Mysterium Tremendum Issue Two Release and a Word on the Series

Our second issue of Mysterium Tremendum has finally arrived! We’re proud to publish the only quarterly we’re aware of (and we’ve looked for others) dealing directly with the intersection of horror and the holy. If you’re uninitiated to the theme, you can find the introduction to Mysterium Tremendum’s first issue below. 

In issue two, we’ve once again collected a stirring selection of tales from new weird fiction and horror authors. Better yet, we’ve revisited again a theme that is dear to SMM: puppets, the inanimate, and the uncanny. This time, you’ll find work from Thomas Mavroudis, Douglas Ford, Madeleine Swann, and S. L. Edwards. 

As always, Mysterium Tremendum is printed, bound, and distributed directly from us. Each issue features illustrations, and is printed on quality cardstock and premium white paper. Issues 1 and 2 are both available at

As always, we appreciate your support. While several releases are scheduled for the latter half of this year, we depend on Mysterium Tremendum to keep things operational in the “low output” periods. If you enjoy SMM, we strongly encourage you to pick up a copy or subscribe to the quarterly on our Patreon page, where you’ll also gain access to early cover reveals, announcements, submission calls, and entire unedited texts from upcoming anthologies. Thank you again, and without further ado, here is the editor’s introduction to the inaugural issue of Mysterium Tremendum: 

Horror and the Holy is the title of a book I stumbled across in the “criticism” section of my favorite used book store (blandly named “Recycled Books and Records”) in Denton, TX. It’s an underappreciated work by Kirk J. Schneider, a practitioner of Existential Therapy (it’s worth emphasizing that he’s not a philosopher, critic, or professor of literature). My encounter with it followed by several years my academic exposure to Noel Carroll’s theories on horror. I must be clear about Carroll here: The relation I have with his major work of horror criticism, The Philosophy of Horror, is antagonistic. I squirmed at his patronizing treatment of the genre as something that needed to apologize for existing, a thing surely impossible to enjoy without elaborate and unlikely justifications. Carroll had to turn horror inside out and strip it of its essence before he could take it seriously—why should we listen to criticism like that?

Unfortunately, much of the academic treatment of horror follows Carroll’s spiritless pragmatism. It’s almost enough to make you forget that The Bacchae and Titus Andronicus happily warm their seats somewhere in the peripherals of the canon without causing a scene. Enough to make you forget that Artaud is a thing.

The point is the “problem of horror” stuck with me through an extended period of rumination, perhaps the deepest rumination I’ve ever dedicated to any single literary subject or theme. This train of thought is now well worn, having followed me down various detours and byways into everything from comparative religion to UFO phenomena. At some point between Schneider and Carroll, I had already felt that the attraction of horror had something to do with holiness. I hadn’t yet discovered the multitude of sources that would confirm this perspective (I was seeking an answer, somewhat insanely, in Lacan at the time), but when I saw Horror and the Holy’s bright yellow spine, the moment was weighted with all the inevitability of fate. Aha, I could’ve said, so we meet at last. 

I’ll save an extended exposition of Schneider’s theories for a future essay. For the purposes of this introduction, it’s enough to point out that the title of his book has become the catch phrase for this publication, the one-line response handy for sideways glances and curious inquiries.

I’ve briefly outlined my “academic” interest in the topic. Allow me to underline it with a deeper, more personal dimension:

My earliest memory of truly religious feeling is set during a late evening church service. I don’t recall the occasion, but there were candles and an atmosphere of exceptional solemnity (it felt like a funeral, but it couldn’t have been). Our pastor, a Southern Baptist on the dying end of the “old school,” was delivering a special sermon on the End of Days: “And the first beast was like a lion,” he said in a voice that seemed to amplify as it washed across the unmoving congregation, “and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelations 4: 7-8 KJV) Distorting the textual image in my kid brain, I imagined a sea of eyes, glimmering in a red-stained darkness. The eyes shifted as immense and horrible beings writhed beneath the bloody surface. The eternal evocation of “was, is, and is to come” rang fearfully through my imagination, filling me with an immensity I couldn’t begin to comprehend as I wept and begged forgiveness for whatever sins a boy my age could accumulate to justify such visions.

