The Scariest Part: Rex Hurst Talks About WHAT HELL MAY COME

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Rex Hurst, whose latest novel is What Hell May ComeHere is the publisher’s description:

The satanic panic was a moral outcry in the United States over supposed “satanic” influence in media warping the youth of America. Claims that playing an elf in Dungeons and Dragons could lead to demonic possession, that playing heavy metal music backwards would reveal satanic messages, and that therapists could uncover repressed memories of satanic ritual abuse, were all too common. Volumes and volumes of material were produced on this fake subject. These texts leads to What Hell May Come which takes a look at what the world would actually be like if all of the claims of the satanic panic were true.

Set in 1986, Jon St. Fond’s life is a living Hell. Deliberately abused and neglected by his parents, the only joy he has in life is an escape into a fantasy land of role playing games. He discovers that his parents are part of a secret occult religion with hidden ties all across the world. Jon soon learns there is method behind the madness of his life, as his Father begins to bring him closer and closer into the ways of the cult. Ultimately, Jon must make a choice between all the pleasures of the earth and the future of his soul.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Rex Hurst:

With my new book What Hell May Come being released on June 12th, 2020, I was given the daunting task of coming up with the scariest part of my book. Luckily, our good host, Nick Kaufmann, left it open to interpretation for what was meant by “the scariest part.” For me, the most disturbing part wasn’t in anything I wrote, but what I found in the research leading up to the novel.

The book was inspired by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, where it was fashionable to claim that everything embraced by youth culture was designed to corrupt the morals of young people and lead them down the road to damnation. All of this was supposedly controlled by a shadowy Satanic Elite. People naturally reacted and a flourishing book trade sprouted up of people relating their “experiences” with these Satanic forces, which I read more than I should have.

But along the way I uncovered such gems as:

“The unicorn is a symbol of the antichrist, which the prophet Daniel described in his vision as the little horn which rises in the midst of the ten horns. My Little Pony symbolisms may be cute, but they are definitely based on occult symbolisms. The occult symbolisms are not limited to the toys themselves. The My Little Pony cartoon is also laden with the occult.”

  • From Turmoil in the Toybox by Phil Phillips.

Or:

“Rainbow Brite is a little girl who ‘can bring sparkles of color to the darkest day and put a bright smile on a little girl’s face’. … However the cartoon is laden with occult symbolisms. [Occultists] use rainbows to signify their building of the Rainbow Bridge (antahkarana) between man and Lucifer, who they say, is the over-soul.”

  • From Turmoil in the Toybox by Phil Phillips.

And:

“An Illinois fifth-grader developed a serious psychosis clearly linked to D&D gaming and had to be admitted to a state psychiatric hospital. His teacher said that the boy (who had good grades and never had been a behavior problem) had been sitting in the back of the room, staring at the wall. When confronted, he said, ‘the wizard told me to do this.’

“The boy was heavily involved in D&D play and told the principal that voices told him to do things. He admitted to frequent nightmares of being chased by a dragon through a cave and a wizard master telling him to kill his friends and family. The principal also noted that the boy hinted at suicidal ‘commands’.”

  • From The Devil’s Web: Who is Stalking Your Children For Satan? By Pat Pulling (creator of B.A.D.D. – Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons).

Yes, if you let your daughters play with My Little Pony or Rainbow Brite dolls, you are allowing them to worship the antichrist. And if your kid plays a dwarf in a game of Dungeons and Dragons he will become a mentally ill murderer, totally absolving you of any blame for bad parenting.

We can laugh at the ridiculousness with the security of hindsight, but remember people believed this. For many adults, these writings were their first exposure to Heavy Metal music, role playing games, and video games, and they were of the generation that believed everything put into print. So think about the actions of people who were successfully frightened by passages above. People went to jail because of this propaganda. Lives were ruined. That’s what I find truly scary.

What Hell May Come is a serious look into the demented imaginations of people who wrote about things they barely understood. What the world might look like had their suspicions been true? Truly, a very scary place.

What Hell May Come: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / Bookshop

Rex Hurst: Website / Review Blog / Twitter

Rex Hurst is a failed entrepreneur trying to sell do-it-yourself rat breeding businesses. When that failed, he took up writing. He is the author of What Hell May Come; The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out; and the sci-fi novel Across the Wounded Galaxy – based on the Battlelords RPG game universe.

Essential Werewolf By Night, Vol. 1

Essential Werewolf by Night, Vol. 1Essential Werewolf by Night, Vol. 1 by Gerry Conway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, cheesy fun from the heyday of Marvel’s monster comics in the 1970s! In these collected issues, Jack Russell, cursed with lycanthropy, fights mutants, monsters, witches, sorcerers, and even Dracula. The cast of supporting characters are fun, too, including Jack’s sister Lissa, who is constantly being kidnapped, but who is also the first one to figure out Jack is a werewolf; his friend, the reporter Buck Cowan, who I suspect is actually dating Jack’s sister behind his back, despite the fact that she’s only 17, because she’s always hanging out at Buck’s house; and Jack’s ridiculously horny neighbors at the “singles condo” where he lives, who are always trying to get him in the sack.

While the individual stories are kind of formulaic and forgettable, it’s intriguing to see how many important elements of the Marvel universe got their start in WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, most importantly the Darkhold, a book of dark magic reminiscent of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, and the sorceress Topaz, whom Jack frees from servitude to the evil wizard Taboo and has a brief romantic relationship with.

I have one big issue with this collection, though, and it’s the main reason I’m only giving it three stars. In my opinion, this book suffers greatly from being printed in black and white. There’s a lot of text in narration boxes — sometimes the comic is grossly overnarrated, with box after box filled with overwrought descriptions of what we’re already seeing in the panels — and the art can often be rich with detail. However, the black-and-white printing makes it hard on the eyes, and sometimes the result is that it’s difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in a panel. I got frustrated by this quite often.

Luckily, there are color collections available now. They’re more expensive, obviously, but if you’re interested in WEREWOLF BY NIGHT and the price isn’t a deterrent, I would recommend those books instead. Still, no matter which version you read, a lot of kitschy, if forgettable, 1970s horror fun awaits you.

View all my reviews

Bookshop and Me

By now you’ve probably heard about Bookshop, the new ABA-backed online retailer that lets you support your local independent bookstores with every purchase. Well, I’ve got a couple of special announcements for you today that will bring my blog feature, The Scariest Part, in line with the exciting possibilities that Bookshop offers.

First, moving forward, all books featured on The Scariest Part will include a purchase link to Bookshop. I’m all about readers making their own choices, so the usual links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s will remain. But adding a Bookshop link will give readers the added benefit of the ease of online ordering while supporting their own local stores at the same time.

Second, I have set up my own affiliate store at Bookshop that sells just about all the books that have been featured on The Scariest Part so far. My store’s “inventory” will continue to grow with new books as The Scariest Part continues.

I’m excited about this and looking forward to seeing how this new partnership will benefit readers, writers, and independent bookstores around the country!

The Scariest Part: Molly Tanzer Talks About CREATURES OF CHARM AND HUNGER

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Molly Tanzer, whose latest novel is Creatures of Charm and Hunger, the third novel in The Diabolist’s Library trilogy. Here is the publisher’s description:

Two young witches, once inseparable, are set at odds by secrets and wildly dangerous magic.

In the waning days of World War II, with Allied victory all but certain, desperate Nazi diabolists search for a demonic superweapon to turn the tide. A secluded castle somewhere in the south of Germany serves as a laboratory for experiments conducted upon human prisoners, experiments as vile as they are deadly.

Across the English Channel, tucked into the sleepy Cumbrian countryside, lies the Library, the repository of occult knowledge for the Société des Éclairées, an international organization of diabolists. There, best friends Jane Blackwood and Miriam Cantor, tutored by the Société’s Librarian — and Jane’s mother — Nancy, prepare to undergo the Test that will determine their future as diabolists.

When Miriam learns her missing parents are suspected of betraying the Société to the Nazis, she embarks on a quest to clear their names, a quest involving dangerous diabolic practices that will demand more of her than she can imagine. Meanwhile Jane, struggling with dark obsessions of her own, embraces a forbidden use of the Art that could put everyone she loves in danger.

As their friendship buckles under the stress of too many secrets, Jane and Miriam will come face to face with unexpected truths that change everything they know about the war, the world, and most of all themselves. After all, some choices cannot be unmade — and a sacrifice made with the most noble intention might end up creating a monster.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Molly Tanzer:

In the same way that dread is often more affecting than horror, not-knowing is worse than knowing. In Creatures of Charm and Hunger, apprentice diabolist Miriam Cantor has been hiding out with family friends in the north of England while her parents — also diabolists — remain in Nazi Germany, fighting from the shadows via arcane means.

When the novel opens, it’s been a while since Miriam has had a message from them. A long while. Miriam is a stoic, bottling up her feelings and throwing herself into her schoolwork. . .but what could be worse than that bleak, gnawing anticipation? That, to me, is the scariest part of anything, that state of not-knowing; the awful slowing of the minutes that comes from waiting for, if not necessarily anticipating something. “Try to put it from your mind.” “The answer will be the same whether or not you worried about it.” “You can’t change what will happen, so don’t worry yourself sick.” These little mantras, we offer them up like prayers, or apotropaic spells, hoping that this they will work, finally allowing us to effectively concede to ourselves that worry isn’t rational and we should be carrying on as usual until we hear what we hear.

So here is the thing: Am I a horror novelist? Honestly, I have no idea. No one can decide. It’s true, my novels have things like vampires and demons and evil funguses, but no one — and I mean no one — thinks anything I write is scary. It’s not! The sort of horror I deal in is social: “I wish I didn’t have to be at this party where I hate everyone and can’t leave,” “how can I explain myself out of this conversation I don’t wish to be in,” “my friend is mad at me and nothing I can do can fix it,” etc. So I have to make it count. I have to make it real. I have to make that kind of scary actually scary.

At the start of the novel, Miriam is bothered by her parents’ absence — of course she is. But she accepts it. What else can she do? But when she hears a rumor that her parents’ silence is due to them having turned traitor. . .that’s when she snaps. Too many uncertainties, too many variables. The not-knowing becomes too much for her. She decides to devote herself not to her diabolical school work, but to discovering the truth. That desire for some sort of data point beyond her faith in their hearts will take her down dark paths — ones untrodden by the wise, only the desperate.

Miriam succeeds — after much hardship and sacrifice, she finds out what happened to her parents. And then, of course, she has another question. . .one we all must ask ourselves, at some point in our lives: was the scariest part knowing, or not-knowing?

Creatures of Charm and Hunger: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / Bookshop

Molly Tanzer: Website / Twitter / Instagram

Molly Tanzer is the author of The Diabolist’s Library trilogy: Creatures of Will and Temper, the Locus Award-nominated Creatures of Want and Ruin, and Creatures of Charm and Hunger. She is also the author of the indie weird western Vermilionan io9 and NPR “Best Book” of 2015and the British Fantasy Award-nominated collection, A Pretty Mouth. She lives outside of Boulder, CO with her cat, the Toad.

 

 

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