Mythos Books, 2010

Cover art and design by Jason Van Hollander

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From its earliest origins, the human religious impulse has been fundamentally bound up with an experience of primordial 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revisions and expansions of his popular stories “Teeth” and “The Devil and One Lump,” and features one previously unpublished story and two unpublished papers, the first exploring a possible spiritual use of George Romero’s Living Dead films and the second offering a horrific reading of the biblical Book of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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Apologia Pro Libro Suo

Fictions
Teeth
The Stars Shine Without Me
Desert Places
Blackbrain Dwarf
Nightmares, Imported and Domestic (with Mark McLaughlin)
The Devil and One Lump
The God of Foulness

Other Fictions
Icons of Supernatural Horror: A Brief History of the Angel and the Demon
Loathsome Objects: George Romero’s Living Dead Films as Contemplative Tools
Gods and Monsters, Worms and Fire: A Horrific Reading of Isaiah

PRAISE

“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 (after Divinations of the Deep). . . . 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

“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 supernatural 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

“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

Dark Awakenings offers generous heapings of fiction and ‘dark theology’: there are seven high quality Weird Tales (in the proper sense of that phrase, as many of them are eldritch stories, directly or indirectly related to the Cthulhu Mythos) and three artful, multi-part works of literary criticism on the diverse religious and philosophical elements of supernatural tales (from the Bible to Romero films). . . . One might presume that a book should only come at you with one approach — i.e., that a reader can only hold a work of fiction, or one of non-fiction, in their hands at once. And it’s true that many lesser writers might produce something schizoid if they attempted this dual approach to dread. But the exact opposite is true in Cardin’s case: these two genres of writing inform each other in an interesting way, so that by the time you finish the stories and turn to the criticism, you are eager to learn more about the writer’s worldview; and when you get to the end, you’ve learned so much more that you want to turn right back to the beginning and start reading the fiction all over again. And it does reward a second read: Cardin is deft at writing in both genres, because he writes with such a centered focus.”

— Mike Arnzen, “Philosophies of Horror: Matt Cardin and Thomas Ligotti

“As authors of supernatural Horror go, few today equal Matt Cardin. His grasp of characterizations is deft, his pacing sure-footed. But perhaps Matt’s most enviable quality is his ability to seamlessly smudge deep philosophical principles into his narratives without coming off as didactic. ‘Teeth,’ ‘The Stars Shine Without Me’ and in particular his novella ‘The God of Foulness’ truly exhibit this talent. Cardin makes a reader ponder the nature of reality, yet at a turn he can summon images of startling terror, visions that unnerved this Horror author more than once.”

— Richard Gavin

“This is intellectual, introspective, shamanistic horror. The black things crawl through the psychic ditches of our world but in Cardin’s writing they are tethered more concretely to a sense of humanity. This is, in part, due to the scholarly inclusion of religion that he weaves through his tales. Let me be clear, these are not religious stories in any sense that would lead readers of this site to be apprehensive. The stories here incorporate undiscussed elements of religion that illustrate both a connection to something bigger and a reminder of the dark things hidden in the heavy language of gods.”

Scott Candey

“Cardin, like Ligotti and H.P. Lovecraft, is a malevolent universe fearing author. . . . To him, the working world, academia, suburban life, and our very bodies and minds seem to neighbor some exceptionally dark places. . . . On the whole, Dark Awakenings shows that Cardin has fully conquered the short form in fiendishly interesting ways. . . . [It] is a shadow delicacy, with an unconventional makeup that will satisfy the mind’s literary and intellectual cravings.”

— Grim Reviews

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

“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