I recently finally saw the movie Mother! It had received extremely mixed reviews, none of which I read because I had heard that it was best to view it without any preconceptions. So I did, and found it to be a pretty good horror movie about a woman enslaved by love to a brutish man, leading to horrifying consequences for herself and none whatever for him. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do before reading any further, as it’s certainly worth seeing. But if you have, or don’t plan to, here’s a recap:

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is restoring the big old country house she shares with poet The Man (Xavier Bardem) after a fire, while he mopes around trying to recover the writing mojo that brought him fame. One day a man arrives at the door and Lawrence watches helplessly as he, his wife and their sons basically move in and start wrecking her happy little life. One son kills another and, starting with the funeral, her space is invaded by increasingly objectionable guests. She becomes pregnant (she’s not sure how), which inspires The Man to start writing again. When his poetry is published, fans begin arriving at the house to pay homage. They start getting unruly, abusing her and trashing her beloved home, until she is forced to give birth in the middle of a riot. The Man takes the baby and presents it to his adoring fans, who promptly kill and eat it (maybe I should have caught on here, but I really thought it was generic ritualistic mob behaviour). Finally she’s had enough and blows up the house with everyone in it. Somehow the two survive, she in much worse shape than he. He charms her, Stockholm Syndrome style, into offering up her last shred of love so that he can be inspired to restore everything again, complete with a new Mother.

As the author of The Acts of Simon Magus, I guess I should have been alert to the messages rather blatantly shouted at me during my first viewing. Having watched it, I told my son, who had already seen it and read all the commentary, and learned to my surprise that it was in fact a Biblical allegory by Darren Aronofsky, creator of Black Swan and the Enochian epic Noah. Bardem’s character was apparently the Judeo-Christian God, with the long-suffering Lawrence as Mary (or Mother Earth as seems to be the alternative intent). Though the Old Testament analogies are in hindsight obvious, I think there is another mythos that corresponds more closely to the story told here.

Everyone knows the Christian myth: the God of All, after a couple of millennia hanging with a small Middle Eastern tribe, decides to give everyone the chance to worship him. He impregnates a young Jewish woman and becomes her child, then starts a new cult preaching love and brotherhood for all. Finally (this part gets a little confusing) he offers himself up as a sacrifice to himself, declaring that all who believe that he has done so will be saved from his own wrath, and rises from the grave to confirm it.

There are obviously some elements of this tale in Mother! Certainly the Old Testament is well represented: a paradise corrupted, the first man and woman with their battling sons, a flood of sorts, but when it comes to the New Testament, the analogies are less obvious. The Man suffers nothing, and as in the New Testament Jahweh became the Christian God by becoming human, so Mary was exalted by her brief fling with her divine baby daddy. Mother is destroyed by it.

Aronofsky is obviously familiar with obscure heretical writings, and I think the whole fits much better with the Gnostic myth as first proposed by Simon Magus in his Great Announcement and expanded upon by generations of Gnostic fabulists. According to them, the God of the Christians and Jews is in fact Ialdabaoth, a demonic creature born in error to Sophia, Divine Wisdom of the True God. It has created Earth for Its own evil purposes and now delights in tormenting its inhabitants. On discovering that It’s not the highest God, It casts Its Mother Sophia down to Earth in a fit of jealousy, where she suffers all manner of degradation and ends up in a brothel. When the True God learns the truth, He descends to Earth as (you guessed it) Simon Magus, rescues her, and the two travel the world spreading Simon’s doctrines.

So what is the real relationship between Mother and the Man? The first and last line she speaks gives the clue, as she affectionately calls out “Baby!”. He is her child; she is the ultimate source of his creative power. All she wants is to look after him and give him a nice life, but he rejects her at every turn, deliberately doing all he can to wreck that life while seeming to be solicitous and caring. Although it may seem that he is guilty of, at worst, extreme negligence and lack of concern for her well-being, his treatment of her comes from something deeper. He seems to genuinely hate her, so much that he forces her to undergo horrible degradation and agonizing death again and again. Like Sophia, she is cast down, tortured by the monster she made, who created the world and everyone in it to worship It, and will brook no co-creator.

And what is the real title of the movie? The ! tells the story, as I think it’s named not after Her but Him. True, like Mary, Mother must watch her child being killed by a howling mob, but her motherhood is among the lesser elements of the story, just another way for The Man to make her suffer before driving her to the ultimate act of self-destruction. The fact that she is impregnated by her own son means the film should really be called not Mother!, but Motherfucker!

Finally, one thing in the film which is foreign to both the Christian and Gnostic versions of the story is the eternal cycle of death and reincarnation endured by Mother. Both those faiths stress the directionality of time, a purpose to which everything is ultimately heading. In Christianity it’s the return in glory of Christ; according to Simon, Simon himself is the agent of Sophia’s eventual redemption. I am therefore eagerly anticipating Aronofsky’s next opus, Mother! 2: Saved by the Magus!

