Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Praise from John Langan for TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN

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

Teeming Links – August 9, 2019

Before the links, a brief screed that arose spontaneously from some well in my psyche:

If you’re a writer or another type of creator, never compare your gift to that of others. Your particular gift of vision, subject matter, passion, skill level, style, approach, and the life circumstances in which these all exist and unfold neither gains nor suffers through comparison. Just write or create what you have to write or create, and do it in whatever way you’re inexorably called and driven to do it. Do the necessary inner and outer work of finding out exactly what those things are (your personal subject matter and style). Then make good on them.

(A brief gnostic/cryptic aside on “having to” create: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” – Jesus, Thomas 70)

And while you’re at it, enjoy the hell out of it whenever you see other people doing the same. Their gains aren’t your losses, and vice versa. It’s not a zero-sum game. When you live out your creative calling, you’re part of the rising tide that elevates everybody.

From the Illuminati to Alex Jones, how did conspiracy theories come to dominate American culture? “[S]omething new . . . has transformed the conspiratorial landscape: conspiracism — a mental framework, a belief system, a worldview that leads people to look for conspiracies, to anticipate them, to link them together into a grander overarching conspiracy. Conspiracism has been building for some time, and by now it appears to have emerged as the belief system of the 21st century. “

On the danger of off-loading human memory onto machines: “A new kind of civilisation seems to be emerging, one rich in machine intelligence, with ubiquitous access points for us to join in nimble artificial memory networks. . . . But dependency on a network also means taking on new vulnerabilities. The collapse of any of the webs of relations that our wellbeing depends upon, such as food or energy, would be a calamity. Without food we starve, without energy we huddle in the cold. And it is through widespread loss of memory that civilisations are at risk of falling into a looming dark age.”

Synthetic biology could bring a pox on us all. “There’s no telling when a manufactured disease will become a reality. If that occurs, the culprit might be a lab-trained terrorist or a basement biohacker, a bumbling grad student or a Russian microbiologist on the lam.”

Why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is more relevant now than ever (paywall): “What happens when our newly created life forms can copy themselves, are immortal, can update their own software and make their own decisions? Will they feel remorse? Will humanity really be worth keeping?”

Beware the panopticon in your pocket. “You’re not using the phone; the phone is using you. The smartphone is a Trojan horse, and you are Pavlov’s dog. The machine studies you with an alien’s eye, serving you with injections of warmth and affection (grandchildren, frolicking dogs) in order to suck out information, assembling a dossier — noting where you have been, what you have said, what you have bought and thought, your very footsteps and heartbeats — reproducing you as a useful commercial or political object, as if in a 3-D printer. . . . It’s not entirely paranoid to assume that, not far down the road, smartphones and electronic appliances may fulfill old science-fiction fantasies by figuring out what we are thinking or even dreaming, and that the thought or dream — unless it is of an approved nature—will be enough to condemn us. Intellectual endoscopy, why not? Privacy of mind, an atavism already under siege, will vanish.”

Also beware the mindfulness conspiracy. “Mindfulness has gone mainstream, with celebrity endorsement from Oprah Winfrey and Goldie Hawn. Meditation coaches, monks and neuroscientists went to Davos to impart the finer points to CEOs attending the World Economic Forum. The founders of the mindfulness movement have grown evangelical. . . . [But n]eoliberal mindfulness promotes an individualistic vision of human flourishing, enticing us to accept things as they are, mindfully enduring the ravages of capitalism.”

Then there’s the more general subject of meditation. Everybody’s heard about how meditation is supposed to help. What everybody’s forgetting is that meditation can topple you over the edge into a hell of psychosis and/or a dark night of the soul: “I started having thoughts like, ‘Let me take over you,’ combined with confusion and tons of terror. I had a vision of death with a scythe and a hood, and the thought ‘Kill yourself’ over and over again.”

A question raised by recent startling reports from mainstream outlets such as Politico and The Washington Post: What the hell is going on with UFOs and the Department of Defense? “Someone or something appears to have some extremely advanced technology and the Pentagon is actively changing the nature of the conversation about it.”

The Navy says UFOs are real. UFO hunters are thrilled. “So why is no one freaking out about these revelations making front page news? As UFO author Chris Rutkowski once explained, perhaps it is because we have become acclimatized to seeing UFOs invading Earth in books and on screen. Whether you are of the Spielberg generation, watching a candy eating E.T., or a millennial who grew up watching The Avengers fight off hordes of evil intergalactic aliens, we are used to seeing this archetypal other in our media. UFOs, as a result, have become much less frightening and perhaps much more interesting. Have we negotiated UFOs into our cultural framework and identity?”

Alien Abductions, Flying Saints, and Parapsychology: Grappling with the “Super Natural” (paywall). An article (not free, alas) in the academic journal Religious Studies Review on Jeffrey Kripal and Whitley Strieber’s The Super Natural, Michael Grosso’s The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation, and my Ghosts, Spirits, and Psychics: The Paranormal from Alchemy to Zombies. “[These three works] raise questions about exactly which questions scholars studying the paranormal ought to be asking. . . . Ultimately, Kripal, Strieber, Grosso, and Cardin dare us to take their work and the ‘super natural’ seriously.”

