Saturday, June 16, 2012

Story List, and, Underworld

Recently I was asked for a complete list of the stories I've published so far with any links. Here is the latest list:

Senex”  Writing Raw (September 2009) 

The Trickster” Static Movement (March 2010)

"Anima” Dark Gothic Resurrected (Spring 2010) p. 31-43.

Magna Mater”  Open Magazine (Issue 1, 2011)

Animus”  Danse Macabre Magazine (Issue 46, 2011)

Just Like” Long Story Short (April 2011)

Umbra” Death Head Grin Magazine (Sept. 2011)

I had a Twitter conversation with someone about my characters. She found them hard to identify with, and I think many people do. When I look at the personalities of my characters, all of them are jaded, alienated, withdrawn. Many stories are about relationships, but whatever may have started as love is taken over by something else, something archetypal in a potentially dangerous sense.

After reading James Hillman's "The Dream and the Underworld", it occurs to me that my characters are underworld characters by his definition. He defines the underworld as a place that is in a way "upside down" compared to our world. Rather than being light, civilized, and intellectual, it is dark, cold, and lacking in the "light-world"'s morality. For people who try to follow the normal conventions and ideals of our "day world", the underworld is a creepy intrusion,  and because there is an attempt to repress it, it gains control and takes over.

There is also a certain naivete in the stories, as there is an expectation that people behave in normal, traditional ways. There is a monumental effort to do so on the part of the characters. But this is broken down, and there is only heartache, betrayal, obsession, and crushed desires. "Senex" is the only story that makes any attempt to have a character return to the "upper" world, but when I read it now, it seems kind of weak and ill-fitting. As Hillman says, it is an outright disrespect to the underworld to try to dissolve it into the upper world.

It is possible that I (figuratively speaking) spend too much time at the edges of the underworld. I've always been fascinated with post-death existence, cemeteries, disturbing things on the fringes of normal experience. My understanding of the normal world of "love" is more of a textbook understanding. This is not to say that I haven't had genuine love experiences in my life that have been fulfilling, at least for a time. But, like everything else, there's something mysterious, weird, and creepy about the whole game. It's sinister, and perhaps untrustworthy.

I recall a video in the late 1980s on MTV by the Motels. Martha Davis always sang about love gone wrong, and many of their songs are very much "post-love"--that sort of eerie place you are left when love completely dies for you, as well as the uncertain place one is at when they start the whole journey. Puberty is a frightening time, when one is ripped from childhood into the foray of hormonal activity that makes for very intense emotional ups and downs, and a tremendous amount of social turmoil. It is not surprising that many kids withdraw during this stage into strange worlds. The Motels' song "Suddenly Last Summer" is almost a perfect musical expression of that weirdness, and whoever did the video was right in tune with that vibe:

There are other songs like this (ELO's "One Summer Dream" comes to mind), but the video expresses that subtly freaky dark side of the whole "falling in love" bit. It's love with the underworld built in. Which is appropriate, considering that most things people believe about love are bullshit--marriage as the ultimate expression, happily ever after, always romantic and attracted. It also tends to make the attraction and sexual part of the whole deal into something much more superficial. There's something devouring and selfish about it. Ideally it should be two people who are Shiva/Shakti--they respect each other because of the "god" they see in the other, and therefore want to serve each other. While there may be relationships like this, and I know people who are happy enough, I think this ideal is rarely reached.

This perspective that I've always had of the thing may explain a. my tendency to be uncomfortable with romance (there are exceptions, but I don't get involved often), and b. my interest in the work of John Foxx. As to the first--I have a warm and friendly personality, and this can sometimes be mistaken for something else, especially by men. Some feel that they can cross my physical boundaries. I don't mind hugs or quick kisses from male friends, but anything more sensual or intimate is like a disrespectful storming of the underworld, and my inner reaction to that is very violent, especially if it is someone I have trusted not to be that way. All doors are shut from that point onward. I've recently realized that I have accepted some boundary traversals in the name of not wanting to offend someone, or just believing that someone is "touchy/feely" and nothing else is meant by it. That is pure naivete and stupidity on my part, so the lesson is to put up boundaries early and not tolerate anything.

But turning to John Foxx (who has nothing to do with that last diversion--in fact, I sometimes question if I've traversed his boundaries at times)--a lot of his music is dark, and reflects a sort of gritty, cold alienation. "The Quiet Man" is a great piece of writing, and fully illustrates that sense of being someplace unreal. John refers to walking into places filled with old memories, and his reference to women is always an intimation rather than intimacy. He gets the sense that "someone was just there"--a shadow, a hint of perfume--and that is enough. He writes about another world within this world, which may be for him a world of memory, certainly a world of shadows, and he peruses the decay with fascination. That is a very "underworld" laden approach to the story. There are things to be perused, examined, but not really touched. Touching is dangerous in the underworld--it's like Pirithous and Theseus, who descend to take away Persephone, and find themselves stuck to the rocks.

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