Wizards and Sorcerers – The Dying Earth

“On the heights above the river Xzan, at the site of certain ancient ruins, Iucounu the Laughing Magician had built a manse to his private taste: an eccentric structure of steep gables, balconies, sky-walks, cupolas, together with three spiral green glass towers through which the red sunlight shone in twisted glints and peculiar colors.”
― Jack Vance, The Eyes of the Overworld

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Lack and Desire


Lack and Desire

Here’s C. S. Lewis on the unspeakable ultimate desire:

“[There is] something you were born desiring…which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for. You have never *had* it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’ We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we will still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”

Whenever good old Jack talks like that, I’m utterly, helplessly rapt, because I started noticing and trying to explain to myself this “secret signature of my soul” years before I found him talking about it. His very descriptions of it inflame the “unappeasable want” itself.

Reading Matthew Cardin quote above from C.S. Lewis on a recent Facebook post reminded me of both my studies in the ancient Gnostic mythos and in Lacan’s notions of “lack” as loss of the object petite A – the impossible object of Desire.

I’ve always turned it (desiring) back on the notion of “lack” rather than desire. Lack awakens desire for that which is impossible in this world or any other world. What we lack is Being; existence itself. We are those who do not exist and are haunted by that need for existence (Being) we once had in a realm of fullness. (A Gnostic Notion) In the ancient Gnostic formulation we fell from the original wholeness-fullness (Pleroma) into this universe of lack without being – the great vastation (Emptiness). And yet there is a spark of the ancient fullness (Pleroma) in us that seeks above all things a return to the Pleroma. This is the core of the ancient Gnostic mythos. Lewis or his friend expresses this exactly.

The ancient Gnostics overturned (reversed) Plato’s philosophical heritage. In a sense that recalls the Symposium, Plato presupposes that there is always some deficiency or lack that needs supplementation. Because the range of such ‘supplements’ include learning and the pursuit of the virtues, there are some pleasures that are rightly cherished. But even they are deemed goods only insofar as they are a compensation for human imperfection. It is in this notion of ‘supplements’ that such thinkers as Derrida would follow Plato and fail utterly.
In ancient Gulak traditions of Tibetan Buddhism such notions of Lack or presented thus:

““The ultimate truth is posited as solely the negation of truth [that is, inherent existence] upon a subject that is a basis of negation…” (Tsongkhapa, 396). Thus, on this view, nothing exists ultimately. This lack of essence in phenomena, or “emptiness,” does not annul their appearance or conventional reality. Rather, emptiness is held to be the condition for the possibility for any appearance. To be empty means to arise dependently—to lack independent, real existence. Since nothing can be found to be independent, everything is said to be empty. Thus, in the Geluk tradition, emptiness is the nature of all phenomena (or their lack of independent nature), and all phenomena are necessarily empty.”1

So once again as in Matt Cardin’s quote from Lewis it is because we lack “existence” and are empty that we seek a return to that which we lost as we fell from the original fullness (Pleroma). I think we’ve all felt this sense that something was/is missing in our lives at some point. We assume as we get older that we can find it in ourselves, our loved ones, our jobs, our travels, our acquisitions of art or objects, etc., but in the end we never discover it. Some seek it in religion, others in philosophy. Some discover it is impossible in either some immanent or transcendent form, that neither an atheistic acceptance of nihil nor a religious acceptance of some Other fill this lack of Being. Some stand in the midst of this vastation – this Great Emptiness of Things and accept both it and themselves as empty. This is what Ligotti in his Conspiracy against the Human Race speaks of as “there is nowhere to go, no one to be, no one to know”. This sense of an acceptance of non-Being not as the negation of Being but rather in Parmenides sense of “Not-Being is”.

Of course, the old saw that this is to fall back into a pure sense of Idealism in the belief that it is reduce all being-appearance to consciousness of appearance as in Berkley’s well known “esse est percipi” is to misread what has been said. It’s this very casuistry of a split between Mind/Body dualism that suggests this eternal battle between Idealism/Materialism to begin with and arose clearly in Descartes (most adamantly).

