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.

Continue reading “Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes”

Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic: talk & footnotes

cthulhutalkpic

On 3 December I gave a talk at Treadwells on about how Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos – both in his hands and in those of his contemporaries and followers – had been a surprisingly potent influence on modern occultism. It seemed to go pretty well… for the first time ever, a talk of mine was both sold out and had a ticket waiting list!

Sadly, plans to video the talk fell through, but there was an audio recording made: you can listen to it here:

 

Quite a few of the audience asked for a list of footnotes and links for the stuff I referenced, so here we are.

First thing is the bit of research I didn’t get the chance to do… ST Joshi’s mammoth Lovecraft biography, I Am Providence, which looks fascinating. (I did read some of his shorter essays, though – start here.)

LOVECRAFT

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/10/13/heres-why-h-p-lovecraft-matters-more-than-ever/

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/pauwels-bergier-and-lovecraft.html

http://lovecraft.wikia.com/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/09/ghostbusting-lovecraft A great thinkpiece on Ghostbusters as the most optimistic expression of the Mythos.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/20/ten-things-you-should-know-about-hp-lovecraft

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society are at http://www.cthulhulives.org/

(This is where you can get the excellent Miskatonic University t shirt I wore, by the way.)

Their history: http://www.cthulhulives.org/whatisit2.html

The Michel Houellebecq HPL piece. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview6

 

Official history of the tabletop roleplay game:

http://www.hplovecraft.com/life/myths.aspx

http://www.chaosium.com/on-call-of-cthulhu/

Alan Moore on his published and upcoming HPL comic books:

http://thequietus.com/articles/16129-alan-moore-providence-cthulhu-philosophy-language-lovecraft

Plush Cthulhu history:
http://www.toyvault.com/history.html

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/mar/07/cuddly-cthulhu-hp-lovecraft-merchandising

On HPL & the World Fantasy Award furore: http://www.elizabethbear.com/?p=2513

Me on True Detective and The King In Yellow: http://www.spiralnature.com/culture/hype/true-detective-flat-circle-chapel-perilous.html

FICTION

As ever, one core aspect of my talk was Adam Possamai’s theories regarding Hyperreal religion. You can read my in-depth introduction to his ideas in the Darklore journal here:

http://darklore.dailygrail.com/samples/DL8-IV.pdf

MAGIC

My main source for the history of chaos magic and HPL’s influence was The History of British Magick After Crowley by Dave Evans: it’s not specific about the influence of Robert Anton Wilson on the original cohort, but his thought is clearly present.

If you haven’t done it already, read Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati. If you have, then read it again. And if you ever get the chance, see the play.

Fnord.

If there’s any specific questions about the talk, please drop them in comments.

campuscrusadecthulhu

Update: Darklore 8, More Spiral Nature, Slenderman Talk

Things continue to happen…

The biggest is the appearance of volume 8 of Darklore, on sale now.

The line-up is:

  • Mike Jay dives into the strange history of ‘sane hallucinations’

  • Martin Shough investigates the ball lightning enigma, and the way science has approached the mystery as compared to the UFO phenomenon

  • Joanne Conman discusses her revolutionary theory about ancient Egyptian astronomy

  • Daniel Bourke compares modern accounts of post-death consciousness with the descriptions of the world beyond found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead

  • Cat Vincent examines the rise of pop culture-based, hyper-real religions

  • Blair MacKenzie Blake revisits the strange history of the Shaver Mystery craze

  • Lucy Ryder explores the history of ‘corpse roads’ through archaeology and folklore

  • Ray Grasse asks the question: what does it mean when weird things happen?

  • Martin J. Clemens looks into reports of a 24,000-year-old pyramid in Indonesia

  • Robert M. Schoch explores the nature of death and consciousness

  • Alistair Coombs goes in search of the ‘Cult of the Cosmic Bull’

  • Greg Taylor reports on the ‘dying light’ witnessed by some people at the passing of a loved one

You can also read my article “Believing In Fiction: the Rise Of Hyperreal Religion” as a free sample here (pdf).

Also upcoming (hopefully 24 September)  is the next post in my ongoing Spiral Nature column The Hype: This time I’ll be talking about a very personal experience in the use of pop culture symbology in magic, and issues of cultural appropriation. Hint:

Oh, that knife…

Finally, a reminder that my talk for the London Fortean Society “Searching For Slenderman” takes place in a couple of weeks. Venue is The Bell pub in London’s East End, on 8 October at 7:45PM. Tickets are £3/£2 concessions.

Here’s the blurb:

The Slenderman. Born barely five years ago in an online Photoshop competition, this faceless creature’s mythology rapidly spread across the internet, inspiring video series, Alternate Reality Games, stories… and nightmares. Earlier this year, its influence may have led to the attempted murder of a child by other children. A creature of pure fiction, drawing blood. Cat Vincent takes a look at the origins, evolution and implications of this most modern of monsters.

Hope to see some of you there.

Serenity

(No, not that one.)

 

There’s this prayer. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s called the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve hated that prayer ever since the first time I ever it, and I finally figured out why.

It’s those first three words.

“God grant me…”

No. Fuck no.

Starting that group of words with those three not only contradict the meaning of the rest, but cheapens them. Everything else about it is so utterly true that the prelude makes it the worst kind of lie.

And, if you think that prayer is a sub-set of spellcasting (and of course I do), it’s the most selfish, passive-aggressively whiny spell I can possibly think of.

That kind of courage, self-insight, wisdom? That’s not something that should be granted to a person. That needs to be earned. Tested in actual experience, by facing your own choices ruthlessly and dealing with them, and their consequences, with utter honesty. And, of course, surviving that experience.

Getting it through other means is like beating the final boss in a game with cheat codes – a meaningless victory which teaches you nothing at all.

Having a god just give it to you? That’s not a miracle.
That’s a bribe.

Go find it yourself. Then, you might find serenity.

 

My Fortean Times feature on Slenderman

So, this happened… I wrote the cover feature for this month’s Fortean Times.

Ever since I first read FT as a kid (when it was still a fanzine rather than a professional monthly), I had a dream that I’d be in its pages some day – maybe in an article about weird shit, possibly in a review or even a memorial in the Strange Deaths column!

To not only be commissioned to write for them, but to get the cover first time out, is literally a dream come true – and the highlight of my writing career so far.

Huge thanks to FT editor David Sutton for asking me to write for them, Jenny Coleman for her interesting alternate view of Slendy alongside my piece and Etienne Gilfillan for the beautiful cover art.

Issue 317 of Fortean Times is out now.