Dumbest Apocalypse Ever

So, multiple states decided to exempt churches from shelter-in-place orders enacted as a result of the Coronavirus.

I’m not a religious person. “Spiritual” is probably a more apt descriptor of me, but that word’s been cheapened in recent years. That said, I’m not going to go on a tirade about how religion is poison and the Bible is a fairy tale. I’m not sure I feel that way. In fact, when I stayed in a psychiatric hospital for a long weekend, I saw how religion really gives hope to addicts and the mentally ill. Attempting to take that away from them like most militant atheists try to do seems needlessly cruel.

What bothers me almost as much as how attending religious services in person puts the most vulnerable among us in danger is the defense used by some of these religious types.

Their logic stems from the belief that the blood of Jesus will protect them. I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a case of putting God to the test, which Matthew 4:7 explicitly warns against.

So, I dunno, maybe listen to your own scripture and stop endangering people, ya jerks!

The Essential Lucas Mangum: Dark Descents, 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.

The first of these is excerpted from the first chapter of my debut novel FLESH AND FIRE, which you can get a FREE digital copy of by subscribing by email to this blog, or by signing up for my newsletter on my store page.

It depicts the protagonist Chloe falling into the abyss and meeting the demon who brought her. The descent into the pit has always intrigued me. Death of the hero, whether real or symbolic, often comes before the ultimate victory or resurrection, which is all well and good, but I want to know what happens down there in the dark. Is it necessary to descend? If so, why?

In FLESH AND FIRE, her fall is orchestrated by a demon who’s mistaken her for a resurrected lover from the past. Her ultimate revival is also at the hands of another. My reasoning for this is simple: I often struggle with the idea of free will. Do we have it? I’m not sure. Sometimes, I think our actions are mostly up to fate, our programming. It’s in moments where we reject our programming, that we grow and become something better. Chloe, who I clearly see as the hero even though we spend more time in Todd’s head, embarks on her journey due to influences of forces outside herself. Todd, too, acts in ways he believes he’s supposed to act due to the people who’ve guided him. They’ve both been programmed and their story won’t end happily unless they do things contrary to how they’re wired.

This passage is one of the earliest examples of me showing what I call the Engines of Ruin, hands of fate that push us toward destruction, masquerading as choice.

Flesh-and-Fire

If this is dying, Chloe thought, I’d like to do it again sometime.

The brightest light she’d ever seen washed over her, burning brilliant whitish yellow. Blinding, but soft, it reminded her of the sun, finally showing its brilliant face after weeks of rain and starless nights. It brought warmth, security, and a deep sense of euphoria, better than the greatest high, more intense than her strongest orgasm.

Moments ago, she’d been in her room, sinking into the bed below, as if it were a cloud. Her vision blurred and her surroundings fell further away. She gave each of them one final glimpse, pausing the longest on the Yamaha DX7 keyboard, upon which she played all of her music, and the photograph of her and Todd smiling drunkenly as they held each other in the parking lot of the Black Horse Pub.

As she slipped away, she only regretted not being able to tell him goodbye. Maybe even apologize. She settled for humming the melody to “Blissfully Damaged,” a song he’d written for her. Maybe doing so would, through some kind of clairvoyance, allow her to commune with him in her final moments.

The poison killing her now had also destroyed their relationship. She’d been clean for a while, but it hadn’t lasted. Once he’d seen he couldn’t help her, he’d run away. She didn’t blame him. He didn’t really know everything. He didn’t know about the dreams, or the monster that pursued her in them, or how she sometimes even saw and heard the monster when she was awake. She’d never told him and because of this he just saw her as an addict, no matter how much he’d loved her.

Now she’d never be able to tell him.

Now she was dying.

And she accepted it.

Embraced it.

She knew only the light and a euphoric sense of floating. She hadn’t expected this; she hadn’t expected anything. No undeserved reward, no cruel and unusual punishment. Only sleep. Whatever this was, this was better. As she glided through the sea of bright warmth, a soothing swish, like the gentle splash of waves on a beach, accompanied every movement. The place had a smell, too, sweet and strong. Like Mother, she thought, without understanding how she knew.

Natalia, her father’s only true love, had cast a shadow over their lives. She’d died while giving birth to Chloe, and existed only in photographs and Les’s stories. A mythic figure. Unreal in her legacy and tragic in her absence. Thinking of her brought a wave of sadness that broke through Chloe’s ecstasy, like a wind chill on an otherwise warm day. The next thing she knew, she was falling into darkness.

In the inky surroundings, the cries of countless others assaulted her ears. Some of them human, some animal, she could only interpret them as full of agony and fear. Underneath, a dry, gritty sound. Bone against bone, a chorus of grinding teeth.

Her heart hammered like a machine gun. No longer dying, desperation took hold.

As she fell, hands clutched at her from out of the darkness and she screamed. They tore at her clothes and kneaded her skin, pulling her out of the chasm and moaning like diseased animals. She saw only glimpses of the rotting, scaly things as they tore her black dress to shreds.

She twisted and kicked in their clutches, preferring to fall than to be groped. She clawed through a forest of bulbous hands. Something primal was awake within her, a violent will to live as old as the universe itself. Rather than pull away from the creatures and back into the pit, she dove into the tangle of limbs and reptilian bodies. She bit and scratched. She drove forward until she fell again. This time she tumbled down a spiraling wet shaft. She reached the bottom, wounded and bleeding, not yet broken, happy to stand on solid ground.

Dirty crimson light illuminated her surroundings. Pointed rocks grew from above and below. Somewhere nearby, waves crashed against land. Behind her, wailing and gnashing of teeth. The rocks along the wall jutted out like gnarled tree branches. Gray rags hung on them, along with something like hair. Some of them moved. She realized then what they were as the skeletal limbs reached for her.

“Help me,” one rotting mouth said, “please…”

Sobs fell from her mouth as she backed away, her cries echoing in the massive cavern. She turned and ran toward the sound of the waves but in front of her, she heard more bellows of pain. She stopped and looked around. Water splashed upon the shore, blood red in the dirty light. The dome of the cavern gave way to a sky full of swirling fire and black smoke. Panic surged through her, beginning in her heart and spreading like wildfire on a dry field throughout her body until a scream burst from her lips, joining the chorus of terrified, suffering voices. Like them, she had nowhere to go.

A lean, shadowy figure emerged from the blood-red ocean and put his face into the light. Deep angry scars marked his cheeks and brow. His eyes burned with something like rapture. She knew him. He was the monster of her dreams, her rapist and lover, her imaginary friend, her angel and demon, but this was no dream. Every precise detail overwhelmed her senses: the wet jagged earth digging into her feet; the stenches of burning hair and rotted meat filling the air. She had entered a new reality and he had brought her here. She thought of how she had felt guided tonight, by something outside of herself, to buy the heroin, to shoot enough to overdose, and she understood.

Samael approached her, reached out his hand like he was blessing a martyr, and she knew she was destined for pain.

Austin Comic Con

This weekend I tabled at Wizard World’s Austin Comic Con with my friends Max Booth III and John Wayne Comunale. Between meeting readers, we talked all the joys and frustrations of this writing life. We also debated Midsommar and the new Creepshow series, caught up on small-press gossip, and talked shop in general.

We met a ton of new people, some of them aspiring writers themselves and others just excited about books. I thought about giving shout outs, in case some of these wonderful folks drop by my blog but I’m bound to forget someone and don’t want anyone to feel left out.

It’s been a tumultuous eighteen months for me. Talking to my buddies reminded me I’m not the only one who’s struggled. Due to lots of ongoings in our scene and my own mental health issues, I’ve reevaluated who my friends are and who I intend to keep as mere acquaintances. When I first got into this writing scene, I wanted to be everybody’s close friend. As I’ve continued doing my thing, I’ve been reminded of how unrealistic such a goal is.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to decide whose flaws are worth tolerating and whose aren’t.

But the ones who you really gel with and don’t prove themselves toxic are goddamn priceless. I never expected to get rich doing this writing stuff but I did expect to make some of the best friends I’ve ever had. That expectation has been exceeded over and over.

I’m happy to see John Wayne doing well for himself. He’s one of the hardest working writers I know and it’s nice to see it pay off. The two secrets to his success, I think, are his positivity and his nearly militaristic organizational skills. I work hard and I’m positive. Organized? Not so much. That’s something I intend to work on once National Novel Writing Month is in the rearview.

Speaking of. That’s going well. I’ve got 21,000 words on a new manuscript and had a major breakthrough that allows me to combine two narratives I really enjoy into one book. I won’t say much except it’s a coming of age cosmic horror novel. I think there’s a lot to explore by marrying those subgenres. Lots of cool opportunities to play with opposing themes.

I grabbed and already read the first issues of Chaotic Flux, Kinetic, and Lady Frankenstein and the Mummy’s Brain, plus an old issue of Marvel’s Chamber of Chills and the first trade of a series called Cover of Darkness. I don’t read comics often but when I do, I tend to enjoy them. Indie stuff seems to be where it’s at these days, as in literature as well.

I’ve been able to write the books I want to write thanks to the small press. I hope eventually I’ll get to do this for a living but that’s still a ways off. And honestly, things are pretty good. The reviews for Saint Sadist reflect exactly what I wanted the book to do. I’ve got a decently paying screenplay gig in the works. I’ve got two releases slated for next year.

Also, this anthology just went up for preorder: The Big Book of Blasphemy, edited by David G. Barnet and Regina Garza-Mitchell, it features stories by Brian Keene, Ryan Harding, Wrath James White, Monica O’Rourke, myself, and many, many more. My story, “Sister Scar,” is basically a Hemingway-esque WWI story but nunsploitation. You preorder The Big Book of Blasphemy right here.

Last but not least, Blood and Brimstone, the sequel to Flesh and Fire has come to an end. It’s serialized on my Patreon the last few months. You can read it in its entirety here.

That’s it for now, gang. Take some time this week to appreciate the people in your life. You’ll be glad you did.

Night in the Lonesome October

I’ve been reflective lately.

Yeah, you say, what else is new?

Hear me out.

Ten months ago, I grudgingly returned to social media. I’m not proud. I definitely did it to sell books, but something else happened. I made some new friends. That was pretty cool. And yeah, I did sell some books, which was also pretty cool.

But I still saw a lot of the ugly things that drove me away in the first place. Hypocrisy, petty arguments, dismissive comments, and manufactured outrage.

Then I got tired, frustrated and depressed.

Back in June, I restarted The Mangum Show podcast. Recorded a ton of content. Paid for a logo. The works.

Unfortunately, I ran into some technology roadblocks. Skype recordings are inconsistent in terms of quality. I can’t seem to figure out editing in Audacity. Then my MP3 converter just decided to stop working.

I got tired, frustrated and depressed.

Marketing yourself, man. I’ve done a lot of it this year. Even paid for some ads, which produced mixed results.

Through these last ten months, I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned videos get the most attention on this site. As a result, you should expect more videos.

I’ve learned social media is STILL toxic for me. I won’t be deleting my accounts again, but I do plan on cutting back my time on there significantly.

I’m working full-time again, so time is more precious than ever. I want to spend it on things that are worthwhile.

Videos that bring more visitors to this site. Patreon-exclusive content. The Mangum Show will continue, too, albeit in a different format. Plus, writing, writing and more writing.

This is probably not a particularly organized blog entry, so much as it’s me thinking aloud. If you’re still here, thanks for indulging me.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: this October, I’m reading lots of Richard Laymon and Bryan Smith instead of watching the same movies over and over again.

Fever

Finally got a good night’s sleep last night. It required forcing myself to stay awake until after midnight. I’m sure I dreamed, but I don’t remember many details.

It’s been a weird week. If you’ve been following this blog, you know my novel We Are the Accused was released on Tuesday. Release weeks always stress me out. Maybe it’s because I’m still fairly green, but damn, I found myself engaging in unhealthy obsessive behaviors. I refreshed the Amazon page for the book every hour or so. I constantly checked Twitter. I re-read the book and noted everything I would now do differently. I ate lots of candy, chocolates, and a massive piece of cheesecake. Last night, I finally managed to talk myself down from the ledge, hopefully averting a potentially extended manic episode.

It’s scary putting yourself out there. Once a book is published, it really is the point of no return, and We Are the Accused was such a personal book in which I took many risks and plumbed some really dark places, it frightened me knowing that it now lives in the wild and has to fend for itself. I imagine it’s something like sending a child off to college.

I wonder if this anxiety will decrease with each subsequent book release. Let’s hope so. My sixth was accepted by a publisher last Sunday (still can’t give details), and I now have a seventh and eighth lined up. At least this time I managed to call myself out and remind myself of what I can control. This list included writing a blog today (check), writing 1500 words on book 7 (getting there), finish cleaning the upstairs (this afternoon), and acquiring books for classes next week (also this afternoon).

We can only control so much. Reminding myself of this works wonders on my mental health.

Now I just need to kick this cedar fever. What’s cedar fever, you ask? Move to Texas and you’ll find out real quick. Just prepare to hate having sinuses.

In closing, I just wanted to let y’all know that my friend Josh Blakesley interviewed me over on his blog. We talked about writing as a spiritual practice, books that made me cry, and my newest releases. You can check it out here.