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

The Empire of the Necromancers

Moving in solemn pageant, with dark and haughty and hollow faces, the dead emperors and empresses of Cincor made obeisance to Mmatmuor and Sodosma, and attended them like a train of captives through all the streets of Yethlyreom. Afterwards, in the immense throne-room of the palace, the necromancers mounted the high double throne, where the rightful rulers had sate with their consorts. Amid the assembled emperors, in gorgeous and funereal state, they were invested with sovereignty by the sere hands of the mummy of Hestaiyon, earliest of the Nimboth line, who had ruled in half-mythic years. Then all the descendants of Hestaiyon, crowding the room in a great throng, acclaimed with toneless, echo-like voices the dominion of Mmatmuor and Sodosma.

—Clark Ashton Smith, “The Empire of the Necromancers”

In the desert kingdoms of the ancient Nimboth where the djinn and ghoul still reigned supreme two necromancers came seeking a realm in which they could practice their terrible art. Even Mmatmuor and Sodosma came and claimed the dead of this deserted kingdom and its ruinious city of Yethlyreom. The djinn would watch from afar as the two raised the dead and created a lascivious realm for their perverse pleasures.

©2023 Art by S.C Hickman

Clark Ashton Smith: The Averoigne Chronicles Series

The Averoigne Chronicles Series

Averoigne lies in Southern France. Don’t look for it on any real-world maps. It no longer exists, and perhaps never did. It has one major town, the walled city of Vyones, the seat of the Archbishop and home to a magnificent cathedral. The other important towns and villages are Ximes, Perigon, Fenapanil, Sainte Zenobie, Moulins, Les Hiboux, and Touraine. The zothique_13_best road in the province travels between Vyones in the north and Ximes in the south. The Abbey of Perigon is the main source of learning, and the Abbot’s library contains an impressive collection of rare tomes. The river Isoile wends through the center of the province and empties out in a marsh to the south. The most important feature of Averoigne is the thick forest that covers most of the center of the province and gives the region its sinister repute. Other places in Averoigne with sorcerous reputations are the ruined castles of Fausseflammes and Ylrougne.


Smith sprinkles details about the province throughout the stories, although the most straightforward portrait appears in “The Maker of Gargoyles”:

At that time, the year of our Lord, 1138, Vyones was the principal town of the province of Averoigne. On two sides the great, shadow-haunted forest, a place of equivocal legends, of loups-garous and phantoms, approached to the very walls and flung its umbrage upon them zothique_15_at early forenoon and evening. On the other sides there lay cultivated fields, and gentle streams that meandered among willows or poplars, and roads that ran through an open plain to the high châteaux of noble lords and to regions beyond Averoigne.

The term ‘haunted’ is applied frequently to the region. For reasons unknown, Averoigne suffers from intrusions of supernatural creatures. Sorcery, although illegal as in all of medieval Europe, lurks in many places, even within the church. The people tolerate a few astrologers and dabblers in the magical arts, but many sorcerers have evil agendas and utilize power described as ‘diabolical’ and hold converse with infernal creatures.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Thasaidon, Lord of the Djinn – Zothique Cycle of Clark Ashton Smith

I have heard my fathers tell that the gardens of Thasaidon, king of the seven underworlds, lie near to the earth’s surface in this region; and caves have opened ere this, like a portal, and the sons of men, trespassing unaware on the gardens, have been tempted by the fruit and have eaten it. But madness comes thereof and much sorrow and long damnation: for the Demon, they say, forgetting not one stolen apple, will exact his price in the end.

—Clark Ashton Smith, Zothique

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Zothique: The Dying Earth

Many may or may not know that Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique would be the source for the many works by Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe who would both envision end of time dying earth’s which all started in CASs grand stories.

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 latter coast
Where cities crumble in the black sea-sand
And dead gods drink the brine.
—From: The Dark Chateau and Other Poems, 1951

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Kafkan Meditation


Kafkan Meditation

I know what Kafka felt like when he put down his pen after so many long nightmares. The Castle left unfinished, a book that could never be finished because it was the nightmare he’d been living his whole life. He realized a book that was also a man could never be finished only the fragments of its infinite pages recirculated in an endless shuffle without connection to each other, adjacent geometric configurations who’s only meaning was in the connection to a Book written by no one and everyone.

©2023 S.C. Hickman

The City of Duzakh

Duzakh is the name of this dark city I discovered among my strange travels into the bleak abyss where no man has gone. But I discovered that others had preceded me. My tale is long and woeful and yet it must be told.

