C. H. Christie’s The Oyster Pirates (1973) | A Review

“Barton masterminded the deal. He knew a lot about the oyster business. But that was all he knew.” — The Oyster Pirates, Adam, March, 1973, Vol. 54, No. 4

In shuffling through old archives I recently stumbled across Adam Magazine, a curious mixture of erotica, corny comedy sketches and pulp fiction. The stories were of mixed quality, but one of them, entitled, The Oyster Pirates stood out to me.

The plot, like the prose, is simple: Doyle, a down-on-his luck prawn fisher is approached by a “enthusiastic” oyster dealer and refrigeration mechanic named Barton, who offers a singular proposal to sail with him to the island of Toraki Island in search of a “special kind of oyster” which are “as big as a saucer.” Barton asserts they’ll fetch a pretty penny in Sydney.

There is just one problem.

Fishing on the island of Toraki is illegal.

Doyle is hesitant. Barton, however, proves too persuasive and the two agree to split the profits 50-50, and together with Doyle’s friend, Smiley, a “raw-boned half-caste” of Aboriginal origin, set off upon the Esmeralda for the isle of Toraki.

When the trio arrive, Barton strikes up a deal with the local chieftain. In accord with their deal, the chief lets out some of the men and women of his tribe. With a massively expanded labor pool, oysters begin swiftly piling up. However, things quickly sour, when Barton, soused, chastises the chief’s son, slandering and physically abusing him. Doyle objects but Barton pays his partner no heed. Weeks pass and the trio assembles a mighty haul, which they estimate to be worth some $10,000.

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Cover for the issue containing ‘The Oyster Pirates,’ depicting Barton, Triki and the chief’s son, at the tale’s spectacular and penultimate climax.

Doyle is pleased and when the refrigeration unit in the ship’s hold becomes unreliable, suggests they return and cash in on their adventure. Barton, drunk, declines, declaring that he wants “a full load.” Doyle then suggests his partner “lay off the booze” because he was treating the natives “too rough” which enrages the blonde oyster hunter. Barton tells Doyle to “go to hell,” and beats Smiley over the head with a bottle after discovering the Aboriginal had been sneaking sips of whiskey, nearly killing the poor man. Doyle, furious at this fresh indignity, demands they depart to seek medical attention for Smiley, but again Barton declines and having paid for the entire trip, has Doyle and Smiley wholly within his power.

The next day a native frantically approaches Doyle and points to the jungle, but lacking the linguistic proficiency, is unable to tell him what is amiss. Doyle heads to the jungle for the stories penultimate climax and finds Barton, in a drunken fit, attempting to force himself upon the beautiful native, Triki. She attempts to resist the oyster pirate but he easily overpowers her. From behind, the Chief’s Son creeps in from the foliage to the left, spear in hand, seeking revenge for his previous humiliation at Barton’s hands. Doyle shouts a warning and raises his rifle at which point the girl, Triki falls into the water as Barton whirls, pistol in hand, thinking Doyle the threat. Immediately thereafter, from the water of the nearby river, a hungry crocodile emerges, imperiling the beautiful woman.

Doyle is faced with a impossible choice: Shoot the chief’s son, shoot the crocodile or shoot Barton. He shoots the crocodile, saving the woman, as the Chief’s Son kills Barton with his spear.

Doyle buries Barton there, on Toraki isle and, with Smiley, returns to civilization.

The big oysters prove to be a sensation in Sydney, just as Barton had predicted.

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Illustration of the deadly crocodile, eventually slain by Doyle.
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Illustration of Triki in the perilous river.

I really enjoyed the tale, which faintly reminded me of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and Polanski’s Nóż w wodzie (1962).

Like Heart of Darkness, the story sees men of civilization venturing into untamed lands where mysterious natives dwell, but yet never tips-over into strict dichotomizing of either the old paradigm of civilized vs savage (for the upkeep of civilization mandates savagery), nor the new paradigm of industrial exploiter vs noble primitive (to dispel this Rousseauian myth one need only take a cursory survey of the prehistorical archaeological record of our ancestors), nor ever engages in finger wagging moralizing, which, even when in competent hands, has a damping effect upon the pacing of a plot as a mechanical necessity.

Like Nóż w wodzie, the story centers on the conflict between its two male leads: the noble, if not particularly heroic, Doyle, and the ruthless, power-mad Barton; though, unlike Nóż w wodzie, the source of their disputation is not a woman, but money. Greed, or perhaps, more accurately, the inability to moderate desire, forms the central theme of the work and acts as the catalyst for the spectacular set-pieced showdown of the climax; for if Barton had simply heeded Doyle’s suggestion, he’d have escaped the retribution of the native. For Barton, however, he could never have enough, not enough money, social control, sex or alcohol. Ruin, a invariable outgrowth of his disregard for the Paracelsusian formulation; sola dosis facit venenum.

