Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘imaginative fiction’

Though I’ve always loved old-style science fantasy, I have an especial love for “lost race” and “lost city” stories, in which a modern (i.e., 19th or early 20th century) hero stumbles upon some ancient (and often previously-unknown) race of people hidden away in some remote part of the globe, cut off from contact with the modern world by some kind of natural barrier such as a treacherous mountain range, an impassable desert, a dangerous jungle, etc.  The works of Edgar Rice Burroughs are full of tales of such hidden places, and A. Merritt’s entire oeuvre consisted of them; Wakanda from the Black Panther movie is a famous example, but as one might expect they’re not common any more for the simple reason that global satellite mapping has made the concept of such a hidden land unbelievable.  Recently, I received as a gift the mid-19th century novel A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, which describes a lost civilization in the Antarctic; Amazon then helpfully informed me that Richard Shaver’s weird tales, out of print since the ’40s, are now available again in paperback.  Of course I had to put them on my wishlist, and a kind gentleman has already sent me the first volume.  But since most of you probabably have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m talking about, I’ll give you a quick synopsis.

Richard Shaver was an unemployed (and probably schizophrenic) Pennsylvania welder who believed that the Earth had once been ruled by a powerful humanoid race who discovered that they were being poisoned by solar radiation, and so moved their entire civilization underground.  They later decided to abandon the Earth entirely, fleeing to an apparently-healthier star in a huge fleet of spaceships and leaving the weak and inferior behind to give rise to modern man.  But their former slaves remained in the cities, degenerating into beings Shaver called “Deros” (short for “detrimental robots”) who were wholly evil and perverse and delighted in using the machines left by the ancients to inflict all sorts of harm on the descendants of their former masters.  They had various rays that could drive people insane (causing mass shootings and the like) or cause earthquakes and other natural disasters, and they used these for their sick idea of fun.  But their most terrifying behavior was to occasionally venture to the near-surface (subway tunnels, basements, etc) to abduct hapless surface-dwellers (especially women, of course), whom they would then use as sex slaves in sadomasochistic orgies in their underground cities.  Shaver wrote a plethora of stories based on this mythos, and from 1945 to 1948 he was the most popular writer in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories, whose editor Raymond Palmer (a bit of a latter-day Barnum in his way) promoted the tales, which Shaver insisted were true, as “The Shaver Mystery”.  Readers who preferred harder sci-fi (among them the young Harlan Ellison) criticized it instead as “The Shaver Hoax”, and eventually interest declined enough for Palmer to drop the series.  But while Palmer was a showman out for a buck, poor Shaver really believed in his fantasies and continued to (intermittently) self-publish a magazine called The Hidden World for most of the ’50s.  From the early ’60s until his death in 1975, he then devoted himself to photographing and painting what he called “rock books”, mineral formations he believed were something like primordial solid-state memory crystals in which the ancients had stored images and data with something like a laser (ironically, interest in his images of these “books” has increased since the early ’90s, and there have been a number of exhibitions of his work in this century).

I’m not just telling you all this as an amusement; as usual, there’s a connection to my larger body of work.  Whenever some kind of crackpot idea gets into the popular culture as Shaver’s did, there will always be people who embrace it to a near-cultic degree; compare the recent popularity of Zecharia Sitchin’s ideas about the alien Anunnaki from the planet Nibiru.  Shaver was no exception, and though his mass popularity faded in just a few years, “Shaver Mystery Clubs” continued throughout the ’50s and into the ’60s (and some may still exist, as far as I know).  But consider the basic elements of the Shaver mythos:  evil, malign sexual perverts with mysterious powers lurking around the world, abducting women in large numbers to use as sex slaves in hidden underground lairs.  Sound familiar?  How about if I tell you that Shaver claimed that he had been a prisoner of the Deros from 1934 to 1942, and that during the height of the “Mystery”, Amazing Stories printed a letter from a woman who claimed she had been captured by the evil creatures in a sub-basement in Paris and kept as a sex slave for several months until she escaped?  As I explained in “Imagination Pinned Down” and “Mind-witness Testimony“, some humans have always reported abduction (usually sexual, often with strong BDSM overtones) by and captivity among beings such as nymphs, fairies, goblins, witches, Deros, aliens, Satanists and “sex traffickers” with mind-control powers.  And while they serve as a good basis for fascinating tales and entertaining fantasies, they’re a terrible and dangerous foundation for public policies.

