My online friend Rafael Melo has just published a new interview with me at his blog Cloudy Sky. Topics include my reasons for writing about horror and religion and such, my creative process, the centrality of depression and dread in my life as a writer, my favorite music and movies, the deep meaning of angels and demons, the current state of higher education, and more.
Here’s an excerpt where I get personal about my childhood anti-education in the realm of horror cinema:
RAFAEL: What are your main influences for writing about the horror genre?
MATT: My major horror influences include Lovecraft, Ligotti, Ted Klein, and a host of other writers in the weird fiction tradition and the wider tradition of supernatural horror in general. When I was young I read a lot of Poe’s and Bradbury’s horror stories, and this proved significant. So did a horror record that a friend played for me at his house one late summer afternoon. It featured some spooky sound effects plus a few readings of classic horror stories, including a deliriously unhinged performance of Poe’s “The Telltale Heart.” I can still hear the narrator’s voice as he goes for broke in an over-the-top reading of the final line: “Here! Here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!” That flat-out marked me, man.
Although I don’t usually name him in this regard, I suppose I ought to mention Stephen King, too, since I imbibed a large number of his books in my youth , along with the movies adapted from them, and this was influential. My parents didn’t let me watch scary stuff when I was young, so when the movie versions of Carrie and The Shining and the television miniseries of Salem’s Lot came out in the 1970s, I saw the ads but didn’t get to see the movies themselves, and my mind generated all kinds of vague expectations of the colossally frightening things that must be in them. The same thing happened with non-Stephen King movies, too, including Hell Night, Silent Scream, and several more. Whenever I accidentally caught the television advertisements, I was so frightened that I couldn’t stop seeing them in my mind’s eye for hours afterward. Quite seriously, these commercials filled me with a sense of terror and dread. But at the same time, I found them hypnotically fascinating.
I’ve realized in recent years that my parents did me a wonderful creative favor, albeit inadvertently, by forbidding me to watch such things, because this worked in tandem with a native bent in my personality to inculcate a deep and tantalizing sense of some elusive horror that’s loose in the world, and that can never really be seen or known directly, but that would absolutely fry you if you saw it face to face.
. . . When Lovecraft invokes the idea of unspeakable horrors and sanity-blasting cosmic gods and monsters, and when he says the fundamental supernatural horrific response is basically coeval with the ancient category of consciousness that we call “religious experience,” I hear him developing an eccentric version of negative/apophatic theology and helping to clarify the very thing that drives me personally.
FULL INTERVIEW: Matt Cardin — Life and Mind of a Teeming Brain
FYI, Rafael also runs the antinatalist blog The Last Page and has long been an active presence in the online community devoted to discussing antinatalism, including in the works of Thomas Ligotti. If you can read Portuguese, you can look up and read his book of antinatalist philosophy, A Última Filosofia: An Essay about Antinatalism.
Horror, religion, Lovecraft, sleep paralysis, fantasy, science fiction, consciousness, creativity, reality, the dystopian hazards of an uber-online lifestyle — these are all topics broached in an extensive new interview with Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin by fellow idea-driven horror writer Ted E. Grau at The Cosmicomicon. (Ted is also, of course, the author of The Extinction Papers for The Teeming Brain.)
The interview is extremely philosophical, personal, and lengthy. Here’s a taste:
As for why I ultimately started writing fiction, and why it has always been of the dark variety, I think interrogating the question itself shows that it is, at bottom, unanswerable. In fact, interrogating the question opens up a vast, murky, electrifying, terrifying realm of unknown and unknowable realities that hold all of us perpetually in their grip. This is along the lines of the thought experiment that Robert Anton Wilson recommends in, I think, Prometheus Rising, or maybe it’s in Quantum Psychology — and anyway, he borrowed it from Aleister Crowley, who said he got it from somebody else — where you stop, as in really and truly, for a long pause, and you engage in a deep questioning of the reasons for why you’re right there, in that location and circumstance, at that precise moment, doing what you’re doing and thinking what you’re thinking and feeling what you’re feeling. Keep pressing the question “Why, why, why?” to each and every answer that presents itself, and if you really dig down and follow this backward trail of causation and justification, eventually you’ll find, not just as an intellectual matter but as a startling existential realization, that you have absolutely no idea. You don’t know, ultimately, why you’re right there, right then, doing that. In a sense, everything about your life is just arbitrary, just happening by itself, and any story you tell yourself to explain why stands as more of a rationalization than an explanation.
