Monsters and Mormons provides edgy chills and thrills

I don’t think LDS readers will be able to find Monsters and Mormons at Deseret Book or Seagull Book. I’d love to be wrong about that, but it’s my experience that fantasy at those stores never matures beyond puberty. Those interested can buy this pleasingly thick anthology of Mormon horror and fantasy online. The book is usually $20-plus but various download versions are much cheaper. Its website is here.

It’s a great book with fantastic reads. Bishops battling demons, live wives meeting dead wives, aliens rescuing missionaries, vampires, and of course George A. Romero-type zombies … and a lot more, find their way into Mormon-themed plots. Mormon scholar Terryl Givens offers a preface, where he reminds readers that Mormonism was the grist for 19th century pulp conspiracies. An enjoyable introduction by co-editor Theric Jepson recounts his grandfather’s “Deseret Book,” a metal box with holes and leather straps mysteriously discovered in the southern Utah desert long ago.

As mentioned, there are dozens of tales, poems, essays — even a graphic short story – in Monsters and Mormons, all worth reading late into the night. I’ve picked two stories to mention in this review. “Baptisms for the Dead,” by C. Douglas Birkhead, is not among the top offerings but its subject, Mormon missionaries continue to proselytize even after flesh-eating zombies overrun the world, is a nod to the zombie chic in literature which seems to have overrun vampires of late. Senior companion Elder Gardner, with the less than enthusiastic assistance of junior companion Elder Hansen, spends days hunting for zombies to kill and then conducts modified  ”battlefield baptisms” to make sure the damned get to the Celestial Kingdom. What I like best about Birkhead’s tale is that the missionary routine, with the senior companion in charge, survives an apocalypse. Elder Hansen may think Elder Gardner has been driven crazy by the living dead, but the priesthood authority still rules the day. Gardner’s words of encouragement could be repeated by any elder today, given the subtext of saving rotted souls the missionaries are taught. “Have faith, Elder Hansen. I’m convinced that we were left behind to do God’s work, to release these souls through the destruction of their corrupted bodies and to give them a path to salvation through baptism.”

More depth is found in D. Michael Martindale’s short story, “Bokev Momen.” Science fiction, it involves a family space patrol from the Tetzl race, which encounters a dead carriage full of deceased Murdzaks, a despised race shunned from interstellar diplomatic groups. Interestingly, the carriages are organic, live creatures and the space travelers fit comfortably within the carriage bodies.

The Tetzl group, which includes a husband, a primewife and a thirdwife — polygamy is practiced in Tetzl — discovers a live captive on the Murdzak carriage. Once the rescuers find his clothes, he shirt bears a nametag with writing on it and a red or violet strip knotted at the throat. The captive’s name, as best as the Tetzls can understand is “Al-da-kirsh-tan-sin” who lives on a no-contact planet, Raviza Kirkil 752116 that “Al-da” calls “Irf.” Before the friendly aliens drop him off near his home of  “Jojah,” the rescued man from “Irf” shares a book with his rescuers that he calls “Bokev Momen.” A picture on the cover stuns the Tetzl rescuers for its similarity to “The Anointed” on their planet. From the story, “Eteaki stared at the spot of color his finger had formed. The homeland of the Anointed. This planet, that location. That tiny point in the universe. She jiggled her head in denial. No, it couldn’t be possible.”

“Bokev Momen” provides metaphors and analogies for many Latter-day Saint teachings and concepts, mild and controversial. They include polygamy, patriarchal authority, multiple worlds, Nephites versus Lamanites, rigid doctrinal practices, good versus evil, salvation, skepticism, discrimination, the intentional mystery that is inherent in spiritual belief, and of course the belief in an anointed savior, which “Al-da-kirsh-tan-sin” calls “Jyez-iz-kirast.”

Several years ago, Martindale wrote an excellent Mormon-themed novel, “Brother Brigham,” for Zarahemla Books.  (link)

It’d be fun to see “Bokev Momen” produced as a short film.

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8 Responses to Monsters and Mormons provides edgy chills and thrills

  1. D. Michael Martindale says:

    I don’t know. I hear that Martindale character is a real hack writer.

  2. Wm Morris says:

    Thanks for the review, Doug. One interesting thing to note about Chris Birkhead is the isn’t LDS (although he has lived in Utah). My co-editor and I worked with him to make sure a couple of details were more correct, but the story is all his, and we were delighted to have a solid submission from a non-member.

  3. Bob Becker says:

    1. I suspect much of the Perry/Santorum constituency would consider the title redundant.

  4. Dovie says:

    They include polygamy, patriarchal authority, multiple worlds, Nephites versus Lamanites, rigid doctrinal practices, good versus evil, salvation, skepticism, discrimination, the intentional mystery that is inherent in spiritual belief, and of course the belief in an anointed savior, which “Al-da-kirsh-tan-sin” calls “Jyez-iz-kirast.”

    I feel (almost) bad for asking, but where does secular libertarianism fit in here? Could you really add that to this list and have it make any sense whatsoever?

  5. Pingback: Monsters and Mormons provides edgy chills and thrills – StandardNet (blog) | mormonsrule

  6. I’ve been LDS for mist of my life (now in the Paradise Valley Stake in Phoenix, AZ) and love the fact that we are no longer an obscure religion, and now there are an increasing number of books and independent films with a “Mormon” theme. But based on the description of this book, interesting and entertaining as it may well be, I don’t think I’d pay even $10 for it, let alone $20. For that kind of money it would have to be a solid novel. Not a loose confederacy of poems and short stories. Now, I might pay $3 were it available to read strictly online (without a need to download). The last story mentioned does pique my interest. Perchance it could evolve into a nivel in its own right. That I would definitely purchase (at a reasonable price). I am working on a book myself. Would welcome advice on submitting to publishers ( honakerdavid@hotmail.com ). Happy New Year to all. David

  7. Pingback: This Week in Mormon Literature, January 6, 2012 | Dawning of a Brighter Day

  8. Pingback: ‘Millstone City’ an example of the Mormon pulp fiction genre | The Political Surf

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