Empire & Oracle. And a Brand New Blurb.

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2nd cover Iteration, TC2

I spent the morning ranting and raving in my journal, which is mostly what it’s for – writing it out, that is – and rather than succumbing to the temptation to post any of it here and thereby blab about current events that in two or six months time will seem silly and irrelevant and otherwise tangent to the plot, such as it is, I’ve decided to keep all that to myself and focus on what really matters. Namely, book covers!

My editing of TC2 isn’t finished by a long shot. And this isn’t the final version of the cover. But it’s close. The subtitle? Empire & Oracle. Now that is nevertheless final, yay! And it’s all fun and good and makes me feel happy to look at it and talk about it and perhaps, if you’re a member of the tribe, you’ll appreciate this sneak peak. I may as well include the blurb, too. Enjoy!

THERE IS WAR IN THE HEAVENS. AND BLOOD UPON THE LAND. The Great Conflict rages and the Mothmen, desperate to wrest control of space-time from the megalomaniacal clutches of the Molemen, nefariously seek the Cosmic Clock component – the Golden Ball – igniting a diabolical battle for galactic supremacy that will shatter the foundations of the universe. Welcome to TIME CRIME 2: EMPIRE & ORACLE, where the warped machinations and mysterious influence of the Scarab Cult lure Mr. Z. headlong into the past – 1954 Bombay, 19th century Haida Gwaii and beyond – fracturing the forces of the Time Detective Contingent and plunging Vixy and Neutic into the dark heart of 13th century Angkor Wat. Only supernatural redemption, uncanny courage and the fraught heroics of a familiar yet alien outcast can avert pan-galactic chaos and cosmic ruin.

The stretch goal is, again, to publish in the fall. But no later than September or, in a pinch, October. I’ve been told that end-of-year releases are problematic for potential professional reviewers and publications that like to compile annual lists, if I were to be so fortunate. They rather prefer to consider and include things within the proper year of publication. Instead of, say, this didn’t come out until December of 2021, we didn’t get to it until January of 2022, or later, now where do we put it? I completely understand. Hence, I want TC2, akin to TC1, to reside completely within its publication year with a lot of elbow room to get noticed, heaven help us all.

Meanwhile, hey, fake it till you make it! And if nothing else, it’s wise to get out in front of the holiday season so as to give folks time to perhaps notice a book that otherwise doesn’t make any reviews or lists. Worst case, too, I may decide to publish a chapter or two as teasers along the way, in the manner, somewhat, of the old-fashioned serialized novels that appeared in magazines, piece by piece until finally arriving a novels.

Which reminds me that Amazon is offering another new thing (besides their own case laminate hardcovers) – a beta version of VELLA, which is apparently intended to allow writers to publish and get paid for their stories appearing as ongoing episodes versus finished books. Whether this type of option turns out to be a value-add for writers like me, I’m not at all sure yet. But there you have it, the ever-changing phenomenon of indie publishing. I suppose they could’ve called it samsara….

News flash: I’ve just heard from my book designer and she anticipates getting the final cover to me sometime next week, we’ll see – ya’ll will be the first to know!

Concretized Consciousness & the Citizen Kane of Kaiju

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Sell Fone, author image

Ack. My last blog post was a struggle to get out. It’s as if that damn six-day grind at the home improvement exhausted my psychological, let alone art-craft capable health. I can’t fully explain it except that when I work at anything I invest myself in it and cannot effectively manage to disengage myself in any healthy manner. I’m either all-in or checked out.

That, and I swear the additional self-awareness interjected by the idea that whatever I write here will perhaps become a blog post, on a bad day, serves to jack up my journaling vibe. I get that it’s silly for me to journal day after day and year after f*cking year to myself. (Even though I’ve done so for eleven years at anywhere from 500 to 1,000 single-spaced pages per year). Yes, write my way through things. Yes, use this journal as confession and so-called autotherapy or art-craft therapy. And the only effective method is to write whatever comes to mind, heedlessly, unhindered by thoughts of whether or not whatever it is I’m on about can be posted. Who fucking cares?

Well, I do. In many ways I feel that I’ve had my fill of private writing. It takes a person only so far to rant and rave confessionally just to move the energy. The energy gets moved, and oftentimes this becomes that, so to say, and what I jot down here can indeed function as a post. Odds are, in fact, that a journal entry can be posted no matter what. First, because who cares? Nobody reads this shit. Secondly, because, as I’ve discussed many times, this journal has never been a diary. A diary is always couched within a for-my-eyes-only context.