What’s more, those unknowable reasons — which also, pointedly, include the reasons for why you are who you are — shade directly into the unknowable reasons behind everything else. The impenetrable mystery that lies behind the entire universe, and that makes it be what it is and do what it does, is not something you can write off as abstract and distant and unimportant for daily life, because it happens to be the mystery of your very own being as well.
I think the fact that I’m the type of person who instantly and helplessly goes for the über-philosophical end of things even when nobody’s asking for it — as in, you know, the way I’m going on and on right now in answer to your reasonable and straightforward question — is linked to why I write, and to why my writing always inhabits dark territory … Where do innate qualities ultimately come from? Instantly, the mystery of human personhood is all up in our face, and for me this leads to inevitable ruminations about the metaphysical and ontological origins of individual selfhood and consciousness, and the ancient idea of the genius daemon that makes each person’s life and self be what it is, and the Zen koan where the master orders the student, “Show me your original face, the one you had even before your parents were born.”
I could also mention the fact that I entered a very dark place late in college and an even darker one in the years following it, a development abetted by a kind of spontaneous initiatory experience into certain nightmarish things by the onset of sleep paralysis attacks that were accompanied by visionary attacks by a demonic-seeming entity. This permanently and profoundly altered me, and set the tone and direction for what I write. Or maybe it just realized what was always wanting to be written through me anyway.
— Ted E. Grau, “TC Blog Review & Interview: Matt Cardin Unleashes His Teeming Brain, Featuring New Monthly Column ‘The Extinction Papers,'” The Cosmicomicon, September 20, 2012
Image: “The Nightmare” (1781) by John Henry Fuseli, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Apex Publications announced yesterday that Dark Faith: Invocations, the sequel to their very well received Dark Faith anthology, is now available for preorder. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m pleased to be back again for this second outing with a new story — part dystopian science fiction, part supernatural/spiritual horror — titled “Prometheus Possessed.”
I’m also pleased to announce that Apex has given all of the antho’s authors a way to offer readers a 10% discount on preorders. Just place your order at the publisher’s official Dark Faith: Invocations page and use the referral code DFCardin. (Yes, that’s my own personalized code, which means I get a referral fee when you use it.)
The first Dark Faith antho, containing my surreal ontological horror story “Chimeras & Grotesqueries,” was nominated for the Stoker and Black Quill Awards and widely reviewed with great enthusiasm. This second installment looks equally intense and excellent. See for yourself:
Religion, science, magic, love, family — everyone believes in something, and that faith pulls us through the darkness and the light. The second coming of Dark Faith cries from the depths with 26 stories of sacrifice and redemption.
Sublet an apartment inside God’s head. Hunt giant Buddhas in a post-apocalyptic future. Visit a city where an artist’s fantastic creations alter reality. Discover the deep cosmic purpose behind your office vending machine. Wield godlike powers and suffer the most heartbreaking of human limitations.
Join Max Allan Collins, Mike Resnick, Jay Lake, Jennifer Pelland, Laird Barron, Tom Piccirilli, Nisi Shawl, and a host of genre’s best writers for an exploration into the things we hold dear and the truths that shatter us.