Simon is Free! (for a limited time)

Free on Amazon until November 3: Book I of The Acts of Simon Magus in the First Century AD! Learn about Simon’s early life in Gitta and his quest to Alexandria in search of the Great Power, with insights into the origins of Hermeticism, Gnosticism and related cults, the Codex, and the Good Samaritan, leading up to a Lovecraftian climax. If you happen to read and like it, I’d greatly appreciate a review on Amazon.
Read it now!

The Magus Unleashed!

My 25+-year quest has reached, let’s say, a significant milestone. I have published Book I of my novel The Acts of Simon Magus in the First Century AD. Well, what’s published is a beta version, still undergoing final editing, basically to see how people liked it; I’d be glad to provide final versions to those who bought this one. Illustrations are lacking; suggestions? A few outtakes may also find their way back in, or maybe something new altogether; who knows what fragments of Simon’s writings may be uncovered next?

So I am now a bought? sold? author. What is the correct term for someone who has sold at least one copy of their work? Surely that’s a major step. Just recently I wrote of young Simon having exactly the same experience as every single Amazon author, exemplified by this picture:

(you all reloaded a lot before that, right?). Granted the chart now shows only 11 buys over 16 days, but I got a good feeling. Fates don’t fail me now!

The next step is to get some reviews and a decent ranking on Amazon which, research suggests, can help in gaining a good agent and publisher. In future, I would also love to explore Simon’s story in various media.

Anyway please check it out and maybe leave a review if you feel strongly enough one way or the other. It’s $5, but right now I’ll send anyone a review copy who agrees to write one (good or bad). Thank you very much!

Simon’s on Amazon!

coverBook I of The Acts of Simon Magus in the First Century AD is now on Amazon. This volume describes Simon’s upbringing in a pagan village and quest to Alexandria, along with some insights into the origins of Hermeticism and other cults, and a Lovecraftian climax. I’d love people to take a look, even leave a review on Amazon…? Enjoy! /glen.

Huckleberry Magus

As the second volume of The Acts of Simon Magus takes final shape, I have just finished rereading what is apparently a major influence on The Acts. I first read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when I was 8 years old, just arrived in Canada from England, and I think it may have spoiled me for pretty well anything written since. The experiences of Twain’s young hero as he escapes his monstrous father and takes off down the river with a runaway slave, and the various rogues and saints he meets on the way, have coloured Simon, his life and world in ways I often had no idea of. Some situations and turns of phrase from that 50-years-ago reading I find reproduced almost word-for-word in my own work (and there they will stay; if you’re going to steal, steal from a master!). I am even encouraged to restore some outtakes, which I liked but seemed too unlikely even for Simon. Twain wasn’t discouraged by outrageous coincidences or over-the-top characters; he had a story to tell (though Tom’s elaborate escape plan at the end did drag on a bit).

One thing I have consciously borrowed from Huck’s story is the attempt to portray the mentality of an age that is now gone for good. It was (I dare say!) easier for Twain, as Huck’s world was the world of his own childhood (also, now I think of it, 50 years in his own past), not 2000 years gone. But the central reality of that world had undergone a radical shift with the abolition of slavery, and the dissonance between Twain’s readers and what was considered good or moral half a century before, the casual acceptance of barbaric practices and ludicrous superstitions by intelligent, good — normal — people: these are themes both Twain and I are keen to explore. Twain is known as an exposer of hypocrisy, but most of his characters are quite sincere in their beliefs and consistent in their actions; it’s just that many of their beliefs and actions are utterly alien to the reader (Huck agonizes over whether he will go to Hell for not re-enslaving his only real friend), and this sets up both the comedy and the tragedy in the story.

Obviously Huckleberry Finn is a high standard to try to live up to, and Simon is not Huck, nor is his story the same. He also comes from a small town, and like Huck feels ill-at-ease there, but he yearns for big city life while Huck just wants to lay back on the riverbank with a pipe and a fishin’ pole. Simon is on intimate terms with the Gods of his community; Huck fears his God, but never feels a real connection with him. Actually of the characters in Huckleberry Finn, Simon has more in common with the con-men “king” and “duke” (maybe I was too young when I read it, but until I saw a film version many years later I actually thought they really were fallen royalty). He is certainly less conventionally moral than Huck, but I hope he’s not bad. He doesn’t think so anyway.

