately productive, as opposed to the prevailing 21st-century chic of pessimism or nihilism; which doesn’t mean it relents in the face of genuine evil. True: sometimes horror simply wants to be scary, but even here it’s inclined to present a distinctive vision of life that runs howlingly against the grain of bourgeois, populist cosmology, the kind that delivers comfort and answers in consumerism and infantile brands of theology. Critical Horror will thrive as long as people and politics, the material of any civilization, are essentially, venomously unconscious and self-absorbed, thus in dire need of a healing agent. The antidote to toxicity is often contained in the poison itself.
“. . . Critical Horror is concerned with the mechanisms of injustice and ideological oblivion. It frames them in conjunction with evil; or, it actualizes the profound Otherness of malevolent forces as a sinister but creative counter to material, lived evil unfolding between individuals and communities, on city streets, in forests, and in otherwise quiet neighborhoods.”
The truth present in Metanoia is that there are no answers, no certainty, no closure in all aspects of life. This truth can be met with horror or acceptance, the ultimate lesson being to strive for connection, not control.