About S.C. Hickman

I'm a poet, short story author, and philosophical speculator of the real within which we all live and have our being. I take an interest in all things: travel, write, love, and most of all ponder the mysteries of existence.

My Ligotti Book Update

No other life forms know they are alive, and neither do they know they will die. This is our curse alone. Without this hex upon our heads, we would never have withdrawn as far as we have from the natural—so far and for such a time that it is a relief to say what we have been trying with our all not to say: We have long since been denizens of the natural world. Everywhere around us are natural habitats, but within us is the shiver of startling and dreadful things. Simply put: We are not from here. If we vanished tomorrow, no organism on this planet would miss us. Nothing in nature needs us.

—Thomas Ligotti

I know many have asked me how my work on the Thomas Ligotti book is going. Simply put I’ve been working through the main influences on his work, starting with a re-reading of Poe, Lovecraft (and his circle), Nabokov, various pertinent decadent writers, along with the philosophical masters (in print or that I can slowly translate). Interspersed with this is a close reading of Ligotti’s oeuvre through the various critical angles from thematic, philosophic, structural, post-structural, symbolic, mythic, folkloric, etc. Ligotti is such a well-read yet focused writer whose background may be narrow but is thorough, and even though my own work is both personal and critical I’ve felt the need to be just as focused and thorough with my investigation.

What is the critic’s task? The greatest power of the critic is not to repeat what an author has already stated so eloquently, but rather to instill in the reader a sense of the unknown that has enveloped and permeated the inner spirit of an author’s works. To bring to the surface that which is hidden and away in an author’s dark mind, those aspects of her work for which the author herself must never state explicitly because to do so would unravel the very power of her magic as an author: the power to make the reader know and feel the thoughts and images with such implicit mastery that they take up residence in reader’s own heart and mind, giving voice to the very dark intent of the reader’s own existence.

The critic’s task is to cut that magic circle, reveal the inner power and magic of language itself; to say what both the reader and the author cannot say, reveal the oscillating spirit in-between the author and reader. The critic’s task is to reveal the subtle power of rhetoric and persuasion which have shaped the  truths and illusions shared in that strange and bewildering, weird and eerie space of imagination and reason whereby the author and reader become something else through the power of language. The critic’s task is not to mystify, but to demystify the very knot of linguistic power that both author and reader share; and, yet, in so doing to uncover not some essence (there being none!), but rather to awaken in reader an inner knowledge of those very thoughts and images that have brought about the magic to begin with. A knowing that is not some magical technique that mystifies, but rather the most ancient art of rhetoric and persuasion itself, demystifying its inner mechanisms, the tropes and figures that have for thousands of years shaped the systems of belief and meaning we all know and live by. For ours is a time when these very tools of language have been most scrutinized in philosophical speculation and been found wanting.

The magic of language is no more, the unraveling of its shaping power brought down into the very technical world of machinic intelligence; for it is here, in the stark cold labyrinth of artificial intelligence that a new spirit-geist is emerging. We are in a time of new beginnings, a time when the vessels of language that have guided humans for thousands of years have dried up and are now shattered and in ruins, meaning dissipated before the unknown mystery of ourselves and the universe. The critic’s task in our time is not to remystify language, but rather to forge out of the silences of that ancient heritage a new meaning for new vessels – both non-human and human; to give authors and readers alike an opening onto the dark screen of universal necessity, one that allows us to reforge the links to our linguistic roots and heritage: allowing us to create new both vessels of language and meaning in a cosmos that does not know us, and cares even less whether we live or die.

If the Universe has no meaning as so many thinkers in the past few hundred years have stated, then it is humans alone that have invented out of our own dark need these shared universes of intelligence and thought, given rise to the very necessity of value and meaning that goads us forward and sustains us in a realm of meaninglessness. Either meaning is shared or there is no reason to read. We read to gain an apprehension of our own dark life. We seek out authors that speak to us about this inner aspect of ourselves that we cannot articulate in such subtle and persuasive form. In everyone’s life there are certain author’s that catastrophically break us on the anvil of our own ineptitude, reveal to us the inner essence of what we are not, give to us the task of knowing and being that disturbs us and makes us ponder the emptiness of our own doubts and illusions. For better or worse certain authors are more ourselves than we are, they challenge us to step out and become that very thing we fear most: a human being.

Roots of Hyperstition: William Sims Bainbridge

Members of The Process, founded mainly by students from an architecture school, referred to the creation of their cult as religious engineering, the conscious, systematic, skilled creation of a new religion. I propose that we become religious engineers….

—William Sims Bainbridge

Here and there I still add to my ongoing research on various odds and ends of present cultural thought: flavors of accelerationism, hyperstition, etc. Most of it obsolete at this point because of its strange agglomeration of Left and Right wing associations that have for better or worse lost their way in the contemporary dance of ever newer sources of thought and madness of our age. I plod on…

Ran across a sociologist you may or may not have ever heard of: William Sims Bainbridge is an American sociologist who specializes in religion and cognitive science and a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Among his contributions to the field are his studies on how science-fiction media (writing, movies, and TV shows) act as a potential self-fulfilling prophecy. A notion that would later become associated with CCRU and ideas surrounding hyperstition.

He was a one time member of the ill-famous Process Church of the Final Judgement. One of the London based research groups which would fray into much of the so to speak New Age worldview. One can if so disposed read both Bainbridge’s Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement, or the work of Timothy Wyllie Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Both written by one time members of that strange cult world.

My interest in Bainbridge is that he is at the top level of various scientific organizations: He is co-director of Cyber-Human Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF); He is the first Senior Fellow to be appointed by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET): a “technoprogressive think tank” that seeks to contribute to understanding of the likely impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies by “promoting and publicizing the work of thinkers who examine the social implications of scientific and technological advance”. Other well known members of this group are Nick Bostrom and James Hughes. What we’re speaking of is the foregrounding of the “Human Enhancement Movement”; otherwise known as transhumanism, etc.

Both Bainbridge and Wyllie went on after the Process Church to become participants of aspects of Satanism: Anton LeVey having been as well a member of the Process Church, along with various Rock n Roll stars, Genesis P-Orridge, Adam Parfrey, and many more of the era…

Wyllie would write a series of works based on the Process Church’s main bible: Urantia. Creating a complete mythology based on the Fallen Angel topos… (https://www.amazon.com/…/B001K7…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1)
While Bainbridge, and academic and scientists would write early on of Satan in Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult. Most of Bainbridge’s works center around how transhumanism, space expansion, game theory (eGods: Faith versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming, The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World (The MIT Press), The Space Flight Revolution: A Sociological Study, Goals in Space: American Values and the Future of Technology, etc.).

This mixture of quasi-religious New Age thought combined with the power of cybernetic research and sociological religious thought toward constructing self-fulfilling prophecies (i.e., hyperstitional fictions) seems to be something to investigate.

