Cup of Nirvana Philosophical and Contemplative Explorations

Gel – New Book Announcement

IMG_0326I’m pleased to announce the completion of my third book, a psychological horror-thriller novel called Gel.

As explained last year in Stephen King and the Path of Fiction, I’ve devoted considerable time to fiction since fall 2015. One of the reasons I’ve not blogged much in the past year is that I’ve devoted considerable time to reading and writing fiction. The discipline helped me produce Gel and make substantial progress on two other novels.

Gel reflects my long-standing interests in abnormal psychology, horror fiction, and phenomena suggestive of life after death. The narrative presents an apparent case of reincarnation entangled in strands of childhood trauma, psychopathology, and sadomasochistic eroticism. The story unfolds around three main characters—three people with three obsessions, yet one shared secret has haunted each of them for twenty-five years. Now their previously separate lives are converging and unraveling under the power of unresolved guilt and the desire for control and personal justice.

The novel also explores some interesting philosophical questions. Throughout I’ve wrestled with closely allied problems in the interface between personal identity and the reality/appearance distinction. People are often pretenders, or they at least have an aspect of their lives that remains hidden or opaque, perhaps even to themselves. This phenomenon looms large in Gel.  The narrative also expresses my curiosity about the moral and psychological complexities of having empathy for perpetrators of evil.

In my 2016 Review of Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts I discussed the horror of ambiguity. Gel is an example of this approach to dark fiction. Unlike much traditional horror fiction, the narrative of Gel doesn’t assume the actual existence of the supernatural (or the paranormal), though the story is replete with the appearance of it. Neither does the narrative deny the existence of supernatural entities or forces. Gel doesn’t resolve the tension that exists between naturalistic and super-naturalistic interpretations of the phenomena within the story. It intentionally deploys ambiguity as a literary device. The reader is left to grapple with the question and to consider the possibility that the origin of the terror eludes our understanding.

For example, one of the main characters in Gel may be the reincarnation of a seductive high school English teacher who died tragically twenty-five years earlier. But it’s also possible that pathological self-deception and improbable circumstances have coalesced to create the illusion of reincarnation. Then there’s the recurring phenomenon of the gel, also the title of the story. Is the gel merely a natural phenomenon—a coincidence in the bluster of human-made madness—or is it the manifestation of an otherworldly diabolical force,  a force ultimately responsible for the madness and the wider narrative of the story?

These questions remain open-ended from the viewpoint of the narrator of the story. The reader must wrestle with the relative merits of competing explanations. The reader must also consider the possibility that their own interpretive preferences at this juncture are a product of their wider psychology, controlled as it often is by their own interests, needs, and emotional life.

At present I’m editing Gel in preparation for a beta-version of the novel that should be available in late July or early August. At that time I’ll post a synopsis of the book. If you’d like to be considered as a beta-reader, please email me. Include some background on authors you’ve read and your literary interests. If you’re interested in horror fiction or psychological thrillers, the novel may interest you. If you’re uncomfortable  with explicit language and graphic sex, Gel is not for you.

Michael Sudduth

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