March 27, 2017
I want to talk about magic, how magic is portrayed in fantasy, how fantasy literature has in fact contributed to a very distinct image of magic, and perhaps most importantly how the Western world in general has come to accept a very precise and extremely suspect image of magic users.
I’d better say at the start that I don’t actually believe in magic any more than I believe in astrology, because I’m a Taurean and we don’t go in for all that weirdo occult stuff.
But a couple of years ago I wrote a book called The Colour of Magic. It had some boffo laughs. It was an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns. It was also my tribute to twenty-five years of fantasy reading, which started when I was thirteen and read Lord of the Rings in 25 hours. That damn book was a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of my life. I started reading fantasy books at the kind of speed you can only manage in your early teens. I panted for the stuff.
I had a deprived childhood, you see. I had lots of other kids to play with and my parents bought me outdoor toys and refused to ill-treat me, so it never occurred to me to seek solitary consolation with a good book.
Then Tolkien changed all that. I went mad for fantasy. Comics, boring Norse sagas, even more boring Victorian fantasy … I’d better explain to younger listeners that in those days fantasy was not available in every toyshop and bookstall, it was really a bit like sex: you didn’t know where to get the really dirty books, so all you could do was paw hopefully through Amateur Photography magazines looking for artistic nudes.
When I couldn’t get it – heroic fantasy, I mean, not sex – I hung around the children’s section in the public libraries, trying to lure books about dragons and elves to come home with me. I even bought and read all the Narnia books in one go, which was bit like a surfeit of Communion wafers. I didn’t care anymore.
Eventually the authorities caught up with me and kept me in a dark room with small doses of science fiction until I broke the habit and now I can walk past a book with a dragon on the cover and my hands hardly sweat at all.
But a part of my mind remained plugged into what I might call the consensus fantasy universe. It does exist, and you all know it. It has been formed by folklore and Victorian romantics and Walt Disney, and E R Eddison and Jack Vance and Ursula Le Guin and Fritz Leiber – hasn’t it? In fact those writers and a handful of others have very closely defined it. There are now, to the delight of parasitical writers like me, what I might almost call “public domain” plot items. There are dragons, and magic users, and far horizons, and quests, and items of power, and weird cities. There’s the kind of scenery that we would have had on Earth if only God had had the money.
To see the consensus fantasy universe in detail you need only look at the classical Dungeons and Dragon role-playing games. They are mosaics of every fantasy story you’ve ever read.
Of course, the consensus fantasy universe is full of clichés, almost by definition. Elves are tall and fair and use bows, dwarves are small and dark and vote Labour. And magic works. That’s the difference between magic in the fantasy universe and magic here. In the fantasy universe a wizard points his fingers and all these sort of blue glittery lights come out and there’s a sort of explosion and some poor soul is turned into something horrible.
Anyway, if you are in the market for easy laughs you learn that two well-tried ways are either to trip up a cliché or take things absolutely literally. So in the sequel to The Colour of Magic, which is being rushed into print with all the speed of continental drift, you’ll learn what happens, for example, if someone like me gets hold of the idea that megalithic stone circles are really complex computers. What you get is, you get druids walking around talking a sort of computer jargon and referring to Stonehenge as the miracle of the silicon chunk.
While I was plundering the fantasy world for the next cliché to pull a few laughs from, I found one which was so deeply ingrained that you hardly notice it is there at all. In fact it struck me so vividly that I actually began to look at it seriously.
That’s the generally very clear division between magic done by women and magic done by men.
Let’s talk about wizards and witches. There is a tendency to talk of them in one breath, as though they were simply different sexual labels for the same job. It isn’t true. In the fantasy world there is no such thing as a male witch. Warlocks, I hear you cry, but it’s true. Oh, I’ll accept you can postulate them for a particular story, but I’m talking here about the general tendency. There certainly isn’t such a thing as a female wizard.
Sorceress? Just a better class of witch. Enchantress? Just a witch with good legs. The fantasy world. in fact, is overdue for a visit from the Equal Opportunities people because, in the fantasy world, magic done by women is usually of poor quality, third-rate, negative stuff, while the wizards are usually cerebral, clever, powerful, and wise.
Strangely enough, that’s also the case in this world. You don’t have to believe in magic to notice that.