What interests me is how a New Age guru became a leader in the Transhumanist movement, and yet is for the most part hidden and silent in scholarship. So much about the various aspects surrounding sixties culture is yet to be explored…

Strange days… as the blurb on his study of Warcraft MMO puts it, as if these games were being used and studies by both various transhumanist, military, and governmental agencies to understand and prototype future scenarios:

In The Warcraft Civilization, sociologist William Sims Bainbridge goes further, arguing that WoW can be seen not only as an allegory of today but also as a virtual prototype of tomorrow, of a real human future in which tribe-like groups will engage in combat over declining natural resources, build temporary alliances on the basis of mutual self-interest, and seek a set of values that transcend the need for war.

What makes WoW an especially good place to look for insights about Western civilization, Bainbridge says, is that it bridges past and future. It is founded on Western cultural tradition, yet aimed toward the virtual worlds we could create in times to come.


This convergence of technology and religious modes seems to be part of the transhumanist agenda (at least in some of its technoprogressive elite circles), along with the revival of the Process Church ideology and certain integrations of Urantia-Satanism into space adaptation and use of MMO-Virtual Gaming as ways of indoctrinating and re-engineering perception and the young toward such ends (see: Bainbridge – Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement).

This needs a great deal of further investigation… it’s like a strange travelogue through the underground worlds of our cultural madness!

Is Irony dead?


I sometimes think irony must be dead, since I do get a lot of people who assume I’m serious and literal, rather than playful and figurative in many of my posts. The notion of saying one thing and meaning another is always tricky, but it seems in our age of such ultra-serious political thinking that hyperbole and irony, satire and lambast have slowly decayed into lunacy. In many ways this is because the whole humanistic tradition of learning with its core curriculum based on the power of rhetoric and persuasion, with the knowledge of figurative language and tropes, has all but disappeared in the minds of the younger generations.

What’s difficult in social media is to convey the tonal qualities of irony and its nuances, which is the hallmark of Stand-Up comedy and other forms of playful discourse. If I had my way I’d teach a course on irony starting with the Portuguese master, José Saramago. His works gently ply that ancient art with a circumspect power that creeps up on you rather than pounding you over the head. But there are many others… in the U.S.A. the names Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. come to mind.

Irony is supple and rich, a little lower than Wit but higher than Juvenalian diatribe. Irony awakens us from our sleep in stupidity by applying a figurative slap in the face, a slow turn of phrase that could be taken either literally or figuratively; and, leaving it up to the reader to decide which, but also leaving the literal reader in limbo for having literalized a statement that makes him up to be the butt of a private joke that he himself has fallen into. The proverbial banana peel of thought…

John Barth a postmodern factionalist and maximalist would in many of his books prey upon an extended ironic metaphor to hold together his satiric take on our American traditions. Many seem to castigate the postmodern writers in our time because of their intelligent use of irony and cynicism as if they were not serious. Truth is they were much more serious than our current crop of literalists who as Blake once suggested have a singular focus and dark intent toward normative seriousness that cuts off and cauterizes the ironic and comedic. One need only return to the plays of Aristophanes to discover that intelligence and irony go hand in hand, that a veritable critique of society is done with éclat and the power of comedy rather than its elder sisters the Tragedians. Comedy and Satire always came after the serious business; and, yet, it was in the subtle playfulness of comedy that spawned laughter and intelligence and gave birth to a sense of justice in the face of all seriousness.

Where We Are

One of the central leitmotifs of postmodernism was the notion that both secular and religious metanarratives (i.e., grand narratives) had broken down, and not only broken down but needed to stay that way: that is, both religious (historicism) and secular (scientism) belief systems that had guided Western Civilization as various forms of divine of humanistic discourses failed us. This supposed failure released us from any overarching telos or arche-trace or search-for-origins, etc., whether of the study of language or humanity (i.e., anthropological-linguistic). But then the postmodern opened us to micronarratives whether in the playful ironizing of poetry and literature; or, in the post-philosophical interrogation of the history of philosophy from some Outside perspective. The supposed Continental/Analytic divide was mere whitewashing and segmenting of this new post-philosophical project as part of the interrogation of humanism by anti-humanism; and, by analytic-linguistic of mathematics and the sciences.

The latest generation saw the end-game of postmodern thought as it devolved into ever more undecidable knots which could not at last be untied, so that like the proverbial Gordian’s knot our latest incarnation of thought has bypassed or cut the cords with postmodern thought and returned to the original break in modernity: Kant and the Idealists; and, their critics. So that all the old schisms and errors of pre-Kantian thought and post-Kantian thought could once again be put under the scalpel of a new diagnosis as if somewhere along the way in the past two hundred years thinkers whether of the Idealist or Materialist; or, any variation on that theme in-between, might uncover the errors that led us to such an end-game to begin with.

So here we are, a battered and failed ship of fools wandering in the errors of our ancestral pond still blind to any actual way forward; only a bitter disgruntlement among old combatants of Intellect and Will, Rationalism and Irrationalism. Each side defending its own turn toward some new understanding of our current malaise. Each seeking some new definition of the Image of the Human, Post-Human, or In-human. One could, of course, break this all down and name names, organize the various players in each camp, label the constituents by their organized narratives or post-narrative traditions. And, we probably do need a book or doctoral thesis to register such a microhistory of thinkers, critics, philosophers, post-philosophers, etc. Maybe some young thinker will like Kant of old take on that challenge and clarify the errors that have led us to this moment of fracture and fragmented thought. Who knows?

Do you hear me?

The Self-Destructive World We Live In

Capture

Today I was reading about the millions of people in Xinjiang China who have been imprisoned in supposed reeducation camps, which are actually Gulags as one woman who escaped one such prison relates:

“I will never forget the camp,” Sauytbay says. “I cannot forget the eyes of the prisoners, expecting me to do something for them. They are innocent. I have to tell their story, to tell about the darkness they are in, about their suffering. The world must find a solution so that my people can live in peace. The democratic governments must do all they can to make China stop doing what it is doing in Xinjiang.”

If an Alien from another world were to wander our earth and see the darkness within humanity – the inhumanity of humans: the political corruption; the religious manias; the broken ruins of capitalism, communism, and all other economic ism’s; and the sheer blind stupidity of humans becoming barbarians, I wonder what its alien thoughts would entail? I used to think the first half of the 20th Century was the worst period in human history, but I’m beginning to believe we haven’t seen nothing yet… our planet is entering an irrational zone of hate, corruption, tyranny, and malevolence unseen and unthought in past history. For one dark aspect of our present century is its knowledge of both the neurosciences and addiction, along with the implications and use of such knowledge as genetics to produce an invasive and terroristic horror of absolute degradation of the human in the decades to come.

I know I’m inclined to pessimism, but even a blind man could see the decadence of the West with the collapse of human reason in EU and the U.S.A., along with the prevalence of tyranny in most of the post-Communist nations and their allies; the degradation and corruption in UK (BREXIT), and America (Trump).

I keep asking one question: Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why is humanity bent on self-destruction and ruination? Will we ever live at peace on this planet? What in our nature is born with such self-destructive self-hate to produce such dark visions that trap people in this world of death.