My parents didn’t notice, nor were they particularly affected by the sermon themselves. I, however, was already trained to read the Bible with the utmost conviction of its indisputable truth (that old hill Christianity seems eager to die on). I was also a creative child, despite being imbued with the thoroughly-protestant disbelief in monsters. This interplay of belief and imaginative space left me perfectly ripe for my first encounter with the holy, synonymous, in my case, with horror.

I guess you could say this early experience left me ready to draw these parallels. As it relates to this chapbook, what I want to publish are stories that echo with the sensations I remember vividly from that sermon: an intermingling of awe and horror at the doorstep of the unexplainable. Perhaps this metric is far too subjective. Perhaps it isn’t. We’ll see.

More interesting than my own inclination is the fact that I’m not alone. Soon after reading Schneider’s Horror and the Holy, which persuasively (if a little simply) argues that horror and the holy both operate in terms of extremes—namely, infinite expansion and constriction—I continued to look for writers willing to consider horror fiction sincerely within this obvious yet counterintuitive (thanks in large part to wrong-headed antagonism perpetrated by religion, leading to things like the “Satanic Scare” of the 80’s) context. Victoria Nelson has written two excellent books (The Secret Life of Puppets and Gothicka) that loosely explore this theme and many more; the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft has become a breeding ground for “alternative spiritualities” (see “Calling Cthulhu” in Erik Davis’ Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica, or Scott R. Jones’ When the Stars Are Right: Towards an Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality); horror cinema, as Douglas E. Cowan points out in Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen, is awash with conscious references to its own relationship to religion; the work of Jeffrey Kripal and Whitley Strieber posits a sense of religiosity intimately tied to the world of genre fiction, and immensely influential thinkers like Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud have been alerting us to the transcendental potential of the horrific for half a century. The list goes on, all the way back to Rudolf Otto (yes, for the moment, we’re ignoring the Kantian and Burkean “sublime”), whose description of the experience of “the numinous” in The Idea of the Holy is fraught with horror. And it’s from this book that I’ve lifted the title of this little series. 


Mysterium Tremendum: “awe-inspiring mystery.” Readers of Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature will find good weird fiction described in similar terms—a “spiritual horror” is one that transcends the “acceptance of popular standards” (53) and plunges us headlong into the abyss of the unknown. That, in this beautiful time of ours, rife with malcontent and blown wide open to a renaissance of horror fiction, is what every publisher of weird fiction and cosmic horror seeks to publish, even if they don’t view this aesthetic as particularly resonant with the mystery of the holy. It would be redundant to plant our flag on that hill and call it a day.

More than one writer of horror has spied this resonance and consciously sought to emphasize the presence of holiness at the heart of their craft. This is the horror fiction we want. We are happy to feature three such writers in this issue. This publication will have served its purpose if it creates a space that encourages further conscious exploration of this theme. It’s my opinion that the more horror can recognize its own motivations, the more likely it is to move forward. That is always the goal, isn’t it? Forever forward, forever into the unknown.

 Justin A. Burnett

The Big Book of Little Deaths

2021’s been one hell of a year for us. We’re looking at the release of a limited hardback edition of Philip Fracassi’s Altar illustrated by François Vaillancourt in May; Hymns of Abomination: Secret Songs of Leeds, our tribute anthology to the work of Matthew M. Bartlett, is scheduled for publication in July, and debut collections by Rohit Sawant (The Endless Walk) and Scott J. Couturier (The Box) are set to follow closely behind (in August and September, respectively). In addition, our quarterly release of Mysterium Tremendum, a chapbook designed to explore the intersection of horror and the holy, is dropping on schedule (order issue 1 and 2 here). 

But this isn’t all. We’ve taken on another, very worthy project for this spring. We’re happy to announce that The Big Book of Little Deaths: An Erotic Horror Anthology Benifitting Sex Workers, edited by William Tea, will be added to the Silent Motorist Media catalogue. This enormous anthology of over 40 stories and poems is exactly what it sounds like: a charity anthology designed to support Sex Worker Giving Circle (which, by the way, is in no way affiliated with Silent Motorist Media or this anthology). None of the parties involved–the principal editor, Silent Motorist Media, the authors, nor the artist–are receiving a paycheck for this project. We’re dedicating all proceeds from The Big Book of Little Deaths to an industry increasingly maligned and oppressed under the current political climate. 

