Saturday, 5 March 2011

Between Eden and Hell

Recently I seem to be stuck writing either my Eden saga or about Hell. The (wonderful) editor at Piker Press (Sand Pilarski) suggested I write more stories from the Looking for Hell universe. Since I really enjoyed writing that piece, I started writing a sequel, called Escape from Hell, and decided to blow the lid off what Hell really is... yes, you've already guessed it, it's an alien soul-processing factory. Well, for the details, you'll have to wait and see.

I grew up intensely Catholic, used to go to mass twice on Sundays, and then somehow fell out of that particular tree with a Newtonian thump on the head. But as many people have told me, the furthest you can get is 'recovering catholic' :-) Anyway, I have always had an obsession with heaven and hell, so am using writing to explore that with humour and science fiction. For those of you who've read Looking for Hell and liked it, you're in for a treat - Beckel is going to make a come-back, and there'll be more on those Anacraeons...

In the meantime, and to prove I do some research for my writing, here's an adaptation of a Zen micro-story about Heaven and Hell, set in feudal Japan (see Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, 1957, compiled by Paul Reps, Penguin, ISBN 0140212833):

A warrior obsessed with death went to see a Zen master. "I understand you know about heaven and hell. Since I am a warrior and will surely die soon, I wanted to know more." The zen master sipped his tea, not even looking up. "You seem to me like a poor warrior. Probably you'll be dead sooner than you think, why should I waste my time with you?" The warrior, enraged, began to draw his sword. The zen mast looked up. "Here is hell." The warrior stopped, realizing the discipline of this man. He sheathed his sword. The zen master smiled. "And here is heaven." The warrior bowed and left.

I'll add something to the original story: Afterwards, this warrior never lost a battle.

He died of old age surrounded by his grandchildren.


  1. Hi Barry
    Nice story. Another one I heard had very similar Heavens and Hells. In both everyone is stuck in chairs around a large banquet table, the only way of eating being to use a long fork stuck to their heads. In Hell each banquet guest is contorting themselves in agony trying to feed themselves. In Heaven they're feeding each other across the table because that's how far the forks reach. Sartre said Hell was other people, but every taste of Paradise in my experience has been found in relationship.

    I finished Niven and Pournelle's "Escape from Hell" recently, which was quite a novel take on Dante. Then there's Jack Chalker's "Quintara Marathon" with a very SF Hell and very real multi-dimensional demons. But James Blish's duology of "Black Easter"/"The Day After Judgement" is still the best treatment of the issue IMO.

  2. Thanks qraal, I'll take a look :-) The sequel to my short story Looking for Hell, called Escape from Hell, takes place inside Hell, so will be interested to see how these writers deal with it.


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