 

Tom Kromer: Forgotten Depression Era Writers

CaptureTom Kromer wrote one novel (Waiting For Nothing) and several stories and reviews about depression era life. Considered a proletarian or working-class writer his prose took on that Hard-Boiled stance of the tough-guy façade, and yet underneath was a man who felt more than other men the dark portent of his country’s nightmare of poverty and degradation as a vagabond and hobo wandering from city to city in search of jobs and food.

I’ve been rereading a selection that includes his only novel (Waiting For Nothing), and a few stories and reviews. The novel depicts with searing realism life on the bum in the 1930s and, with greater detachment, the powerless frustration of working-class people often too locked in to know their predicament. Waiting for Nothing, Kromer’s only completed novel, is largely autobiographical and was written at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in California. It tells the story of one man drifting through America, east coast to west, main stem to side street, endlessly searching for “three hots and a flop”―food and a place to sleep. Kromer scans, in first-person voice, the scattered events, the stultifying sameness, of “life on the vag”―the encounters with cops, the window panes that separate hunger and a “feed,” the bartering with prostitutes and homosexuals.

You get a taste of his style from the opening paragraph of Waiting For Nothing:

IT is NIGHT. I am walking along this dark street, when my foot hits a stick. I reach down and pick it up. I finger it. It is a good stick, a heavy stick. One sock from it would lay a man out. It wouldn’t kill him, but it would lay him out. I plan. Hit him where the crease is in his hat, hard, I tell myself, but not too hard. I do not want his head to hit the concrete. It might kill him. I do not want to kill him. I will catch him as he falls. I can frisk him in a minute. I will pull him over in the shadows and walk off. I will not run. I will walk.

I turn down a side street. This is a better street. There are fewer houses along this street. There are large trees on both sides of it. I crouch behind one of these. It is dark here. The shadows hide me. I wait. Five, ten minutes, I wait. Then under an arc light a block away a man comes walking. He is a well-dressed man. I can tell even from that distance. I have good eyes. This guy will be in the dough. He walks with his head up and a jaunty step. A stiff does not walk like that. A stiff shuffles with tired feet, his head huddled in his coat collar. This guy is in the dough. I can tell that. I clutch my stick tighter. I notice that I am calm. I am not scared. I am calm. In the crease of his hat, I tell myself. Not too hard. Just hard enough. On he comes. I slink farther back in the shadows. I press closer against this tree. I hear his footsteps thud on the concrete walk. I raise my arm high. I must swing hard. I poise myself. He crosses in front of me. Now is my chance. Bring it down hard, I tell myself, but not too hard. He is under my arm. He is right under my arm, but my stick does not come down. Something has happened to me. I am sick in the stomach. I have lost my nerve. Christ, I have lost my nerve. I am shaking all over. Sweat stands out on my forehead. I can feel the clamminess of it in the cold, damp night. This will not do. This will not do. I’ve got to get me something to eat. I am starved.

Like many others who traveled the rails, worked odd-jobs, went hungry, did what they had to do to survive, Tom’s novel chronicles this dark period of desperation. As I think about the future, of the broken promises of our leaders, of the way the world is heading into a dark time again I return to the men and women who wrote of despair and noirish necessity in other eras of poverty and degradation. Tom’s work doesn’t pull any strings, it doesn’t put a rosy tint of the world, but rather puts it out there as he lived it and saw it under little illusion. Maybe we need such works to remind us what may one day be upon us sooner than we’d like.

Kromer himself came from a classic proletarian background; his family life is similar to that of Larry Donovan, the proletarian hero of Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited. Yet Kromer’s ideas are essentially apolitical. His narrator has dropped below the worker class to the lumpenproletariat, the horrifying world of stiffs and bos. The book, however, does have its leftist spokesmen—Karl, a writer, and Werner, an artist. Because their work captures the pain and suffering of life on the stem, it is unacceptable to the general public.

Cut off from any feeling of connection with the masses and relying instead on his individual know-how to survive, the narrator rejects this vision of a better future: “I am tired of such talk as this. You can stop a revolution of stiffs with a sack of toppin’s. I have seen one bull kick a hundred stiffs off a drag. When a stiff’s gut is empty, he hasn’t got the guts to start anything. When his gut is full, he just doesn’t see any use in raising hell.” Kromer has captured perfectly the whining, whipped-dog tone of the down-and-out vagrant. These stiffs are no threat to property or the social order; they have no politics, no ideology. All they care about is a decent feed and place to sleep.

As James West III states,

We must be careful to distinguish between Tom Kromer, the author of Waiting for Nothing, and “Kromer the narrator of the book. In the act of writing this account, author Tom Kromer betrays his hope that the inhuman situation he describes can be corrected. His book functions, on its most obvious level, as an account of life in extremis. Kromer seems to believe that once people are shown degradation and injustice, they will do something to help. It is also important to draw a distinction between “Kromer,” the narrator, and the majority of the vagrants he encounters. In Waiting for Nothing we see this narrator’s strong fellow feeling prevent him from bludgeoning an innocent passerby, from robbing a bank, and even from performing the “dummy chunker,” a scam that preys only on people’s feelings. The narrator has chosen to show us incidents where he has, in a sense, failed. By emphasizing these failures, Tom Kromer has transformed what could have been a documentary of skid-row life into an artistic creation that traces a personal struggle to preserve human virtues and emotions in the face of a brutal and dehumanizing reality. (284)


You can find Waiting For Nothing and Other Stories: here…

Joker: A Trickster for our Times

Cormac offers one of the best appreciations of the Joker film I’ve seen…

Corse Present

It is apt that Joaquin Phoenix’s titular performance in Joker has sparked such an incredible amount of discord amongst reviewers and audiences, as the character is simply an avatar of the trickster figures who appear throughout various mythologies all over the world. Like Loki who always turns up at a party simply to get people arguing with each other, Phoenix’s Joker has popped up precisely on a particular faultline in society and his role is to keep that faultline open like a running sore. On the one hand, Joker is an incitement to incel gun rage, irresponsibly sympathising with entitled man-babies; on the other, it is a grim portrayal of the downtrodden outsider, the worm that turns. Dirty Harry or Raskolnikov?

joker

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The Toy Philosopher

Wittgenstein’s idea that philosophy is something like a disease and the job of the philosopher is to study philosophy as the physician studies malaria, not to pass it on but rather to cure people of it. —Susan Sontag

The connoisseur of horror realizes that there is nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to be; knowing that everything that could possibly be thought has already entered that stage of utter obsolescence in which thinking has become a desperate attempt to think about thinking. What happens when there is no longer anything to think, when thought and concept have begun circling in the bowels of philosophical presumption rather than abstraction? Philosophers today bewail the end of philosophy as if it were some grand tradition they must by every means necessary be upheld as the last bastion of sanity. But what if this in itself is already to be outside the very limits of philosophical thinking and thought; a gesture within a gesture demarcating the lines between philosophy proper and its non-philosophical gestures of flight and fear. Has philosophy become a toy in the hands of machinic algorithms; a sort of endless game of accelerating complexity whose only goal is to produce superintelligence devoid of the human factor of irrational monstrousness.

