Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reinheit by Thomas S. Flowers

Rebecca Moss never questioned the purchase of the strange seductive armchair. She wanted to please Frank. But the armchair has a dark purpose. Nazi officer Major Eric Schröder believed fervently in Hitler's vision of purity.


Cover Artist: Travis Eck

Rebecca Moss never questioned the purchase of the strange seductive armchair. She wanted to please Frank. But the armchair has a dark purpose. Nazi officer Major Eric Schröder believed fervently in Hitler's vision of purity. Now the chair has passed to Frank, an abusive thug who has his own twisted understanding of patriotism. There are those who want to destroy the armchair, to end its curse. But can the armchair be stopped before it completes its work?

Wonderfully Horrible

Horror is so much more than movies or books. The roots of horror stem back to our evolutionary instinct, that tickle on our spine when we’re home alone in the basement of our house and we’ve got that funny feeling something bulbous is watching us from the dark places we cannot see. This instinctual fear, the fear of the unknown, the greatest and oldest fear, according the H.P. Lovecraft, has been expressed through the eons, first as painted depictions of giant snakes or birds of prey or large cats on the caves of the Paleolithic Era and then into folklore and oratory tradition, tales by the campfire, and finally into works of script, ranging from Shakespearean plays such as Titus Andronicus to religious allegory found within the sinuous pages of Dante’s Inferno to the gothic era with the Graveyard Poets and Thomas Parnell’s book A Night-Piece on Death and Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and how in 1705, Matthew Lewis published The Monk, not to forget the Mary Shelley’s and Stoker’s of the world, well into the modern era and this new cinematic universe and Weird Tales Magazine. So many mediums, so much history it almost begs the question: Why has horror survived? Horror not only bubbles up from the caldrons of our collective memory (history), but horror also plays on our cultural anxieties. In this way, horror becomes the most natural expression of social commentary. Consider the 1954 film, Godzilla, released nine years after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its depiction of a giant lizard, awakened by nuclear testing, ruthlessly attacking Tokyo must have been deeply terrifying to those who had come face to face with the devastation of nuclear warfare. And perhaps there was an even deeper subversive meaning to the film, a reminder of Isoroku Yamamoto’s infamous quote after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the eventual dawn of the Atomic Age, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant…”

Horror is a wonderful tool for illuminating those dark corners of the human condition. Generally, horror storytelling seeks not to explicitly state a specific opinion or moral, but to force the subconscious fears of the audience to the surface, in order for them to form their own conclusions. Depending on the storyteller, one hand can be heavier than the other, this goes without saying. Some stories are blatantly obvious in what’s going on behind the curtain. Others are more hidden. This can be good or bad depending on the artistic style or representation. If you’re watching satire, for instants, you’ll be subjected with an exaggeration of “fear” in order to expose whatever issue, political or otherwise, in which that works day and age is attempting to address. Consider Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho as an excellent example of satirized horror, depicting a twisted view on upper-class living searching aimlessly for something in a world where everything is handed to them. In the case of Pat Bateman, murder becomes his form of escape and it is treated just as banal as deciding on what designer suit to wear out to the club. Consider also Clive Barker’s mythical work, Cabal, as a more subtle approach to bringing out those hidden inner fears and perhaps desires as well, discussing behind the curtain of Boone and the Night Breed, the subconscious is fundamentally addressing homosexuality and otherness contrasted against the fears in that story’s day and age. Similar, some might say, in the way James Whale depicted the Frankenstein monster, feared because of its difference, but is also pitied because of the fate that has befallen it. 

The wonderful reason horror exists is to act as an objective pursuit in understanding our dualistic nature, or those Jungians often say, our collective history through symbols, myths and fairy tales. Good horror storytelling doesn’t give the audience the answers; rather, forces the question. Horror in the delightful guise of entertainment, presenting itself as some unholy creature or alien is essentially discussing humanity in and of itself. Consider the 1953 classic sci-fi thriller, Invaders from Mars. Who do you think those aliens really represent? This was the start of not only the Atomic Age, but also the Cold War. Understanding the anxieties in the era in which the film or book was published, will help us understand what the story is trying to tell us from behind the curtain of lights and sound. And this is why I write horror, not only to (hopefully) entertain, but to also add something to our collective understanding of self. With the release of my debut novel, REINHEIT, I used our collective history and memory of the Holocaust and the Einsatzgruppen to discuss current cultural fears and to open the subconscious of my audience to the dangers of pseudospeciation and ethnocentrism. 

This in large is why horror is so wonderful. Most see horror as just some thrill ride, a cheap amusement park of chills. And horror can very well be just that. But while we’re enjoying the turns and dips and bumps and scares, perhaps something else is going on to, something behind the latent curtain, something that draws us to ask questions about that mythical monster within, the undiscovered self, or maybe to put it more sharply, the ignored self, our dualistic nature and our inner contrasts. While the armchair in my book is very much the representation of pure evil, it also becomes more of a vehicle for the other characters that come in contact with it. Rebecca Moss, the main protagonist in REINHEIT, was a character who ignored that particular side of humanity, despite seeing a very dualistic quality in her own husband, who was both a provider and an abuser. Rebecca, for me, objectified that moderate qualia in people, our blatant blind spots that we refuse to talk about until it’s too late and we’re forced into a situation that’ll more than likely break us down. Frank Moss is more extreme, but he has his own reasons and experiences that had brought him to his own conclusions about the world. And that makes the story a little bit more real, doesn’t it? When we hate and understand the motives of characters it terrifies us to watch the course of their story. Much like in Stephen King’s book Christine, it was heartbreaking watching the progression of Arnie Cunningham from innocence to deprave and then to read, second hand through Dennis’ perspective, the death of Arnie was almost a loss of innocence for the audiences as much as it was for the fictional characters. 

Not many genres can do this.
And this is why horror is so wonderfully horrible.

About the author:
Thomas S Flowers was born in Walter Reed Medical Center, Maryland to a military family. He grew up in RAF Chicksands, England and then later Fort Meade, and finally Roanoke, Virginia. Thomas graduated high school in 2000 and on September 11, 2001, joined the U.S. Army. From 2001-2008, Thomas served in the military police corps, with one tour in South Korea and three tours serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, between deployments, Thomas met his wife and following his third and final tour to Iraq, decided to rejoin the civilian ranks. 

Thomas was discharged honorably in February 2008 and moved to Houston, Texas where he found employment and attended night school. In 2014, Thomas graduated with a Bachelor in Arts in History from University of Houston-Clear Lake. Thomas blogs at www.machinemean.org, commenting and reviewing movies, books, shows, and historical content. Thomas is living a rather simple and quite life with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter, just south of Houston, Texas. 


A. F. Stewart said...

A fantastic post.

Jan Lee said...

Gotta love a good horror novel, grins :)

Thomas S Flowers said...

Thank you! Horror can be an illuminating tool as it is an entertaining one as well.