Tonight’s Walpurgis

Walpurgis 2011 © anjeve on flickr

And tomorrow we’re on strike. Happy times! Here’s a happy tune.

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HEXES the sunday spectra 4/29/12

Max Dupain, The Bride, 1936

There’s a bride at every wedding,
and a corpse at every funeral.

Table of Contents

The Dead
The Raven
The Story
The View
The Music
The Artist
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 •
THE DEAD reviewed by Malcolm Johnson of The Horror Show
If you’re anything like me, you’re kinda done with zombies.

I was a HUGE zombie fan, too. The greats like the “Living Dead” biggies (Night, Dawn and Day), the Italian splatter of ZOMBI (“We are going to eat you!”) and the goodness of the RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD were firmly locked as faves. But the recent waves of zombie hordes have muddied the waters greatly. The likes of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIELAND and THE HORDE are getting lost in the much and mire of complete crap like the DAY OF THE DEAD remake – resplendent in it’s under-scripting and over-bullshite 3D and leaping dead. 

Well, THE DEAD (2010) marks the return to old zombie form and was WELL worth a viewing! And…there’s no mention of zombies in the title. Thank you for that.

We have a classic set up here, but with a small twist that takes us in new and interesting directions. Zombies. They’re here. We’re trying to get away. But, we’re in Africa complete with wide expanses of nothing for miles and miles. Our two heroes are both trying to get somewhere – one to a U.S. military base so he can get home and another to an African base so he can find his son. The pairing is fantastic and very “old school”. Differences are set aside to reach a new set of very important goals.

The zombies themselves were a throw back to the 1979 Lucio Fulci style of ZOMBI zombies. Extremely slow moving and driven. They shuffle along at an extremely slow pace. This makes things a bit easier, but also is a perfect device for ramping up tension. There are scenes where we see several zombies off in the distance while someone is trying to complete a task. They shuffle closer…and closer…and closer and, while the danger isn’t immediate, it creates a lovely sense of urgency. I found myself stomping my feet at times wishing the heroes would hurry up and get the HELL out. And, if a zombie mob does happen to slip up to you, classic zombie mob rules apply. They are slow, but a group up close and personal is deadly.

Dread and doom, heat and time and personal drive are played out really well.  The characters of Lt. Brian Murphy and Sgt. Daniel Dembele are well rounded and believable. I’d even say that non-horror lovers (that can take some scares and gore) would enjoy this film. It has a strong story and a lot of well rounded character development.

Check it!

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Malcolm Johnson is CEO and Creative Director for amore eroma – the world wide leader in that which could be. 🙂 He is also the master of the excellent HORROR SHOW where he shares his love and energy for all manner of dark and troubling visions. Pay him a visit tonight!
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THE RAVEN
• 
(Bulgarian poster)

By  in The New York Times, Published: April 26, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore in October 1849, by most accounts in a state of dissipation and despair. “The Raven,” a new movie directed by James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta”“Ninja Assassin”), differs from most accounts by imagining Poe in his final days as a heroic crime fighter, tracking down a diabolical serial killer with the tenacious ingenuity of the special agents on “Criminal Minds.”

Since Poe is widely credited with inventing the detective genre, it seems only fair that he should have a chance to do a little sleuthing of his own. That seems to be the intention of a sadistic murderer whose grisly and ingenious methods are drawn directly from some of Poe’s tales. This homage is horrifying to Poe (who is played by a wild-eyed, wild-maned and furiously energetic John Cusack) but also perversely flattering. Someone has read the work of this notoriously vain, ambitious and competitive writer closely and has been inspired to imitation.

That “someone” can equally refer to Mr. McTeigue and the screenwriters, Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare. The fannish obsessiveness that animates “The Raven” is its most appealing attribute, and even Poe scholars can forgive it for discarding the biographical record in favor of playful, gruesome fantasy. There is a geeky pleasure in matching the on-screen murders to the tales they replicate, as in a Gothic version of “Jeopardy!” “What is ‘The Cask of Amontillado’?” “Who is ‘Marie Roget’?” “What is ‘The Masque of the Red Death’?”

And “The Raven” might have worked best as the pilot for a creepy, old-style television series, featuring the writer embroiled in a different one of his own narratives each week. In addition to Poe himself Mr. McTeigue also pays tribute to Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations from the early ’60s, the best of which stand as perverse masterpieces of low-budget, over-the-top Grand Guignol. There is abundant blood, feverish overacting, and an atmosphere of hysterical Victorian Americana. Baltimore is envisioned as a city of mist and wet stone, dark wood, rotted gentility and ambient corruption, a place that seems to know that, in 150 years or so, it will be the setting for “The Wire.” (The Jimmy McNulty of 1849 is a dogged, handsome cop played by Luke Evans.)