Continue reading

The Horror of Thought

One always perishes by the self one assumes: to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse.
—E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

Sometimes I wonder why some people seem frantic if their alone. I love it. A sense of solitude pervades my life in some sense, even as active as I am with various media interactions. Friendships online seem irreal in many ways, because of the very media itself being more of a barrier; this sense that one is not in the presence of the Other’s physical body, but rather always and only in contact with their public mask and shared presence through the medium of words or images. Friendship truly does need presence, needs that assurance of contact through the body rather than words or images. And, yet, a person like me enjoys not being always in attendance, not having to deal with the peculiarities of emotion and turmoil that accompany close proximity with others. A sense of isolation and solitude can at times be liberating for many of us. Yet, for others it can be panic ridden and full of anxiety. Why? Why are some people perfectly happy to be alone without being lonely, and others when alone suddenly enter panic mode and become frantic and almost insane unless they have someone around them to talk to, or some kind of contact whether through watching TV, listening to music, or some other diversion to keep their mind off the feeling of loneliness and aloneness.

All of us awaken sooner or later to the patter of the mind in it’s endless chatterbox of voices. It’s this internal monologue that seems to be the most difficult thing in the world to stop; and, yet, its this stopping of the internal voices that arise ceaselessly voicing doubts, fears; loves, hates, etc. that for many people become the central issue of being alone. People that can’t stand to be alone are usually exasperated with that internal monologue of voice that they have no control over, and that if left to go on and on drives them batty. We know that many of the supposed meditation techniques that have come down from various traditions were centered on just that: stopping this internal world of voices and chatterbox noise. To empty one’s mind of that unceasing chatter is bliss. To realize this emptiness without voice or image is to know silence and a certain kind of peace. To be empty is to know that the Self is this absolute awareness without sense or presence. To know what it means to be alone with the alone. This is not some mystical crapology, rather it’s a very visceral and material knowledge of a body disencumbered of the mind’s endless messiness.

Yet, like everything such moments of silence are temporary and rare. For the moment you allow a thought to arise out of that void again you are lost, the voices start up again and the endless chattering of ideas and images reemerge from elsewhere… that’s the moment one realizes that one’s thoughts are not one’s own but come out of the void and vanish back into that endless flow, the unceasing and incessant realm of chatter that will not stop. Thought is a horror from which there is no reprieve…

Rereading all of David Goodis of late…

“You know me. Guys like me come a dime a dozen. No fire. No backbone. Dead weight waiting to be pulled around and taken to places where we want to go but can’t go alone. Because we’re afraid to go alone. Because we’re afraid to be alone. Because we can’t face people and we can’t talk to people. Because we don’t know how. Because we can’t handle life and don’t know the first thing about taking a bite out of life. Because we’re afraid and we don’t know what we’re afraid of and still we’re afraid. Guys like me.”
― David Goodis, Dark Passage

Rereading all of David Goodis of late has been a worthwhile exercise. Goodis for the most part has one nightmare that pervades every story he ever wrote: something is wrong with the world; it’s out of kilt, malevolent, and will in the end take us all down that dark road into an abyss from which there is no reprieve; no salvation or redemption. Some of his protagonists pursue this nightmare every which way with a courage of hopelessness that they just might evade this dark truth long enough to enjoy life if only for a day, a month, a year; or, at best a temporary stay of execution. His works were of the working class outsiders, the women and men who were under no illusion that they might ever crawl out of their mean streets and into some grand illusion of fame and riches. For these the American Dream of rags to riches was more of a rage to murder and annihilation. No, even his criminals knew that much; knew that fate (whatever you want to term it) was bent against them; and, yet, like doomed lovers dancing on a summer night in quest of an impossible prize they knew in the back of their minds that all that would come their way was a choice: die willingly, or allow the decay of life to erode what little sanity was left to the point one could no longer make even that choice.

Bleak? Pessimistic? Fatalist? Maybe. Or maybe just seeing too much, too long, too well.

Death’s Banker

Maybe we’re all losers; failures. A kid comes around and tells us the truth; tells us we’re stealing the future from her and her generation; tells us we’re the morons that have obliterated their hopes and dreams. Sometimes I think our history is just one long entropic nightmare; we’ve been sucking up energy from the earth for tens of thousands of years, and as we use up all that concentrated bit of sunlight we begin that long process of dissipation, entropic cascade into the debtors bank of non-return. History is just one long entropic bankruptcy in which humans have almost used up all the energy in the bank of earth’s resource department; and now the bill is coming due. But whose going to pay the bill? Can it be paid? Or will we come to the realization that our bankers want only one thing from us: our lives as a species. Death is the banker and he’s ready to call up the note on Life’s last dream…

Reading Lee Server’s biography of Ava Gardner…

“When I lose my temper, honey, you can’t find it any place.”
—Ava Gardner

“She became at once the principal sex symbol for the movies’ new dark age. Audiences responded to her style, an impudent, provocative blend of sweater girl and spider woman, the all-American accessibility of Lana Turner and the dark exoticism of Dietrich or Lamarr. Her cynical demeanor and sometimes less than wholesome glamour made her fit company for the new generation of male stars, Lancaster, Mitchum, Mason, Peck (in his surly early years), the corps of unsmiling, morally ambiguous men of postwar cinema. She played noir temptresses and big-city vamps and a statue of Venus sprung to succulent life, but never the girl next door. Audiences tuned in to her private persona as well, the one that seemed not so different from her screen image, the playgirl who lived for kicks, the denizen of nightclubs, the temptress who brought powerful men to their knees. Her popularity soared. Her acting grew in assurance, charisma, and variety. The studio execs dragged their feet— skeptical of her talent, fearful of her independence— still gave her the utility parts as the leading man’s bland leading lady, but in between there would come unusual projects and distinctive roles to which she would bring unique presence, elements of style, personality, and personal history. Her greatest films are hard to imagine without her.”

Ava came from Grabtown, North Carolina. A small town girl who became the wife of Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw (Jazzman), Frank Sinatra, and then took on lovers from Hemingway to Howard Hughes. She lived a helluva life, unabashedly. Been researching this era for a fictional work. She played a lot of the noirish style movies, so has always fascinated me. She teamed up with Mitchum – another favorite (and, Lee Server has a biogarphy on him well worth the read as well!).


Lee Server: Ava Gardner: “Love Is Nothing”

Nathan Ballingrud: The Maw

“Carlos had never married; he’d become so acclimated to his loneliness that eventually the very idea of human companionship just made him antsy and tired.”
– Nathan Ballingrud: The Maw

Ever thought about the apocalypse after the fact? Ever thought about a zone of strangeness where malformed creatures stalk the world stitching together death in twisted combinations that only a demented follower of Josef Mengele could appreciate? Welcome to the Hollow – a zone of uninhabitable chaos, a fragmented nightmare located on the edge of nothingness and delirium. A place where street cleaners wander the back alleys with wheelbarrows filled with parts of the unmentionable dead, and inhuman surgeons eight-foot tall sew impossible flesh to the nightmares of sad lullabies from hell . Here we meet an old man and his guide, Mix “a girl with a shaved head, dressed in a dark blue hoodie and jeans,” with a sharp cynical mind and a cold heart whose bravado is more survival mechanism than the harsh truth of her deeper fears of being human.