I have written things intended only for me; things I’ve torn up or otherwise destroyed immediately after writing them. That’s stuff is neither diary nor journal nor even confession. Nay, it’s more akin to a stream-of-consciousness, spontaneous, concretizing of all my spurious and nagging and otherwise emotionally charged inclinations, anxieties, obsessions and compulsions. Major life traumas inspire such psychological puking on “paper.” During those times I have no listener, no imaginary reader and my experience is one of immediate transmission, as it were: I write out in real time; sans introspection, interpretation, analysis or vision and it’s as if I’m watching my anxieties fall out of my head as text, as words on the screen and the sense of my fingers clacking away on the keyboard. It doesn’t feel like auto-therapy, either. It’s more of an energy purge.

Is it so-called free writing? No. Because as I understand that activity it involves a forced production of text for a specific period of time, whereby you will resort to typing the same word over and over if necessary just to keep typing. So that it’s really a fake-it-till-you-make-it type of thing. Neither would I classify it as automatic writing or psychography – I’ve never cranked out text unconsciously and frankly I’m not convinced this is biologically possible. That is, while the idea of a so-called ideomotor effect or ideomotor response (IMR) – unconscious physical movement – seems entirely plausible I’m convinced that if somehow your hands have been banging away on a keyboard or scrawling text on paper unbeknownst to you – fully unconsciously – then the phenomenon, if it exists, would not be akin to anything I’d describe as writing.

Anyone who has read TC1 understands of course that I’m all for experimenting with the ideas of unconscious anything and that I enjoy speculating about the forces and energies in the world and within our biology that remain inexplicable in traditional scientific terms. What’s inexplicable about our biology? Well, consciousness, to put it simply. And its opposite. (Not the black-out type but the active unconscious). Moreover, mythology. What about biology leads in any common-sense causal (or for that matter casual) manner to the nature of our experience that leads to that? Furthermore, just as human consciousness can be said to be more advanced than that of, say, a dog, doesn’t it follow, biologically, for instance, that there exist other beings with a consciousness surpassing our own?

I’m going to let that ride and move on to some concretized consciousness. Namely, a little discussion I had with HWG regarding not just Godzilla but the idea of the perfect Godzilla movie that has never been made. And perhaps cannot be made. All the problems with plot, character development, how much monster to show, how much human story matters or not, is CGI the problem, does the money involved fuck everything up, what’s most important about G, all that stuff. The crux of his argument:

“I not only want to see the Citizen Kane, or The Godfather, or maybe just the Bladerunner of Godzilla flicks be achieved, preferably sooner rather than later, but I also have an interest in seeing Grendel made into a movie.”

Grendel, namely, the 1971 novel by John Gardner, is its own discussion but I didn’t paraphrase out that part of HWG’s idea because it adds value to the argument of what is always wrong with G movies. Not that we ought to be seeing the world through the eyes of Godzilla for a change, which is the neat trick that Gardner pulled off. No. I’m keen to retain the reference to reinforce the complexity of what we’re identifying with when it comes to big G.

Me: The most affecting and enduring mythological images are always fully functional; that is, they express the four functions of (1) awe, (2) a cosmology that supports that awe, (3) sociology that establishes, essentially, morals & ethics, and (4) provides a pedagogical, supporting psychology (in terms of myth, Jung outperforms Freud by a long shot).

Given this, with the idea of the worthy G flick, you’re going to have to wrestle, as you are, with all four functions and either pick one, which is what I think the filmmakers and tv writers do, or allow the whole thing to happen as it happens. in other words, set the G free from preconceptions and allow your personal interpretation to screw it all up. So that somebody will inevitably say, that ‘ain’t Godzilla, dude. you’ve essentially arrived at the next step that you also allude to: you have to make the movie that’s in your head.

Now, how to do this? Well, as we know, there are two types of movies: (1) big budget, so-called “major motion pictures” which involve massive financials including very risky, very substantial, contracted investment: a G flick of 2021 stature probably has a long list of major financial stakeholders with a lot to lose for all their up front contributions – they want their money back and more; (2) DIY.

What is a DIY film? These days, it might be an essentially a zero-budget endeavor except for a cell phone and some Halloween store make up and perhaps some lighting courtesy of a shop light from the home improvement store. How to render G in this film? or Grendel for that matter? you already know that you can’t even have a rubber suit. suit of any type at all. Rather, just some glue-on nose, some pasted on hair or scales and, well, the tail is gonna be a pure prop – you can never show G’s tail actually connected to his body. That kind of thing.

