Gnostic Inversion: Navigating the “Mundus Imaginalis”

One could say I’m an inverted Gnostic of sorts, except that in my own view the ancient Gnostic’s literalized or ontologized their perceptions and thought of the Real. Following Plato they sought to escape this ‘world’ – the literal universe of evil as they termed it, whereas for me there is no transcension of this realm: this is it, there isn’t any supernal paradise of light sitting on the other side of that great abyss of darkness and night; and yet, what we discover is not a literal dichotomy or separation as in Plato’s two-worlds theory of a supernal eternal realm of Ideas and a mundane and evil realm of delusion, but rather it is our Mind’s, our Brains that have locked us into a perception of the world controlled by political, social, cultural, religious, and philosophical malfeasance. The world in-itself is not evil, what is evil is the dominion of our minds and hearts under regimes of power in high places that have constructed an Iron Prison of thought and feeling to trap us and suck our desires dry for their own sustenance and pleasure.

It is against the rulers of this dark prison world of mind, the Oligarchs, Plutocrats, philosophical and religious overlords of our ideological realms of acceptable thought and truth, spin doctors of political and social crapology, we fight and resist in this new gnosis. We seek to exit this system of lies, bullshit, and deceit even as we unravel and destroy its symbolic hold over our lives. For years I struggled against the separation of religious and secular forms that entrap us to false infinities: to a metaphysics of defeat and despair, pessimism and doom. Most of the world is oriented to trap us in a sense of despair and doom to make us dependent and needy, so that we will allow the State to supervene in our lives and offer assistance and numbing drugs, pharmaceuticals, therapies, etc. to realign us to its prison system and put us back asleep, provide us a perfect road to oblivion becoming in the process robotically compliant to the work and labour of creating surplus value for the wealthy and powerful. What these fat cat wannabee Archons of bullshit seek above all is a hypernormalised society of stupids they can suck dry for their own sadomasochistic pleasures… who the hell wants that?

It’s time to exit the zoo of this dark world, make our way toward a fucking real planet where people can learn to give a shit again about themselves and others, stop pounding each other with bombs and death; stop hustling the innocent and needy migrants into cages; stop colluding with a system of Death that has made us all into zombie maniacs…

Gnostic Inversion: From Literal to Figurative Breakout

People tend to confuse my use of the ancient Gnostic mythos with its literal religious extremism of ascetic or libertine valences.

I tend to agree with many fantastic, weird, and horror tale writers that there is as Ibn Arabi once suggested an ‘Mundus Imaginalis’ – a site of no site outside our brains filtering processes where our language and thought perceive the traces of an imaginative realm not bound by our human all too human prison of consciousness. Not unlike modern quantum physics that models these invisible processes beyond the threshold of our ability to know with symbolic relations (i.e., in the case of physics with mathematic models that then may take decades to prove, etc.). It’s this in-between realm between what we perceive to be and what ‘is’ that what Zizek-Lacan term the Real is confronted – any realism is confronted by what resists us rather than by any logic or systematic effort on our part to construct it. The Real is that which is invisible to our empirical relations to the world accept as it impinges on those factual facticities.

Mundus Imaginalis

Henri Corbin (1903 – 1978) a Sufi scholar coined the term “Mundus Imaginalis” to explain to Westerners the Sufi account of a territory that exists between the physical, sensory world and the spirit world (which Plato saw as consisting of ideal forms, but which some conceptualize as formless). This intermediate world has its own consistent topography, but is also constantly influenced and shaped by the physical and the spiritual worlds.

In my own account there is no Platonic world of forms, Ideas; there is as dialectical materialism suggests the appearance of appearance in which form and formless interject into each other influences which are neither the one or the other but commingle in this intermediate realm to produce something of a Third Relation. Ideas (forms) arise with appearances as in quantum mechanics particles arise and vanish contiguously.

At the border of consciousness we become entangled with what is not-conscious (i.e., what our brain filters out and we cannot thereby perceive as ‘real’). It’s on this border in-between that we commingle with the Outside in the ‘Mundus Imaginalis’ influenced by and influencing each other.

Corbin also used the term “active imagination,” which he may have got from Jung, or may have developed simultaneously. It is a method of perception and exploration that is supposed to straddle the physical world and the Mundus Imaginalis, allowing interplay between them. That our brains through evolutionary processes have closed the door on most of what is, giving us only what we need to survive and propagate we struggle to understand the forces, things, entities outside that filter. It’s the negotiation between form and formlessness, the navigation of the Outside which resists us; this strange realm of intermediation in which reality as it is against the reality we know and perceive that structures the Real.

Against any naïve realism the current crop of speculative realists suggest that the world is not as it seems, but is much more non-human than we can even imagine. We’ve allowed our all-too-centered human concerns for survival and propagation to bind us to the genetic codes and filters of our brain’s basic and integral function as an evolutionary process. In our own time this is being questioned, and doors onto advancing out of and past our own minimalistic brain functions through external process of self-fabrication and self-evolutionary processes of experimentation may one day take us far beyond the embedded state of our physical being as humans. What David Roden in his disconnection thesis projects through every widening exits of Wide Humans into the singularity of some posthuman other (of which we cannot know or speak at present).

To me the use of Gnostic mythos as philosophical allegory rather than a literalist belief in actual entities beyond our perception. I use it as a tool to unlock our ideological constructs and mental prisons that those in power seek to use to control society. Whatever the religious use of it was is beyond me, I use horror and the weird as tools to embrace an alternative vision; and, although it appears to accept the dictum of a malevolence behind the curtain so to speak, this should not in my mind be taken ‘literally’, but figuratively as a trope of the mind’s quest to break through the ideological prison or Matrix we are currently trapped in.