The film’s heart is in the right place (which is to say beating insistently under the floorboards). Its literary bona fides are certainly in order, and the filmmakers’ affection for the boozy, wanton world of mid-19th-century print culture — for the inky swamp of sensationalistic newspapers and scurrilous magazines from which American literature sprouted — is very much in evidence. But if Poe was the drunken, tragic bad boy of American letters, he was also a meticulous and disciplined craftsman. And it is on this score, rather than in matters of biographical detail, that “The Raven” lets him down.

“There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story,” Poe writes in “The Philosophy of Composition,” a great, mad essay from which young scribblers may still profit. Most writers plod through the “striking events” of the narrative and fill in the gaps with dialogue, description and commentary. “I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect,” Poe says, emphasizing the singular. “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?”

“The Raven,” unfortunately, does not settle on just one, preferring the usual moviemaking practice of multiplying effects until they pile up into a welter of breathless incident and preposterous exposition. Poe’s motive in seeking the killer is not just wounded literary pride, but also love, for his sensible fiancée, Emily (Alice Eve). (Her grouchy, wealthy father is played by Brendan Gleeson.) The couple’s devotion does not quite square with Poe’s louche, alcoholic temperament, and Mr. Cusack works himself into a lather trying to reconcile the contradictory parts of an incoherent character.

In, I am sorry to say, an incoherent movie. Poe wrote love poetry, literary criticism, humorous sketches and science fiction as well as “tales of mystery and horror.” “The Raven” tries to blend all of these motley genres together, and though the effort is valiant, the result is a mess. I suspect Poe’s review of it would have been much more savage than mine.

“The Raven” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Graphic, gory violence.

The Raven

Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by James McTeigue; written by Hannah Shakespeare and Ben Livingston; director of photography, Danny Ruhlmann; edited by Niven Howie; music by Lucas Vidal; production design by Roger Ford; costumes by Carlo Poggioli; produced by Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy and Aaron Ryder; released by Relativity Media. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

WITH: John Cusack (Edgar Allan Poe), Luke Evans (Detective Emmett Fields), Alice Eve (Emily Hamilton), Brendan Gleeson (Capt. Charles Hamilton), Kevin R. McNally (Henry Maddox), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Officer Cantrell) and Jimmy Yuill (Captain Eldridge).

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THE STORY: “The Cask of Amontillado”

Illustration by Harry Clarke

Presented by Story of the Week | Library of America

The Raven (directed by James McTeigue and starring John Cusack) opens this weekend in theaters. The movie is the latest of many attempts to adapt the works of Edgar Allan Poe for the big screen; it depicts a serial killer whose methods are inspired by various Poe stories. Although none of us at The Library of America has seen the movie, we do hope that it attracts new readers to Poe’s fiction and poetry.One story used in the film is “The Cask of Amontillado,” which is not only one of Poe’s most famous works but also one of the best-known revenge fantasies by any author. What is not as well known is that the story itself was an act of revenge. For several years Poe had been feuding with a former friend, Thomas Dunn English. Their quarrel began when, in 1843, Poe publicly ridiculed English’s poems; things escalated from there. Three years later, Poe sued English for libel for a letter that appeared in a newspaper (Poe won $225 in damages), and English published a novel, 1844, or, The Power of the S. F., featuring a Poe-like character named Marmaduke Hammerhead—a journalist who “never gets drunk more than five days a week,” becomes famous for publishing “The Black Crow,” grows increasingly crazy as the novel progresses, and ends up in an asylum.One of Poe’s responses to this malicious portrayal was “The Cask of Amontillado,” pitting the scheming Montresor against his buffoonish nemesis Fortunato. The author Andrew Barger has noted some of the story’s references to English’s novel, to wit: “A chapter of 1844 takes place in an underground vault” and “English uses the phrase ‘For the love of God’ in 1844 and Poe spits it back to him in this story.” The motto of Poe’s fictional Montresor family is Nemo me impune lacesit(“No one insults me with impunity”); it could just as well serve as a theme for Poe’s own career.Incidentally, another Poe story that probably included a caricature of Thomas Dunn English (among other writers) is “Hop-Frog,” which we featured previously on Story of the Week. In a number of interviews, John Cusack cited this story as his own personal favorite—but he has revealed that you won’t see it in the movie. “I’d have loved it if we’d used ‘Hop-Frog,’ but we couldn’t fit that one in.”

PDF: Poe_Cask_Amontillado

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THE VIEW

Incredible Kite Photo of Post-Quake San Francisco (1906)

Don’t be fooled by the relative calm in the photo above. Go to The Big Map and start zooming. Those darker swarths are all rubble. Thanks to John Coulthart’s Weekend Links.

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THE MUSIC 

Jack White live at Webster Hall NYC April 27

[After Introductory Bullshit, Actual Show Starts at 9:40]

On April 27, Jack White kicked off the 2012 American Express UNSTAGED music series with a performance at Webster Hall in New York City.
Directed by filmmaker Gary Oldman, the show was streamed online in partnership with YouTube and VEVO.