“The dose makes the poison.”

 

 

Fiction Circular 8/31/18

FLASH FICTION

First up, Nell of The Library of Nell published a sequence of erotic microfictions entitled The Book of the Woodsman as well as the surreal, The Book of Morpheus. Decidedly evocative. Very interested to see her future works.

“We raised our faces at octagon windows of colour, through mirrors, upending to infinity.” — Book of Morpheus, Ely

The persistently consistent Dark Netizen published the mircofic, Buster about a dog figurine that is more than it seems.

Curious Forgotten Lore has published a plethora of fascinating little fictional tidbits, most notably: a continuation of his mythos of Clod, The God Of Clowns. Perchance, in time, he’ll be the new Slenderman; if that is to be the case I just hope SONY doesn’t try and make a movie out of it…


SHORT STORIES

Lucas Barstow has published Deep Vein Trombonist, which begins alluringly, “Deep underground where sunlight can’t be seen, the ore veins glisten in the light of a candle half burned out, dripping wax onto the floor.” Whilst the opening line is intensely atmosphere and the story is interesting, Mr. Barstow often violates the show-don’t-tell edict, describing in a rather flat and matter-of-fact way what is going on and why instead of painting a picture of the actual events in motion; but my, what an ending! Highly recommended.

Also read The Stain from the The Story Hive.

“I petted the fabric, fingers tracing the sewed areas, for the hundredths time, maybe for the hundred-thousandths time by now…

It had been vibrant and colorful, with the reds and blues and yellows thoughtfully arranged on twenty to thirty-five inches. Baby animals playing under the stars and the moon. Pink hearts lined beneath those little paws. My fingertips knew all the stitches.”

Sad, taunt, eerie and moving. Highly recommended reading and the best of the week.

Also from The Story Hive, The Greater Good Protocol.

Terror House Mag published Soul Box by James McHell, a supernatural drama concerning a man whose spirit has affixed itself inside his wife’s TV. Also from Terror House, Sugar-Plum Fearless by Soren James, a sad, creepy tale about a sad creepy man.

Jellyfish Review published Smolder by Hannah Harlow, which was quite good.


NOVELLAS & NOVELS

Little to report other than that I found a old Henning Mankell thriller in a shoebox. Was titled The White Tigress (Kurt Wallander Series #3). Reading through, very good book thus far.


Tune in next time for more.

If you wish to support our work in publishing great prose and supporting up and coming authors you may do so here.

Dionysus or Aphrodite? THE PORN/EROTICA DISTINCTION, PRT. 3

“You should get an agent! … why sit in the dark, handling yourself?” -Scott Walker, Bish Bosch.

Now there are a plethora of such opinion polls, studies and surveys investigating America’s relationship to pornography but very little committed to erotica. This is primarily because there is very little effort made by most academics to powerfully differentiate the terms. This is a shame because it is absolutely essential to have a embedded descriptor for upward moving sexual art. If the same question would have been asked but in place of “pornography” the words “contemporary romance novels” was inserted (which can be, by and large classed as erotica) instead, I guarantee the results would be far more favorable towards the medium. For one might put a adult romance novel out of sight of ones children but in familiar company one is unlikely to blush (especially woman who make up the vast market share of the romance fiction industry) given the mediums fundamentally Aphroditic qualities. Yet these very same individuals would be aghast to have a friend walk in on them watching the Dionysian displays of “hard-core” pornography; there is a very potent distinction here which bares further elaboration, a inherent impulse, instinctual and deeply rooted understanding of what constitutes a healthy and socially conducive sexual-artistic fabric, even if it is masked by hypocrisy. What hypocrisy? You might rightly ask. We’ll tackle that in part 3. – Dionysus or Aphrodite? The Porn/Erotica Distinction, Prt 2.

We last left off in our endeavor to better grasp the interplay between civilized society, porn and erotica by contemplating hypocrisy. The hypocrisy is simply this: Most sexually mature males and females watch pornography but most will either refuse to acknowledge this or declare that they do not watch pornography at all. Moreover, most individuals now, in some capacity, participate in pornography via the transmission of nude and lascivious photos and video over the internet. As of 2011, 1-in-5 teens had sent a naked picture of themselves at least once (according to studies conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy). According to a 2013 Pew poll only 12 percent of Americans who utilize the internet ever watch pornographic videos which, when factoring all known website aggregations for pornography consumption during this time period, means that around 88 percent of Americans lied to Pew (with women lying more significantly than men).

Yet readers of scintillating erotic fiction are more than happy to express their interest in the medium; the phenomenal popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey well attests to this peculiar demarcation. What is the difference between, say,  Fifty Shades of Grey and the film, Riley Goes Gonzo 2?

