Allison Epstein’s story “Pandemonium” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 18 November 2016.
For a mild-mannered, not-religious Midwesterner, I have a slightly offbeat fascination with demons. I often find my brain circling back to them when I sit down to write, like water circling the drain of a vaguely hellish shower. The reluctant Miltonic demon has always fascinated me: the world-weary nine-to-fiver, beaten down by the daily grind of damnation, yet still pathetically hopeful things might, somehow, get better.
Oddly relatable, if a tad melodramatic.
As for the political nature of “Pandemonium,” I wrote it in mid-2016, so I had politics a bit on the brain. Chicago-area corruption. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan. And although I started writing this long before November, a charismatic demagogue manipulating a morally questionable Congress turned out to be…well, timely.
Quite a bit of the political bent made it through to the final draft—I relied on it to give the piece a sense of forward motion. But pretty soon I realized the story had shifted on me, and it wasn’t political allegory at all. I found myself spending more energy on the tangled relationship between my protagonist, Belial, and his master-friend-idol Lucifer. A relationship built on pain and lost hope, unhealthy yet at the same time life-sustaining.
In other words, I discovered halfway through that I was writing a tragic love story.
Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone.
That ended up being the center of the story’s final version: the twisted pain-pleasure-love-hate hybrid between the devil and his archdemon. The way Belial can endure everything—the suffering, the menial drudgery, the degradation—if it means he might be loved again the way he was.
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