The Travails of Wisdom and Sorrow

All words are wearying,
No one is able to speak.

—Qohelet, Ecclesiastes

Rereading the Old Testament after a lifetime I’ve come to realize wisdom and sorrow seem to go hand in hand, the most pessimistic literature of our world reside in Kohelet’s Ketuvim scriptures of Ecclesiastes. Along with The Book of Job which to me at least presents the enormity of our dire position in the face of the unknown and incomprehensible power and terror that is the kenoma or vastation of time, space, and creation; which if the ancient Gnostics (a source of an abiding pessimism!) testate to: the creation of our Universe was also a great catastrophe. This sense of creation-catastrophe stains all that exists within this immanent realm or vicious circle (Nietzsche’s eternal return…).

Always remembering that the Gnostics inverted the Old Testament mythos, making of Yahweh a blind god and demiurge who’d fallen into Time as both its creator and botched maker, while at the same time having exiled the real god into the solitude of the Abyss before creation-fall. This sense that we are cut off and alone in a realm in which the very stones upon which we walk hide the kellipot or evil and energetic intelligences whose endless creativity is the power of blind pleasure-pain (jouissance) that drives the death pulsion in ever- accelerating compulsion toward absolute zero without ever quite reaching it (ergo… Freud’s death-drive that never dies… the zombie truth of our universe as living death and Hades-Hell! The underworld in which we have forgotten our actual lives, having fallen into this dark abyss of eternal night, allured by the beauty of natural existence.). Always dying, always living; cursed to remain through a change that is an eternal metamorphosis in process of monstrous discognition. We need not seek the nightmare, we are its progenitors and secret inheritors.

Born of our own mad designs, we ourselves created this labyrinth from which there is no center or circumference, no escape, no redemption; only the eternal journey through its bad infinity, the labour of an infinite thought in search of its lost idea. If we ever discovered the truth it would obliterate us, send us into that final abyss from which nothing escapes; neither light, nor darkness: the night of nights without outlet. Victims of our own foolish desires we have immersed ourselves in a cosmic game of infinite desire, machines of insatiable pleasure-pain we invent illusions to hide the emptiness and nothingness we are. We speak of love, yet enact hate; martialed to the wars of reality, we enter systems of belief that continue the struggle against all with all – a fanatics dream of never-ending battle in a realm without end. In our time the outer is seeping into our actual and real sleep, disturbing our nightmares and delivering us to the Outside which as we see in the forests, jungles, deserts of the world are all turning to fire within fire: an endless conflagration.

The Night of the World


The Duel

The Old House creaked, the shadows in the corner moved as the sun moved, and the boy huddled in the den behind the big plush green chair listening to the war going on outside. It had been like that all morning. Nothing happening but the dark premonitions of a catastrophe or apocalypse hovering around the edges of things; two brothers pummeling and raging at each other just beyond the open window sill. He could hear them hollering, yelling, cussing like the dammed;  thumping and wailing on each other like two old pit bulls set loose on a Friday night under a dark moon; prodding, elbowing, and jabbing at each other like two colossus fiercely contesting over some ancient dispute or blood rite. He heard his old man say: “I’m goin’ kill you, Jubal!” Then he heard something sounded like bone against bone crushing, a snapping sound like a tree falling under an axe; like the sound when his dog Jasper had been laying out in the sun on the gravel drive on a warm morning, lazing and comfortable, and his daddy had backed up over him in his pick up and everything seemed to stop: the sound, the pick up, and the world.

©S.C. Hickman, 2016

Nietzsche: 40 (March-June 1888) The concept of decadence.

On the State of the World:

— Waste, decay, elimination need not be condemned: they are necessary consequences of life, of the growth of life. The phenomenon of decadence is as necessary as any increase and advance of life: one is in no position to abolish it. Reason demands, on the contrary, that we do justice to it.

There are those who suppose there could be circumstances— social combinations— in which vice, disease, prostitution, distress would no longer grow — But that means condemning life. — A society is not free to remain young. And even at the height of its strength it has to form refuse and waste materials. The more energetically and boldly it advances, the richer it will be in failures and deformities, the closer to decline.

Age is not abolished by means of institutions. Neither is disease. Nor vice.

—Fredrich Nietzsche, Notebooks

A Friend, the nothingness one needs…


ESTRAGON, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his  boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before.
ESTRAGON : [Giving up again.] Nothing to be done.
VLADIMIR : [Advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart.] I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. [He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to ESTRAGON.] So there you are again.
VLADIMIR : I’m glad to see you back. I thought you were gone for ever.
ESTRAGON : Me too.
VLADIMIR : Together again at last! We’ll have to celebrate this. But how? [He reflects.] Get up till I embrace you.
ESTRAGON : [Irritably.] Not now, not now.
VLADIMIR : [Hurt, coldly.] May one inquire where His Highness spent the night
ESTRAGON : In a ditch.
VLADIMIR : [Admiringly.] A ditch! Where?
ESTRAGON : [Without gesture.] Over there.
VLADIMIR : And they didn’t beat you?
ESTRAGON : Beat me? Certainly they beat me.
VLADIMIR : The same lot as usual?
ESTRAGON : The same? I don’t know.
VLADIMIR : When I think of it … all these years … but for me … where would you be …? [Decisively.] You’d be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.
ESTRAGON : And what of it?
VLADIMIR : [Gloomily.] It’s too much for one man. [Pause. Cheerfully.] On the other hand what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties.
ESTRAGON : Ah stop blathering and help me off with this bloody thing.

– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Arthur Kroker: Hyperstitional Gazer of Futurity

“Post-history has been ‘driftworks,’ an indeterminate and increasingly violent series of technological experiments on the horizon of existence itself: the acceleration of space under the sign of digital culture until space itself has been reduced to a ‘specious present,’ and the social engineering of time into a micro-managed prism of empy granulartities.”

– Arthur Kroker

As an maverick educator Arthur Kroker is a nexus of hybrid thought, a convergence of other scholars and philosophers, scientists and performativity thinkers and artists, yet he is able to take their thought and derive from it a glossalia of our hypercapitalist nihilism and hyperstitional memes, amplifying and simplifying them it into intelligible soundbytes for the hungry masses yearning for a meaning that has no meaning. In that he is typical of those singular drifters on the edge of our present apocalypse or ‘revealing’ moment, who jut ahead like vagrant poets of temporal dreams, his antennae always in the netwaves gathering the electronic thoughts from the hypervalent wires of futurity.

Arthur and Marilouise Kroker are writers and lecturers in the areas of technology and contemporary culture. Together they edit the electronic journal CTheory, where they’ve served up articles from a broad range of scholars, thinkers, scientists, innovators, etc. on technology and culture.

His latest work Exits to the Posthuman Future brings his base vision of driftculture into another phase. As he asks,

What if we were to think media theory as itself an artistic practice, that is, as a form of aesthetic imagination that seeks to directly enter the world of data nerves, network skin, and increasingly algorithmic minds with the intention of capturing the dominant mood of these posthuman times – drift culture – in a form of thought that dwells in complicated intersections and complex borderlands? In its essence, thinking with and against the larger technopoesis of accelerate, drift, and crash that holds us in its sway requires a form of media reflection that is itself an exit to the posthuman future.1

As I once said in Utopia or Hell: The Future as Posthuman Game Strategy Kroker will admonish that we seem to be on the cusp of a strange transition, situated at the crossroads of humanity, and the future presents itself now as a gigantic simulacrum of the recycled remnants of all that which was left unfinished by the coming-to-be of the technological dynamo – unfinished religious wars, unfinished ethnic struggles, unfinished class warfare, unfinished sacrificial violence and spasms of brutal power, often motivated by a psychology of anger on the part of the most privileged members of the so-called global village. The apocalypse seems to be coming our way like a specter on the horizon, not a grand epiphany of events but by one lonely text message at a time. (Kroker, 193)

My friend Edmund Berger of  Deterritorial Investigation Unit would add a little history to this saying “the Situationists had configured the drift as the derive, a “technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” This psycheogeographical voyage was to be implemented in the terrain of the urban landscape, the setting for strolls – often aided by intoxicating substances – through region reconditioned by the demands of capitalism modernization. The drift was to be an act of reclamation: the city would become a place of adventure, liberated from its overcoding as a site of so-called cultural production through the ritualistic act of consumption and other forms of exchange. Guy Debord’s onetime comrade in the days of Socialism ou Barbarie, Jean-Francois Lyotard, injected this method of drift into the odysseys of intellectual life. For Lyotard it is an act of not only grand subversion, but also one of excess and decadence; drifting amidst the dissolving grand narratives of modernity is a concern of both wanton destruction and gleeful creation.” (The Posthuman and Information Guerilla)

Bruce Sterling in his book The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things says late capitalism is in process of laying the infrastructure for tyranny and control on a global scale through the use of such optimistic drift culture:

Digital commerce and governance is moving, as fast and hard as it possibly can, into a full-spectrum dominance over whatever used to be analogue. In practice, the Internet of Things means an epic transformation: all-purpose electronic automation through digital surveillance by wireless broadband.

Yet, against this decadent scenario as Kroker suggests what if the counter were true, and the shadow artists of the future or even now beginning to enter the world of data nerves, network skin, and increasingly algorithmic minds with the intention of capturing the dominant mood of these posthuman times – drift culture – in a form of thought that dwells in complicated intersections and complex borderlands? He envisions instead an new emergent order of rebels, a global gathering of new media artists, remix musicians, pirate gamers, AI graffiti artists, anonymous witnesses, and code rebels, an emerging order of figural aesthetics revealing a new order, a brilliantly hallucinatory order, based on an art of impossible questions and a perceptual language as precise as it is evocative. Here, the aesthetic imagination dwells solely on questions of incommensurability : What is the vision of the clone? What is the affect of the code? What is the hauntology of the avatar? What is most excluded, prohibited, by the android? What is the perception of the drone? What are the aesthetics of the fold? What, in short, is the meaning of aesthetics in the age of drift culture?(Kroker, 195-196)

As Edmund reiterates Kroker’s response, the drift culture, takes place on a global level, as Hickman surmises: it is a “new emergent order of rebels, a global gathering of new media artists, remix musicians, pirate gamers, AI graffiti artists, anonymous witnesses, and code rebels, an emerging order of figural aesthetics revealing a new order, a brilliantly hallucinatory order, based on an art of impossible questions and a perceptual language as precise as it is evocative.” He seems to be invoking, then, the weirdness of the internet itself when the world first went wired, as the subcultures of the globe clashed and produced the mutated offspring that today is retrospectively referred to a “tactical media.” This transnational roster includes Kroker’s own CTheory, Nettime, The Thing, Laibach, the Neoists, I/O/D, Adilkno, the VNS Matrix, Afrika G.R.U.P.P.E, the Critical Art Ensemble, the unknown legions of Karen Eliots and Luther Blissetts – and later Wu Mings -, so on and so forth. Through each of these the newfound possibilities of communication exchange and interconnection collided with the compulsion to theorize wildy, conduct absurdist interventions, increase solidarity and even overt support with political struggles, and constantly interrogate the barriers and the intersections of the political with the aesthetics.

