Bright Spots

Today, we’re going to talk about the positives.

Yeah, I know. What? How can the guy who wrote Saint Sadist write about positivity?

The answer’s obvious, of course. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes.

But onto the meat of this thing. 2020 has been a terrible year, probably the first year I wouldn’t tell a doomsday-preaching evangelical they were crazy if they said we were living in the End Times. While I don’t think the apocalypse will play out quite the way they suspect, I’d say for all their years of playing this fear-mongering guessing game, they may have at least landed somewhere in the ballpark of reality.

I recently changed the name of this blog to Coping Mechanisms for the Apocalypse. Those five particular words have been in my head a lot over the last two years or so. It’s likely no accident they rose from the swamps of my subconscious around the same time I spent a long weekend in a psych ward.

There are two apocalypses. One is global and the other (and perhaps more important one) takes place inside of you. Why do most of my seemingly real-world horror stories often devolve into psychodrama and symbolism? I believe real world problems aren’t actually solved in the real world. They’re solved in our dreams, our subconscious–collective and otherwise.

The world’s on fire and everything hurts, so let’s cope together.

In the world of dark fiction, we’ve so far seen stunning debuts from Samantha Kolesnik and Jo Quenell. We got not one but TWO new releases from Chandler Morrison. We got Murder House by C.V. Hunt, a book I think will go down as one of her best. We also got another winning collection by Charles Austin Muir and new nonfiction by Brian Keene. Not bad at all, eh?

We can still stream movies and shows. Speaking of which, I recently saw a Thai film called The Pool. It’s GRUELING in the best way possible and cinematic storytelling at its best.

Lockdown sucks, but I’ve been cooped up with people I love more than anything. My kid’s at an age where he’s infinitely curious and can still hold down a conversation. My wife is the hardest working person I know and remains a beacon of light despite having her own struggles. Today is our son’s birthday and though I’m working the day job, I’m bound to get some quality time in during the evening.

I bring up The Pool because it’s probably the most apt metaphor for life in 2020 I’ve seen so far. It has lots of out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire-moments, heart-wrenching deaths, impossible odds, and luck both good and bad. Basically, the main character is trapped in a deep, empty pool with a hungry, pregnant crocodile. Anything else I say will spoil it.

I feel like we’re the film’s protagonist, Day. His circumstances constantly go from bad to worse. The exhaustion and pain on his face is our exhaustion and pain.

At least we’ve got some good reading material though, huh?


Signed copies of MANIA are still available here.

My Patreon now features weekly short fiction every Thursday. Posts are open to the public. Pledging is optional. Right now, all stories take place in the Gods of the Dark Web universe, but that may change.

The first episode of the Dark Corners Podcast, co-hosted by me, is now up. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts, or you can watch the video versions on YouTube or IGTV.

Born Fighting

By now, I’m sure all of you have read my most recent blog post. Some of you have seen fit to cut me out of your life as a result, which is sad, but also hardly surprising. Authenticity is rarely celebrated or even tolerated by those who wish to preserve their own brand.

And that’s fine.

I was born fighting. At six weeks overdue, I gave my mother a less than pleasant labor experience, even by labor experience standards. Multiple times throughout that long night we both almost died. The first things I felt in this life were pain and terror.

But I also learned how to fight for my life. I learned that I could.

In the wake of that blog post, I had good people come out of the woodwork to show their support. People like that can make the apocalypse a little more bearable.

In the heat of battle, you lose friends, but you also find out who your true friends are, who has your back and who will fight alongside you.

To those who have stood by me: you are seen, you are heard, and you are loved.

Because of you, I am okay.


Signed copies of MANIA are still available here.

My Patreon now features weekly short fiction every Thursday. Posts are open to the public. Pledging is optional. Right now, all stories take place in the Gods of the Dark Web universe, but that may change.

The first episode of the Dark Corners Podcast, co-hosted by me, is now up. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts, or you can watch the video versions on YouTube or IGTV.

 

The End?

***EDIT: While I still stand by many of the sentiments in the following blog, I am not going away.***

It has been a very trying couple of weeks. Scratch that. It has been a very trying four months. The last couple of weeks, however, completely broke me.

First, I faced some drama over the cover of Saint Sadist. I won’t recap it here because I’m exhausted. Also, we managed to resolve it, even if I hate that it happened at all.

That bit of drama PALES in comparison to what else has transpired though. Long story short (and I will keep it short because it’s already been reported on extensively), the indie horror scene–like the movie industry, like the wrestling business, and like the music world–has an abusive men problem. The two prime examples are a prominent male author sending inappropriate messages to several females in our industry, then subsequently harassing one of these women for speaking out, and a renowned male bookseller assaulting his girlfriend and attempting to rape his own daughter.