Look for an official TOC announcement soon! This anthology features a little bit of everything: cosmic horror, bizarro fiction, dark fantasy, weird fiction, you name it. We’ll keep you updated as the details unfold. Thanks to William Tea for allowing us to host this project, and the contributors who have graciously donated their work to support this worthy cause. We’re honored to be a part of this endeavor.  

-Justin A. Burnett 


Hymns of Abomination Cover Reveal

At long last, we’re thrilled to show you Yves Tourigny’s cover to Hymns of Abomination: Secret Songs of Leeds, our tribute anthology to Matthew M. Bartlett scheduled to release in July of this year. 

For those who don’t know, Bartlett is a beloved voice in contemporary weird fiction known for his richly nightmarish tales of Leeds, a fictionalized version of a village that’s part of Northampton, MA. What began as Livejournal posts circulated among friends in the early 2000’s, Bartlett’s short, macabre, and imaginative yarns found their way into Gateways of Abomination, a collection that swept the small world of weird fiction into giddy delirium. Nathan Ballingrud aptly describes the experience of discovering Gateways in his introduction to Creeping Waves, Bartlett’s second anthology: “What I encountered was a writer in full flourish, in complete command of his art. I encountered a savage dream which moved with the lethal confidence of a great white shark. Bartlett was no dilettante; here was someone channeling a vision. The book seemed to vibrate.” There aren’t many readers in the know who would argue otherwise.

Over the years, Bartlett’s work has wound its way ever more tightly into the heart of the community, influencing a wide berth of current authors (many of whom have agreed to appear in this anthology) and surely more to come. His achievements include an entry (for his short story “Rangel”) in Year’s Best Weird Fiction vol. 3 edited by Simon Strantzas alongside weird fiction superstars like Robert Aickman, Ramsey Campbell, and Kristi Demeester. He’s even contributed to Cadabra Records’ eerie blend of spoken word and haunting soundscapes with releases like Mr. White Noise, Call Me Corey, and Ginny Greenteeth (the latter read by Laurence Harvey). The point is that Bartlett isn’t going anywhere, and that’s good news for weird fiction and horror readers. As Scott Nicolay has said, “Matthew Bartlett is one of those authors whose emergence redefines the genre. Barker, Ligotti, Barron, Llewellyn… Bartlett.” That’s quite some praise. It also happens to be the widely-held consensus regarding Bartlett’s work.

“Bartlett writes like a man in the grip of a vision,” Orrin Grey wrote. If his writing’s a vision, it’s contagious–every year lures more readers into Leed’s shadows for thrills more terrible than can easily be described. And with this tribute we joyously descend further into his nightmare. What better way to celebrate Bartlett’s legacy than to don his vision like a suit? Only we must be cautious–the suit isn’t empty.

Excited about this release? Then let us encourage you to join our Patreon: cover reveals, early, unedited versions of Hymns submissions, and more are available to patrons. We deeply appreciate your support!

The Endless Walk, by Rohit Sawant COMING AUGUST, 2021

We are thrilled to announce that we are scheduled to release The Endless Walk, a debut horror collection of 11 tales by Rohit Sawant, in August 2021. This is one of two fantastic debut collections we are privileged to publish this year. It is also our first original single author publication. 

For this milestone in our publishing journey, we knew we wanted to present a book that encapsulated all the elements we value in weird and horror fiction. The Endless Walk neatly fits the bill–Sawant’s colorful and hypnotic style is infused with a unique and imaginative flavor of the weird that we quickly fell in love with. Readers will easily identify his reverence for the classics–two stories directly deal with Poe and Doyle–while succumbing to Sawant’s seductive and thoroughly-contemporary strain of literary weird. This is not a release our readers will want to miss. 

Rohit Sawant’s short fiction has been published in various anthologies and magazines. His short story, “Brother Mine,” has appeared in the Shirley Jackson Award winning anthology The Twisted Book of Shadows.

His career in entertainment media has been varied. After getting a Bachelor’s degree in Animation and Computer Graphics, he worked as a CG artist on animated features at Prana Studios, Inc and later as a VFX artist elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India and freelances as an artist, screenwriter, and web designer. His favorite Batman is Kevin Conroy.

You can find him online at and on twitter @iamrohitsawant

The cover art below is by the inimitable Don Noble. Stay tuned for more updates on this incredible release, along with the many others we have scheduled for 2021!