Wizards get to do a better class of magic, while witches give you warts.
The archetypal wizard is of course Merlin, advisor of kings, maker of the Round Table, and the only man who knew how to work the electromagnet that released the Sword from the Stone. He is not in fact a folklore hero, because much of what we know about him is based firmly on Geoffrey de Monmouth’s Life of Merlin, written in the Twelfth Century. Old Geoffrey was one of the world’s great writers of fantasy, nearly as good as Fritz Leiber but without that thing about cats.
Had a lot of trouble with women, did Merlin. Morgan Le Fay – a witch – was his main enemy but he was finally trapped in his crystal cave or his enchanted forest, pick your own variation, by a female pupil. The message is clear, boys: that’s what happens to you if you let the real powerful magic get into the hands of women.
In fact Merlin is almost being replaced as the number one wizard by Gandalf, whose magic is more suggested than apparent. I’d also like to bring in at this point a third wizard, of whom most of you must have heard – Ged, the wizard of Earthsea. I do this because Ursula Le Guin’s books give us a very well thought-out, and typical, magic world. I’d suggest that they worked because they plugged so neatly into our group image of how magic is ordered. They serve to point up some of the similarities in our wizards.
They’re all bachelors, and sexually continent. In this fantasy is in agreement with some of the standard works on magic, which make it clear that a good wizard doesn’t get his end away. (Funny, because there’s no such prohibition on witches; they can be at it like knives the whole time and it doesn’t affect their magic at all.) Wizards tend to exist in Orders, or hierarchies, and certainly the Island of Gont reminds me of nothing so much as a medieval European university, or maybe a monastery. There don’t seem to be many women around the University, although I suppose someone cleans the lavatories. There are indeed some female practitioners of magic around Earthsea, but if they are not actually evil then they are either misguided or treated by Ged in the same way that a Harley Street obstetrician treats a local midwife.
Can you imagine a girl trying to get a place at the University of Gont? Or I can put it another way – can you imagine a female Gandalf?
Of course I hardly need mention the true fairytale witches, as malevolent a bunch of crones as you could imagine. It was probably living in those gingerbread cottages. No wonder witches were always portrayed as toothless – it was living in a 90,000 calorie house that did it. You’d hear a noise in the night and it’d be the local kids, eating the doorknob. According to my eight-year-old daughter’s book onWizards, a nicely-illustrated little paperback available at any good bookshop, “wizards undid the harm caused by evil witches”. There it is again, the recurrent message: female magic is cheap and nasty.
But why is all this? Is there anything in the real world that is reflected in fantasy?
The curious thing is that the Western world at least has no very great magical tradition. You can look in vain for any genuine wizards, or for witches for that matter. I know a large number of people who think of themselves as witches, pagans or magicians, and the more realistic of them will admit that while they like to think that they are following a tradition laid down in the well-known Dawn of Time they really picked it all up from books and, yes, fantasy stories. I have come to believe that fantasy fiction in all its forms has no basis in anything in the real world. I believe that witches and witches get their ideas from their reading matter or, before that, from folklore. Fiction invents reality.
In Western Europe, certainly, wizards are few and far between. I have been able to turn up a dozen or so, who with the 20-20 hindsight of history look like either conmen or conjurers. Druids almost fit the bill, but Druids were a few lines by Julius Caesar until they were reinvented a couple of hundred years ago. All this business with the white robes and the sickles and the oneness with nature is wishful thinking. It’s significant, though. Caesar portrayed them as vicious priests of a religion based on human sacrifice, and gory to the elbows. But the PR of history has nevertheless turned them into mystical shamans, unless I mean shaman; men of peace, brewers of magic potions.
Despite the claim that nine million people were executed for witchcraft in Europe in the three centuries from 1400 – this turns up a lot in books of popular occultism and I can only say it is probably as reliable as everything else they contain – it is hard to find genuine evidence of a widespread witchcraft cult. I know a number of people who call themselves witches. No, they are witches – why should I disbelieve them? Their religion strikes me as woolly but well-meaning and at the very least harmless. Modern witchcraft is the Friends of the Earth at prayer. If it has any root at all they lie in the works of a former Colonial civil servant and pioneer naturist called Gerald Gardiner, but I suggest that its is really based in a mishmash of herbalism, Sixties undirected occultism, and The Lord of the Rings.
But I must accept that people called witches have existed. In a sense they have been created by folklore, by what I call the Flying Saucer process – you know, someone sees something they can’t or won’t explain in the sky, is aware that there is a popular history of sightings of flying saucers, so decides that what he has seen is a flying saucer, and pretty soon that “sighting” adds another few flakes to the great snowball of saucerology. In the same way, the peasant knows that witches are ugly old women who live by themselves because the folklore says so, so the local crone must be a witch. Soon everyone locally KNOWS that there is a witch in the next valley, various tricks of fate are laid at her door, and so the great myth chugs on.
One may look in vain for similar widespread evidence of wizards. In addition to the double handful of doubtful practitioners mentioned above, half of whom are more readily identifiable as alchemists or windbags, all I could come up with was some vaguely Masonic cults, like the Horseman’s Word in East Anglia. Not much for Gandalf in there.
Now you can take the view that of course this is the case, because if there is a dirty end of the stick then women will get it. Anything done by women is automatically downgraded. This is the view widely held – well, widely held by my wife every since she started going to consciousness-raising group meetings – who tells me it’s ridiculous to speculate on the topic because the answer is so obvious. Magic, according to this theory, is something that only men can be really good at, and therefore any attempt by women to trespass on the sacred turf must be rigorously stamped out. Women are regarded by men as the second sex, and their magic is therefore automatically inferior. There’s also a lot of stuff about man’s natural fear of a woman with power; witches were poor women seeking one of the few routes to power open to them, and men fought back with torture, fire and ridicule.
I’d like to know that this is all it really is. But the fact is that the consensus fantasy universe has picked up the idea and maintains it. I incline to a different view, if only to keep the argument going, that the whole thing is a lot more metaphorical than that. The sex of the magic practitioner doesn’t really enter into it. The classical wizard, I suggest, represents the ideal of magic – everything that we hope we would be, if we had the power. The classical witch, on the other hand, with her often malevolent interest in the small beer of human affairs, is everything we fear only too well that we would in fact become.
Oh well, it won’t win me a PhD. I suspect that via the insidious medium of picture books for children the wizards will continue to practice their high magic and the witches will perform their evil, bad-tempered spells. It’s going to be a long time before there’s room for equal rites.
Speech at Novacon 15, 1985
January 10, 2017
October 25, 2016
October 9, 2016
I imagined being with a guy in a stairwell. Him pulling up my dress, ripping my tights, gripping my thighs so hard it hurt and then slamming me up against the wall and fucking me mercilessly with his pants around his ankles. All the while whispering how dirty I am and telling me to keep quiet while I bite my own shoulder or his lip.
That’s about as far as I got, I came quickly with my fingers deep inside, still fully clothed. Damn I’m good. Imagination is a powerful thing.
Back to work!
September 11, 2016
The critical rubbishing of Tolkien began with Edmund Wilson’s extended sneer about “juvenile trash” in 1956. Younger readers today may need reminding that Wilson was a pathologically ambitious critic who championed modernism in literature (and Stalinism in politics). In his pompous obsession, as a contemporary put it, “with being the Adult in the room” – and maybe, oddly enough, his priapism too – Wilson is a good exemplar of what Ursula Le Guin called “a deep puritanical distrust of fantasy” on the part of those who “confuse fantasy, which in the psychological sense is a universal and essential faculty of the human mind, with infantilism and pathological regression.”
Le Guin is undoubtedly right about Wilson and others of his ilk, but in a demonstration of the durability and ubiquity of this accusation, Tolkien’s “infantilism” (along with “nostalgia”, to which we shall return later) was recently revived by Michael Moorcock . Perhaps, therefore, it is no coincidence that Moorcock has now mostly abandoned his science fiction/fantasy – part of whose real appeal was precisely their rather adolescent charm (my, what a long sword you have!) – to write supposedly Adult novels. In any case, many science fiction writers are indeed committed modernists; and not a few are poorly placed to finger infantilism – witness in both respects, for example, the toys-for-boys technological fetishism of J.G. Ballard.
As Tolkien noted, the connection between children and fairy-stories is an accident of history, not something essential; “If a fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults.” But being Grown-Up is a recurring theme in modernism, with its teleological fantasy of collectively progressing towards the truth, and its mythoclasm as a necessary destructiveness in order to get there. The Lord of the Rings and its readers are thus doubly stigmatized, both individually/psychologically and collectively/socially. Tolkien’s enormous popularity then requires such risible explanations as Robert Giddings’s “PR men”, at whose behest the reading public apparently took him up solely because it was told to do so.
It is true, however, that modernist hostility to Tolkien need not be of the left. Private Eye sneered that Tolkien appeals only to those “with the mental age of a child – computer programmers, hippies and most Americans” (see Craig 1992). And despite his trumpeted sensitivity to elite literary contempt for the reading public, the populist Oxford professor John Carey (1977) repeated the charge of childishness, and attacked Tolkien for his lack of interest in “the writers who were moulding English literature in his own day – Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence” – as if English literature, to quote Brian Rosebury (1992:133), were “a single substance, appropriated for a definite period, like the only blob of Plasticene in the classroom, by an exclusive group (however gifted)…”
Tolkien and his critics
June 18, 2016
February 5, 2016
December 7, 2015
Blindfolded and tied by my wrists to the bed face down with my spanked and throbbing arse raised so my wet, shaved pussy is exposed. I’m anticipating what’s coming and my clit feels like it’s hanging enormous and swollen. I can hear the bottle of lubricant being opened behind me and my clit starts to throb and my breath quickens. Suddenly my cheeks are pulled apart and her fingers start to work my rosebud. One, then two but I’m begging for more. Four slippery fingers thrusting hard in my stretched anus and I’m panting with pleasure. But she’s not finished with me yet. When I’m about to come she pulls out and everything stops. The anticipation is both pleasure and pain. She starts me up again, licking my rosebud, pushing her tongue in, biting my arse, slipping her tongue down to my dripping pussy and throbbing clit. She’s still licking and sucking when I hear the vibrator being turned on. My pussy is about to be fucked good and hard.
May 6, 2015
Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
We read fantasy to find the colours again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.”
George R.R. Martin
May 3, 2015
We’re all about pretend today. Dee delights in taking things to another level. And why not? We all harbour our secret desires, have little hidden kinks. In long-term relationships variety becomes harder and harder to achieve. Role play can introduce a little spice – bring a little more naughtiness, if you will, into your sex life.
At least, that’s our excuse.
That said, Dee and Gabriella have regularly role played in the past. They alternate BDSM scenarios with first one then the other being Top. Dee is a total control freak. She knows it; we all know it. But she has this thing about being dominated- but only by another woman; a woman who’ll control her, punish her, love her. Gabby goes along with this because she loves Dee. She’d do anything (almost) for her. Even put up with me…
Dee would never let a man take control of her. And yet, that said, her biggest turn-on is a rape fantasy.
So what are we talking about?
Holding her down, hands above her head. Fingering her roughly. Biting her breasts and thighs (not hard enough to mark), and all the while she’s blindfolded. I know this is s’posed to be a big turn on for blokes, and when we were first together it was for me. But repeated frequently enough, it becomes…well, a bit of a chore, boys & girls. If I were to chose a scenario right this moment, both Dee and Gabriella would be wearing nun’s habits, with big sensible white knickers…But that’s another story!
So Dee is secured (or held down), abused, then fucked like there’s no tomorrow. Roughly fucked. Used for another’s pleasure. That scenario brings her off so quickly…like she don’t know if she’s coming or going.
And, of course, Dee’s rape fantasy is just that. It’s a desire to be “taken” sexually by force in a controlled environment (with a safe word), not an actual desire to be raped by someone, some stranger! It’s a “ravishment” rather than a rape fantasy. I’ve encountered it often, in various women, over the years…
The one fact in enacting such a scenario is that the woman remains victim, powerless; nothing is about her performance, sexually. She is pure receptacle. She cannot be judged because she’s being “forced”. She has nothing to live up to…
So, today’s scenario is planned. Dee is to be “drugged” by Gabby (nonsense of course). We drink ice cold champagne together. Dee fains unconsciousness (after the third glass) and Gabby handcuffs Dee’s hands behind her back. Her old blouse is torn open by Gabby, who then relentlessly and mercilessly kneads Dee’s small breasts until they turn scarlet.