 

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Whilst the author was not able to subject himself to the entire running time of the film, he did watch a sufficient amount of the run-time as well as the trailer and can relay that it was much in-line with genre convention.

On the surface they appear to differ only in two primary areas: 1. nature of the sex-acts shown, 2. narrative complexity.

The nature of Riley Goes Gonzo (RGG) is contained in the name as “gonzo” refers to pornography which attempts to place the viewer directly into “the action.” The filming style was credited to pornographer and porn “actor,” John Stagliano and is generally characterized by close-up shots of dangly bits, wobbly lumps and a total lack of narrative trajectory. RGG emulates this genre convention as the film is essentially just 5 sex scenes spliced together without any narrative coherence, there are no characters, just performers and nothing is really said other than occasional pillow-talk. There is not much in the way of aesthetic style other than a constantly flashing neon-overlay effect which achieves nothing other than the further devastation of the eyes. The intensive focus in the film was upon the moaning of the primary actress and the grunting of the male performers and the hammering-jig-sawing of body parts and splattering effluvia. A purely Dionysian exercise of pleasure seeking and the mind-obliterating ecstasy of wild and uninhibited sex; a total collapse of subject and object into one linear process. Sex not as process itself but only a portion thereof, the act of insemination but never the insemination, the man taking the woman but never the steps leading up to it nor the consequences thereof. The purpose of the piece: arousal and nothing else besides. The lustful act – in reality but a portion of the total process – now the totality.

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The author has not seen the filmic adaptation of Fifty Shades but has read the first volume in the book series in its entirety.

Fifty Shades, though it received largely scathing literary reviews (Salman Rushdie famously said of the novel, “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace.“) stands in stark contrast to the almost mechanical and orgiastic themes of RGG. Despite Fifty Shade’s sleazy, cheezy and all-around smultzy tenor, it has both a coherent narrative and fleshed-out characters (see what I did there) and the vaguest of “messages.” The story follows a young, shy college student by the name of Anastasia Steele who falls for a young, mysterious and wealthy magnate named Christian Grey who just also so happens to mentally troubled by his past relations and attempts to work through these problems through acting out BDSM fantasies (which are graphically described in the novel). The story is largely vacuous but has moments which touch upon the aberrant, yet exciting nature of sexual deviancy and the need to overcome past trauma.

It is this coherence of themes which primarily and markedly separates these two pieces of fiction. Both are sexually explicit (“hardcore”) but both are not thematically explicit, the latter attribute being intrinsically tied to the sense of the communal. It is difficult to say whether or not this point of demarcation constitutes the vector of divergence for social acceptability but it would be profoundly unlikely for it to have no bearing at all; clearly it does. For after all, both products are exceedingly concerned with explicit sexual acts, the primary difference, the central difference, is that Fifty Shades places the sex act within the context of a world where the act necessitates consequence outside of its own self-generative pleasure, whereas with the porn film, the self-generative pleasure is the measure of the world itself. It is then, within this framework, that shame builds itself, for the viewer instinctively knows that it is not “real sex” or “sex within the real world” and also understand that the shoring away of responsibility from the act itself necessitates a profound degree of narcissistic self-gratification (to say nothing of the time-spent in idle self-absorption), what we would posit as the focal source for the knee-jerk response to hardcore pornography usually expressed in the linguistic formulation of “tastelessness.” Taste, or aesthetic sensibility is a trajectory of being which originated and was further cultivated within civilized society and thus required a concern for the members of that very society; recall that our word “idiot” finds it origin in the Greek idiōtēs meaning, “private,” or “one’s own.” In Greek society those who refused or were unable to engage in public discourse were considered “idiotes” whereas the fruitful and engaged public were referred to as “polites.” The Latin arcanum, idiota, meaning, “layman” and then, later, “uneducated or ignorant person” as well as the French, idiote, are strikingly similar in their connotations. Both Latin and Greek societies looked upon the society in terms of gestalt, or the whole (more or less), with each component, working in tandem with their other component parts in order to form a more harmonious whole. One realized that one’s own well-being, standard of living, et-cetera, were all, largely, predicated upon their fellows upholding a similar vision and doing what was necessary to build upon and preserve it. With the passing of such societal and civilization norms and attitudes the sovereignty of the state gives way to the sovereignty of the individual and thus the sovereignty of discursive erotica gives way to anti-discursive pornography. The problem inherent in the hedonistic trajectory of pornographic consumption (other than its negative side-effects, which we will not here endeavor to elaborate upon) is the continuation of hermetic isolationism and further societal atomization which will, given sufficient time, render obsolete the very fabric, the very social essence, which gave rise to both the medium and the product as well as the ability to consume it.

We would thus submit that Dionysus’ dismemberment, by hands titanic,  is long overdue.