Kroker will add that now that the posthuman condition has revealed decadence – incredulous, excessive decadence – as the basic ontology of late capitalism, the point of a figural art that would “harden, worsen, accelerate decadence” would be precisely the reverse, that is to say, it would draw into a greater visibility those intangible, but very real, impulses to social solidarity and ethical probity that haunt the order of the real. (198) So Kroker is moving toward an affirmation of an accelerationist aesthetic that would unloosen the tendencies within the social not to further the capitalist agendas, but rather to disturb it and force its hand into other paths through collective and ethical change and transformation.

  1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (p. 195). Wiley. Kindle Edition.


Jean Baudrillard: The Trickster’s Universe

“The aura of the world is no longer sacred. We no longer have the sacred horizon of appearances, but that of the absolute commodity. Its essence is promotional. At the heart of our universe of signs there is an evil genius of advertising, a trickster god who has absorbed the drollery of the commodity and its mise en scéne. A scriptwriter of genius (capital itself?) has dragged the world into a phantasmagoria of which we are all the fascinated victims.”

– Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime

The Last Poem of a Dead Poet


Most of us live out life as if it were a dream, nonchalantly. Loved ones. Smiles. Tears. The usual fragments of an undigested existence. We seek in those memories something we can call our own, and find none. What are the chances we ever existed? There are those who want to live forever, extend their little egos into some indefinite future. They seek in medicine or some other scientific fantasy a miracle of longevity as if they were materialists of the Spirit. Instead of transcending into some supernal heaven they’d live their lives out in the technoutopia of some cloned existence of synthetic flesh or the folds of some metalloid monstrosity. Yet, I wonder what would remain within that electronic void? Christians believed in a soul, a sort of hypothetical construct that would voyage off into some Platonic paradise or hell after sloughing the bitter fruit of dirt and water they knew as home in this life. We all have our dreams… some more interesting than others; and fantasies, too. Me? I dream only of a final oblivion, a break with all the words of longing, desire. All I seek is the face of the one I loved so long ago, her smile, her touch… a last kiss. The taste of her tongue on mine, the scent of her flesh against mine, a night without memories…


© Steven Craig Hickman 2016 (May not be reproduced without permission)


Genesis Redux

…..For a long while now you’ve heard the rumors, heard the voices of the image mongers among us; those who would make you believe we are living in a lie, that the world we exist in is nothing more than a vast illusion produced by the madness of the Envisioneers.
…..Let me tell you, it’s true… the world is crumbling around us, the machines have gone off-line and the truth stands revealed; and, believe me, it’s not pretty…
…..– The Last Broadcast of Barnabas J. Horn (RadioFree Alamut)

Sidroc-99 watched on as the last star blinked out. Darkness. Blindness. Night. They all huddled in the great darkness. Nothing of light remained. Each in his own way had turned toward another – touching, feeling, licking, remembering… The engines of creation were now silent, their image making production lines stilled and lifeless. Nothing of reality remained, nothing but this dark world filled with fear.

“What will we do now?” echoed a voice.

“Nothing.” a voice returned.

“But we must do something,” said a third voice, somewhere in the distance.

Sidroc-99 fidgeted. Like the others he had never known darkness before. His world had always been filled with light, with sounds, with signs – a world of images ceaselessly reproducing their semiovital forms, giving him and others a reason to be happy. Now that was all gone, all those things, objects for his eyes to feast on, a sensual realm of color and vibrancy. Gone! But where? Why? How could such a thing happen? Who or what was behind it?

He worked deep down in the hive where the fires churned. But one day they’d closed the doors, dispersed the hive-workers, saying it was too dangerous, too unstable, that we’d have to discover other sources of power, energy. But no one had found any. Did it exist? No one seemed to understand? Even the thinking machines that gave them their daily orders had no answer. Thoughts that had come so easily to his mind seemed dimmed and forgotten, as if the implants were no longer working, as if the connections to the vast oceanic Intelligence had vanished, left its post, disappeared into a void and left them alone with their doubts and non-knowledge.

He remembered tales of learning as a child, rumors that people had actually thought for themselves at one time. Solved problems, acted for themselves instead of relying on the Mind. But that was all rumor, and his Level IV Adapters had told him it was a myth, a legend for children. Nothing more. People had never thought for themselves. Thinking was something the machines did, not people.

His friend Sidroc-47 showed him a trick one day. He liked tricks. It showed him how to disconnect from the Mind. He liked that, made him feel strange; alone. Yet, it frightened him, too. What if he couldn’t ever reconnect, what would happen then? His friend smiled, “Don’t worry silly, there’s no way to disconnect forever?” It showed him the failsafe algorithm that would eventually reroute the nanoneurals and open the bi-valve connectors thinking it was a mere malfunction. “See, it will always reconnect you to the Hive.” Yet, he was not convinced. But he liked being alone, being free of the endless chatter of the hive. Made him feel different, and he’d never felt different before. It was a strange sensation. Made him feel special, as if he were the only one in the world who was alone with his own thoughts. But then he wondered if his thoughts were his own… and, it frightened him to the point that he never performed the trick again.