Table of Contents:
“Subletting God’s Head” by Tom Piccirilli
“The Cancer Catechism” by Jay Lake
“The Big Blue Peacock” by Nick Mamatas
“Kill the Buddha” by Elizabeth Twist
“Robotnik” by Lavie Tidhar
“Prometheus Possessed” by Matt Cardin
“Night Train” by Alma Alexander
“The Sandfather” by Richard Wright
“Sacrifice” by Jennifer Pelland
“Thou Art God” by Tim Waggoner
“Wishflowers” by Tim Pratt
“Coin Drop” by Richard Dansky
“Starter Kit” by R.J. Sullivan
“A Little Faith” by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens
“The Revealed Truth” by Mike Resnick
“God’s Dig” by Kelly Eiro
“The Divinity Boutique” by Brian J. Hatcher
“The Birth of Pegasus” by K. Tempest Bradford
“All This Pure Light Leaking In” by LaShawn M. Wanak
“Fin De Siècle” by Gemma Files
“The Angel Seems” by Jeffrey Ford
“Magdala Amygdala” by Lucy A. Snyder
“A Strange Form of Life” by Laird Barron
“In Blood and Song” by Nisi Shawl and Michael Ehart
“Little Lies, Dear Leader” by Kyle S. Johnson
“I Inhale the City, the City Exhales Me” by Douglas F. Warrick
Today I stumbled across the first full review, or at least the first one I’ve seen, of Joe Pulver’s imminent new book Portraits of Ruin (due out next month from Hippocampus Press) at Hellbound Times. The book will arrive with an introduction by me, and I was surprised to see the reviewer not only mentioning this fact but singling out my intro as “an excellent prelude to the stories” that “tells us how to read and get the most from Pulver’s unique style.” That description accurately captures what I intended when I wrote the piece, so it’s nice to see this carrying across to one of the book’s early readers. Read the rest of this entry
During the past couple of years, I’ve been receiving requests for an ebook edition of Divinations of the Deep with increasing frequency, and today I’m pleased to announce that the wait is over. Divinations, the ebook, is now available in both Kindle and ePub formats (the latter for Nook, Kobo, and other ereaders).
On their catalog page, Ash-Tree describes the book as “Matt Cardin’s highly acclaimed collection of glimpses into the primal chaos which God fashioned into an ordered cosmos, and the threads which occasionally unravel at the seams of the universe.”
Ash-Tree was of course the publisher of the original print edition — which booksellers are now listing for prices ranging from $60 to $200 — and I was pleased when they recently contacted me to ask if I would be interested in having it published in their newly launched line of ebook titles. For this new version, I gave each story a light stylistic revision.
“This collection was everything I’d hoped it would be, and that doesn’t happen often. Divinations of the Deep contains five stories that share the same Judeo-Christian religious theme. But this isn’t a book that you’ll find in Jerry Falwell’s library. This collection goes far beyond Judeo-Christian tradition, far beyond God, into the dark possibilities of what existed before God…Like Lovecraft and Ligotti, Cardin excels in creating a truly terrifying atmosphere of dread and decay by revealing what may lurk just beyond our view of reality. Few people succeed in this, but Matt does it with aplomb. His prose is intelligent and poetic, his execution, effortless. I believe this collection will become a classic of weird fiction.” — Durant Haire, writing for Feoamante.com
“This whole book is Fiction-as-Religion in action. It is truer than truth.” — D.F. Lewis
“It’s a bold writer who, in this day and age, tries to make modern horror fiction out of theology, but Cardin pulls it off. Like most heretics, he may be wrong in the eyes of the Church, but he can cite texts: lots of scary Old Testament passages that suggest a gnostic mystery underlying perceived reality. What was the ‘face of the deep’ upon which there was darkness, before the first act of Creation? Was God’s act one of pushing back or containing a primal Chaos older and vaster than Himself? Cardin manages to turn this into a vision of terrifying, Lovecraftian nihilism. No mean feat, that.” — Darrell Schweitzer
“Cardin massages the dark and hidden, and penetrates the ancient deep to fashion unique visions of horror and deity. Each piece has its own depth and unwavering regard to the theme. The settings are universally dark, murky, and decadent, putting you in mind of Poe especially, but also some of the more depressed turn-of-the-(20th)Century writers. In each of these stories, the author personalizes the apocalyptic question of ultimate power and order. It is a fascinating approach.” — Cemetery Dance