What am i getting at? IMPLIED monster. Which, I would argue, is what makes, again, the first flick closer to the perfect G film. but even Gojira is doing SOMETHING else with the G idea: namely, in my opinion, freaking us out by indeed concretizing the manifestation: LOOK, it’s not just G’s head and his body is behind the hill. No. THERE HE ALL IS…!! this is the singularly freaky trick that a kid will ALWAYS be hooked by. I don’t think we as kids even possessed the power of suspension-of-disbelief. I would rather argue that suspension-of-disbelief is an adults-only phenomenon. As kids, we took the rubber suit G as fascinating just as presented. It was aesthetic arrest. A kind of blank inculcation and absorption of something an adult mind cooked up. We kids couldn’t make a G suit even that good, it took some adult means to create and film it. So, that’s why adult creations like horror movies give kids nightmares – it’s too much content, content beyond the means of their meager minds and pre-formed brains. adult imagery short circuits kid capability. And then it gets imprinted like a tattoo and you never really forget it in those freaky terms. This is all a different but related subject to the G-film.

You gotta ask: why make a movie? why not just render images? What is it about a movie that means anything? I have very little use for movies. if it ain’t to do with the so-called transcendental style by Yasujiro Ozu, Carl Dreyer, Ingrid Bergman and such or golden age Hollywood, I ain’t really interested. Bladerunner? It’s a unique offering but otherwise outside of the SFF genre.

Which returns me to G on film. If you made a tv show of G you couldn’t afford the 2021 CGI. Which is why you say tv has better writing: because it HAS to, they don’t have either the time or money to invest in costly effects. Gotta write your way through it. Gojira manages a magic trick of showing just enough and not too much of G: a tick either way and it would have been, god, look at that dumb dude in a rubber suit, or, geez, this story sucks, the characters are thin, the production values shitty, who cares about the lizard, this movie is BORING. I find lots of sci-fi tv and film suffers from exactly this: just an idea, or a scene, pounded out thin and resembling more one of my dreams which has all kinds of plot holes and repeating images, like a visualized compulsion.

So, what cell-phone video G film would you make? Locale(s)? Characters? Conflict? Departure, trials, return? That’s pretty much it besides how much G to show?

***

Conflict within the G-verse:

Whycome, as crafsman would say, does G get instantly attacked by the military in G movies? Two reasons, I’d suggest: (1) it’s always entertaining to make the military establishment, which always symbolizes the “establishment,” period, look stupid. And weak. Despite all their big money, big brains, and big guns. We love to tear down the monoliths we manufacture; (2) we are attacking ourselves, namely our FEARS; which nevertheless is the irrational within us. For what can we really be afraid of in rational terms? That is, if we understand the science, so to say, to any extent – the facts – what is there to be afraid of? Otherwise, heedlessly attacking that which we don’t understand is inherently childlike behavior.

Kids are mean, after all. Yes, they are cute and funny and “innocent” in the sense that they for the most part do not know any better, but they are not necessarily at all nice. They attack, like animals, anything that they don’t understand and will go as far as to kill it. Bugs. Amphibians. Especially anything that can’t fight back. All the while knowing nothing of value about it. Lord of the Flies, as I recall the tale, takes the meanness and heartlessness of kids to a nightmarish level. And of course becomes an analogy for adult politics. But to my point with G: to embattle something we don’t understand is a preternaturally childlike attitude. I don’t understand it, therefore it’s a threat, therefore I must kill it. Why is the unknown a threat to a child? I don’t know. But it explains why the same war gets fought over and over again on both the playground and the battlefield. So that when I say, “kids are mean” I really mean that children, as a result of their biology, lack humanity. To the extent that if it’s not like them – their interpretation of themselves, that is – it’s a threat. And must be killed. Attack G with tanks, guns, jets, rockets – everything we’ve got! Why? Um, dunno, just in case this thing is… well, just ATTACK!

Exile, then. Like all monsters, yes, G symbolizes the experience. Personally, and to an extent culturally, too. Gojira comes out and almost instantly there is a culture that identifies with the monster. Same with Frankenstein, Dracula and even real-life monsters – mass murderers and tyrants: these are humans, we share something at least with even our most horrible counterparts. Identity, after all, is the power of metaphor which is commensurate with the power of myth.

Your DIY G-movie. Concretized consciousness & the Citizen Kane of Kaiju. What will be the thing that manifests G? What happens or fails to happen that REQUIRES G? Because, again, G isn’t a slumbering animal but rather, in psycho-spiritual terms = mythological terms, a slumbering manifestation.

