Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Breaking: Amish Vampires Gets A Sequel

Kerry Nietz, author of the controversial Amish Vampire In Space just announced a new addition to the Star Horrors family: Amish Zombies From Space. Look for more details to come, and a release date some time in April.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Stephen King's Revival

I just finished Stephen King's Revival in record time (in three days). I have some observations to make an questions to ask. There are spoilers below.

I had read a review which suggested that the ending of Revival was very disturbing, but the book was very thought-provoking. I actually took a chance and read it. The reviewer did not exaggerate about the ending. But it was so thought provoking the experience was worth the read--especially since this particular King novle dealt with the topic of religion.
           Revival tells the story of Jamie Morton, beginning with his early childhood in the early 1960s. Jamie is six when he meets the new Methodist minister, 25-year-old Charlie Jacobs. Jacobs is joyful, flamboyant young pastor with a beautiful wife Patsy, and adorable four-year-old son Morrie. The latter becomes a sort of mascot for Jamie and the other children when they go on adventures, which earns him the name Tag-Along Morrie. Jacobs also has an obsessive fascination with electricity, and conducts experiements that delve into tis mysteries. He has constructed a mechanical figure Jesus, and runs on electricty. He demonstrates how it works when he shows young Jamie how electrial power makes the Jesus toy walk across water, thus inspiring both faith and an interest in science for the boy.

    All seems right with the world until (wouldn't you know, since this is a King story) a terrible tragedy strikes the Jacobs family: Patsy and Morrie are killed in a accident, and the man who caused it (an older gent who's lived most of his life) manages to live until up in his eighties. Little Morrie has his face torn off, and we're "treated" to PastOr Jacobs howling in anguish about what happened to his son's face.

    After the funeral, Jacobs seems to recover somewhat, and gives a soon-to-become infamous sermon, in which he begins by thinking his congregation for their support, and build by reciting tragic incidents he's spent the last week looking up in the newspapers (in one of them two boys and their father jump in to save their dog from drowning in a lake; the dog survives but the man his two children drown). Jacobs ends by essentially renouncing God, and saying of the afterlife:"maybe there's something there, but I'm betting it's not God as any church knows him". Jacobs walks out the church, quits his ministry and leaves town. There is a following scene in which Jamies hurtles the electirc-powered Jesus across a room, wailing and cursing Jesus for not being real.

    That's just the setup.

    The next several chapters follow Jamie as he gorws into a teen and young adult in a guitar band. There is a literally electrfying scene in which Jamie and his girlfriend visit a hilltop (which jacobs has referred him to), where an iron rod drawa bolts of lightening during an electric storm and turns vivdly blue, crimson and purple as it absorbs its power. It's an incredible experience the King describes it.

    Later on, Jamie finds himself addicted to heroin, but he runs into Jacobs, now a carny showman. Jacobs draws crowds with incredible picture shows generated by electricity. Jacobs manages to cure Jamie, which makes the younger man indebted to him. Years later, he runs into Jacobs again, only know the former paster has ditched his carny act, and is now a flamboyant revival preacher. He soon learns that Jacobs has hardly rediscovered his Christian faith--if anything, he's grown even more bitter, and is willfully taking advantage of his gullible patrons, the way some many televangelists are infamous for. But Jacobs is snake-oil salesman: his miricles actually seem to work! The thing is, a relatively small portion of the people he "cures" eventually go insane in a variety of bizarre ways. It all has to do with Jacobs' strange experiments with lightening, which enables him to tap into what he calls "the deep electricity, " a vast power hiterto unknown to science. It is suggested that Jacobs' insane patrons may have gotten a glimpse of something "beyond" during their treatments, which has blasted the reason from their brains.

    It all culminates in a grand experiement which Jacobs theorizes will allow him and Jamie to "peak through the keyhole' and catch a glimpse of the afterlife.

    SK has written tragic, downbeat endings many times before, and back in the eighties especially. His worldview seems to have brightened just a bit around the time he wrote Desperation, how at the end David Carver reflects that the human condition is maybe "not so bad" as I recall.

    But now, its obviously taken a turn backwards.
               As one of the advertisments for Pet Semetary claimed back in the mid-eighties, you might say that SK has "really done it" this time, not just "done it again."

SK has killed off many sympathetic, likeable, even heroic characters in sometimes pointless ways, in order to illustrate the sometimes pointless nature of life. But here he takes a leap forward. (spoilers below)

In other stories what lies beyond death is left unrevealed, the great mystery that it actually is. But in Revival, he does not merely kill of Patsy and Morrie in a sickening, pointless manner---he actually sends to hell. And, not merely them, but by implication, countless others as well.

This is not a traditional hell, nor a judgmental hell. But it is effectively hell nonetheless. It is obvious these people are suffering. It seems likely also that they will continue to suffer, at least for a very long while.

This book was obviously written by someone who has great fear of what comes after death. I think a great many of us do, and that is why the book strikes so strong a chord. SK may be imagining as horrifying an afterlife as he can, so that maybe, just maybe, when he arrives there himself, it may not be so bad after all. Jesus might even turn out to be real.

The question I have (one of them anyway) is what this hellish afterlife implies for everyone in the SK multiverse. Castle Rock is referenced in the story, as is Jerusalems' Lot. So this obviously is taking place within the SK universe. Therefore, it seems that anyone who has died in an SK story has wound up there. Lovable tykes like Tadder, Gage, and Pie Carver, heroes like John Coffee, Wolf from the Talisman--they're all being herded by giant ant-things--that's what this story tells me. Is there anything that suggests differently? I don't think so. There is some suggestion that Jamie's vision might have been false, but it's strongly implied otherwise.

Okay, there are exceptions to this. Jake Chambers wound up somehow in Midworld, and the spirits ALL of Roland's Ka-tet somehow merged with their counterparts in some alternate version of New York. But what about the rest?

     Now it has come to my attention that there indeed other King novels that deal with the topic of the afterlife in which it appears to be unlike that described in Revival. Someone on King's site has brought to my attention Bag of Bones. What about the spirits in Overlook Hotel, for example? Or, for that matter, the shade of Jack Torrence visiting Danny on his graduation (this happened in the Shining TV miniseries, BTW, not the book, though I beleive King wrote the screenplay, and that was the version he approved of). I didn't get the idea he'd been to the hell Jamie saw. Perhaps the world of Revival takes places in aseparate but connected alternate realit, like those in the original Bachman Books. But if that's the case, why those place names still there?

     Another thing: Revival is ultimately a nihialistic novle, in which the very concepts of good and evil are rendered meaningless. The theme of the hubris of science is a strong one, but in a universe devoid of meaning or purpose, who's to say that Jacobs' experiements, and his desire to peak bhind the veil, are actually wrong in any moral sense. King even cites Arthur Machen, and H.P. Lovecraft as inspirational to this novel, and for good reason. The problem is, it clashes with his own multiverse. Consider the Dark Tower novels, which are built around the classic conflict between the forces of good and evil. But in light of Revival, Ka is rendered nil. Is the Crimson King really wrong in seeking to destory the linchpin of the multiverse, causing all the realities to unravel? It would not seem so.

    I have not read Bag of Bones so I can't comment on that story directly, but King has, indeed, been notoriously inconsistent over the years in regard to his own worldview. That's not surprising, since his worldview fits the very defintion of agnosticism. Now, I'm sure King would want to describe himself thusly, and the way the term "agnostic" tends to be used these days is very close to the word "atheist," even though that's technically incorrect. In an eithies interview with Douglas E. Winter, then the most famous King expert, King is quoted as saying,

...it has to put into the equation: the possibility that there is no God and nothing works for the best. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that view, but I don’t know what I do subscribe to. Why do I have to have a world view? I mean, when I wrote Cujo, I wasn’t even old enough to be president. Maybe when I’m forty or forty-five, but I don’t now. I’m just trying on all these hats.

  That's pretty much the very essence of agnosticism. I also recall King as saying, and do forgive me if I've got it wrong that "Jesus Christ might have been divine" and that ultimately, "wer'e livng in the center of a great mystery." I think that really echoes Jacobs' observation near the end of his imfamous sermon that "we come from a mystery, and to a mystery we go." You can't get much more agnostic than that.

    But the very concept of an agnostic hell seems a contradiction in terms. Hell is almost always associated with religion, most specifally with scaring potential converts into the faith--at least it works that way with Christianity and Islam. This brings something else that I don't really mean to go into in this article, partly due to its deeply disturbing nature. This is the concept of innocent human beings, such as certain of the the unevangelized and (most specifically in relation to King's novel) certain children, in hell. King, in fact, seems to wish fervetly that the whole story of Jesus and heaven were real, but fears it's all just foolish pipe-dream.

   But he seems to have entirely overlooked the fact that conservative Christianity sometimes presents a version of hell even more disturbing, in a sense, than his own. Christians are, in fact, somewhat divided as to the fate of unevangelized. C. S. Lewis argued that it was possible for an unevangelized person to enter heaven. David Platt argues, among many others, argues that it is not. When it comes to children, most, it seems, do not beleive that hell awaits them, and tend to accept some form of the "age of accountability." For the record, I don't think that the age of acountibility is a Biblical doctrine, and in fact no strict age may exist. But God's promise to David and Bathseba appears to rule out the possibilty of infants in eternal torment.I also beleive that the simplistic concept of eternal bliss on one hand and eternal torment on the other is a far, far too simple picture of the fate of spirits on the Other Side. Jesus addressed only adult men and women with normal brain function as to salvation, and when he discussed hell, it was always in regard to behavior, not worldview or factual information. Yes, it's one's spiritual state, not behavior per se that determines that determines one fate to the Christian, but that's a different story.

   But it is nontheless true that there are  Christians do beleive and defend the concept of innocents such as children in hell. I even once had a minster he who beleived this. What makes this more disturbing than King's agnostic version? Well, in the story, Jamie observes that his deceased sister "deserved heaven," but got this instead. It's very very clear that many of these deceased are indeed "innocent." But show me a Christian who defends children or the unconverted in hell, and he or she will insist that even children are not truely "innocent," that all humans, even small children, as so bestial and depreaved that they somehow "deserve" it. The main thing that makes such a concept so dreadfully unjust is the very fact that it purports to represent justice.
   At least SK is suggesting no such thing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Babel On: Review of Mike Duran's "The Ghost Box"

Reagan Moon is a journalist. Sort of. Actually, Reagan Moon is more or less to journalists what mimes are to actors. He's a tabloid reporter. A paranormal tabloid reporter. Which is a great job if you can get over the insane hours, the pushy editor, and the vague self-loathing that come with it. After the tragic loss of his girlfriend, Moon spends his time muddling through his day job, and going home to muddle through the rest of his life, when out of nowhere he finds the story of a lifetime. Or rather, it finds him.

Moon is contracted by a wealthy eccentric to dig into the rebuilding of the Tower of Babel in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles by the rich man's former partner. Along the way Moon discovers there may be more -- much more -- to his girlfriend's death than he ever suspected, and what begins as a strange assignment through the city's paranormal underworld turns very, very personal.

Moon isn't alone, however. He is aided in their turns by a strange psychic, a Mad Frenchman and his daughter, and an invisible... something... named Bernard.

If I'm being vague, it's for good reason. This piece of paranormal noir -- unique for Duran in both genre and audience (this is Mike's first self-published novel, first paranormal urban fantasy noir, and first book outside the Christian market) -- is one that really ought to be read and discovered on its own terms. Digging through the evidence with Reagan and discovering the invisible reality as he does is half the fun.

And it is a fun book. Part Dresden Files, part Kolchak, with a little bit of Clive Barker thrown in, The Ghost Box and its protagonist Reagan will keep you turning page after page.

Duran is an author who writes rich characters and compelling storylines, and The Ghost Box is no exception. However, because there's so much to discover here, the exposition can at time feel a little long, and some of the characters will leave the reader wanting a just a little more background. That said, Duran tells you what you need to know, and does it in style. There is nothing superfluous in the exposition and he rewards you with a rich, supernatural conspiracy both unique and entertaining.

Already a fan of Duran's supernatural thrillers, his turn at paranoir has made me a believer. I'm looking forward to reading more of Reagan Moon's story in the future.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bits N Pieces 1.28.15

Recently released is Real Illusions by Tanya R Taylor (who previously published Hidden Sins Revealed). A hidden mansion in the woods. Dark secrets. A man with a brutal past. Sounds like the recipe for a fun ride. For Kindle or in paperback.

Crystal Lake Publishing offers a couple rare Kindle deals now through February 3rd. A five-book offer includes Things Slip Through by Kevin Lucia, as well as Horror 101, a collection of essays by Lucia and other horror writers. Find both value packs at CLP's website.

Christian horrorpunk favorites Grave Robber have issued a statement saying their vinyl EP, "Straight To Hell" will be available some time in March. On their official Facebook page, the band has also put out feelers for interest in crowdfunding a new full-length album. The band hints the new record will be called "Escaping The Grave," but have not confirmed that this will indeed be the case.

End Times thriller The Remaining is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. The disc dropped Tuesday, January 27th.

Friday, January 23, 2015

DevilBus! Superstistians Strike Back

Dear Outraged Christian Moms of the World,


Earlier this month, a mom in Tennessee was disturbed as she drove behind a school bus to be assaulted with the 5-pointed symbol of the Devil himself, a pentagram. It wasn't drawn on. It wasn't hanging from the windows. It wasn't the school logo.

It was the LED formation in the brake lights.

