“Censered” by Christine Morgan (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

43351589._SY475_The Sixth Seal has been opened, the four horsemen are laying waste to the world, and seven archangels are brandishing trumpets – which leaves the eighth archangel, Tabaeth, feeling left out.

“Censered” is part of And Hell Followed, an anthology of stories inspired by Revelation, and it is one of the more humorous pieces in the volume. The central character Tabaeth is the youngest of the archangels, with the foul mouth and tantrum-prone temperament to show for it. “It’s fucking unfair!” he proclaims as the Four Horsemen ride out upon the Earth. “They all get trumpets! They all get to destroy shit!”

It turns out that Tabaeth’s irreverence is not down purely to immaturity: he has been speaking to beings from fallen pantheons, and noticed some suspicious similarities with his own Abrahamic heaven. Could this apocalypse, he wonders, be “just ripping off the Egyptian thing about Ma’at and Apep?” Indeed, pagan belief systems do seem to contain a lot of virgin births, resurrections, and evil serpents, suggesting a degree of divine plagiarism. And he fails to see how Yahweh comes out looking better than any of those rival gods, considering the harsh treatment afforded the likes of Adam, Eve, Lot’s family, Job and Ham:

And, hey, get a load of Mr. Build-An-Ark, wasted off his tits, rolling naked in the mud probably puking on himself; so Ham laughed, big fucking whoop, it must’ve been Goddamn funny! What does he get for it, though? Blammo, systemic bullshit racism for umpty-thousand years.

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“Norwegian Woods” by Jeremy Wagner (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

BigBookBlasPublished in Necro’s Big Book of Blasphemy (which is up for Best Anthology) “Norwegian Woods” is set within Norway’s black metal scene. Its main character is a musician who styles himself Maggotis, and who forms one quarter of a band called Pesta’s Reign. Notorious after a (botched) arson attempt on a cathedral, the band eagerly soaks up the diabolical imagery and anti-Christian extremism that are part and parcel of Norwegian black metal.

The frontman of Pesta’s Reign, Vredesbyrd, is keen to take things further and has begun to act as something of a cult leader. While Maggotis remains uncertain , the other two members – Blakengard and Lord Rectum – have fallen under Vredesbyrd’s sway. To the band leader, devilish iconography is more than just an aesthetic: through a sacrificial rite involving goats and groupies, he is able to tap into supernatural forces of the darkest stripe.

“Norwegian Woods” makes a point out of portraying the squalor behind the corpse-painted theatrics of the metal scene. The infamous band is ultimately just four youngsters having trouble making ends meet, with Maggotis washing dishes in a kebab restaurant, driving a battered twenty-year-old car and sleeping on a couch after being kicked out by his mum. Then, having stripped away the mystique of metal, the story promptly proceeds to build it up again.

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Starting This Week: 2020 Splatterpunk Award Reviews!

SplattyKillerCon Austin’s Splatterpunk Awards for extreme horror fiction have been running since 2018, and each year I’ve made a point out of reviewing every single nominee because that’s the sort of person I am. In 2018 I ran the reviews at WWAC (part 1, part 2, part 3) and last year I ran them at Horror After Dark, a website that is sadly no longer active (although you can still find my reviews at Archive.org: short stories, novellas, collections, anthologies and novels).

This year, I’ve decided to post the reviews at this very blog. So, watch this space and you’ll see me get stuck into another round of gut-splattering grue…

Here are the contenders, in case you missed them:

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