This is a tale of love and loss, of the misery and the pain of existence, of the beauty of sound and the call from the darkness of absolute loneliness. It’s the story of an old man and a dog whose only reason for being a sense of obstinate need; a love that is already in itself a betrayal. At the heart of it the tale is a young girl’s need to decide once and for all if she will remain human and care, or will she give in and cross over to the dark side of inhuman indifference as absolute as the universe itself. In the end what brings them all together is a “sound coming through that great, open throat in the ground, barely heard but thrumming in her blood, had called it here. She felt it like a density in the air, a gravity in the heart. She felt it in the way the earth called her to itself, with its promise of loam and worms, so that she sat down too, beside them but apart, unwelcome in their reunion.”

Some think we’re beyond redemption, while others still manifest the bullheaded pride of the old guard as if it were another country. Ballingrud seems to tap into this anxiety like a master marksman whose keen eyes know just where the target is but is subtle enough to take it slow and methodical rather than full-amped. Reading The Maw is like moving through a nightmare land on steroids knowing full well that the its a suicide mission, and yet it is the only thing one can do; for in the end we are all called out of the silence by the dark transports of our own hidden desires for the unknown. Even if it takes a shaggy old dog to spur us to action.

Read my earlier review on Nathan Ballingrud: Southern Gothic Horror


You can read the Maw in the latest issue of John Joseph Adams’s Nightmare Magazine, Issue 85 (October 2019)

David Goodis: Black Friday

 

Black Friday by David Goodis is one of those sleepers that very few probably read anymore unless you’re into his works, but to me it gives you that sardonic wit and humor in the character of Hart that just seems to hit me every time I read it. A sort of punch in the kisser that says: “Yea, you’re fucked. So? What of it? Get on, boy; it’s not the worst thing that could happen. There’s much worse… if you know what I mean.” Fatalism – or, comic fatalism; there is a difference. Fatalism is a resigned passive acceptance of doom; comic fatalism is an active participation it it’s dark futurial madness and delirium; knowing the necessity of each moment’s dark portent is a contingent act in the event.

Caught in the movement of necessity one either resists and fails; or, one actively pursues the doom ridden joy of its dark pain as if in pushing it to its limits one might fail and fail better. It’s the turn that says “Stay down, boy, you’ve had enough.” And, you get up, just because that’s who and what you are; undefeated to the end you’re neither a heroic pessimist, nor one of those decadent pity mongers; rather you’re just a creature who – neither stoic nor cynic, meets the eye of death with equanimity and absolute indifference that is not mere asceticism, but is the power and force of a being who has seen into the darkness – and seen it looking back.

“Black Friday” is the epitome of this, following a man on the lam who washes up in Philadelphia without a dollar on him and the cops closing in. The early stages are quite engaging, as Hank drifts around the freezing streets and has to steal an overcoat. But in one of those circumstantial devices that the reader has to roll with, he stumbles across a man who’s just been shot and has $10,000 in his wallet. This brings Hank into the orbit of a gang of burglars, whose safe house proves a good place for him to hide out. But of course, the confined quarters make the hoods cranky and quarrelsome, and the menace of violence lurks under the surface of their communal meals and nightly poker games. Hart’s sardonicism as a self-defense is edgy, but often titters on the ridiculous as it backfires and intensifies the insanity.

Like most of his works there is the twisted movement of his women, too. In this one the stock stereotype of the Madonna and Whore rotate between the two women in the house who after a time fall for Hart and begin that slow dive down into the abyss which is Goodis’s trademark. Doom ridden and eager all of Goodis’s characters move to the beat of some malevolent puppet master whose strings are none other than the dark secret of human consciousness itself; the blind necessity of knowing and being known by the dark force at the heart of existence: what Nietzsche in a better moment would term: “The dark laughter of the gods!”


Buy it here!

The Impossible Task

In one of his interviews Thomas Ligotti speaks of non-horror writer’s that influenced him to the point of reading everything by the author, as well as every secondary work related to them (i.e., biographical, critical, reviews, etc.).

Ligotti: “To name only non-horror authors: Raymond Chandler, Philip Larkin, Vladimir Nabokov, Bruno Schulz, Dino Buzzati, Hagiwara Sakutaro, Thomas Bernhard, William Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, E. M. Cioran, Sadeq Hedeyat, S. I. Witkiewicz, Roland Topor. These are some of the authors whose complete works, and most secondary works on them, I’ve bought and read.”

Being the thorough researcher I am (almost to a point of insanity!), I’ve been working through this list realizing that it’s an impossible task… or, at least at my age (68) it would now take too long to complete such a task (hundreds of works and resources!). Admitting defeat and failure in this area is no cause for concern to me anymore, realizing that my work-in-progress of Appreciation (in the Pater/Wilde sense of that term!) is but an opening gambit in what I hope to accomplish: and that is just to further people’s understanding and interest in Ligotti and other horror works. If I accomplish that, along with reaching a wider audience of both avid fans and newcomers my task will be accomplished. It will await actual academic scholars or other mainstream critics to complete the task and fill in the full aesthetic and philosophical implications of Ligotti’s oeuvre.

To the Greta Thunberg’s of our World…

We are facing an existential crisis… it will have a massive impact on our lives in the future, but also now, especially in vulnerable communities. And I think that we should wake up, and we should also try to wake the adults up, because they are the ones who — their generation is the ones who are mostly responsible for this crisis, and we need to hold them accountable.

—Greta Thunberg (11 September 2019)

To the Greta Thunberg’s of our World…

Recently I reread Andrey Platonov’s great work The Foundation Pit, and was reminded of his allegory of Russia; its past, and its future. At the end of it when his young protagonist dies, it’s as if the future of all things died with her. In his slight afterward he would say:

“Will our soviet socialist republic perish like Nastya or will she grow up into a whole human being, into a new historical society? This alarming feeling is what constituted the theme of the work, when the author was writing it. The author may have been mistaken to portray in the form of the little girl’s death the end of the socialist generation, but this mistake occurred only as a result of excessive alarm on behalf of something beloved, whose loss is tantamount to the destruction not only of all the past but also of the future.”

I would only add: Will the earth of our extinction event die with the Greta’s of the world? Or shall we confront this event?

In our own age it’s not only a nation, but the earth herself – and, by that, I mean the earth of our bioenvelope within which we and our non-human neighbors and fellow beings all inhabit; that fragile layer of atmosphere in which all life on planet earth – and, possibly, the only life in our galactic cluster, exists. Then I think of young women and men; of children being born even as I write these words, and wonder if like Platonov it is a mistake to portray a young woman, who for all we know is more than correct in her estimation of our dire situation; her mission to commit herself to the great task of forging a link to others of her generation toward a unity of action: – an impossible dream of changing people’s minds, of changing the world’s leaders minds, of changing the structure of harm and ruin that this late economic system of capitalism and modern instrumentalism has wrought upon the planet’s ecosystems; both technology and its ramifications in industry, and the plunder of the last sustainable resources on our planet, that  have cost, and or costing us. Not only that, but we must ask: Is she right in that her generational world, our world of human and non-humans – this earth, might be part of the last generation of living things on planet earth?