If anything, my own pursuit of philosophy has centered around this split in Idealism/Materialism which has echoed to this day in every battle and conflict within philosophy since Kant. Even now in the Speculative Realists of our contemporary era in all of its various branches and sub-branches this split between a – what is now termed, Realist vs. Anti-Realism has taken root.

Some such as OOO (Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology) try to get around it through a return to Malebranche and an indirect ontology of the realism in which we never have direct access to the real object-world but only ever have access to its sensual-appearance (the manifest image) of the real object-world. The intermediary being something is “occasionalism”: Malebranche is known for his occasionalism, that is, his doctrine that God is the only causal agent, and that creatures merely provide the “occasion” for divine action. On the old textbook account, occasionalism was an ad hoc response to the purported problem in Descartes of how substances as distinct in nature as mind and body are can causally interact. Harman will secularize this occasionalism.

There have been many other approaches to this split and I don’t have the space in this post to go further. Zizek, New-Materialsm, Quentin Meillassoux, Deleuze and his followers, New Vitalism, etc. etc.

  1. Duckworth, Douglas, “Gelukpa [dge lugs pa]”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2022/entries/gelukpa/&gt;.

Realms of Wizardry and Magick – The Dying Earth

The Dying Earth

The sun is old and dim and red
The earth is dying, soon to be dead,
The magic is fading, the spells are weak,
The wonders are crumbling, the future is bleak

But still there are those who seek and explore,
The ancient secrets and the hidden lore,
The wizards and rogues and the brave and the wise,
The dreamers and schemers and the fools in disguise;

They travel the lands of decay and despair,
They face the dangers and the horrors there,
They seek the beauty and the mystery,
They hope for a glimpse of eternity;

They are the heroes of the dying earth,
They are the ones who give it worth,
They are the ones who still have faith,
They are the ones who defy their fate.

— s.c. hickman 2023

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Dark Queen of Elves

The Dark Queen of Elves

She sits on her throne of bones and thorns
In the heart of the forest where no light shines.
She rules with an iron fist and a cruel smile,
Over her subjects who live in fear and pain.

She flies on her wings of ash and smoke
In the shadows of the night where no moon glows.
She plots with a wicked mind and a cold, cold heart
Over her enemies who live in dread and woe.

She has no love for beauty or joy or grace,
She only delights in darkness and decay.
She feeds on the misery and despair of others
To remain cold and beautiful as an undying Fae.

She casts her spells on all who dare
To enter her domain of spells and fear.
She binds them with her icy glare,
And whispers deadly curses in their ear.

She feeds on sorrow and despair,
And revels in their pain and woe.
She has no mercy and no care,
So beware falling beneath her evil eye’s glow.

She is the Dark Queen of Elves,
Mistress of nightmares and horrors of old.
She is the enemy of all that is good and fair,
She will never let go when she holds you close.

— s.c. hickman ©2023

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Banshee

The Banshee

She wails in the night, a harbinger of doom.
She mourns for the dead, and those who will die soon.
She roams the land, with her long and tangled hair.
She sees the fate, of every soul in her glare.

She is the banshee, the ancient spirit of Ireland.
She is the messenger, of death and sorrow’s hand.
She is the curse, of those who hear her cry.
She is the witness, of every tear and sigh.

She knows no joy, no peace, no love.
She only knows, the pain from above.
She cannot rest, she cannot die.
She only screams, until the end of time.

— s.c. hickman 2023

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Visionary Landscapes of Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique

He who has trod the shadows of Zothique
And looked upon the coal-red sun oblique,
Henceforth returns to no anterior land,
But haunts a later coast
Where cities crumble in the black sea-sand
And dead gods drink the brine.

He who has known the gardens of Zothique
Were bleed the fruits torn by the simorgh’s beak,
Savors no fruit of greener hemispheres:
In arbors uttermost,
In sunset cycles of the sombering years,
He sips an amaranth wine.

