Mysterion, February 2022
“Moral Panic 1986” by Marshall J. Moore
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
In “Moral Panic 1986” by Marshall J. Moore, an FBI agent investigates occult crimes. A schoolgirl is found with a pamphlet promoting a religious cult. The agent’s questioning of the girl and her relatives uncovers family secrets and forces her brother to make a terrible choice.
I have deliberately made the story seem like mainstream fiction, to show that the basic plot does not depend on its speculative content. In fact, the setting is an alternate version of Florida in the 1980s. Christianity is a forbidden religion, and devil worship is normal. Otherwise, very little is different from the world we know.
There are small touches, such as the fact that people say “bless it” instead of “damn it” when they are angry. The only alteration that is relevant to the plot is the fact that promoting Christianity carries an extremely harsh penalty.
The author may be trying to satirize the Satanism scare of the 1980s. If so, the entirely serious tone tends to weaken the intent. If not, then the story depends entirely on a single twist in reality for its effect.
It’s hard to believe that the devil worshippers in this imaginary world would punish Christianity in such a brutal way, but would otherwise be very ordinary people rather than evil Satanists.
Victoria Silverwolf is not a Satanist.