Ever since the Morlocks of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, every era of science fiction and horror has its underground stories, its subterranean tales. The underworld genre has been criticized because the world created often takes no real account of what it would be like to explore under the surface. In the horror novel, The Mind Altar, the underground is the setting.
For many writers, the physical setting of a novel is also a character. As a lover of the outdoors and a traveler of the American road, most of my novels take place on the go, showcasing places I’ve been, usually exotic terrains which readers may visit without ever leaving their living rooms. Ever since I wrote Canyon Calls, a collection of short stories about Grand Canyon, the endurance-testing journey of a harsh and alien environment is a theme in all my work. The Crippy is no different, a novel where two fugitives set out in exile along the open road of Navajoland. It’s fun to set your people into additional conflict: being hammered by storms and heat and summits and canyons. So my fiction is always part travelogue. You can find free, downloadable essays about my real adventures in these places under the page https://justmikejust.com/category/inspirational/
The Mind Altar, due out on June 1st, is a bit different. The story begins when seven of society’s misfits, each with special skills, venture underground, beneath a remote desert mountain which houses a supersecret prison for the criminally insane. I mean, besides spelunkers, who’s suited for that? I’m not a caver. So I had to research that world, get it as accurate as possible for the purposes of the story. Here, as in most of my other work, the environment represents that additional character, a nemesis.
Most of us are afraid of the dark, of being underground, of enclosed spaces, of the crypt. The Mind Altar represents the underworld as Hades, the underworld as subconscious, a symbol of our deepest fears.The Mind Altar is a novel of horror, of science fiction, of mystery and suspense. Being buried alive is a great way to explore these themes.