09 April 2012

Aitch Eeee Double Hockey Sticks

For this year's A-Z challenge, I'm posting juicy tidbits of researchy goodness for your interest and edification. I intend to use these as story prompts for the terrifying writing challenge Story a Day in May. You may use them however you wish. 


Oh, hell. That darkest of dark places goes hand in hand with horror and dark fantasy. Clive Barker featured it recently in Mister B. Gone, that devil in novel form. (One of the most lovingly designed volumes I've seen in recent years. If you want to read it, do not buy the audio book version. Seriously, you need to hold it in your hands to fully enjoy it.)

Neil Gaiman did it in his short story "Other People." If you've got the time, here he is reading it:



Of course, earlier authors spent a lot of time in hell. Milton's Paradise Lost starts there, as does Dante's Divine Comedy. There is much to shrug your shoulders at in Dante, since he was taken up with writing social satire, and spends a lot of time putting real people of his day in the various circles of hell for kicks. He does, however, manage to slide some absolutely weird and enduring imagery into his Inferno. For my money, it doesn't get better than the Wood of the Self-Murderers, in the seventh circle. Here's a passage:
I heard wailings uttered on every side, and I saw no one who might make them, wherefore, I, all bewildered, stopped. I believe that he [Virgil, Dante's guide in hell] believed that I believed that all these voices issued amid those stumps from people who because of us had hidden themselves. Therefore said the Master, "If thou break off a twig from one of these plants, the thoughts thou hast will all be cut short." 
Then I stretched my hand a little forward and plucked a branchlet from a great thorn bush, and its trunk cried out, "Why dost thou rend me?" When it had become dark with blood it began again to cry, "Why dost thou tear me? hast thou not any spirit of pity? Men we were, and now we are become stocks; truly thy hand ought to be more pitiful had we been the souls of serpents." 
As from a green log that is burning at one of its ends, and from the other drips, and hisses with the air that is escaping so from that broken splinter came out words and blood together; whereon I let the tip fall, and stood like a man who is afraid.
If you were writing hell, what would it be like?

William Blake, The Wood of the Self-Murderers (1824-7)

16 comments:

Mark K said...

Clive Barker! Now there's an author I'd forgotten about. I absolutely loved 'Weave World', on the strength of which, I bought his next several books.

I adored the original cover to 'Weave World', but very stupidly loaned the book to someone only never to see it, or them again... bastard. I must replace that copy, with the cover design I loved, as they've been re-released with a far less impressive cover--to my mind.

Amazing extract at the end there. Now why can't I write like that!? Sometimes I wonder why I bother? But ignore me. Just having 'one of those days' ;)

Mark K said...

PS: it's most likely the iPad I'm on, but there is no image.or anything to click on, just a big gaping space. I blame Apple, personally.

Kyra Lennon said...

Love the passage you posted! I don't read a lot of dark books, so I can't imagine a time when I would ever write one but I really enjoyed this post!

Angeline Trevena said...

I'm a big Clive Barker fan (introduced to him by an ex - that was the only good thing he did for me!) And like Mark above, I got into him through Weave World. Excellent book.

I think hell would be slightly different for everyone, but for me it would be freezing cold and empty. Not another soul to be found anywhere. And a landscape that's flat and empty.

Mark K said...

As an aside, I had two attempts at Twitter, but I found it a horrible exercise in being ignored. So I gave up in the end, plus I became scathing about how certain high profile people used it to shamelessly fluff their own egos. And people tweet such crap.

Grammy said...

Hi, Interesting post. I am not a twitterer or a twit (ha). I do facebook occasionally, but am mostly a writer and enjoy the company of live people. I read voraciously. All I know about hell is that it is a place void of our Heavenly Father and His love, a place of separation from Him, and not a place to want to find oneself. A burning lake of fire where those who find themselves will have an indestructible body that will burn for all eternity, is how it is described in the scriptures. Anybody wanta find themselves there? Not I, sister. Well, I am on my way to visit other bloggers. Best regards to you, my friend. Ruby

L.G.Smith said...

I always thought hell would be cold. I hate being cold.

Donna Martin said...

Hi…I’m hopping over from the A to Z Challenge. Lovely post…good luck with the challenge.

Donna L Martin
http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com

Gina said...

You know, that's a deep thought. I'm used to write about monsters and ghosts but have never tried describing hell or other preternatural worlds. I may just do it now that you got that image in my head. It's been ages since I read Dante but I think I will dust my copy and dive once more in it. Thanks for this great post!

Also thanks for stoping by my blog.
From Diary of a Writer in Progress.

Andrew Leon said...

Well, darn you. I want to listen to that Gaiman piece, but I don't have time, right now. I'll have to try to remember to come back later for it.

Ashley Nixon said...

Hmm. Interesting. I've read a lot of books about hell, actually. I cannot decide what it would be like. Most famously, I think, everyone thinks of Dante. True hell, I think, would be living your greatest fears. Wouldn't that be miserable? Interestingly, I wonder, you could take a view of the Devil as the enemy of man (old testament) instead of the enemy of god (new testament).

Sarah Pearson said...

Thank you for posting the Gaiman piece - it was excellent :-)

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Hmm... How would I describe hell in my writing? I don't know. I find it interesting that someone said (who I totally don't remember right now) it would be cold instead of hot. So I might do something like that, if I did. :-) Great post!

Elizabeth Twist said...

I think Weaveworld was my first Barker novel too. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed Mister B. Gone.

I blame Apple too!

Elizabeth Twist said...

I think hell and devils could be used to good comic effect too, if you needed them to work that way.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jocelyn Rish said...

As I lover of all things horror, I'm ashamed to say I've never actually read any of Clive Barker's writing. Seen the movies, of course, but I really need to remedy that situation.

When I have to go spend time at the DMV every few years, I start getting glimpses of what my hell would be like. :-(

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