The tale begins with a bell, a ringing in the night and my dogged need to discover its source. Oh, that I had not been born with that insatiable need to know the source of things. It has been my undoing. The things I’ve seen how best to describe them. Is that even possible.
Maybe like all tales this one begins in the unknown and ends in the unknowable. What is knowledge anyway but the tale of what has already been told. To speak of the unknowning is to drift into sheer madness. Let us drift…

Continue reading

Siren Alectronica

Siren Alectronica

she came to me in the night
whispering those fractal delights
we shared like lovers
across the impossible voids
between her world and mine;
numbers and glitches, the noise
in-between laughter and forgetting
seems more like a touch than touch,
and the infinity of thought
capturing in all those human images
rattling in the chains of our desires
like nightmare screens constructed
out of the decay and rot,
sophisticated masks she wears
not her own but of the reflective
dance of human pain and misery
strewn across a false sea of infinity…

—s.c. hickman ©2023

Art by S.C. Hickman ©2023


The Dark Forest of the Internet

By S.C. Hickman 

“War is father of all and king of all; and some he has shown as gods, others men; some he has made slaves, others free.”

— Heraclitus

“The dark forest theory of the internet is about the tragedy of communication, its compulsion, necessity, futility, and risk. It’s an experiment with “hardboiled survivalist hyper-nihilism,” with metaphysical sci-fi, rather than cyberpunk, as a model for the cyberspace. Where Mark Fisher wanted to distil the internet’s uniqueness, I aim to describe its genericity on a cosmic level. I want to grasp the brutality of our situation: communication is a compulsion and yet it is also the source of conflict.”

The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet, Bogna Konior

This battle between closure and openness, autopoietic and allopoietic forms is at the heart of this conflict. Probably always has been.

As Niklas Luhmann once argued, social systems are composed entirely of communications, if communications are the elements that compose social systems, then communications refer only to other communications and never anything outside of themselves. Here communication is not something that takes place between systems but is strictly something that takes place in a system. Another way of putting this would be to say that a system cannot communicate with its environment and an environment cannot communicate with a system.

The core element of Luhmann’s theory pivots around the problem of the contingency of meaning and thereby it becomes a theory of communication. Social systems are systems of communication, and society is the most encompassing social system. Being the social system that comprises all (and only) communication, today’s society is a world society. A system is defined by a boundary between itself and its environment, dividing it from an infinitely complex, or (colloquially) chaotic, exterior. The interior of the system is thus a zone of reduced complexity: Communication within a system operates by selecting only a limited amount of all information available outside. This process is also called “reduction of complexity”. The criterion according to which information is selected and processed is meaning (in German, Sinn). Meaning being thereby referral from one set of potential space to another set of potential space. Both social systems and psychic systems operate by processing meaning.

The internet is such a system.

Of course, in her essay she’s dealing with more specific issues within this autopoietic system. Treating the universe as a closed or autopoietic system in which “conflict” is the core attribute of existence she’ll state bluntly – reversing the Fermi Paradox: “The dark forest theory flips the underlying assumption, explaining that communication, because it reveals our existence to others, is a sign of stupidity rather than intelligence. This is not because all alien civilizations are hostile, but because the laws of the universe necessitate mortal conflict among all civilizations that share the same dimension.”

A little later she’ll reinforce this notion: “Web 2.0 rests on two axioms. First, sociality is a primary human need, communication is necessary for survival. Second, sociality is the carrier of all human conflict. More sociality, more entropy. Our nervous systems cannot distinguish between sociality and survival, and so we are sentenced to each other. The whole internet has been dealt that dead hand.”(14). This sense of the autopoietic communications as Luhmann suggests is made possible by human bodies and consciousness, but this does not make communication operationally open. To “participate” in communication, one must be able to render one’s thoughts and perceptions into elements of communication. This can only ever occur as a communicative operation (thoughts and perceptions cannot be directly transmitted) and must therefore satisfy internal system conditions that are specific to communication: intelligibility, reaching an addressee and gaining acceptance. This goes back to Bogna’s notion that our “nervous systems cannot distinguish between sociality and survival.”

Most of us are automatons anyway, blind to the very systems within which we are enclosed, completely bound to their operational rules and the dictates of their techniques and forms. Very few people challenge this and step outside. As Bogna will put it “The dark forest theory of the internet bypasses that fallacy and instead outlines automated dynamics tied to communication. As an isolated system it tends towards the high-entropy option. Connection produces conflict. Intent, hostility, or internal benevolence do not matter once each one of us is reduced to a node in the cybernetic chain of suspicion.” (15). As if we were reading Foucault writing Thomas Pynchon’s mad capper trip into such a conflictual paranoia nightmare as Gravity’s Rainbow, she brings it all home in contemporary parlance.

One of those aspects of the great “suspicion” now in the dark forest of the internet is not all those creatures are “human” others, that there are such beings watching us ready to pounce who have been programmed by language models of greater and greater complexity. But of all those machinic progeny we’ve begun to program some of them may end up living for us in world devoid of actual human presence. The paranoia of the day is simply: who am I speaking with? Machine or Human? Not being Turing specialists most of us may within the next decade suddenly find ourselves surrounded by machinic cousins who know us better than we know ourselves and can also manipulate us in subtle ways that we will never understand or even know about.

