Posts tagged: Occult
As long-time readers likely know, my own interest in things magical and occult has largely dissipated. But I know many of you are still interested the intersecton between technology and magic, so a project by my friend Damien Williams may well interest you. He’s raising funds to write a lengthy essay called “Techne: The State of the Art”:
I’ll show what happens when magical ideas intersect with modern technology, looking at things like AI, and why “artificial” might have been a poor choice of adjective. I’ll consider questions like, “What is it that drives humanity to create technology in our image?” “How can stories like the Golem, the Homunculus, or the Tulpa,” (and we’ll get to those) “help us in our search to create AI?” and “Might perspectives such as Jungian psychology’s take on alchemy provide us with tools to better engage our world?”
I’ll also examine the use of cutting edge tech in modern magical practices and vice versa. Musicians, roboticists, and authors who weave magical intentions through electronic music, who use magical theory in the programming of their creations and who see in our world, something like the fulfilment of Arthur C. Clarke’s line that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
You can back the project on Inkshares, a crowdfunding site for the written word.
(I missed it, but Technoccult interview alum David Forbes recently raised some money for an essay of his own about the history of far right politics in science fiction that sounds absolutely fascinating)
Sad news from the Strange Attractor blog:
We’re deeply sad to announce that Steve Moore, author of Somnium and a regular contributor to Strange Attractor Journal, passed away over the weekend, under a beautiful Spring full Moon.
Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more.
Steve was amongst the earliest members of the Gang of Fort, who launched Fortean Times magazine in the early 1970s, and the author of a great many influential comics and short stories for publications including 2000AD, Warrior, Dr Who magazine and, most recently, the Hercules series for Radical Publishing. At the time of his death he was working on a number of new projects, including his ongoing, privately published Tales of Telguuth and The Bumper Book of Magic, with his lifelong friend Alan Moore.
Full Story: Strange Attractor: STEVE MOORE 1949 – 2014
Steve Moore wasn’t related to Alan Moore, but had a profound influence on his career and was the subject of the latter’s audio book Unearthing.
If you missed me on 90.1 KZSU Stanford ThermoNuclear Bar last week you can now check it out on SoundCloud, or read the transcript below. We talked about the occult, conspiracy theory, EsoZone, Portland, Psychetect, Mindful Cyborgs, the Indie Web.
Here’s a sample:
S1: Where do you see then your variety of your projects going? I mean we have talked about this earlier. I had said that Technoccult was one sphere, and Psychetect was another, Mindful Cyborgs was another. If you saw any relation between the three other than just you happen to be in the middle or do you see any sort of end-goal coming up for you?
KF: In terms of an end-goal, I think the purpose of all of these has always been to find some way to engage with other people in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. I guess, it’s kind of an abstract way of talking about it, but something like Psychetect is just a different way of expressing myself and hopefully of communicating with people. Things like Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs are more directly communicative projects. I think the only thing that they all have in common is a general interest in thoughts and thinking and consciousness. I guess, the overriding idea of Psychetect is to kind of create audio representations of thoughts or of sort of mental spaces that I don’t feel like I can describe with words. There’s I guess an overlap with something like Mindful Cyborgs where a big part of what we’re talking about is what it feels like to think in a world where you’re always connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and everything you do is being measured by somebody.
(Previously: G-Spot interview with me about Psychetect)
I should also mention that PDX Occulture is still sort of around, and that though EsoZone is gone, Weird Shift Con has emerged to fill that void (though I don’t have anything to do with organizing it).
A high-profile Indian anti-superstition activist, who was campaigning for a law to ban black magic, has been shot dead in the city of Pune, police say.
Narendra Dabholkar, 71, was attacked by two gunmen on motorbikes while he was taking his morning walk.
He was known for founding the Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith more than 20 years ago.
Ales Kot writes comics, amongst other things. His first graphic novel, Wild Children with Riley Rossmo, was published by Image Comics last year. He quickly followed this with Change with Morgan Jeske, also at Image. The collected edition was just released by Image last week.