Sources

Pew Research Center, Online Video (2013), Kristen Purcell, Associate Director for Research, Pew Internet Project.

How much pornography are Americans consuming?

 


Footnotes

both filmic examples were chosen due to their popularity in their respective industries.

Dionysus or Aphrodite? The Porn/Erotica Distinction, Prt. 1

Observe the cover image; is it pornographic or erotic or is there no worthy distinctions to be drawn between such fickle words at all?

The argument about how human sexuality should be properly represented in the arts is a extremely old one with three broad factions splitting up the lion share of opinions. Either sexuality should be displayed as the artist pleases – no holds barred – or, there should be some kind of restrictions placed upon sexualization (whether in regard to sex acts or simply mood/lighting/setting and more numinous aesthetic parameters) or that sex and sensuality in art should be harshly suppressed if not outright banned. Regardless of which camp (if any) one falls into in this discussion, on matters of sex-in-art there is a ever present question: Is it erotica or is it porn? Let us turn our attention, briefly, to some linguistic definitions for these two words to help use in navigating the murky terrain established by these two rather nebulous terms.

pornography (n.) – 1843, “ancient obscene painting, especially in temples of Bacchus,” from French pornographie, from Greek pornographos “(one) depicting prostitutes,” from porne “prostitute,” originally “bought, purchased” (with an original notion, probably of “female slave sold for prostitution”), related to pernanai “to sell” (from PIE *perə-, variant of root “to traffic in, to sell”) + graphein “to write”. A brothel in ancient Greek was a porneion.

erotica (n.) – 1820, noun use of neuter plural of Greek erotikos “amatory” (see erotic); originally a booksellers’ catalogue heading. erotic (adj.) – 1650s, from the French érotique (16c.), from Greek erotikos “caused by passionate love/referring to love,” from eros (genitive erotos) “sexual love.”

There is then, something inherently commercial and prurient about pornography embedded within the word itself whereas erotica, definitively, is more inter-personal (booksellers’ catalog connotation aside).

Archetypally speaking, these distinct categories are perhaps best personified by the Greek gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. Dionysus was classically represented as a young, beautiful man (in older depictions he was bearded and gaudily dressed), often nude; the deity of wine, intoxication, rituals, madness, religious ecstasy and theatre. Aphrodite, contrary to many modernistic conceptions of the goddess, was not a being of carnal delight but of love, child bearing, civic unity, the sea (from which she was born) and, in dire times, war (due her relationship with Ares, god of War). Dionysus – (or Bacchus, as he was later known) a transient being of lasciviousness, celebration and epiphany, who appeared to his followers randomly, wildly bestowing gifts of wine and joyous madness, disappearing just as suddenly as he had come – might then be seen as an embodiment or harbinger of both the brevity and bliss of carnality.

In contrast, Aphrodite was a lasting goddess, that is, she was a being of continuance, of that which lasted and withstood the test of time (births being the most notable example of this – a continuation of the species being the most potent and lasting of all human pursuits).

Sex, under the auspices of Aphrodite, was ultimately tied to love and was seen as an eminently sacred enterprise, so much so that her priests (all female) took strict vows of chastity. Bacchanalians, however, were possessed of no such sacral impulse (due to Dionysus’ affinity for transgression of all things) as Dionysus and would often congregate in orgiastic rituals where all sexes and ages would copulate with wild abandon. So disturbing were these lascivious displays of Dionysian Orgia in 186 BC the Roman Senate attempted a catch-all ban – called the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus (senatorial decree concerning the Bacchanalia) – on the Dionysian religion itself to put an end to the supposedly sexually depraved displays.

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Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus, 186 BC

So as a linguistic dialectic, the pornographic/erotic distinction might best be seen as a distinction between these two divine aspect, that of Dionysus and Aphrodite, bliss of momentary carnal delight and the dutiful cultivation of those emotional bonds and by extension, social bonds, which foster the continued procession of humanity itself.

Pornography, thus, is generally considered “in bad taste” or “base” because it is a inherently selfish enterprise and one which has very low time-horizons. Any individual who pleasures himself or herself to the Bacchanalian displays of the thousands of porn sites across the web is elevating the senses for but a brief moment. The action can not be built upon in any meaningful way, societally speaking (and in this age to speak of the actions of people is, in no uncertain terms, to be speaking of some aspect of some society – for how common are the hermits!). In many ways the pornographic ritual of self-pleasuring is lower than the Bacchanalia, for in the latter instance one was, at the very least bonding both with his/her community and with the terrestrial aspects of Dionysus himself.

 


Sources:

http://www.etymonline.com: [1. Pornography] [2. Erotica]

Oxford Classical Dictionary, eds. S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (Oxford, 20033 ), pp. 479-482