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?

The Greatest Mystery

A New Reading from The Acts of Simon Magus

It is Simon’s fate to be forever linked to the corrupting influence of money in spiritual affairs, as the only person to have a major sin named after him (Onan doesn’t count). But as with Onan, the sin associated with Simon is not the one he actually committed. Simony, the selling of time off from Purgatory for the not-entirely damned, was one of the major causes of the revulsion with the Church that led to the Reformation. But Simon in the Bible wasn’t selling salvation, he was trying to buy it, and the representatives of the nascent Church weren’t selling. (Future readings from The Acts will reveal his true motives in that affair.) Meanwhile, here’s how Simon learned about the other Great Power from his Ba, Adonis the Messager.

Once when I was about six, Ba announced that he would reveal the greatest mystery of all. He reached for my ear and produced from it a small shiny disc, which he handed me.

"Look at this. Tell me what you see."

I looked.

"It’s yellow metal. There’s a man’s face in profile on one side and a wreath of leaves on the other."

"Who is the man?"

"I don’t know. Is that his name? There’s some writing, like Greek, but not really. ANSNZT…?"

"It’s Roman writing, and that’s Caesar Augustus, thy God & Master. And what thou holdest there is called money. It has a mighty power. With it, thou canst make men do anything thou wist."

Now you should understand that where we lived, this thing called money was just not used. We grew what we needed, and what we couldn’t grow, we traded for. /sm

I turned my money around in my hand. How did it work? I aimed it at Soch, willing him to stand on his head, but to no avail. Ba laughed.

"Not that kind of power. But offer anyone enough of these, and he’ll be thy willing slave forever. He will grovel before thee, kiss thy boots, offer up his wife or his own arse for the fucking, all for the power given by this magical stuff!"

I looked again at my money. It seemed scarcely credible.

"It is pretty," I said, "but why would you want more than one?"

"It is true," he replied, "that it has no value in itself. Thou canst not eat it, or use it for any practical task, but Caesar has decreed that everything: food, beasts, work, time, love–all these may be got or given in trade for a certain number of these bits of metal. The more thou hast, the more power thou hast over others. And this may be accomplished in two ways: thou mayst buy their services outright, and this may be effective for so long as thou continuest to pay them, and there are no competing bidders.

"But listen o my sons, here is the true secret of money! Once thou hast some to spare, simply persuade a man (or his wife!) that he needs more of the things it can buy than he has or can afford, and offer him enough of these to get them. Only have him vow to repay at a future time a little more than you lent him, and thou shalt surely find at the end of the day that he is thine!

"Hear me o my sons! Greed is a muscle: the more thou workest it, the greater it grows. One who’s never known more than he needs will never desire more. Only let him taste something new, and he will want more, and then more, and gladly work harder and harder yet to get it. But when his own labour is not enough, as it cannot ever be above a certain point, he must turn again to the lender to fulfill his new desire. And of course from this point he can never repay, only borrow anew to keep on top of his old debts and new purchases, and thus he and his kin become flies in thy web forever.

"Doubt not, o my sons, that the true rulers of this world are not the emperors or the kings, but the lender who finances them! Yet he desires not power, nor glory, nor honour, nor any of those things princes hold dear. All he craves is more of these, more than he can possibly ever spend, and to get them he must enslave all mankind!"

My mind was swimming with new words: "money", "lend", "debt", "finance"; but I got the idea, and added lender to my growing list of potential future careers. Soch, however, was skeptical.

"And what," he enquired, "prevents those rulers from simply giving the lenders the chop once they have what they want of them, and become pressed to repay?"

"Nothing," admitted Ba, "and of course it happens. But when next they require more than their taxers and armies can provide, they’ll have a hard time raising funds."