Now he’s writing the superhero series Suicide Squad for DC and his creator owned espionage comic Zero for Image.
We put on the new Zomby album With Love and had a chat about how to entered the comic industry, the philosophy behind his work, and more.
Klint Finley: Wild Children was released less than a year ago. Now you’re writing a monthly Image book, a monthly DC book and have a Batman project on the way. It seems almost as if you came out of nowhere. How did you break into the industry?
Ales Kot: I imagined stories and pages and used my will to create them physically. Once I had physical proof of my work, I honed it until what I wanted and what was in front of me aligned. One of the key decisions was — and is — the aim to only create comics I would buy myself. I decided to make comics and therefore become a comics creator in 2008; I met Eric Stephenson from Image Comics in 2011 and he approved two of my comics proposals during our first meeting. The road to being published in July 2012 included many changes and struggles within the path.
I do not see entering comics as “breaking in,” because that, to me, suggests something aggressive. I chose to enter comics by imagining and creating comics I wanted to make, by believing in their potential and quality, and by showing readers all that.
What made you decide to be a comics creator, instead of one of the many other creative paths one could pursue?
It is true that I am a comics creator. I also work on video games, films and multiple art projects that are in some cases multimedia projects and in some cases explorations of media that perhaps do not even have a name at the moment, if they ever will. My path is to create whatever feels right within my imagination; whatever is alive within me. This applies in art, in life. I see no difference between one and the other.
With comics specifically, I remember being given Donald Duck as a 3-or-4 year old with undiagnosed pneumonia. I vanished within the pages; the empty spaces between the panels of the comic turned on my imagination. By the time I was eight, I probably drew over two hundred pages of comics, but I do not remember wanting to be a comics creator, except for a few days when I hit sixteen and spent most of my days stoned, expanding my mind via many possible routes. Then, in 2008, in the midst of a psychospiritual crisis, I contemplated suicide and wondered whether I could find anything within myself that I genuinely wanted to do or at least try before I died. The answer was “I want to make a comic book. That could be fun.”
[referring to the Zomby album] “Overdose” is the purest jungle I heard in YEARS.
How did you meet Eric Stephenson? At a con?
I met Eric Stephenson in Seattle during the Emerald City Comic Con. Joe Keatinge, another comics writer, saw some of my pitch materials and he introduced me to Eric pretty much immediately.
Above: Panels from Suicide Squad # 21
How did you land the Suicide Squad gig?
Wil Moss, my editor on Suicide Squad, contacted me because he read Wild Children and enjoyed it enough to remember my name. He asked me if I would be interested in pitching for it. I put together a pitch, Wil liked it, it got approved.
Wild Children deals with the education system, you’ve said that Zero is about war and Suicide Squad obviously deals with the prison system. It seems that institutions and the way they affect people is emerging as a major theme in your work. Is that deliberate?
That is an intelligent observation, thank you. The narrative thread you just traced between my works was subconscious more than conscious on a story-to-story level. I am consciously interested in how institutions we create affect our life; institutions that are official and the ones that are hidden deeper within the fabric of our lives, the ones we create within our society and within our heads, sometimes without giving them names or without even realizing their presence. I am interested in chaos, order and their interplay.
You’ve said you want your stories to have a social message. I get cynical at times about the potential for art to have a positive social effect. But you come from the Czech Republic, where you actually had a revolution named after a rock band and a president who was a playwright. How do you think your background affects your work?
To me, every story ever made has a social message or messages within it. To me, everything is political because politics at their core mean “relating to citizens,” and I see connections between everything in this universe, and as such, everything relates to me and the responsibility that comes with that is tremendous. I am now interested in using fiction as a vehicle for self-exploration.
