Welcome to the Infernal Interview Service. Today we feature one of the characters and his writer from the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. Ernst Haeckel (and his writer Seth) feature in Mystics in Hell.
*Who are/were you?
EH: Ich heisse Ernest Haeckel, renowned evolutionist, artist, and philosopher. From German descent, of course. You have heard of my contemporary Charles Darwin, no doubt? I coined the term ecology and am famous for my beautiful drawings of lifeforms.
Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?
EH: Well, my Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) was universally adored. However, my embryological montages unexpectedly drew anger from my fellow scientists. They deemed I embellished too much. Yet, I stand by my depictions of embryos and the notion that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. You look confused, no doubt because of your retarded ancestry. Just understand my proposition that embryos express shapes of all their lesser, ancestral forms as they develop. So before your embryo matured into a human form, it expressed features of a pig and even a fish. I think I am in Hell to finish my census of life, to gather more evidence to support recapitulation theory.
What is are your greatest fears/desires here?
EH: I have no doubt I will find data to further support recapitulation theory. I fear that I will be stuck in Hell so the Royal Society and greater humanity will not learn about the truth.
What puts you above all the other self-proclaimed ‘mystics’ in Hell?
EH: Some consider me a mystic, but I am more of a scientist who searches for spiritual truths (I am certain you have read my treatise The Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century). Lately, I am wrapped up with mystics of the hierophant and alchemical type. See, there is a gold rush in hell! King Midas swallowed the Philosopher’s Stone and transmutes food into gold. He’s minting the promising new gastro-currency: buttcoin. I know, that sounds absurd, but the economy and nature of Hell is cruel. Anyway, the damned Forty-Niners are digging through excrement in attempts to get rich. The imprisoned Thoth, the Egyptian god of mysticism, has charged me to retrieve the Philosopher’s’ Stone. With it he can regain control of the afterlife, rescue me from Hell. So there is hope for me.
Who are your friends/allies here?
EH: I am more interested in acquainting myself with biology than making friends, but if you mean “human allies” then there is my fellow Caucasian Howard Carter. Note, Howard is not a naturalist. He is fascinated with antiquities and material artefacts. That is why he is in hell. So, he wants the Philosopher’s Stone too, but not to escape from Hell….just to profit while he is here. Our partnership is fragile.
Name and bio.:
SEL: S.E. Lindberg here. I reside near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword & Sorcery genre, motivates me to write adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors (including my independently published “Dyscrasia Fiction” series). With Perseid Press, I write weird tales infused with history and alchemy (Heroika: Dragon Eaters & Skirmishers, Pirates in Hell, Lovers in Hell, Mystics in Hell). I’m a Managing Editor at Black Gate and co-moderate the Sword & Sorcery group on Goodreads.
Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?
SEL: Strange muses have had inspired my creativity for decades. I’m fascinated with the intersection of science, art, and spirituality (alchemy essentially) and have turned toward writing as a medium to learn. Since 2014, I’ve also interviewed authors on the topic Beauty in Weird Fiction to explore how others approached such inspirations. By education and trade, I am actually a chemist. For Perseid Press, I’ve contributed five alchemy-inspired tales to date (three for the Heroes in Hell series and two for Heroika).
For Mystics in Hell, my muses motivated me to highlight alchemical mysticism via:
- The Egyptian god of mysticism Thoth, also known as Hermes, and perhaps the root of “Hermes Trismegistus”, champion of the alchemy-inspired philosophy Hermeticism.
- King Midas, who was purported to turn elements into gold (a side-goal of mystical alchemists infatuated with controlling nature’s elements).
What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?
SEL: I’ve adopted the duo of Howard Carter (renowned archaeologist and looter of King Tutankhamun’s tomb) and Ernst Haeckel (discredited evolutionist and original ‘ecologist’) as tour guides. Their motives contrast: Carter adores material, artificial wealth as much as Haeckel is fascinated with nature’s riches. They roam the Egyptian world of the dead, Duat.
Tell us about your story for this edition.
