Dan Henk is Back At the End of The World

A still of a close-up of a skull with Dan Henk's name in large letters.

The Face of Fiction is Changing

A brightly colored sun sets on a verdant landscape, marred with a single newspaper heralding the end of life as we know it. A skull concealed in clouds laughs down on the world.
Cover art for Dan Henk’s novel, The End of the World. Artwork by Dan Henk.

If you are in the select market for a tear-your-face-off race against the powers that threaten to engulf and destroy us all for their own ends, Dan Henk delivers again with The End of the World.

The days of a select few rich white men in suits banging their desks demanding script-to-screen ready novels that appeal to the lowest common denominator are almost over. Today’s fiction is coming from a section of society whose stories are not the stuff of over-wrought fairy tales. Our stories are coming from working class men, white women and women of color, the gender-bent, the “average” people who are proving themselves to be anything but average.

Like the legends of punk rock and heavy metal that answered the call of the marginalized in the middle and lower classes following the Cold War–and hair metal bands–indie authors and indie publishers are publishing the stories they want to write because they are the stories we consumers want to read. They tell us stories in voices very much like our own. The stages upon which indie authors cast their productions are small, intimate venues where there’s little security, little overhead, and lots of a chaos in a tight space. Dan Henk will be your guide at the end of all things.

The End of the World

Henk picks up where Black Seas of Infinity and Down Highways in the Dark left off with The End of the World, a work of Sci-Fi Horror that hits extremely close to home Criticized as being overly political, Henk takes speculative fiction to new extremes with his bleak extrapolation of a near-post-apocalyptic United States after a failed government elect destroys the last remaining faith of a rapidly dissatisfied populace.

Indeed, the first half of The End of the World is deeply political. The temperament of Henk’s myriad victims of a societal break-down sets the stage for the Deep State horrors that are to come. Henk also brings back the pivotal players from Black Seas and Down Highways, namely Aaron and Dave. Fans from the Black Seas days will remember Dave as the disenfranchised–and then terminated–military scientist who makes off with an insane discovery. Now, Dave is on his way back from the Amazon jungle, a singularly different creature with a new sense of purpose. Aaron is a misunderstood, teen-aged victim of an overly conservative military upbringing. The only thing Aaron wants is another cigarette and for his parents to get off his back as he blunders into powers he cannot even begin to cope with and never asked for.

The Illusion of Agency: Henk’s Signature Style

Henk cleverly traverses the political playing field his characters are mired in. He provides glimpses into facets of uprising and turmoil from all sides and serves up a twisting narrative that will leave the reader unsure which side they should be on. Dave in particular is the focal point of Henk’s exploration of the human condition that brought society to destruction. Dave’s characterization further cements Henk’s reputation as an author of the weird tale with his introspection into the wisdom of mankind’s relentless pursuit of what lays beyond distant horizons.

Frightfully Close to Home

As with Down Highways and Black Seas, Henk continues to explore the divisiveness of the social rank and file and the destructive quality of religious conservationism. Henk takes this a step further with The End of the World. Henk introduces a societal break-down not from the rebellion of a culture fed up with government corruption, but from the implementation of a democratic socialism which heralds the defeat of the free market economy. To the average citizen, it is the straw. Democratic socialism is a spark that ignites an already angry populace, a populace fooled into a false sense of hope that hid the greed and corruption of leaders that claimed to have the best interests of the many at heart.

Henk’s choice of governmental overhaul was no accident. The choice of democratic socialism as the villain of growth is a clue into the rampant decay at the center of government. It is one more lie meant to deflect and obfuscate the truth. No matter what side we stand on, those who seek to enjoy power do so for their own twisted purposes. Those who sell their souls to our enemies will pay the price not in their own blood, but in the blood of those they claim to serve.

This doesn’t strike me as a trope of a horror novel, but it is quickly becoming the battle cry of the working class, who have little time to examine human nature from a the perspective of a metaphorical alien or beautiful celebrity crush. Henk is not interested in high-brow, sweeping epic story-telling. Henk’s signature style lies in his gritty, granular characterization. He spins personalities out of stereotypes, undermining those stereotypes as he goes.

Lovecraft’s Legacy Lives On

There is no denying that Henk carries on H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy of hopelessness that waits just beyond the veil of human perception. Lovecraft’s characters also lamented the illusion of agency fostered in humanity that masked a helpless vulnerability. Henk pushes this legacy by pulling Lovecraft’s cosmic scale down to a granular level. His cast of characters are mere pawns in a societal rat race, unaware of the horrors taking place among their leadership. Henk’s chief strength is his most compelling character, Dave. Dave’s genius lies in his uncertainty. He is a creature wondering if his attempts to transcend a bad deal did not simply make himself a victim of a much larger scam.

Conclusion

At the heart of The End of the World, Henk reveals that the worst people in the world wear suits and sit behind desks. The men and women who can do the most damage to humanity do not have spiky hair and tattoos. The most dangerous criminals in our society offer salvation or condemnation at a whim. For those working and living under them, the government might as well be on another planet. When the infighting tears it apart, the people left to tell the stories will be those clever and tenacious enough to survive the Fall. Henk is himself a survivor, and it shows in his characters. Aaron, Dave, and the rest are determined to see their part in the cosmic joke through to the conclusion.

Pick up Black Seas of Infinity and Down Highways in the Dark. Keep an eye out of The End of the World, coming from Crossroads Press in 2019.

About the Author

Dan Henk sits convivally with a skelleton, throwing horns, his tattoos visible.
Dan Henk, master tattooist, illustrator, and author.

Dan Henk splits his time between Third Dimension Tattoo in Marshalls Creek, Pennsylvania and his new studio, Abyss Art Studio, in Long Beach, New York. Knowing a little bit of his own story, Third Dimension’s theory that he might be a cyborg is sounding pretty plausible at this point. He also teaches Muy Thai. Henk is a horror author and artist of the highest order, and we have not heard the last of him.