Under Assistant, Research Unit
It is with an intense relish that I have recently read your article "The Growth of The Physicality of Hell" for the publishing in this quarter's "Aspects of Damnation". Your article, brought to my attention by the your supervisor Over Assistant Clawbeak (who unfortunately failed to present the article prior to getting my attention, thus ensuring his unfortunate unmaking) brings to light some interesting trends that, while I have also observed them first (as you were wise to note in your introduction), have been lost to the greater under-audience.
You are correct to start with that fool Alighieri's "representation" of Hell. His vision of the Divine Underworld, its levels and suffering for sins, its inhabitants and their appearance (In some cases it seems almost as if he had been slipped confidential information, does it not?) ensured almost 700 years of a wasteland of progress in disbelief of the physical realities of Hell. His picture of the demons and devils as all powerful in the Divine Darkness and that of the powerlessness of the human scum they torture riveted in the minds of thousands through the years the finality of Hell and the pointless existence of those exiled there by their disbelief: stripped of the power of causality and the physicality of their form - Damned Amphibians! - they had nothing to do but endlessly suffer for their "sins" against the Enemy.
You are also correct to breeze over the next several hundred years. Indeed, the disbelief in Hell (Ah, but how much we believe in them!) contributed to our advance on other fronts but scarcely denied Hell of its power: that which does not exist cannot have the power to harm anyway. What we needed was a belief in Hell but without the power of it. The human scum are always so much easier to lull into inaction when something exists but not seen as a source of alarm.
Thanks be to Our Dark Master for the latter Twentieth Century.
The two biggest developments you point to, the arising of the thing called "Role Playing Games" and its attached development, the "Video Game" did endless "good" (How it burns to write that word!) to our cause. In the "Role Playing Game", Hell simply became another place to visit amongst many. One could attend to any number of the "666 levels" as if one was going on a vacation (666 levels. They are not even inventive.). And the inhabitants of these levels, more importantly, were simply cast as additional beings living in a universe that were not all powerful and eternal but rather the infernal equivalent of grocers and craftsman, trying to to make their way in a place that was different only in location, not in substantive nature (Yes, I am aware these were cast as "evil", as if the amphibians knew what true Evil was). It was if they were putting together a travel brochure, encouraging tourism.
Think on it, my young Snarkhorn: within a short period of time (by eternal standards) we observed Hell going from being disbelieved in/ignored or an actual reality to someplace that existed, but was of no more power than the "real world" (Such a useful term, that. How cleverly our propaganda department has captured it). And then the spinoffs: fantasy books written about characters going to Hell and returning (I should hope, by the by, you have not put into your other works that blasphemy of The Harrowing. That is the sort of trite garbage that condemned your previous superior) or that delightful series "Heroes in Hell", where there is a chance that the damned can escape (How that always brings a tear of infernal joy to my eye. Escape. As if.).
The second development was that great advancement in mindless and actionless entertainment, the "Video Game" and especially that extraordinary game "Doom". You might not have been assigned to your current division and so not have seen it but I remember it well, having been recently assigned to the newly created Visual Electronic Arts Department. In this game, the main character - a Space Marine, as I recall - found himself confronting the denizens of Hell with modern weapons on a space station and in some cases, actually in "Hell" itself. How delightful! Suddenly all things of the Underworld were physical, and could be defeated with the simple application of ammunition and grenades. Humans were all powerful, the inhabitants of Hell merely fodder to be mowed down (Ironically, they never seemed to address where these slain "Demons" went. Apparently we are as prone to disappearance as the scum upon our "death").
Thus, within one long generation we have created a circumstance where so many of the amphibians want to believe in the spiritual but believe in Hell as just another location on the map - and for most of them, not somewhere they themselves are headed towards. And even if they are, their popular culture and their entertainment tells them that there always a chance they can duck out or fight their way out (Thankfully the negotiation tactic of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century seems to have gone into abeyance - as if that worked any better!) as "we" are nothing but cannon fodder, task masters set there more as place holders and security guards ready to be gunned down and our bodies jumped over in the glorious break for freedom.
How delicious it all is.
I have had the pleasure of speaking with some of the newly arrived inhabitants of this generation when they make their Downgoing. They are always "so surprised" that things are so different from they led themselves to believe and "feel like" they simply ended up in the wrong line (Ah, emotions. The great internally created narcotic fog of the Amphibians' souls.). In some cases, the Tormentors are happy to let them engage in some of the role playing that sought so strongly in their previous lives. The look on their faces when their opponents will not die and the exit they can almost touch - that magic hoop or mirror or door that will let them into the "real world" (Ah, that word again!) suddenly disappears and they are plunged into the Eternal Flame - I am compelled to tell you, dear Snarkhorn, that it is almost a magical moment. Such moments almost - almost - make up for the general darkness and pain that has been foisted upon us by our Enemy.
In closing, we here in the Infernal Publishing Unit are always looking for bright young minds to join us - as a fellow soldier in our war or in other ways, as your unfortunate supervisor Clawbeak discovered. Rest assured our eye is on you - constantly.
Executive Vice President
Infernal Publishing Department