2015 marked the half-centenary of Dune, Frank Herbert’s epic science-fiction novel that is so vast in scope it almost defies categorization, although the combination of psychodrama, political thriller, eco-fable and space-opera-cum-Western begins to hint at its complexity. Much like The Lord of the Rings – perhaps the only title it can be compared to, in terms of the scale and credibility of an entirely invented world – its iconic images are familiar parts of popular culture even to people who have never read it; unlike Tolkien’s novel, Dune has achieved this without the aid of a wildly successful movie adaptation. (David Lynch’s film version, released in 1984, was commercially unsuccessful and critically panned as being so confusing as to be virtually unwatchable, and Lynch himself regarded it as a turkey, going as far as to have it credited to ‘Alan Smithee’ – the pseudonym used by Hollywood directors when they wish to disown a film – in the TV releases.) Stillsuited Fremen warriors, the addictive and life-extending drug melange, or ‘spice’, the shaven-headed Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit and, above all, Paul Atreides with his blue-within-blue eyes riding a colossal sandworm across the endless Arrakeen desert – these are all recognizable to many internet users as memes, often turned into animated .gifs or image macros, or referenced in comics and animations.
Been an age since I made a post, but I was thinking about this fantastic website the other day for some reason. Internet users of a certain age and range of interests will no doubt have come across it many years ago, but on the offchance you haven’t, do please take a look. There’s a whiff of psychogeography about the whole enterprise, although in an extremely lighthearted way, and some of the photos have an air almost of suburban Lovecraftianism about them. And the great thing is, once you’re aware of the concept, you see them everywhere – and if you ever meet someone else who’s seen the site, you’ll both be like “Oh, that’s one of them entrances to hell”, and other people who aren’t in the know are like “Huh?”, and then you have the pleasure of explaining it.
My favourite for name alone is ‘Ssssuuuuft’, but there are many others.
Tooky is a sister-entrance to Quetty Orarna but unlike that entrance, which was bricked up by explorers, Tooky is still available. Scene of the devils last minute escape before Christmas 1942, when Al Capone made his ill-advised attempt to kidnap the devil’s son, Big Joe. Tooky’s great beauty and renown draws many admirers from overseas who come to inhale the emanating warm wind.
Radiation trace: nil
Well, available a couple of weeks ago, actually. But I only just thought to mention it on the blog. Only a fiver, and if you buy a copy and get in touch I can send you a physical copy as well!
These works are dedicated to the master architects of delirium: to Edgar Allan Poe, to J.K. Huysmans, to Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, to Arthur Machen, to Robert W. Chambers, to H. P. Lovecraft, to William S. Burroughs, to Haruki Murukami, to Junji Ito, to David Lynch, to John Carpenter, to Maurice Sendak, to Peter Ackroyd, to Thomas Ligotti, to Kristen Alvanson and to Reza Negarestani.
To all those whose vocation it is to disrupt reality and invite the hallucinatory experiences whereby Art and Myth are manifested:
NOTHING IS SACRED. EVERYTHING IS FAIR GAME.
It happened at a time when society had ground to a halt just as it accelerated virtually to the point of singularity, like a gerbil in a wheel, running ever faster and faster, expending its life’s blood in going precisely nowhere. Televised news reports had become indistinguishable from the programmes that ostensibly parodied them – the people laughed aloud at the words of politicians and took the pronouncements of comedians as deadly serious analysis – holy men were caught with whores and catamites on a weekly basis while the words of athletes were revered as if they were prophets and sibyls.
Governments fought wars against the groups they’d armed the week before and jihadis destroyed the fast food joints where they’d taken their first dates four years previously. The sciences made the distinctions between man and beast and between matter and information more porous and diaphanous with each passing month; space probes whispered the echoes of secrets from the womb of Time and those who listened to them shuddered and doubted themselves, while their colleagues in adjacent departments reknitted the stuff of Life to recipes sponsored by pharmaceutical industrialists. The seasons were horribly mixed, and the birds, beasts and fish swarmed this way and that in a fashion that perplexed the greatest authorities on living things; those who staffed the asylums began to fear that their patients displayed not insanity but super-sanity, a new form of intellect fit to understand this new phase of existence, terrifying to the old order that could not comprehend it.
Old Syd had been working this spot for, ooh, coming up to about 130 years now? It was the best spot for miles around and he took his work very seriously. The King’s Arms Hotel was one of those establishments that had acquired a reputation for haunting over its long history, with the result that this actually contributed considerably to its appeal to customers. The irony at work here was that a great many of the punters whom Syd didn’t consider worth bothering with nonetheless managed to convince themselves they’d felt some atmospheric ‘presence’ and went away prepared to tell friends and relatives about the sound of a groaning water pipe they’d heard in the night that was undoubtedly the tortured wail of an unquiet spirit, while those on whom he did actually decide to lavish his attention typically had the most horrible experience of their lives, left the place at the hurry-up and never mentioned the incident to anyone else, except perhaps a psychiatrist or priest.
