Evil. You know what it is, we all do. Right? Everyone knows. It's...bad people, doing bad things. Or, it's an evil beast, or a supernatural force. Or something. Right? But, just what is, evil? Is it Pol Pot? Saddam Hussein? Bin Laden? Your neighbor? Your brother or your sister?
I wrote Death of Heaven with the intent I've had since I started writing. To bring surprise and affect to the reader. To effect and infect them with a shudder, a scare, a roller coaster ride. But also to write in a way that is an event that includes a journey and not just a destination. Apparently, according to this review, I may have succeeded. But that's not really why we're here.
Death of Heaven was my attempt to give readers another way to view the World as well as our History as a whole, in a completely new and before unconsidered way. In my first book, a collection of my short stories called, Anthology of Evil, my orientation was to exhibit evil in ways other than what we see evil personified as now a days; and to make it interesting. Mostly anymore we see simple slash and gash stories, especially in the cinema. Albeit perhaps a little more complex than in years previous.
Still and all, I do like gory movies and stories as much as the next Horror aficionado. But evil exists in many forms, not few. Not just in the most gross and immediately horrible ones. Perhaps part of the problem now a days is that we tend only to recognize evil at it's most base, that of murders or cannibalism. But evil exists mostly in this world in far more common forms. Forms in fiction that are still entertaining and something to be explored. These forms have taken the backseat for far too long, and they are finally clawing their way back.
For a quick example of what I'm talking about, perhaps a summary of the stories in "Anthology of Evil" would help.
In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear - In the near future, a world famous surgeon is called upon save a life. A simple thing for him in many cases but in this case, he faces a bizarre condition and a genius with his own remedy. And so he meets up with his late son's best friend. Through the course of the story the surgeon does his Hippocratical best to help save his his son's friend. Through his actions and with the best of intentions, slowly the country and the world begin to change. In its way it is a far more horrible story of social horror than any slasher film or zombie story. The evil in this story is in the social change that takes place, how good intentions can end up with evil endings and how easy it can be sometimes, to find yourself thinking in ways you would have considered insane not that long ago.
Gumdrop City - Falling back on the serial murderer trope (as in a common or overused theme, or trope), what would be a parent's worse nightmare? In a story that would lend itself to visuals of horrific things being done to murder victims, my goal was to horror in a completely different way. This story is actually based on a true crime event and the main elements in the story are true. I only fictionalized a drama out of it by using a neighbor to put the reader into what that might be like. The problem in writing this story was in the age of the victims as they were children. How do you tell the story without horrifying people to the point of not even finishing the story? Sometimes the horror is too direct and too hard to experience. It took a long time to work out that fine line. The evil in this story is obvious. Evil intent, and actions.
Quantum History - In this story about a physics experiment gone awry, a man is changed in ways inexplicable and humorous in this comedic take on the standard science fiction experiment gone wrong trope. The evil in this story comes from who the protagonist changes into and how that is affecting his wife. And others. The evil in this story is very indirect and comes from the character and history involved in the story with a kind of Mel Brooks slant on things.
The London Mea Culpa Document - A found document is briefly discussed. It talks like a report on something and about what had been found, its history, who found it and how it affected his professional career. The evil in this is how the man was treated over confusion and misauthenticion in a scientific, academic community. Offered next is the document itself. As a side note, the story of the man who "found" the document is told in my book, "Death of Heaven" as "Vaughan’s Theorem".
The Mea Culpa Document - In a found document in England as described in the previous story, we learn from a Medieval witch hunter and Judge of the Inquisition about the single most important event in his life. That might be enough evil right there considering his professional standing, but he then ruminates in the document about his late Master and role model, as he finds himself unbelievably to be in a similar situation to the one that killed his mentor. The evil here is in one's own ignorance (especially where it is opted for) and self-involvement.
Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer (To A Question He Knever Knew") - In another story set in Medieval times, a Lord has been tasked to take a sword to the enemy of his family as a pay off and acknowledgment of subservience. What ensues is a mixture of insanity, time travel and a splitting of a man and history. The evil here is in society and how individuals can suffer for their merely being human.
Sarah - An old woman has Alzheimer's Disease. Though she lives with her daughter's family, she is pushed aside because of her illness and "reality". It is a disease that takes your mind, twists it and in some cases, the worst cases, can lead to horrible things. The evil in this is in how her disease keeps her family from treating her like the strong minded women she once was, and in how her mind is broken by the disease in bizarre ways. Evil is not always done by a person, a God, or Nature. It is at times done by something else. It is sometimes done by things we cannot understand and never will.
