Christopher Tompkins is the owner of Darkly Bright Press, a small publishing company exploring “Uncommon Literature and Liturgical Christianity” through contemporary poetry, drama and the revival of forgotten writers in the Christian fantasy tradition. As a collector and independent researcher, he specializes in the life and work of Welsh writer Arthur Machen. He lives with his wife in the shadow of the great mountains of northern New Mexico.
For the 2021 Inklings Festival, Tompkins will present the following lectures:
Dreamt in Fire:
The Dreadful Ecstasy of Arthur Machen
The classic works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien offer modern readers a fantastic redoubt for traditional values, first principals and sacramental reality in an age of ever-increasing madness. Alongside these titans, the intrepid reader can discover lesser-known, but resonant voices speaking in unison. A lonely pathfinder, Arthur Machen articulated an iconically-rich theory concerning the sacramental imperative of literature to function as a source of ecstasy for man. Far from being simply an abstract set of notions, Machen realized his ideas on hieroglyphics throughout a long career of writing fiction which shifted between noetic horror and the transfiguring glory of holy fear. Haunting, poetic, and sometimes confounding, each tale is a confrontation with the unseen, a lifting of the veil which serves to reorient man’s understanding of the cosmos from the merely material to the profoundly spiritual. By an examination of his life and work, “Dreamt in Fire” will endeavor to introduce new readers to a singular perichoretic vision as found in the dreadful ecstasy of Arthur Machen.
Of Sacraments and Ghosts:
A Few Comments on Christianity and the Horror Genre
Is there any utility in the horror genre for the Christian? Setting aside the gory and nihilistic examples of the current day, this talk will highlight the unexamined aspects of an often misunderstood and misused mode of storytelling. Excellent horror begins where the believer begins: we are transcendent. It must present an ontological crisis for the characters, and to a lesser extent, the reader. The lecture will then examine the use of traditional folkloric entities in role of counterfeits, or Antichrists, before exploring the work of Christian horror writers of note. This latter topic includes the formidable ghost story tradition as practiced by M. R. James. Furthermore, the themes of “priest as hero,” and the use of the Sacraments as a force against darkness, excellently articulated by Ralph Adams Cram and the brothers A. C. & R. H. Benson, will also be studied. Horror is closer than we think—it can be glimpsed or felt in the unsafe worlds of fairy tales, Middle Earth and even Narnia. Beyond merely serving as a warning to the curious, these aspects and tropes of the genre may assist us in navigating a world greater than the sum of our physical senses.