The Golden Age

ArkonaRight now I am watching my current favourite band in concert (on Youtube). Arkona is a pagan metal band from Russia, who combine traditional folk songs, melodies and instruments with heavy metal drums and guitars. Singer Masha Scream prances about in furs, moving from traditional folk song to shamanic chants to death metal growls without taking a breath. The theme is mostly, as is common with this kind of music, an evocation of a long-lost past, before the modern world wrecked everything, but that’s what mythmaking is. In a world where popular culture is rapidly converging on a homogenized mess of American Idolized shit, it is refreshing to see someone rejecting it and trying to find something worthwhile in a time when there were in fact different cultures. Of course even those were pretty similar; the traditional elements of northern European folk metal from Ireland to Finland to Russia sound very like each other. And how much do they really have in common with what they were actually singing before the Vikings or the Saxons came?
Still, it can be stirring stuff. But why? For myself, two things. First, I love the art of the mashup, where two wildly dissimilar songs or genres are combined to create something new and wonderful, or a cover version in an entirely different style. The Acts of Simon are just such a creature, into which I have thrown basically everything I find interesting, combining modern idiom with a mentality which is in many ways utterly alien to our own.
Second, I never really felt part of a particular country or nationality, having been shifted around so much when young. Indeed, I consider patriotism one of the great evils of the world, and think it would be much better if countries in the Westphalian sense were abolished. But I am human after all, and find myself envying such fervent feeling of belonging to something greater than oneself, even an imaginary pre-industrial Slavic paradise. And some years ago I actually felt that when I discovered BBC online and heard the song Roots by Show of Hands, and realized that yes, I was English. But what does that mean when you have lived in Canada most of your life? I identified with the Quebecois while living in Westmount, with the Palestinians in a mostly Jewish school, and now with a culture I had only vague memories of, just because I was born there. My family is of Scottish descent and I do like what is nowadays called Celtic music (except the pipes(except this) and Lord of the Dance (except Tam Lin) and that New Age stuff; Pogues and Dropkick anyway). An advantage of identifying with England is that it’s not a country – in fact it’s the most politically disadvantaged province of the UK, alone in not having any kind of local government – so it’s not patriotism, just… nationalism, no, just a sense of belonging I guess, not being adrift in the world. And yes I know its history, how its rulers oppressed both their own and many many other peoples, the dark satanic mills etc., but my allegiance is to the same England as Masha’s prehistoric Russia, the land of the Druids and the Holly and the Ivy, a Golden Age that never was and never can be, where it did take a village, and the world wasn’t ruled by gas addicts putting the pedal to the metal in their race to be the first over the cliff of climate catastrophe.
So what does all this have to do with Simon? Unlike myself he grew up in a small town and knew the same people until moving out into the wide world at the mature age of 15. In that world everything is new. He is like the common scifi/fantasy character who is from the writer’s world but finds himself in a totally alien milieu, in order to highlight the contrast between the two. As my own personal Mary Sue, I guess Simon represents the me that should have been: from a stable background, acting instead of thinking, making a name for himself in a society without mass communications, still remembered after 2000 years – even if only as the founder of an obscure anti-Christianity and the inventor of ecclesiastical corruption. It’s hard to imagine anyone these days having that kind of staying power; but one can try.

The Unbroken Chain

The Acts are most assuredly back on track, and the first book, A Search in Secret Egypt, is nearing completion. I must give a good deal of the credit to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, whose Unbroken Chain technique has proven invaluable. It’s quite simple: get a big full-year calendar and put it up prominently in your workspace, clearly visible to yourself and everyone else. Then for each day set a clear, measurable goal and, if you achieve it, you get to put a big red X on that day. If not, the Blank of Shame is obvious to all. As I am currently concentrating on finishing the book and getting everything in that I possibly can, my daily goal these days is 500 words, or about 2 pages in standard manuscript form. The work stood at about 73k words on April 7 and is now over 94, so that’s about 80pp in 2 months. As you can see,

my chain has hardly been unbroken, but I am averaging 4-5 X’s per week.For reference, the average fantasy book these days is 100-120k words, though some of the more epic tomes can reach 300+. On the other hand, publishers often don’t like >100k first works. So I have a ways to go, but I think this year is good for a first draft. Wish me luck!

Who cries for the Orc?

I have to confess that I don’t read much fantasy fiction, especially if it’s been published in the past 40 years. In fact I find modern fiction mostly not very interesting. I generally prefer the older stuff: Lovecraft of course, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance and the 19th century supernaturalists. People for whom the language was as important as the story.

I am not a fan of stories where everything is black and white, particularly when it’s a horde of ugly creatures serving Evil against the lily-white champions of Good. I always find myself wondering about the poor Orc or Ur-Vile who just got skewered on the trusty blade of the peerless hero, ugly though he may be, sucked into a war he never made. Is he really bad, or is he just serving his current master out of loyalty or fear or patriotism like any other soldier? Doesn’t he have a home, a family, or even just a life which is ultimately as precious as anyone else’s? Who is telling his story?