Tag Archives: Horror

5 Fantastic Books

The amount of books in existence is mindboggling.  And out of all of the books in existence, how many there must be which focus on ideas which transcend the bounds of everyday human existence , i.e. the fantastic.  I want to briefly put the spotlight on an arbitrary number of fantastic books because, well, this IS the season for such things.  Truly though, there’s no reason to imprison these books in an artificial, temporal box; they can and should be read whenever and wherever.  Still, this is a month to celebrate the extraordinary, so what better time to take a look at a few particularly delectable  paragons…

On Monsters, Stephen T. Asma

I encountered On Monsters entirely by chance.  Back when Borders was still around, I used to love to walk around their storefronts, not looking for anything in particular, though I would gravitate toward the sections of interest to me.  I was looking through the mythology section and I found this book.  I thought that it would be a great counterpoint to another book I was considering buying (Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces), so I picked it up.  As it turned out, Asma provided a wonderfully readable and even-handed account of monsters throughout the ages.  Various monsters, from Biblical, classical, and modern epochs, are examined from psychological, social, and biological perspectives.  In my opinion, good non-fiction is hard to find; it often veers too much toward sensationalism on one hand, or dry academic prose, on the other.  Asma here strikes a great balance and this book ought not be missed by anyone fascinated by the monstrous. Continue reading

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A Sit-down with Lon K. Montag

Montag sat down for a lengthy Q&A session yesterday where he addressed questions about himself, his work, art generally, and much more. 

–   Q: From your biographical blurb, it looks like you’ve been all over the place.  But The Dichotomy really focuses on the Southwest.  Was there any particular reason you chose that area, or was it just the one you were the most familiar with?

–  A: I think that a good story can be transposed to different times or places and the core of it will remain essentially the same though the details might change.  The Dichotomy is literally based on a dream I once had many years ago (well, three quarters of the first chapter are based on a dream, anyway).  The rest of the book is me just taking that idea and running with it.  To answer your question, the dream made very specific use of location and I didn’t see any need to change that when I put it to paper years later.  I think that there are some qualities which are very specific to the Southwest and I really drew on those, but I do believe that The Dichotomy could have taken place pretty much anywhere and still remained fundamentally the same.

–  Q: Your cast of characters is fairly diverse – your heroes are a white man, an Asian woman, and a black man romantically linked with a white woman.  But you don’t seem to take the opportunity to explore any social issues.  Why not?

–  A: Social issues are obviously very important since they affect us all, but when I sat down to write The Dichotomy, I was concerned with exploring the different facets of humanity that are revealed when we come face-to-face with fantastic and horrifying adversity.  I wrote a short essay recently which drew on Flannery O’Connor’s claim that we come to know who we are fundamentally only when we’re thrust into extraordinary circumstances (more specifically, violent ones); I think that what she says is largely true, though I wouldn’t agree that violence is the only sort of extraordinary circumstance that serves this function.  So in a sense, I wanted to explore some more fundamental themes and issues (which are, frankly, more interesting to me).

Also, I would say that I have a real hesitance to explore social issues in any sort of obvious way; I think that the temptation to really propagandize and proselytize is too strong when one tries to use fiction as a means of making a social or philosophical point.  I also wrote a short essay about this a few years ago; Sartre thought that fiction should be of service toward the end of making change in the world, of advancing particular philosophies or causes, and I think that idea gets things all wrong; as I wrote, writing in that way is inauthentic and manipulative.  I don’t mean to say that authors shouldn’t explore social issues, generally, only that they need to be careful to stay true to the characters and stories they tell; they need to resist the urge to manipulate characters and events like puppets.  A story, if it’s to be efficacious, needs readers to become invested in its characters; as such, an author needs to make use of real people (who just happen to inhabit a different, fictional world).  If an author fails to do this, then the work is robbed of its poignancy (since the characters in this case become paper thin stand-ins); or, worse, the work lies to us by making us feel for these lifelike constructions (when they’re really artifices which exist just to make a point). Continue reading

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The Dichotomy

Lou Carter can’t remember where he’s been or where he’s going, but he can plainly see that there’s something wrong with the world around him — and the answers to these mysteries may lie in the memories eluding him, memories which he’ll have to uncover as he bands together with a handful of survivors to confront the ancient evil which is stalking them.

Step into the psyche of a man on an odyssey through the desolate deserts of the American Southwest and through the forgotten labyrinths of his mind.  And prepare to meet a force far more powerful and elemental than man has ever seen; prepare to experience the darkness our greatest religions have only hinted at…


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Lon K. Montag Asks: “Who am I?”

Most of us are probably aware now of the shooting that took place at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  Twelve dead.  Fifty-eight injured.

Three men lost their lives last week as they shielded others from the gunfire coming their way.  The selflessness of these young men is getting some good traction in the media and I’m glad to see it, because as terrible as this event is, and as much as it reveals the destructive capacities inhering in man (as I discussed a few weeks back; see “What Horrifies You?”), it also reveals the courage and compassion man is capable of.

I wonder sometimes how I would stack up if subject suddenly to such a violent test.  And that’s no easy question, because, to answer it, I have to try to step back and make an honest assessment of myself; I have to ask myself, “Who am I?”  And would the person I am be courageous enough to do what’s necessary when the time comes?  How can I know? Continue reading

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Lon K. Montag Asks: What Horrifies You?

I get scared sometimes.  It’s true!  Not often, but sometimes.  And I’m not talking about your garden variety “scared” — you know the type, the tiny “fears” we experience every day, from “I’m scared I’m going to be late” to “I’m scared I’m going to fail this exam [or lose this contract, or whatever]” to “I’m afraid they’re going to run out of tickets for the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.”  No, I’m not talking about these weak, watered down versions of fear.  I’m talking about the primordial stuff.  The type of fear that comes along and tenses your muscles, if you’re lucky, and prepares you for action; the kind of fear which, if you’re unlucky, paralyzes you and leaves you at the mercy of whatever predators might be lurking around the corner and in the dark.  I’m talking about that fear which makes your heart pound and finds your skin suddenly saturated with sweat… Continue reading

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