OPEN CALL: Presenting Mysterium Tremendum, a Quarterly Chapbook

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We originally conceived of Mysterium Tremendum as an anthology scheduled for release sometime in 2021. Due to frequent interest expressed in this project by writers and readers alike, we’ve decided to try something a little different. We’re excited to present Mysterium Tremendum, a quarterly chapbook featuring fiction, nonfiction, and poetry exploring the intersection between weird fiction/horror and the holy.

The title of the series comes from Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, in which the German Lutheran theologian describes the “numinous” at the heart of religion as an experience preceding any systematic dogma or ethical component–a “feeling,” in short, much closer to the sublimity of horror than any sensation popularly (read “dully”) conceived as “religious” (love, happiness, well-being). An astounding array of writers have since, whether consciously or not, furthered Otto’s observations. Some of them explicitly tie horror fiction to the holy. Scholarly works directly examining this connection include Victoria Nelson’s The Secret Life of Puppets, Douglas Cowan’s Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen, and Kirk J. Schneider’s Horror and the Holy. Georges Bataille is also relevant here, along with the Communion books of Whitley Streiber, and contemporary philosophers like Rene Girard, Jeffrey Kripal, and Erik Davis.

Not surprisingly, consciousness of the interplay between weird fiction/horror and the holy (perhaps more properly thought of as “the numinous”) has been most pronounced among fiction writers themselves. Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen consciously inhabited this space. H.P. Lovecraft almost certainly had a sense of it, and contemporary authors like Scott R. Jones, Matt Cardin, and many more have made the strange, sublime borderlands between terror and religiosity a central aspect of their work.

None of this is as surprising or as niche as it might appear–a close reading of religious experiences will readily demonstrate that the divine path is always fraught with terror, and where else but in horror fiction can we find the spirits, miracles, and gods that once dominated human interactions with their (largely unknown and mysterious) environment? That this isn’t more obvious to us is a testimony to the fact that we’ve distanced ourselves from the uncanny strangeness of religious sentiment–perhaps this very distance makes the numinous in horror more urgent now than ever.

Mysterium Tremendum is a quarterly chapbook dedicated to this potent intersection. Nonfiction, short fiction, and poetry that in some way examines or exists within this liminal space is welcome here. We’re paying flat fees of $50 for nonfiction (film studies welcome) and fiction of 3,000 to 6,000 words in length. We’ll pay $25 for all poems. All nonfiction should be formatted using Chicago Manual of Style, no exceptions. Each chapbook will be around 45 pages in length and available in limited numbers from the SMM website. Each issue will also be made available on Amazon Kindle.

For now, we’ll leave submissions open for this publication. We do not accept reprints or simultaneous submissions. Please send all submissions and inquiries to MysteriumTremendumSubmissions@gmail.com, and kindly give us plenty of time to respond!

Best,
Justin A. Burnett

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