To say that I now think of this so-called community as a hostile work environment is a gross understatement.

Couple this with rising COVID19 numbers in my state, racial tensions that could be eased today if our government only cared to do something about violent police, a series of transphobic comments by arguably the most powerful cis-woman in the world, rampant cancel-culture (yes, some deserve to be called out, but not every campaign is noble), our president’s constant use of the U.S. Constitution as toilet paper, my own social isolation, and the impossibility of work/life balance when my kid is home during the workday, I’m fucking exhausted.

Some things to know about me: I will never stop writing. Writing nurtures me. It cleanses and soothes me. It helps me and I used to think it helped others. Also, I am a person of my word. All preexisting obligations to publishers, even gentleman’s agreements in which I have yet to sign a contract, will be fulfilled. These include: the release of my dinosaur apocalypse novel Extinction Peak through Section 31 Productions, turning in a story for a top secret literary smut anthology, letting Grindhouse Press publish my story “Primitive” in an anthology this October, the release of a top-secret omnibus, and the eventual publication of my collaboration with Ryan Harding.

Once all these obligations have been met, I’m out. I’ve had it with the scene’s hostile cliquishness, abuse and harassment, and blatant favoritism toward people who later turn out to be abusers.

I will continue to post regular content to my Patreon. Posts will be accessible to the public, all pledges optional. I have a job. I don’t need the money, but I certainly won’t reject it either.

Also, I will continue to occasionally blog here. It can be very therapeutic and if I wasn’t always on Facebook and Twitter, I’d do it more often. Guess what accounts I’ll be staying away from for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, Sean Duregger will continue to produce excellent audiobook versions of my work and I will co-host the brand new Dark Corners Podcast with Rita Goodall.

That’s all I really have to say today. My tribe knows who they are. I would follow any one of them to the ends of the earth and I know they would do the same for me. If you are part of my tribe, thank you. You can follow my Patreon (again, pledging is optional), follow me here, support Sean’s audio productions of my work, and subscribe to the Dark Corners Podcast (all social media for the show is handled by Rita).

This is Lucas Mangum, signing off.

Getting Over

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If you know me personally, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a huge wrestling fan. I don’t get to watch it as much as I’d like these days, but I still follow AEW, NWA, and WWE pretty closely. Mostly, I listen to podcasts and watch highlights. I admire the art so much as a form of storytelling. The character work, when done right, can be even more effective and believable than what we see in movies, on TV, or inside a book.

In the business, there’s a term, “getting over,” which refers to how much a wrestler connects to the audience. Like anything, it’s not an exact science figuring out how to connect. It usually comes from practice, trial and error, and an uncanny ability for listening.

This brings me to something that happened four days ago. I saw wrestler Scott Steiner (aka Big Poppa Pump, aka Big Bad Booty Daddy, aka the genetic freak, aka White Thunder, aka the mathematician) was trending on Twitter. He was a favorite of mine when growing up. He was the type of guy you loved to hate: arrogant, unhinged, and VERY talented in the ring.

He’s also the author of the greatest wrestling promo ever spoken, the literary merit of which is indisputable.

Listen to that. Seriously. Art.

He also owns a Shoney’s. For the uninitiated, Shoney’s is a buffet-style restaurant located mostly in the Southern United States. Its food is about what you’d expect, but due to Steiner’s celebrity status and the unveiling of that glorious billboard, he was trending on Twitter.

Mostly, I tweet about books. Sometimes, I use humor. Sometimes, I shill for myself. Usually, I couldn’t care less about what’s trending, but when I saw a favorite wrestler from the glory days of the sport on the sidebar, I had to take a look. Without a second thought, tweeted that photo along with the following text: “The billboard for the Shoney’s owned by wrestler and esteemed mathematician Scott Steiner. I know where I’m going after this pandemic ends.”

That was it. No hashtags. Didn’t ‘@’ anyone.

And yet…

As of this writing, it has been ‘liked’ 591 times, retweeted 139 times, and it’s inspired 30 replies.

I never get that kind of traction.

Will it translate into book sales? Doubtful. Is it a funny observation? Absolutely.

So, yeah, I ‘got over’ on Twitter this week. Pretty dope.

Like what I do here? Buy me a beer.

I've been blogging a lot more regularly and I intend to continue to do so. If you enjoy my posts or enjoy my books, throw me a buck. You'll get a shoutout in my next post and help me buy frivolous things like beer and Halloween decorations.

