‘And so we return and begin again…’

Been a minute, folks… but I’m back. Part of this has been a series of woes with my former web hosts – fuck you very much, FatCow, and bless you Kay Orchison for saving my ass – the rest.. well, you can read about that below: this is the newsletter I just sent out.


IN WHICH YOUR NARRATOR BECOMES A VERY DULL CYBORG

(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of surgery and depression.)   

Thanks so much for sticking with me post-GDPR purge, after an absence of… oh shit, that long??

Well. Honestly, I had a good reason…

Basically, I was losing the use of my hands throughout 2017.

It started near the end of 2016. Kept up most nights with shoulder pain. Went to the doctor when the pain started to get worse and carry on through the day; I was also beginning to experience numbness down my arms and into a couple of my fingers. The doctor – a chap half my age, with the cheerful arrogance only an English public school can inculcate, told me it was “posture”: subtext, “sit up straight and get some exercise, you fat old man”.

Within the next couple of months, the numbness had spread to most of my fingers on both hands, and the chronic pain was joined with sudden shooting pains from the neck down to the fingertips. (On the 0 to 10 pain scale doctors use  – where my 10 is “waking up after the second debridement for my gangrenous foot, screaming like lava was being poured into the wound as soon as the general anaesthetic wore off” – the shooting pains were an 8, and happened daily at random.)

A better GP saw me, thankfully: he immediately put me on the waiting list for an MRI and started me on fentanyl for the pain. Not a fan of opiates, but I accepted them eagerly.

My last newsletter went out 5 October ’17. At that point, I could no longer hold a knife safely enough to cut vegetables for cooking, and I had sunk into the worst depression of my life.

All I could see was what I was losing. Typing became nearly impossible; clumsiness was my norm. I’ve done some martial arts: I could no longer make a fist. I picked up some stage conjuring skills in my youth, literal legerdemain: I could not even hold a coin securely. When I touched my wife’s skin, I could barely feel her.

Day by day, my life… emptied.

The MRI happened a couple of weeks before The Indelicates’ October Ritual: an amazing event that I was honoured to be involved in, and one where the magic (mental and/or otherwise) was just enough to carry me through.

The diagnosis: two ruptured cervical discs, complicated by bone spurs growing into my spinal nerves. Basically, early onset arthritis had eaten part of my spine and was now chewing on my central nervous system. I was put on the urgent waiting list for spinal surgery.

The surgeon in Leeds was very clear on the possible failure modes of the operation, to the point of bluntness. Though the odds were below 1%, the first three on the list were:

Death; paralysis from the neck down; mutism.

This did not improve the depression, to put it mildly. I spent the next two months basically preparing to die. Badly. (I’m not a stranger to fear, for one reason or another. This was worse: a constant dread, empty and cold. The light fading from my life.)

I had the operation on 11 December. That morning, I held my wife as close as I could manage – her patience and love for me throughout was the only thing that let me hold myself even slightly together.

The nurse came to get me, walking me down to the operating theatre. I felt like I was on death row. But I put one foot in front of the other, all the time whispering to myself the prayer which has been my saviour for much of my life:

I must not fear

Fear is the mind-killer

Fear is the little-death which brings total obliteration…

The surgery is called anterior double discectomy with fusion. The surgeon cut my throat on the right hand side at the front, tilted my head back to open the entry wound wide enough for access. My larynx was clamped and pulled to one side – hence the possibility of mutism – my spine revealed, the broken discs were removed, replaced with sheets of titanium. The two vertebrae were encased in a web of more titanium and held in place with what’s basically a Meccano bar screwed to the front of my spine.

I woke up slowly in the recovery room. I could speak. I could move my fingers and toes. I was lucid enough to explain to the nurses what Fortean journalism is…

Within hours of the operation, the feeling began to return to my numb fingers. I was discharged the next day, already better than when I went in… apart from the spectacular scar across my throat.

I recovered well; did my physio and rested lying flat and still like a good lad. By mid-January, I was almost back to my normal self…

…and then my wife and I fell to a flu which lasted four whole months. Just over it now, mostly.

So, that’s where I’ve been. Shit, as they say, happens.

Some time back, I was involved with the nascent Grinding movement: the community of DIY transhumanist experimenters partly inspired by the Warren Ellis/Ivan Rodriguez comic Doktor Sleepless. I have now finally become a cyborg… of a very commonplace, mundane type. No extras, no upgrades. But I got back most of what I thought I had lost forever which, frankly, is far better.

The tech which really helped me through this was all external. As I could no longer hold books in my hands, I got a tablet holder with a gooseneck attachment, which I clamped to the headboard of my bed: this, along with a Bluetooth mouse, let me read ebooks while flat on my back. The other device which helped a lot was my smartwatch: earlier in the year I finally surrendered my beloved-but-obsolete Pebble Time and got an Android one. The cheapest one on the market, the Ticwatch E, which is no worse in the most important area of battery life than the more expensive ones. The voice-activated Google Assistant became a new limb.

While I was down, a lot of interesting things have happened in the aftermath of the work I’d done earlier that year: the Discordian/Wonderist current has grown mightily – Salena Godden’s poem ‘Pessimism Is For Lightweights’ (a philosophy which I struggled to maintain throughout my problems, usually not that successfully) has become both a rallying cry and an installation at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery (an old haunt of mine).

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of John Higgs performing the talk which gave that poem its’ name at the Cosmic Trigger play’s last night, and of my closing ritual for the event which birthed Wonderism. As a celebration of this, Daisy Campbell is sharing the video of the Alan Moore/Adam Curtis panel which happened between those two, only to subscribers to her newsletter. (Sign up here. Trust me on this, it’s something to see. cosmictriggerplay.com, bottom of the home page.)

The next event from this gorgeous and insane crew is Catch 23 in Sheffield: a one-day event on 7 July, along the lines of the Super Weird Happening in Liverpool last April Fool’s – 14 hours of wacky fun, great music and as much Wonderism as you can handle. It will mark my first public appearance since the op. I’ll be holding an upgraded version of my Defence Against The Dark Arts introductory workshop – times like these, kit which is needed more than ever.

(Oddly, Sheffield is hosting my only other gig booked this year, an event by the British wing of the IOT. I’l be talking about pop culture belief systems, and the cunning-craft of Hookland. More about that soon, I hope.)

As for the Brexit curse? Well, you tell me…

I read a lot while I was infirm. Most of it was fairly light fare – a shitload of daft action-packed urban fantasy and thrillers. I only read one book twice: Nick Harkaway’s astonishing novel GNOMON, which you really should have read by now. If not – fix that. It’s the most mind-altering work of fiction I have read since The Invisibles.

Also watched a lot of telly – one thing I enjoyed more than I thought I would was the adaptation of Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, the first episode of which aired on my 54th birthday: some of the changes made for TV worked really well for me. I loved Chris Conner as the hotel AI Poe, and I had one of my getting-wisdom-from-pop-culture moments from the combination of Quellism and the Envoy training, as personified by Renée Elise Goldsberry’s performance as Quellcrest Falcolner: I see a strong connection to the cunning-craft, and have found a kind of Zen strength during my recovery, in her phrase;

We are Envoys, and we take what is offered.

(And while we’re on the subject… I’ve also been inundated during my recovery with ideas and pieces of prose for my long-delayed book on pop culture belief systems, New Gods and Monsters, which is, finally, an actual work-in-progress. The book couldn’t be written until the Trumpian era, with its twisting and the orthodox religious resistance to the postmodern killing of the Grand Narrative: now, it has an ending.)

Oh, and THEY SAVED THE EXPANSE!

That’s about all I can manage right now. Thanks for reading… I hope little intervenes before the next time.

Long Live The NHS.

Overdue update

Blimey, it’s been a long time since I updated this blog! There are all sorts of reasons: quickest way to sum these up and give you a clue as to what I’m doing next is to reproduce my latest newsletter

CATERWAULING 17 June 2016ce

In which your narrator reboots after a crash

I am truly sorry about the gap between the last newsletter and now.

Basically, I did a lot of things, was too busy to write about them during them, and then fell over hard afterwards.

It’s something that never used to be talked about much concerning the effects of chronic illness (in my case, over a decade of Type II diabetes) – your body simply has less ‘energy’ to go round. Doing things, especially things involving a lot of travel, becomes incrementally difficult. Activists on these ‘invisible illnesses’ have come to use the metaphor of ‘spoons’ to describe this effect. I did a load of stuff, then I had no more spoons.

Here’s the things I did…

2nd of April was the marvellous Spirits Of Place event: hosted and envisioned by John Reppion. I was on the bill with some remarkable people, talking about the power of landscape, especially that of Liverpool and its environs. My talk, ‘Where The Buddleia Grows’ was on liminal spaces in urban magic, and seemed to go down well. You can read the text version over at Medium. Was an honour to be in that crew: meeting old acquaintances such as the great Ramsey Campbell and making many new friends. I also took advantage of the chance for a serious night of drinking with my partner-in-crime, David Southwell of Hookland fame.

On the 23rd of April, headed to That There London. I was called in to assist with a public magical working for Daisy Campbell and the Cosmic Trigger troupe: the immediate reason was that the gang were about to submit their bid for Arts Council funding for a second wave of the play next year. As a token of public interest in support of this, a Indiegogo was set up for that day to sell 123 tickets to the last London night of the show (which will happen, with or without the funding… but obviously it’ll be a lot easier with), and of course the first thing Daisy wanted was a ritual to nudge this result. In the middle of Hampstead Heath. The spirit of Eris was fully manifested (in the sense that a shitload of things almost went too wrong but not quite) and the Mischief was Managed. By the time we’d got a couple of rounds in at a nearby hostelry, those tickets had all sold. Took a little under three hours.

(I also got to crash at Daisy’s mum’s flat: which had that specifically odd sensation of sleeping in the home of a former Bond Girl.)

The last weekend of April, brought the extraordinarily fun and gorgeous Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival. This 4 day event brought the cream of international performers to our little town & its environs. (This event is so inspiring that I wore four different outfits, none of which was in black!)


So many amazing acts; including our town’s first Naked Girls Reading event, where our own Heidi Bang Tidy read one of my wife’s blog posts about working with the Hebden flood food relief, which had all of us, including Kirsty, in tears.

The peak was the glorious Perle Noire: seeing her perform was like watching the child of Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt dance her exquisite arse off. A gracious woman, both on stage and off (had the chance to pay our respects in the pub after). Yet another triumph for our local community, and further proof that not even a flood can keep this town down.

The week after that, I went back down to the Smoke, to see one of the last performances of KEN: Terry Johnson’s play about his friendship and working with the late, great Ken Campbell, with Jeremy Stockwell in the title role. As Ken was a big influence on me in many ways (from seeing his staging of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy at the Rainbow in 1980 to being the officiant at Daisy’s impromptu wedding at the Find The Others festival in 2014), I had to go. Not only were the play and the performances splendid, but I met two long-lost friends from the HHGG fan club ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha that I was an early member of! (And there was this whole part after the show involving naked people and psychedelic UV body paint. You had to be there.)

The next day was the pleasant change of going to a Treadwells event that I wasn’t actually speaking at: a one-day conference for the launch of the book The Secret Lore Of London. Christina and her gang always put on a good show, and this was no exception: the highlight for me was meeting John Constable aka John Crow, whose extraordinary shamanic and poetic work in, around and for the spirit of London’s lost was inspiring.

A couple of days back home, then down to Brighton for three days. The event I was going to was the Odditorium’s ‘Adventures On The Edge Of Culture’ for the Brighton Fringe. This featured my dear Daisy again, along with John Higgs, Melinda Gebbe and Alan Moore. This was as fascinating as you’d imagine… and then Higgs was kind enough to introduce me to Alan as a colleague.

Alan was utterly lovely. Listened to my somewhat burbling words, shook my hand 3 or 4 times… and then, when I said “there’s so much I’d love to talk to you about” said, “oh, we must go out for a drink next time I’m round your way”. Which, as it turns out, is fairly often. So, that happened.

The rest of the evening was spent nattering with Daisy & the crew (Alan had to make an early exit), which gave me the chance to natter with parts of that tribe I’d not spent as much time with as I’d liked before – people like Greg Wilson and Kermit Leveridge.

Day after was spent with my dear friends from that area that I’d not been in the same room as in years; my ex Lucy (one of the folk Neil Gaiman based Delirium in Sandman on) and her husband, the writer Adrian Bott. A fine reminder that time and circumstance don’t always triumph over love and friendship.

And then I got home and basically collapsed for a couple of weeks.


I have some spoons now. Here’s where they are being used…

Spent today doing final proof-reading of my next Darklore article, for the upcoming ninth volume of that ongoing Fortean compilation: an adaptation of my Treadwells talk on SF & fantasy’s influence on paganism and modern magic. And I just found out it’s right in front of a piece by Alan Moore… (Mine mentions him and Grant Morrison in the same breath – what could possibly go wrong?)

Tomorrow, back down to London to meet up with more of those old ZZ9 people. Folk there I’ve not set eyes on in a quarter of a century or more, so that’ll be interesting.

On the 23rd of the month, I will be getting a new tattoo: the White Horse of Uffington, inside of my right forearm. The timing of this upon the referendum date is not coincidental: seems the perfect time for an old cunning man like me to reaffirm his bond to Albion at a time when fascist and xenophobic forces are trying to make my land into a place of fear, suspicion and hatred. (RIP Jo Cox: she was MP for a nearby community and someone who clearly had no time for fear and hatred. May she be remembered for that, and not the manner of her death.)

Next week, Hebden Bridge is having an extra Christmas because the flood buggered up the last one. Following that, back Darn Sarf: I’m giving a talk on the 27th at the first Art Arcana event, BORDERLANDS, organised by the immersive theatre/ritual troupe Foolish People: tickets are free if you want to pop along, but do book first. My talk is called “Betwixt And Between”.

Following this is Festival 23 on the 23rd (natch) of July and surrounding days. It’s going to be an incredible weekend, and the latest culmination of the 23 Current I’m honoured to be a part of. I’ll be doing a reading of selected works and teaching a workshop in Defence Against The Dark Arts 101. Say hi if you come along!

Thank you reading, and for your patience in my absence! (Now over 500 subscribers.) You can leave any time you want, of course… but hopefully I’ll have more to tell you, and more spoons to jingle.

 

 

New Newsletter News

Been getting a bunch of nudges from folk I respect that the weekly email newsletter is a thing I should be doing. And, when one of those nudges consists of Warren Ellis stright-out telling me “you should be doing this”, even I can take the sodding hint.

So, here it is: it’s called CATERWAULING, it’s free to subscribe to (and easy to unsubscribe): I plan to be quite chatty/ranty in these…

A lot of folk are moving to this format in place of blogging or social media – I’m finding the ones I read have a personality and immediacy to them which is well worth running the experiment, both as reader and writer.

Cosmic Trigger 2: Night of the Fools

thothfool

23rd November of this year was the anniversary of a lot of things: among others, it was the birthdays of both Harpo Marx and Doctor Who. It was also the first anniversary of the end of the Cosmic Trigger: Find The Others festival, which included my performing an impromptu wedding for writer/director Daisy Campbell and her long time partner Greg.

And, because Daisy literally can’t avoid biting off more than any rational person could chew, then swallowing the lot, it marked the start of the process of staging the Cosmic Trigger play… including, Eris Willing, a US performance in Robert Anton Wilson’s final home of Santa Cruz, California.

To set the process going, Daisy and the Trigger Pullers held an event in London – the first of 22, each connecting to a Tarot Major Arcana. This was the Night of the Fool(s) – and I was asked to give a (23 minute, natch) talk. I decided to look at how The Fool, synchronicity and magic connect… and opened a whole can of worms for myself in the process.

By request, here’s that talk in full, with links to quoted folk added.

Continue reading “Cosmic Trigger 2: Night of the Fools”

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #5: The Authenticity Rant

Posted here for reference, one of the most important things I ever read in a comic book: the rant on the nature of ‘authenticity’ in music, personality and life from 2007’s Doktor Sleepless issue 5, “Your Imaginary Friend”.

I gave a spoken-word performance of this piece in 2014 at Treadwells as part of my talk ‘Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic‘.

(Worth noting that an earlier issue also contains the retelling of Alexandra David-Néel’s tulpa experience, which I discuss in my recent academic paper The Tulpa In The West.)

I was also recently delighted to discover one of the ur-texts for this piece: Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor  (ISBN: 9780571226597, which has the Big Bill Broonzy information and a treasury of other tales in this fascinating area. A must-read if any of this interests you.

All rights to this piece remain with writer Warren Ellis, artist Ivan Rodriguez and Avatar Press.

doktor5.3

 

It’s 1991. Richey Manic is carving something into his arm because Steve Lamacq has suggested that The Manic Street Preachers lack an essential authenticity. What’s echoing in the backstage room is the voice of Ian Brown, still saying “Cos it’s 1989.Time to to get real.” In 1999 Godspeed You! Black Emperor start releasing CD’s sleeved in untreated cardboard. Intended or not, it denotes authenticity. Keeping it real. Like brown paper bags from Muji, founded 1980: Full name Mujirushi Ryohin, which means “No Brand, Quality Goods.”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor didn’t play the media game. Half of them were anarchists, and all of them hated the music industry. But of course they had a brand. You can’t help but notice that Naomi’s Klein’s book “No Logo” had a fucking logo on the front. Godspeed’s brand was authenticity. That’s what they had to sell. And if they didn’t sell records and gig tickets, then they were just 12 guys in Montreal eating ramen until they died. Richey Edwards couldn’t be Richey Manic, THAT RICHEY, unless he sold you on the concept that he was 4 real. Ian Brown and the Stone Roses couldn’t be that band, the band of the moment with the authentic voice that turned out to be the band in the right place at the right time and raised everyone up – unless they were more real than you.

 

Around the turn of the century Justin Timberlake began to carry around with him a group of black vocalists, whose job it apparently was, in live performances, to declare how “real” Justin Timberlake was before he began to sing. In 1938, sharp-dressed bluesman Big Bill Broonzy who’d been tearing up Chicago, played New York for the first time. But a blues guitarist in a good suit brewing up the primal muck of rock n’ roll with drummers and bassmen didn’t seem authentic enough to the Carnegie. So the concert programme described him as a poverty-stricken farmer who “had been prevailed upon to leave his mule and make his very first trek to the big city.” And they had him do acoustic guitar blues on his own. From there to his death twenty years later, he booked pretty much nothing but solo acoustic gigs. Because fake Big Bill Broonzy was deemed the authentic version.

 

No matter that he pioneered electric instruments in the blues, and was also recording with people like Pete Seeger, who wanted to take an axe to the cables when Dylan went electric in 1965. He changed his story in later years, but he was clearly offended by Dylan’s sudden inauthenticity, that maybe he’d been championing a fake all along. Because no one ever knew, or every one pretended to not know, that Bob Dylan was a fictional person. His authenticity was entirely constructed. Bob Dylan and Superman are the two greatest American myths created in the last century.

 

Who the hell wants to be real?

 

In 2006, Bob Dylan’s playing ” The Levee’s Gonna Break” Except the song’s called ” When the Levee Breaks” and it’s by Memphis Minnie. And she’s playing it in 1929, a few years before she moves to Chicago to tear up the town with Bill Broonzy. Who’s Memphis Minnie? One of the other great electric blues pioneers. And her name is actually Lizzie Douglas. And she’s not from Memphis either.

 

Authenticity? Authenticity is bullshit. Never more so than today. We can be anyone we can imagine being. We can be someone new every day.

 

You know why Grinders never got any respect in this town?

See if any of these comments are familiar:

‘You should be happy with who you are.’
‘Be yourself’.
‘That stuff is just fake.’
‘Don’t get any ideas above your station.’
‘Take that shit off.’
‘Dress Properly.’
‘Why can’t you be like everyone else?’

 

Yeah?

 

We are not real enough. We are not authentic to our society. Free speech does not extend to our own bodies.

 

But you know what? Back in the days before the internet, a kid called Robert Zimmerman said, “Fuck that, I’m going to be the man I dream of being. I’m going to be someone completely new and write about the end of the world because it’s the only thing worth talking about.” And that was one guy in Minnesota, in the same decade the telecommunications satellite was invented. Imagine what all of us, living here in the future, can achieve.

 

Be authentic to your dream, be authentic to your own ideas about yourself. Grind away at your own minds and bodies and become your own invention. BE MAD SCIENTISTS.

 

Here at the end of the world, it’s the only thing worth doing.”

 

Anomalous Engineering

anom
anom copyAnd because it’s just not been a busy enough week…

I’m involved in a new project, Anomalous Engineering.

Anomalous Engineering is the banner under which you’ll find unique works of cultural investigation. Finding Meaning in the Mundane, using Pop Cultureto expand on Esoterica. Practising Word Magic and image juxtaposition to reveal the Weird, hiding in Plain SightWeaponised Metaphysics and Improvised Expositional Devices.

Ghost Tribes of the Future, stranded in the Eternal Now. Time travelling Malcontentshacking ontology and dropping theory bombs. Offering up uncommon futures and profane visions of the present.

Anomalous Engineering is a Label, not a Band.

I’m very excited to be be label-mates with old friends such as M1k3y P1rat3, Emily Dare and Damian Williams, and other talented folk like Jenka Gurfinkel, Steen Comer and Jay Owens, with others to appear soon.

This is in the very early stages, so the url of anomalous.engineering isn’t quite ready; but the first pieces have appeared at both Medium and a placeholder WordPress blog.

So far, I’ve included revised versions of older pieces no longer available at their original site…

‘The Tribe of the Strange: Origin Myth’

‘Into The Hyper-Real’

‘Infinite Diversity’

‘Rate Of Return: Woolwich, 4GW and Kayfabe’

…and original work from us all, including some collaborative pieces (think of them as split singles and/or duets) will follow.

I think Anomalous Engineering may be worth a bookmark if the subject of, oh I dunno, our future as a species is of interest to you…

(Oh: and Boing Boing posted a link to my Robert Anton Wilson talk video, which was nice.)

Announcing my first book: NEW GODS AND MONSTERS

I’m immensely happy to announce I have sold my first book.

New Gods and Monsters will be published by Daily Grail Publishing next summer.

Here’s the pitch:

“To a new world of gods and monsters!’
-Dr. Pretorius, in The Bride Of Frankenstein

Despite the predictions (and hopes) of some, the early 21st Century of the Common Era is not a time of less religion than before – 85% of the planet’s population profess to hold some religious belief. But… some of those beliefs are a long way from orthodoxy.

As a result of the rise in popular culture in the last century and the increasing speed and density of communications media to carry it, the modern world has a plethora of stories – avowed fictions among them – about religion, myth and magic to chose from. Increasingly, peoples’ beliefs are directly affected by these stories. Some believers take metaphorical comfort and confirmation of their own orthodox beliefs from them, some incorporate part of pop culture into their belief system… and some even take these fictional tales and treat them as the basis of their own new religions.

New Gods And Monsters is the story of these stories – how they began, how they became popular, the influence they can have on us and what they imply for a future seemingly ridden with religious strife.

This will be an expansion of my previously published thoughts on hyper-real religion, Slenderman, multi-model occultism and basically everything I care about, heavily revised and re-examined – plus a lot of new material on how mythology and stories intersect our modern world.

Catch-up: Speaking on Fandom, Religion, Robert Anton Wilson

Been a while since I updated, and a fair bit happened in the interim… (and I’m not even mentioning the many splendid gigs I went to!). The last 5 weeks were especially busy.

The end of July had a personal first: I was invited to give a lecture at an academic conference, based on blind-read peer review selection of my paper. This was a big deal for someone with no college at all!

The conference was on Fandom and Religion at the University of Leicester. It was a fascinating three days. Science fiction and fantasy fandom was only a small part of the range – there were great talks on the religious aspects of everything from Polish football teams to music fans (two talks alone on Bono!).

My talk was called The Tulpa In The West (which you can read at that link to academia.edu) here’s the abstract;

The concept of the Tulpa first appears in Western thought within the writings of world traveller and mystic Alexandra David-Neel in 1929, in her book Magic And Mystery In Tibet. In David-Neel’s account, the Tulpa (which she translates as ‘thought-form’) is a human-form, physically manifest ‘spirit’ entity created by her Buddhist-trained visualization and meditation. After creating her tulpa, she lost control of both its form and intent, having to eventually banish it back to wherever it came from. This concept has infiltrated both popular culture and the occultism of the 20th and 21st century.

Authors such as Walter B. Gibson (the creator of The Shadow) and comics scribe Alvin Schwartz have used the tulpa concept to describe elements of fictive reality leaking into the ‘real’ world. The tulpa has appeared in a variety of other modern works, ranging from TV shows such as Supernatural to the near-future science fiction comic book Doktor Sleepless. It also formed a major element in the origin of the fictionally-derived but potent urban myth of The Slenderman, and has led to magical practices such as the chaos magic ‘egregore’ summonings and the internet-originated, fandom-adjacent act of ‘tulpamancy’. I discuss the rise of this Westernised conception of the tulpa, its considerable variance from the actual praxis of Tibetan Buddhist worship and its implications for both our post-structural, ‘hyperreal’ society and modern occult praxis.

My enormous thanks to the scholars who organised, spoke at and attended this conference, who were uniformly kind and friendly to an unschooled weirdo.

Last week was a double-header. Some of you might recall my involvement in the stage version of Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger (as co-worker at the Liverpool street ritual which channeled the synchronicity powers of both Carl Jung and John Constantine, and then my being the surprise celebrant for director Daisy Campbell’s impromptu wedding the day after the premiere last November)… and that I gave a talk earlier in the year at Senate House Library on the subject of Wilson.

On 27 August, I gave a very expanded version of this talk at my beloved Treadwells bookshop, which seemed to go down well. I’ll hopefully be posting a YouTube video of the talk over the weekend for those unable to attend. As Daisy, Kate Alderton (who played Arlen Wilson in the play) and my Daily Grail colleague/instigator/KLF biographer John Higgs were in the audience, it was quite the reunion… and one which continued into the next day.

On the 28th, John Higgs held the launch for his new book, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The 20th Century‘, which I can’t recommend too highly. This book deserves to be as big a hit as A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME & read by far more of its purchasers.

It takes all the major developments through that century – from shifts in art and culture to the end of empires, the birth of science fiction and our networked world – and not only explains their development lucidly and ties the whole lot together, he makes it downright hilarious in places. (Especially how he explains postmodernism by comparing it to Super Mario Bros.)

It was great to see the enthusiasm for John’s work here, and meet up with even more of the Cosmic Trigger crew. Even more exciting: Daisy unveiled plans to bring the play to the US in 2017, the tenth anniversary of Bob’s Death. Santa Cruz, Ca, 23 July. Make a note!

Talks and talking

I did a podcast a couple of days with my friend and fellow Grinder Mikey Pirate (who is totally not the leader of an Asteroid Death Cult): we talked about the usual stuff – hyperreal religion, metafiction, Trickster Gods, Slenderman, Babylon 5‘s Rangers and why those who cosplay the Engineers from Prometheus might not be the nicest people to have over for a cup of tea.

Here it is:

 

Next week, I’m giving two different talks in London on two consecutive days:

22nd April, I’m speaking at the Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus (RCA students only, sadly) on neopaganism, the hyperreal (again), authenticity and Midsummer.     Details here.

On the 23rd, appropriately enough, I’m giving a talk on ‘Robert Anton Wilson – Gnostic Agnostic’ at the University of London’s Senate House Library’s ‘Marginal Presences’ Symposium – there should still be tickets available for this, and you can learn more here.

Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes

I am pleased to be able to post the video of my 12 February 2015 Treadwells talk on ‘Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism’. My huge thanks to the Treadwells staff as always, especially to Marco Visconti for filming and editing the talk.

The YouTube video went live on 27 February – tragically, this was the day Leonard Nimoy died. Out of the huge respect I had for the man, and how he embodied the concepts of IDIC which I explored in the talk, I waited to post this until now.

(And, not long after, Terry Pratchett also died. I’m glad to have given both these gentlemen some small tribute here.)

As some of the audience requested, I have a few footnotes on the talk below.

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