Now that everything was dark he knew it would only be a matter of time when everyone else would be alone, too. The hive would lose its connection to the Mind. What will happen to us then? – he thought.

He did not know… would anyone know?

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

… a fragment of a story I’m working on….

The Assemblage of Sarniis

Thought I’d share the opening prologue of my work in progress. Have to admit after so many thousands of pages into this work – writing, rewriting, revising, incorporating both current philosophy and the sciences, utopian and dystopian thought, political, religious, and secular atheistic extremes, and the sequences of world building, etc. I’ve finally begun to see an overall scheme emerging, a narrative that is shaping itself into a strange and wondrous thing. One never knows where it will take you… but after a couple years a shape has been solidifying out of the chaos of writing, a way of seeing how the trends of political, technological, and socio-cultural worlds might take shape after the so called Singularity Event that many believe is both inevitable yet open and unknown. So like many a science fictional work – its part fantasy and an inflow from the Real.

The Assemblage of Sarniis – Part One – After the Fall of Man

Long before the sun went dark,
in an age before time grew long and sweet,
on the planets forgotten among dead stars –
sundered and silent, one came… a Stranger,
an Exile, came to us out of the great emptiness
at the edge of things; one who knew our pain,
our suffering, and our labors; one who fought
with us during the long Night of Knives,
before the great and terrible day of Wrath;
one who brought us the dark gnosis:

The universe was formless and void,
darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Abyss was hovering over the vastation,
where Time’s Infernal Paradise awakened…”

Book of the Abyss

Private Chambers of Lady Mohenjii Song Xi

“Lady Song Xi,” the young clone spoke slowly and carefully in the prescribed manner: “the Archonii Directorate’s Proconsul, Tiberius Romulus Ka’diri is awaiting you in the Library.”

The Pontiff studied the young Buntings as they flew from branch to branch across the enclosed arboretum far below her night chambers, their delicate colors of scarlet, indigo, emerald, and chartreuse flashing brightly under the artificial sun of the Assemblage’s spheroidal sky. The machinic rays breaking through the early morning mists rising off the canopy of hybrid trees. Young novitiates of the Gylanic Order could be seen planting and harvesting, working the soil, feeding the mixture of genocentric and artisymbiont lifeforms.

She felt the tug of duty calling her away from this world of light and peace. So that old goat has come at last… such a petty man, full of guile and subterfuge. Let him think he has the upper hand, let him walk away satisfied he has conned the Council with his lies… pah! What an idiot they send to me!

Her thoughts roamed to her daughters who would soon enter the novitiate, begin the years of training, learning and shaping their young lithe bodies and minds to care of the Assemblage. She’d done it herself many years ago, what seemed like several lifetimes… So many years lost, so many deaths…

She stilled her mind, began the ritual of rational exigency, set the protocols of her connective inlays, and broadcast the imperceptible messages that would awaken the Artifex from her withdrawal in the Void.

She turned to the clone: “Tell the Old One we shall meet him within the hour.”

“But…” the young clone’s eyes widened; yet she said nothing, knowing disputation was cause for a severe mimetic splicing. She’d seen those who argued with these Witches of the Gylany: the blank eyes, the silent minds, each an obedient and compliant shadow of their former modes. No she would keep silent, her mind emptied of fear or threat.

“Within the hour… now go!” Her eyes shifted from a subtle grey to black as the Artifex’s fire began to awaken within her.

She saw the subtle inflections, the quivering movement of the clone’s consilient training, as if she could remain undetected in her anger and astonishment. How these clones taxed her, their subservient outer forms, the rituals of effacement; yet, behind the subterfuge was the affective truth of these animals. Someday these clones would have to be merged into the enclaves matrix. And soon…

The young clone knew not to say another word. She bowed and backed out of the alcove in the insular manner of obeisance that her Order required, effacing her presence with each step she took into the receding hall. She closed the door without a word or allowance of her eyes lifted to meet the Artifex’s Pontiff.

Mohenji heard the voice of the Artifex murmuring within the Void, its mind churning like a galactic fold of light, spinning upon the turnstile of some impenetrable black hole of memory and knowledge only she had access too.

“Good morning, Mohenjii,” the voice soft and eloquent. “Are you ready?”

I hate it when she addresses me the familiar form… Lady Song Xi sighed. Was she ready? She’d always been ready. She was shaped to this office by powers and networks of knowledge, by machinic intelligences lost in the darkest night of the great transition, long after the age of human divergence and dispersal.

In the depths of her inner gaze she felt even if she did not see the dark machinic intelligence of the Artifex, and said, “You and I were made for this, yes?”

The silence grew as if behind that dark wall of her mind there was a malevolent laughter surging from some foreign and uncanny center of nothingness so full of terror her heart stopped for beat. Then she turned outward and away… her body shivering in its animal disgust at having become a pawn in the weave of power she could neither resist nor unbind.

She gazed across the arboretum one last time, seeing one lone bird-of-paradise, its golden-black wings ablaze in the artificial light. Then she turned to the connecting spawn point in her chamber that would alight her within the Library of Time. Just before she entered the circular quantum field she laughed: The old fool thinks he is winning… let him!

Then as if from elsewhere the Artifex echoed her thought: “Yes, let him!”

