Causing Pandemonium

John Martin knew the power of a good story. His paintings are crowded with dynamic movement and complex detail. It is no wonder that his audiences loved his work – they’re the blockbuster films of the day, stuffed with explosions, wailing maidens, collapsing buildings, callous destruction and heroic triumph.

When it came to assembling an anthology inspired by John Martin, we wanted to capture both his ambition and his contemporary relevance. The contributors to Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse come from a wide variety of literary backgrounds – horror to science fiction; lit-fic to young adult; novelists to screenwriters. And they were all up for the challenge.

To match Mr. Martin’s sweeping ambition, the contributors set their apocalypses in a dozen different settings – from burned out worlds at the end of the universe (Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s “The Last Man” and Kim Lakin-Smith’s “The Deluge”) to WWII Germany (Sophia McDougall’s “Not the End of the World”) to being a simple state of mind (Sam Wilson’s “Postapocalypse). More than one contributor chose to follow Mr. Martin’s take of the traditional, Biblical Apocalypse as well – Andy Remic, Den Patrick and Tom Pollock all offer three glimpses at what happens when capital-H-Hell comes to earth.

Just as John Martin seeded his paintings with jibes and insight into his time and culture, Pandemonium’s contributors also produced work of contemporary relevance. Lauren Beukes and Scott K. Andrews both wrote stories with the London riots in mind. Mr. Andrews’ “A Private Viewing” has an extra level of timeliness – as it is based inside the John Martin exhibition. In Chrysanthy Balis’ blackly comedic tale, the End has come for a pair of Christian Conservatives in California (who are overjoyed to be rid of their liberal neighbours). For Magnus Anderson’s protagonists, the lava pits are inconvenient nuisances – they’re trying to have a dinner party and could do without the mess. Jonathan Oliver provides a less comedic view – a modern vicar is shocked to be swept up in the end times and must come to terms with the ultimate challenge to his faith.

The result of the project is a collection of original stories from authors new and old; from all over the world. Just as John Martin proved inspiring to the audiences of his time, he’s shown himself a muse for the modern creative community. A good story never goes out of fashion, and Mr. Martin has prompted another eighteen of them.

Jared Shurin is co-editor of
Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse and part of the judging panel for The Kitschies, the prize for progressive, intelligent and entertaining genre literature. If you’d like to buy a copy of the anthology, the ebook is available here and the very beautiful hardback is available at Tate Britain.

Posted on by Jared Shurin
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