Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

An A-Z Of This Blog

Anonymouse -- what you risk being dubbed should you choose to post comments anonymously. Leeway will be given for those unfamiliar with blogosphere etiquette (in direct proportion to rational content and amiable attitude), but anonymity will generally be viewed with suspicion as a potential marker of craven trolldom. The simplest of online handles is all that's needed to distinguish you from hit-and-run arsewipes.

Behemouth -- Also known as the Giant Fire-Breathing Bewilderbeeste, this creature is docile unless provoked by the perplexing idiocy of the world-at-large (and certain religio-political institutions in particular). Unfortunately, when aggravated, the Behemouth's response is often disproportionately hostile, taking the form of a rhetorical rampage of several thousand words, generally aimed at reducing the preconceptual terms of the debate to dust, with little regard for principles of tact and diplomacy. The result may be entertaining but should be regarded with an arched eyebrow of skepticism. The swift application of a logical baseball bat on the nose is a good way of stopping the Behemouth in its tracks, enabling the resumption of civilised discourse.

Cunt -- a word that many people apparently find offensive, presumably due to some freaky Freudian neurosis in which oral, anal and carnal acts and organs are considered "vulgar". This is clearly fucked up, motherfuckers. Swearing is an art form, and if it makes you blush, well, as a wise man once said, "I am not innarested in your condition." The only context in which "profanity" is considered out-of-bounds on this blog is that of abusive bigotry, dig? Otherwise, be as much of a mouthy cunt as you wish.

Dionysus -- knows no nations, suffers no tyrants, heals all sorrows. He is often to be found on this blog, either riding the Behemouth with a cowboy whoop or following behind it on foot, having set it off on a rampage with a swipe of his sacred thyrsus across its arse. Dionysus is the libertine Id, the horny kid, the spirit of tragedy and comedy, an aesthetics of passion which stands as antithesis to an "Apollonian" aesthetics of reason. Where the latter becomes co-opted to the service of psycho-cultural institutions of Empire (i.e. where "order" is aggrandised as an end in and of itself, "perfect" as a quality rather than the measure of a quality), it becomes necessary, in my opinion, to adopt a Dionsysian strategy of antidoxy, to attack sophistry with song, to fight ideology with imagination. Dionysus is only one mask, but he is a mask that must be worn.

Ethics -- is the aesthetics of social interaction, and therefore as applicable on this blog as in any other social context. My own model of ethics posits no absolute right and wrong, only the psychophysiologial imperatives of passion (joy and sorrow, anger and fear, disgust and surprise) extended socially by empathy, through which we evaluate our own behaviour, formulating aesthetic judgements which build to complex systems of axiomatic standards, general and specific. Ethics in this sense is an active skill, an emotional and intellectual faculty of self-awareness, rather than a passive conformity to pre-existing universal imperatives. Ethics is not, therefore, to be confused with morals.

Fuck -- that shit. A nihilist mantra which articulates a general disregard for essentialist bollocks. People die. All else we say is only noise or song.

Geek Show -- the society of the spectacle as portrayed on this blog, or this blog as a sideshow in the society of the spectacle. Take your pick; all you need to know is that when I say "geek" I'm not talking in the sweaty-palmed computer nerd sense here but rather in the carnival grotesque sense. The Geek Show is the world we live in, the cave in which Australopithecus crouches over severed heads of humans, an Ancient of Days, a Deus Irae feeding on the brains of his enemies. The Geek Show is the world of religion-as-headhunting, of tribes at war with each other, territories marked out with skulls. The Geek Show is the Kali Yuga, a Thugee civilisation. It is the cannibal holocaust of moral zombies bent on devouring brains. It is the worship of the head of Bran or Baphomet, Orpheus or John the Baptist. It is our shock and awe, wonder and horror at the bitten-off heads of snakes, birds and mice, the symbols of our secret, sacred self. It is the severing of body and head, passion and reason, flesh and spirit. This blog is an attempt to report back from that (perhaps somewhat schizoid) viewpoint on reality, but I'm not unaware of my own role in the show, as froth-mouthed freak and fool, snarling and biting, spitting bloody heads out at the audience. So it goes.