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No, Antonio, the Novel is Not Dead

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Something called an Antonio García Martínez unleashed a tweetstorm which basically boiled down to three things:

  1. The novel is dead
  2. Short stories are dead
  3. People with less than 600 followers aren’t allowed to have opinions.

I’m not taking his words out of context. I didn’t even want to write about this, because I don’t want to give the jerk the attention. But you know what? If people like him, who I honestly hadn’t even heard of before today, can breathe hot air on Twitter, I can talk some shit here.

It’s MY blog, bitch!

Let’s take a look at a few things. First, what the fuck is an Antonio García Martínez?

  1. Not a novelist. He wrote a book called Chaos Monkeys, which as far as I can tell, is a memoir about his life in the tech industry. He calls it an exposé. Not a novel.
  2.  Not a short story writer. Checks his biography on his website. Nope, not a short story writer.
  3.  He doesn’t know how opinions work. Everyone has them, regardless of how many Twitter followers they have. If he’s suggesting people with less than 600 followers shouldn’t voice their opinion, that’s some elitist bullshit.

So, are novels still being written? Don’t check Amazon or Wikipedia, I’ll save you the trouble. The answer is yes. I suppose a book written doesn’t necessarily have life, so maybe all these novels aren’t being read (or consumed).

Nope! People are still reading. Those who aren’t reading are listening to audiobooks, or their watching good TV, and guess what, Antonío, good TV shows are laid out like novels, chapters, backstory, theme and all.

What about short stories? Still being written? Yup. Still being read? Not a whole lot, admittedly, but there sure are a lot of fiction podcasts out there. Guess what their content is. You guessed it: short stories.

Oh, and, in case anyone’s counting, I have 604 Twitter followers, but I had opinions when I only had 599, and when Twitter wasn’t even a thing.

Listen here, chump, just because no one bought whatever shitty fiction you undoubtedly tried to sell doesn’t mean the art form is dead. It means you suck.

 

 

Fighting as Storytelling

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Photo via Showtime Boxing

I’ve been watching lots of fights lately. Boxing, UFC, and even the bare-knuckle stuff (which I enjoy, but also can’t believe it’s legal). People often ask me why an intelligent, literate dude like me enjoys watching people beat the crap out of each other. They say my love of combat sports runs in contradiction to my personality. An easy answer would be to simply say people are full of contradictions, and then just put it to bed, but this is a blog, so let’s dig a little deeper.

I’m both a storytelling enthusiast and a storyteller myself.

A fight is the oldest and most primal type of story there is.

Before I dive into this further, I want to clarify a couple of things. First, I’m not a meathead. I don’t fancy myself a tough guy, by any means. Second, I think fighting outside of a sanctioned, sporting event is almost always foolish and unnecessary.

With that out of the way, what is a fight, really?

Two combatants who want the same thing (a win, sometimes a championship). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.

So, what’s a story?

Two characters who want the same thing (a win, usually some form of self-fulfillment). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.

Here are some random examples off the top of my head:

In MOANA, the lead character hopes to restore the world to its previously balanced state. The lava monster Te Kā, a heartless shell of the goddess Te Fiti, also wants to balance the world. Their methods are different (much like each fighter has their own style). Moana seeks restoration. Te Kā seeks the eradication of humanity.

In STAR WARS, the rebels and their Jedi allies seek balance to the galaxy. They believe restoring the Republic is the way to do so. The Empire and their Sith allies also seek that balance, but by contrast, they believe domination and the destruction of the Jedi is the key to achieving this goal.

In my book SAINT SADIST, the protagonist sets out on the road, not just to escape an abusive environment, but to become herself. The multiple antagonists she faces aim to mold her into who they believe is the most perfect version of herself. Their methods are abusive and their visions for her are skewed because they aren’t her.

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In a mystery, the criminal wishes to get away with their crime, while the detective hopes to solve the crime. While their goals are different, they, like fighters, aim to outdo the other in their achievement of their goal.

In a romance, the hero and the heroine, are both looking for love. They often find themselves at odds with each other, because their own damage prevents them from seeing how perfectly matched they are. “Love is a battlefield,” as Pat Benatar said, and like fighters with good sportsmanship, the battle ends when the combatants, no matter how bloody, embrace each other.

I could go on and on.

Perhaps, I’m simplifying things, but I don’t think so.

 

 

Vision 1

On the side of the main drag, some five miles from Daddy’s property, I have a vision:

A genderless angel falls, wings on fire. When it hits the ground, the sky turns red. I’m caught in the infernal blast radius. My child swims like a fish in my belly. Tongues of fire rise alongside me like burning buildings. They line the road ahead and I walk on.

