The Nightmare Town

“Houses dream, did you know that?” I asked the shock-haired boy who followed me, head bowed (perhaps in prayer). “All things dream, to one degree or another. And sometimes our waking selves share dreams of the darkened hollow, the deep forest, city squares. Like them, houses dream, and when those dreams are nightmares, we call them haunted. This is such a house.”
― Jon Padgett, The Secret of Ventriloquism

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

A Puppet World

“Look at your body— A painted puppet, a poor toy of jointed parts ready to collapse, A diseased and suffering thing with a head full of false imaginings. —The Dhammapada”

“The clown figure has had so many meanings in different times and cultures. The jolly, well-loved joker familiar to most people is actually but one aspect of this protean creature. Madmen, hunchbacks, amputees, and other abnormals puppets_23_were once considered natural clowns; they were elected to fulfill a comic role which could allow others to see them as ludicrous rather than as terrible reminders of the forces of disorder in the world. But sometimes a cheerless jester was required to draw attention to this same disorder, as in the case of King Lear’s morbid and honest fool, who of course was eventually hanged, and so much for his clownish wisdom. Clowns have often had ambiguous and sometimes contradictory roles to play. (“The Last Feast Of The Harlequin”)”
― Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

R. Scott Bakker: Anasûrimbor Kellhus and Cnaiür urs Skiötha

Anasûrimbor Kellhus

R. Scott Bakker Prince of Nothing Anasûrimbor Kellhus is tall and strong, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He has a long, heavy-featured and aquiline face. He wears his hair long, with a close-cropped beard. He has incredible powers of prediction and persuasion, which are derived from deep knowledge of rationality, cognitive biases, and causality, as discovered by the Dûnyain, a secret monastic sect. He is also a skilled fighter, sorcerer, and charismatic leader, who manipulates events and people to achieve his goals.

Cnaiür urs Skiötha

Kept thinking about the fierce northern warlord Cnaiür urs Skiötha who watched ten-thousand or so of his own people die in a great battle because they stubbornly refused to follow his strategy. He would later run into the Dunyain monk Anasûrimbor Kellhus who’d become the Prince of Nothing later on.

from R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing (First Book)

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Grimdark World

The Grimdark World

satyr_31_As I’ve read the ancient Sagas and poetry of the northern heathens, pagans, and their mythologies, folklore, and legends I’ve sought to move away from the falsification of the chivalric romances that seemed to create a Romantic-Gothic Christianization of that primeval world of death, war, and tribal-clan life in the mountains and forests, lakes and fens, fjords and seas. I imagine even in my dark fantasy a more brutalist sword and sorcery world where the veils between dream and nightmare reality were an everyday occurrence. Yet, obviously there had to be times when these people came together in festival and celebration as well otherwise it would’ve been utter devastation and annihilation.

So as anthropologists over the decades have concluded across the planet war was a game of give and take enacted as part of the ritual world of sacrifice and the eternal war between gods in which humans partook under the guise of their totemic clan gods. In a Shamanic satyr_36_world of sorcery and magic where the powers of the forest were seen as sacred and alive, we even as moderns envision the power of the entheogenic and hallucinatory power of imagination to awaken in the outer world the inner workings of our own mind filling it with monstrous forms of terror and horror.

The grimdark works of such fantasists as R. Scott Bakker, Joe Abercrombie, and so many others bring this back into their own darker visions. I seek to do that in ai-generative art. I still have a long way to go to meet my own demands, but I offer this as a beginning.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Posthuman Apocalypse

Posthuman Apocalypse

What happens in a world where viral agents of an inorganic kind are let loose in a war that humans in a desperate move of stupidity and bravura were tempted to create in collusion with advanced SI systems (Super Intelligence Systems). A world neither ready for nor suspecting such an attack and once released unable to control. Such agents loosened transforming all organic substance into copies of itself thereby transforming the planet into one giant monstrous system of superintelligence.

“Such extreme intelligences could not easily be controlled (either by the groups creating them, or by some international regulatory regime), and would probably act to boost their own intelligence and acquire maximal resources for almost all initial AI motivations,” suggest authors Dennis Pamlin and Stuart Armstrong. (Read)

Of course, for me such a horror scenario is more food for thought than actuality, a speculative nightmare one hopes would never come true. But on that note, I thought what we as humans would look like after such an event through the lens of a dark fantastic.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Hidden World

“To fade away at the end of a long life is a blessing from the gods; to die prematurely is a curse.”
― Claude Lecouteux, The Return of the Dead

“The noun fylgja, formed from the verb “to follow, to accompany” (fylgja), referred in some ways to an individual’s double, comparable to the Egyptian Ka and the Greek eidolon. It was a kind of guardian angel that took the form of a female entity (fylgjukona) or an animal that protected the family or person it had adopted.”
― Claude Lecouteux

There is a world within our world, a hidden world where other creatures much like us but of a different order in their apprehension of our earth and its life live and who interact with us in ways we do not understand and fear. They are the protectors of forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, deserts, and seas. They were here before us and will be here long after we are gone. We call them for lack of knowledge ‘spirits of the earth’ or ‘genius loci’ and other dwarf_3_such descriptors but they are much more than that. They are not always nice, sometimes they are very nasty and mean creatures only because they perceive our lives as such and mirror us in the black mirror of our own hatreds and unkindness’s. Gnomes, sprites, ogres, kobolds, pixies and the thousands and one variations of such beings that roam the hinterlands of our imaginal live in a separate space, and intermediary world where the dead and the living commingle with each other and other creatures. It is our world seen from a different perspective and through a black mirror that reflects our dark desires for light and freedom.