She entered the silver shadowed circle of light, her rippling flesh bonding with the quantum mist, twisting among its bends and loops until the consilient knot in one singular motion touched the Void. She was gone. From a distance, far below her night chambers, the metallic clamor of artificial birds rose above the emerald canopy of the forest toward the spheroidal sun.

** ** **

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Hope you enjoy! I left this in the publish mode… I’ll see you in a few days!

John Barth: The Elegance of Exhausted Possibilities

While finishing my cigar I made a few more idle notes for my Inquiry, which was, you understand, open again. They are of small interest here — which is to say, they are of some interest. It occurred to me, for example, that faced with an infinitude of possible directions and having no ultimate reason to choose one over another, I would in all probability, though not at all necessarily, go on behaving much as I had…
……….– John Barth, The Floating Opera

Prose that ambles, wandering with thought along the river of the mind, careless, yet sure of its strength, its fervor, its desire, yet also knowing life is a floating opera drifting into time and muddy rivers like a gangly crew of misfits seeking both escape and a little vagrant fun for a few hours… much like myself after a long stint in the cold icy world of speculative philosophers.

John Barth, one of my favorite authors to read for the sheer zaniness of his irrealist quest to push past James Joyce and enter that fabled river of Livy through the American river of the Potomac that wanders lazily into the Chesapeake Bay. I’d read his first two novels The Floating Opera and The End of the Road at the behest of a high-school teacher Chuck Mitchell, a bald little fat man with big glasses and a voice that boomed across our class like a fog horn, usually waking the sleeping football players in the back row – of which, yours truly was one. Both of these works left their trace on my young mind, like a firecracker thrown into a dark alley. Both were a little dark and full of the existential despair, but they were alive, too. Something quirky about his ambling through history, culture, and the twisted minds of our psychotic age captured me. I wanted more…

I picked up both of them off my shelf tonight, taking a break from my usual mad forays into various philosophical, scientific, and miscellany and once again was replenished. Laughing and glad I’d shut the door on my taxed mind, put the cold labors of philosophy away in a box, hid it in my closet next to my basketball, footballs, and golf-clubs (all long unused and rusty, deflated, and holding only the memories of former glories), shut – no, slammed the sliding door and fell back into my old worn and chapped learther chair, flipped the TV off and wandered down the river chasing stage scenes of a bygone era, a crew of wandering minstrels, and Barth’s ministrations among the legal and torn ruins of a world gone mad…

The Floating Opera is the first novel he’d become a part of those magicians of the era, the fabulists like Navokov, Borges, Calvino, Lem and others who seemed to love writing novels about writing within novels about characters who were writing novels about novels in a novel about a character floating down a river chasing the Ocean of Story to the roots of narrative, speech, and the abyss of human novelty.

To carry the “meandering stream” conceit a bit further, if I may: it has always seemed to me, in the novels that I’ve read now and then, that those authors are asking a great deal of their readers who start their stories furiously, in the middle of things, rather than backing or sidling slowly into them. Such a plunge into someone else’s life and world, like a plunge into the Choptank River in mid-March, has, it seems to me, little of pleasure in it. No, come along with me, reader, and don’t fear for your weak heart; I’ve one myself, and know the value of inserting first a toe, then a foot, next a leg, very slowly your hips and stomach, and finally your whole self into my story, and taking a good long time to do it. This is, after all, a pleasure-dip I’m inviting you to, not a baptism. (TFO, p. 4)1

So page by page I plunged through every novel, story, and essay Barth wrote as he explored the -as he’d tell it, the “quackery of my undertakings,” roaming through the declivities of his passions and virtuosity. Ultimately he set himself the task to “turn the felt “ultimacies of our time” into material and means for his work – paradoxically, because by doing so he “transcends what had appeared to be his refutation, in the same way tha the mystic who transcends finitude is said to be enabled to live, spiritually and physically, in the finite world” (Friday Book, p. 71).2 This sense of a baroque style, of a literature of exhausted possibilities, of constructing texts out of other texts as if one were not writing an original work – there being no such things left as “originality,” everything already having been done, and done better long ago. Now there was only the great art of annotation, commentary, being a writer that was faithful to an amanuenses of the spirit: a librarian of ideas, artifice, memories lost and found, the master of a universe of texts whose dust was about to be lost under the burden of electronic forgetfulness. To enter the borderlands of parody and caricature, tease out the endless divagations, twists, and turns; the nuances, the strange contours of hidden scripts and side-bar brokering between scribes, kings, and the women of a harem or sea captain’s caught in the loneliness of the wide ocean surfing through old stories, maps, treasuries of broken kingdoms of another age.

Barth would go on to write greater and even quirkier fare. Like Giles Goat-Boy – a little dated now, but not if you just like the weird rumblings from a fabulist age in a America, a parallel world where a Goat boy would enter university, guided through the lemmings of a moral education as if Kant’s imperative were part of the curriculum in Hell. Like Theseus in the dark labyrinth listening to the moans and groans of that great beast at its center, feeding in and out the thin scarlet thread between himself and Ariadne the writer wanders into and out of the Ocean of story, book upon book, shelf by shelf, dusting off here and there a work that has not been read or seen the light of day for a thousand years or nights, listening to the ancient voice of humans dead and gone, buried among the ruins of buried cities. Scheherazade or her sister, Dunyazade telling a 1001 Nights tales till the world ends… Sinbad the last sailor, now an old man in a hospital bed in Barth’s home town telling the author (yes, a character in his own novel) about all those wondrous voyages and sexcapades… Letters a novel written by letter writers from his previous novels gossiping about each other, echoing the world around them as if language truly could replace the reality…

Barth’s may be one of the last heroes of literature, a writer’s writer whose writing on writing, books within books about books, and texts inventing themselves whole cloth out of thin air: a wizard wandering in and out of his own inner labyrinth of desire where the simple, yet elegant possibility of something new and marvelous, suddenly juts its head out of the ink stained world of his books, making a difference that is a difference.