This is largely cut from another interview, because I see no better way to describe that part now:
The region I spent most of my first two decades in is very industrial, very similar to north of England, and it carries wounds and scars that go very deep and very far back in time. For example, my grandfather lost two people who were dear to him in the second World War before he was 10 years old, and then had to take care of the farm with his mother. My father worked, among other things, as a miner – specifically the kind that places explosives deep in the shafts where no one else dares to go. The air is immensely polluted and the forests away from the cities are alive and breathing and vast. It’s a rough region that is simultaneously very beautiful. I feel very lucky that I had parents who were – and are – supportive of me despite their own baggage, which comes with the region. I was a smart and wild kid who wanted freedom and that alone was hugely intimidating to almost everyone around me until I became old enough to leave. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how many deep wounds incidents such as the Second World War and the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia had inflicted upon almost everyone, generation after generation. There were also many wonderful events, such as my parents bravely escaping Czechoslovakia with me in 1988 in order to live in West Germany, the Velvet Revolution in 1989, our subsequent arrival back home, being encouraged to be honest and fair despite the environment that often promoted the exact opposite, playing soccer and watching a ten times copied videocassette of Rambo III with my dad back when video recorders were a luxury…the point is, I can only write that what is alive in me, and what is alive in me will always be influenced, amongst other things, by that which I have lived through, by my genetic memory, by nature, by nurture. The best I can do is be honest about it and create stories that use the personal experience in a universal way.
The Velvet Revolution and president Havel are certainly important to my upbringing. He stated that “Truth and love triumph over lies and hate,” and hearing those words as a three or four year old was very formative. Growing up in a country that woke up from a fever dream of Russian occupation and could actively rebuild itself was also hugely inspiring. I could observe boundaries being pushed and straight-up erased on a grand scale.
I am interested in erasing and embracing walls; there is perverse beauty in holding something close while simultaneously knowing you are able to let it go if it wants to. Playful walls within freedom, created for exploration and adventure. Perhaps that is what humanity is working with on a large scale; perhaps nation-states and borders are precisely that — a game we are playing until we decide, ideally peacefully and with love, that it’s time to create a new one.
To come back to where I started, the statement of using fiction as a vehicle for self-exploration; if we accept the hypothesis that the world is a mirror of one’s internal self, then any creation simultaneously reflects inwards and outwards. The social message, the political aspect, seems inescapable on both levels, which are one.
What was your access to American comics like growing up? I grew up in small towns in the U.S. and my access wasn’t always great.
There were a few publishers after the Velvet Revolution; some of them releasing Czech comics, and at least one of them released reprints of American comics as well. The contact I distinctly remember as crucial after the Donald Duck experience is my grandfather bringing a huge pile of comics to me when I was about five or six; they were mostly reprints of Spider-Man circa Roger Stern / John Romita Jr. era and Conan the Barbarian by Roy Thomas and various artists. I could find comics in the stores after that, but not many; perhaps two or three Marvel reprints each month and then some Czech comics, that was about it.
Later on, the amount of comics publishers grew, and the Crew magazine specifically (Crew looks and sounds similarly to “blood” in Czech) had a huge impact on me during that time. This would be late 90′s and early 00′s. The magazine reprinted 2000AD comics, Vertigo Comics, Dark Horse comics and plenty others. My understanding of what comics could do and could be expanded very fast.
What is your process like? How do you split up your day — writing, researching, marketing and social media, etc.?
I like to wake up around eight or nine in the morning, wash my face, meditate, eat a banana and a good, high-fiber, high-protein, low sugar protein bar (ideally coconut or peanut butter flavor), drink green tea, then dive into my inbox and answer emails for about an hour. After that it’s about ten and I write, occasionally answer interviews, eat lunch, write again…until four or five pm. Then I stop.
Research never stops – work on myself, reading, observing the world, it all goes in. As for marketing / social media, I find little spots of time here and there. I like to have a plan of the day and then work with it; being firm and at the same time being like water.
The first Suicide Squad arc is called “Discipline and Punish” — was Foucault an influence?
Since you’re writing the Squad, I have to ask: have you been reading Michel Fiffe’s COPRA? Any chance of a Suicide Squad/COPRA cross-over?
I read and love COPRA. While Michel Fiffe owns COPRA, I do not own Suicide Squad; unlike my other work, which I own, Suicide Squad is a work-for-hire situation for me, so I can not make a decision on whether an official crossover will happen or not. That would be up to Michel and DC Entertainment.