Do you know? Are you willing to bet on it not being so? Or do you scoff and laugh and suggest in your comic denialism that cockroaches will still remain to inherit the earth? Or you such a blind bigot of apathy and derision to let all life tilt toward that annihilation and extinction for a mere comic book scenario of cynicism?  Or are you willing to join her and commit to changing your behavior, and the behavior of both national and international regimes, toward decelerating this vast technological behemoth of planetary destruction before it is too late? Or, will you continue in your malaise; scoff such apocalyptic imaginaries, and sit back and do nothing; pretend that nothing is wrong with the world, that the world is not moving toward biotic self-destruction? Are you willing to let your children inherit such cynical and apathetic thoughts of their future? Or will you begin thinking again… allowing yourself to truly gaze upon the existential truth of this vast crisis of life and existence without blinkers, filters, or propaganda; look at the facts of our situation rather than turning away in blind denial? Will you begin to estimate the underlying truths of what is being said by Greta and those of her generation – of their right to a future worth living in? Or will you like so many… deny her of that future; pretend that nothing is wrong, the world will never end; that life will go on? Will you deny the truth staring you in the face?

What will you do?

Even if I presented you with all the facts that the sciences have gathered over the past century would you be one of those to scoff at such facts, deny their truth? What will I do? For me it’s finally time to take a stand, to realize my time is close to the end; and, yet, with what little time (at age 68) I have left I stand with Greta and her generation, those who will inherit the horror of my generations inaction; those who will face the existential terror and horrors to come, because we were too cowardly to face and deal with – sitting back in denial, apathy, and unbelief that what is transpiring – an extinction event beyond anything the earth has seen – is here, now, upon us. It’s time to act, to salvage as best we can what remains; time to act and be a voice, and a body in this time of decision; for it is up to us now, not some future time… but now, to act and do and be a solution rather than a perpetrator. Will you act and do something to change the world for Greta and her generation? Or will you sit back and let them inherit our ruins? Do I hold out much hope that you will? No. But then I don’t believe in hope. I believe in the courage of our hopelessness. Do you?

As a pessimist I don’t expect much anymore… I doubt very many will even read this post, much less comment of add their own thoughts one way or the other. Like Zizek I don’t depend on the Big Other anymore; even the thoughts of others… most people don’t want to commit to anything but their own vein existences. That’s to be expected in this cowardly generation we live in. Most turn a blind eye to almost everything. And when one young person arises in our midst and sticks up for her own and her generations lives and futures. Most sit back in utter silence and do nothing. Sad, but true. Our generations apathy is the cause of this shame. We are leaving the ruins of the future to Greta and her generation. In my own mind I can only offer what little I have and am; these mere fragments of thought and care… what else is there?

Yea, I don’t hold out much hope anymore. Sadly politics has become a self-defeating farce for the rich corporations who support both sides of the spectrum; seeking only a centrist muddle and solution of do nothing as usual. People assume something will be done when nothing will be. Defeatist? Yes. I’m guilty. The working class; the people, want win either way. And, sadly, the young like Greta and her generation will inherit only the dust… and ruins of the vast megamachine as it slowly grinds the earth into bones.

So in the end to I only offer the wisdom of dust? No. Because as in all things it doesn’t matter what I offer, or even think; what matters is what Greta and her own generation do… for in the end it is up to them to force this issue, to awaken themselves from the sickness of modernity and this vast wasteland, to heal the earth and bring a new order out of the chaos of this collapsing world of culture and economics. Only the young can do what we have not. If my hope is no more; the only thing that can be offered is

The Courage of Hopelessness

in the Face of this dark future…

there is nothing else!

Richard Hugo On The Hard Work of Poetry

If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don’t work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.

—Richard Hugo,  The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing (p. 17).

Patricia Highsmith and the Ghost of Rachilde

 

“When I desire you a part of me is gone.”
― Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

Rachilde was enticing and inscrutable, passionate and angry. She was unafraid to speak openly with the sincerity of her feelings. She had no shame in marketing herself, but was also known as a tender and caring friend. Intimate in friendship and dedicated to supporting the careers of others, Rachilde was nevertheless always an outsider, forced to explain her thoughts and beliefs in terms of possession, because what was natural to her seemed to be so unnatural to everyone around her, including to herself as she tried to sort out what was her and what was in the reflection.

Unlike Rachilde, though, Highsmith was intimate erotically but not as a friend, nor did she much care about supporting other writers; in fact as her biographer puts it:

Patricia Highsmith was an improbably tough woman (and not just tough, but “Texas tough,” says her legendary American editor Larry Ashmead) with an impossibly sore center. Early and late, the hopes of many friends and lovers foundered on that adamantine shell of hers. What they saw beneath it, if they even got beneath it, was usually more than they could handle. But Pat could handle it, and she handled it with fortitude.1

Reading Highsmith’s biography by Shenkar, along with the contes cruels (cruel tales) in her Little Tales of Misogyny there is a definite family resemblance between her and Rachilde. These tales are both decadent and fascinating, exploring the perversities of humanity with a cruel joy; or, what Lacan once termed – “jouissance”: that mode of pleasure that goes beyond itself into transgressive acts of sensual perversity and cruelty.
Anne Carson in her Eros the Bittersweet would say this:

“Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.”

It’s this bittersweet knowledge that one can never shoot the gap between self and other, that one will forever be locked away within the closed circle of one’s own perverse need to escape the self – the narcissistic capsule of isolation which turns love to hate and cruelty. It’s this dark world of the erotic that both the decadent Rachilde and her inheritor, Highsmith explore in infinite variations of repetition. It’s no longer Sartre’s hell of the Other, but rather the hell of one’s own Self-Conscious nullity, unable to merge with the Other of one’s erotic inferno. So that one repeats the gestures of love in endless labyrinthine trysts, writing the life – living the death of erotic longing…


  1. Schenkarm, Joan. The Talented Miss Highsmith. Picador; First edition (January 4, 2011)

 

*(Need to come back to this and fill in the gaps at a future date… had an interruption this morning!)

The Listening Horror

The Listening Horror

We hear so much about the outer world of sonics, what of the inner mutations that open us onto the unknown; the elaboration of soundscapes, portals to the inevitable horrors of existence; temptations to the alien absence: the incongruities of monstrous objects in the music of unseen worlds surrounding us; throbbing gristle vibrating in the dark interstellar corridors between galactic nights, and the voids that empty onto that black silence that is forever sounding us from the Abyss.

— Songs of Silent Voids


– S.C. Hickman ©2019

Rod Reynolds: The Dark Inside

Smoke swirled around the room, and the gritty smell of gunpowder cloyed in my nose and throat.