Swampy Deep & Mountain High: Get Your Steady Sculpy On

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What it is, author image

The cream rises and talent will out and all that, yes, it’s true, but it’s just as true that we have…, well, I’m not going to allow myself to surrender to negativity and a criticism of how things are. Life is messy, not everything works out according to plan. Sometimes it seems as if nothing does. So be it, nothing worth anything is easy except the things close to your heart. Which is to say, when you surrender to your personal mythology good things happen even if it’s merely the sense, the experience, of everyday connectedness that otherwise alludes us. Sit by a river and just be. Sculpt your sculpts. Write, walk, read, cook, hit power chords on your guitar. Create your vision of a better world. Rescue damsels in distress. Bake cookies. Be who you are.

Meanwhile, we all know Van Gogh died without experiencing the unique success that eventually came to his work. He suffered for his art in a way that seems frankly unacceptable. How can life be so cruel to someone with so much to offer the rest of us? He’s the tragic example of just how unfortunate the disparity between effort and commensurate reward can be. Ultimately, the work found its home and its day. And that’s the long and short of it: the work is the life. Talent, timing and drive? All part of it. And we’re not in 100% control of any of that, either. We’re tasked with exerting our influence, that’s all we can do. That is, the life is in service of the work and if it means that fulfillment for the individual art-crafter is difficult to resolve within the context of a lifetime, then, so be it. The energies of the creative life possess and express, if they’re mythologically authentic, a more or less eternal quality. “More or less” in the sense of just how direct a connection any particular art-craft vision solders itself to the cosmic circuitry of “universal appeal.” This part of things is a mystery and always will be, thank Thor.

Recall, once again, the wisdom of J.C. (Joe Campbell), hereby paraphrased: the reception to the boon within the context of the world-of-action takes one of three forms: (1) welcome, (2) refusal, (3) indifference. The indifference amounts to an opportunity to inform and teach and apply the patient pressure and time that eventually, on a good day, fractures the rock of resistance to one’s art-craft vision. Or any vision, for that matter. The world’s refusal can be overcome, eventually, by way of pedagogy and patience. And then of course, when the Genie grants your wish, you get everything else that comes with it, but that’s just another adventure, too. (Tap the source of this here):

https://smile.amazon.com/Pathways-Bliss-Mythology-Personal-Transformation/dp/1577314719/ref=sr_1_1?crid=N5GJBBBGU8ZL&dchild=1&keywords=joseph+campbell+pathways+to+bliss&qid=1619015445&sprefix=joseph+campbell+pathw%2Cstripbooks%2C186&sr=8-1)

Which brings me to the super heartening idea of paying-it-forward, as they say. One thing that happens, hooray! – is people helping people. So that sometimes one’s work gets in the hands of someone with influence – an influencer – and things get going. Things may even take off.

Let’s face it, nobody does art-craft for its own sake. As much as we like to imagine that the best, most authentic art-crafters will in fact devote themselves to creating that painting, symphony, sculpture, novel, what have you at all costs and under all circumstances, it ‘ain’t true. Yes, the most intuitively devoted amongst us, those most directly and reliably and relentlessly, as it were, communicating with the muse and enjoying life circumstances that do not otherwise crush us into survival mode ( the struggle against survival, security and domination, to borrow from the Kundalini chakra philosophy, that we share with the animals) will find some way to get something done. But I’m focusing here on the idea of attaining and expressing a version of mastery that rings true enough with the world-of-action that it, in a word, clicks.

Because the work, no matter if it’s your life work or not, has a cost in biological terms. The energy gets used and if it’s not replenished, it gets frankly used up and, day after day, year after year, if we don’t enjoy some measure of commensurate reward (the details of which will be different for everyone) we lose heart. And things fall apart. The art-crafter works and requires a connection in the form of encouragement from the world, and it’s hardly ever the economics that are most important. Hell, nobody makes money, statistically at least, doing anything. Most of us merely manage to cobble together an income that keeps things afloat. As art-crafters, especially, borrowing again from J.C., we require so very little. Otherwise, on the bad days, in the metaphorically chewy words of a buddy of the Crafsman, as he tells it:

“I feel like a gut slung out over a stump.”

Which happens to be the way I felt at the end of this last very long six day week on the job. (Hence, I’m only now getting back to posting). You don’t have to hunt game, slaughter chickens in your backyard, be a butcher or a cook to understand this sentiment. You just have to give it your all day after day and month after month and year after year and experience the psychological vacuum of the Void and you’ll know how it feels. It’s not so much pissing into the wind because that at least is a kind of feedback, unsightly and horrible yes, but nevertheless it’s a reaction, a return on your investment. No. It’s rather the failure to connect and the cruel sense of distance, of the cosmos turning a deaf ear to your heart that crushes one’s soul into powder, that reduces you to your hydrocarbon essence. Art-craft is expression, yes, but mostly (and any art-crafter, if they’re honest, will admit this) it’s communication. And it goes without saying that communication requires at least a listener. Otherwise, we are talking to ourselves. Which doesn’t cut it. It makes us question everything. Why do we do what we do? Are we wrong to be doing it? Are we a failure? Is the cosmos telling us that we should be doing something else?

It means everything and nothing to be devoting your life to your personal mythology. The still point in the center of this pushing and pulling is what we seek yet that still point is not life. Rather, it’s an aspiration. It’s not the experience of living, at least for most of us. Our aspirations are our legitimate ideals. The still point is enlightenment. Enlightenment as an ideal, too, but in philosophical terms it seeks the elimination of the self. Or the transcendence of the self into the larger Self. Which, paradoxically, amounts to no-self. All this is my dime-store summary of the Buddhist’s blown-out match condition (which is not a condition) of Nirvana. No self, no suffering, that’s the point.

So, as the Buddhists, for example, will agree, to suffer is to be alive. What to do about it? Rather than seek Nirvana (except in metaphorical terms) I suggest, as J.C. does, seeking the experience of being properly alive. This is something attainable, something within reach. It’s not so-called “meaning” that we seek, I agree with J.C. on this point. Rather, it is the experience of being properly alive. You know it when you see it or, rather, when you have it. And why not have more of it? How? Follow your bliss. Not your happiness and contentment but whatever it is that you find yourself doing especially in your time of need. I’m not talking about vices. Unless smoking and drinking happens to be your personal mythology – hey, I’m not here to adjudicate. Sometimes you have to begin with your vices, such as they are, to remind yourself, by way of comparison perhaps, if nothing else, what it is that makes your heart sing and what it is that doesn’t. And there’s good energy to be had within the shadow portions of ourselves. Beware of casting out the devil in you, said Nietzsche, lest you cast out your best part. And all that. Meanwhile, it helps to meditate occasionally on the idea that we’re nothing. And everything. Likewise, your creations.

Paying it forward, then. Crafsman’s latest video is devoted to doing just that on behalf of a newbie, T-Nu, and his Youtube channel entitled Cajun Craftastrophe. This guy T-Nu has oodles of talent and Crafsman does well to communicate not only that but to appeal to our sense that, gee, this guy’s amazing work is mired in semi-oblivion, he’s not getting any significant numbers of hits on his channel, especially given the enormous energy and time devoted to it. Nobody except those courageous and oh-so-rare “first adopter” types have managed to discover this. Well, somehow word spread to Crafsman and he did his own thing about it to help out. A good thing. Thanks, Crafsman, I subscribed to Cajun Catastrophe. T-Nu is great. (Likewise, check out his wife’s outstanding circus banner style painting career, very cool).

And who would’ve thought the nexus, perhaps a burgeoning golden age, of figure sculpting and craft video would emerge from the friendly swamps and woods and bayous and craft shacks of somewhere within the Creole-Cajun Gulf Coast realm of the United States? There’s no more to be said about the fun greatness of this stuff – see for yourself.

Well, there actually is more to be said. I’d planned on getting a version of my post out at least a couple of days ago, but the employment grind and the physical and psychological recovery period from it (always at least a day) coupled with my devotion to getting some TC2 editing done, well, recall the slung guts scenario….

Anyway, the crafsman-craftastrophe connection is a heartwarming story. Cajun Craftastrophe went from 145 subscribers to close to 10,000 in the 48 hours or so following the Crafsman shout out. I watched T-Nu’s little “Thank you, Crafsman” video this morning, and read Crafsman’s response in the comments and it was all good. If you want to feel better about the world, I suggest just diving into what these guys do. Communication. Connection. The experience of being properly alive. That’s what it’s all about. Go get your steady sculpy on. Or your jam. Or whatever. Thanks for reading.

Thrills & Chills: The Alchemy of Rocket Sauce and Magic Sprinkles

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Easter Eggs As Such, author image

This post contains an Easter Egg, as such tidbits of advance information, ostensibly titillating, are referred to in movie trailers, these days. Or a tickler. Call it what you will, I’m not kidding, this is special because, well, I’ll just say it: herein you’ll find a very early, preliminary, advance draft of the TC2 cover. Normally I wouldn’t see anything from R.V. for another week or so and then we’d work over some tweaks but, well, shit happens. I’m not including it on the website proper, it is for your eyes only, dear readers.

Meanwhile, a funny thing, the book cover experience. I suppose some folks don’t find it anything but boring. But you read and write your way through life, all down through the years as it were, and how many book covers do you get to experience for the first time? Let alone how many demos or drafts of book covers. It goes without saying, not many. Likewise, that the book cover is not the writing. And the writing is not the story. Yet, somehow it has to all work together and on a good day, something new and worth experiencing happens. And then the dynamic changes, time passes, and things aren’t new anymore and that’s another thing entirely, not necessarily bad. And some people don’t want to know until it’s done and that’s okay, too. We don’t all get a charge out of the incomplete and the early iteration, I get it.

Otherwise, as I’ve oftentimes lamented, writing and rewriting and editing is the life of the long game, of endurance and functioning off and on within a parallel or alternative world that mostly seems determined to undermine itself in favor of daily life. A mind-blowing wooden sculpture cranked out by three mind-melded art-crafters in ten days and then they go on to the next one? Gosh.

Or Crafsman, devoting a show to riffing on his favorite G.I. Joe figure, maybe spending a couple weeks on it and it works, he communicates the zeal and the personal mythology and it’s all good and essential – we need these things, I love this stuff, so be it.

But writing? Crafting words into a manuscript into a novel, the adventure of it, as I heard a cookbook author once describe it, more like an illness than anything. It’s a retreat from real life that you seek to someday recover from. It sounds negative but resolving yourself to working within the idea of bliss-as-fulfillment (rather than pleasure or happiness), of being properly alive within the practice that sustains but seemingly (this is the experience) on such meager fair is perhaps what makes for the difference between those with writerly minds, writers who get the words down and authors. The author embraces the absurd, mostly ridiculous pretension that their words ought to be published. And on a good day, somehow read by a reader they don’t know. By the time you’re an author whatever glamor you may have imagined experiencing about being such has fled somewhere long ago during your encounter with your first lousy sentence and hackneyed plot thread.

Then comes the book cover. Namely, the lunatic idea of rendering 100,000 words or so into a single image. That has anything compelling to do with the story. I say “lunatic” yet as with all things, there is a job for everybody and I wouldn’t trade my book designer for all the tea in China. Or India. Or Japan. I get my tea, by the way, from a great place in Kyoto: https://www.hibiki-an.com/

There are so many book covers. So many interpretations of what was written let alone how to communicate it. How many book covers grab you? How many manage to escape an idiosyncratic niche market and grab lots of people, even people beyond fans of the genre? Or even people who don’t normally read books?

It’s all so weird. And for me, incredibly important. Perhaps ridiculously. But there it is: one’s personal mythology in action. What we care deeply about is who we are, so be it. We indeed judge books by their covers despite how accurate and legitimate and wise the metaphor is in relation to life. In life, we ought not to judge by appearances, especially when there may be so much we don’t know about what is behind or further within appearances. Appearances can be misleading. This is the lesson. The story is what matters. The story stands the test of time or it doesn’t. The book cover at worst is a mere advertisement – it is Joycean pornographic art at its most, well, pornographic because it’s designed to get us to do something: namely, like it or be compelled enough by it to buy the book. Or at least read the book.

How does this work? I don’t know. I just know it when I see it. So that I dump a wheelbarrow full of ideation, let’s call it, upon my book designer – all the 100,000 words of content and all my dreams and visions – the affecting imagery I’ve been functioning off of all these days, weeks, months and years and now I need you to render all that intangible tangible-ness with rocket sauce and magic sprinkles. Yes, take my writing and render it into a single image that communicates… what?

The mythology. That’s the only word for it. As usual.

***

The latest issue of Locus arrived and I was impressed with the covers for a trilogy of books advertised full-page on the back of the magazine. Specifically, their unified nature, snappy graphics, typography and compellingly sci-fi intellectual remove that combined into a snazzy, martini-style professionalism distinguished by the color palette and each book’s subtitle.

Hmm, subtitles. I sent the image to R.V., assuring her that I understood that Time Crime, if we’re in the barroom, rather has to do with high balls – strong spirits combined with carbonated mixers, that type of thing. And that my concern was rather to do with subtitles, whether she thought they were worthy or worthless. Also, how to handle the nomenclature of the series – ought we to use Arabic or roman numerals – “Book 2,” vs. “Book II,” for example, or text: “Book Two.”

She responded in favor of subtitles and “Book 2” and, surprisingly, her first draft, as it were, of the cover. WHAT…? Thrills & chills, that’s what!

TC2 Book Cover, Early Draft, by Robin Vuchnich

This is a riff, a place to begin and a way forward. But I’d say it’s more than that. I had supplied R.V. with a lot of imagery, including (as the devoted reader will recall) my own very humble mock-up, the thumbnail synopsis and let her run with it. And she gets this right, transforming my notions, inevitably hinged not only to the manuscript but to my existing images of gripping horror, the thrill of the chase and claustrophobic entanglement into something appropriately other, in this case, seduction, which I consider perhaps a more exotic expression, nay, syncretization of all the aforementioned psychological and mythological conditions, you might say. There is a magic, too, within the alluring, dreamy hand that both cups the chin, evoking contemplation and its other aspect of not quite cradling the ball, as if everything is happening and then not quite, either. It’s a deft combination of intelligence and intuition. Conscious vs. unconscious. Future is the past. Mythology as true fiction. The wonderment of horror. The seduction of mystery and paradox. I obsess on images, but images are all that matters.

Yes, it’s more than a riff. I was prepared for a riff. And then the hard work of rendering the vision of us both, of coming to a compromise. I had a boss that liked to regard compromise, for better or worse, as the thing that happens when everybody agrees to not be happy. Alternatively, a shared vision can sometimes behave as if it isn’t; that is, it can transcend compromise and, to borrow from something Campbell wrote somewhere (I’m paraphrasing), effectively place its fingers upon the toes of the god. In more down to earth terms, I think it was Jack Black who called it “rocket sauce.” HWG calls it “magic sprinkles.” Whatever you call it, it has to be there. The lightning strike. Or just call it having good bones. Within the context of an early draft, I think, the gods be praised, we have it here.

And it helps me with the manuscript. How so? Well, as I’ve tried to communicate, with the second book in the series, things are different. That is, I know too much about the process; too much in the sense that where everything about TC1 was new and a discovery on my part, hence every step forward seemed a certain kind of victory, an overcoming of a trial whereas now I more or less understand the process of getting a first draft into publishable shape and then how to package and market it. It all transforms itself rather into expectation. It’s a different adventure.

I say “more or less” regarding my understanding of the process because of course, inevitably, much of it remains a mystery and has to, otherwise it wouldn’t be any fun, let alone worth doing. In this way, with so much editing still to be done, and different frustrations to endure, likewise different thrills – thrills and chills! – I have to exploit everything about what works so as to keep going. And as I always try to remind myself: if it feels like progress, it is. I guess I’m trying to express a wariness, a fear getting ahead of myself. But now, with the cover off to a flying start, I feel glad for it and energized by it. Hell, I need all the motivation I can get and then some if I’m going to make this happen. It strikes me that, in fact, that having the book cover in hand helps me to transform wariness and fear – feel of failure – into confidence and resolve. Also, expectation, previously a poison the only antidote for which was dogged determination and a fear of the grave, so to say, becomes anticipation and the energy of affirmation.

21st Century Fizzoid Scam. Or, Sticking Your Nose Up the Crotch of the Cosmos.

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Crim Container, author image

I struggled with whether or not to post this blog for it references, as mildly as I could manage, a current affair, let’s say. And I’ve already written about how unproductive it is in art-craft terms to ever concern oneself with what some folks would term “the news.” But my nose for mythology is what it is and, as I’ve also said, when in doubt, stick your nose up the crotch of the cosmos and follow it, come what may.

Maa-alused, small human-shaped mythological creatures…, which live beneath the ground, were mainly known in Northern Estonian folklore. Various skin diseases such as eczema, pimples, swellings, scabs, sometimes bursal and other diseases, have also been called maa-alused because these beings are believed to have caused the diseases. Diseases caused by maa-alused could also be caught by encountering the hostile force of the earth – the wrath of the earth – by sitting, lying, or sleeping on the ground. For example, it was not recommended to sit on the ground before the first spring thunderstorm. It was believed that the spring thunder cleared the land of the impure power that had accumulated there during autumn and winter.

Marju Kōivupuu, “Tradition in Landscape, Landscape in Tradition: Discourse of Natural Sanctuaries in Estonia,” Time & Mind, Vol.13, Issue 3, September 2020, 276.