Suicide Squad #22 includes a direct nod to Michel’s work.
Too Much To Dream author Peter Bebergal interviews Alan Moore for The Believer:
BLVR: So in writing, whether you’re trying to inhabit a metaphysical being or trying to inhabit someone living in a poor neighborhood, unless you can inhabit them with compassion, and inhabit them with understanding, they’ll never be a believable character otherwise.
AM: Right, the character will be limited, and so will you. When I was doing V for Vendetta years ago, and I started to introduce the Nazi heads of this totalitarian state in the far-flung future of 1997, I’d been marching against the National Front and taking part in the Rock Against Racism marches, and I realized that I can’t just portray Nazis as bad guys, because everybody knows that, and you’re not saying anything. You’re contributing to the myth that they were somehow separate from the rest of humanity, which they weren’t. The Nazis were just ordinary human beings who got caught up in something very bad and, at the time, rather unprecedented. This is not to excuse their behavior, obviously, it’s simply to point out that it doesn’t do you any service to demonize any group of people. It’s much better to try and understand from the inside.
There was a scene in Promethea where the character is confronted by a horde of demons, and the way that she decides to deal with them is by owning them, by identifying each demon’s qualities and saying, “Yes, I’ve done that; yes, I accept responsibility for that,” at which point she actually physically eats the demon that she’s referring to. What a lot of magic is about is coming to your own individual terms with the universe, which is to say yourself, given that the entirety of the universe that is observable to you or me is that which actually exists inside our heads. And coming to an understanding of those things made me a little bit bigger because I had a part of my mind that could look with compassion at a class of people that I had never been able to do that with before. Not to like them any more, but to understand them.
Full Story: The Believer: Alan Moore
Above: The KLF’s The White Room movie
J.M.R. Higgs writes:
Drummond and Cauty claimed that their solicitor was sent…
…a contract with an organization or individual calling themselves ‘Eternity’. The wording of this contract was that of standard music business legal speak, but the terms discussed and the rights required and granted were of a far stranger kind.
“Whether The Contract was a very clever and intricate prank by a legal minded JAMS fan was of little concern to Drummond and Cauty,” Information Sheet 8 continues.…
For them it was as good a marker as anything as to what direction their free style career should take next.… In the first term of The Contract they, Drummond and Cauty, were required to make an artistic representation of themselves on a journey to a place called THE WHITE ROOM. The medium they chose to make this representation was up to them. Where or what THE WHITE ROOM was, was never clearly defined. Interpretation was left to their own creativity. The remuneration they are to receive on completion of this work of art was supposed to be access to THE “real” WHITE ROOM.
The pair claim that they went on to sign this contract, despite the advice of their solicitor to have nothing to do with it. It is worth noting at this juncture that Cauty and Drummond were ignorant of Operation Mindf**k. Their sole knowledge of Discordianism came from Illuminatus!, which Cauty had never read and which Drummond had not, at that time, ever finished. By signing any such contract they were not simply ‘playing along’, for they would have had no context for what the contract was, or where it had come from.
In this reading of events, Drummond and Cauty appear to have taken a Discordian Operation Mindf**k prank letter at face value, and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds making a piece of work that would fulfil their part of a hoax contract that they chose to sign.
As to what the ‘real’ White Room which the contract alluded to was, Drummond and Cauty were typically candid: “Your guess is as good as anybody’s.” In Discordian terms, however, the meaning is relatively clear. The White Room refers to illumination, or enlightenment. The word ‘room,’ however, is interesting. The use of a spatial metaphor defines enlightenment as a place that can be travelled to, or sought in a quest. The search for the White Room becomes a pilgrimage, with the White Room itself taking on the character of the Holy Grail. Drummond and Cauty’s film, when seen in this light, becomes a means to an end. The White Room was not intended as a film that would make money or enhance their careers. It was, instead, a step along the path in a search for enlightenment.
Full Story: The Daily Grail: The Strange Journey of the KLF
I bought Higgs’ e-book KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money but haven’t read it yet.