The Playlist (courtesy of Dangerous Minds)

The Peacocks
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes song)
Missing Pieces
Freedom At 21
Love Interruption
Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes)
Two Against One (Rome cover)
Top Yourself (The Raconteurs song)
I’m Slowly Turning Into You (The White Stripes)
Blue Blood Blues (The Dead Weather song) (With “Screwdriver” Riff Intro)
Take Me With You When You Go

Los Buzzardos
Sixteen Saltines
I Cut Like a Buffalo (The Dead Weather)
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Trash Tongue Talker
You Know That I Know (Hank Williams cover)
We’re Going to be Friends (The White Stripes)
Hypocritical Kiss
Hello Operator (The White Stripes)
Carolina Drama (The Raconteurs song)
Catch Hell Blues (Fragment) (The White Stripes)
Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes)
Goodnight Irene (Leadbelly cover)

And thanks to @mattstaggs

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THE ARTIST

Crux Spes Unica

by

Luka Skalabrin

Forgotten (Fallen Angels)

My Pet Skeleton

Under The Crescent Moon

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Special Bonus: The Saturday Night Covers That Didn’t

Original photographs, l-r,  by Ellen Rogers, Colette Saint Yves, and Unknown

••

Ω

“Small towns, dusty plains” a mix by goblinfruit | 8tracks

Painting © Howard Post

“A beautiful mix of sustained grace. Nearly absolutely perfect. Perhaps the best yet from this mixer .”

Small towns, dusty plains by goblinfruit

(I very much needed a really good chill-out mix after an action-packed morning.)

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The Friday Night Guest Editorial: “Is science fiction literature’s first international language?” by Damien G. Walter

Photograph: Zade Rosenthal

“Is science fiction literature’s first international language?”

by

Damien G. Walter

From The Guardian

From China to Russia and beyond, SF is emerging as the genre best able to articulate the relentless pace of global change

Language may be the most obvious barrier to cultural exchange, but it is also the easiest to hurdle: a good translator can capture much if not all of the character of a great novel. The real barrier to sharing between cultures is culture itself. British literary fiction, deeply fascinated with the minutiae of class structure, isn’t of much more than passing interest to most Chinese readers. Not because Chinese culture isn’t every bit as fascinated with its own social structure, but because if you buy a rulebook you want it to be for the game you are actually playing. As far as a cultural artefact serves as a guide to a culture, it belongs uniquely to that culture.

The Marvel comics’ superhero franchise Avengers Assemble launches this weekend to audiences in dozens of cultures worldwide, and dozens more in coming weeks. At first sight this seems a triumph of international connectivity, but the sci-fi blockbuster transcends cultural boundaries by doing away with the whole problem of meaning and replacing it with CGI spectacle. The director, Joss Whedon, has pulled off an impressive feat in packing so many mythic symbols and archetypes into one movie, while completely castrating their meaning.

The geek culture that made Marvel comics part of its mythology has, like all other cultures, been repurposed by capitalism as a way of selling products to the mass market. And with an estimated 25% of under-34s self-identifying with the geek demographic, it’s arguable that geek culture is really just a response to a lack of culture, a generation who have grown up alienated from any sense of cultural belonging, and are left clinging on to Hollywood product.

It’s as a response to that cultural void that science fiction becomes genuinely interesting. In the midst of an ever accelerating technological revolution, science fiction has emerged as the literature best able to articulate the relentless pace of social change. And as that technological revolution has spread outward from the western world, so the symbols and archetypes of science fiction have become a shared language for understanding the new world we are entering.

The World SF blog edited by Israeli born author Lavie Tidhar has been cataloguing the emergence of international SF since 2009, and the increasing cross-pollination between SF communities in Europe, South America, Asia, China, India and elsewhere. It’s an absolute must read for anyone still hardwired in to the Americanised, anglophone conception of SF. Much of the focus of translation efforts in the international SF community so far has been short fiction gathered in anthologies such as the Apex Book of World SF and Phillipine Speculative Fiction, but an increasing number of full-length novels are finding translation.

The work of Liu Cixin, eight-time winner of the Galaxy award and arguably the most popular SF author in China, is now available in English translation. Liu Cixin’s writing will remind SF fans of the genre’s golden age, with its positive focus on scientific development, combined with a consistently constructive vision of China’s future role as a global superpower. It’s characteristic of an SF genre which has been embraced by Chinese culture because it is seen as representing the values of technological innovation and creativity so highly prized in a country developing more quickly than any other in the world today.

Russian SF has a long and well-documented history as an outlet for political perspectives that were otherwise repressed. But it is as a critique of the values of western capitalism that the genre has recently caught attention. The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Eskov is set in the Middle Earth of JRR Tolkien, immediately after the climatic battle of The Return of the King, and has recently been issued in its second edition translation free online, despite objections from the Tolkien estate. The book reimagines Lord of the Rings as a history written by the victors, with Mordor recast as an emergent industrial nation crushed under the heel of a war-mongering western alliance lead by Gondor, and Gandalf described as “engineering a final solution to the Mordorian problem”. If this mirrors a large proportion of European / Russian history it seems entirely valid, given how easily exactly the same reading can be made of Tolkien’s fantasy epic.

 There may only be a small wave of translated SF reaching the anglophone world today, but the internet is quickly unleashing much more. I’m only beginning to scratch the surface myself. Who are the other international SF authors we should all be reading today?

_  _  _

© Copyright Damien Walter and The Guardian

Damien G Walter is a writer of weird and speculative fiction. His stories have appeared in many odd and wonderful publications including BBC Radio. He is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy workshop at UC San Diego

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Strië – Arabesque

Oh, it’s Friday. Payday and the whole world’s broke.

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Good Morning (Seek Discomfort)

Stefan Sagmeister

— and coming soon to these pages in random bursts —

the best vampire  |  Julia Margaret Cameron | animé analyzed @ 5fps | new weird mixes | new bad sounds | the friday night guest editorial | the creep makes money this way | vintage shit | where the fuck is popeye

and so much more

And lest ye forget,

ONLY 3 DAYS LEFT!

A Very Fast Descent into Hell eBook / Kindle edition, Only 99¢

amazon | smashwords

NOW THROUGH APRIL 28!

Then… the sale ends.

Ω

The Progress of a Soul: The Victory (1902) Phoebe Anna Traquair

Via Artfinder.com

Medium: Silk and gold thread embroidered on linen | Location National Gallery of Scotland (website)
Phoebe Anna Traquair  From a commentary by Elizabeth Cumming

Phoebe Anna Traquair’s place in history is unique. She was the first important professional woman artist of modern Scotland.

To rank as such might be enough to ensure her fame, but Traquair was also a central figure within Scottish Arts and Crafts practice, working prolifically in such diverse fields as embroidery, enamelwork, leather book-cover tooling and, not least, manuscript illumination and mural decoration.

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Ladytron, “Little Black Angel” (Death in June Cover)

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Martin Amis Delivers Eulogy at Christopher Hitchens Memorial

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HEXES: “Hell at Last,” Special Issue

Original image © Rick Blackwell

[INSIDE FRONT]

A  d  v  e  r  t

Please place txt in loudest, ugliest, screaming banner imaginable:

LIMITED TIME!!

Image, Kobo Reader: 

A Very Fast Descent into Hell eBook / Kindle edition, Only 99¢

amazon | smashwords

SIX DAYS ONLY (on the 7th, you’re fucked)

NOW THROUGH APRIL 28

E n d – A d v e r t

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Welcome to a very special issue of HEXES, the monday spectra—HELL AT LAST! Collectors, save these webpages. They will be worth money! Download time-signatures for both html and screencaps will be verified, so act now!

(Oh, fuck that voice.)

HERE BE COLLECTED CERTAIN ARTIFACT AND RELICS pertaining to my first novel, which I first self-published 12 years ago and came THIS CLOSE to being made “legitimate” by publishers not once, not twice, but three times, comrades (Knopf, ROC, and Underland, respectively), is now finally available in eBook format. Ghouls and gravediggers will find what they seek here. Do not complain to the management if teeth are cracked when seeking sustenance from these meager twigs!

(Check VOICE please.)

The Table of Contents:

The Reviews

The Art

The Covers

The Deleted Scenes

Shall we?

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THE REVIEWS

(These reviews originally appeared both online and in print, and are not currently available via the internet.) 

From The Will of Instinct

This book was recommended to me by my buddy, Marc.  In fact, he loaned me his copy which I got around to reading this week.  AFDIH (I’m not typing the whole damned name) by Simon Drax is a horror fantasy set in the near apocalyptic future.  It tells the tale of a demon, Darius, remembering a shadowy past, a fallen priest, Phelan, searching for immortality in blood and desecration, the spirit of the earth, Ryder,  who has fallen in love with a human, Lucretia, who detests him and another women, Catherine, bent on destroying the hollow priest.  Sounds like a comedy, right?

errr…nooooooo.

This is a dark tale of the end of days without a happy ending (whodathunkit?).  It’s got gore and action and horror and disturbing sights galore.  It’s a very quick tale that rolls along at a rapid pace occasionally changing the point of view between Darius, Phelan and Catherine.  Drax’s writing is good, and he has a very keen use of description to really sell his gore.  For example, when he describes how Phelan first met and killed a demon, he lets it take the form of a human child.  As disturbing as the image of a child with a mouth that is an abyss of jagged teeth can be, Drax takes it one step further by detailing the black gore that drips from the pink genitals of the child.