He who has loved the wild girls of Zothique
Shall not come back a gentler love to seek,
Nor know the vampire’s from the lover’s kiss:
For him the scarlet ghost
Of Lilith from time’s last necropolis
Rears amorous and malign.

He who has sailed in galleys of Zothique
And seen the looming of strange spire and peak,
Must face again the sorcerer-sent typhoon,
And take the steerer’s post
On far-poured oceans by the shifted moon
Or the re-shapen Sign.

Heavily influenced by Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, Philip Jose Farmer, and so many other visionary fantasists my Nightmare Lands pays homage to those Masters of Modern fantasy.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Nightmare Lands

As a child I had a nightmare in which a strange little gnome took me from my bed and into my dark closet where there was a trap door that went down badly lit stairs round and round till we entered the Nightmare Lands. I never remembered too much about the dream only that it was so vivid and real, and yet I could not convince my parents that it was real. They like all parents sought some natural explanation like shadows on the wall, or that I’d eaten too much desert and had a bad dream. I never forgot that dream or nightmare. I haunted me for the rest of my life. I still see it, and yet not with my natural eyes, and not so vividly as I once did. But I know without doubt that the Nightmare Lands exist somewhere in the darkness, in the realms of the undying and vast strangeness that surrounds us.

The Nightmare Lands

Beware the Nightmare Lands, my child,
Where gnomes and trolls and fairies’ dwell,
Where shadows lurk and trees are wild,
And every path leads to their dark spell.

There is no sun or moon or star,
To guide your way or light your face,
There is no hope or love this far…
Too far from home to save you from their dark embrace.

They’ll lure you with their wicked charms,
Their songs and sweets and promises,
They’ll trap you in their twisted arms,
And feast upon your dreams and bliss.

So listen well and heed my words,
And never stray from home at night,
The Nightmare Lands are for the birds,
And not for children’s hearts so bright.

— s.c. hickman 2023

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Wood Troll King

The Wood Troll King

He dwells in the shadows of the forest deep,
Where ancient secrets and dark magic sleep.
He rules over his kin with an old oak fist,
And none dare to challenge or resist.

He is the wood troll king, the lord of fear,
He is the wood troll king, and none come near.

He feeds on the flesh of man and beast,
And revels in bloodshed and carnage feast.
He hoards his treasure in a hidden forest cave,
And guards it fiercely from any brave.

He is the wood troll king, the master of greed,
He is the wood troll king, and none succeed.

He commands his army with a roaring voice,
And leads them to war without a choice.
He crushes his enemies with brutal force,
And shows no mercy or remorse.

He is the wood troll king, the bringer of pain,
He is the wood troll king, and none remain.

— s.c hickman 2023

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Clark Ashton Smith: Tsathoggua, the ancient god of hunger and Sloth

Tsathoggua, the ancient god of hunger and sloth sat in the depths of his slime infested temple worshiped by his minions who bring him fresh offerings of flesh and blood. The lord of darkness and decay, his eyes red and glowing, held a sceptre made of bones and skulls in one hand, and a human sacrifice in the other. His bloated body barely fits in the stone throne, carved of ancient symbols.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Journal Entry 1b3365 Colonel Tines of Mars Consilience

As I wander through these ancient cities if feel the pressure of a Great Defeat. The weight alone of all this eroding metal slowly falling back into the earth from which it was once mined gives me the feeling of a monstrous force at work in the depths and heights of this planet’s finals gasps. Does it matter? Those who were its inhabitants long ago vanished into the melting pits of these wastelands. Did they shed tears? Were they knowing of the atrocity ahead of them? We have their records on the crystalline diodes, the quantum systems were still humming away under the dying sun. Seeing them, listening to them, one by one taping their final messages to the night. The strange symbols, more asemic and meaningless to our linguistic experts hold a key to something. But that something is nothing, nothing to us who have returned to discover the nothingness of these emptied cities.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Takmanii Invictus – (Old EartH Circa 2450 C.E.)

Takmanii Invictus

The dark ages of man were a thing of history whose memory was all but forgotten among the Avanii who now roamed the ancient lands of Terra Ferma (Old Earth). The sentient cities were the last refuge of those who descended from the Great Experiment.