SEL: “Fool’s Gold” in Mystics in Hell is the third to feature the duo of Howard Carter and Ernst Haeckel. The stories are stand alone, but they all tap into conflict: Carter values human wealth and artifacts above all, and Haeckel values natural life. Their adventures and links to previous Hell Weeks are detailed here:
- “Curse of the Pharaohs” in Pirates in Hell: In the Egyptian realm of the dead of Duat, many pharaohs wait to be judged by Anubis; yet, he has been in absentia for centuries. As the piratical Sea People threaten to come ashore, the meddling duo of Carter and Haeckel unearth Anubis’s Hall of Two Truths. Eleven anxious Rameses risk leaving the shoreline unprotected to chance judgment (and a chance to exit Duat!). Read this teaser interview to learn more: Ernest Haeckel Interview (Hell Week 2017, Pirates in Hell).
- “Lovers Sans Phalli” in Lovers in Hell: Surviving Pirates in Hell’s “Curse of the Pharaohs”, the lovers Hatshepsut and Senenmut depart Duat toward hell proper, Anubis having removed their hearts and broken their toy phallus. They find Osiris, missing the penis he requires to retake the realm from Satan’s influence. Carter and Haeckel quest with the Egyptians, seeking to make everyone whole again by stealing genitalia from the Undertaker’s Mortuary. Read this teaser interrogation of Carter and Haeckel as higher powers seek out the location of a stolen artifact: the phallus of the Egyptian god of rejuvenation, Osiris: Hell Week 2018 – A Day in the Life of Haeckel and Carter.
- “Fool’s Gold? in Mystics in Hell: The Egyptian god of mysticism, Thoth, seeks conspirators to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone; with it, Thoth could usurp Satan’s control of the realm of Duat. Taking up the charge is Carter and Haeckel. They discover that King Midas’s alchemical ability to transmute flesh into gold relies on the stolen Philosopher’s Stone, and Midas is producing hell’s new gastro-currency: buttcoin. Yes, rejoice, there is a gold-rush in hell! Mine for a price. At your own risk.
If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?
Seth E Lindberg (SEL):
“It is OK to go to Hell at any time.”
There is a lot to say about Hell, more specifically about the Heroes in Hell series. New readers need to be assured that it is always okay to explore any edition. I defer to several authors from the Doctors in Hell anthology in which they formed an informative death-panel. They offered many quotes about the series (key quotes highlighted in the link) and the post serves as welcoming introduction to the Heroes in Hell series. Check it out: Death Panel Convenes on why it is OK to go to Hell at any time.
What other books/short stories have you written?
SEL: For Perseid Press’s Heroika series, I track the mystical Emerald Tablet (a.k.a., the Philosopher’s Stone) through time. You’ll see that Thoth and Osiris make appearances here too. Read these and experience the birth of chemical warfare.
- “Legacy of the Great Dragon” in Heroika 1:Dragon Eaters: Legacy of the Great Dragon fictionalizes the Hermetic Tradition, presenting the “Divine Pymander–Great Dragon” as being the sun-eating Apep serpent of Egyptian antiquity (a dragon who ate the sun each day from under the horizon, in the underworld). Thoth, physician of the gods (the Father of Alchemy), helps Horus to find power to avenge the death of his father, Osiris, at the hands of Set. This is a wild piece, with a cosmically huge dragon and gods fighting inside of it. Learn more: Library of Erana Interview.
- “The Naked Daemon” in Heroika 2: Skirmishers: “The Naked Daemon” pits the mystic Apollonius of Tyana (deceased ~100 CE) against zealots who destroy what remains of the Alexandria Library. In life, his principles had been aligned with those of the pacifist gymnosophists (a.k.a. naked philosophers); hundreds of years past his death, Apollonius finds himself reborn as a daemon empowered with Hermes’s Emerald Tablet. He observes the Roman oppression over pagan scholars and is challenged with an urgent need to defend knowledge. Will Apollonius rationalize war by unleashing the power of alchemy to do harm? Will he become an angel or demon? How will alchemy transform The Naked Demon? Learn more: Heroika: Skirmishers – Witness the Birth of Alchemical Warfare!
Join the doomed on their vision quests in eleven stories by the damnedest writers in Perdition: Janet Morris; A.L. Butcher; Joe Bonadonna; Andrew P. Weston; Gustavo Bondoni; Seth Lindberg; Tom Barczak; Michael H. Hanson; Louis Antonelli; Christopher Crosby Morris.