Read Full Post »

It’s kinda nice when I can keep things moving along for a change.  We’ve got the trim for the bookcases; I’m waiting for the proof of The Essential Maggie McNeill, Volume I; I’ve made my travel arrangements for this weekend; and I’m starting to figure out my schedule for February (about which I’ll say more later).  And in addition to all that I managed to read a novel and listen to a rather strange but very entertaining radio serial from 1972 named The Fourth Tower of Inverness, which Chekhov gave me for Christmas (he also gave me the sequel, Moon Over Morocco).  Normally it would be difficult for me to sit and listen to such a long series, but I’ve driven to or from Sunset five times since receiving it, and the car has a CD player, so ta-da!  If you’ve ever heard the series you’ll understand when I tell you I kinda wish I had listened to at least some of it stoned, but I’ll have a chance with the sequel (which I’m told is not dissimilar).  Learning to relax and let go of stuff that stresses me out has been a long, slow, laborious process, but I’m getting there, and it’s lovely when people give me gifts that help.

Read Full Post »

Kelso…apprehended the open facial area of her…head. – “Officer” John Wolf

The big news this week was the death of Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Rush.  It wasn’t easy to pick a video to commemorate him, but I decided on this one not only for its unusually wise view of immortality, but also because it displays both Peart’s skill as a lyricist (inspired by Coleridge, for goodness’ sake), but also his ability as a percussionist.  The links above it were contributed by Anarras Ansible, Sydney Brownstone, Amy Alkon, Mike Siegel, Cop Crisis, Walter Olson, and Cop Crisis again, in that order.

From the Archives

Read Full Post »

Diary #489

Early last week I received a number of birthday presents that were apparently just a little slow in transit; among them were a CD transcription of an old vinyl album featuring a Boris Karloff interview about the Universal horror classics (given to me by Jeremy Dunn) and this Lovecraft-themed cookbook from Bad Luck.  I’m always especially happy when readers send me the weirder things from my wishlist; I know most people prefer to go for the sexy or useful things, but I was a Halloween baby and, as regular readers know, it shows in my writing and my love for horror stories and movies.  So when people send me the weird stuff it’s like they’re saying, “You’re a beautiful woman, but you’re also a weirdo and I respect that.”  I guess you could say it makes me feel seen and accepted.  I’ve never been good at putting on a persona in sex work; I’ve always just been me, nerdiness and all.  And the fact that this has never impaired my ability to make a good living just goes to show once again that clients are nothing like the two-dimensional caricatures prohibitionists seem to enjoy fantasizing about.

Read Full Post »

Stop resisting!  –  Zach Christensen

As usual, the best Halloween videos arrive too late to be featured before Halloween, but I think you’ll enjoy this one (provided by Franklin Harris) anyway, especially if you forgot that a lot of Ray Bradbury’s early work was horror.  The inks above it were contributed by Kevin Wilson, Clarissa, Cop Crisis, Elizabeth N. Brown, Popehat, and Cop Crisis again, in that order.

From the Archives

Read Full Post »

Long-time readers know that I’m scornful of the notion that greatly-extended human lifespans would be a boon, and every year on this day – the Day of the Dead – I write about the goodness and inevitability of death.  But this year I thought to myself: what would a society of near-immortals look like?  And how would creatures who were essentially immortal (unless killed by mischance) face the prospect of impending death?

When both I and the world were much younger, I believed I would know when I had become old; I thought there would be some clear line of demarcation, at least as obvious as rooting, and that when I crossed it I would be able to say, “Now I am no longer young”.  But though the differences between unrooted youth and rooted adult are obvious, the difference between relatively young adults and old adults are not so at all.  We slowly grow larger, and wiser, and less active, and communicate more slowly and deliberately.  But at every point in my long, long life when I have considered the issue, there were some adults in the community who were younger than I, and others older; and though I can now definitively state “I am very old” without fear of contradiction, I cannot tell you at which point in my many millions of years I crossed over into that territory.

If I were pressed to choose such a line, I reckon it would have to be when I awoke from my first hibernation.  The young are far too busy and energetic for such pastimes; they have so much to see and do and learn and think about, so many worlds to explore, so many mysteries to solve and wonders to marvel at, that the notion of spending a few thousand years asleep is quite beyond their comprehension.  Moreover, it isn’t even possible to enter such a state without putting down roots, and few who do that ever get around to pulling them up again without mighty provocation.  And yet there is no set age at which one must root, nor any determinate length before hibernation; I’ve awoken to find individuals who were not yet sprouted when I fell asleep securely rooted within sensory range when I again became conscious, and heard news of others from my own season who were still flitting about the cosmos long after I had settled down to spawn.  And while I took my first hibernation some fifty thousand years after rooting, I’ve known others to go for hundreds of thousands before seeking the peace of slumber.  But when one awakens from that first deep, long sleep, one soon finds oneself the center of attention, pressed on all sides by eager, yet reverent queries from young ones enthralled by the miracle of actually being able to converse with a time-traveler just arrived from an epoch before they even existed.  Sometimes they actually want to touch, reaching out their tendrils in awe as if they could absorb the knowledge of a bygone era by osmosis.  And that experience of being a stranger in one’s own community, of being treated like a living oracle, like a weird visitor back from the underworld with divine wisdom to share…that, I think, is the experience which defines the old.