The Fall - Love just forces us to be crazy sometimes. Crazy forces us to love sometimes. In a very short story about love and love lost, the evil here is in one's attachment to one's desires. And some extra crazy.
Japheth, Ishvi and The Light - Exploring the Zombie trope in this story, one of the elders of a self-sufficient religious commune clashes with his relationship with God, just as the Zombie Apocalypse hits the world. A team of military specialists in this kind of scenario (zombies that is) stumbles upon the situation and what you would expect to happen, happens. But then again, not in the way you might expect. The evil in this is obvious, but also not. Zombies are obviously evil, but so is the protagonist's views on life and what sets him up for what happens next.
Andrew - This is the final story in the book, paranormal in nature, and a novella. It also sets the stage for my book, "Death of Heaven". It is the story of a young child, five years old, who suffers and survives a horrific car accident. His good minded Aunt and Uncle take him in, but he is silent in his world now, having trouble even realizing anyone else is there. But he is not alone. All the other characters in the story want something from him. What they want is beyond anything we see in life. Powers that are beyond imagination are involved leading to unimaginable consequences; some in this novella, some continued in "Death of Heaven". The distance between these two stories is vast, so you'll be surprised if you read "Andrew" and then minutes later start "Death of Heaven".
Those are the stories in "Anthology of Evil". Those are the forms of evil in those stories. I've begun a second book on this theme in a similarly titled book. One of these days, I'll release it. But there are many forms of evil. And some are silent, no one ever knows of them, except we do. In our life. We may have to recognize it, and perhaps no one else will see them, or understand them. And if that is the case, then we will have to live with it ourselves, alone, and suffer to bear it until the day we die.
Consider that the person next to you also holds secret one of these evil things from their past. We all do. We may try to forget them, but they are there. We may not have recognized them. But they were there. It may be an evil secret not even about them, but their own personal tiny or immense horror that they have to pull all through life with them in privacy, perhaps painful privacy. Perhaps, not so painful privacy. Some of those people, perhaps sitting right next to you, may not only have one of those evil secrets from their past, but it may continue on right now, and far into the future. Because after all, only mere seconds ago, is our past.
As an example of a different kind of evil, there is a story I published on PerihelionSF.com called, Expedition of the Arcturus (also available as an audiobook), which connects with a certain kind of political evil. [By the way, there are bad links for this story going to PerihelionSF.com from when the story was first published there. These links actually go to the current story for the current month in the magazine. Next month will have a new short story in that position. My story there has been archived as the March 2013 issue.]
Expedition of the Arcturus is a story about Earth's first generational space ship. It is sent on a seventy-five year mission with families to populate another planet. Things behind the scenes are in motion and the evil truly is in that. There is no violence in this story, but in the end, the truth leaves you with a realization of what we do to others in the hope of serving the better good. How our concern for the masses can leave us with little concern for the few. Is it right? Or not?
Evil comes in many forms. It is not always in the actions of the mugger, the murderer, or the corporate swindler. There are a lot of good stories out there and to always seek the most violent, the grossest, or the most disturbing stories all the time is to inure oneself to a wide variety of drama, moments most poignant and well, seriously messed up, fear invoking. But a steady diet of the overt and obvious will keep you from enjoying the finer nuances in the realm of Horror.
Typically this is the purview of the younger viewer or reader seeking the bigger, the wilder. And surely that is fun for all of us in various ways, especially as a fun change. But it's too easy to fall into the trap. Much as Hollywood does in its films. Always having to be bigger (but better?), louder, wilder, it leads to eventually a genre becoming a parody of itself. It also "dumbs" us down. It spoon feeds you your horror. So once in a while we need to jump ship and experience the darker side. Which ever side that would then put you on.
As for Death of Heaven, I believe I have succeeded in my original intent, backed up by this review, as I mentioned earlier. The evil in this book is intense, mostly obvious and everywhere. Literally. If the stories in Anthology of Evil seemed at times tame to some, Death of Heaven will not (read the review for more color on that). In this book, there is nowhere to hide. The Horror is everywhere. But I tried to run the gamut from obvious to subtle, as I wanted to write something that would affect anyone, on various levels and with various intensities.
And so I continue to write stories in an attempt to always try and slip the knife in slowly, pressing in with precision, sneaking it into just that specific point in the body that will do the most appropriate damage for whatever is the present sick situation.
Quick death or slow pain? It's whatever the moment calls for.