Homophobia -- will be shown no mercy. This is one surefire way to unleash the Behemouth, set the geek's teeth snapping savage for the blood of bigots. In truth, I'm not terribly driven by queer politics or the persecutionist mentality of "marginalised minorities", but homophobia -- as an unrationalised revulsion legitimised by the notion of order (social, natural and/or divine) and institutionalised in systems designed to perpetuate and propagate order as an end in itself -- emblematises the key weakness of any system of infantile morality. Where the imposition of rules is a moral imperative such that simply to impose a rule (regardless of that rule's content) engenders a sense of pride, homophobia -- or some other equivalent form of othering -- is inevitable. In such systems, deviance equals unnatural and unnatural equals immoral. This is the Empire, the Black Iron Prison, the Thebes of Pentheus seeking to chain Dionysus. It is not wise to trap the god of small, trapped animals.

Intertextuality -- The relationship between stories is something I find fascinating, the way one story may pastiche, parody or pay homage to another, palimpsest it, redact it or revise it. This is a recurrent theme in my writing, and to a large extent the "Vellum" can be seen as metaphor for intertextuality, as an image of story represented as 3D time. We can consider a story as linear entity, moving from beginning to end, having one dimension in "frontal" time. Alternative versions of the same basic story will follow their own parallel paths, the sum of these versions constituting a plane, extending sideways, so to speak, in lateral time. Generations of retellings of these stories can be viewed as a process of accretion, in which strata of new versions are laid down over the old. The stories of Prometheus or Dionysus or Zeus are complex artifacts exhibiting this three dimensionality; there is no single, "true" version for any of these tales, only the sum of all versions, which is inherently inconsistent. This strikes me as rather neat.

Jaunting -- is my favourite example of why the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy based on the absence or presence of "magic" is utterly specious. Jaunting has fuck all to do with "plausible scientific speculation", regardless of hand-waving about "the next stage in human evolution"; in its defiance of all known laws of physics, presenting teleportation as an ability to wish oneself from A to B with no expenditure of energy, it's as much a metaphysical conceit as any magical power. This does not prevent us from classing Bester as "Fantasy" rather than "Science Fiction", but rather points to the spuriousness of these labels if we consider them as anything other than marketing categories. If we wish to talk meaningfully about the aesthetic forms which constitute the field of "SF", we would be better off looking for an entirely new vocabulary, shorn of these overloaded and obsolete terms.

Kings -- Don't trust them. Never have. Never will.

Literary -- according to the OED means "of, constituting, occupied with, literature or books and written composition esp. of the kind valued for quality of form." The distinction made, in that last clause, between "literary" fiction and "non-literary" fiction is clearly informal and vague, and open to cyclic definition, where works are accorded "literary" status for being of a "kind" which is privileged as intrinsically higher "quality" because it is more "literary". Which is to say the distinction is not an aesthetic discrimination of different qualities, but simply a hierarchising assertion that one form is better than another. This is dangerous, but in practical terms, the pulp/literary division is so pervasive as to be unavoidable. I will probably be guilty of using these terms all over the place, despite constant attempts to find a more accurate distinction of Romantic and Rationalist aesthetic forms.

Morals -- also known as "mores". are to be left at the door, like shoes in a mosque. Contrary ethics are more than welcome, but this is a morality-free zone. Nothing is taboo here except taboos, so one should expect to see sacred cows carved up for the barbecue. Note: this non-censorship policy includes the liberal taboos of political correctness, so I'll no more delete comments that offend my sense of propriety than I'll hold my tongue for fear of offending someone else's; I may, however, respond... unkindly.

Nihilism -- comes in two flavours, "Why bother?" and "Why the fuck not?" The former is failed nihilism, a defeatist ennui born of existential angst and nausea, negative valuations of fear and disgust in the face of a cosmos which is merely meaningless and which therefore calls for a neutral valuation. It is, in truth, fatalism rather than nihilism, validating its surrender to inaction by confusing the absence of any truly worthy cause with the absence of any truly worthy effect, projecting hostility and futility where there is only indifference and uncertainty. For the true nihilist it doesn't matter that it doesn't matter. So fucking what?

Orpheus -- Sonnets For. Probably the nearest I'll get to a manifesto of my personal aesthetics.

Puck -- is a character in much of my fiction, paired with the character of Jack in a Jungian duality of Self and Id. I did not invent Puck, I think, but rather, as the roots of the name should suggest, have simply accessed and articulated one instance of an historical archetype, a puer aeternus, but one who is more Pan than Peter Pan, unashamedly post-pubertal (if not post-coital) in his libidinous liberation. Having spent so much time developing my own fictional avatar of this figuration of desire, it is somewhat disconcerting to have apparently found him, manifest in human form, in the shape of the "Boy Kitten" referred to in recent entries on this blog. Disconcerting but, as Jack would say, peachy keen!

Queer -- I have never been entirely comfortable with the label "gay" and its associated culture of rainbow flags, Pride marches, and so on. For all its offered affirmations (born of the term's connotations of uninhibited happiness) and validations (as member of a wider community of similarly self-identifying individuals), the term "gay" feels like a coy avoidance of the actualities of sexual deviance and a willing submission to the self-definitions conventionalised within that community. I hear the term "gay village" and I picture myself as Patrick McGoohan, running down a beach, shouting, "I am not a disco number!"

Rationalism & Romanticism -- the dual aesthetics of Western culture which, in combination (in conflict and harmony), are formative of both Modernity and Modernism. An alarming number of the discussions liable to provoke an outburst of the Behemouth on this blog are, it seems to me, reducible to the false dichotomy of reason and passion. From the endless arguments over the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy to the tedious debates over the relative virtues and vices of "genre" and "literary" fiction, it seems to me that most of these divisions are founded on a false dichotomy of Reason and Passion established in the 18th Century and now patently obsolete.

Shaitan -- A son of Sodom, city of stone and spunk, of salt and sex, singer of the sublime sensuality of sleek silk skin slipping, sliding over silk sleek skin, of the serpent spine of snaking sensations, shivers of shimmers of Sumer's summer, slumbering in sleep, the stranger inside us all.

Thrawn -- A Scots dialect word that roughly translates as "stubbornly contrarian, difficult just for the sake of it". The relevance of this in the context of this blog should be, I think, fairly obvious.

Underground -- In the words of Ben Folds: I was never cool in school / I'm sure you don't remember me / and now it's been ten years / I'm still wondering who to be / and I love to mix in circles, cliques and social coteries, / that's me / hand me my nosering (can we be happy?) / show me the mosh pit (can we be happy?) / We can be happy underground!

Vellum -- Probably the reason you're reading this. Certainly the reason I'm writing it. I started the whole blog thing back when I got the book deal, thinking that where, in the past, I'd never been able to sustain interest in a private journal for longer than a few days, it might be an interesting experiment to... process the process, so to speak, to work through my experiences of the publishing world and my ideas about literature as and when they developed, to do this in public as an act of reportage and critique that might even (hopefully) be entertaining to somebody out there. Of course, the idea that blogs are good marketing tools in this day and age never once crossed my mind. Honest, guv.

Weegee -- A Glaswegian. I'm not native to the city but it is my adopted home, and well-loved as anyone who reads this blog is liable to discover. My relish of hand-rolled cigarettes and well-poured Guinness is inextricably bound up with my love of Glasgow, I think, with its working-class industrial history as the Second City of the Empire. At the same time, as a lover of pubs and clubs, gigs and parties, I'd have to say that the vibrant indie scene focused around the West End (Glasgow's East Village) quite simply rocks, at least as far as this "pomo boho homo hobo" is concerned. City of Culture, mate. City of Culture.

XXX -- Parental Advisory Notice: Explicit Content.

Yes -- The last word of the best ending in literary history, the Molly Bloom soliloquy in James Joyce's Ulysses... and he asked me if I'd yes to say yes and yes I said yes I will yes. I will brook no argument on this point.

Zod -- When I think of heroes I think, fuck that shit. I think of Terence Stamp in Superman II. "Son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!" And I think of his hand on his fly... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzip! Ya wanna be my hero, baby. Here's what I want ya to do...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

C - ah, you're a cunt, Hal! That Ben Peek is, too, n' his chapter on the word in 26 Lies. Being a cunt also, I'm gutted that we all didn't get to sit down in the bar at WFC and be cunts together.

F - Fuck that shit indeed! Or, as Kurt used to say, So It Goes.

N - That is the best written work on Nihilism I've ever read. I have a friend studying philosophy. he ought to write something like that at the end of his masters.

P - n' how is he, man?!? Tell him I said hi, for sure, n' I hope he enjoyed Montreal. (n' God oh God I looked at my receipt for Industrio Argentina while I was doing my expenses last week. Jesus fuck. I wasn't working, either, so it couldn't go through!)

U - Ben Folds is brilliant.

2:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh, this so makes me want to leave an anonymous post...

8:13 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Was that a *squeak* I heard?


8:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ya know, Google recently increased the amount of anonymous commenting considerably by fucking with their comment posting box, trying to force people to use Open ID bullshit. So I can no longer leave a comment on any Blogger site which also links back from my name to my own WordPress blog (which isn't on, so that option doesn't work). Cunts.

2:10 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was really hoping I'd find the second mention of Infernokrush here. Sadly I did not, but i have signed in to post. ^^

5:47 pm  

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