Against the slow erosion of atmosphere humanity retreated into the great cities and with the help of artificial intelligence began a new era.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Consolations of Madness

“That which others hear or read of, I felt and practised myself; they get their knowledge by books, I mine by melancholizing.”
― Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

The true melancholic never recovers from his condition, and if he notices that things have an unknown face as well, he will feel eternal nostalgia for the unknown landscape toward which that face is looking. From then on, sadness, that “enigmatic pleasure,” will not only catch hold of him every now and then but will attach to him like a shadow. Sadness, the attraction to evil (ill humor), cannot be clarified with the aid of reason; it is inexplicable (on the basis of sociology, anthropology, theology, or the philosophy of history) because the enigma of evil, of nothingness, is precisely that it is elusive: if one were to force it into concepts, one would be doing violence to oneself. The melancholic is incapable of hanging on to anything; he feels that existence has cast him out, and he takes the view that his life is a fatal mistake, for which he condemns the whole of existence. The mysterious naïveté that separates him from everyone else is precisely what makes him incapable of distinguishing his self from existence. Whatever he touches, he is thrown back on himself; and if he looks into himself, he catches a glimpse of a miniature copy of the world. Endless deprivation makes his loneliness unbearable, but only he knows of what he had been deprived: for him, lack is a kind of fulfillment, just as in losing himself he arrives back at himself as an ever-more ephemeral imprint of his ego. As if we were looking through a telescope, bewildered, to see whether the outside world continued inside us, or as if we were looking back from outside at our ego, wielding the telescope in confusion. But let the telescope be reversed and aimed at the by-now barely discernible figure of the melancholic, letting our eye rest on him for a while— only then to reverse the perspective again and look out at the overpoweringly magnified world. Who is right? The melancholic or the world? It is no use swinging the telescope— like Nietzsche’s restless boatman, we will never be able to decide whether we should feel that infinity is a cage or, in fact, freedom.1

  1. László F. Földényi. Melancholy. Yale University Press (April 26, 2016).

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Smile

The Smile

The past is a ramshackle attic
full of junk,
trinkets of desire,
memories of bleakness
no one can set right.

I find her still wearing that red hat,
bubbles flecking my lips…
(images of reality rather than reality)
I reach out but her smile slips away in the shadows.

—s.c. hickman ©2023

Space Flight Dreams of an Old Fool

So the universe is not quite as you thought it was. You’d better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe.
—Isaac Asimov

Got to thinking again… always a dangerous thing to do. But as I look back on my life what is it that really shaped my vision? As I child it was outer space, the astronauts, going to the moon, and ultimately traveling to the stars. Of course, as reality set in and the truth about spaceflight fell apart into politics and stupidity, and I fell into the draft and a war that was a nightmare, things changed. But all of that in-between doesn’t seem to matter much anymore, and the dreams of space return as I ponder our global predicament. Humans will never get along, there will always be wars and conflict, politics will always be stupidity par excellence, and the world will remain in lockstep with the parade of folly. I know that. Ligotti, Cioran, Zapffe, Schopenhauer and so many others who have shown us the darkside of the human predicament know that and have taught me their truths. And yet something in me still turns back to the child in me. Old Age? Maybe? Maybe we all remember those wide-eyed moments when we dreamed of the unknown and unknowable. Still dreamed of endless possibilities and wanted to live as Emerson described it in the “optative” mood. I know it’s all illusion and delusion but then isn’t everything? So why not that dream one once sought out in diametric opposition to the stupidity and ignorance of the world? Why not? At Seventy I’ve begun dreaming again of those worlds I once traveled in my mind’s eye as a child…

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Outbreak

Moondate 2423

I looked at Amy, she looked at me. We both looked at each other then back at the communique on the screen:

“Biological outbreak. Infestation. Send help.”