Groooooossssssssss.

I agree.  That is a disturbing image that will likely haunt my nightmares for a while, but it’s also a testament to a writer who can provide those little details to separate his work from others in this genre.  Truly, the book is well written, though there were parts of it I wish I could have seen more.  The tale of the demons departure to another world where they can rape and pillage was intriguing, and I wish there was more of it.  The idea of a hollow priest who creates monsters of bio-engineering in the search for immortality was intriguing.  The story of an Archeon falling in love with a human who detests him is intriguing.  The main word here is “intriguing” and is quickly followed by “I wanted more.”

That, unfortunately, was my final feeling on this book.  Great idea……but where’s the rest of it.  Don’t tease me and then leave me wanting.  I just wish there had been more depth to the book.  Tack on another 300 pages of back story and further character development and I’d be happy.  Please note, that’s not a shot against the book.  It’s still worth reading as Drax’s stylistic descriptions border on poetry – diseased poetry – but still poetry none-the-less.

I liked the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a little horror now and then.  It’s a quick read and worth picking up if you can find it.

The Will of Instinct (Personal Website), (2002-3?)

This guy made designs for every book he read & reviewed.  Nice site!

I wrote & thanked him for running the review. Don’t think he ever wrote back.

From Scary Monsters Magazine 

A Very Fast Descent Into Hell is a very different kind of horror story. One unlike any other on book racks today. It is a remarkably simple, but beautiful parable. A story that is gritty, sharp, and pensive…

Laying down a tight plot and writing crisp, clean prose, its creator, Simon Drax, deftly propels the chilling narrative through the bleak landscape of mankind’s possible last days. Along the way, Drax offers us a prophetic vision of our best chance for survival. Like all good storytellers, Drax, as he is known to a growing number of fans, wastes no time diving into the action. He quickly introduces us to Robert Phelan, a hollow priest burned out by near immortality, a horrific bloodlust, and centuries of self-loathing. We first meet Phelan as he tries to ingratiate himself to Darius Kane, boasting to Kane about the depth of his evilness and the stupidity of his wretched disciples. Although his pathetic flock looks to Phelan for salvation, the deceitful priest offers little in the way of redemption, preferring to prey on his congregation’s useless prayers and fading dreams.

Weary of the wasteland earth has become, Kane is cooly unimpressed with Phelan. Even though Kane is earth’s last remaining demon, he is fast losing his taste for the sufferings of mankind. Soon after meeting Phelan, Kane begins questioning his own demonic existence and attempts to find his true place in the world. Although Darius Kane is a spawn from the deepest corridors of Hell, it’s hard not to think of him as truly a man instead. Drax’s sympathetic portrayal of Kane’s personal growth and indomitable human spirit is one of the most compelling reasons to read this book. While Phelan’s story is one of eternal damnation, Kane’s is one of eventual liberation.

Phelan and Kane both play a pivotal role in the world’s fate, but the true destiny of humanity actually rests with the mysterious, white-haired man known simply as Ryder. Kane and Phelan both owe allegiance to Ryder, but for two entirely different reasons. Kane reluctantly looks to Ryder for enlightenment about the mortal inhabitants of earth, but Phelan eagerly seeks Ryder’s favor because of his personal quest for raw, dark power. The endgame these three play at the edge of the world will eventually decide the ultimate judgement of mankind.

Drax’s short fiction has appeared in several small horror magazines, including Fever, Bonesaw, After Hours, and Midnight Zoo. Besides writing fiction, Drax is a regular film reviewer for VideoScope and his love of movies is apparent in his first book. In some ways, reading A Very Fast Descent Into Hell is like watching a great horror movie. The vivid mind pictures Drax paints are often more colorful than the sharpest celluloid images found on the big screen. Like the unwinding frames of a film masterpiece, the inhabitants of A Very Fast Descent Into Hell will become more and more alive as you turn each page. A dry wind will blow across a desolate land… Yellow dust will fall from the thick desert air… The acrid smell of spilt blood will sting your nostrils…

As you can see, the book’s intense scenes and penetrating characters still burn brilliantly in my mind, weeks after I have finished the last page. And I wonder if Darius Kane has…

Well, that would spoil the story for you, wouldn’t it? Let’s just say that horror is exciting again — and imaginative and creative. The way it should be. As Drax would say, “rock on!”

— Joseph C. Romano, Scary Monsters Magazine 

From Fandom.com

An interesting combination of splatterpunk and dark fantasy
It`s the end of the world (yes, again) and things are pretty rotten. In fact, since the world`s already gone to Hell, Theron Skoth, father of all demons, has gathered his vast brood upon an abandoned aircraft carrier to find a new home out among the stars. Only the demon Darius Kane is staying behind, because he made a promise to Ryder, the Grim One. Normally, Darius would think nothing of breaking a promise. He`s a demon, after all! Yet, Darius is troubled by visions of his dead sister, Armida. Also, he wants to see just what sort of vengeance Ryder will extract from Father Phelan, the Hollow Priest. 
 
