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Notes & Gleanings: Dark Delights, Literary Horrors, and Halloween Surprises
A special Halloween edition. Links, reflections, and curated reading recommendations
Welcome to The Living Dark. I’m Matt Cardin, and this is my newsletter on religion, horror, and creativity at the nexus of nonduality and the daemon muse. A writer’s guide to the inner genius.
Dear Living Dark readers,
For this special Halloween edition, I have brought together a collection of my Substack Notes and recent readings on matters related to horror. It’s quite a rich and varied assortment of topics and themes, dealing with books, authors, films, themes, and philosophical and spiritual aspects of the subject. It also crosses over at multiple points with our presiding theme here at TLD of the mysterious source of creative energy and inspiration. I hope it enhances your enjoyment of the season.
Remember: For notes that show up below as abridged previews, you can click on them to call up their full text in your browser or the Substack app.
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Before the main content, here’s a reminder that my new short ebook Transmitting Vision: Essays on the Writer’s Path is now available to subscribers. It contains seven essays on topics of interest to all writers and creators, including:
the importance of having a muse
essential practices for writers
the nature and history of the daimon
specific ways to invite inspiration
the core creative-artistic function of transmitting a vision from writer to reader.
Paid subscribers get a complimentary copy of the whole book. Free subscribers get a free preview.
This edition of “Notes & Gleanings” includes:
Was Cormac McCarthy a horror writer?
The shadowy spiritual implications of weird and philosophical horror
The primal connection between horror and religion
Thomas Ligotti’s “The Red Tower”: creativity in its darkest aspect
The horror of Ray Bradbury
The greatness of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”—and Lovecraft’s solution to its central mystery
Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward: a cinematic history
T.E.D. Klein’s hidden history of horror
The art of elegant restraint and how to violate it: Night of the Demon (1947)
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and a muse turned monstrous
The deep Christianity of The Exorcist
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend: a cinematic history
Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto: the original Gothic original
If you’re ever in Massachusetts: The Salem Witch Trials Walk
The wisdom of 1998’s Fallen
Alan Moore on art, literature, magic, creative alchemy, and the gods in the psyche
The genius of the original Halloween (1978) and the philosophical-artistic misstep of all the sequels
Laird Barron on the horror of Cormac McCarthy
The dark enlightenment of weird horror
Religion and horror: the twin strands of a primal cosmic DNA
Factory of nightmares: Thomas Ligotti’s “The Red Tower”
Ray Bradbury: horror writer
Lovecraft’s solution to Usher’s riddle
A Lovecraftian lesson: Charles Dexter Ward by any other name
T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies: a stealth course in horror history
Night of the Demon: a classic case of over-explaining the supernatural
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: the muse as monster
The Exorcist: the world’s scariest Christian novel?
Vampires, zombies, and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend
The original Gothic novel: The Castle of Otranto
The Salem Witch Trials Walk
Fallen (1998) on angels, demons, and the purpose of human life
Alan Moore: Artists and writers are magicians with gods living in their minds
Alan Moore is endlessly fascinating. These three quotes, gathered from three different sources, are only a minuscule example of how and why.
On art and literature as real magic:
Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. . . . To cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness. And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a shaman. . . . Artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and writing are merely forms of entertainment. They’re not seen as transformative forces that can change a human being, that can change a society.
On creativity as alchemy:
To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head—and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.
On the reality of gods in the human mind:
One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life. A character says something like, “The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind.” After I wrote that, I realised I’d accidentally made a true statement, and now I’d have to rearrange my entire life around it.
MORE: Moore’s Murderer
The horror of no reason: The dark genius of 1978’s Halloween (and the fatal misstep of the subsequent franchise)
Horror storytellers take note: If you, like me, find yourself A) enduringly fascinated and gripped by director John Carpenter’s classic Halloween and B) mildly amused but basically unmoved by all the sequels and remakes that came after it, there’s a good reason for that. Carpenter himself, along with screenwriter (but not for any Halloween movies) Michael Kraus explains why, in a recent insightful essay by the latter:
John Carpenter on what all the sequels got wrong about Halloween and Michael Myers:
Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness—it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me. He’s part person, part supernatural force. The sequels rooted around in motivation. I thought that was a mistake."
Michael Kraus on the dark wisdom of the original film in not offering an explanation:
Each retcon and new development in the Halloween franchise functions as a different method of ascribing order and rationality to the senselessness and randomness of the original film. . . . The Halloween franchise as a whole stands as a monument to the human capacity for rationalization, our need to explain the terrifying things that happen to us. . . . The same impulse can be found in how we respond in the real world to real-life tragedies and horrors, always looking for that fundamental why. But the totality of the series, at the end of the day, only serves to strengthen the legacy of Carpenter’s indelible original, and makes it more timeless and impactful, even now, forty-five years later. For only 1978’s Halloween, the first, the best, has the awful and powerful wisdom to know that sometimes, there is no why. No reason, no order. Sometimes, bad things just happen.
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by Matt Cardin • More than 1,000 subscribers
A writer’s guide to the inner genius. Creativity and calling at the intersection of nonduality and the daemon muse.