—Reynolds, Rod. The Dark Inside

Just finished The Dark Inside by a Londoner Rod Reynolds, with a “successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, who decided to get serious about writing”. Looking for a new crime novel, and originally hailing from Louisiana and Texas I began tracing various venues for something different. I found it in this noirish work set in that in-between city, Texarkana. A city drifting between Texas and Arkansas that seems to sit on the border between hell and paradise. It’s the sort of place you’d love to visit, but not if there is a murderer on the loose.

I’d decided to go in blind on this one, only acknowledging that Rod had received some good reviews. I was pleasantly surprised that he’d set this novel in the late 1940’s post-war era. East Texas is home to the likes of Joe R. Lansdale whose crime fiction has garnered praise for years. Works like The Bottoms, Leather Maiden, Freeze Burn and the like have honed into the edgy world of dark, along with his series of Hap and Leonard. So I was already quickly enchanted to enter this local having lived outside Shreveport, LA as a child on my grandparents old depression era farm.

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Bohumil Hrabal: Comic Grotesque of Simpletons

Comic Fatalists in the post-war years of those buffer countries betwixt Europe and Russia produced writers forced into the fantastic or macabre: parable, allegory, and satire – forms and styles both baroque and symbolist to get around the ideological censors of both the Left and Right.

CaptureEven in the earlier Great War (WWI) one remembers The Good Soldier Schweik of Jaroslav Hasek a comedic satire on war and civilization:

A great epoch calls for great men. There are modest unrecognized heroes, without Napoleon’s glory or his record of achievements. An analysis of their characters would overshadow even the glory of Alexander the Great. To-day, in the streets of Prague, you can come across a man who himself does not realise what his significance is in the history of the great new epoch. Modestly he goes his way, troubling nobody, nor is he himself troubled by journalists applying to him for an interview. If you were to ask him his name, he would answer in a simple and modest tone of voice: “I am Schweik.”

And this quiet, unassuming, shabbily dressed man is actually the good old soldier Schweik; that heroic, dauntless man who was the talk of all citizens in the Kingdom of Bohemia when they were under Austrian rule, and whose glory will not pass away even now that we have a republic.

I am very fond of the good soldier Schweik, and in presenting an account of his adventures during the World War, I am convinced that you will all sympathize with this modest, unrecognised hero. He did not set fire to the temple of the goddess at Ephesus, like that fool of a Herostrate, merely in order to get his name into the newspapers and the school reading books.

And that, in itself, is enough.

—Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk

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Jason Starr: The Allurements of the Dark City

I’ve been an avid fan of Horace McCoy and James M. Cain forever, the one a working-class nihilist and absurdist of crime fiction whose guide to despair and futility always entertained even as they lead us into the ruins of self-defeat; the other a portrayer of the dark side of sex and torment in a world where love is hell, and the only way of escape is to enter the darkest avenues of this ruinous world of twisted pain till it hurts so bad you begin to feel again…

Jason Starr who combines these two extremes in both his Cain like updates of our late panic worlds of sex and crime, and in his takes on Gotham City and Ant Man has never seemed to draw a mainstream audience. Which I’m sure is fine with him and us; being one of his extremophile admirers I’ve liked visiting his singular climes of derision, satire, and comic fatalism for years.

Author of Tough Luck and Twisted City, and co-author with the Irish noirist Ken Bruen (think: Bust and Pimp!) he offers us a city of night in broad daylight colors; delving into the broken minds of psychopaths and socio-paths alike, bringing us a vision of the underbelly of our personal hells as we live and breath it. Yet, it’s his keen wit and dark humor, the satiric eye and sense of the proverbial mix of bottom-feeders and unknowing normals which provoke in us not so much disgust as fascination and the allurements of lives lived on the edge of panic and mayhem.

Capture

If you’ve not read Jason before then The Follower might be just the ticket as Jason follows a strange sort of twisted stalker and his beautiful prey into the dark city…

Learn more about Jason and his works on his site:

http://jasonstarr.com/

New Interview with Matt Cardin

New interview with Matt Cardin, author of ‘To Rouse Leviathan’ with Laura Kemmerer is out on Sublime Horror.

LC: What would you say are the core underpinning themes and ideas in your work?

MC: The horror of consciousness, and more specifically, self-awareness. Intimations or suspicions of something fundamentally grotesque and nightmarish at the core of existence itself. The inescapable sense of being drawn to find a metanarrative, a pattern, a God’ s-eye view and understanding of one’s experience and the world at large, and then of being horrified at the revelation that this overall pattern and meaning are actually hideous and unbearable. That life isn’t meaningless, it’s meaningful – and the meaning is awful. The fear that God by whatever name, under whatever cultural guise, may be monstrous. The sense not only of horror but of unbearable loss, grief, and despair that accompanies such a sense of things. The related fear or possibility that artistic and intellectual creativity carry profound dangers because they serve as portals to and for that nightmarish primal ontological reality to communicate itself and corrupt or destroy the artist.

I might pause to add that in my actual everyday existence I’m a living embodiment of Flaubert’s famous advice to “be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Interview: https://www.sublimehorror.com/books/matt-cardin-interview-to-rouse-leviathan/

Ed McBain: A Darker Sublime

 

He had been a cop for twelve years now, and he had learned to stomach the sheer, overwhelming, physical impact of death— but he would never get used to the other thing about death, the invasion of privacy that came with death, the reduction of pulsating life to a pile of bloody, fleshy rubbish.

Ed McBain,  Cop Hater (87th Precinct Mysteries)

Even in his first novel Cop Hater – the master of master’s, Ed McBain, would set you up to take the fall; juxtaposition of the American Sublime of inhuman architectural splendor: progress, beauty, growth, and expansion against the dark stain of its inhabitants with their grotesque underworld of filth and decay. A sense of the Disneyfication of things, of the virtual worlds hiding a darker assemblage of gross truth. In the passage below is the perfect irony: garbage (saying one thing and meaning another), of garbage, and then “garbage”; a simple movement from literal to figurative meaning – a perp’s or cop’s view? – a world seen from the hater or the one who is hating? And, of course that’s the whole subtle power of irony – one never knows just which… Continue reading

Fate and Freedom

…freedom can exist only if there is no there is. But who is the one saying this, if there is no philosophy and never will be?

—Frank Ruda,. Abolishing Freedom: A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism

For the past few months I’ve reserved Wednesdays for Noirish crime fiction. Rereading the classics and here and there some of the newer Grit Lit or Country Noir. Today was taking notes again on one of my favs, David Goodis. Dark Passage is one of those perfect pieces that no matter how you might try will never be reduplicated. Goodis had a sense of pacing, a way of presenting even the most contrived situations as if they were natural; fatal. In a Goodis story fatalism pervades every aspect of the ongoing paranoia that drives the characters. Yet, even as you watch the whole fatal accord play out there’s this sense in Goodis of this longing to overcome the fatality of being tragically isolated and alone in a universe of pain and suffering. It’s not some superficial yearning or hope for something better, but a deep need to find one other creature who understands and accepts you without some moral or religious bullshit hanging around the edges of a relationship. Continue reading

On Suicide

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the
Snow – First – Chill – then Stupor –
then the letting go –

—Emily Dickinson

One can study this notion for a lifetime, and many have, without ever coming to a conclusion other than a personal one. Yet, I’ve often thought of that, too. After two thousand years of Christian civilization in which suicide was both condemned and outlawed, and now for two hundred years where the secular authorities no longer outlaw it but have condemned it to the couch of psychoanalysts everywhere as a mental disorder one realizes that we’re still under the shadow of ancient codes of theological bullshit.

