Yesterday, I came across a passage in a book by Alan Watts that reignited an old passion for what I have referred to in the past as “the autumn longing.” In a kind of “deep cut” vein for this blog, longtime readers — by which I mean really longtime readers, those who have been with me for the entire thirteen-year span of The Teeming Brain’s existence — may recall the series of posts I wrote on this topic beginning in 2006, just a few months after the blog’s founding. In the first of these posts, I explained the term “autumn longing” this way:
The autumn season has always carried a special emotional potency for me. When the weather turns crisp and the colors of nature change first to vibrant reds, oranges, and golds, and then progress onward toward deep russet browns, tending toward the death-sleep of winter, I’m struck with feelings of poignancy and melancholy that burn more brightly, or perhaps more darkly, than at any other time of the year. I’m also more exquisitely sensitive to the aesthetic influence of art, whether literary, musical, visual, or otherwise.
It was many years ago that I first realized and articulated to myself that this autumnal mood is inextricably bound up with a certain, strange longing. When the mood of autumn comes over me, it is always characterized by a kind of nostalgia for something I have never really known, as if I possess some vestigial memory of a lost knowledge or emotion that flits maddeningly and elusively on the edge of my ability to recall directly. It’s truly a numinous experience, that is, an experience that makes me feel as I’ve come into brief contact with some sort of transcendent spiritual truth. It tends to generate the impression of an absolute, unmediated experience of supernal beauty hovering just beyond the edge of my inner grasp. All the flickering hints of this beauty that I sometimes encounter in literature, film, music, and scenic natural vistas and skyscapes seem to reach their apotheosis in this ungraspable ultimacy, as if they are merely finite carriers that filter and refract partial glimpses of an infinite reality, like the Platonic Form of the Beautiful itself.
The remainder of that post was devoted to laying out the exquisite articulations of this experience that populate the works, both fiction and nonfiction, of C. S. Lewis, who made this longing the centerpiece of his literary aesthetic and his Christian apologetical writings. He employed the German term sehnsucht to refer to it, and he was in fact largely responsible for bringing this word and its rich set of uses and connotations to the attention of a popular English-reading audience.
Other posts in the series focused on the appearance and invocation of this longing in the writings of Lovecraft, Poe, and Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. I revisited the idea a few years later with posts about Huston Smith (as compared to Lovecraft) and, again, Lovecraft and Lewis. Beyond the boundaries of The Teeming Brain, I incorporated the Lovecraftian aspects of the autumn longing into my paper “The Master’s Eyes Shining with Secrets,” in which I explored the parallels and departures between the respective literary and philosophical visions of Lovecraft and Ligotti. I also published a two-part essay titled “Lovecraft’s Longing” in the late North Shore arts magazine Art Throb, and I wrote a blog post titled “Fantasy, Horror, and Infinite Longing” for SF Signal. In the latter, I discussed the subject in relation not only to Lewis and Lovecraft but to Stephen King and Colin Wilson.
So this is all to say that the matter was, and still is, of great importance to me, both philosophically and emotionally. This autumn longing, this sehnsucht, this tantalizing, maddening glimpse of some ultimate beauty and fulfillment and joy that lies perpetually beyond the horizon, this distinct scent or flavor of some infinite bliss that seems to reside half in memory and half in imagination, remaining always distinctly real and yet always just beyond my ability fully to grasp or realize — this is, apparently, a permanent part of my, and our, constitution as human beings, a kind of existential haunting that we as homo sapiens are blessed and doomed to know.
Although another span of years has now elapsed since I last wrote about it, the matter is never a non-issue in my life. I felt it more keenly when I was younger, but it’s still a living reality, not just as a matter of personal experience but in my life as a reader of books and literature. I’m still thrilled whenever I stumble across a new, or at least new to me, expression or description of this longing in someone else’s writings, especially since such descriptions often serve to evoke the longing itself.Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been a serious admirer of John Langan’s work ever since reading his startlingly excellent debut collection of weird horror fiction, Mr Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (2008), followed by his equally startlingly excellent first novel, House of Windows (2009). As you probably know, both these and his subsequent books have gone on to establish him as a vital voice in contemporary horror literature. So it was welcome news when Hippocampus Press informed me that he has provided the following statement about To Rouse Leviathan:
In Matt Cardin’s fiction, characters struggle to understand a supernatural that may be opaque to itself. In detailing their efforts, Cardin draws on language and imagery from religious texts, re-purposing and recharging familiar tropes and references. The result is an experience of the darkly numinous. Put these stories on the shelf next to Ligotti, Gavin, and Cisco.John Langan, author of The Fisherman
To Rouse Leviathan appears to have aroused a lot of interest among horror readers, judging from the response on social media and elsewhere. Richard Gavin, one of the contemporary masters of weird and occult/esoteric horror, says the following:
Matt Cardin is one of the most vital figures in 21st-century Horror. Whether he is penning visionary tales of metaphysical terrors or dissecting the genre to find the underlying philosophical pulse that gives the monster life, his work never fails to astonish me. To Rouse Leviathan is a landmark volume, one that I can turn to again and again with increasing appreciation.Richard Gavin, author of Sylvan Dread
Jon Padgett is the author of The Secret of Ventriloquism, The Infusorium, and other books and stories that you really ought to be reading if you want to keep up with some of the very best of what’s happening on the cutting edge of contemporary weird and supernatural horror fiction. He says the following about my To Rouse Leviathan, which has just now begun to ship (with its original publication date of August 20 now changed to August 1):
In 1996, a remarkable omnibus was published by Caroll & Graf: The Nightmare Factory, by horror author Thomas Ligotti. It contained three volumes of Ligotti’s work to date plus an additional volume featuring revelatory, new stories that had never been collected. The book, long out of print, remains a gem of horror fiction that few others can rival.
Now, in the late Summer of 2019, at least one omnibus is worthy to sit on the shelf next to Ligotti’s tome: To Rouse Leviathan, by another remarkable, singular author, Matt Cardin. As with The Nightmare Factory, Cardin’s book presents material both old and new, all of which impresses with the author’s world-class intellect, creativity, and prose craftsmanship. And this is no mere sampling of Cardin’s formidable skills and talent. This is a multi-course feast, a table brimming over with sumptuous, dark masterpieces of theologically infused cosmic horror, psychological terror, and bizarre, intimate character studies and confessions. As with Ligotti’s legendary omnibus, To Rouse Leviathan is a book to experience, to study, to marvel at, and — in those exquisite, uneasy moments in which we keenly feel we are part of Cardin’s terrifying fictional world — to live in.— Jon Padgett
In 2017 I published an enthusiastic review of Jerry L. Martin’s God: An Autobiography here at The Teeming Brain, and also at Amazon. The book presents Martin’s account of being an atheist who was hit with an unexpected experience of what presented itself as divine communication. Over the course of about a year, he found himself involved in an ongoing dialogue with God (plus a couple of additional spiritual beings at one or two points) in which the nature of God, humans, life, death, and the universe itself were given decidedly unconventional expression. As I said in my review, these things are given added weight by the fact that Martin is no flaky peddler of New Age hype but a real philosopher whose resume gives him serious intellectual credibility. The first paragraph of his biographical entry at Wikipedia serves as handy evidence of this:
Jerry L. Martin is the author of God: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher (godanautobiography.com), coordinator of the Theology Without Walls project at the American Academy of Religion and a contributor to The Good Men Project. From 1988 to 1995, Martin held senior positions at the National Endowment for the Humanities, including acting chairman. From 1967 until 1982, Martin was a tenured professor and chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he also served as the Director of the University’s Center for the Study of Values and Social Policy. He has testified before Congress and appeared on radio and television. Martin is chairman emeritus of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. He served as president of ACTA from its founding in 1995 as the National Alumni Forum until 2003, when he was succeeded by Anne D. Neal.
A few months after I wrote my review, Jerry — whom I knew on a first-name basis from having interacted with him online — interviewed me via Skype for one installment in a series of videos that he was putting together to dovetail with the themes in God: An Autobiography. The videos were to present conversations between him and some of the thinkers with whom he had come into contact via the book.
These are now being released. My own interview was published just yesterday. In it, I talk about my religious upbringing in a conservative evangelical church. I recall my early love for fantasy and horror fiction and film, with horror coming to take center stage in my late teens. I describe my sleep paralysis and nocturnal assault experiences and their formative role in darkening my philosophical worldview and emotional outlook and thus catalyzing my birth as a horror writer. I mull over the question of whether darkness or light is more fundamental as the spiritual or metaphysical ground of being. I describe my fascination with the subject of the muse, the daimon, the genius, and experiences of both divine communication and demonic possession. And I relate these things to the subject matter of God: An Autobiography. Along the way, I also recount how I first came into contact with Jerry Martin when the online excerpts from the God book that he shared prior to its publication came to my attention as I was conducting some of my perpetual research into inspired creativity and the experience of anomalous communication from a seemingly spiritual source.
Two necessary notes: First, an apology for the lousy sound quality in the video’s first few minutes. I can’t imagine why I wasn’t using earbuds or headphones. Second, when Jerry asked me at the end of the conversation to suggest a starting place for those who are interested in reading my books, I didn’t name To Rouse Leviathan because it was still in a questionable hyperspace at that time. Presently it’s set for publication next month. If the conversation were recorded today, that’s what I’d name.
Thomas Ligotti has this to say about my forthcoming book:
To Rouse Leviathan is one of those rare books that produces in a reader the most important reaction one can have to a work of, let us say, the literature of abomination. This reaction takes the form of a question: “From where could this marvel have come?” Quite aside from revealing an admiration for the author’s adept handling of spectral atrocities in such a work, the reader’s inquiry is more significant as testimony to an astonishment at the raw fact of its emergence.
The origin of this singular astonishment deserves further explication. While excelling in the domain of high imagination and literary achievement (when Matt Cardin sets his sights on conveying an idea or effect incongruous with equanimity, he invariably takes it as far as it can be artistically taken), To Rouse Leviathan contains an added element necessary to the provocation of the foregoing question. Pervaded by the aura of a domain at once monstrous and not of this world, the book is conspicuous as a worthy descendant of a distinguished line of supernatural horror. As such, it is successful in its aim — which is endemic to efforts, capable or not, in the genre of relevance here — to create a breviary of gruesome mysteries, the qualifier “gruesome” in this case being apt only because everything in the visible world warrants an inauspicious characterization of the invisible. It is, in fact, mysteries of this kind that compose the added element, the necessary constituent, that causes the interrogatory outburst, “From where could this marvel have come?” Furthermore, each one of Matt Cardin’s stories carries the message that there is an “elsewhere” that, by its nature, to quote a scholar of this realm, is both appalling and alluring. That the so-called reality we bump into on a daily basis should be seen as pure misconception is a fundamental assumption of Matt Cardin’s vision.
Without question, Cardin is no dilettante in the conception and expression of that which we would not know and yet, if our lives are to partake of mysteries that alone can give them meaning, we crave to know. To offer some satisfaction for this awful and wondrous craving is the gift of this book.Thomas Ligotti
To Rouse Leviathan will be published next month by Hippocampus Press.
To Rouse Leviathan is now officially scheduled for publication in August. More specifically, the listed date is August 20, which just happens to be Lovecraft’s birthday. I don’t know if Hippocampus Press planned that, but I certainly took note of it myself.
Here’s the official publisher’s description:
Since the early years of the twenty-first century, Matt Cardin has distinguished himself by writing weird fiction with a distinctively cosmic and spiritual focus, publishing two short story collections that have now become rare collector’s items. In this substantial volume, Cardin gathers the totality of his short fiction, including the complete fiction contents of Divinations of the Deep (2002) and Dark Awakenings (2010). Several of the tales have been substantially revised from their original appearances.
Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, and other masters of cosmic horror, Cardin’s fiction explores the shadowy side of religious and spiritual experience. His tales draw upon the author’s thorough knowledge of Judeo-Christian and other religious traditions to expose the existential terror we all feel in living in a cosmos that may be actively hostile to our species. In tales long and short (including a new novella co-written with Mark McLaughlin), Cardin rings a succession of changes on those fateful words from the Book of Job: “Let those sorcerers who place a curse on days curse that day, those who are skilled to rouse Leviathan.”
Aside from his short story collections, Matt Cardin is the editor of Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti (2014) and Horror Literature through History (2017). He is also co-editor of the journal Vastarien.
Here’s the table of contents:
PART ONE: Divinations of the Deep
Preface: Divining the Darkness
An Abhorrence to All Flesh
Notes of a Mad Copyist
The Basement Theater
If It Had Eyes
Judas of the Infinite
PART TWO: Dark Awakenings
The Stars Shine without Me
Nightmares, Imported and Domestic, with Mark McLaughlin
The Devil and One Lump
The God of Foulness
PART THREE: Apocryphon
Chimeras & Grotesqueries: An Unfinished Fragment of Daemonic Derangement
The New Pauline Corpus
A Cherished Place at the Center of His Plans, with Mark McLaughlin
From me and my daemon muse to you, thanks for waiting, everybody. This one has been a long time coming.
This week Hippocampus Press revealed the cover for my forthcoming To Rouse Leviathan. The striking wraparound artwork is by Michael Hutter. The overall design is by Dan Sauer. The book is scheduled for publication later this year. I’ll share a specific date soon, along with preorder information when it becomes available. For now, the full table of contents is still available at my author site.
Vastarien, the horror journal established and launched in 2018 by Jon Padgett and me (with crucial input from a couple of other valued friends) has just been named Magazine of the Year in the annual This Is Horror Awards. In addition to launching the journal, Jon and I co-edited the first two issues, after which I had to bow out due to other mounting obligations (including an insane year at my college VP job plus a mountain of necessary work on my dissertation). Jon has headed up two more issues since then, with all issues being published by his Grimscribe Press.
The awards in question are based on reader votes and conducted by This Is Horror, the online horror mini-empire consisting of two popular podcasts — This Is Horror, hosted by Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella, and The Outer Dark, hosted by Scott Nicolay — plus a thriving website and a publishing arm. You may recall that in 2017 and 2018, Jon and I made appearances separately and together on both podcasts (This Is Horror 177, This Is Horror 178, This Is Horror 193, The Outer Dark 031). We talked specifically about the birth of Vastarien on TIH 193 and TOD 031.
Here is Jon’s public statement about winning the TIH Award:
Vastarien: A Literary Journal was conceived five years ago by a handful of people who wanted to see more writing about and in response to the work of writer/thinker Thomas Ligotti. Since then, our publication has been bombarded with stellar, but unusual, work by authors and artists — many of whom are underrepresented and/or newer voices. Without them and the incredible support Vastarien continues to receive from its devoted readers, this singular journal never would have come to fruition. Thanks so much to all of you and the staff of This Is Horror for this wonderful award.
—Jon Padgett, Editor-in-Chief of Vastarien: A Literary Journal
THIS IS HORROR FICTION MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR
Click to see the full list of 2019 This Is Horror Awards, which includes novels, novellas, short story collections, anthologies, magazines, publishers, and podcasts.
I’m quite proud of what Vastarien has brought to the world with its mission of publishing work that A) illuminates the work of Thomas Ligotti and/or B) shares a kind of Ligottian DNA. Thematically, it encompasses the swirling sea-galaxy of writers, thinkers, ideas, philosophers/philosophies, spiritual traditions, artistic traditions, etc., that intersect with the Ligottian literary cosmos. Formally, it encompasses fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and liminal and hybrid works of fiction/nonfiction/poetry. It gives a platform to both established voices and newcomers. It provides an outlet for ideas, perspectives, and emotions that are not often expressed elsewhere. The fact that it has been so well-received by readers is a welcome — and, quite honestly, surprising (at least to me) — validation of this approach. It’s also a testament to the able guidance of Jon, who has captained this ship and stood at the center of the whole project. After the publication of the second issue, Signal Horizon declared Vastarien “the most exciting thing in horror lit right now.” A year later, the TIH crowd has chosen it as their favorite magazine of 2019. Clearly, Jon is leading it from strength to strength. As for me, I’m looking forward to returning for some editorial involvement in the near future.
On a related note, Tim Waggoner’s short story “How to Be a Horror Writer,” which Jon and I accepted for publication in the second issue, is currently nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award.