Farmer Boy: Less Racism, More Pie

I forgot that I hadn’t covered Farmer Boy, which focuses on Laura’s future husband Almanzo back in New York state, and is one of the most purely fun books around, although it starts out DARK. How dark? “Trudging literally more than a mile through snow so you can get to school and maybe watch your teacher get beaten to death by a bunch of homicidal teenagers” dark. (Why are the teenagers homicidal? Never explained. My guess is that living in upstate New York in the 1800s has a lot to do with it: that place is bleak as fuck even now that there are highways and cable.)

(Sorry, upstate New Yorkers. Not your fault that you live in Snowpocalypse World.)

To get a touch Too Real here, it was weird to read this in the 1980s/early 1990s, where kids randomly killing their teacher was a bizarre thing that I and those I knew, at least, had never really heard of…and then re-reading it now and thinking, well, at least they don’t have guns.

So yeah: five pages in and BAM student-teacher violence. This is a touch misleading, because what happens is the teacher boards with the Wilders, borrows Mr. Wilder’s blacksnake whip, and goes Full Indiana Jones, minus graverobbing, on the teenagers in question. This happens within the first three chapters so that we can devote the rest of our time to horses and pie.

This is one of the most mellow books of the whole series. Interpersonally, Laura may have been more reluctant to portray Drama in her husband’s family, plus Almanzo had more non-infant siblings and his brother was four years older.

(Laura and Mary are two years apart. My sister and I are the same age, and it was the fucking Godfather Trilogy when we were growing up: due to gender roles until very recently, and certainly in the 1800s, Almanzo and close-in-age sibling Alice wouldn’t have been compared to each other as much.)

A big difference is in the circumstances, though. Upstate New York may be a bleak and icy wasteland for a lot of the year, but settlers had occupied it a lot earlier than Wisconsin. Also, Mr. Wilder was rich: dozens of cows and horses, a big house and barn, and, and I do not exaggerate here, ALL THE FOOD. The whole Little House series is food porn (or lack-of-food survival porn in The Long Winter) but Farmer Boy is the Prospectors of Ass Canyon III to the other books’ soft-focus Cinemax. Between the Wilders’ prosperity and the gender stuff that means FB’s main character does a bunch of hard physical labor without running into any “ladies don’t eat” expectations, hoooooooly shit.

I still want to try fried apples ‘n’ onions. And vinegar pie. And popcorn with milk.

Moving away from the food, the difference also comes through in the descriptions of Nature. In Laura books it’s either gorgeous and enchanting or downright horrific: there are domestic bits, many of them in Big Woods, but the general idea is that everything beyond a certain ring of householding is incomprehensibly beautiful, alien and malicious, or both. Nature here is neither fairyland or Cthulhu, but works on a much more human scale: lots of lovely descriptions, mostly of farming, and a bit comparing the weeds to an enemy army and calling Almanzo a “good little soldier.” There’s definite hostility, but not the OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK quality you get in a lot of the others.

It’s also a much less directly racist book than most of the others (Big Woods seems mostly okay except for a dubious song, and I can’t offhand think of racist bits in Plum Creek or one of Little Town/Happy Golden Years, whichever one doesn’t have the horrifying minstrel show scene). Not completely non-racist, Mr. Wilder makes a speech that comes off suuuuuper Manifest Destiny, but still, it’s a nice change.

Farmer Boy introduces the Horses: They’re Fucking Awesome theme that will also run through most of the books (Long Winter is an outlier in a lot of ways), and verges on Boy And His Horse story for much of the second half. Almanzo, who’s not allowed to mess around with colts on the grounds that he’s nine, falls completely in love with one called Starlight (who is not Rainbow Brite’s horse in disguise, tragically) and spends a fair amount of time PINING.

