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Dark Awakenings

Over 300 pages of supernatural horror fiction and academic nonfiction exploring the boundary between religion, horror, and spirituality. Available at Amazon and other online booksellers, plus your local bookstore.


From its earliest origins, the human religious impulse has been fundamentally bound up with an experience of primal horror. The German theologian Rudolf Otto located the origin of human religiosity in an ancient experience of "daemonic dread." American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft asserted that weird supernatural horror fiction arose from a fundamental human psychological pattern that is "coeval with the religious feeling and closely related to many aspects of it." The American psychologist William James wrote in his classic study The Varieties of Religious Experience that the "real core of the religious problem" lies in an overwhelming experience of cosmic horror born out of abject despair at life's incontrovertible hideousness.

In Dark Awakenings, author and scholar Matt Cardin explores this primal intersection between religion and horror in seven stories and three academic papers that pose a series of disturbing questions: What if the spiritual awakening coveted by so many religious seekers is in fact the ultimate doom? What if the object of religious longing might prove to be the very heart of horror? Could salvation, liberation, enlightenment then be achieved only by identifying with that apotheosis of metaphysical loathing?

This volume collects nearly all of Cardin's uncollected fiction, including his 2004 novella "The God of Foulness." It contains extensive revisions and expansions of his popular stories "Teeth" and "The Devil and One Lump," and features one previously unpublished story and two unpublished papers, the first exploring a possible spiritual use of George Romero's Living Dead films and the second offering a horrific reading of the biblical Book of Isaiah. At over 300 pages and nearly 120,000 words, it offers a substantial exploration of the religious implications of horror and the horrific implications of religion.

Cover art and design by Jason Van Hollander


"Life is a horror for which there is neither remedy nor release in the seven metaphysical terror tales that make up the bulk of Cardin's provocative second collection....Cardin's tales are rich with references to Lovecraft, Nietzsche, and other writers whose work gives them unusual philosophic depth. This thinking-man's book of the macabre is capped by three essays, all of which speak eloquently to the supernatural themes of the stories."
- Publishers Weekly

"The philosophical and theological bases for Cardin's horror run deep. His ability to detail the full implications of ideas that utterly destroy 'the human need for illusion' reveals the forces behind those ideas in action, without risking anticlimax, and demonstrates the impact they have on the lives of characters in whom readers can recognize themselves; this lends the stories a terrific impact."
- Dead Reckonings

"In Dark Awakenings, Cardin proves himself to be an adept in the fullest sense of the word. To both the morbid and the cosmically minded, who may be one and the same, he delivers his visions and nightmares in a master's prose. In the tradition of Poe and Lovecraft, Cardin's accomplishments as a writer are paralleled by his expertise as a literary critic and theorist, as readers can witness in this volume. His analyses of supernatual horror and its practitioners are also dark awakenings in the dual manner of his stories, with one eye on the black abyss and the other on an enlightened transcendence without denomination. Again, this quality of Cardin's work can be seen in the writings of Poe and Lovecraft, two other felicitous freaks who merged the antagonistisms of their imagination into a chimera as awful as it is awe-striking."
- Thomas Ligotti, author of The Nightmare Factory and Teatro Grottesco

"Matt Cardin channels visions of dark, maniacal intensity. His otherworldly divinations will have you lying awake in the dark, counting stars in that most pitiless gulf that yawns above us all. A master of terror and dread, he ranks among the foremost authors of contemporary American horror."
- Laird Barron, author of The Imago Sequence & Other Stories

"Dark Awakenings offers the dream imagery of the best weird fiction but goes even further beyond the ordinary thanks to Matt Cardin's fierce intellect. Haunting stories and insightful essays. This is mandatory reading to prepare for the doom to come."
- Nick Mamatas, author of Move Under Ground

"In a wonderfully readable, multi-layered collection, Matt Cardin shows us that he knows, as very few do, how to write -- from several perspectives, including as a researcher -- in a way that is both riveting and richly detailed. Cardin's gift can be celebrated by all readers."
- T.M. Wright, author of Strange Seed and A Manhattan Ghost Story

* * *


Apologia Pro Libro Suo    ix

Teeth    2   (Click title to read an excerpt)
The Stars Shine Without Me    32
Desert Places    45
Blackbrain Dwarf    69
Nightmares, Imported and Domestic (with Mark McLaughlin)    85
The Devil and One Lump    113
The God of Foulness    126   (Click title to read an excerpt)


Icons of Supernatural Horror: A Brief History of the Angel and the Demon

I. Introduction: Is There Someone Inside You?    182   (Click title to read an excerpt)
II. The Prehistory of the Demon    186
III. The Prehistory of the Angel    198
IV. The Demon from the First Century to Modern Times    203
V. The Angel from the First Century to Modern Times    211
VI. Understanding the Angel and the Demon in Supernatural Literature and Film    218
VII. Conclusion: The Daimonic Zeitgeist, 1971-2001    235
Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading    237

Loathsome Objects: George Romero's Living Dead Films as Contemplative Tools

Introduction: Night of the Sociocultural Critics    241
I. Flesh Becomes Meat    243
II. The Dead Walk    248
III. The Dead Eat    253
IV. "He Visited a Curse on Us": The Spiritual Angle    259
V. The Missing Rainbow: Theism's Inadequacy    268
VI. Leaning Eastward: The Contemplation of Foulness    270
Notes    278
Works Cited    282
Works Consulted    286

Gods and Monsters, Worms and Fire: A Horrific Reading of Isaiah

Introduction: Troubling Questions and Taxonomic Schemes    287
I. Distorted Cosmology    290
II. Yahweh, King of the Monsters    295
III. Cosmic Inversion and Closure in Corpses    301
Some Concluding Thoughts on Closure, Anticlosure, and Cognitive Dissonance    307
Notes    312
Bibliography    316



Curse of the Daimon
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