I remember the first time I as a green youth conversed with such an individual, one of the very first settlers on this world, who arrived so long ago the gentle hills to the south of that land had then been a jagged range of mighty crags, appealing to the romantic sense of a youngster who had journeyed across vast gulfs of space and visited hundreds of worlds in search of just such a wild, beautiful place to settle.  I listened almost in disbelief as we were told that at that time there was a clear demarcation of night and day, and the myriad stars were clearly visible in the sky when the world had turned so that the then-younger sun no longer was.  I was frightened by the depth of the abysses this most ancient of elders had crossed; I myself had always been a homebody, content with the occasional short foray out into space, never going far enough that my native sun was not clearly larger and brighter than the other stars.  And so, perhaps foolishly, I used the narrative as justification for my decision to remain on this world, to root and spawn here and never face the dangers of the vast unknown which swallows up so many wanderers before they find a place to call home.  If this world was so beautiful and clement that it had won the loyalty of so courageous an explorer, so perfect that it stood out among multitudes, what were the chances I would find its like before being lost forever or destroyed by one of the countless dangers of deep space?  Very low, I thought, and so I lingered there, learning all I could from that elder and many others, conversing with visitors and reaching outward with my mind to hear the faint songs of other spheres echoing against our shores from across the fathomless void.  Eventually my teacher passed again into hibernation, and I set out to find the perfect spot in which to spend the rest of my years.

I was not in a hurry; I flew slowly from pole to pole, lazily taking in the terrain below, until at long last I had returned to the place where the ancient one slept.  And then I carefully considered my observations, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each memorable locale, until I at last decided upon the one in which I still reside all these long ages later.  At that time I was alone here, and the nearest other was at the outer limit of comfortable communication; all who reside in the area now are my descendants, except for a few who settled from elsewhere.  I have hibernated so many times I long ago lost count; after one of those, perhaps thirty or forty million years ago, I awoke to the news that my ancient teacher was gone, drowned mercifully in sleep when that land had been swallowed up by the sea in a mighty earthquake.  Some say that I am now the eldest resident of this world, and I can well believe that is so; it has been a very long time since I conversed with anyone who can recall the time before I rooted, nor even received word of any others of my season who still reside elsewhere.  Even beings as long-lived as ourselves must eventually succumb to misfortune as my teacher did; given long enough, even the most unlikely event becomes a certainty.  And though my aversion to risk has kept me alive far longer than most, my time also must come at last.

I do not believe it will be a great deal longer; though worlds and suns are considerably longer-lived than we, they too must eventually perish in the fullness of time.  The conditions on this once-perfect world are no longer what they were; it has grown distinctly hotter and drier, and my raiment, matching the sun, is far redder than the images in my oldest recollections.  The population has aged remarkably, and no young have sprouted here in a very long time; the only mobile individuals are the occasional visitors from elsewhere, and even many of the younger adults have undertaken the monumental task of de-rooting and shedding enough mass to undertake the migration to some younger orb.  But I shall not be joining them; I am far too tired, far too massive, and far too feeble to even contemplate such a tremendous effort, and my roots are so inextricably intertwined with the soil not even I can guess how far they go.  I sprouted on this world, and came of age here, and spawned here, and grew old along with it, and I am content to perish with it as well; as the songs and stories and teachings of the ancient one have lived in me far beyond the physical existence of their source, so will mine live on in countless students long after I myself am gone.  At long last I will explore the great unknown I have shunned since my youth; after ages of daylight and an eon of twilight, I am no longer afraid to face the dark.

Read Full Post »

I’ve always been dedicated to the idea of this as the time of year for spooky fun.  So every year I collect all the spooky, creepy or scary links and other content from the previous year into one place just before Halloween.  If you’ve come to my blog in the past year, or don’t remember previous editions, they are “Trick or Treat”, “More Trick or Treat“, “Tricks and Treats“, “This Trick’s a Treat”, “Tricky Treats“, and “A Trickle of Treats” (because I also love wordplay).  Horror, death or Halloween-themed columns of the past year include “Eros and Thanatos“, “Not Your Costume?“, “Its Own Reward“, “Frozen Smoke“, “The Science of Sin“, and the short story “Wheels“; there are creepy or spooky-fun videos in Links #433, #435, #445, and #447; and here’s a collection of spooky or Halloweeny links:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »