Best Weird Fiction on Television? Atlanta!

Atlanta is a television series created by Donald Glover. It’s supposed to be a comedy-drama about two cousins trying to become successful in the Atlanta rap scene, with the occasional social commentary. It starts off like a pretty basic “rags to riches” type story. Something we’ve already seen. Something ordinary.

But it turns out, this show is much more than that. And this might sound odd, but I must point it out: Atlanta is weird fiction. And Atlanta is weird fiction at it’s best. Continue reading “Best Weird Fiction on Television? Atlanta!”

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A Theory of Proper Grammar and Syntax in Sigil Magic

You’ve tried your hand at sigils, haven’t you, you sloppy bastard? It didn’t turn out that well, huh? No surprise, you post-modernist, chaos-loving idiot, you. Now straighten yourself, because we’re about to learn some proper fucking grammar. Continue reading “A Theory of Proper Grammar and Syntax in Sigil Magic”

The Taste of Adulthood – Raw (Grave)

As much as I adore films that deal with the tricky subject of “coming of age” and discovering true adulthood (all the delights and horrors of it), they usually deal with the concept of responsibility, most likely presented with the toolset of a comedy. Richard Linklater’s movies are a fine example of this. Now, Belgian-French movie Raw (Grave, 2016) takes a different approach.

Its protagonist is Justine, a lifelong vegetarian who starts her first semester at a veterinary school. Here she encounters bizarre initiation rituals involving blood and eating raw meat – at one point she’s forced to eat a rabbit’s kidney. In an exaggerated way it makes sense – these rituals are tied to the concept that a veterinarian should be able to deal with blood and internal organs without flinching, so there you have a first test (a first taste) of what’s to come. Justine’s older sister is already attending to this school, but instead of helping her get out of that situation, she encourages Justine to comply. Continue reading “The Taste of Adulthood – Raw (Grave)”

The Messy Road to Gnosis – A Dark Song

I think it’s fair to say that I never saw a film quite like this.

I consider myself well-versed both in horror cinema and the occult, but this is the first time I saw a fairly accurate representation of a real, balls-to-the-walls ceremonial magic ritual, at least based on the Hermetic / Gnostic tradition. To say it’s well-researched is an understatement: I’d bet writer-director Liam Gavin knows this stuff by heart, and it shows in every scene.

This movie is about the ritual itself. It shows both the motivation behind it and its consequences, but nothing more. A woman, Sophia tries to deal with the loss of her child, and a reluctant occultist helps her to do a ritual which requires months of isolation, fasting and true commitment to all things terrifying. That’s the film. That’s it. And it’s glorious. Continue reading “The Messy Road to Gnosis – A Dark Song”

Comfort in Constants – Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

It’s hard to talk about this novel’s characters and setting without mentioning how they represent fundamental forces of humanity, but I don’t really want to get into allegorical readings and academical analysis. Quite simply, this novel is about otherness and the misunderstanding of it.

The voice of the novel is of Merricat Blackwood’s, she narrates with playful wickedness. She lives in a mansion-like old house, completely separated from the nearby village, fenced off from anybody too curious. And curious they are, because a family tragedy struck the Blackwoods, and now they’re blaming the remaining family members. Continue reading “Comfort in Constants – Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle”

The Short Fiction of Aleister Crowley

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,”  he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.

In here, we can almost forget about his persona, despite the obvious fact that most of these stories are clearly written by an occultist ceremonial magician – but that’s not the point of this collection. His beliefs don’t interfere with his fiction, at least not in a way that it obscures his effort to present various stories, sometimes quite innocent, naive, humorous, other times obtusely esoteric, sure, and sometimes evocative and uncomfortable. Continue reading “The Short Fiction of Aleister Crowley”

Simulation Fatigue in Black Mirror

Black Mirror needs to reinvent itself. The sooner, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. The fourth season has cleverly written, beautifully directed episodes throughout, as usual. It’s still the prime science-fiction anthology, and one of the most relevant TV series, even if contemporary science-fiction writers and futurologists already explored most of its ideas. The problem is, the new season didn’t have any new ideas, at all.

At this point, most episodes of Black Mirror boil down to the same two premises:

  • Invasive technology will destroy our privacy
  • Our digital copies will live in existential nightmare

Five out of six episodes are variations of these themes, and both have been done before, with more subtlety. In this regard, I’m quite disappointed. Continue reading “Simulation Fatigue in Black Mirror”