Particularities

March 14, 2020

She put a grain of sand
under my eyelid,
not a pea
under my mattress

and still, I do not sleep.

Each morning comes,
the performed joy of waking
for his honour, the unemotional tears
second, unbidden, borne of irritation
or exhaustion, I know not
which.

I yawn at the day
at how carefully they scrub my skin
how precisely they watch my hand
with the knife at the dinner table.

I never pretended to be a princess,
I just was a discomforted woman
– and that was enough for them to avoid
the cost of a corset.

Now I dream of bedding you,
how you will lick my face clean
again, give me new eyes
like a new name.

Our kingdom will be a hundred mattresses high
all of them waiting to be stained salty,
too uncomfortable to look
upon, and you will know

the grating that can keep you
from sleep.

Lynne Sargent

Under the sea

March 14, 2020

One night I had a frightful dream in which I met my grandmother under the sea. She lived in a phosphorescent palace of many terraces, with gardens of strange leprous corals and grotesque brachiate efflorescences, and welcomed me with a warmth that may have been sardonic. She had changed – as those who take to the water change – and told me she had never died. Instead, she had gone to a spot her dead son had learned about, and had leaped to a realm whose wonders – destined for him as well – he had spurned with a smoking pistol. This was to be my realm, too – I could not escape it. I would never die, but would live with those who had lived since before man ever walked the earth.

H.P. Lovecraft
The Shadow Over Innsmouth

In Paris and New York, I would, from time to time, wander around S&M and swingers clubs with a hidden camera, in pursuit of a dream of dissolution, harmony, and collective ecstasy. As a creator of illusion, I’m concerned with truth. And for me these are places of truth, like mental hospitals and battlefields.

In such places, reality is heightened – is sometimes violent – but human interactions are mostly tender and sincere. Strictly speaking, there is little in the way of purely sexual pleasure. As if, strangely, pleasure wasn’t to be found where we most expect it.

Jean-Christian Bourcart
Forbidden City

Vampire fiction aside, there are in this world people who actually do drink blood — from humans and animals alike — or drain from others what they call psychic energy. It’s a ritual performed not out of pleasure, but need, and it’s normally done with the utmost care for their donor’s safety and comfort. This need, according to them, arises from the lack of natural energies their bodies produce. Fittingly enough, they’ve adopted the word “vampire” to self-describe their unusual predilection, one which they claim begins to surface just after puberty.

I know this because I’ve interviewed a number of real vampires face to face, during the course of my research as a graduate student, much like Christian Slater’s character in Interview with the Vampire. It’s not at all as glamorous as it sounds though, nor as easy. Real vampires aren’t particularly looking to be found, and if the comments section of articles on the topic is any measure, can we really blame them?

It all started for me about nine years ago, shortly before I transferred from a doctoral program in English in Southern Louisiana to one in American Studies in Western New York. It was at the height of what some of us vampire scholars were calling at the time the “vampire renaissance,” and on October 26, 2009 I inscribed in my field journal a passage that resonates with me still today, both for its foretaste as well as, or perhaps especially because of, its naiveté:

“Baton Rouge.—When attended Wicked New Orleans [on Decatur St. in New Orleans] on the 17th [of October], things went extraordinarily well. Shop owner was happy to oblige me in every respect and went out of his way to volunteer information. In the initial five minutes of my speaking with him, he gestured towards the other end of the store to a lady in her 40s-50s inspecting some clothing. ‘I think she’s a vampire,’ he said, ‘and I believe that’s her son with her.’ At this point I was mildly embarrassed, as I knew he expected me to go and confront her right then and there. I had not prepared for my ‘first time’ to happen this way. Nevertheless, I walked over to the woman and intruded with a polite but simple, ‘Pardon me.’ With a look of complete surprise, irritation, and curiosity, she turned to me, looked me in the eyes, and said nothing. So, I continued by introducing myself and my reason for being in the store. Then finally I said to her, which I must admit was incredibly awkward, ‘Do you know any [vampires]?’ I grinned, embarrassingly, to which she returned a grin to reveal that two of her most prominent teeth had been filed down to a pair of incisors. Her response, ‘Yes, I might know a few.’ I quickly began asking her a few questions, to make friendly conversation, but about what, to this day, I haven’t the faintest recollection. I then proceeded to give her my contact info, and politely asked if I might continue to speak with her at another time. While I did not ask for her own contact info—as I felt this would be too intrusive — I did ask for her name. To my complete surprise, she stated, simply, ‘Jennifer.’

“I never saw or heard from ‘Jennifer’ again.”