The surprised mom snapped a quick picture of the lights and ultimately went to the news media express her outrage that impressionable young children should be forced to ride a bus that, apparently, Slayer built.

"Anyone who fears a god, if not God and Jesus Christ, should be outraged." (via WMC Action News 5)

As they say on the social media, that escalated quickly.

Meanwhile, a video has been floating around the YouTube for quite some time suggesting the logo for Monster Energy Drink is actually a triple Hebrew vav, signifying the Mark of the Beast, 666. Even more damning, apparently, is the company's slogan, "Unleash The Beast." But most telling of all, apparently, the "O" in "Monster" apparently forms a cross, which when you take a drink turns upside-down and... oh, just watch the video.

"Bottoms up. And the Devil laughs." 


Look, I know what you're thinking. But the point is not, actually, to make fun of these well-meaning, if misguided people. Not at all. 

The point is to point out another example of superstition among Christians. I pointed this out a couple years ago on my devotional blog, Still Unfinished, in a post entitled "Superstistians." 

See, Christians have long been guilty of idolizing the trappings of religion, in essence behaving as pagans, with our own rituals and forms of magic (though we never call it that!). We'll kiss a cross necklace for luck, as though this piece of metal -- as significant a symbol as it is -- is also a talisman to ward off evil and misfortune. 

Christians! We have got to calm down about this sort of thing. Is there evil in the world? Yes! Does Satan have control of this world? Yes!!

But temporarily. And in hearts and minds. And in ways unnoticeable to most people. In the little things. In everyday temptations and sins. In the fear he places in our hearts. Is God the God of Paranoia? No! Paranoia is fear and confusion. These things are Satan's domain. These, and not LED lights on a bus, or company logos. 

Don't fear coincidence. Don't worry that you're putting your kids' souls at risk because you sent them to school on the wrong bus or because they're drinking Monster instead of Red Bull. Fear instead he who comes to kill the soul, as Jesus pointed out. But recognize, most of all, that even he, who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy, is already defeated. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Books for the New Year

Heading into the new year with nothing to read? How about these recent releases?

The Ghost Box
Mike Duran


Reagan Moon -- paranormal reporter, terminal underachiever, and staunch cynic of the human race. The only ghosts he really believes in are the ones in his own head. But his world is about to get an upgrade. When Moon is hired by a reclusive tycoon to investigate the events surrounding his girlfriend's tragic death, he learns of an impending apocalypse about to flatten Los Angeles. Seems that the Summu Nura, ancient gods from a parallel dimension, are looking for a new stomping ground. And Hollyweird is ground zero. What's worse, Reagan Moon is the only one who can stop them. With the help of an occult archivist and a carefree guardian angel, Moon is forced to confront an invisible world of toxic parasites and dimensional outriders. But no amount of magic can save him from the monster that awaits... inside him.


Larry L. Deibert


Enlisted by an angel of God, eight humans are given the task of sending all earthbound ghosts to their final reward, be it Heaven or Hell. After dispatching the spirits from the battleship North Carolina, they are ferried to Masonboro Island, ostensibly a deserted barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. However, the island is not deserted; along with thousands of spirits, terrifyingly, four unsuspecting people on a camping trip will have their lives changed forever.

The Journal of Ezekiel Walker (Prequel to Walker's Vale)
John Zelenski

In the fall of 1945, just after Word War II, Ezekiel Walker has returned home on a furlough from his Civilian Public Service Unit. As Ezekiel tries to adjust back to life at the farm, strange and unexplainable events begin to occur at the homestead, and Ezekiel begins to experience visions and bizarre sightings. When a stranger suddenly arrives with promises to rebuild the small town of Walker's Vale and befriend the young Ezekiel, a portal to the supernatural is opened and lives will never be the same.

Blood for Blood Ben Wolf

What if a vampire got saved?

Calandra, an evangelist's daughter, is amazed to watch as Raven, a century-old vampire, develops faith. As Raven ceases to drink blood and becomes more human with each passing day, Calandra cannot deny her growing attraction to him even though she is being courted by another man.

Raven's newfound salvation is both a relief and a burden, as he encounters multiple vampire taboos and must overcome them. Just when Raven begins to get the hang of his new lifestyle, Calandra is attacked by bandits.

Will Raven revert to his old vampiric ways to save Calandra from certain death? Or will he rely on his faith in God to help him ransom Calandra from a new brand of evil more horrifying than he ever was as a vampire?

The Remaining Coming to Blu Ray and DVD

Highly-anticipated (around here, anyway) supernatural thriller The Remaining has an official release date. After a frustratingly limited theatrical release, the DVD and Blu Ray are expected to drop January 27, according to the Christian Film Database.