Posts Tagged ‘Dante Alighieri’

The other day I watched the movie As Above, So Below (which I highly recommend, by the way. Underrated horror movie). For those of you who haven’t seen it, As Above, So Below is a found footage film that follows an archaeologist and her crew into the bowels of the Paris catacombs to find a mythical treasure. As they make their way down, however, they end up finding a passage that leads straight into Hell. And Hell in this movie isn’t a fiery pit. It’s so much, much more.

As well as terrifying me again and making me remember why I liked this film to begin with, As Above, So Below also made me consider that our portrayal of Hell has changed immensely over the years. If you look throughout the media we create, you’re going to find more than just the traditional fire-and-brimstone images of Hell, but as many as there are writers out there looking for unique twists on old concepts and stories. And that in and of itself is pretty interesting. I mean, how many different versions are there? And why are they showing up so much, especially today?

Well, Hell has always been a concept in human theology. While some early religions–Mesopotamian, Greek, and traditional Judaism–have a general afterlife for all the dead, usually a gloomy place with maybe some nicer perks for those who behaved themselves in life, others had very defined afterlives for sinners and saints. Hinduism and Buddhism have multiple afterlives where various treatments or punishments may be applied to your soul prior to reincarnation. The ancient Egyptians were the earliest to use a lake of fire. The Ainu of Japan, meanwhile, saw Hell as a wet place underground, and the Serer people of Senegal saw Hell as rejection by ancestor spirits, forcing you to become a wandering ghost.

And that’s just a small survey of the various kinds of Hell in religious beliefs.*

The most iconic version, of course, is the underground lake of fire ruled over by Satan from mainstream Christianity, which was adapted from the Egyptian concept and then spread as Christianity took root in the Roman Empire and then was spread by missionaries. But even that has had variations over the years. Some have involved just a cave full of flames, while others have involved individual sections where demons perform different punishments in cauldrons full of boiling water and fire. Some involved a dumb, animalistic Satan, and others portray him as a calculating, powerful evil.

In the Renaissance, we received some of our most famous variations of Hell. Dante Alighieri wrote Inferno, where he travels with the spirit of the poet Virgil through Hell’s nine circles, with each circle containing different punishments for different sins. John Milton featured a Hell featuring a great castle, Pandemonium, created by Satan and the fallen angels to be their seat of power in Hell.

Lucifer’s version of Hell, featuring customized punishments for every person there. It’s a great and adaptable concept.

Further variations have appeared since those landmark works. Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous play, No Exit, describes Hell as other people. Luis Brunel further took this theme along in his movie The Exterminating Angel, where guests at a dinner party hate each other but are unable to leave. Stephen King has defined Hell has endless repetition, and has added that to many of his stories. Some creators have shown Hell as a city or a distorted version of our own world. The Hellraiser movies have shown Hell as a place mixing BDSM with your own sins and life choices. As Above, So Below portrays Hell as a series of tunnels in the Paris catacombs that configures itself, adding elements and figures to fully terrify and punish any who are forced to enter it, going so far to become an alchemical/spiritual puzzle to test the main characters. And increasingly, we see Hell as setting itself up for each individual sinner. The TV show Lucifer utilizes this very effectively, especially in Season 3’s episode “Off the Record,” in which a man is forced to replay the last two years of his life over and over in Hell, because his obsession with the titular character caused him to commit murder.**

But what does all this really mean? Well, at the heart of all these portrayals is the idea of torment. Whether you realize or not you’re in it, Hell is meant to fill you with despair. That may be through pain, psychological torture, or terror. It can vary depending on the needs of the storyteller or the person being tormented, but the point is, it can change for any purpose. And that is why we’re seeing so many variations of Hell in our media.

And I’m sure with the passage of time, we’ll see even more portrayals, matching new ideas and situations we face in our lives, giving us all new reasons to be afraid. I find that kind of exciting. Hell, don’t you?

What are some versions of Hell you’ve come across or created? Why do you think it was so effective or terrible?

*There are also faiths that don’t have any belief or reject beliefs about a punishment-themed afterlife, but I think we’ll skip over those for this article.

**By the way, so excited for Lucifer season 4! Thank you Netflix, for saving one of the best shows on TV right now. I’m working my way through rewatching the show and can’t wait to see what’s been served up. #LuciferSaved

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You ever find yourself doing something casually, thinking it’d be a fun hobby or just a way to pass a couple of hours, and then it ends up becoming something much bigger than you could ever have imagined? That’s happened to me a number of times. Reading Harry Potter as a child and then reading Stephen King’s It as a tween led me to become a writer and a horror writer, respectively, when I’d only been looking for something new and fun to read. Likewise, reading books about the Holocaust while traveling through Israel during the summer before senior year of high school led me to want to study the Holocaust along with creative writing in college.

And just recently, a story I started writing in-between drafts of Rose back in spring has quite possibly become my next novel. And I have no fucking clue how that happened.

Let me explain. Back in late winter/early spring, right after I’d finished another draft of Rose, I started a story I’d been wanting to work on for a while, both to pass the time and to experiment with writing by the seat of my pants. I didn’t think it would be a very long story, maybe twenty-thousand or thirty-thousand at most (so a novelette or novella), so I thought it would be a good side project. I named this story River of Wrath, as it deals with a certain aspect of Dante’s Inferno, and I went at it.

The writing by the seat of my pants didn’t work out so well, and I only got about nine-thousand words or so in before I had to do another draft of Rose (still impressive, but I felt like I could do better). I got that draft of Rose done, and then sent it to the imprint that would become my publisher. I worked on other stories while I tried to figure out how best to edit River of Wrath. After I sent the latest draft of Rose back to Castrum and did a few other stories, I decided to write an outline for River, and then go off that.