“Matt Cardin’s stories display a thorough appreciation of what cosmic horror is all about…[H]e knows that the Bible staked out the territory long before Lovecraft came on the scene. You might even say that he saw where Lovecraft went off the tracks by dismissing the power of the pre-existing symbols. In Divinations of the Deep, he has steered the train back onto the mainline of Western religion. I don’t want to suggest that these stories are devout or uplifting, or that they follow the Christian party-line. Far from it. The reputed consolations of faith are notably absent from Matt’s bleak universe. He comes by his credentials as a horror writer honestly: not by reading Stephen King with a felt marker in hand and one eye on the cash-register, but by suffering through a dark night of the soul that very nearly undid him. He merely writes what he knows.” — Brian McNaughton
Four days ago, on October 11, I was the featured guest on Darkness Radio, the popular paranormal radio show originating out of Minneapolis on KTLK and hosted by David Schrader (of the Travel Channel’s Paranormal Challenge and Ghost Adventures). The topic was sleep paralysis, shadow people, and discarnate dark entities — all things I’ve talked about here at The Teeming Brain several times. As you know, I’ve also talked about these subjects and/or related matters previously this year on Spiritually Raw radio (twice), the Mancow Muller Show, and the Genre Traveler podcast, and in an interview with Waco Today magazine titled “Tapping into Darkness.”
Below is the podcast of my Darkness Radio appearance. It’s an hour-long show. David and his two cohosts did an excellent job, and it was an enjoyable conversation. Note that if you’re really into paranormal matters, you might want to check out their show archives for some interesting and out-there subjects and guests.
STREAM THE SHOW:
You can also visit the episode’s webpage to download the mp3 for later listening.
DAVID: When you’ve had these experiences, have you ever had the feeling that the beings that you’re encountering are not of a ghostly or supernatural ilk, but more of an alien or extraterrestrial one?
MATT: For me to talk about that, I pretty much have to say that my understanding of the alien phenomenon and the extraterrestrial phenomenon is really in line with a lot of what you hear from Patrick Harpur, who wrote Daimonic Reality. Or I’m sure you’re famliar with Jacques Vallee, or Terrence McKenna, and people like that. It’s possible that there are beings from other planets that are visiting us, but I really view the whole thing, and my experiences, too, more in terms of some sort of archetypal thing that’s happening in the psyche. So that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an objective reality, but it’s an objective reality within the psyche. Jung was big on that: the objectivity of the psyche. It really is something real that we as ego selves are encountering as an “other,” only its otherness is somehow behind our own subjectivity.
My ebook about daimonic creativity for writers is now available for free download.
A Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer’s Guide to the Inner Genius clocks in at 40,000 words and 174 pages, and is optimized for reading on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or other ereader. Or you can of course read it on your laptop or desktop computer. The current PDF edition will soon be joined by Kindle and ePub editions.
Here’s the text of the virtual “jacket copy”:
Where does creativity come from? Why do ideas and inspiration feel as if they come from “outside,” from an external source that’s separate from us but able to whisper ideas directly into the mind? Why have so many writers throughout history—and also composers, painters, philosophers, mystics, and scientists—spoken of being guided, accompanied, and even haunted by a force or presence that not only serves as the deep source of their creative work, but exerts a kind of profound and inexorable gravitational pull on the shape of their lives?
These are all questions addressed by A Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer’s Guide to the Inner Genius. This 40,000-word ebook (175 pages) was written and developed from key articles that I first published here at Demon Muse and other Websites. It represents a major expansion of those articles, and features full notes and an extensive bibliography detailing all of the sources of information — more than 40 books and 20 essays, articles, interviews, and videos — that I consulted in the writing of it.
