Remember last year when I wrote a short story (that turned into a novella) and cataloged the entire process on my blog? That was for an anthology called Monsters & Mormons, which later accepted the story, and last week the final anthology is now available! I would have written about it earlier but I’ve spent so much dang time reading the thing, and guys, it is awesome.
The idea is to take pulp-style horror and fantasy tropes, in the style of old masters like Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and the two-fisted Hollywood serials and radio shows, and then add Mormons. Why? Because it’s awesome, and because no one had ever done it before. The Catholic church, for example, is hugely prevalent in genre fiction: it’s been around so long, and has such amazing cultural penetration, that it shows up in SF (A Canticle for Leibowitz, Warhammer 40,000), comic books (Magdalena), thrillers (Dan Brown), and of course horror and all its various subgenres (The Exorcist, every vampire story ever told, etc.). Mormonism is smaller and newer and therefore far less well-known, but couldn’t some of the same tropes be used with it? How would some of our classic horror stories change and grow when seen through the lens of Mormonism? It’s a fascinating idea.
Consider one of my favorite tropes, mentioned briefly above with the comic book Magdalena: the idea that the Catholic church has a Black Ops division somewhere in the depths of the Vatican, trained from birth and armed with deadly weapons and holy weapons blessed by the priests and Pope. After all, if demons are real, a religion with the power of God should be uniquely equipped to deal with them, right? The first story in the Mormons & Monsters anthology, “Other Duties” by Nathan Shumate, takes this Catholic standby and warps it through the a Mormon lens, crafting a story that’s not only exciting and creepy but deeply hilarious to anyone versed in Mormon culture. First of all, Mormons use a lay clergy–rather than lifelong, professional priests we use members of the local congregation, called and set apart for a short time to hold a particular position as a teacher or administrator. This means, of course, that the Mormon demon hunters are not finely honed super-soldiers but friendly neighborhood volunteers; the hero of the story is a Mormon bishop simply taking his turn as the “Agent Bishop” in charge of demon hunting. There’s an agent Bishop for physical facilities (making sure the buildings are maintained, etc.), so why not for demon hunting as well? This brings up another distinctly Mormon quirk, which is our hilariously banal bureaucracy: the hunter learns about the demon via a phone tree, no doubt originating with a home teacher, and calls his counselors to accompany him on the mission; one is visiting Idaho for a baby blessing so they have to fill in with the Elders’ Quorum President, who hasn’t really been trained yet. They start with a prayer, load up on sacred weapons, and finish up with some paperwork and a phone call to the Relief Society. Like I said: Mormon culture insiders are going to find this anthology hilarious, but there’s just as much fun for those who are only familiar with the other half of the equation, the elements of the story before it was Mormonized. Watching these authors play with the tropes, and discovering how each trope gets altered by the Mormon theme, is like a delicious little cultural/literary treasure hunt. I can’t get enough it.
My own story, the last in the very large anthology, is called “The Mountain of the Lord,” and follows the adventures of a young Mormon pioneer seemingly cursed with a tendency to turn into a giant rock monster. It’s a Mormon Horror Wild West Superhero story, essentially, which makes me doubly grateful for this anthology because there’s literally no other venue in which I could possibly have published it. Many of the contributing authors I’ve talked to have told similar stories: they wrote something, thought it was fun, but put it away because where can you sell a story about a Mormon missionary fighting monsters on the Amazon river? This anthology has discovered a bizarre yet wonderful seam of material far richer than any of the participants may have realized when they started last year. I can only hope we’ll see a Monsters & Mormons 2 sometime in the future.
If you want a copy, you can have one in seconds: the book is available as an ebook here for only $4.99, which is a steal for a collection this big and varied and interesting. Buy it now, and let me know what you think. If you want an actual paperback, they’re a lot harder to come by, but I can still hook you up–you can pre-order them on the same website, plus I’ll have some at every convention and signing I go to next year, so you can pick one up from me then. The paperbacks are more expensive ($23.99), but I’ll be selling them at cost to keep them as available as possible.
This was a fun project to write for, and even more fun to read. If you’re Mormon and love genre fiction, you owe it to yourself to pick this up; if you’re not Mormon, I think you’ll still probably dig it.