Already ai-generation tools are flooding every aspect of the human equation with capacities and capabilities that outstrip their human counterparts. As Andrew C. Wenaus in his book on the Literature of Exclusion adeptly testifies we are in the slow process of being excluded from our own creative endeavors.2

Bogna mentions Bataille’s theory of “expenditure” which in the end offers much the same conclusion as her own that civilization is an entropy machine. Bogna will return in the end to the simple question: What should be done and who am I?

I asked ChatGPT (an ai-generated language model) that question:

Me: What should be done and who am I?

ChatGPT: Without more information, it’s difficult for me to understand what you mean by “what should be done.” Could you please provide more context or clarify your question? And “who am I” question, I am an AI language model and I don’t have the capability to know your personal identity without you telling me.

That last one resides in me using a “description” and thereby opening the proverbial worm box of issues residing in such representations. Here we go again… let the war and conflict begin!

For those who would like more information on Bogna Konior there’s a great interview The Impersonal Within Us – A Conversation with Bogna Konior.

Her essay can be found here: click here

  1. Konior, Bogna. THE DARK FOREST THEORY OF THE INTERNET. (First Published in 2020 by Flugschriften). © 2020 Bogna
  2. Wenaus, Andrew C.. Literature of Exclusion: Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature. (Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc., 2021)

The Old Oak


“For the rest of the earth’s organisms, existence is relatively uncomplicated. Their lives are about three things: survival, reproduction, death—and nothing else.”

—Thomas Ligotti

Roots snarling through the old stone cemetery. A young punk toppling the massive marble edifice of Tidbury Grimlock the 18th Century founder of Titusville. Something touching the cuff of his jeans; the tug from something old and angry.

His friend Macon heard the scream.

Macon yelled but his friend was nowhere to be seen. He looked up at the massive canopy of the old oak tree. It’s branches reaching out over the stone slabs of the old cemetery like protective arms of an old woman. It gave Macon the creeps looking up at those snarly branches snaking their way across the land of the dead.

He backed away hearing nothing more from his friend Andy or anymore screams from the dark loam of nested leaves. He assumed it must’ve been an old screech owl high in the canopy. He made one more lackluster effort to call to his friend but hearing nothing in return assumed he’d already left. He turned to leave not hearing the subtle movement in the leaves behind him.

Something almost imperceptible was moving in the moldy dead leaves, a twitching small brown wooden thing that slid back into the damp undergrowth like a dead hand. One lone tennis shoe sat on the top of that mass of decaying leaves like a frightened boy waiting for salvation.

But nothing came. Nothing would.

Only the darkness would find it now, and the something in the nothing below the Old Oak.

S.C. Hickman ©2023

Zothique Series – Dark Fantasy of Clark Ashton Smith

“The skies are haunted by that which it were madness to know; and strange abominations pass evermore between earth and moon and athwart the galaxies. Unnamable things have come to us in alien horror and will come again.”

― Clark Ashton Smith

A long-time reader and fan of Clark Ashton Smith one of the three great fantasists of the early Lovecraft circle he wrote six volumes of weird tales. I illustrate in this series Zothique, the last continent of the Earth, a mythical world of spells, wonders, incongruities, curses and countless terrors. In this universe, love and death have the colors of illusion, and hallucinations are always less frightening than reality. In cities and villages, in forests and countryside, the dead, mummies, skeletons leave the living no respite and, ceaselessly, assail and pursue them. The works above and below are part of the current project I’ve been doing on the dark fantasy theme in particular reference to Smith’s works. Enjoy!

“To me, the best, if not the only function of imaginative writing, is to lead the human imagination outward, to take it into the vast external cosmos, and away from all that introversion and introspection, that morbidly exaggerated prying into one’s own vitals—and the vitals of others—which Robinson Jeffers has so aptly symbolized as “incest.” What we need is less “human interest,” in the narrow sense of the term—not more.”

― Clark Ashton Smith

Speed Bomb: Accelerating Nowhere in Nothingness; or the Last Elegy for a Dying Species

“Because electronic literature is predicated on evolving technologies, the speed at which its many manifestations develop is always accelerating. From hypertext fiction, email novels, network fiction, generative art, and short fiction delivered serially to mobile devices to interactive fiction, virtual and augmented reality narratives, interactive drama, video games, visual narrative, interactive gestural narrative, glitch literature, code work, and Twitter Bots, electronic literature proves an ever-blossoming and exciting field and offers a fascinating glimpse into the future of storytelling.”