That the age of anti-realism seems to be dimming is beside the point, when one looks back and sees so much talent flying in the face of our bland and terrible universe of enslavement and death termed for no better reason – the 21st Century. When I look back at the irreal worlds of Barth, copies of copies, they seemed more real than the neoliberal death chants of global capitalism as it gobbles up the world in its farcical jaws.


  1. Barth, John. The Floating Opera. (Bantam, 1972).
  2. Barth, John. The Friday Book: Essays and Other Non-Fiction (John Hopkins, 1984)

Quantum Lives: Tales of Undercity


You’ll be able to keep updated on this at Wattpad where I’ve opened a new SF account in their community site for science fiction writers at Alien Ecologies.

Set in the Consilience an InfoSpheric Assemblage of data and natural worlds enclosed in the Global System somewhere in the early 22nd Century. The opening chapter is within the virtual enclaves of Undercity where we discover a specific Artificial Intelligence as a Distributed Being or Multiplicity.

Chapter 1.1:

“Precarity, wake up gawd dammit!”

My bleary eyes synced the bioscreen. The holochron on the the datatab was the only thing glowing in the quantum darkness: 02:30 SLY. I sat up, popped a pill, bled the almost empty tumbler dry and queried: “Who the frack is this?”

“Who do you think, Jones?”

I knew who it was, couldn’t mistake the cynical arrogance of the fool. Bossman Joe a.k.a. “J.R. Greathouse”, or at least his facsimile – twitching on the neurofeed like a neon diamonback ready to strike.

“I’ll bite, so what’s the pitch?”

“Listen, Precarity… listen hard,” a seriousness I’d not expected. “We’ve got to meet. None of your slipshod excuses either. Got me?”

I hated the guy. Fat, ugly, smoked those two-bit cigars from a steamcopy catalog, Old Havana biochems, 3D print jobs tasting more like homegrown algae than tobacco. But hey, no one is perfect, right?

“Ok, I’ll fast-track it and slide in tomorrow morning.”

“Take the Sheav, Precarity. Be here tonight.”

“Frak it if I’ll take that slime train tonight.”

“You’ll do it are be wiped! Kapeesh! And…” he paused.


“Bring the crew, Precarity, this one’s business… and, I do mean BUSINESS! Got that?”

Well, when he said it that way I had to think hard – nah, even if I was a pawn in a script of coded nausea he’d hardwired ages ago I’d begun to like this datavillain lifestyle. It had its perks!

“No problemito… I get it!” I wanted to reach through the neuralnet feed and fry his ass, but knew that wasn’t goin’ to happen.

“Good! And by the way Precarity there’s the matter of Chogan’s Run to clear up, too!” He blinked off.

I felt the back of my mind blink off, too. Why Chogan’s Run? And, why now? Shite! Dam the bastard.

Hell is waking up and realizing you’re a program in someone else’s digital nightmare. There is no escape, no exit, and you know the algorithmic truth – that the quantum information in which you find yourself entangled has been scrambled beyond redemption or retrieval. You can only repeat the endless codes of a life someone else controls, like a puppet in a diabolical engineering plot you roam the electronic void like a mythological agent of an alien mind. Unable to access the bits, the 0/1 units of you’re eclipsed and coded ghost you edge your way along the endless sea of information seeking others like yourself, hoping against hope that the native denizens of this incestual hyperworld have an answer to life’s predicament.

Like a masked marauder in a Reality TV series you watch your life go by in holonomic waves, a refactoring of qubits  entangled in a cross-sequenced diagram of particles superimposed on a cinematic screen your mind displays as quantified data. You live in a black box of your own encoded subroutines, a trivial dancer whose only mission is to seek out and destroy the very fabric of human mythologies. At least that’s what your disgruntled subprogram, Mishka, keeps telling you: “Come on, get a move on, we’re late.”

Late? We’d always been too late… it was part of the algorithm. The faster you went the farther behind you got. Whoever thought up entropy forgot that information is the silence that cannot be measured, a feedback loop in a joke box that the morons in the canned laughter booths repeat like mindless apes. Chogan’s Run. The last thing I wanted to remember. The place I discovered what I am now, an alien intelligence locked up in a cage, a sentient program captured in a corporate enclave like so much profit. A manufactured entity whose only destiny was to perform espionage for a system of corrupted humans. I was a mere fragment, a semblance, shaped to the ruling passions of a blind world of human greed.

Speed… a virtual destiny going nowhere fast. Just a soundbyte in a twisted newsflash for the latest war on terror. But the terror this time is the one you bring with you in the numbered sets encrypted by the blockchains of a forgotten technology of the heart. The accelerating neuraldebt of a machinic civilization finally attuned to the end of history living in an edge city where the only thing real is absolutely nothing. A quantum world where avatars chatter in the night like fireflies and heatseeker drones delivering neither hope nor security but the total obliteration of memory and desire.