I kept thinking: “What the hell is going on.” The screen went blank. For the next 24 hours nothing. Then the screen lit up and several images flicked across the screen one after another…

Earthlog 2426

It’s been three years since the outbreak. The spores are everywhere now. There is no place to hide. We are all changing. A new world is being created out of the ashes of the old. Very few people survived the first onslaught. Those of us who remain are becoming something other than we were. I’m tired. It’s difficult to write with my new appendages. This may be my last entry.

In the years that followed the outbreak new life forms developed across the earth. It was as if everything we once believed and known about evolution were being rewritten before our eyes. The strangeness of the new biology was both terrifying and strange, grotesque and deadly. Yet there was a certain beauty in this transformation, something indefinable.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

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

Ancient Goddesses of the Mediterranean

From the depths of history, the divine feminine was considered sacred and was worshipped as the matrix of creation. In many ancient societies, the nurturing nature of the divine feminine was associated with the concepts of fertility and creation and took the shape of the Great Mother Goddess. We find the Goddess religion in many parts of the ancient world long before patriarchal religions took over. Societies were structured and operated around these Goddess religions, and they were ruled by a collective of priestesses who were devoted to ritual.

Women had a significant role and acted as priestesses and possibly religious leaders. For the most part, these societies were matriarchal and developed peaceful cultures, with no fortification up until the appearance of the warrior societies. The Mother Goddess, often known as Mother Earth, is a matriarchal archetype represented frequently in ancient art and found in various mythologies around the world. Today most of the major religions of the world: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, have a male God, and the only thing that testifies to the existence of a completely different world that celebrates the sacred female comes from the evidence of ancient artefacts from the distant past.

The concept of the mother of all and Earth Goddess was also celebrated in the ancient Minoan civilization in Crete. These statuettes date back to the 16th century BCE. The Snake Goddess, as she is called, represents a very sensual female with exposed breasts, who holds snakes in her hands. The bare breasts may symbolize sexuality, fertility, or the supply of breast milk, and the snakes are often connected with the concept of regeneration, the underworld, and healing powers. We may never know for sure the function of these figurines, but they are the most admired works of art from prehistoric Crete. The society in which they were created centered on a well-organized system of local agricultural production which indicates that women played a dominant role in Minoan religion and society.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Dream of Time

The Dream of Time

Sadly, someday a machine will do what I could not do, read the whole of literature, poetry, philosophy, biography, the tidbits of painters, musicians, and all the sundry tales of fable from the great oral traditions across the world. Here I sit scratching the tomes on my desk wondering at all these men and women who I’ve had a chance to read and come to know better than most of my friends or family. What is life but one’s friends and loved ones? All those little memories that will fade into nothingness like all do. Books hold only the traces of our imaginative wanderings in the hinterlands of dream rather than reality. Even those writers who were realists wrote fantasies about the reality that lived in. Verisimilitude? What is it but the drift of a mind revealing the traces in the sand of a face that was once a sensual event to be cherished and remembered? We can never capture the world in a book. I doubt anyone has ever tried. What they’ve given us is the laughter and tears, the joys and sorrows that seep out of our relationships. There is nothing stranger than to read one’s own tales and not know who it was who wrote them, only that some stranger one once was suffered and put to pen a momentary thought or dream. Maybe in the end we are nothing but these dreams, these words that drift from mind to mind like strange bedfellows who share a night of laughter and tales and then no more, gone among the worlds of time never to be heard again. Try as we might we lose it all in the end. Even our loved ones go silently into that memoryless realm where our own thoughts end.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Beauty and Terror

“We were always just images of images, now we will become ready-mades for an endless public digifest diet. In a black mirror world, the human has been excluded. We are all just bits and bytes in continuous parade of give and take negotiations. The flesh and blood body are not here, only the virtual avatar counts as our double and ally living in a virtual world of illusive and illusionary images.’
–S.C. Hickman, Hyper-annotation

“I realized that beauty for most people is characterized by fragility and powerlessness. True beauty needs to be supported by an internal strength, and develop itself through sensations like terror and brutality, from which you can both draw strength and meet your death. In weapons, this beauty is expressed to the full.”
― Cixin Liu, Ball Lightning

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman