Little Deaths

We implode—

explode—

in raptures

of liquid light

that set the skin

to sizzle on the spit

like slow-cooked meat,

pulled apart

in greedy clutches,

peeling

skin from skin,

limb from limb,

sinew from bone

until all is gone,

fallen away

in shreds

and trickles.

Tongues prodding,

hungrily,

for the taste of coppery bliss

of chewed lips,

these beautiful bodies—

diminished

heartbeats and exhales

of viscera and vasculature

with eyelids, aflutter—

fade

into black, into white—

dick-teasing,

mind-fucking

strobes of abstract consciousness.

Hand-in-hand,

together,

we die

little deaths,

again…

again…

and again—

every morning, a resurrection.

Originality By Way Of Cliche: Kumo Kagyu’s Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

“Goblin Slayer was calm as he delivered this answer that was no answer. He daubed his gauntlets with blood, then pulled a liver out from one of the bodies.”

 

—Kumo Kagyu, Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

§.00 The first installment of the novel series Goblin Slayer, Vol.1 (2016), written by Kumo Kagyu (with illustrations by Noboru Kannatsuki), opens with a creation story; the gods of light, order and destiny are locked in a cosmic struggle with the gods of darkness, chaos and chance (how many gods attend each attribute, we are not told). In place of fighting each other directly, their contest is engaged by the rolling of die. After some time the gods tire of dice and create the world as their board and all the beings upon it as their pawns.

§.01 After the table-top inspired prologue, a knowing, introductory line, preempting the cliches to come: “You’ve heard this one before.” More likely than not, upon reading Chapter 1, a fantasy-versed reader will, indeed have heard the set-up before; a young, would-be adventurer known only as Priestess (no characters in the novel have names, only class-designations) joins a guild, receives “porcelain” rank (the lowest of the guild’s 10-teir hierarchy) and is met by three other, young, would-be porcelain adventurers—Warrior, Fighter and Wizard—who ask her to join their party on a quest to save kidnapped maidens from the clutches of a band of goblins (which are described as “-tall as a child, with strength and wits to match”). Priestess after some hesitation, accepts the offer. The party then tracks down the goblins to their lair in a gloomy cave. Venturing within the recess, the party is filled with confidence, save for Priestess, who urges caution, however, her chiding proves fruitless—shortly thereafter, a band of goblins blindside the adventurers.

§.02 In a more conventional tale, the brave wayfarers would have just barely defeated the goblins, rescued the maidens and received a bountiful reward for their pains. However, in Goblin Slayer, they all wind up dead, or as good as. Wizard is gutted with a poison blade. Warrior is slaughtered. Fighter is beaten and raped. Priestess is set upon and takes an arrow to the shoulder. Yet, just before Priestess meets the same fate as Fighter, a mysterious man appears who is “not very impressive” and donned in “dirty leather armor and a filthy steel helm.” The man, a silver ranked adventurer (the third highest rank within the guild hierarchy), decimates the goblins and introduces himself as Goblin Slayer. He then tells Priestess that Wizard is as good as dead, due to the workings of goblin poison that had lined the blade which skewered her. Wizard asks to be put out of her misery and Goblin Slayer swiftly obliges and slits her throat without compunction, much to Priestess’ dismay. Slayer then states that he is going to finish off the rest of the goblins; Priestess goes with him and together they destroy the nest and find a secret room filled with goblin children born from the wombs of human females the goblin horde had kidnapped. Priestess inquires whether or not Slayer will kill them. He says he will and she tries to stop him by asking if he would still be willing to slaughter them if they were good, to which the Slayer replies “The only good goblins are the ones that never come out of their holes,” before clubbing the baby goblins to death. After this grisly affair, the Priestess resolves (rather surprisingly) to become a proper adventurer by accompanying Goblin Slayer on his bloody, ceaseless missions.

§.03 The first thing that struck me about the novel was how original its execution, despite its abundant cliches. In GS, cliches are dutifully employed to be forthrightly subverted, but not merely for the sake of surprising the reader, as when, in a Hollywood horror film, convention dictates a cat or trusted friend be responsible for the first jump-scare so that the effect of the second may be heightened by causing the audience to question whether or not it will again be a harmless animal or friend, or some genuine threat. For example, Goblin Slayer, a skillful warrior and thoughtful tactician, would, in more conventional fantasy works, ladder his way up from the stock genre threats (such as bandits, goblins, trolls, etc) to ever greater challenges (such as dragons and necromancers) in tandem with a plot ever expanding in scope, from the local, to the demense, to the national, to the continental to, invariably, the world, and, perhaps, other worlds (spirit realms, etc). This, however, is not the case with the slayer, who adamantly refuses to engage in any activity not related to exterminating goblins. His idee fixe is so extreme that the co-inhabitants of the town near where he resides come to consider him eccentric, if not mad, and they might be right, for even when he is told that the world is imperiled by “an army of demons” he refuses to aid those who petition his assistance, saying only, “If it isn’t goblins, then I don’t care.” His proclivity, no matter how unhealthy, proves salubrious to those previously living in fear of the diminutive raiders, as the “military won’t move against goblins.” (p. 135)

Further, a character who is introduced in a like-manner to the slayer in a conventional genre-work would also be charged with the characteristics partial to fantasy protagonists; which are generally either sullen and given over to reverie (as in Twilight or Lord of the Rings), whimsical and optimistic (as the protagonists in the novels of Charles De Lint), or a straight-laced ‘chosen one’ (as in Harry Potter or Star Wars), however, the slayer bares no similarity to any of these archetypes, or the hero archetype in general. Rather, he is more akin to a professional shorn of all social ambition—a obsessive tradesman—than the prototypical knight-errant of romantic literature. This is demonstrated in the sedulous way in which the slayer’s tradecraft is highlight, as in the following passages, “‘Leather armor prizes ease of movement. Mail would stop a dagger in the dark… His helmet, the same. Sword and shield are small, easy to use in a tight space.'” Kagyu, p. 130… “‘Clean items reek of metal,’ Goblin Slayer said, a note of annoyance in his voice. Goblins have an excellent sense of smell.” p. 132.

Of further interest is the fact that his trade is not a vaunted one, but is, instead, looked down upon as the preoccupation of an amatuer (the consensus in the story is that real heroes should always seek greater glory). One can see parallels between the snobbery of the guild adventurers, and the differential treatment by real-life society between the man who goes to college so as to become a doctor, and the man who goes to trade-school so as to become a lineworker. In recognizing this, Goblin Slayer Vol.1, functions as a cleverly disguised social satire as much as a RPG homage or action-adventure.


The novel series had its origins in a online thread posted by Kumo Kagyu in October, 2012; the story was later re-edited into novel-form and picked up by GA Bunko. On February 15, 2016, the first installment of the novel series was published via SB Creative (in Japanese). A few months later, in December 20, 2016, Yen Press licensed the novels and released the first volume in English. Both a comic (written by Masahiro Ikeno) and an animated adaptation (written by Hideyuki Kurata and Yosuke Kuroda) have been made in the interim since the initial publication of the novel series, which is, presently, still on-going (with ten volumes released in Japan as of 2019).


 

The Silence & The Howl | Part 14

§.14


“I thought that… maybe I could come over.”

“You can’t come to the house.”

“Why not?”

“Because Rich kicked me out.”

“What? Why?”

“It doesn’t matter, he’s made up his mind. Its good to hear from you, Bluebird,” he replied flatly, unsure if he even believed his own words.

“Wait, what happened? Are you OK?”

“I am doing the same as I always am.”

“Where are you?”

“Andy’s place. For now.”

“Andy? Isn’t he that guy from work, the bald one?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s a junkie.”

“Used to be. He’s a good man.”

“Aren’t you worried?”

“No.”

“What happened, Harmon, why would he do this.”

“I wouldn’t give him a cigarette because he wanted me to admit that everyone was a liar. But I’m not. He didn’t believe me. Became prickly about it. So did I. That’s it.”

“But you were going to start a band and…”

“Nothing I can do. I tried talking to him. No use. Some people, no matter what’s done for them, will never reciprocate, will never take the full measure of their relationships until long after they’ve turned to dust.”

He was talking about her as much as Sprawls but he restrained himself from making the fact explicit. She might not come over then.

After a beat the woman responded, her voice shaking a little.

“I think you’re right about that.”

“You know where Andy lives?”

“No.”

He gave her the directions and they set a time and then she said she had to go but would call later, when she was on her way. He hung up and wondered what he would say to her. What could he say, knowing of her perfidy?

There had been too many words already.

The time had come for acts.

The Silence & The Howl | Part 12

§.12


When Harmon waved to Sprawls as he made breakfast the man only shook his head and sneered.

“What?”

“Why you still here?”

“Where were you expecting me to be?”

“Anywhere but here. I told you last night. Ain’t gonna work out.”

“Are you being serious?”

“I ain’t gonna throw you out. I know you don’t have anywhere to go right now. You find one. Then you leave.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Richard?”

Sprawls didn’t answer and kept buttering his toast over a paper plate beside the kitchen sink. Even as he did so, his bloodshot and buggy eyes swept to the side cautiously, suspiciously.

“You’re gonna throw me out because… I didn’t give you a cigarette? Have I got that right?”

Sprawls shook his head and didn’t answer.

“Stop buttering the god-damned toast. I’m talking to you.”

“I gotta leave. You just remember what I said.”

With that Sprawls turned to leave but Harmon braced him with his left hand, turning him half about as Sprawls grunted and smacked his roommate’s arm away.

“Don’t you put your fucking hands on me.”

“This is my house too, Richard. I’ve been splitting the rent with you since you got it. We’ve been playing music together for four fucking years – you want to end all of that over… what? Nothing?”

“I’m not repeating myself.”

“What is wrong with you?”

Sprawls just starred at him dumbly. Harmon knew he was high. He could smell it on his clothes. He wondered if Sprawls was on something else. He was always on something.

“Ain’t me that got the problem.”

“You disappoint me, Richard.”

“Yeah.”

And with that Sprawls turned and left the house as Harmon stood clenching his fists and fighting back a rage that compelled him to run from the house and bash his friend’s head against the pavement over and over until it splattered like an overripe mellon. Instead, he took a seat at his desk gathered up his laptop and went downstairs to begin filing all his belongings into cardboard boxes to take out to his car.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 10

§.10


Harmon stood within the melting hall once more. The light in the distance so bright he couldn’t bring himself to look at it. The man from which the centipede had emerged stood once more, bathed in albescent resplendence. Fear quickened Harmon’s pulse as he shaded his eyes and pressed down the hall, compelled by desires he did not understand. When he stood within ten feet of the man he realized that it was not a man at all but a statue of a androgynous human, cast of obsidian or some like substance and it seven feet tall and smooth hewn by impossible skill. The statue’s left arm was elevated, palm facing up, its right arm declined, palm facing down, as if it were pushing in equal measure against the welkin and the earth. Where the obsidian creature’s stomach would have been was a gaping black hole and from it issued forth a ominous skittering that began as a whisper and increased in volume with every step towards it Harmon took. When he stood directly before the statue, within distance of embrace, the sound blared like a war-siren and he fell to his knees with the force of it, screaming as a million voices swarmed upon him, speaking forth in dreadful unison, their words indiscernible.

Loathsome legs, insectal and countless poured from the hole as ears gushed from Harmon’s eyes.

*

“Harmon. Harmon?”

Harmon’s eyes flew open as Lyla shook him. He rolled over in his bed to face the naked woman where she lay, her supple curves blue neath the light of the moon.

“You were making noises in your sleep.”

“I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“Bad dream?”

“Yeah. Keep… having a similar one. Same thing keeps happening over and over again… there are these voices and…”

Lyla leaned against Harmon and gently caressed his still heaving chest, teasing about his nipples and the small patch of hair between them. He pressed her to his breast and kissed her crown whereupon she looked up at him and kissed him upon the lips and slid her hand slowly down his chest and stomach to his slowly swelling cock. Harmon groaned and gripped her right breast in his rough and calloused hand, prompting a little gasp to escape Lyla’s thick, red lips and her eyes to roll and her body to sway gainst his own. Shortly the duo were swept up in passionate embrace and as the woman’s body shuddered neath his own, Harmon kissed her upon her nose and pulled slightly away.

“I love you, Bluebird.”

She said nothing and looked away and drew him closer to her body, forcing him deeper inside. Moaning. Moaning. Moaning. Digging her nails into his back until he bled.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 9

§.09


When Harmon finally made his way back to his house the car belonging to the woman was there once more as well as Lyla’s car. Sprawls car was gone. He quickly dashed inside the house and discovered Lyla sitting on his chair in the living room, bent over his desk, his sketchbook open upon it. She looked at the drawing of selfsame visage with pursed lips and wide eyes.

“That was supposed to be a surprise.”

She gasped and dropped the notebook. To Harmon her face born a sign of shame that were as a curse upon her and a faint flame of suspicious there lit up in the corridors of his tired and tumbling mind.

“I’m sorry. I had tried calling but you didn’t answer.”

“Had went for a walk. Forgot to bring my phone,” he replied gesturing to the device where it lay at the corner of the table nearest the wall, not far from the sketchbook.

“So what brings you here, fair lady?”

Lyla rose slowly, hesitating, as if the words had been snatched from her throat. She quickly regained her composure and shrugged, “Dunno. Just wanted to see you.”

“I’m surprised.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“I understand college is demanding but we never meet up anymore. We rarely even talk.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry, I just want you to be with me.”

“I’m with you now.”

Harmon moved to stand before the woman. He was two inches taller than her, three with his boots on, and looked down into her large, coffee colored eyes and raised his hand to her face and leaned down towards her, gently caressing her lips with his own. Smooth and warm and delicious. She kissed back, hard and slowly wrapped her slender arms about his neck as heart beats quickened. Harmon slid his hand beneath her shirt and she shivered at the touch and smiled.

“You’re cold.”

“I’m sure you can figure out a way to warm me up.”

*

The Third Visitation | The Red Duomo

IN MY DREAM | The red duomo loomed over me, suspended between a bottomless mist that had a bizarre solidity, enough to maintain the weight of a full-grown man and the endless ambit of a shimmering and starless sky, black save for a strange-flickering of blue-lightening, threshing the skin of the void like great and arcane flails. Curiosity overwhelmed my mind upon gazing up at the high and imposing facade which looked to have been carved of ancient stone and after a moment in nervous contemplation of my circumstance I took a step forward whereupon I heard the voice of my ever-present companion, echoing throughout my mind in a hundred discordant tongues.

The tempation of curiosity leads thee down a path which thou art not prepared to tread. You know nothing of what lies beyond this portal, yet, in thy errantry, thou hurries forth without a care. Most unwise.

What therein could harm me? Some monstrosity? If you know, speak.

It is not monsters which thee should fear.

You speak in riddles! Plainly now.

If from this much thy cannot glean even the smallest morsel of wisdom then, for thy understanding, it is not. Experience is the greatest teacher. Step forth, fool, and see what awaits.

I bristled at the entities’ barbed remarks and steeled myself to ascend the portal and enter the duomo. Inside I found myself walking down a long hallway lined with mirrors and clocks, whose arms were frozen at different times. The hall let out into a grand foyer which was covered over in a thick silky carpet of a sanguine hue much akin to the chandeliers which hung in thick and odd-angling bundles from every possible surface of the ceiling. Across the red I moved, covered over in red light and there beheld two branching paths, the first was another corridor down which I could see a glistening golden mask where the eldritch light ebbed from almandine to tanzanite. The other path cut off to the north and therein was a temple and an altar and a woman upon the altar. The offering table was swathed in red cloth and the woman upon, naked; tracing the laylines of her body with slow, sensuous movements; at length she gestured to me and though I could not see her face, covered as it was by shade, it seemed as if she were smiling, eyes twinkling like fallen stars. Instantly, I began making my way to the female, my heart pounding, knocking gainst my ribs like the kettle drum of some agued madman; to touch her, to feel her warm embrace, to trace the gorgeous curves of her body and to kiss her plump and shimmering lips, red as blood, were to the working of my fevered imagination to reach a state of absolute perfection.

I could hear the rumbling of the entity within me. He was displeased but his echoing voice was drowned by the barbaric increase of my lust. Shortly I stood before the woman, her hair writhed above her, as if suspended in invisible liquid and a darkness masked her face, a darkness that seemed to have a solidity all its own. I extended my hand and she took it and pulled me close as the entity burst through the inner sanctum of my mind, wreakful and scolding.

Leave this place. She means to drain thee of thy passion. She-

Silence!

Deign to lecture me, boy? Thee might as well cut thy wrists. What passion will well once it has been exhausted in this frivolous, disgusting dance? Have thee forgotten thy purpose?

I did not answer. Did not listen and instead cupped the mysterious woman’s breasts with strong, sinewy hands, to her infinite delight. She moaned and tore at my clothes, tossing them free of my pale, tensing flesh and pulled me upon the altar and kissed me upon the lips, her loins grinding ‘gainst my own, swelling my hardness, eroding all sense of place or time or purpose. The darkness upon her faces swelled as I thrust my manhood within her warmth, spilling out upon me like some distended abyssal cephalodpod; feelings of confusion, bliss and terror mingled all and washed over the totality of the soma liken to a wave of crystal mist. As my thrusts became ever more wild and animalistic the darkness grew and as it grew the red cloth rose and grew, shifting strangely all about the room as if it were possessed of a mind of its own. It merged with the darkness, becoming as a floating river of blood and wrapt about me; first the wrists, then the torso, then the neck. I gasped. Unable to breath and, as the blood river tightened upon me, unable to move. The woman giggled and stroked my chest from where she lay below and then dragged one, long sabre’d nail down my pectorals, slicing through my flesh and drawing a ruddy, gushing line; a living art display.

I screamed and screamed and screamed until the blood river slithered about my mouth and down by throat; filling up my lungs til the grotesque liquid spilled out my nose and dripped in heavy globs upon the skin of man and woman alike.

You were right. Hear me, ᚲᚺᚨᚨᚱᛁᛉᚨᛚ and forgive my impetuousness!

Forgiveness breeds weakness. Yet, it is not my forgiveness thy utmost desires, but rather, assistance.

Both.

Will thee promise to listen when next thou art advised?

I give you my solemn promise!

Good.

The woman, still cackling maliciously, drew her claw down to my stomach, but when she attempted to pierce my flesh once more, her sword-like nail clattered ineffectively against a blackened carapace which glistened abhorrently under the temple’s rubied hue. She gave a hideous roar and slammed her claws ‘gainst my chest with all her might, yet that assault too afforded her nothing, for the entities chitin had ensconced my body. I could feel his power flowing through me and merging with my own. I gave a shout and tore free of the living blood river and spit up the remnants which resided within my lungs and grabbed the woman about the head and without expression crushed her skull between my obsidian hands.

Reclaimer: Episode I

The heat of the newly risen sun cut like a thousand scythes across Miner 457’s arching body as he toiled in the layered soil. The strip mine was expansive. Total area of four-hundred feet by five hundred feet, sinking down with mechanical specificity some fifty-five feet below ground. It was one of fourteen which dotted the scoured, patchy landscape of the desert.

The earth-shifters surrounded him like giant steel spiders, tearing at the silt and stone and clay in dull rhythmic undulations. He was one of only three other miners who had been dispatched to the barren waste by The Unity. The mine had no name, like as it’s workers, only a formal designation: Zone 8-83.

Miner 457 moved to the edge of the newest pit, gazing down the slate walls to the basin of Zone 8-83; in the shadow of that rectangular abyss Miner 400 remained. She had taken a seat upon the ground. Breach of protocol. A dangerous one at that, the slate was unstable, it’s hissing uncertainty could be heard even over the clanging of the clockwork earth-shifters, tearing at the skin of the world as if the whole of the globe had committed some dire treachery deserving of punishment.

“Miner 400!”

Her visor-clad head snapped instantly to the ledge. Biosensors alight and swarming the visual plane of her helm-covering, affixing itself to 457, mapping bio-metrics, hers and his alike. Bio-chemical spikes, indicative of anger. The woman’s heart knocked against her ribs like the bellows of some mad-dash furnace, fear overtaking exhaustion; the whole of her form.

“Sitting down on the job – in a slag pit nonetheless – is a direct contravention of protocol. The slate-walls could collapse at any moment! You trying to get yourself killed, 400?”

“I’m sorry – I was very tired. I just… I had to sit down…”

“Don’t apologize, woman, just move! Can’t you hear the stack crumbling?”

The nearest earth-shifter turned upon Miner 457, hissing out a message. A crackling, mechanical monotone that echoed off across the vast flatness of the strip-mine and vanished across the red sands of the outer rim.

“Elevated stress levels detected. Miner 457, please remain calm. Aggression towards co-operatives is unacceptable.”

“It doesn’t matter right now – can’t you hear the stack? It’s collapsing, we mustn’t have braced it properly! You need to get down there and protect our worker!”

“A reminder, 457: These co-operatives are not ‘our’ workers. They belong to Unity. As do you. As do we all. A true Unified owns nothing.”

“We really don’t have time for this right now. Get down there and get her out of the pit! 400, you need to move – NOW!”

The walls of the slag pit were wavering, layers of dirt, silt and stone shifted down in sputtering clouds of dust upon Miner 400 who scrambled to the left-most bracewall and began climbing the ladder their affixed as fast as her arching body would carry her.

“457: Elevated aggression levels further increasing: untenable. Administering ana-gel.”

The massive drone scuttled swiftly across the shattered skein to stand before Miner 457, long, jointed legs moving out towards the young man like a crustacean preparing to pluck a husk of carrion.

“I don’t need the damned gel, you stupid hunk of junk!”

457 diverted his back-up power to the core, shoulders and arms of his exo-suit scant moments before the claws of the earth-shifter would have reached him. With a grunt of supreme exertion, Miner clasped upon the underside of the drone’s claws and shunted them aside. Muscles afire, he shifted, turning heel and dashing towards the pit as the shifter static-bellowed behind him.

“Invective will not be tolerated, you should comply with protoc-”

No time for protocol. Only time to act. Purely. Intensely. Decisively.

Miner 457 tuned out the drone’s crackling-radio static voice which continued to fizzle through the rarefied mid-morning air and rushed to the edge of the slag pit, his heart pulsing like a serpent coiled about it’s prey. Miner’s shadow evaporated into nothingness under the radiant brands of the fulminate sphere as his eyes slide left then right over the wasted plain of sand and stone. Miner 401 and 402 were nowhere to be seen.

No time to think about them; too far away to help, he mouthed to himself as he ran, feet rooted to a restless shadow.

Kneeling and grasping on to the ladder as the northern-most wall began to collapse, the miner lowered his torso down as far as possible into the chasm, extending his steel-plated hand, hoping to feel fingers shortly grasping back. The mining suit lent considerable strength and durability, the whole of the exo-skeleton grafted directly into the inhabitant’s nervous system. With an exo one man wielded the strength and speed of ten, the titanium-ceramic body plating able to withstand a heat-blast from a industrial furnace and the weight of a fully equipped earth-shifter. Yet the exos had their limits. Miner 400’s suit was fully intact, indeed, newly fitted, but no amount of external armor could save her should the rock-face of the mining pit swallow her in it’s tenebrous maw. Nothing could.

“Faster, 400! FASTER!”

Palled in darkness he could hear only her ragged breath, it’s sharp in’s and out’s and the quick collapsing brace-wall which screamed against it’s imminent dispossession like the spirit of some hideous shade.

Then all was chaos as the brace-wall gave way to 10,000 tons of rock which sundered the metal binding like gelatin and careened to the earth with all the destructive alcahest of some great and vengeful god.

 

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Prt.4

 

Art as a directional model for human action.

All human endeavors bespeak of ourselves; such is the case with fiction, which gives form and function to the nebulous, scattered and fevered energy of the brain’s wild imaginings which roil up from from the instinctual chasm. 

-Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part. 3

In the 1996 book Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, a socially satirical, psychological thriller, a socially alienated, weak and emasculated corporate drone meets a bedazzling political radical. The two men strike up a bizarre friendship and eventually create a underground fight club where they are able to release their pent-up frustrations about the decline of masculinity and the vacuous wage-slavery that is their lives, by viciously beating each other until one contestant concedes defeat. The book was highly popular, so much so that three years after its publication, a film of the same name was created by David Fincher, with a screenplay by Jim Uhls; it is this iteration of the tale that most people are familiar with.

Fight Club was and still is extremely popular, as much for the acting and aesthetics as well as for the pointed and clever social commentary – it is especially popular amongst socialist radicals (which is rather ironic given that one of the principal points of the film is that radical insurrection is all very well and good until lives start being ruined and people start dying) which can be seen by the creation of the self-styled “Leftist Fight Club” for the express purpose of “Bashing the fash.” The “fash” that they are referring to are the illusory fascists that such Antifaesque organizations seem to see everywhere. The club’s only condition for entry: Don’t be a republican – for as everyone knows, all republicans are fascists.

You might here be wondering why I’m bothering to mention this seemingly trivial, though curious, affair. I mention the Palahniuk inspired Leftist Fight Club because it is the perfect modernistic example of life imitating art which is the single most powerful thing any piece of art can conceivably do. It is, I think crucial to highlight such cases when looking through the analytical lens of political outside-dissent. For those that wish to shift any power structure will need to pervade not just in the military, the media and the legislation-complex but also in the arts. That being said we will dive into a manifold sampling of those past and present instances where some work(s) have powerfully influenced the directionality of human action – Leftist Fight Club was just the tip of the iceberg.

[continued part 5]

 

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Prt.3

-a truly great work of art will always deal with three things: sex, violence and death. It is my opinion that any work of art which deals not at all with this omnipresent trio of human universals is not worthy of one’s time or, indeed, of really being called a work of art at all.

-Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part 1

-one can with absolute certainty say that there are Human Universals, that is, Human Generalities. Everyone who exists was born and everyone who was born will die. Everyone feels the pangs of hunger and thirst, of dread and envy, jealousy and admiration, lust and love, of purpose and purposelessness.

-Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part 2

All human endeavors bespeak of ourselves; such is the case with fiction which gives form and function to the nebulous, scattered and fevered energy of the brain’s wild imaginings all of which roil up from from the instinctual chasm. It is only reasonable, given their source, that those instinctual and often obfuscated outpourings would cohere to those elements of the human experience which broader humanity holds as paramount: fear of death, given the uncertainty of what, if anything, comes after; the desire for sex as a replicating process to transcend the certainty of death via propagation of a distillation(s) of oneself into those future times which one will not live to see (echos of one’s consciousness imparted to the surviving lover as memories; the genetic progeny – sons and/or daughters – who will retain some semblance of one’s essential attributes). Then there is the impulse to defend against, violently, all those things within life that are essential to the aforementioned project of transcending death (love, progeny, home, water, food, ect.) and to attack, vigorously, all perceivable threats to those hitherto mentioned qualities.

The greatest pieces of art give to wider humanity the tools needed to grapple with such questions. Not necessarily to solve them, for some are inherently – thus far – insolvable, but to better face them down and navigate their labyrinthine sprawl.

Fiction which does not deal with these primal impulses, with these most crucial matters of human life, can scarcely be expected to rouse the passions since they are inherently devoid of the most powerful of them. If passions can not be roused then men can not, in any large number be moved, if men can not be moved to act in congruence to all those aforementioned questions of import than entropy is intensified and process of social degradation sets in like a cankerous wound.

This is not to say that one’s work should mechanically fixate on the particulars of death, or on the process of copulation nor of the graphic outpouring of those redder urges. Such fixations lead to a cold, stiff introspection on the action alone, that is to say, it places death, or sex or violence as a self-encapsulated and self-sufficient module for the whole of human action; wherein discourse is repelled or stifled at the expense of display alone. It is life as a screenshot. Life as a museum display. Devoid of dynamism and adaptation.

Most everyone can here recall some film that featured countless explosions, and gunshots and great gouts of blood and copulation and yet was wholly boring (). Physical action, alone and isolated, is not particularly interesting, there is nothing there to make one think; all one can do is passively observe a manifest reality. Films such as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai or Ran, in contrast both feature plenty of scintillating violence (that was shocking for its time) but focus just as much, if not more, time upon the consequences of that very same violence. One of the best examples of the divide we are here discussing (between violence-as-decoration and violence-as-a-window-into-the-primal-state) can be seen in contrasting two seemingly similar scenes from the two films, those being the Dostoevsky-influenced psychological samurai-thriller, The Sword of Doom (1966) and the actionsploitation film/videogame emulator Hardcore Henry (2015).

The Sword of Doom follows the exploits of a master swordsman named Ryunosuke with a unique and bewildering sword style in feudal Japan. His life would be splendid save for the fact that he’s a pure sociopath who derives his greatest pleasure from killing. Around the middle of the film he and the assassins who he is traveling with attack a man who they believe is a political target. The man, however, turns out to be a local swordsmaster named Shimada Toranosuke (he’s played by Toshiro Mifune so you know he isn’t messing around). The assassins attempt to assault Shimada anyways but are all promptly dispatched, one by one as the shots linger more upon their bodies then upon the lightening-fast swordplay itself. After the battle is over only the aloof Ryunosuke, Shimada and the leader of the gang of assassins remain (pinned beneath Shimada’s knee with a sword to throat); Shimada then has a conversation with the defeated leader of the assassin troupe as the normally icy Ryunosuke looks on with wonderment.

Shimada: “Who are you? Your name!”

Assassin leader: “Kill me!”

Shimada: “You’re the leader, it seems. Your hot-headed men made me kill against my will. The men lying here were good swordsmen. Now they’ve died like dogs! How will you atone for it, you fool?”

Assassin leader: [crying] “Kill me. It is the worst mistake I’ve ever made. Kill me!”

Shimada: [releasing the assassin and sheathing his blade, he turns to Ryonusuke] The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword.

Contrast this with the big fight scene towards the end of Hardcore Henry where our protagonist, Henry, a cyborg who is seeking to rescue his girlfriend from a albino warlord with psychic powers named Akan, must contend with an army of mind controlled slaves. Arteries are punctured, throats slit, bones broken and heads crushed but there is never any sense of loss or pain for two reasons, the first is that all of the enemies in the fight scene are nameless random goons without emotion or backstory. They aren’t really people, they are simply props and so when Henry is violently dispatching them he isn’t really killing a person he is merely destroying a prop. It certainly looks fascinating but one can not really take away much from the film other than just that: it was pretty cool.

[continued in part 4]

 

 

 

 

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer On Fiction Writing, Prt. 2

Putting aside many of the age-old questions concerning the validity of the concept of Human Nature one can with absolute certainty say that there are Human Universals, that is, Human Generalities. Everyone who exists was born and everyone who was born will die. Everyone feels the pangs of hunger and thirst, of dread and envy, jealousy and admiration, lust and love, of purpose and purposelessness. This is so easily observable that is wholly beyond contention (“but what if we are all brains in a vat in a vast simulation?!” Some cheeky fellow will doubtless interject at some point – mischievous rogues).

The acceptance of this a priori supposition then establishes some very fertile ground for purpose in fiction. Purpose is the first and most fundamental thing any given writer should ask him or herself before proceeding with a given piece of work (indeed it is the first of things which one should ask oneself before doing anything). “Why am I doing what I am doing? Why do I write stories at all? What do I wish to convey in it’s pages?” (and it should here be noted that if one does not wish to convey anything at all then there is no point in writing to begin with, the art that is only for the self and goes not beyond might as well stay contained within the brain! What is it then but a dream?) “What is the purpose of my art?”

Naturally, only you, the reader, can answer such questions in their particulars but there are some general principals that might help us better establish and define our aims as fiction writers. First and foremost among those principals is that if a story does not speak, in some meaningful way, to any Human Universals, then it simply will not be read with any regularity – or even if it is, it certainly isn’t going to be remembered (indeed, why should it?). But it isn’t enough merely to speak to the human soul, as it were, but also to do so in a clear and cogent way, that is to say, a understandable way. It is, of course, fine enough to write for a specific audience in mind (the case of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra is here illustrative: his work was oft found difficult to interpret at best and downright incomprehensible at worst; the US literary critic, Harold Bloom described Nietzsche’s only fiction entry as “unreadable”).

Writing with a specific audience in mind is highly recommended; however, writing in such a way that no one but one’s own self and some small cadre of philologists and linguists (such would be the kind to say, Underworld is a masterpiece because despite it’s endless meandering without coming to a point, DeLillo is very good at making symbolic representations of waste-fixation as a American by-product which lays bear the soul of the post-industrial age – or some such tosh) is hardly the way to go for the simple fact that one is then, essentially writing in another language which will be totally incomprehensible to the common man and often, to the not-so-common man as well.

There is a tendency among post-modern novelists to zealously seek after originality at the expense of anything else (not all post-modern artists are guilty of this, obviously, but it is a general trend I have observed) and that anything else is generally a coherent and clear theme (again, DeLillo is a supreme example of this, he writes a lot of words but rarely says anything; there are implications, suggestions galore, but everything is tangential to something else which isn’t defined, or if so, poorly. Everything is obscured and referential, so much so that the obscure references and the inertia of his language itself become the whole point of the text – though he does, of course, have his high points).

This is a tendency to be avoid if you wish to approach art as a form of social communication (it seems lost on modern man that this was the purpose of nearly all ancient art – not the selfish, narcissistic impulse to stroke the ego that says, “Look at me! I feel something fragile and fleeting; observe it nonetheless, for such is my importance!” – but rather the communal sharing of a given societies highest ideals and aspirations for the purposes of civilizational lift).

Once one has acquired the knack for both clarity and purpose (and clarity of purpose) one should turn the mind’s eye to the directionality of the story itself. It matters not how far from terrestrial reality one flies upon the back of that great bird, creativity – whether you are writing about ancient dragons, or orcs, or cosmic horrors – certain human factors will always remain visible to be plucked out by the discerning no matter how phantasmal, grotesque or fantastical the setting, plot, characters or dialogue. Why is this – because you aren’t a dragon a orc or a cosmic horror, how could you possibly think as one?!

[to be continued in part. 3]

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer On Fiction Writing, Prt. 1

I like what I do. Some writers have said in print that they hated writing and it was just a chore and a burden. I certainly don’t feel that way about it. Sometimes it’s difficult. You know, you always have this image of the perfect thing which you can never achieve, but which you never stop trying to achieve. But I think … that’s your signpost and your guide. You’ll never get there, but without it you won’t get anywhere.

– Cormac McCarthy, Jun. 1, 2008

Fiction writing is often perceived, and subsequently spoken of, as if it were some magical art, some eldritch and impenetrable ability of numinous convocation which arrives and departs from the conscious mind like a furious blast of ball-lightening (which, interestingly enough, are theorized to be responsible for the numerous cases of real spontaneous combustion throughout history). Whilst reaching towards (and ultimately grasping) the numinous should be the end goal of all of the higher forms of fiction, it is a mistake to view the craft as solely the providence of arcane geniuses, as a venture which can only be undertook at the precise moment of inspiration.

Inspiration is all fine and dandy but it is wholly insufficient in and of itself to create a substantial work of art. A work of fiction which is nothing but inspirationally driven is one which is wholly impulsively driven; it is much the same as a grand and beautifully crafted ship without its rudder! It might well inspire a kind of awe but it won’t be able to move an inch and will invariably capsize in the coming storm, lost to all and every man beneath the thunderous swell of bio-hum. There is also the problem of time in relation to a work of fiction; whilst it is never wise to make haste when writing a novel or short story for the sake of speed itself there must also be reasonable timetables set forth for the writer if he or she is ever to finish the project upon which they are so arduously plying their talents. It is a highly romanticized conception of the writer as a powerfully minded yet tragically underappreciated soul which ultimately leads to nothing but stagnation. If you aren’t a genius or a consistent partaker in Ginsbergesque ritualism then it is highly unlikely that bold and evocative inspiration sufficient to carry the entirety of setting, plot, characters and theme will oft strike; this is, in no wise, a bad thing!

Contrary to the romanticized American conception of the fiction writer, he treats his work in much the same fashion as might a lumberjack or gas station clerk. He gets up early, takes notes, watches his time, writers consistently (preferably daily) and passionately and has a distinct objective in mind whilst he is doing so. That is, if he wishes to be a successful writer in the total sense of the term, meaning, successful both financially and, far more importantly, artistically. It is here I would offer some mild advice to those amongst you who aspire to write fiction in any wise (hopefully without being too boorish in so doing).

  • Purchase or borrow a note book or journal (I much prefer leather-bound journals for their superior aesthetic appeal and durability) and take notes whilst you are away from your computer (unless, that is, you still do the work on a typewriter!). This helps not only flesh out already established ideas, but also preserves new ideas that might otherwise perish in the bottomless marsh of forgetfulness
  • Don’t read whilst you write. Meaning: do not take up another work of fiction whilst you are engaging in your own work. The reason for this is simple; originality. Whilst one should most certainly shun originality for its own sake there is a tendency for the “voice” and style of more powerful and skilled writers to overtake the minds (and thus the page) of those, less versed in the craft. It is extremely important for the avid writer to read and read widely and deeply, but not at the same time he plies his trade as this threatens the authenticity of the piece.
  • Concentrate upon the theme of the story before everything else. A story, no matter how exciting the action, plot or characters will ultimately be nothing more than a mere confection of the intellect without philosophical grounding; without ideas which one wishes to build upon, expound, communicate and spread.
  • Don’t overly fret over grammar and instead focus on authenticity within the framework of the world which you are creating. That is to say, if you are writing a sentence and find it pleasing and perfectly suited to describing some situation crucial to the plot then do not there deviate to grammatical puritanism. After all, any true blunders you do make will be fixed by the editor upon the completion of the manuscript.
  • Most importantly, actually practice writing. Set a schedule and stick to it. The simplest, but hardest of “skills” for a writer to master (I include myself in this criticism!)

Now that we have that out of the way we shall turn our attention to the actual structure of a story and what it is that makes certain stories standout, that is, what makes them good. To speak not at all about any particular theme, a truly great work of art will always deal with three things: sex, violence and death. It is my opinion that any work of art which deals not at all with this omnipresent trio of human universals is not worthy of one’s time or, indeed, of really being called a work of art at all.

[to be continued in prt.2]