The just-released October 2011 issue of Waco Today magazine features an interview with me titled “Tapping into darkness: MCC instructor finds niche in horror fiction.” I wasn’t sure how much detail and depth from my conversation with journalist Terri Jo Ryan would make it into the finished piece, but I just came from reading it, and I must say I’m truly impressed at how much she managed to pack in there. The photo taken a local cemetery also looks good, although my facial expression makes it look as if I was doing my best to appear emotionally comatose. (Or maybe that’s how I always look.)
Two minor corrections to statements in the narration that accompanies my words: 1) I don’t suffer from a rheumatic illness (I was talking about somebody in my family), and 2) this year’s installment of the Dark Mirror horror film festival that I created at my college, scheduled for October 28 and 29, will take place not at 7 p.m. but all afternoon and evening each day, with films showing at 3:00, 5:30, and 8:00 p.m.
Presently I’m wondering how the interview with “play” with readers here in religiously conservative Waco, since it features me talking about dark and edgy religious matters. Here are some excerpts:
Had he lived a century ago, Matt Cardin, author of “Dark Awakenings,” (Mythos Books, 2010) might have been a rival of horror/fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, instead of his disciple. Had he lived two centuries ago, Cardin might have been classified as a “mad genius,” haunted by a morose muse bent on his eventual despair. But Cardin lives in 21st-century Waco, and he has found a home in some pop subcultures in his fascination with the sacred and profane mysteries of the supernatural. The former religious studies student from southwest Missouri now tags himself an “agnostic Zen Christian, if that’s possible.”
“I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Jungian,” Cardin said, alluding to the famed Swiss psychoanalyst who regarded human beings as essentially religious creatures, and who posited controversially that God had “an evil face” as well as a kindly visage … For Cardin, “The tension between ‘life is a living nightmare’ and ‘life is wonderful’ is immensely compelling to me as a writer,” he said. “So my stories tend to explore this shadowy realm between existential dread and spiritual communion.”
The author credits his own nightmares for pushing him into the field of horror fiction. Visions he suffered during sleep paralysis (in ancient times, a malady blamed on demonic creatures known as incubi and succubi) inform a lot of his fiction, Cardin said.
“The (Judeo-Christian) scriptures have always had a quasi-Lovecraftian horror encoded within them,” he contends … One of his scholarly essays included in “Dark Awakenings” is “Gods and Monsters, Worms and Fire: A Horrific Reading of Isaiah.” In it Cardin ruminates on the recurring hints throughout the Hebrew scriptures that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is infinitely powerful, capricious and deeply terrifying.
Again, the full interview is available online. As for me, I’ll be buying a print copy.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed for the Genre Traveler podcast, created and hosted by Carma Spence. It’s now live and available, and Carma has created a cool page full of notes to go with the audio. Here’s the episode description:
This week I chat with Matt Cardin about religion and horror. Along the way our conversation touches on the role religious motifs play in the horror genre, the nature of horror vs. fear, the connection between religious experience and fear, gnosticism, the evolution of religious beliefs, the push and pull of spiritual concepts, sleep paralysis and more.
You can read more and hear the interview at Genre Traveler Podcast Episode 50: The Intersection of Horror and Religion.
Many thanks to Carma for a nice job!
My interview on the “Raw Factor” segment of this morning’s Spiritually Raw radio broadcast felt like it went well. Hosts Ajay and April proved to be excellent conversationalists as they talked with me about my central focus as an author (and human being) on the convergence of religious experience with horror fiction and film, and the tendency of horror to open out into religious experience, and my initiatory-type experiences of sleep paralysis and nocturnal assault that have underscored this connection.
You can listen to the interview on the podcast of today’s show. My segment starts at about 13:00 in the running time:
Also be advised that if I receive enough listener votes based on my brief (15-minute) appearance on the show today, then I’ll be brought back as a featured guest for a longer interview. You can vote for me by following THIS LINK and entering a comment in my favor — at which point psychic vibrations of gratitude will begin beaming your way and generating all sorts of positive synchronicities. (Did I oversell that? Sorry. But the gratitude part is real.)