A prophetess whore in exile, onward to Canaan.

– Saint Sadist, 1:5 (Coming soon to Audible, now free on Kindle Unlimted)

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The Essential Lucas Mangum: Into Beyond, 1

Hi folks, I’m Lucas Mangum. I’m an author of dark fiction with several books published by independent presses. At this stage in my life, I’ve noticed my work has a variety of recognizable themes and motifs. With some heavy revisions, putting them together could almost form a sort of meta-narrative. Now, I’m not deluded: I don’t think I’ve originated archetypes or motifs, though I do believe I’ve made them my own. While listening to an episode of the Weird Studies podcast in which they covered the Sun Ra film Space is the Place, I thought it’d be fun to pull out essential passages that best represented this overarching narrative.

I kicked things off with an excerpt from FLESH AND FIRE, originally published in 2016. You can read that post right here or you can get the book in its entirety for FREE (that’s right, FREE) by subscribing to my store’s newsletter.

This week, I want to talk about the world beyond. By this, I don’t necessarily mean the afterlife. I’m fascinated by alternate realities, alternate timelines, worlds layered upon ours, some only slightly different, others vastly different. The concept of infinite dimensions makes the hardships of the here and now easier to digest. I may not have something I want in this world, but another version of me in another place I’ll never visit may have that thing, so in some distant way, I have everything I could ever want or need. Do I believe this absolutely? I don’t know. I think that’s the only honest answer.

As a horror writer, it’s my job to explore the darker side of this. What horrors await us in these infinite other worlds? How can events in other dimensions negatively impact our day-to-day lives?

In my novella MANIA, a controversial independent filmmaker who chooses a supposedly cursed screenplay as his next project. Everyone who has tried filming it has either died or lost their sanity. Despite the book’s short length (30,000ish words), it has some more layers and goes in, what I think, are some interesting directions. A Hollywood cult created the screenplay and orchestrates other sinister events in an ethereal place they call Behind the Scenes.

The excerpt that follows is from late in the book. The main character’s girlfriend has been captured by the cult and he’s been framed for the deaths surrounding the screenplay. A visit by the ghost takes him to the tangential place he needs to go.


Ward woke coughing blood. He spat out a wad of congealed crimson. His ribs and face throbbed in all the places they hit him. At least he knew he was still alive. Marielle never showed.

His first attempt at getting to his feet ended with him collapsing back to the floor. He wondered just how badly he was hurt. Could these injuries kill him? He tried again, using the couch for support. He groaned as the pain spread across his body.

He wondered as he sat in the dark if now, in this moment, that businessman and the others were killing Rachel. How badly would she break down? Would she cry out to him? Or God?

He didn’t want her to suffer, but knew she would.

The futility of any action he could take pressed down upon him, made him cry in the dark. It crushed his will to live.

He cursed and pounded the ground of the apartment. Fresh pain bloomed in his hand and warm blood drizzled from his knuckles. He examined his wounds with morbid fascination. Poked at the scrapes on his hand, flexed his fingers and caused more blood to pour. The outward pain dulled the inward despair.

He slammed his fist into the ground again. This time he grunted against it. He thought he broke a finger. He thought about pain as a doorway, about weakness leaving the body.

Back when he suffered from depression, he once cut himself too deep and had to go to the hospital. Rachel went with him and took him home after the doctors cleared him. She held him, made him promise that he wouldn’t give up, said she loved him and didn’t want to lose him. Remembering this now brought another rush of tears. She hadn’t given up on him, so how could he give up on her now?

He thought of Marielle sparing him in the fire. He shook his head. If she cared about him, why did she kill Jay? He remembered the screenplay and who she was before she became a monster. She was alone, desperate, and afraid, like he was now. She was turned into a monster, but maybe pieces of her old self still remained.

He was never a praying man. Religion had no place in his family. Even his grandparents had a greater interest in the arts than in religion. Now, he imagined himself as a devout man who still cried out to God, even after God killed his loved ones or gave him a crippling disease. Marielle killed his friends and set these dark events in motion. But maybe she could help. He called her before, by working on the film. Perhaps she’d hear his call again.

“Marielle.” He kept his voice at a whisper as he repeated her name.

Ward pressed his fists into his forehead. He shut his eyes. He called to her again and again, tried to picture her.

Panic rose within him as time passed. He thought of Ashton Smith, the doomed director who previously tried to bring Mania to the screen. Ashton went crazy calling for her. Ward wondered if his circumstances were the same.

“Marielle, please, I need your help Goddamn it.”

He rose to his feet, dull aches pounding his ribs. “Please, don’t let them hurt Rachel.”

Ward turned to find her with him. He opened his mouth to scream, but her kiss swallowed it whole.


Instead of the life draining from him, energy poured into him. The pain from his wounds became sources of strength. Redness filled his vision, as if blood poured down the lenses of his eyes. The throb of his heart grew stronger with every beat, pumped fire through his veins.

Marielle pulled her lips from his, pulling him from one dream to another. The first was raw sensation, elevated to its absolute peak. In this new dream, his perceptions changed yet again. His flesh tingled. His pain dulled. An iron gate rippled like a reflection in water.

They were in front of Mr. Whale’s mansion. Ward had a gun in his hand.

“How did we…?”

“Just follow me,” she said.

Her body oozed through the bars, and reformed as flesh on the other side. He stared.

“Come on,” she said.

“You killed all of my friends. You tried to kill me.”

“It was the curse. I couldn’t stop it.”

“Why help me now?”

“They want to replace me. I won’t allow them.”

“And after we’ve stopped them, what then? You go back to trying to kill me? Trying to kill Rachel?”

Her eyes darkened. “I don’t know the future. But right now you need my help.”

He nodded and stepped forward, through the iron. It felt like something reached inside him and massaged his organs. No pain in it.

He followed Marielle up the cobblestone path. The gargoyles turned their heads to watch the intruders, eyes glowing red, mouths twisted into jagged-toothed grimaces. What was once stone was now reptilian skin, the verdant scales glistening as if slimy.

“What did you do to me?”

“I’ve taken you to the temple like you’ve asked.”

“I mean what’s happening to me?”

“All they do takes place Behind the Scenes.”

“Behind the scenes of what?”

“Of the world you know.”

Fascination trumped all fear. As a child, he always liked to watch behind the scenes documentaries telling the stories of how his favorite films were made. A peek Behind the Scenes of the world eclipsed anything he experienced before.

Beneath his feet, the cobblestone cracked and heaved as if something below was breathing. The clouds above swirled, black in color and set against a fiery red sky. The mansion on the hill had transformed. No longer a piece of Gothic architecture, it split and twisted into something out of a German Expressionist nightmare, all zigzags, bends and spirals.

He wondered if he’d followed Marielle into Hell. If so, what waited for him here?


They entered the mansion. Red cracks split the walls of the hallway leading from the front door. Light pulsed from them, making fiery haloes in the darkness. The floor shifted and groaned beneath Ward, as if the house stood on unstable ground, or that long prophesied earthquake had finally struck Los Angeles. Ward held out his arms to keep his balance.

“What now?” he said.

“Go to the room where my story was given to you.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going with you. My congregation must pay for their apostasy.”

They entered Mr. Whale’s crypt of the cinematic dead. Through his new perception, the room had taken on a macabre quality. Theda Bara’s eyes in the poster for Salome bled thick black bile down her cheeks. The walls had turned flesh-colored and expanded like a pregnant belly, the life inside rolling and writhing. Torn pages from books and screenplays fluttered through the air like shreds of confetti, the words upon them written in blood-red calligraphy. Actors and actresses on the covers of DVDs and VHSs spoke garbled gibberish through shredded, oozing lips. A fecal smell choked the air.

Marielle walked to the Salome poster and tore it down, exposing a vertical slit in the wall. She pressed her hands on either side, pressed her face forward. She licked its edges, rubbed her face against it, kissed it. It expanded, leaking clear mucus. She continued to lick, massaged the sides of it with her hands. Flaps of skin grew out along the edges of the slit, embraced Marielle’s head and shoulders.

The slit parted and Marielle dove between its lips. A throaty moan reverberated in the air of the room. As Marielle disappeared inside, her faint voice called to him. He went up to the crevice, held his breath, and attempted to crawl inside.

It resisted, tightening around the edges. He looked the wet hole up and down, recalled how Marielle had gotten through. He bent forward and ran his tongue along its edges. The discharge had the consistency of honey and tasted like white wine. Its fragrance overpowered the fecal stench in the room as the lips opened wider, the flaps of skin again protruding to wrap around Ward’s head. He crawled into the sweet darkness.

The slick walls pressed against him, encircled him with incredible warmth as he inched forward. Blinded by darkness, he moved by feel. Some parts of the passage constricted and he struggled to get through them. In others he could almost stand and walk.

The channel grew wider and spilled out into a dark chamber lit by a single blue orb suspended in the air. Across the room, Rachel hung from a cross.


 

MANIA is available on Amazon.