Unlike many of the books that come afterwards, maybe because it’s autobiographical, this one doesn’t have the main character do something stupid for Drama. Almanzo doesn’t keep trying to interact with Starlight until Disaster Occurs, he doesn’t secretly get to know him and develop some kind of weird soul-bond and SHOW EVERYONE. He…pines, and hints, and comes close to breaking the rules a time or two and gets in trouble, and then fights his cousin Frank (who exists to be gormless) to keep him from messing with the colts, and then at the end of the book Mr. Wilder says he’s grown-up enough to start training Starlight, and yay!

It really does feel like a nice, organic coming-of-age process, and I prefer it to the outsized doofiness in other novels.

This whole book, by the way, features Almanzo’s oldest sister Eliza Jane at her best, which…is not saying much. She’s much better here than as an adult later on, but she still spends most of it being some type of pill or other, and then she saves Almanzo from trouble but it’s trouble that she at least contributed to, so I don’t know that it counts.

Again: still better than in any other book, which demonstrates the kind of Being a Petty Bitch that I have to admire Laura Ingalls Wilder for, despite her other views.


Links!

I’m in the midst of proof editing for Blood and Ember, the conclusion of the Sentinels trilogy, so here are some things I’ve enjoyed reading lately:

Smol Robots: Progressive, funny, and generally adorable. Mushroombot is one of my favorites.

Rollerskater: Urban fantasy web fiction! I’ve read the first two sections and found them very trippy and engaging. It also gets points for being fantasy with college students as primary characters, which is the sort of thing I don’t see much for some reason.

This Twitter thread, in which Ursula Vernon meets a little snake that is Trying Very Hard.

Next week: hopefully, I have some Thoughts about On the Banks of Plum Creek.

A Trope I Like, or In Which I Am Irksomely Californian

My reason not to be productive this week: fucking TVTropes. That is to say, my D&D group referenced the “Reason You Suck Speech,” thanks to an excellent one our gnome gave to a leader of the libertarian centipede Elder Evil cult, and then I went to read about those, and…things escalated.

In particular, things escalated to the Fate/whatever version of the Nasuverse: to wit, a franchise whose major deal is summoning different versions of historical/legendary/fictional characters to fight each other and save the world and probably sleep with. (The original two had adult-style dating sim elements going on. Yes, I want to play them.)

I dig this sort of thing. Not so much for the Nature of Fiction meditations or whatever, that’s a bit too Consensus Reality (which I hate) for my tastes, but excuses to bring characters from multiple different works or realities together are great. Back in my MUSHing days, I was on a game that used this premise as a result of Mystic Portals, I really liked the Sandman and Swamp Thing arcs where the other members of the DC Universe eyed goings on all “…the actual *hell*?” and I’m a fan of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, even the doofy movie version.

That said…okay, this was also the week when the Snyder Cut came out. And first of all, if you’re out in the dating world, I’d recommend adding Snyder to Rand, Card, Tarantino, Fight Club and Catcher In the Rye as fandoms that are instant disqualifiers unless you get some good up-front explanation. These works aren’t all bad (okay, Rand’s are) but people who are really into them, particularly when those people are cis white dudes? Almost always are.

But also, Snyder’s take on superheroes is extremely joyless and gets worse when the heroes in question interact. Not unlike some of the more infight-y Marvel arcs/MCU movies, like Civil War, the main motivation (other than Everything Is Grimdark and You Suck For Wanting It Otherwise) seems to be the sort of “who would win if X fought Y” debate you got in Stand by Me, or on rec.games.frp.dnd when I was young and the Earth had yet to cool. YKIOK and all, I guess, but when YK is dominating the trajectory of an entire franchise, I think the rest of us get to be a little grumpy about that.

I’m not some kind of violence-averse hippie: I would put my books up against any romance novelist’s work on the market when it comes to the number of people who end up messily dead. Stephen King is one of my favorite non-romance writers. I even like a number of fight scenes in movies–albeit many of the current ones seem designed to mostly show off people’s skills at CGI and are excessively long for my middle-aged self, and I prefer stuff like “Dr. No” where it’s quick and brutal–but those fight scenes have to have context and meaning, or at least dialogue.

For example: Lord of the Rings, the movies. The Charge of the Rohirrim is all about a sort of triumphant hopelessness, it comes at a significant point in the narrative, it reunites people, and it changes the plot. Sam’s fight against Shelob is pure horrific desperation and love for Frodo. The fucking Warg attack on the way to Helm’s Deep is just padding and an excuse to have Aragorn almost kiss his horse. Take it out and either add the Scouring of the Shire or let us go to the damn bathroom half an hour earlier.

(If they’d stopped for Legolas/Aragorn action, OTOH, I’d have been fine with it. Sex doesn’t have to have meaning but fights do.)

With the Civil War stuff, and the Batman v. Superman movie, we’re obviously not talking about padding here per se, since the fighting is the entire basis of the films…but still, the plot feels mostly like an excuse to have the fights. The characters get warped accordingly. (To be fair, I know the Civil War stuff is sort of a comic thing, but it’s one of my main issues with Marvelverse’s take on mutants/superheroes: they get used as a metaphor for civil rights, and I can see how that works, but then the writing forgets that gay people AFAIK cannot blow up the Sun when they’re in a bad mood, so the “government can never interfere/keep tabs on/etc people who are actually incredibly dangerous” plot points come out, and make zero sense.) Similarly, in Avengers, the Tony/Steve mutual snark is great, the fight with Hulk makes sense, but the Cap/Thor fight either didn’t need to happen or it didn’t need to be nearly as long as it was, except Ooh Who Would Win If.

At that point, just have the Thor: Ragnarok gladiator fight, which was fun. Because I may be willing to endure twenty minutes of basically sportsball, but I get surly about being expected to take it seriously.

I don’t care who wins in the Massive Crossover universes–at least, not for competition reasons, because the answer (just like with the endless Elminster v. Raistlin debates of my excessively online childhood) is always “it depends.” It depends in-universe on the situation, and it depends out of universe on who’s writing and what story they want to tell. Pretending anything else…well, YKIOK, again, but I’m not paying twenty bucks for it.

The interesting bits come in the dialogue, in what interaction with Universe A tells Character B about themselves and vice-versa, in putting a character into a situation that’s outside their previous context but has just enough in common to be applicable or resonant. They’re in the quiet moments, the conversations about how Rupert Giles and Mike Hanlon handle the responsibility of drawing people into a battle against supernatural evil.

…shit, I may be kind of a hippie.








Aleister Crowley Just Keeps Fucking Going

Hello! I am back, at least until the next occasion on which I forget how spacetime works, and in honor of St. Patrick’s day, I will continue my Drunk Occult History post series about an Englishman acting COMPLETELY BAZOO.

Also this here: https://twitter.com/Cavalorn/status/1371811859951681540?s=20 informed me that Yeats once kicked Crowley down a flight of stairs, and the entire threads are amazing. I would watch this TV show. Particularly if it was set to the same music as “Gossip Girl.” Particularly particularly if it was *narrated* like Gossip Girl.

Call me, Netflix. I’m cheap.

ANYHOW.

Crowley starts out the next section of his life by getting a divorce on the grounds of his own adultery. People are generally divided over whether or not this was him being vaguely noble and not wanting to cite his wife’s alcoholism, but I will admit that it was baller nonetheless. “Your Honor, I request a divorce on the grounds that, since my marriage, I have fucked everything in a three-mile radius of London, to say nothing of the general Versailles area. Yes, ‘bookcases too.’ I submit these pictures as Exhibit A, and speaking of submission, have a gander at Exhibits B, C, and E. I REST MY CASE GOOD DAY.”

This launches one of the more iconic phases of Crowley’s life, wherein he and a disciple wandered all around Algeria on an Enochian spiritual quest. Said quest involved:

  • The disciple, one Victor Neuberg, shaving his entire head except for two tufts of hair to be “horns,” plus wearing a collar and chain. Apparently Crowley told Bedouins Neuberg was “a captured djinn.” No word on whether the Bedouins told him to go back to Folsom Street.
  • Invoking every single Enochian demon. For those who don’t know: there are a lot of Enochian demons, so this played out like an uncomfortably intense game of Pokemon in the middle of a desert. Crowley: not settling for the “buy a car and bang your secretary” version of midlife crisis.
  • Reciting Quran verses every day, because…I was going to say because cultural appropriation was not a recognized thing yet, but to be honest Crowley was a semi-upper-class Victorian English cis guy, and probably would not have cared.

The finale of all this was a ritual to Choronzon, “The Dweller in the Abyss,” who’s supposedly exactly as fun as the name makes him sound. Crowley summoned that guy either into a circle or into himself, either the demon or possessed-Crowley or pretending-to-be-possessed-and-just-kind-of-an-asshole-Crowley attacked Neuberg, Crowley killed three pigeons and made sigils with their blood, Crowley and Neuberg definitely fucked, one or both of them probably took drugs.

The lesson here is that upper-class Victorians had a shit ton of free time, and I should definitely not feel bad about playing video games for multiple hours a day.

So eventually Crowley defeated Choronzon. We know, because he wrote “Babalon” in the sand with his ring, which was a prearranged sign that he’d won and all was cool. Sort of like a code phrase, or like a safeword, if Crowley would have been the kind of guy who respected safewords.

I mean on the one hand: sure, go out and wrestle with your inner-and-maybe-cosmic demons, seems very useful in a Jungian and maybe occult sense. On the other, stop abusing your assistant and using other people’s religions for your own purposes, plus I am inclined to think this was less about Crowley’s spiritual growth and more about him seriously committing to his “going house-to-house trying to shock people” phase.

It definitely contributed. See, while Crowley was mystical-kink-conning his way around Algeria, Mathers decided to sue him because The Equinox published Golden Dawn rituals.

Sidebar One: I guess Hubbard didn’t invent his Magically Litigious shtick out of whole cloth either.

Sidebar Two: The presiding judge was not the same one who earlier had to rule that the “sanctum” belonged to the people paying what we on the Material Plane know as “rent,” so now I’m pondering the scene wherein a bunch of judges are in a pub and one is drinking heavily and the others explain to some newcomer that Jenkins pulled a Golden Dawn case, poor lad.

Sidebar Three: Crowley’s lawyer was named “William Whateley.” I have read Lovecraft. I have Questions.

A more detailed explanation of the trial, in which indeed everyone seems to be cracking the hell up, is here. http://robincdouglas.blogspot.com/2019/04/aleister-crowley-in-court-case-of.html

As trials do, the whole thing got a bit of publicity. At least one picture of Crowley in the trademark Pyramid Hat (which has a badge on it with its *own* pyramid, which naturally has an eye in it) appeared in a paper at the time. I don’t know if this is the first public appearance of Pyramid Hat or not, but there we are.

Sidebar 4: I don’t *think* Pyramid Hat and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill are conceptually related, but you never know in this business.

So people read about the case in between news about That Kaiser Chap, Who Might be Up to No Good and, IDK, King Edward’s Fucking Sofas, and asked what the fuck, to which Crowley replied DAMN RIGHT WHAT THE FUCK MUAHAHAHA I AM THE KEEPER OF FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE HAIL SATAN EAT BABIES and a bunch of people bought into it instead of telling him that he’d killed pigeons and tripped out so maybe calm the hell down.

This led to the Rites of Artemis, which as far as I can tell was basically a Christmas pageant except a) with adults, b) with pagan gods, and c) with peyote-laced punch, all of which make it a pretty vast improvement. (Most Christmas pageants don’t even sell popcorn.) The public seemed to agree, so Crowley put on the Rites of Eleusis and succeeded in making many people wig right the hell out because of “‘blasphemy and erotic suggestion’.”    

I skimmed through aforesaid Rites and found, like, maybe two mentions of gay sex and otherwise the sort of symbolic theater that most of us sat through in college when we wanted to bang a drama major. (The poetry is a damn sight better than you get in either undergrad productions or paganism these days, but that’s a low bar.) But, you know, 1910, insert “libertine men, scarlet women, and RAGTIME!” line here.

The chief pearl clutcher seems to have been a guy named West de Wend Fenton, which was the sort of name you could give your kids in Edwardian England and not be the victim of justifiable patricide. He wrote a bunch of articles in his paper about how evil and blasphemous and eeeevil Crowley was, and how he and one of the other men in the rites were Like Totally Doing It You Guys, I Swear.

Crowley, who comes off best when dealing with this sort of person, just shrugged all “…’kay, I’ve fucked worse, probably including your mom.” The other guy alleged-to-be-banging guy sued, though, which given the social consequences of people thinking you were gay back then may have been justifiable, and at least kept everyone’s name in the papers and gave the judges something to do with their time.







C’mon, Hallmark/Netflix

Ideally Netflix, for the People Who Actually Fuck factor.

By which I mean: here comes a list of things I want to see more of in Christmas romance!

Before I start, though, yeah, this has been an erratic year blog-post-wise, what with the plague and the drinking and the editing three books and the election and the post-election drinking and the post-court-ruling drinking. I’ll try to get back on a once-per-week schedule next year, but I’m not going to promise anything: I don’t even tell cute yet naive boys that I can be relied on, these days.

SPEAKING OF CUTE BUT NAIVE BOYS, here are some Christmas romance plots/plot elements I would watch the hell out of. I may write one or more someday, but I have at least two books on the list ahead of that, so…have at it, anyone else! And if you know of any fiction like this that’s out there already and meets my criteria (no jealousy/love triangles/monogamy as a sign of love, no rape, no pregnancy as a major plot element) by all means let me know!

* Historically speaking: Tudor era! You have twelve entire nights! You have masked balls! You have people dressed like Silent Hill monsters demanding entrance to your house so they can make you gamble with weighted dice! Also, if you need an evil figure, Hank the Shit and his various enablers are RIGHT THERE for a lot of it.

* Star-crossed love between one of the little guys who dances for Snow Mister and his Heat Miser equivalent. (IDK if it’s romance, because it’s an established relationship, but Mrs. Claus’s number in that movie makes me think she has either some 1970s Feminist Career Longings or some Gender Considerations going on, and I would be into either or both of those stories.)

* That legend where animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve. Seriously, how has the Heartwarming Pet Christmas Film sub-industry not gotten on this train yet? So many movies where the puppy can suddenly tell people where the kidnappers put the plucky orphan, or the cat can reveal that Alice actually loves Bob, but Charlie was blackmailing her, or the adorable snake can warn their owner about a fire! It’s made for winsome covers and pun-filled titles!

* Workplace romance between two or more of the Spirits of Christmas Whatever. You know how it is, after a hard night of convincing misers that it’s actually better not to be a total dick once in a while.

Christmas Present totally seems like the orgy type, BTW.

* My editor Mary’s idea where the child of a stingy billionaire somehow can give away as much of their parent’s money as they want until the holiday ends.

* Also, “All the Tender Sweetness of a Seasick Crocodile” needs to be the title of something.



Redemption Arcs

Okay, so it’s Wednesday, and I absolutely failed to post on the 4th for obvious reasons, and then on the 11th because I came back from a hotel and promptly fell over.

Tonight still isn’t going to be a giant post, because wow brain not happening and also I’m editing the third book in the Sentinels trilogy, which is probably why brain is not happening. But I do exist, and I’m writing, and I am…nope, not gonna talk about my outlook, lest I invoke the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing per Sorkin in one of his better moments.

If you have some cash and want to help us take away the senate from the Worst Turtle and his accomplices, check out Romancing the Runoff! So many things up for auction, and proceeds go to Fair Fight, Black Voters Matter, and the New Georgia Project. It’s awesome!

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about redemption because of some bad political Twitter takes, and some other bad writing Twitter takes. I did a longish Twitter thread about the political aspect, but to summarize/put in a longer-lasting format:

In fiction, my willingness to invest in a character’s redemption is inversely proportionate to how similar that character is to real life assholes. Vampires, goblin kings, and the literal Devil? Lots of leeway. Regency Dudes? Can get away with being a bit of a snotty asshole before learning better and proactively making it right with no hope of reward (Darcy) but not being a giant dysfunctional puppy-killing weirdo (HEATHCLIFF).

Republicans/libertarians/Proud Boys/etc? Fuck no. I can start caring about them after they’ve admitted to being assholes and started trying to make up for their past. I have no interest in seeing them get to that point, in fiction, and in real life? People mostly don’t change, and of the few people who do, most of them don’t put in the work to do so unless there are social consequences. Look Past Political Differences Because They’re Really Good People may be bullshit enabling if it’s a thing you’re doing yourself, and definitely is if it’s a thing you’re telling other people to do.

Along those lines, the closer a fictional villain is to actual RL assholes, the less I’m willing to buy into their redemption. Loki, sure, if you assume his fascist turn in Avengers was extremely influenced by Thanos or the Spacevoid. Snape? Even before JKR turned out to be a TERF asshole, Snape could go to Hell. Over in Star Wars, I felt much worse for Darth Vader before the prequels revealed Anakin as Generic Angry Young Man, and Kylo? NOPE.

Basically, if the villain seems like someone who, in RL, would mention Ethics in Games Journalism, I mostly want him to get eaten by something, not be redeemed and find happiness.

Granting all that, redemption still needs to be a thing the redeemed person works toward, not the results of people bearing lovingly with bad treatment or patiently taking assholes by the hand and explaining decency. With that, fictional arcs I actually like:

  1. Darcy: As above. Actual misdeed not egregious, gets yelled at and changes without expecting a reward.
  2. Dr. Strange: Changes on his own, and also can’t get his old relationships back.
  3. Lucifer: Was the literal devil. I don’t love how the Fox episodes shade toward “redemption” meaning “becoming monogamous,” but fuck it, it’s Fox.
  4. Scrooge. While he doesn’t change proactively, and he is very similar to many RL people, I can’t resist an arc that’s basically “the fucking undead and/or seasonal demigods BEND TIME ITSELF to kick your ass until you buy and distribute enormous geese to the downtrodden.”

    God bless us, every one.





Bothering People for Democracy: A Log

I’ve been phone slash text banking since sometime in, shit, how even does time work? September? August? Are those months? I think those are months. They sound familiar. Things I have discovered:

Even when you put “just text STOP to unsubscribe” right in the initial message, a lot of people would rather have a bunch of feelings at you. This works, by the way, exactly as well as just writing STOP, but is harder on your fingers, so…you do you, I guess?

A surprising number of people in 2020 think that swearing slash asking for nudes slash discussing my mom’s theoretical sex life is going to shock and alarm the person on the other end. I do hear some questions/alarm about it on the text channel, so I may just be the most jaded person for this job, but I think most people under 50 these days react to “suck my dick” about as much as we do to “thou art a scoundrel and a blackguard.”

Actually, that last one would get my attention. Try that, People Who Have A Lot of Feels About Texting. (And if you have to pay for it, I get that–I really wish carriers would indicate people who have to pay to get texts so we could opt them out pre-emptively–but otherwise? God, you can just ignore it. Been doing it since 2008.)

On threats, I feel like I am indeed one of the more jaded people out there. I reported a couple to the person handling that, just in the hopes that whoever it was would end up on an FBI watchlist, and the team captain was very concerned for my welfare.

But honestly, I grew up AFAB on the Internet. Some Boomer on the other end of an anonymized caller threatening me? Really, dude, you might as well just tell me you’re sending bad vibes in my direction.

Plus, I learned to drive in Boston. “Fuck off and die,” is how we say good night.

After the people who are just Very Upset About Texting In General come Conservatives Who Want You To Hear Opinions. And like the Very Upset About Texting crowd, a lot of them put a great deal of effort into it. If you just say “I’m a conservative,” or “Yay Trump” or whatever, you get the autoresponse and we move on.

A fair few people do not do this. A fair few people really want you to know their feelings about Biden, or liberals, or the Satanic baby-killing conspiracy of the month. Does this mean a conspiracy to kill Satanic babies? It’s fun to ask. It’s also fun to ask them to define “socialism” and then how it applies to Biden. You get paragraphs of misspelled texts with A LOT OF ANGRY CAPSLOCK.

I like to imagine their forehead veins throbbing.

Other people who don’t get that you can just…not respond? I Don’t Vote Because Both Sides Guy. We don’t get demographic information, but I would place non-insubstantial bets that this guy is white, cis and, well, a guy. He certainly has the white cis guy love for the sound of his own voice, and he does not like being told that he’s immature.

Hands down the best, though, was the following exchange:

Person: “Oh, I’m not voting.”
Me: Entire trained paragraph about how voting is a great way to make your voice heard, and there are a lot of important down-ballot races even if you’re not in a swing state or don’t like the candidates at the federal level, etc. etc. well-meaning etc.
Person: “Have you ever heard of the Illuminati?”
Me, inwardly: Well, this conversation is a VERY DIFFERENT conversation than the one I thought I was in.
Person: Goes on to tell me about evil old men who control everything (I mean this is true but it’s not like McConnell and Graham are making any fucking secret about it) and your vote doesn’t count because they’ll just pick the president.
Me: “…okay, when I said everyone should get involved in society, I should clearly have made an exception or two.”

I swear to God this happened.

I am endlessly regretful that I didn’t respond with FNORD FNORD FNORD.

Anyhow. Election soon. If you live in the US, vote Democrat (or Biden/Harris on the Working Parties ticket if you live in NY) or piss off. I’ve had cider and I’m done being diplomatic.




Drunk History: Crowley Like 4 Or Something: Crowley Harder

You know how I said there was a lot of this guy? There is A LOT OF THIS GUY. Like, I’m basically just going from what I’ve heard referenced in other occult stuff and Wiki, and I’ve done four blog posts already and Wiki has yet to get to Late Life, FFS. Crowley was clearly one of those dudes who couldn’t get the morning paper without starting a fire and writing a lengthy poetry cycle about it.

Sort of the Victorian occult version of people in the news right now, no? Except thank God our current attention leech doesn’t write poetry, like, that is the one thing that would make the situation worse.

Speaking of which: the VP debate is tonight, which makes it a great night for the “Drunk” part of this title. Tonight’s refreshing and wholesome beverage is St. James Brand Strawberry Wine, which my mom bought for me because she’s awesome and accepts that she’s raised an alcoholic hummingbird.

So when we last left Crowley, he was being an “occult bodyguard” to the Earl of Tankerville (actual name that I could not get away with using in a book) who was “afraid of witchcraft,” which is Weird Brit Occultist for “has sucked half of South America up his nostrils and is commensurately twitchy.” In his occultly-bodyguarding capacity, Crowley took Tankerville to Morocco and France.

Note to any cocaine-addled British nobility reading this: I would be a fucking fantastic occult bodyguard. I could protect you from all the witchcraft. DM me.

Aside from that, Crowley continued following his own drug-and-S&M star, punctuated by writing–horror stories, poetry, and pieces for, of all outlets, Vanity Fair. I am not even kidding. One of those last was titled “On the Management of Blondes,” and I say, from the depths of my heart: ew.

Founding his own magical order was pretty inevitable. One, as I mentioned, that was more or less mandatory for Victorians of a certain class–like a mystical version of foxhunting, or gout. Two, of course Crowley would go total Oh Yeah, You Think You Can Kick Me Out Mathers? about the whole Golden Dawn thing, because: Daddy Issues, possibly in both the paternal and the sexual sense. The fact that Alex named his order the “Silver Star” does nothing to dispel this belief.

Naturally, he also translated it into Latin–hey, Latin is sexy, so say Giles and Fenris, I have no beef with that–and then he abbreviated it as “A: A” but with a little three-lobed burning eye I mean three-ball-pyramid between each letter. Why, you might ask? Well, Llewelyn, everyone’s favorite source of Extremely Fucking Basic Wicca, says that the pyramid means “something further is hidden,” and also that the A balls A balls “possesses the secret Masonic “Lost Word.”

A completely unscientific prediction, by me, says that 100 out of 100 Masons think this is complete bullshit.

Noooot that the Aballs (and it really is sad that it was so goddamn silly, because “Silver Star” is a pretty name and Argentum Astrum is cool until people start making ass jokes, WHICH THEY WILL, but hey) weren’t influenced by the Masons. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: occultism, especially 18th and 19th century Western occultism, is more incestuous than a V.C. Andrews dynasty. The Golden Dawn got a lot of the rank-and-ceremony stuff from Masonic rites (which a lot of adult men in the UK knew, because Freemasonry and the Grange and so on were both socialization and social support networks in the days before insurance or social security or the Internet) and the Three Lobed Burning Star ripped off the GD like whoa.

Oh, excuse me, “expanded on” the GD. The lowest six ranks of Astrum are the Order of the Golden Dawn, Because Take That, Samuel McGregor, That’s Motherfucking Why. I will give Crowley credit for an impressive amount of pettiness here, and I speak as someone who initially named her fictional world’s evil god after a girl she hated in middle school. (I changed it a little later, not so much out of forgiveness or whatever but because it was one of those Evil God Apostrophe Names that went out of style in 1992.) Honestly, this level of intricate and detailed yet deniable spite makes me like the guy a little more.

(I would bet money that, had it been plausible, Bang Mathers’s Mom would have been one of the initiatory rites. I mean.)

After the Golden Dawn comes the Rosy Cross, because why the fuck not just go on ripping off names? We’re fucking Victorians, it’s what we do. And theeeeen the top three ranks are the Order of the Silver Star, which used to be/hopefully is not these days sometimes abbreviated as the “Order of the S balls S balls”: balls or not, those are some YIKES ASSOCIATIONS.

The highest rank, Ipissimus, is also the Double Secret Highest Rank, because nobody who gets there is actually supposed to let on. Crowley…at least strongly implied that he’d gotten there, because Crowley.

There is also an entire controversy about the possible translations of the name. Nobody ever said 19th century occultists didn’t know how to cut loose.

One of the tenets of the order is that members can’t accept payment for initiation or other stuff. People who are still around today may actually abide by the spirit of that, but Crowley 100% accepted “donations,” which were “not payment” in the sense that the office softball game is “not work.”

Just to add fun to 1970s conspiracy-theory books and people who actually believe in conspiracy theories, Crowley then called the “Official Organ” (snrrrrk) of the Silver Balls, a magazine called The Equinox, “The Review of Scientific Illuminism”.

Do I know what that means? No. Does anyone? Did anyone, including Crowley? Probably fucking not.

Now I’m going to go watch the debates and scream drunkenly at Mike Pence.



Cover Reveal, Yay! Other Stuff Blerg

My plan today was more Drunk Occult History, because believe you me there’s more Aleister Crowley to go. The dude is like the Energizer Bunny of pretentious coke-addled Victorians.

However…did you know that alcohol can go bad? This is a total upending of my worldview: it’s alcohol! You can use it to clean out wounds! It prevented our ancestors from all dying of giardia and cholera and dysentery!

But noooo, apparently if your at-the-time boyfriend gives you a bottle of chambord and you forget about half of it and then eight to ten years later you get it down from the back of your parents’ liquor cabinet and drink a glass, there are Consequences, one of which is that I can’t manage booze for the foreseeable future. I can barely manage food.

Luckily, Sourcebooks unknowingly came through, with–ta-da!–the cover for Nightborn, sequel to Stormbringer.



Nice, huh?