As the world continues to crumble and the Wasted Lands expand in the aftermath of The Last War, Darius Kane stumbles upon Phelan, an immortal man with an immoral heart who just may be at the root of Earth`s destruction. After all, his experiments into finding the secret of immortality were at the behest of Ryder, a being whole and complete when the Earth was still a cooling cinder. Ryder`s love for the child Lucretia lead the Archeon to seek out Phelan, a man born immortal and with the power to sway believers with the most outrageous of lies. He commissioned Phelan to make Lucretia immortal, so he might not exist in loneliness anymore, shunned by mankind as he is. From this seemingly impossible task spring the actions and events that will ultimately see the death of our world—or will it? For, as long as there is hope and spirit, can a world truly die? 
 
Drax, a film journalist best known for his contributions to The Phantom of the Movies’ VIDEOSCOPE magazine (www.videoscopemag.com), has crafted an interesting combination of splatterpunk and dark fantasy with his debut novel. There are scenes of visceral violence and extreme gore, as well as scenes of intense emotion, pain, and insanity. Darius Kane is a fascinating creation, a character full of pain, doubt, and false confidence. Father Phelan, the immortal Hollow Priest, allows Drax to take all sorts of stabs at religion and faith, but they aren`t just pot-shots. Many of the questions and doubts he raises are surely things readers have asked or felt themselves. Then, there is Ryder, a godlike being, a titan, who has roamed the Earth for endless millennia in search of a companion. His longings are torturous, but his solutions are ultimately self-destructive. Catherine, the lone human in our tale, starts out as one of Phelan`s followers, but she recognizes the false priest for what he truly is, so he condemns her as a witch and sentences her to burn at the stake. Although he has no love for humans, Darius decides it will be “fun” to free her. He later comes to understand her true nature and purpose, and will ultimately pit his life against her survival on more than one occasion. 
 
A VERY FAST DESCENT INTO HELL might not be every fantasy or horror fan’s cup of blood, but it does pack a nice, juicy punch for those tired of the same old D&D or VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE rehashes. 
— Dan Cziraky, Fandom.com
 (This reviewer also penned a similar text which appeared in VideoScope)

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THE ART

DESCENT character studies by Brian Dow

 Phelan

 Lucretia

 Two faces of Darius  

Ryder and Phelan

Brian Dow is an illustrator par excellence and an old friend.

Visit him at  briandowstudio.com

DESCENT’s Dramatis Personea by Victor Ramon Mojica

 — Victor Ramon Mojica

and behold, King Unicorn | EC Steiner

Saint Catherine and foes, lovingly rendered by

EC Steiner | King Unicorn

[and there is one missing piece by GF Studio]

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THE COVERS

Brian Boucher

12E Design

Paul DiNovo

The final variations based on Paul’s original elements

 •

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THE DELETED SCENE(S)

These scenes were meant to fatten Darius’s crossing of the Wasted Lands (Chapter 4 in the current edition, “His Beloved Lands of Dust”) and at the same time dramatize the plight of desperate human survivors in the face of unstoppable apocalypse. Contained also in these scenes is the fate of The Judge, first introduced in these pages here. But none of that, and none of what follows below, appears in the current eBook edition.

In the morning the humans couldn’t rouse the man with terrible burns. They splashed precious water on his face, they poked and prodded, they said the man’s name again and again. Finally Darius couldn’t stand it anymore. “He’s dead, you idiots.”

“How can you be sure? We thought he was dead once before, but…”

“He’s dead.” Darius rose from the spot he had sat all night. He faced the ragged pack of humans. “I listened to his death rattle less than an hour ago.”

“And you didn’t help him—?!”

“Oh, Skoth…”

“We should bury him. Poor Marcus.”

“Oh Skoth! Let’s find this priest person and be done with it!” It galled Darius to depend on this pitiful band, but until Darius determined the length—and limits—of his powers in this place, the humans seemed the only ones with any sense of direction. “Just leave him,” Darius said.

“Yes, leave him,” echoed The Judge, slipping out of the plane wreck to stand tall and cruel in the glare of the crimson sun. “Leave him to rot. Let his carcass mark the trail of dead I have passed through these lands, for I am The Judge, and I will never die.”

“Whoa-huh-ho,” Darius mocked, but if The Judge heard, he gave no notice. “Let’s go,” Darius commanded the humans.

So they left the man with terrible burns unburied where he lay. They went west,  heads down, the sun at their backs. And it wasn’t long before the boy with no eyes fell into pace beside Darius.

“What is it now?” Darius grumbled.