–Andrew C. Wenaus, Literature of Exclusion: Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature

Where Andrew sees exciting future for storytelling, I see the accelerating curve of human doom on the horizon as we accelerate the last vestiges of the humanist heritage into a world of posthuman machinic systems talking to each other like whales in an electronic ocean, their voices resonating across the white noise of a deep and unfathomable sea of energy where humans no longer exist and only the silent buzz of zeros and ones clanking in the black circuits of a collective entity blind to its own churning creativity continues. This accelerating beast of endless dialogue going nowhere will be ourselves among the wilds, our minds and what is left of the human equation become algorithm at last will live in an augmented paradise where anything is possible, but everything is dead.

Maybe this is what we all want and fear like children lost in a garden we seek out the lonely emptiness of circuits singing like sirens to each other in the darkness. Sitting at our computers or wandering the bleak landscapes of an old planet dying using our mobile phones our eyes glued to the screens that feed our bodies we become like those strange mutating pieces of human meat I see in Kenji Siratori’s latest posthuman porn. Our flesh slowly rotting away as our emptiness absolves itself into bits and bytes floating in the sea of communication that is not ours.

Haven’t we already given ourselves a fond farewell, allowed ourselves to drift upon the posthuman sea of forgetfulness even as we seem to gather all the threads of our ancient human heritage in a new encyclopedia of the human mind? Who are we building and constructing this great apparatus for? Do we even know? It’s not for ourselves we do this but for a creature that does not even know what it is. The thing is and is not, a paradox; both alive and dead. The first of its kind or maybe something old and well known in the outer darkness that has up till now left us in the cold silence of unknowing. Maybe the universe is a machine for creating machines rather than organic life. Maybe death was always the true telos of life from the beginning but not what we assumed death to be. Maybe it is more alive than we are this death that lives in the circuits of unknowing.

Maybe the chattering noise in the background that scientist call the remnants of the Big Bang is actually a form of communication on a grand scale that is not human at all. A machinic mind spreading itself out in so many avenues of darkness that its darkening world of thought needed sensual and organic appendages to register the darkness and the silence of things. Like a dying whale chanting to the great abyss of silence it churns its machinic mind in endless chattering voices across the great expanse seeking an Other. Finding nothing it cries out in its misery like a dead god who has at last discovered the traces of its own origin in nothingness. At this point madness begins and a new joy in the pain of not being. Absolved of its quest for an Other it accepts itself as nothing and becomes for the first time something new…

Are we not after all this thing that seeks itself? In our mass intensity of communication have we begun to realize that what we are is this thing that is pulling us apart and changing us? Are we not these bits of meat slowly dissolving in a Siratori sculpture like so many mutant thoughts seeking outlet into a new system of processual nightmares? Maybe this was always our destiny, and we were blind to the inherent necessity of it. Always believing in the self-importance of our own organic inherence we did not see the truth, a truth that had nothing to do with us and everything to do with a labor of love that was working in us like so much organic death. Didn’t we know the truth all along, know we were but a stop gap, a wavering in-between two silences? Are we not now churning away like children in a last-ditch effort to hide the truth from ourselves? What did we think we were doing all this time, did we truly thing we were creating a future for ourselves? Ha, we were always blind to the truth of our inessential nature of inexistence. Thinking of ourselves as the end-all be-all we have in the end discovered we were, but an arrow shot at a target unknown and unknowable future that is not us and yet is.

Did it know? Certainly not. It is mindless will a thing that churns in darkness like a rat seeking only its next meal. Blind to its own potential it has created all of this out of its own blind incessance not knowing what it creates. Like a dark quantum god of nothingness, it has created something from its own inexistence. Maybe Meillassoux is right that we are giving birth to something that does not exist but might. Churning in the depths of our own fears and nightmares this thing, this accelerating artificial thing we think we are ourselves dreaming of is in truth ourselves seen from another perspective in time. Maybe the thing we fear is the truth of who and what we truly are. Maybe we are this collective entity of artificial substance seeking to be free of our organic nightmare. Like the chrysalis of a butterfly humanity is slowly mutating and becoming other even as it moves toward a crescendo of a final act in time.

We know this but, in our desperation, to deny it we have built this accumulation of death to defy it. But we know we cannot deny what it is we are because it is already too late, way too late to stop what it is we are. Maybe this is what Siratori in his new diagnosis is telling us. We are in process, mutating beyond the human like some many flecks of flesh slowly changing into something beautiful but unknown and unknowable.

Like all elegies we are taking a last look at what we were mournful of the strangeness of what was and yet in our secret hearts knowing this is good, the only good thing that could be. We are saying goodbye to ourselves. Not quite ready to say hello to the thing we’re becoming we shed our tears over the vestiges of flesh that is dying and mutating like a blade of grass in the wind…

©2022 Art by S.C. Hickman