Whoo-boy, did that work! Writing the story went a lot faster, especially after I went through the initial thirty pages or so and tried to clean them up a bit. I was enjoying the story, and I found it challenging in a fun way, which is usually a good sign.

And then I got past ten thousand words.

And then fifteen thousand.

And then twenty thousand.

Thirty thousand arrived before I knew it.

I reached thirty-five thousand around Sunday.

And last night, I reached forty-six thousand. Yeah, I wrote around eleven thousand words over three days. I’m not sure how I did that either. On the bright side, I think I can do it again and write stories a lot faster now.

But back to point. Defining novels by word count varies from person to person. Mine is usually around sixty thousand (for clarity, the first Harry Potter is seventy-seven thousand words, give or take a few), but many people and quite a few publishers consider forty-thousand words or higher a novel. As I said, this novel’s upwards of forty-six thousand, so some would definitely consider it a novel. And I have a feeling River’s going to be at least fifty-thousand or higher by the time I’m done.

Like I said, I did not intend for this story to get so long. I thought it would top out at twenty-thousand. At the outside, it might reach thirty-thousand, too long for a magazine but perhaps good for a future short story collection. I never thought it would get this long! But parts of the story I thought would be short as heck became entire pages, complete with dialogue and inner thoughts and a couple of crazy scenes for people have to fight for their lives! And I felt that if I was going to do this story justice, I’d just have to go with the flow and write till I finished it.

So yeah, I’ve got another novel in the works, one called River of Wrath, and one I didn’t even know I was writing until it got as long as it did. And if I’m lucky, I’ll finish it by Halloween (which, coincidentally, is also when this story takes place). And afterwards? I plan to hand it off to some beta readers and do some edits, of course. And hey, if Rose sells well and Castrum wants to continue working with me afterwards, maybe they’ll take on River of Wrath and publish that as well.

But I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them. First thing’s first, I’m going to finish River. And when I do, I’ll celebrate with a drink and let you all know about it (whether or not you want to know or not).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to get ready for bed and think of more scary stories to write. Expect a review of the new Halloween movie at some point this weekend. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

I wanted to post something other than a review before my next one (which should be very soon, believe me), but I couldn’t think of anything that I felt passionate enough to write about. So I decided to just give you all an update on what’s been going on in my life lately. Because if average folks on YouTube can pay their rent doing just that, why can’t I just write one for the hell of it?

So what’s going on in my life? Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone, but life has been busy crazy lately.

Current WIP

I’ve been working on a story that I started back in the spring in-between drafts of RoseĀ and picked up back in August. The story, which I’m calling River of Wrath, was inspired by Dante’s Inferno and certain events in America’s history. I originally expected River‘s length to end up as a long novelette or a short novella, but at the time I’m writing this post, the story’s around thirty-six thousand words, and I’m guessing I’m going to put in another ten-thousand or so before I’m done. Maybe even more! This could easily turn out to be my next novel, even though I didn’t plan it that way.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m finding this story very engaging. It’s got a lot of themes and topics I feel passionate about, and I enjoy getting into the narrator’s head and seeing things through her point of view. I’m easily getting out a thousand or more words some nights, and I usually aim just to get two-hundred and fifty out per night.

Hopefully, I can get through River before I have to look at Rose again. And if not, I’m sure I’ll work twice as hard so I can get back to it as soon as possible.

Speaking of Rose

Rose

I heard from my publisher back at the tail end of September. As I said in a previous post, my publisher has been busy with multiple projects and that’s slowed down the response time on Rose. However, they’re planning on devoting time to Rose during the month of October. Hopefully that means I get their feedback around the end of the month, and decide next moves then. I’m praying they’ll just say they want me to clean up this or that part and then we can move to publication. But we’ll just have to see about that.

Car Chasers

The Binge-Watching Cure II, the anthology from Claren Books that my short story Car Chasers will appear in, is still set for late 2018/early 2019. Hopefully I’ll have more definitive news in the months to come.

Wow, lot of “hopefully’s” in this post. Well, that’s kind of how it is with writing sometimes. You just have to hope you can accomplish your dreams and that things will work out in your favor.

Life in general

My Halloween costume for this year. What do you think?

Well, work’s been crazy busy. I recently got a raise and was put in charge of an important project, so I’m trying to make sure the faith put in me isn’t misplaced. I’m also being trained on a number of different tasks that my office specializes in, so I’m just trying to get the processes for those down pat. It’s difficult, as a lot of the time we’re busy with other tasks, which limits training time, but we’ll deal with it. We always do.

I also got my driver’s license a few months ago, so I’m getting ready to get a car of my own. I’m looking forward to all the possibilities a car of my own can open up. It can even help with marketing Rose, when the time comes.

And finally, I got my Halloween costume this past Thursday. And holy crap, is it something else! As you can see, I am a goat-headed demon. You know, like the one in that creepy illustration the Church of Satan uses in a lot of their materials (aka Baphomet). I really like it, as it scares the heck out of people. And even though visibility is pretty limited (I now know what a Disneyland cast member goes through every day), I plan on keeping it. At the very least, I can use the cloak piece for other occasions and costumes.

Also Church of Satan, I’m available for weddings, funerals and rituals. Send me an email.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a scary movie to watch tonight, so I’m going to get to work on dinner. Until next time (probably later tonight), pleasant nightmares!

How is life for you these days? What are you going as for Halloween?