Yes, this is just exactly what I’ve sought, to make them come alive not as stereotypical or archetypal but as actual beings that are part of our world that we have turned a blind eye too for far too long. The natural forces of earth, air, mountains, lake, pool, forest, desert, etc. the elementals that we’ve allowed ourselves to push away into either folklore or psychologism. They’re neither a projection of our hopes and fears, nor of our introjected animistic stupidity. dwarf_10_They exist in the intermediary realm of the imaginal that the ancients knew so well.
Christianity and other monotheisms have for two-thousand years demonized these beings, reviled them, castigated them and dismissed them or made them into Saints if the local indigenous peoples would not end their communications. The Religious mind of monotheism has always misunderstood the heathen, pagani, and tribal-clan mind and sought to interpret it in their ignorance. The Enlightenment and sciences did the same from a secular perspective. None truly tried to know it as it is. A world without us because we walked away from it, but it did not walk away from us.


Only those who opened themselves to these forces through either the extreme form of Shamanic flight or of Vodoun possession know of what it is to be in this world but not of it. We as modern creatures live in small worlds with our blinkers on like rats in an invisible maze. We are blind to the greater universe surrounding us.

My art seeks to do one thing to open up this world that has been hidden for far too long to machinic intelligence and allow it to discover through the millions of images we as humans have accumulated and pushed into this external world of virtual darkness. Allow these intelligences that are non-human and inhuman to mirror our truths back to us through the black prism of that abyss we refuse to see.

The Dwarven Artisans

The Dwarven Artisans

As I reread the many legends and myths surrounding the dwarves it’s their deep and abiding shaping and forging of metal and jewels that comes to the fore. A curiosity and a love of craftsmanship, that sense of creating something that has never been seen before, of the magical artifice of weapon, armor, and jewelry that no god or human could outrival. Plus, this sense of pride and emotion, laughter and camaraderie. Even if they were deeply skeptical and cunning in their appraisals of men or gods they were among each other loyal to a point of absurdity, and yet it is this sense of fellowship and connection that kept their kind alive in the ancient mythologies as creatures of the underworld, rulers of stone, mountain, and volcano. It’s this that I’ve kept working with in my thoughts for a few days now if not years to capture in both a fantastic and realistic way.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

On Being a Forest Troll

“To live is to war with trolls.”
― Henrik Ibsen

On being an ancient troll… 

Ibsen was wrong, to live is to war with humans as a troll.

I guess if I had to align myself with a folkloric creature it’d be the ancient “nature beings” they termed trolls. Growing up in a semi-desert in West Texas I always longed for the forests and mountains. Being a loner by nature I’ve been at times accused of being churlish, curmudgeonly, and an old mountain troll. Harold Bloom accused Henrick Ibsen of being a Troll. If so, then I’m a Troll as well. Yet, unlike that old crusty and mean-spirited Schopenhauer who truly was a curmudgeon in old age, I am way too comic showing both sides of the ancient equation: fierce stubbornness and a keen intellect, along with a farcical and trickster sense of humor that sees most humans as caught up in a game they little understand and much less have any control over. Fatalist in the sense that I agree with the old myths that we all have a destiny, some choose to go against it their whole lives and yet end up fulfilling it whether they will or not, others choosing to take the bull by the horns and go with it living out a strange and bewildering life full of laughter, grotesquerie, horror, and dismay – and, yet, full of a sense of love and deep affective rapport with the natural world and its darkness. I choose that and nothing else. I never did fit in. Was always on the outside looking in. Never a part of the human game except in mimicking its world I wandered like a forest troll amid the dark wonders of the world. I still do.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Wood Troll’s Daughter

The Wood Troll’s Daughter is a fantasy novel I’ve been working on for a couple of years p_50_which brings in the folk lore, mythology, and bestiary mix of the ancient forest worlds. In many ways a tale that deals with ends and beginnings, climate change, the slow erosion of land, deforestation, and the desertification of the planet. But more than that it’s a fable about humanity as it faces some of the same things the trolls of the forest face in the sad apocalypse of their own world.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman 

The Shadow Kingdom

When I was working on my Cinderella project today there was this other shadow world that kept cropping up here and there so being the kind of creature I am, I’m disposed to follow the darkness down the rabbit hole wherever it might go… there are sub-worlds hidden below ours that reveal themselves from time to time. A place at once full of horror, grotesque, and strange beings and landscapes as if it were an intermediary dimension both real and imagined situated in its own alternative.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman