Notes from New Sodom

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

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Outer Alliance Pride Day

I don't really have much to say myself about the Outer Alliance Pride Day over and above the mission statement, which I'll happily add my voice to here:

As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.

I really did mean to get a snippet of some queer speculative fiction written for posting in celebration. Unfortunately I just didn't have time, so instead I thought what I could maybe do was call in some emergency moral support. To that end, leveraging my position as scribe for the Elders of Sodom, I nicked some of their fancy letterheaded paper and sent out a quick missive to the Sacred Order of Libertines -- not to be confused with the Secret Order of Libertines, who I have no connection with at all, I should stress. (The latter being, apparently, a proper secret society of some description that actually exists... and therefore not nearly whimsical enough for my taste.) Anyways, it turned into something of an ongoing correspondence, so I thought I'd provide for you, in lieu of my lies, some highlights from their replies.

So here you go:


Dear Elders of Sodom,

Many thanks for the link you sent us to this John C. Wrong chap's Apologia. We'd love to comment, but I'm afraid to say that none of us here at the Sacred Order of Libertines had the stamina to read all the way through his maundering moralism. Not even the Marquis, and he's nothing if not exhaustive in his studies of excess! But if it's a statement you desire, then a statement you shall have, our most blessed Brothers in Buggery. On what little of his blah blah we can summon up the energy to address, that which actually concerns us.

So, you do realise he's not remotely speaking for us, yes? We wouldn't dream of stating baldly that "none except the two (or more) persons engaged in the sexual acts have any interest or right to dictate terms," that "no one can forbid or qualify what the lovers seek." How dry! How dreary! No, if we were to profess an official position on morality, we'd say something more like: Your anal axioms have no hold on us when it comes to the pleasures of the flesh, Mr Wrong. The Blessed Brother Bill Burroughs said it best, we think:

I am not innarested in your condition.

No. Mr Wrong and his ilk can dictate terms all they want; we simply consider them irrelevant. Forbid us to seek the sublime in the sensual; and still we'll seek. Where some strapping young sailor is game for a little of the old matelotage -- a dash of rum, sodomy and the lash -- we're not going to refrain simply because happenstance finds us in a nation or era with rules against such things. Fie on those rules! Laws and morals are all very well, but as we all know they're not always just. Slavery? Segregation? Some laws are just begging to be broken. Some liberties shout out to be seized. We can't afford to wait for the Prigs to lose their majority in the Parliament of Probity; we have the most raging hard-on that demands to be dealt with! And as for morality? The Cretin's Code! This is ethics by the book! And by "book" we mean a paint-by-numbers colouring book in black and white -- white for Good Things, and black for Bad Things, and God forbid you don't stay inside the lines at all times. Why you Elders of Sodom even waste your breath on such bumptious bluster, we really don't know! Don't you have anything better to do with your time? Don't you have some peachy posteriors to plow?

With love,

The Sacred Order of Libertines


Dear Elders of Sodom,

Yes, yes, we did manage to read his prattle of how "the consensus of society must by informal custom enforce certain norms." But as we all know, Sodomites and Libertines alike, that "must" is merely an artifice of the consensus of society. A pipe-dream of prescriptivists. The reality? That society enforces its norms is not a necessity, simply a tiresome actuality. This is not what "must" happen but what "will," the majority quite content to toddle along, conforming to those customary norms, living their lives -- living their lies -- by that banal rulebook of Do and Do Not which Mr Wrong sees as a societal conscience, "an unspoken and semi-voluntary mass agreement." And, of course, it all hangs on the informal custom at the heart of it all, in which those moral imperatives are taken as absolute. Why? Because they "must" be! It's the one rule that binds them all: that we simply must have rules. Or else, the Legalitarians cry out in panic, society will COLLAPSE INTO CHAOS!

Let the Halls of Pentheus fall, we Libertines say. Let Dionysus dance in the ruins! Tear down the rules and the Legalitarians might actually be forced to exercise their ethical faculties in day-to-day life, you know, to actually think about the outcomes of their actions, each and every one of them. Rather than trudge their way through a maze of taboos and transgressions, all so tired and trite, so crude and conventional, so lacking in the salty spunk of creation. Enough with this labyrinth of laws clung to by the Legalitarians, the corridors of convention that lead us ony back to where we started. Let it crumble. Wouldn't that be a wonder, if the Legalitarians actually had to exercise real reason in every situation, weighing up their impact on the world instead of simply blundering bullishly through it, going round and round in circles, following whichever rule suited their self-interest at the time?

Not that this is likely to happen anytime soon. Not that we're all that bothered about it not happening, to be honest. If we sound somewhat laissez-faire about it all, well, do remember that we're Libertines. Ethical enlightenment is your department, our dearest coital compatriots, and in truth you Elders of Sodom are rather more effective at it than us. We very much appreciate this, knowing that you've got our backs. We see you working away behind the scenes, using a little slap and tickle to push and prod the Legalitarians along in line with the times. We see how you free-thinking fornicationists work as surgeons of society's soul, taking scalpels to the sermons, splicing them into wild new principles and axioms, excising the obsolete and grafting in your golden "rules" -- imperatives so abstract they simply must be interpreted anew for every context. Let the Halls of Pentheus fall, and we know that the secret city of the soul, the eternal Sodom of empathic ethics, will rise in its place. Why, it's rising even now! Like the morning glory of a meat minaret from which the muezzin sings out the call to... well, a more fleshly form of reverence than prayer.

But, yes. In all honesty, we find your subversion and sedition rather delicious. We adore the way you've simply striven to shift the whole consensus, slowly, rule by rule, so that even the conventional conformists who would have, in the past, decried the "immorality" of this or that act on principle now, on principle, decry the persecuting prejudices of that small minority of cretins who cling to yesterday's rulebook of piety. Yes, Sodom is rising around us even as we speak, and we Libertines leave it in your more than capable hands to bring your Grand Project to fruition.

We simply don't see the need to concern ourselves with the Mr Wrongs of the world.

With love,

The Sacred Order of Libertines


Dear Elders of Sodom,

Well now, that's a tricky question. If we Libertines are amoral that hardly means that we're entirely unethical -- barring a few extremists like the Marquis, of course, whose strange sort of... experimental anti-moralism makes many of us somewhat squeamish. But the Sacred Order of Libertines doesn't really have an official position on such matters; that would be quite at odds with our libertinism. No, it's entirely up to each individual member which rules, written or unwritten, they recognise as ultimately... well, sensible. Many of us (most, we dare say,) do draw a distinction between the saucy and the sick, between kinky and cruel, between monkey business and molestation. Ask any member of the Sacred Order of Libertines and they'll almost certainly tell you that child abuse is utterly anathema to them; but this is very much... a parameter of personal principles. We condemn it not because convention sets our conscience thus but because the rape of a child is a no-brainer as ethical evaluations go. Rape in and of itself is a no-brainer as ethical evaluations go. As a wise Watson once said: no shit, Sherlock.

So Mr Wrong really ought not to think of this as our being "sensitive to violations of the boundaries of the sexual code." That would rather imply there was a sexual code, singular and set in stone, no? That language of limits, of boundaries and breaches, rather binds his "sexual code" to the notion of customs, conventions, morés, when the truth is that we Libertines each hold to our own ethics, our own individual code, sexual and social. It's not conventional morality that's the cause of various overlaps in our values, simply that our ethics holds empathy in high esteem, simply that in many situations -- such as where a sexual act constitutes molestation -- one would have to be monstrous in order for one's empathy not to condemn such acts as unconscionable. In fact, we wonder what kind of disturbed individual would consider the rule of law to be the only functional restraint here? What kind of warped imagination sees authority as the only active force inhibiting atrocity? Ye dogs, but it seems the sign of a troubled psyche to imagine this, to think that any but the sickest soul would even have such urges, let alone require some moral orthodoxy to restrain them. For most of us it merely requires a shred of human feeling.

This does seem to be a worryingly common theme in the Legalitarian arguments though. When they come out with grandiose proclamations such as, "it is not possible for tribes of our race to live together in peace without laws to punish and customs to instruct," they clearly just don't understand how and why we mysteriously managed to survive without written law up until Hammurabi. They clearly just don't understand that customs are not magically dispensed from on high, that the only reason they even have that morality is because the "virtuous" among us are so defined because they live naturally by their ethical and empathic judgements, not following customs but setting them by example, and doing so because they care to. They clearly don't understand that the reason we have a degree of informal custom and authority is to keep children on the straight and narrow until they reach maturity and learn to navigate for themselves the ethical Scyllla and Charybdis of life as a human being. They clearly don't understand, it pains us to say, that the only adults who require to be held in check by custom and authority are those who don't understand this -- the ethical retards who haven't made it that far and the twisted sociopaths who perhaps never will.

But you Elders of Sodom are really better at explaining this than us -- how ethics is born of pragmatics and aesthetics, how an amoral but ethical Libertine is therefore quite likely to recognise that a just law is a sensible thing, a praxis of ethics, how we are in fact more likely to champion justice than the Legalitarians who cling to obsolete rulebooks in which, for example, a husband is entitled to rape his wife. How we champion liberty from morals because custom and authority are a Cretin's Code, a debased form of ethics we outgrew with the first taste of cock or cunt. We are not children to have our judgements of right and wrong made for us. We'll leave that to the Mr Wrongs of the world.

With love,

The Sacred Order of Libertines


Dear Elders of Sodom,

Well, since you ask nicely, and since we approve whole-heartedly of this Outer Alliance Pride Day, we suppose we can be drawn into at least a quasi-official public statement of our sympathies. But we really still can't comment much more on Mr Wrong's notion of virtue as self-restraint as, for the most part, we find it incoherent. When someone starts claiming that "intolerance, as it is called in the anti-conceptual jargon of PC" is really the "logic of chastity," they're redefining their terms out of the realm of rational debate.

So, when we speak of tolerating the distinct practices of a distinct set of individuals -- as say when we do not persecute Jews for practicing their religious faith, or when we do not persecute Gypsies for living by the customs of their ethnic identity, or when we do not persecute women for daring to breach the traditional ordinances that would subjugate them to men, or when we do not persecute homosexuals for their loves and lusts just because we consider "homosex" an "abomination", or when we do not persecute People of Colour simply because their skin is a different shade -- so when we call all of this "tolerance," we are using jargon to disguise some sort of failure of chastity? The mind boggles!

Mind you, we can understand why Mr Wrong would equate tolerance of specifically sexual behaviours forbidden by obsolete rulebooks of morality with chastity. The whole notion of chastity is, after all, a catch-all and blind for the obsolete rules that seek to limit sexual behaviour. It is, at heart, a bizarre notion that this blessed carnal communion constitutes a ritual which, if carried out without the sanction of a priest, will somehow reduce one's "purity." We actually rather applaud the recognition of the sacred sacrament of sex, but just between us this rather seems akin to an injunction against using a ouija board in case one ends up possessed by a demon. Not to mention that, where the moral decree is underpinned by the assertion of a power of official sanction, this is clearly an insidious mechanism of investing authority in religious hierarchs. Scratch at the surface of a moralist and you find a megalomaniac or his minion, it seems. There's little point in arguing with someone whose basic contention is that you must kneel before Zod! One simply tells them to fuck off.

Still, there is perhaps one point where the Sacred Order of Libertines might take an appropriate stand against Mr Wrong and his ilk. We rather think he's hoist by his own petard, you see, where he defines justice as "the virtue restricting the appetite of self-interest of the passion of factional loyalty to its proper sphere." We rather think that what he's talking about is impartiality rather than justice. Justice is, as far as the Sacred Order of Libertines are concerned, no mere attitude but rather the practical result of this in equity. It is the balance of distribution, of pain or of pleasure, of anything that can be distributed, in accordance with merit and empathy. And it is an equity that may as easily be the result of an active ethical drive to create such equity, of a passion for harmony that Mr Wrong shows no sign of comprehending but which we know you Elders of Sodom have written into your charter, and which is clearly at the core of this Outer Alliance. That said, we're quite peachy with the notion that curtailing one's self-interest in the name of impartiality is a virtue.

It's just that this surely includes "restricting the appetite of self-interest of the passion of factional loyalty" of Mr Wrong's Matrimonials, those who assert that only a "sexual act inside the boundary of marriage is licit. Any outside is illicit."

This is like a lobby group composed of publicans and fanatically loyal customers asserting that the consumption of alcohol is only licit inside of a licensed premises, that any consumption outside of such is illicit. When the publican, of course, reserves the right to refuse entry and/or service at will. When they will not, of course, refuse their fanatically loyal customers. When those they do refuse are denied even the right to consume alcohol in the privacy of their own homes. When those they do refuse are refused simply because they prefer the sharp tang of a dry gin martini over the lukewarm bottled beer from the brewery that owns the bar. Denying entry and service on the basis of contempt for any and all who guzzle cocktails rather than cat's-piss, seeking to deny them even the right to consume alcohol at all outside the hallowed insitution of the pub, these factional loyalists strive to establish a sweet little privilege for themselves, utterly at odds with the principle that "neither self-love nor love of one’s own will interfere with the rational judgment concerning strangers and rivals and enemies."

So too do Mr Wrong and his Matrimonials allow their "appetite of self-interest of the passion of factional loyalty" to interfere with their rational judgement as regards homosexuals. If justice is, as Mr Wrong asserts, "rendering reward, penalty, courtesy, and dignity each according to his merit, rather than to the interests or personal loyalties of the judge," then he and his Matrimonials fail rather miserably in this regard. It's a mark of just how deeply they fail, how deeply their rational judgement is compromised that even when they recognise that they have rendered a profound discourtesy and indignity to a swathe of people they regard as "strangers and rivals and enemies," even when they acknowledge that their "tone of contempt" was grossly abusive, they ultimately excuse this as merited -- the condemnation righteous, any sense of insult a "self-inflicted wound."

In contrast to Mr Wrong and his Matrimonials, we of the Sacred Order of Libertines are actually sincere in our celebration of justice, whether as an attitude of impartiality or as the actualities of equity. Why, the very notion of Libertinism is that Mr Wrong and his ilk stand for injustice, for partiality and inequity, that they strive to create privileges for themselves by denying others their rights. This is why, at the end of the day, we stand beside you, our Brothers in Buggery -- or slouch at least, in our dissolute state after the debauchery of last night -- and proclaim your rights. Your liberty is our liberty and our liberty is yours. We salute you, Elders of Sodom. We see no reason to render either reward or penalty for your choice of cocktails over cat's piss, but we see every reason to render you the courtesy and dignity of making your choice according to your taste, to render you explicit respect in outright denial of the self-righteous judgement of moralistic oafs. And as for this Outer Alliance you've thrown your lot in with. All we can say is: where do we sign?

Yes, stand proud as a purple-veined prick, Elders of Sodom, pulsing with your red-blooded vigour, throbbing with your passion for freedom, for the freedom to love and to lust, to have and to hold, in matrimony, matelotage or the marvelous marriage of flesh in which one simply makes sweet fuckee-fuckee with a sexylicious squeeze. A salute, Elders of Sodom! To the salt of your sweat! To the scent of your skin! To your cocks and cunts and all that you do with them!

To liberty!

With love,

The Sacred Order of Libertines


And in answer to that question -- where do we sign? -- the simple answer is here. And if you think I'm cheating here by not posting queer speculative fiction (cause, yanno, the Sacred Order of Libertines is just as real as the Elders of Sodom,) well, you can always go read "The Behold of the Eye". It has a fairy called Flashjack. Nuff said.

Peace and pride, mi amigos! Peace and pride!


Blogger Colin Meier said...

I actually read the whole Apologia. I wish mind-bleach really existed...although the Apologia itself is evidence that it might.

On behalf of all of us less eloquent fornicationists, thank you, Hal.

(You're becoming an activist fornicationist - fornicationista?)

9:18 pm  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Thanks Hal :)

11:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been researching the Secret Order of Libertines for a while and see your blog (which is really interesting btw) has changed. I've been plucking up the courage to ask you about your involvement. Do you mind me asking, have you left the Order? Is there anything you can tell us about them? I've posted on this blog about them recently. We haven't said anything negative about them, just interested in them. Thanks.

7:21 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Sorry, man, I have no involvement with them at all, so can't tell you anything of interest. I thought they were a pseudohistoric whim meself... until I got an email saying they'd rather not have me representing myself as... well... a representative. Hence the alteration to the blog.

12:16 am  

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