Dee comes round slowly (eyes fluttering open). Begins to beg Gabby to stop. Please, please, don’t. That’s hurting. Please. But Gabby works those tits harder, pinching and twisting them.
I watch from a distance. Aroused, yes, especially when Gabby tugs up Dee’s skirt and forces her legs wide apart.
Dee struggles. Tries to close her legs. But Gabby retaliates by clutching and twisting Dee’s right breast viciously. She uses so much force even my eyes water. Open up, bitch, she cries. Spread it like the whore you are…
Dee complies. She has little choice if she wants to remain connected to her now very red breast. Gabby tears the material of those flimsy knickers to expose Dee’s smooth crotch.
It’s so strange to watch this. Certainly it makes me giddy, but I recognise also the conflict between Dee and Gabriella. Today there’s a cordial hatred between them. Tenderness has gone out the window. Gabby wants to prove a point; to gain revenge, perhaps…?
I look away. Dee has begun to tremble and shake. Callousness becomes delicacy. I go to the kitchen and pour myself a tumbler of Bushmills.
I need air, liberation. I feel strangely sick and helpless. A lost soul. I seek escape in mouthfuls of Irish whiskey. Then Gabriella calls me.
She has forced Dee to her knees. Her face is down, arse up, over the sofa. Gabby looks jubilant, lost in a dirty disgusting act, as she lubes between poor Dee’s cheeks. She pushes one finger in, as far as she can. Works it back and forward. Then a second finger joins the first. Finally a third.
Gabby rolls a condom on the black dildo, the huge one that Dee purchased last year. She inserts it hurriedly, roughly, playing the sadist for all she’s worth. In and out it goes. Dee writhes…Begging cessation.
I slump in an armchair, watching, the eternal voyeur, my mood tortured, uneasy. I want them both, but…?
Gabby calls me over. Fuck her arse, she says. All the way up, hard and fast. No hesitation…
Condom rolled quickly on, I do as requested. Holding Dee’s narrow hips tightly. Thrusting. Dee’s pleading for an end to this ordeal. Face sideways on the sofa cushion, arse in the air. Until I ejaculate inside her, biting her shoulders, feeling disgust at my cruelty.
Then Gabby pulls the condom from my shrinking cock, empties its contents into Dee’s mouth, pinching her nose, saying Swallow it bitch, all of it. Then pushing the condom into her mouth. Taste good, does it? Your arse?
I run away. Escape to the kitchen. Pour more whiskey. Gabby drags Dee from sitting room to bedroom. She’s determined it seems to get Dee to use her “safe word”, something Gabby’s had to do many times in the past, but Dee never before…
It’s a question of pride with Dee, this refusal to submit, to give way.
Outside dreary rain. Blackbirds on the lawn. I’m abstracted, uneasy. I’ve never witnessed Gabriella so hungry before for the absolute with Dee. She is so determined…
Dee’s cries are sudden and passionate. No no no please don’t, not that no. She shrieks. Then silence returns, momentarily. Her voice shrill and pain wracked, Dee screams out her safeword, over and over again.
Terrified, I go into the hall. The silence is now total. I feel alarmed…
Eventually, finally, I go upstairs to the bedroom. Inside Dee’s curled fetus-like on Gabriella’s lap. Her make-up is smeared; eye shadow streaked with her tears. Gabby strokes her head, saying, there there, okay now. It’s okay baby. And Dee looks up at me. Okay? I ask, and she just smiles, says I didn’t cum yet. And sobs like a child.
Gabby says softly, You will, don’t worry luv, we’ll make you cum. It’ll be okay….
The pair embrace, kiss. I’m excluded for now. Perhaps, in reality, forever?
Dee loves her adventures. They are essential to her. And Gabriella loves me to tell her stories. She likes nothing better than to have me sit beside her in bed and read to her at night until she falls asleep.
For myself I reach serenity by exhaustion. Inertial is devoutly to be desired.
Tonight I shall read Robert Westall’s “The Scarecrows” to Gabriella, and as I read she’ll stroke my stiff cock until it isn’t stiff anymore.
Eventually we’ll all sleep.