John Edgar Browning
What I Learned Studying Real Vampires
Discover, May 17, 2018

I know it is a sign of ingratitude on the part of the author, if he raises both hands against a certain popularity that has befallen something which is called his spiritual brainchild; for that matter, he is aware that by doing so he can no longer change a thing. The author was silent a goodly time and kept his own counsel, while the notion that robots have limbs of metal and innards of wire and cogwheels (or the like) has become current; he has learned, without any great pleasure, that genuine steel robots have started to appear, robots that move in various directions, tell the time, and even fly aeroplanes; but when he recently read that, in Moscow, they have shot a major film, in which the world is trampled underfoot by mechanical robots, driven by electromagnetic waves, he developed a strong urge to protest, at least in the name of his own robots. For his robots were not mechanisms. They were not made of sheet-metal and cogwheels. They were not a celebration of mechanical engineering. If the author was thinking of any of the marvels of the human spirit during their creation, it was not of technology, but of science. With outright horror, he refuses any responsibility for the thought that machines could take the place of people, or that anything like life, love, or rebellion could ever awaken in their cogwheels. He would regard this sombre vision as an unforgivable overvaluation of mechanics or as a severe insult to life.

The author of the robots appeals to the fact that he must know the most about it: and therefore he pronounces that his robots were created quite differently—that is, by a chemical path. The author was thinking about modern chemistry, which in various emulsions (or whatever they are called) has located substances and forms that in some ways behave like living matter. He was thinking about biological chemistry [sic], which is constantly discovering new chemical agents that have a direct regulatory influence on living matter; about chemistry, which is finding—and to some extent already building—those various enzymes, hormones, and vitamins that give living matter its ability to grow and multiply and arrange all the other necessities of life. Perhaps, as a scientific layman, he might develop an urge to attribute this patient ingenious scholarly tinkering, with the ability to one day produce, by artificial means, a living cell in the test tube; but for many reasons, amongst which also belonged a respect for life, he could not resolve to deal so frivolously with this mystery. That is why he created a new kind of matter by chemical synthesis, one which simply behaves a lot like the living; it is an organic substance, different to that from which living cells are made; it is something like another alternative to life, a material substrate, in which life could have evolved, if it had not, from the beginning, taken a different path. We do not have to suppose that all the different possibilities of creation have been exhausted on our planet. The author of the robots would regard it as an act of scientific bad taste if he had brought something to life with brass cogwheels or created life in the test tube; the way he imagined it, he created only a new foundation for life, which began to behave like living matter, and which could therefore have become a vehicle of life — but a life which remains an unimaginable and incomprehensible mystery. This life will reach its fulfilment only when (with the aid of considerable inaccuracy and mysticism) the robots acquire souls. From which it is evident that the author did not invent his robots with the technological hubris of a mechanical engineer, but with the metaphysical humility of a spiritualist.

Well then, the author cannot be blamed for what might be called the worldwide humbug over the robots. The author did not intend to furnish the world with plate-metal dummies stuffed with cogwheels, photovoltaic cells, and other mechanical gizmos. It appears, however, that the modern world is not interested in his scientific robots and has replaced them with technological ones; and these are, as is apparent, the true flesh-of-our-flesh of our age. The world needed mechanical robots, for it believes in machines more than it believes in life; it is fascinated more by the marvels of technology than by the miracle of life. For which reason, the author who wanted—through his insurgent robots, striving for a soul—to protest against the mechanical superstition of our times, must in the end claim something, which nobody can deny him: the honour that he was defeated.

Karel Čapek
Karel Čapek: the Man Who Gave us Robots
Lido’vé noviny, 43, 9 June 1935
Trans. Cyril Simsa

I write for the feeling of personal achievement. When I finish a project, whether it’s a short story or a novella or a trilogy, I feel proud of myself for putting the work in. Even things that never sell and never see publication give me a sense of satisfaction. Perhaps not always satisfaction with the work itself (what writer is ever satisfied with their work?) but satisfaction that I achieved something — even if that achievement is simply

following the project through from beginning to end. I enjoy being able to say, “I created this.” I started writing at a time in my life when I feared I might stagnate if I didn’t give myself new long-term goals. I’ve been very fortunate to have books and stories published. For me, that never detracts from the desire to achieve something new — to write another book, to sell another story. It’s not like climbing Mount Everest and then saying, “Well, there’s nothing left to conquer.”

Ian Tregillis
Interview on Come The Revolution, 10th March 2020

sexually obsessed culture

March 14, 2020

It’s sad, isn’t it? We live in a sexually obsessed culture which feeds us a stream of arousing, sexually charged images and ideas, and yet many of us feel starved when it comes to understanding or sharing sexual love.

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