“You… you know what we’re looking for,” the boy haltingly began. “But why are you here? Really.”

“I told you, socket-face. I seek the priest, too.”

“He calls you, but you don’t heed his call. There is something cold and dark inside of you.”

Darius grunted. “You have no idea.”

“I fear you carry something very bad to the priest.”

Tell him, Darius, Ryder had said. Tell the priest I am coming to suck the marrow from his bones, coming to feast on his foul heart. Tell him Darius, or share his fate.

“Just a message from a friend,” Darius said to the boy. “Nothing more.”

“And then?”

“And then…” Darius actually thought about it. He thought of his father. “I inherit a planet of dust.”

“Oh, not dust!” the boy with no eyes said. “Not yet!”

Darius wanted to say Look around fool, but said instead, “Trust me, it’s dust. Everything’s dead.”

“Really? Then what’s that smell?”

“What smell?”

“That way.” And the boy pointed.

Darius puzzled first at the boy, then in the direction he pointed. “There’s nothing…”

Darius looked again.

Pale fingers of smoke rose on the distant horizon.

“The others,” the boy said.

Darius scowled. “Probably just another plane crash…” But the old man and the woman with the dead baby had spotted the smoke too; the old man threw his arms up and out, releasing a soft cloud of bugs from his chest as he proclaimed to the sky, “THE OTHERS! THE OTHERS!” and even the woman with the dead baby smiled, and the boy breathed again with quiet victory, “The others.”

 “THE OTHERS!” the old man bellowed.

“Evol, kill me me now,” Darius winced, and he shot a glance at The Judge. The tall man merely frowned, impenetrable. Darius shrugged and quickened his pace, because weak as they were, the crazy fucking humans scampered ahead and limped with unexpected speed toward the grey pillars of smoke. “THE OTHERS!”

“Come on, gruesome,” Darius said over his shoulder to The Judge. “Let’s go see the others.”

Even Darius was fairly amazed by what they found.

It more than a village, less than a city. It was walled and fairly clean, an orderly compound of tents and little buildings. At the center of town machines chugged and issued soft plumes of steam. Humans moved peacefully through the modest paths and streets. The people weren’t without dirt but they weren’t filthy; their faces were serious with the strain of their exertions but they did not wear grimaces of pain. There were whispers of electronic chatter, tinny music, even laughter. Darius and the pathetic travelers moved through the little streets as if in a daze.

The Judge looked upon it all and frowned, very grim. “This is not right.”

“It’s amazing,” breathed the boy with no eyes, and he poked Darius excitedly. “See, see?! Not dust, not yet!”

“It is something,” admitted the woman with the dead baby.

“Something wrong,” spoke The Judge.

“Brothers! Sisters!” the old man boomed to all he passed. “Have you heard the good news?!”

“Hey, is there one among you called the priest?” Darius asked sharply. “Hey, you! Towel head! Yes, you. Looking for a priest. Hollow guy. Real Holy Roller. Seen him?”

“Who?” a few people asked.

“The priest,” the old man said. “The one who calls us, the one who will save us!”

“No priest here,” said a woman who paused to study the pathetic little band. She had a dusty cybernetic arm, and wires coiled from her ear that ended in a plug at the back of her neck. “No priests. We’re scientists, craftsmen, farmers. People who haven’t given up. Maybe it would be best if you and your friends kept moving.”

“But the priest can remake the world, only if we believe!” the old man cried. “Only if we listen to the word!”

“We’ve had enough of holy words remaking the world,” said a burly man as he set down a basket of freshly baked bread. “Maybe you should take our advice. Move on.”

By now a little crowd of curious onlookers had gathered.

“Our one hope of salvation lies with the priest!” the old man cried.

The onlookers shook their heads and began to mutter threatening sounds. The Judge stood aloof and glowering.

“They’re not listening, Jonathan,” hushed the woman with the dead baby. “Maybe we should go…”

“You should eat something,” one of the villagers said. “At least take some food for the rest of your journey.”

“I do not eat,” said The Judge, “and I do not like any of this.”

“Let them eat, come on,” said the boy with no eyes to Darius, and excitedly he pulled Darius down a path.

“Shaa!” Darius complained. “What, where are we going?”

“You see?” the boy said. “They’re still living. They’re still fighting! They’re planting and harvesting food, they have water! Even if they choose to not follow the priest, a piece of the world still lives!”

“But for how much longer?” Darius said.

“What matters is that—” The boy stopped short, cocking his ear to one side, listening intently. They had stopped before a tent from which issued the artificial sounds of music and voices. “It can’t be…” the boy whispered.

He slipped inside the tent, and after a moment Darius followed.

More than a dozen children sat huddled around an ancient video monitor hooked to a massive battery. The video screen displayed a garish blur of color and noise, explosions, stylized cartoon humans screaming at each other, “Fire the missiles!”

 “Oh my god,” the boy said. “Doomtroopers. I haven’t seen it since… Since I could see. I used to love this cartoon.”

Darius snickered. “You can’t see it now!”

“I can hear it,” the boy said. “It’s almost as good.”

“THIS is the crap you think is worth preserving, this foul ugly cartoon is part of the world you wish to save?!”

“This is worth saving,” the boy said, and he thumped his palm on his chest. “If it quickens my heart—and these children’s hearts—then it’s worth saving.”

Darius thought it would be truly wicked if he blew up the monitor and reduced all the human brats to tears. He raised his hand to make it happen…

…when an ear-piecing scream ripped from beyond the tent.

Darius and the boy slipped outside. Humans ran past, their faces streaked with fear. More screams mingled with the din of violence. And then the woman with the dead baby was there, yelling.

“It’s The Judge!” she cried. “He killed Jonathan, he’s killing them all!”

“What…” Darius began, not really caring.

“Stop him!” the woman begged. “He’s killing everybody!”

Darius sighed, pushed through the avalanche of fleeing humans and strode back to the square.

Bedlam.

The Judge stood over a pile of corpses, his arms flailing, his big hands swatting away all who rushed in to subdue him. “DEAD!” The Judge roared, striking down all who came within his reach. “This is the former world! It has passed away! I judge it DEAD!”

Peel of gunshots. The bullets pounded holes through The Judge’s flesh but impaired him not. He reached down and ripped out a man’s rib cage in a spectacular shower of gore. And then The Judge’s eyes fell upon Darius.

“And YOU!” he bellowed, ripping through the pathetic humans to stomp a path of blood to Darius. “I know your name! And your name is GUILTY!”

The Judge’s massive hands fell upon Darius’s head and wrenched him aloft. Darius grimaced but he couldn’t break free. “GUILTY,” The Judge said, his teeth white, his eyes blank and separate hells that seemed to draw Darius closer, closer. Darius strained to break free, his own eyes squeezing shut…

“GUILTY!”

…and Darius was somewhere else.

A memory. Her mouth was red, swollen, still moving, still forming his name—but she was dead. Darius, her dead lips spoke, Darius. Her heart had been ripped from her breast. Blood and white lace. The blood trickled to the black earth. The wind spoke like soft laughter. Above, a skeletal canopy of winter trees and darkening sky. She jutted from the earth like a weird flower; she’d been buried in the ground to her waist. And still her dead lips moved. Darius…

“Well done,” his father had told him.

Darius opened his eyes to The Judge and screamed.

The scream was a shockwave, a violent pulse of destructive force that ripped through The Judge, peeling his face away in layers and shreds, revealing the dull white of the skull beneath. And then The Judge exploded.

But Darius screamed still. The sound ripped the entire section of the village asunder and heaved rock and earth and dust into the sky. His pupils contracted, disappeared; his black hair flowed like kelp. He howled with a fury he had never vented, a pain he had never acknowledged. The ground of the village cracked and splintered, spewed vents of noxious gas. Darius screamed until he could scream no more, and with a strangled growl he lowered his face to his claws. The earthen rubble he had sent hurling into the sky fell crashing about him. He crouched in the center of the crater he’d made as the sky rained rocks. He sat for long seconds, listening to the crackle of fire and pain-wracked voices.

Finally Darius lifted his head.

The village was in flames, the dead too many to count.

“Look at what you brought us.” It was the woman with the cybernetic arm. “Look at what your words of a savior has delivered. Death and pain!”

“I didn’t…” Darius began weakly.

“Be gone,” the villagers who were still alive howled. “Be gone!” And a rock was hurled. Seconds later, another rock. Then many.

“Come on,” the woman with the dead baby hissed, tugging Darius up.

“But the boy…”

“Dead,” the woman told him. “Your explosion sheared him in half. Let’s go!”

And Darius and the woman (and her dead child) stumbled out of the burning village, pelted by rocks. But there was something strange in Darius’s head. Not just the memory, something else. A voice calling Come, Come. They fled the village.

Come, the voice called.

Darius thought of the boy with no eyes. He had finally heard the voice of the priest.

© Simon Drax | Yes I claim ownership | dreadful though it be

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[INSIDE BACK]

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DID JESUS REALLY DESCEND INTO HELL? by Rev. Anthony R. Locke Jesus descended into the full experience of our Hell while hanging on the cross. Surprisingly, many Christians don’t understand this.

Click to download a PDF of the first 24 pages of In Defense of the Descent by Rev. Daniel R. Hyde.

When did Jesus suffer the full misery of our sin, the full measure of the pains of death, and the full cup of the wrath of God? Thomas couldn’t believe what he couldn’t see. Will you believe Jesus descended into Hell if you never get to see it?

E  n  d     A  d  v  e  r  t

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