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.

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.

One of *those* dreams…

I’ve been a lucid dreamer ever since I was a kid. Things can get… intense in there. Also, having ruined upgraded my mind with extensive pop culture magical workings, a lot of that sort of thing turns up in my dreamscapes.

Even by my standards, the dream I had Sunday/Monday this week was a doozy.

I was investigating a haunted/cursed English Stately Home with an unidentified female companion. (She didn’t say much, looked maybe a bit like Clara in Doctor Who – which would explain why I didn’t talk to her much, ‘cos I can’t stand Clara). Not unlike my old Athanor Consulting tradecraft – a careful walk through and scan of the place, assuming combat conditions. Found what looked a lot like a grimoire which, when picked up and opened by Not-Clara (typical!), annoyed the local entity I’d been sent to deal with.

Said entity was a bit tasty, to put it mildly. It immediately possessed the entire building and began to form the stones into a giant humanoid shape. In the middle of doing this, John Constantine stepped out of the shadows… just in time for me, he and Not-Clara to grab the stonework and be pulled up onto the giant golem’s shoulder. The monster strode across the night-time English countryside, clearly with some awful purpose in mind.

While clinging on, I got the sense that the thing wanted to ‘meet’ the Queen. As in, kill her. For some reason, this bothered me (dreams can be weird like that), so I got out my phone.

“Who the bloody hell do you think you’re calling?”, John asked.

“Who do you think?” I replied – and dialed 999.

When the operator answered, I said “This is a Cobra 666 alert, repeat Cobra 666”, and got put through to, basically, the Ministry Of Magic, Covert Ops Division. I identified myself, noting that I was with ‘Designation Conjob’, told them what was happening, and told them to have the Queen immediately helicoptered to (my birthplace of) Gravesend, Kent.

I had, it seems, a plan.

It was apparent that the stately home (before going all Transformers) was somewhere in Essex, because we were approaching the river Thames from the North. This formed the basis of my plan. As the Stately Golem started to wade across the Thames to reach the Queen, I gave John a nod and we shouted together these magic and holy words…

“OI! CHUMMY! SOUTH OF THE RIVER, THIS TIME OF NIGHT??”

This distracted Stately Golem just enough for me to blind it in one eye (with the laser pointer/wand I always carry), which in turn gave me a few seconds to cast a spell: using the motto of the City of London (in a riff off Kate Griffin’s magical system in her urban fantasies) Domine Dirige Nos (‘Lord, Protect Us’), I called on Old Father Thames. Two huge hands made of water appeared and pulled the golem apart… throwing Constantine, Not-Clara & I into the water.

Not-Clara and I swam to the Gravesend side of the river, climbed out up some old stone steps. Standing waiting for us on the bank in the fog, bone-dry and smoking a cigarette, was Constantine. He smiled, nodded, walked off saying “Nice one. See you later, mate.”

I yelled after him (very sensibly) “I’m not your friend, John! I’m just a colleague!”

Not-Clara and I walked into the fog and, I swear, as I started to wake up, theme music started playing.

The music was this:

(the middle-to-end section with the Beatles-like orchestral crescendo).

That was a good’un. Never had theme music in a dream before, and the South Of The River gag was marvellous. That’ll do, subconscious – that’ll do.

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.

Update: Hyper-real in the Year of the Slenderman

It’s been a while since I put up a post – a lot’s been happening. For one thing, I turned fifty years old – and honestly, it feels pretty good.

I have a new monthly column at the venerable occulture site Spiral Nature: called ‘The Hype’, I’m taking a look at currents in occult-related pop culture which are sliding further into both the cultural mainstream and the ‘real’ world. The first piece sets up my angle of attack (using the perspective of sociologist Adam Possamai and his theories on hyper-real religion – hence the name). The second article considers the way True Detective brought the cosmic horror of The King In Yellow to a far wider audience and the third, up today, considers The-City-As-Character in urban fantasy – with a specific, personal focus on London.

(My interest in Possamai’s models will also be involved in my next piece for the Darklore journal, coming later this year.)

I’ve been doing more for Daily Grail, including my partial review/flag-waving for the upcoming stage adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger which promises to be extraordinary (there’s a crowdfunding campaign for a planned 23 November premiere in Liverpool – get on that!). I’ve also done a review of the recent Current 93 gig at Halifax Minster church and the NSA’s facial recognition algorithm seen in light of the prescient (and excellent) TV show, Person Of Interest.

And then there’s Slenderman…

At this point, pretty much everyone has heard about the shocking events in Wisconsin: the attempted murder of a twelve year old girl by two of her friends, trying (allegedly) to sacrifice her in order to become Slenderman Proxies. News agencies across the world have been trying to get a handle on this ever since – I was interviewed for The Guardian a few days after it happened. Then, two more cases involving Slenderman happened – one was a similar attack by a child upon her mother, the second an aside in the multiple cop-killing in Las Vegas by a husband-wife pair, whose interests included right-wing extremism and cosplaying as Joker/Harley Quinn and Slenderman.

Two days after the latter attack, it was the fifth anniversary of Slenderman’s birth – I noted the occasion for Daily Grail.

And… I’ve been commissioned by Fortean Times to write a feature on Slenderman for the next issue. This is a big deal for me, to put it mildly. I hope to do the subject – and the fall-out from the Wisconsin tragedy – justice.

It’s a strange world, and getting stranger by the day. Be safe out there, folks…