On Growing Old

Reading this passage in David Gimmell’s Legend I was reminded of my own aging process:

“The old man crumpled the letter and let it fall. It was not age which depressed Druss. He enjoyed the wisdom of his sixty years, the knowledge accrued and the respect it earned. But the physical ravages of time were another thing altogether. His shoulders were still mighty above a barrel chest, but the muscles had taken on a stretched look – wiry lines which criss-crossed his upper back. His waist, too, had thickened perceptibly over the last winter. And almost overnight, he realised, his black beard streaked with grey had become a grey beard streaked with black.”

There’s a moment when it hits you, when you realize without doubt you too are mortal. The process of decay, the loss of energy, the slow pains from early sports and athletics, the injuries from youth in muscles and bones; all of it comes back to haunt you, a presence that awakens in your flesh like deep seated memories of past triumphs and losses. One either fights it or gives in to it, depending on the kind of creature you are. I’ve fought it, and will continue to labor against this shambles I’m becoming. I know now it’s a losing war, but I’m still winning the small skirmishes and battles.

Isn’t that what matters? Why? I’ve asked myself that question for years, seen what the pessimists say is at the end of the road, offering their dark portents and toxic wisdom of the worm and tomb. But no… I realized a few months back that I’m not that; I’m neither hopeful, nor in denial, and yet I will not give in to the malevolence of this indifferent universe and its meaninglessness. We have a gift for gab, for stories, for illusion…. whether its good, bad, or ugly it’s what sets us apart. To say it’s the exception is to be derogatory in our contemporary philosophies, so no it’s not the exception but the rule. Whatever dark gods of flesh and mind brought us forth from the slime pools of ancient seas and began that slow process of evolution that led to us through chance and necessity … we’re here; no one can deny that, and we dream, we envision, we adapt, we ponder the impossible; and, in the face of insurmountable odds we become heroes or cowards, or both in a region of imagination and reason unlike anything else we know of on this bright earth. We’ve created myths, legends, tales, and… yes, sciences to invent, create, and explain what it is we are and what it is we live in. For this I will not degrade mine or anyone else for being alive for this one unique moment in existence, even if it is for naught.

Breki Ironfist

“I would have come home sooner, but for the old Daegish imperative of having to stay gone.” 
— Fagan’s Sayings

It’s always twilight in the Mung, not a place to wander around alone. It’s where I live, a sort of hovel world where people like me seem to congregate like flies on a bull’s arse. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t live anywhere else. It grows on you like the mange, just more deadly. It’s the place where all cutthroats, thieves, and assassins of Luvaen find thier niche in one guild or another.
—A Thief’s Journal

“I’m Breki Ironfist and this is my home,” he said to no one in particular.

The man across from him looked unimpressed, lifting a metal tankard full on honeyed mead up in his fat fist, taking in a long deep sip, then wiping the frothy foam from his thick lips with the back of his sleeve, belching in absolute delight, mumbling something Breki couldn’t quite make out but thought it might be a curse, then fell head first into the cold bowl of stew that’d sat there in front of him for way too long. As his pudgy jowls plopped down in this slop, brown gravy squirted out, with bits of mutton and potatoes splashing across the scarred surface of the pocked marked table where Breki remained calm and unperturbed.

Breki seemed nonplussed about the man’s actions, knowing this was typical of the clientele in the Broken Crossbow. The tavern was full of laggard’s, out of work soldiers, gamblers, drunkards, small-time traders in drugs and alchemist fare, slavers and their hussies, and the usual riffraff and low-life scum from the surrounding hovels in the South-East Quarter. Just a typical evening in the Lower Mung; or, the Thieves’ Quarter as the snobs up on Piker’s Hill called the walled city of hanging ruins which clung to the inner battlements of the ancient fortress of Luvaen.

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An Atheist’s Credo

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great:

Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books. Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and—since there is no other metaphor—also the soul. We do not believe in heaven or hell, yet no statistic will ever find that without these blandishments and threats we commit more crimes of greed or violence than the faithful. We are reconciled to living only once, except through our children, for whom we are perfectly happy to notice that we must make way, and room. We speculate that it is at least possible that, once people accepted the fact of their short and struggling lives, they might behave better toward each other and not worse. We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true—that religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow. Most important of all, perhaps, we infidels do not need any machinery of reinforcement.

We are those who Blaise Pascal took into account when he wrote to the one who says, “I am so made that I cannot believe.”

On Freedom, Evil, and Determinism

R. Scott Bakker in his forward to a Grimdark anthology edited by Adrian Collins and Mike Myers, Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists tells us:
“Infants display bias for and against at the tender age of three months! The more we study the psychology and neuroscience of good and evil, the more clear their biological bases and evolutionary origins become, to the point where it now takes a genuine leap of faith to say evil is more than a matter of mere perspective.

‘Evil,’ you could say, is the name our ancestors used to label victims.

Which is to say, to do evil.

