Daniel R. Robichaud was a successful acceptance from our submission call. His contribution, Doomed to Repeat sits in the Eighth Circle and has some wonderful touches of humour.
Infernal Clock: What was the inspiration behind your story?
Hell itself is an intriguing concept. It’s either a place of punishment for sin or it is a place that is simply removed from God. The Inferno builds on the concept of punishment, of course, but for what reason? Punishment for eternity does what, exactly? Keep the devils employed? Instil a fear of transgression among the living? It’s an odd thing to consider, in that regard. Of course, artists like Clive Barker have different interpretations of Hell as a concept (or several different concepts, since the Hell of The Hellbound Heart and The Scarlet Gospels is different than that of Mr. B. Gone, say).
When I first heard about the concept for this anthology, I was excited by the idea of dragging Dante’s original concepts into the modern day. Figuring out how those classical ideas might intersect with our world was a fun thing to consider, and as I delved into the different levels of Hell, I found myself drawn to thinking the most about the Eighth Circle. It seems to me quite a few popular talking heads on infotainment news stations and politicians in today’s volatile climate are destined for that area. However, I did not want to tell their story, per se. Satire that pokes at the specific targets is all well and good, and it can be entertaining in the right hands, but it seemed destined for a short shelf life. Instead, I wanted to talk about the collateral damage to the people who honour, cherish, and believe in such folks, to the ones those easy targets leave behind to pick up the pieces when they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. That led to a story about a bereaved lover, their conviction that their departed love ended up in the Inferno wrongly, and what they wanted to do about it.
Inferno Clock: What is your idea of hell on earth?
I’d say that a place where humanity and compassion are in short supply, a place where people are afraid to live as they are for fear of horrors being visited upon them based on nothing they could choose or do is hellish. Sadly, it also describes some parts of the world we all live in. Far from the divine, too close to punishment for its own sake, and not as innovative in its horrors as, say, a Clive Barker yarn.
That said, I think we can lift ourselves up from the muck I’ve described (I am an optimist, I know). That means it’s not really hell on earth, I suppose, unless free will is just an illusion and we’re doomed no matter what we try.
Infernal Clock: The Inferno was created on old ideas of sin. If you had to label the nine levels how, what would you call them? Would you keep it at 9? Increase or decrease?
Sin is a moving target, alas. What was viewed as sinful/evil behaviour centuries ago does not correspond to what we might consider these days. Well, what informed folks might believe. The Inferno itself should be preserved in an Infernal Museum of sorts or on some historical record. There would need to be different levels, I’d say, One Inferno for the venal sins, the direst evils that require some serious punishment to cleanse away. Another Inferno for the treatment of the little sins and their little sinners, a kind of afterlife Day Spa for evil to be purged, allowing its visitors to move along, please, move along, and mind the gap (such gaps are all too often occupied by the fruits of our sin cleanses, which are actively devoured by Hell larvae who won’t mind a nip of your foot if it strays too close).
Infernal Clock: They say the Devil has all the good tunes. What song would you recommend as an accompaniment to your story?
I’d say the title credits song, “Fire Said to Me,” from Simon Boswell’s Lord of Illusions soundtrack gets the relentless feel. Achingly beautiful, a relentless marching beat, and a hint of some seriously dark magic.
Infernal Clock: If you were able to visit the Inferno, what level would you want to go to and who would you want to see there? (I think it’s best to keep current politics out of it though!)
If I strayed too close, they might not let me out again. Probably best to visit only in my imagination. On the other hand, it might be fascinating to stroll among the trenches of level eight, just to see who’s to be found there.
Infernal Clock: What is the hottest food you’ve ever eaten? Can you share a recipe?
I am a big fan of peppers and spicy foods. My Fridays are not complete unless I can get a slice of pizza with Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, sliced jalapenos, a few sprinkles of pecorino-Romano cheese and a generous dollop of hot sauce.
Infernal Clock: Who is your ‘favourite’ villain in history or fiction?
History is filled with awful, awful people. I tend not to like them or their works.
However, I rather enjoy villains in fiction. Do they come better than the ambitious pleasure seeker The Hell Priest (aka Pinhead) from The Hellbound Heart, The Scarlet Gospels, and The Toll, or the sadistic but fascinating Doctor Benway from William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch (and other works)? Having just finished Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Tindalos Asset, I am also rather taken with the witchy, wicked, and wonderful Jehosheba Talog.
Infernal Clock: What is your long-term ambition for your writing?
To continue doing what I enjoy, sharing stories and in so doing shine a light on less traditional characters and scenarios.
Infernal Clock: Top-tip for other writers.
Everyone knows that the key to succeeding as a writer is simple: do the work.
However, the key to finding errors in the draft you’ve written is to look at the text from as many different perspectives as possible. Change the font, change the font size, read the thing aloud. These reveal the wrinkles that need ironing out in no time.
Daniel R. Robichaud (he/him) is a bisexual author who lives and writes in Houston, Texas. His work has appeared in a variety of outlets, including parABnormal Magazine, Hookman and Friends (DBND Publishing), and Eldritch Dream Realms (Hireath Publishing). His fiction and film reviews appear weekly at the Considering Stories site. His short dark fantasy fiction has been collected in Hauntings and Happenstances and Gathered Flowers, Stones, and Bones.