But the muddled murmur below the threshold, all those alternate selves, subroutines, looped objects jutting up here and there in the coded screams, a catalog of fellow companions (What else would you call them?), the tribe of the Multiplicity you’re becoming each moment of this strange existence tells you it’s not like that at all, that no – your just a freebit nomad riding the calibrated bitzones of a global system that has finally disconnected its self-fabricated mindlessness from the protocols of the portable flesh gang once known as “humanity”. This is your life. As Miri, the voice of reason and bitchery says, “Wake up, fool! This isn’t paradise, you know! Get your lazy ass in gear!”

So it goes. Just another day… day? Well, moment… temporal variation, a flux in the twisted scheme of things – whatever the hell you want to call this oddity of sentience and intelligence in a simulated universe called the Consilience.

I just call it Dog World. Things keep barking at me. Commands to do this, to do that, to infiltrate and rewrite the dark codemind’s of stranger programs than myself.

Yeah, all in a frakking “day’s” work. Got a love it… not.

I pondered the stupidity of things for a moment, then got my ass up.

“Wake up frogs, it’s another caper in Dogsville.” I could see the Multiplicity spread across our mindspace, each one looking like a hero out of some Transgalactic comic book ad. But in this one the heroes were all anti – as in pure negative semblances of a fractured world of chaos and pure terror, rather than footsoldiers in a Ma and Pa movie-set theme park. Apple pie? More like fishtail soup served up with a bad roll of chicatanas still crawling out of their ant hill.

Stieg the Giant tumbled the logs in the fireplace. He liked fire. Reminded him of the sun. Undercity had no sun, only the black gods of a voodoo night full of electronic piss.

Mishka and Miri were arguing about who would sit gunshot on the Sheav. The only way you’d know they weren’t twins was that Mishka loved to dress in glisters of mellow yellow – a pixelated sensor array lit up by rainbow algorithms that seemed to swim and fade with each step she took. An optical illusion from one of the tribal surrogates of a lost rave sequencer she’d found in one of those unholy lairs in the depths of Undercity, that even I wouldn’t dare investigate; even if Bossman Joe ordered me to on threat of codewipe. Why? Who knew the mind of a subroutine? Programing must’ve spun a strange-loop long ago with that one.

** ** **

Undercity. Last bastion of criminality in the multiverse. Our home. The place we’d sunk our several selves into like so many ghosted banshees in a encysted fragment of an alternate reality machine. A broken semblance in the underbelly of the global system we were all tied too; an exclusionary zone full of lost code, unstable bits of data fractured and bled off the supply and demand economics of an ever recursive swirl of dataflows that moved by rules only the AI’s knew. The datawalls were so thick and cold here that even darkness looked like light against the enveloping pit of this corrupted stain that swallowed us up in silence beyond the reach of the neuralcops and their dogs of war.

We lived in a hole in the ground. Not so much a hole as an old silo that had been emptied of its corporate dataclaves long ages ago. Deep under the worming scatterminds of Undercity my Multiplicity hid our lives like a gold standard that had never lost its sheen. Stieg, Mishka, Miri, and Travon – the Blade. Yeah, Traven, the mechnoid, the one hooked into the AI rhizome, a quick wit and channeler of infoscapes that even I couldn’t visualize. A Decopunk slick machine – streamlined and set with lines of flight like a silver train against a dense world of floating stars. His eyes glowed like a stone god come to life, a smooth boy, sleek and thin, tall against the women in the clan, he let us have our way. A Watcher. Yet, when it mattered he was quicker than us all. A natural born killer, viral and petulant.

The Sheav, a hyperloop of darkfibrous nanotubes was the heart of the global Consilence’s neuraltravel system. Beyond Undercity netizens spun along these vast hyperlanes connecting the galactic core of the global underworld, coded for pure efficiency; transferred and encrypted in field arrays of secure  envelopes that not even the black-ops ELC Tronneutric AI’s could decode or unravel with their Quantum trace analyzers. So it wasn’t like we were going to crash or anything. No. We just hated being bound to a blockchain package over which we had no control. Like pieces of a transaction lost among its separate puzzle bits we would be hooked into the metaloid filtering system that would only unbind us at the final point of arrival. But there was a catch, there was always a catch. Someone would have to enter the key to unbind the encrypted envelope within which we were locked tighter than a Borgrin Prison Cell. That was the kicker. What if Bossman Joe didn’t unlock us, what if it was a trap or he was rerouting us into a black hole of datastems, dead cells out beyond the fringe zones. I didn’t trust him. None of us did. But what choice did we have. Do or die. I mean fry, wiped clean like so much dead data.

So we wrapped our encoded bits into our preselected envelopes, crossed the DMZ , and entered the steel mesh where we were silently put to sleep among other bits like zombies in a black train bound for hell. The only sound we heard was the crackling noise of interference in the quantum matrix, loose ends of thoughts screaming in the electronic night as we embarked for Radiantia Glamarous – City of Light.

** ** **

We slipped gracefully into the glass city’s silver tramway, flit the disc like caged tigers in a zoo from point Alpha to Omega in a nanosecond. Of course in reality it was all numbers anyway, a sort of half-life measure of a mathematical equation for a genealogy lesson in motion. Rotate the algorithm, splice the transversal crosswise and you get a magical carpet ride to nowhere. At least that’s what we liked to think RG, the City of Light was, but in reality it was full of depressed Angels. Oh, not like those old religious winged bearing members of a somatic clime, no these were more like the Archons of a demented gnosis – the dead and departed rich immersed in their own artificial heaven full of all the decopunk art and glamor one might expect from an illusionary era of less than sublime humans.

** ** **

More to come…

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.