Doctor Benway’s patented Complete De-Anxietization Programme (CDAP, pronounced ‘see-dap’ to those in the know) had been nothing short of a resounding success since its introduction on the NHS. Admittedly, each procedure was expensive in itself (the actual cost of materials and labour made up only 12% of the price Benway’s Seychelles-registered company charged for the service) but the savings made on medical care throughout the subjects’ future lives were phenomenal. It was, in fact, hailed as the key factor that saved the NHS from total disintegration after two continuous decades of austerity.
The completely de-anxietized patients squirmed and wriggled happily (one must assume) out of the specialized wards that began to make up larger and larger portions of every public hospital, until each hospital was virtually nothing but CDAP wards performing CDAP procedures on patient after patient. Very soon all forms of crime and antisocial behaviour, along with all the other social ills associated with unhappiness, dissatisfaction and mental illness in the most general sense, were in steep decline. The programme was quickly franchised to several other countries, both with and without socialized medical care systems.
Benway was publicly heralded as ‘the new Nye Bevan’ by the government of the day and much of the press. He preferred to see himself more as a sort of cross between Hippocrates, Edward Jenner and Jesus Christ, but since he was a modest man he kept this – along with a personal fortune estimated at a hundred and fifteen billion dollars (US) – quite to himself.
A chill wind whispers through the streets,
It seems a voice, or something near;
The clouds are white as winding sheets,
The people glance around in fear.
A gull emits a lonely cry,
As if in answer to the wind.
A pall of guilt hangs from the sky –
All know who cheated, lied and sinned.
There is no hiding in this town,
From consequence of each misdeed;
You’ll reap the fruit of evil seed
That finds this place such fertile ground.
It once was otherwise, you see.
The sun shone down, the breeze was mild;
The park was filled sounds of glee,
The joy of woman, man and child.
Each one had secrets, things they’d done,
And wanted others not to know;
But all were blithe beneath the sun
While crimes and mischiefs didn’t show.
Thus life was easy, while it lasted:
All were confident and gay.
Until occurred that awful day,
And now the town is bleak and blasted.
It happened thus, so pay attention:
A trav’ler came upon the road.
None guessed that he had ill intention –
Trust was their accustomed mode.
They asked whence he had come, and he
Declared he was no man of note;
No bishop, lawyer or grandee –
A poor man in a tattered coat.
Before the town, he loud confessed
To countless crimes, both great and mean.
The townsfolk thought it quite obscene
That justice should go unaddressed.
They tried him there and then on charges
Taken from his own confession.
(The town’s chief legal man enlarges
On penalties for each transgression.)
They whipped and hanged him in a trice,
But madness fell upon the crowd:
Each found he knew his neighbour’s vice
As if the deed were spoke aloud!
Now misery and guilt abound,
With sorrow etched on every face;
And that’s how this unlucky place
Acquired the name of Judgement Town.
The séance party links hands and the lights are dimmed. “We seek the shade of the late Mr Gibbons”, intones the medium. Mrs Gibbons looks uncertainly from the medium to her adult son and daughter and back again. The table starts to wobble and there is an unearthly groan. “I sense the presence of a spirit – is that you, Mr Gibbons?”
The widow can contain herself no longer. “Is there something you want to tell us, Derek? You left us so suddenly.”
A ghastly rattle, the candle flames shiver, and then an uncanny voice:
“You lot bored me silly while I was alive, and I’m damned if I have anything to say to you now.”
Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Cassilda: Indeed, it’s time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!
* * * * *
The irony that the last three descendants of the Carcosan Dynasty had ended up living in the penthouse apartment of a building on the Rue de la Republique had long ago lost even the slightest trace of grim humour for them, yet half-siblings Claudine and Jean-Laurent and their cousin Thierry had never been able to put it out of their minds completely.
Consider the three of them, lounging around the salon on that sultry early evening in mid-August, caught up once again in one of their customary situations of simmering resentment and jealousy. Claudine, the eldest of the three by a small margin although still a young woman in the scheme of things, was the only one to have had bestowed on her the mahogany hair, pale complexion with a hint of olive to it, thick brows and large, soft, dark-brown eyes characteristic of their ancient House, looks which cause her frequently to be mistaken for an immigrée from the Levant; both her half-brother and their mutual cousin, the youngest of the three, had inherited their greenish eyes, sandy hair and skin that tended towards the florid from their grandmother, an American of Irish stock. As had happened in every generation of this unguessably ancient line, there had been a terrible tension between the need to maintain the family’s power and wealth through marriage with outlying cadet branches, and the knowledge that this persistent inbreeding was leading to the ever more prevalent occurrence of both physical and mental feebleness and, over the last century especially, outright madness.