Exorcism goes mainstream: Combined Churches assemble in Rome to learn “best practice” eviction of demons: “The Roman Catholic Church has for the first time opened up its annual exorcism class in Rome to representatives of all major Christian faiths. . . . [T]he doors of the 14th Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation Course have been thrown open to groups once considered heretical and demon-infested only a few short centuries ago. Now some 250 Catholics, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox and Protestant priests have assembled to arm themselves with the sword of the holy word to battle Satan amid the souls of their parishoners.”

On forgetting how to read in the Internet age: “For a long time, I convinced myself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate me somehow from our new media climate – that I could keep on reading and writing in the old way because my mind was formed in pre-internet days. But the mind is plastic — and I have changed. I’m not the reader I was.”

To study the humanities is to study the meaning of life. “I tell my students, ‘Look, we’re here to discuss the meaning of life.’ The meaning of life is that I’m alive for the time being. I’m in a world which is making contradictory demands upon me. What do I do?”

Missives from another world: Literature of parallel universes. “Alternate history functions to do what the best of literature more generally does — provide a wormhole to a different reality. . . . We are haunted by our other lives, ghosts of misfortune averted, spirits of opportunities rejected, so that fiction is not simply the experience of another [person’s thoughts and viewpoint], but a deep human connection with those differing versions on the paths of our forked parallel lives.”

YOU ARE NOT ALONE: A Conversation with Christopher Ropes on Stigmas, Writing, and Mental Illness. “Writing is not easy for me to begin with because I dredge up all my own demons in my stories. When you have mental health issues, you have some pretty terrifying demons to encounter. I think we all face down those demons to some extent in our writing, even those writers who are writing more to entertain than to create an abiding sense of terror or awe. Human life is a process of coming to terms with those things that frighten and hurt us. I just go through that process in a very raw way that can sometimes actually damage me more in the process. . . . Possibly the best reason for creating art for mentally ill creators is that some other mentally ill person can look at, listen to, read, watch that art and say, ‘Someone out there sees me, hears me. I am not alone.’ Never underestimate that power.”

Speaking of books, reading, writing, and horror fiction, now see this: Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, “an anthology celebrating the uncanny realm of the living inanimate. Featuring tales of dolls, mannequins, statues, and other varieties of humanoid horror, Mannequin explores the intersection between artificiality and life through a stunning variety of writers both established and new.” Featuring stories by Ramsey Campbell, Michael Wehunt, Christine Morgan, Richard Gavin, Kristine Ong Muslim, Nicholas Day, Austin James, William Tea, Duane Pesice, S. L. Edwards, Matthew M. Bartlett, S. E. Casey, Justin A. Burnett, Daulton Dickey, C. P. Dunphey, and Jon Padgett. Introduction by Christopher Slatsky.

Praise from Richard Gavin for TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN

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

Praise from Jon Padgett for TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN

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

Advance praise from Thomas Ligotti for TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN

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.

Cover art for TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN

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 wins Magazine of the Year in 2019 This Is Horror Awards

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 Vastarienthe 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.

Richard Bach on Remote Viewing with Russell Targ and Hal Puthoff (video)

Mind Reach by Russell Targ and Harold E. Puthoff

During my senior year of high school, I was introduced to the writings of Richard Bach. I started, appropriately enough, with his first book, that ultra-mega-bestseller from the 1970s, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I read it in my high school’s modern literature class, taught by Mrs. Ellis, who included it on a list of books from which students could choose. She conducted the class in an independent reading mode, where we could each choose our books individually, spend time in class reading them, and then write reports and deliver presentations. It ended up being one of my favorite classes in all of high school, not least because Mrs. Ellis accepted suggestions for books not included on her provided list, which is how I came to read The Vampire Lestat and Stephen King’s It while sitting in first hour.

But back to Bach. I thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Livingston Seagull and grokked it at a deep level (although I didn’t know the term “grok” at that point in my life). I then chose to read his Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah on my own time. It was a pure joy, and I still love it all these years later, even though I’m not really aligned with its central New Thought-inflected philosophy (although I do find value in some aspects of that). Something about Bach’s truly engaging and elegant way of presenting spiritual philosophy through the vehicle of a winsome semi-fiction, the way he combined his real-life experiences with an obviously fantastic story of how he ran into a bona fide messiah (now retired, having decided to quit the job when nobody would understand him) while making a private living flying an old biplane around the American Midwest and giving three-dollar rides, really enraptured me. I think it also added impetus to my then-developing penchant for books that deal with philosophical and spiritual ideas; shortly after finishing it, I started on Alan Watts, Robert Anton Wilson (including his nonfiction, although the boundaries are nebulous for him), and Nietzsche. Bach was also a featured author in the creativity class taught by Dr. Betty Scott that I took at the University of Missouri, which I talk about in my post “Shadow Visitors: Sleep Paralysis and Discarnate ‘Dark Ones.'”

Years later, when I was a hardcore reader of Wilson’s books, I learned from his The Illuminati Papers that Bach had been one of the experimental subjects in Russell Targ’s and Hal Puthoff’s remote viewing research at the Stanford Research Institute. At the time, I was only just learning about that whole wing of paranormal history, and its connection with Bach blew my mind. It was some time later that I discovered this info wasn’t exactly a secret, as Bach had written the foreword to Targ and Puthoff’s semi-classic 1977 book Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities (which also featured a foreword by Margaret Mead [!]).

Which brings me to this: A few days ago I stumbled across the following eight-minute clip from Jeffrey Mishlove’s Thinking Allowed in which Bach talks about his experiences at SRI. This discovery was thoroughly accidental, and it resurrected all those old feelings of affection for Bach’s books. This was helped by the fact that in the clip, he presents what seems to me one of the most candid and enjoyable accounts of what went on at SRI during those heady years. He starts by talking about the relationship between fiction, reality, and the ideas that seem to guide one’s life because they feel native when one first encounters them. The part about remote viewing starts at 2:33 and features Bach’s detailed account of one successful experiment that blew his mind.

I look back now on the last twenty years of my life and say, “Now, Richard, what have you been doing?” What I’ve been discovering is the power of the imagination and how ideas translate into what we call the real world around us. . . . [Russell Targ] said, “Richard, next time you’re on the west coast, stop by [SRI], please.” I did, and I walked into this room, and they shut the door behind me, and they closed the blinds. I said, “What’s going on here?” He said, “A fellow experimenter, Hal Puthoff, is somewhere in the Bay Area. You have no idea where. Now just relax, Richard, and tell us where he is. Describe what he’s looking at this minute.” “Well, what do I do, Russell? Do I open my eyes? Do I close my eyes? What am I supposed to do?” “Anything. If you want to leave your eyes open, that’s fine.” So I closed my eyes. I opened them again and said, “Russell, I’m making it up.” He said, “That’s right. You’re making it up. Tell us what you make up.”

‘To Rouse Leviathan’ is actually happening

The Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Doré

To my own considerable surprise, Leviathan is finally on the way to being roused. After a six-year delay that was entirely my own creation, I can now announce that my third collection of horror fiction, To Rouse Leviathan, will soon become a reality. I recently submitted the final story — a comprehensive revision and expansion of a collaboration between Mark McLaughlin and me that was first published in the early aughts — to Hippocampus Press. Presently, I’m given to understand that cover art has already been developed and preorders will open soon. I’ll share information about both when it’s available.

Currently, you can read the collection’s table of contents at my author site. Be advised that the cover image there is just a mockup of my own creation. The contents themselves comprise the complete set of stories that made up my first collection, Divinations of the Deep (with one of them being substantially revised), the stories from my second collection, Dark Awakenings (but not the essays; see below), and a third section titled “Apocryphon” that brings together four previously uncollected stories.

There’s been some discussion about another collection to follow this one. It would bring together many of my nonfiction writings about the confluence of religion, horror, creativity, and related matters, including the essays/papers from Dark Awakenings and various uncollected items. I’ll say more when the time is right. For now, I’m just sitting here contemplating the unaccountable return of my fiction writer’s muse, who went into hibernation in 2013 due to various factors and then emerged late last year to enable completion of Leviathan. It’s a strange business, this discipline of living and communing with a demon muse.

My interview for the Weird Studies podcast

Recently, I was interviewed for the excellent Weird Studies podcast. The episode, titled “On Speculative Fiction, with Matt Cardin,” dropped yesterday. You can listen to it with the player above or by clicking through to the site itself. Here’s the episode description:

Neil Gaiman wrote, If literature is the world, then fantasy and horror are twin cities, divided by a river of black water. Flame Tree Publishing underwrites this claim with their recent publication, The Astounding Illustrated History of Fantasy and Horror. The book is a veritable gazetteer of these two cities in the heartland of the imaginal world. Writer and scholar Matt Cardin, founding editor of the marvellous Teeming Brain, wrote a chapter for the book focusing on the books and films of the Sixties and Seventies. In this episode, he joins JF and Phil to discuss the kinship of horror and fantasy, the modern ghettoization of mythopoeic art, the prophetic reach of speculative fiction, and the cauldron of cultural transformation that was the Sixties and Seventies.

Be advised that Teeming Brain readers will likely find Weird Studies to be an essential addition to their listening schedule. It was launched in 2018 by hosts J. F. Martel and Phil Ford. J. F. is an author, screenwriter, and film & TV director from Ottawa, Canada. In 2015 I interviewed him here in connection with his truly wonderful book, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice. Phil is an associate professor of musicology at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music whose books include Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture and a currently in-development project on music and occult styles of thought. The tagline of Weird Studies is “A filmmaker and a professor talk art and philosophy at the limits of the thinkable.” A browse through past episodes uncovers a rich feast.