We don’t ask where we’re going to be born, nor to whom we’re going to be born, nor the particular color of skin, hair, eyes, etc.; and, even less, do we have a choice as to which cultural inheritance is going to enforce its set of (a)religious, (a)moral, political, social, or ideological systems and beliefs on us from an early age. We all suffer our cultural inheritance as we emerge within the milieu of our parental, civic, and national regions till we supposedly reach that age when we are able to stand on our own and choose and know for ourselves what we think and do. Of course then the whole rigmarole of education begins anew as we leave our parents and enter into that ambiguous world where either private tutors or State controlled systems of education begin imposing their mores and memories, sciences and or religious ideologies. It seems we’re enveloped in a world that is not us for most of our young lives, and some never leave that envelope to step out on their own and begin the long struggle of freedom. Continue reading

Mike Shel: Aching God – A Review

CaptureAching God by Mike Shel is a slow burn, a novel that gathers its steam along the way in an adventure that is as old as fantasy itself. In the beginning we meet Auric Mentao, a retired member of the Syraeic League, a soldier and swordsman whose prowess and intelligence had carried him through many adventures in the service of his Queen. Living quietly on the edge of the seat of power where his farm lies under the protection of Lady Hannah in Daurhim we first meet Auric arising from a nightmare. A nightmare that will immerse us in a scene of his greatest disaster and the cause of his retirement these three years. A man who suffers from what we’d now term PTSD, or the trauma of an experience so dreadful and shocking to his system that even now he can barely cope with existence. And, yet, he must, for now he has been summoned by Queen Geneviva, Imperatrix and monarch, to the court to once again take up arms and perform the duty of a Knight and Soldier. Continue reading

Mutant Grotesquerie: Richard Gavin’s Monstrous Vision

CaptureReading Richard Gavin’s new book, grotesquerie is like moving through the undergloom of some ancient Roman grotto, a journey into the monstrous carnival of appetite and inhuman pleasure, where flesh and beastial sensuality melt into darkest paradise. The notion of the grotesque has been associated if not equated with the bizarre, macabre, fantastic, weird, Gothic, and arabesque, each signaling a snapshot slice of this strange beast that leads us down into the undergloom. Richard is both a guide and psychopomp to the mysteries of these chambers of mind and flesh, guiding us through a series of darkened hollows where we will meet the denizens of the land of nightmare in ways only he can tell.

A master of primeval gnosis and a veritable treasure trove of lore and occult instruction his grimoire or manifesto of the magickal arts, The Benighted Path reveals a region of nocturnal wisdom; an eerie dimension, where sleep has delivered us onto the back of the charging Night-Mare, and recollections of these brief visitations survive in countless tales of terror and in the folklore of locales rumoured to be fey or cursed. Rare, however, is the individual who willingly pays the tariff and passes irretrievably through that twilight of existence in order to become Benighted. It’s in this domain of the uncharted regions and nameless zones of the monstrous that Richard Gavin’s tales guide the wary reader, exploring the hinterlands of psyche and the outer liminal essence of the hidden.

Richard Gavin is an acclaimed author whose work explores the realm where dread and the sublime conjoin. His supernatural tales have been published in five collections, including Sylvan Dread and At Fear’s Altar. In 2015 he co-edited (with Patricia Cram and Daniel A. Schulke) Penumbrae: An Occult Fiction Anthology. Richard’s works of esotericism have appeared in Starfire Journal, Clavis: Journal of Occult Arts, Letters and Experience, and The Luminous Stone. His nocturnal manifesto The Benighted Path: Primeval Gnosis and the Monstrous Soul was released by Theion Publishing in 2016.

The tales of grotesquerie are like a series of frescoes that carefully reveal only the most luxuriant and sensual aspects of an event that is never named, much less fully fleshed out. Vignettes more than stories, small minimalistic glances into the the frayed mind’s of men and women who for the most part have discovered themselves lost among the fragments of their own broken lives. One wants to ask whether the monstrous is something hiding among the liminal regions of outward manifestation, or is the effect of this loquacious inner world of most of these denizens self-made madness and sacred transgression; part of some ongoing revelation of the monstrum – a portent of something forever about to be that unbinds itself only in the very movement of consciousness itself.

I thought about delving into the tales themselves, but to do that would be to reveal too much, to sink into the gloom and monstrosity of each delicate weaving, unbind its carefully woven patterns and lead the wary reader into a region of being that is best left unsaid. In other words I’d spoil the very need for pleasure and jouissance – that pleasure-pain we all get from reading a well-crafted tale of horror, especially of the grotesque kind. All I can say is these are tales that will draw you into a labyrinth of liminal design where if you are not careful you will remain like a victim of some monstrous nightmare in which just as you awaken you feel the very touch of the beast upon your shoulder, and a whisper saying: “Come, my dear, we’ve been waiting for you so long! We have so much to show you, want you come now!”

You’ll find Richard’s work on both Amazon and Undertow Publications!

And visit Richard Gavin on his site: http://www.richardgavin.net/