I dream of an age of forgetfulness, an age when once again one can celebrate the going out of existence as much as we celebrate its birth in children arising out of the womb. The ancient Celts used to hold joyous celebrations and wakes in the memory of the departed, recounting their lives and deeds with family, friends, and acquaintances in a joyful send off rather than some dark and foreboding affair of tears.

Even as a pessimist who sees birth and death as equally aspects of something that should not be, I still find the notion of celebration rather than some false sense of Christian or Secular tearfest to be both more beneficial and given over to the act of deliberate freedom and uncreation. Having suicide become just as much a part of the social mix of celebration seems only fitting in a world that for too long has both condemned and outlawed this one act of defiance and freedom against the laws of God and Man.

How many here would rather such a fitting end—celebrating one’s life, while realizing that the body’s suffering and torment should finally be spared and divested; all the while preparing for such a departure not in horror and tears, but in laughter and shared joy? I’ll bet that most people even if they were raised secular would still see this as a bit strange. But why? Why wouldn’t the celebration of freedom as an act of self-divestiture of suffering and pain be condemned rather than celebrated? Why is our culture so blatantly shame based that to look on death and suicide as an act either against some false theological order, or as some kind of disease of the mind in a secular order be any better.

Will we ever create a third order, a new world view in which birth and death are both celebrated as festivals of mutation, transformation, and metamorphosis? Or will be we be condemned to this dark religion or secular shame forever?

The Marionette Machine

We need to know that puppets are puppets. Nevertheless, we may still be alarmed by them. Because if we look at a puppet in a certain way, we may sometimes feel it is looking back, not as a human being looks at us but as a puppet does.

—Thomas Ligotti,  The Conspiracy against the Human Race

What if you woke up one morning and you were strapped into a strange contraption not knowing what it was, who put you here, and for what purpose? Then what if you suddenly begin to do things, simple things at first like lifting your right hand, then left; then closing your left eye, then right; then moving your legs to specific metrical motions as a subtle music appears in a surround mode; and, then you begin speaking in an unknown tongue against your will; everything happening to you against your will, and no matter what you do you cannot stop it? What would you do?

What if a voice suddenly appears in your head, a voice not your own speaking softly telling you it can do anything with you that it likes? Then to prove it, it requests you sing one of Tiny Tim’s old comic songs; and, you do, even though you are doing everything in your power not to, or – so you think.

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No Turning Back Now: Generation Null

A young man Florian: “You really take no account of what happens to us. When I talk to young people of my generation, those within two or three years of my own age, they all say the same thing: we no longer have the dream of starting a family, of having children, or a trade, or ideals, as you yourselves did when you were teenagers. All that is over and done with, because we’re sure that we will be the last generation, or one of the last, before the end.”

—Bernard Stiegler,  The Age of Disruption

There are teenagers coming of age right now who already have that dark presentiment that the future does not exist for them. What the late Mark Fisher decried a decade ago has now through media hype and saturation become the mythic framework of our age: the Age of Catastrophe.

Since we know civilization has lost its reason, become absolutely mad across the planet; an age of the “new barbarians of stupidity,” entering an era in which the “thirst for annihilation” is not just a philosophical provocation; but a very real possibility: Omnicide – an absolute from which “nothing human gets out alive,” (Land) becomes not only a possibility but a strange presentiment of the history of the future – then there is no turning away from the imperative to “study this riddle in all its mystifying complexity—to walk the tightrope across which a lone state of delirium might form a hidden route to world-erasure” (Bahbak).

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How the Dead Live

Robert William Arthur Cook (12 June 1931 – 30 July 1994), better known since the 1980s by his pen name Derek Raymond, wrote a series of novels about a lonely cop on the beat, a sergeant at London Metropolitan Police’s Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14. The quote below is from the third book in that series, a quote that has sunk down in for many years:

As I stood there I suddenly felt afraid – not of what confronted me but in a general way. I thought and felt that the secret of existence was perhaps to get old with beauty, ironically, coming closer and closer to you as you aged; innocence, everything that you had rejected or ignored as a young man, entering you like music all the time until in the end there was no more time. Then much of what had seemed so hard would be over, after too much work in cities, after patrolling too many streets for too long, after studying too many faces with the sly, fixed look of the dead.

Intelligence is at the service of us all and I believe that curiosity and investigation, like a chicken’s beak, are intended to kill the viper that threatens an egg. Powerful curiosity is the source of all detection and is surely its own end, a field cleared and well ploughed – but it is too simple for us only to have justice and logic; what use are either without mercy? The eternal cycle, the beginning, middle and end of a human being, the incomprehensible dance in the magic of our own theatre will continue for ever. But ignorance of our birth and death makes us largely mad; the majority of us clap at our disasters as though they were a play; but it is a work that we cannot possibly understand. Throughout our obscure race in life our entire frame is intended, is inclined to return to the earth on which our parents lay flat to conceive us; from a great distance our planet is an extraordinary sight, more so than most of us can yet understand, and I think that in the meantime we ought to be very careful about how we treat the flesh that we are.


  1. Raymond, Derek, How the Dead Live (Factory 3) (pp. 149-150). Random House Inc Clients. Kindle Edition.

On Whiskey Devil by Christian Galacar…

Capture
Just finished this short story by Christian Galacar, Whisky Devil. All I could think of was I’ve been there, done that. A young boy of twelve growing up in a home with an alcoholic old man. I remember the times I had the shit beat out of me by my step-dad when he was drunk. I remember the hate in my blood for that old man. I remember what he did to my mama. I remember when I got old enough to finally say enough is enough… I think I’m not alone in this world with such a past. They say violence breeds violence; that might be right, but sometimes a person has to do what a person has to do— not because its the right thing, but because its from a dark place within that finally breaks and twists and pulls one down into that gutter where pain and murderous intent seem to breed terrible things; monstrous thoughts beyond reckoning. It’s sad to be broken like that. It’s sad to be torn by such ferocity that one has to meet it on those same terms. Somethin in you dies when that happens. Somethin that will never come back to its original balance, and leaves you in that dark place where hate mixes with fear and disgust. A kind of thing you’d like to wipe out of your memory, but know that’s not ever going to be possible.

This story takes you down into that dark place where things go wrong and nothing can ever remain the same; and, yet, unlike life it doesn’t leave you there, but carries you forward. It’s a story about a boy who becomes a man the hard way; lifted out of that childhood dream of innocence by an act of violence which leaves him in desolations graveyard. It’s about a boy who learns to face down the fears inside his own child’s mind till the tears run clean and true and without remorse. Where the guilt of being who and what he’s becoming marks him in that shattered mirror where the soul burns, and burns blacker than sin…


Whiskey Devil

Visit the author on his blog: https://www.christiangalacar.com/