The mythology of disease or the mythologization of disease, illness or sickness, alongside the mythology of death of course occupies its own, vast landscape within the geography and history of myth. Before doctors and hospitals, after all, there were shamans, seers, medicine men and witch doctors and such – men, women or transgenders who perhaps spent the majority of their time attempting to heal and cure. There still are. How often they were successful, one would assume, would have been hinged to their legitimacy. But one never reads about shamans having been cast out for inefficacy, ineffectiveness or incompetence. Probably because, even to this day, a healer is interpreted as much in subjective as objective or so-called evidence-based medicine (EBM) contexts. EBM, by the way, is a term I’m not making up – it’s described as “the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.”

Many folks, I’m sure, would consider the current epidemiological silliness, lack of science, misinformation, fear-mongering and active mythologization of a non-fatal strain of influenza that happens to be transmitted, like all influenzas, by contact with infected bodily fluid – hence, why would you wear a dust mask, especially walking down the street? – by tyrannical government organizations, the agenda-laden media and the paranoid wealthy (who happen to own the media) to rather be exemplifying the idea of EBM. No. Sorry. The mythology of disease always has been and always will be a function or phenomenon of what people want to believe. I read somewhere that many people believe there’s a 50% chance that if you contract Covid you’ll end up in the hospital. When the facts say the actual percentage is 0.5% But numbers are generally lost on people unless they happen to bolster their own mostly baseless opinions. Me included.

My wife probably had Covid in December of 2019 and likely caught it at the family Christmas party that she attended and I didn’t. She got over it not by going to the hospital or whining to her doctor about it. Or getting tested. She just toughed it out. I recall a woman at my previous job hacking away for six months before that – she must have had it. It’s a crankily aggressive form of influenza. Trump had it. I may have had a mild version that I may have acquired from my wife that same December but as a lifelong sufferer of allergies and bronchitis and what have you, I’m used to my biology messing with my enjoyment of life and I’ve long since learned that illness is part of life. Deal with it. Get tested for an influenza strain? Why? Take vaccines? Every year in my memory the drug stores have offered flu vaccines. Again, why? It’s not like this thing is Tetanus, or AIDS, or Tuberculosis or whatever the hell. What does a physician typically do anyway besides prescribe something to help ease the discomfort until your own body cures itself? Or not. In which case you continue to suffer or die. So be it. Life will kill you, as they say. Meanwhile, use the common-sense EBM information regarding transmission of viruses that has been available for many decades, namely, wash your hands before you eat, try not to touch your face and keep as clean a house as your sanity allows. Otherwise, it all has to do with risk management. Not the elimination of risk, mind you, but the management of risk. You aren’t walking or driving or taking a jet plane through this life or for that matter getting out of bed in the morning without exposing yourself to risk. But if I need to explain this to you, you’re the type who has already quit reading this post. No worries.

Meanwhile, whatever works. Literally. Don’t sit on the ground until after the first spring thunderstorm if that works for you. One likes to assume that nobody really believed in maa-alused, at least in technical terms; that folks concocted the myth of the wrath-of-the-earth simply to assuage their sense of powerlessness; that they enjoyed suspending their disbelief if nothing else. Do a rain dance for rain. Sometimes it seems like it works. Then again, who’s to say it didn’t? After all, you can’t have faith in mythology and not leave room for the super_natural. I like to believe, for instance, that if I’m as authentic as I can be – if I express my VAPM – and write books that do likewise, I’ll enjoy a sense of being properly alive. And, on a good day, I’ll sell a book or two and my tribe will thrive. I’m here to tell you that, in my experience of this crazy world it tends, in its ultimately mysterious way, to work.

So, get your shot if it makes you feel empowered over something you don’t fully understand. This isn’t a criticism as long as you don’t attempt to force me to get one. Don’t be a Moleman or for that matter a Mothman in this way. Don’t be righteous. In many ways we humans are all alike and in many other glorious ways we differ. Mythology centers all this, that’s all, within and without, at least when we let it do its proper work.

And the best, most reliably affecting mythologies have always been and always will be a refuge and a power corner for outsiders and the exiled among us. A classic mythology empowers freedom. Literal and psychological. Freedom to be who you are. One’s affecting images offer a way back into the world we so often feel exiled from. The answers to your questions are there. The Mystery isn’t solved but rather legitimized – mythologized – first by way of images that affect you for reasons you may find initially baffling and finally by way of a narrative that makes sense to you in your own way. Personal mythology provides access to a cultural mythology. But, again, please, just remember that it’s your mythology, not the mythology.


[1] Marju Kōivupuu, “Tradition in Landscape, Landscape in Tradition: Discourse of Natural Sanctuaries in Estonia,” Time & Mind, Vol.13, Issue 3, September 2020, 276.