Monday, June 8, 2015

INTERVIEW: Fierce Strength: An Interview with Eko Eko Azarak

An interview with one of my favourite occultic avant-noir grimschticklers, Eko Eko Azarak, written for Heathen Harvest, and mildly-yet-expertly edited by Sage Weatherford.

"[S]ome unexplained harnessing of power, truth, or primordial regression shared within the space that I’ve somehow managed to draw from within myself and from an external force for a brief moment in time.  That’s what I want to share with the ‘audience’, because I want them to feel whatever phenomenon I’m experiencing..."

Fierce Strength: An Interview with Eko Eko Azarak

Monday, June 1, 2015

FAQ: Vague But Compelling Gestures of Strong Disagreement

This FAQ post almost definitely contains spoilers, and it is highly recommended that you read the story it refers to before reading this.  These questions are about the short story “Vague But Compelling Gestures of Strong Disagreement”.  For the actual short story itself, please point your browser here


Why is ‘Stanley’ yet another over-represented cis-gendered white able-bodied male?
I’m glad you asked.  Basically, because, according to modern popular analysis, he’s exactly the kind of person who ‘has it all’.  He’s already got white privilege, male privilege, hetero privilege, able-bodied privilege; the epitome of ‘mainstream’ ‘normality’, the people that apparently the ‘system’ makes life easy for.  The idea was to give someone everything (externally-speaking), and show that all these privileges are only privileges to a point – they have no bearing on the amorphous demons of the soul.  If I’d made him anything else, it’d be all too easy for someone to read it differently, and I think clarity is important.

Are you going to top yourself?
No.  Well, I have no plans to do it at this stage, anyway.  I mean, it’s always an option, isn’t it, but currently life is pretty good, all things considered.  Besides, I don’t think I have the absolutist mindset required for that kind of commitment: I mean, what if I changed my mind halfway through?  Plus I’m a total chicken with a serious aversion to pain, and all the suicide-options seem to be a bit scary.  But in all seriousness, when (my life-partner and Cosmik Wife and best friend) Nalin first read this story, that very question was the first thing she asked, all worried and wide-eyed, and I had to convince her that, no, it was actually just a made-up story, coz, y’know, I’m a writer and stuff.

So it’s all just made-up rubbish then?
Well, no, not really that either.  The part about wanting to write the story and not being able to get it out for some reason, is true.  The story that the “Me” character describes is indeed a story that I’d been wanting to write for ages, that’s all true too.  That the first person I knew to kill himself did it by hiding around a bend in a railroad is also true (and we were in English Lit class together, etc).  My brother is a real train driver.  The crossing at Ruthven is really unsupervised (at least, it was when I had the idea for the story).  And I am, every now and then, genuinely crushed by the overwhelming breath-constricting obsidian ceiling of existential meaninglessness, so much so that the only light at the end of the tunnel is that one day I’ll be dead.  It happens more often than I’d like, this inky black enveloping horror, and the certain knowledge that one day it’ll all be over (life, I mean) is perversely the only thing that helps me through it – ‘this too shall pass’, as the Buddhists say.
So yeah, it’s all true as well as being totally made-up.  Um.  I try to be as honest as I possibly can in my writing, but at the same time, it’s not like 100% autobiographical or anything.  I think any writer balances that tightrope between authenticity and total bullshit, don’t they?  

Are you pro-suicide?  What kind of monster are you?
Those are actually two totally different questions:  I’m on to you, mate.  But I will answer them both. 
I think, on the face of it, I guess I am pro-suicide.  I mean, we’re all only here for a limited time anyway, aren’t we?  The one thing we can absolutely guarantee in our lives is that it will one day all be over.  The End is coming, and it’s either by our own hand or not.  Now, there’s lots of talk about euthanasia and ‘dying with dignity’, but only for old people or ‘terminally-ill’ people.  As far as I can see, given we’re all ‘terminal’ – none of us are getting out of this alive – we all deserve the same amount of dignity regarding our own deaths, at whatever point we decide that it’s no longer worth the struggle.  I mean, who am I to say ‘no, you need to stay alive’ to anyone?  It’s not my place to interfere; I mean, it’s not like suicide is ever a light decision.  This is not a fickle whim.  It’s not like someone wakes up with a bit of a sniffle and decides to end it all.  Things must be pretty fucking dire for someone to actually really properly decide to actually really properly end it all, and I kinda feel like it’s not my business to try to convince someone that they’re wrong, that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel, and that their own life is actually not theirs to take.  If someone is feeling like ending it all, by all means, it’s their business, their decision, and I really have no right telling them to stick around.  Not my biz. 

(Yes, every life is precious.  But, well, let’s face it, there are a lot of us around.  One less isn’t really going to make much of a dent.  In fact, even if 1 billion of us all decided to do ourselves in simultaneously, there’s still more than 6 billion of us left to carry on.) 

When I look at it, all the arguments against suicide seem, to me, to be selfish ones offered by the people left behind: ‘but what about the children / yer mum / me?’  When my mum died (at 56, of cancer), sure, I was totally miserably sad about her dying – but I was also happy that her suffering was over.  Would I really prefer her to be alive and in pain, or dead and oblivious?  I can’t help but think I’d rather her be gone than suffer so much (she really wasn’t having a very good time at the end there).  Of course I miss her – but my personal feelings aren’t the only ones (or even the most relevant ones) to consider.  Same with suicide: let’s focus, not on our own feelings, but on the genuine feelings of the specific person whose life we’re talking about here.  Is it actually better to struggle every day, to ‘fight the battle with depression’ for years and years, than to just disappear?  If so, how?  Certainly, it doesn’t seem better for the person who has to fucking struggle every day for the rest of their life just to exist.  I’m just not convinced.  As far as I can tell, it’s best to let everyone pop off whenever they want.  It’s their life.  Only they can decide whether it’s worth living or not.

(And is it really that much better for someone to accidentally fall off a cliff and die, than deliberately leap off the same cliff and die?  Why fetishise accident over choice?  Why fetishise life – no matter how horrible – over death?)  

So, given that people are going to do it anyway, and kinda seem to have a basic right to do it, it seems to me that the real issue is making suicide a bit nicer.  In three ways: 1) making sure it actually works (suicide survivors are often permanently disfigured, and still have to suffer whatever it was that drove them to try to opt out in the first place); 2) making it less awful for the people left behind; and 3) removing the social stigma.  

1) Is an obvious one.  For every one person who is successful at removing themselves from this mortal realm, something between 19-25 people fail, only managing to severely disfigure themselves (losing limbs, destroying organs, damaging brains, etc, depending on the methods of exit employed). Now, if I decide to end it all, I don’t want to wake up and find that all I’ve done is lose my legs and soil my underpants.  We need some sure-fire fool-proof absolutely guaranteed method of getting out of here, some kind of prescription-based lethal injection we can just purchase when we decide, as grown adults, that it’s time to move on.  I mean, sheesh, if we can do it for Fluffy, why not ourselves?

2) As it stands currently, all the options are a bit yuk for those left behind: who wants to come home to see mama swinging from a rafter, or papa’s cerebellum decorating the rumpus room?  Blood and vomit and arteries and shit and train-splatter are all majorly gross things for loved ones to experience.  It’s not fair on them, it’s not pleasant for anyone, and do you really want everyone’s last memory of you to be the one where you look like an extra from The Walking Dead?  Again, a lethal injection might leave us with no muss, no fuss.  No more suicide notes ending with “please excuse all the blood”; nothing but clean sheets and a smile.

3) Imagine a world where, when you decide you’ve had enough, your loved ones gather around you, offer you their final words of kindness and solidarity and support, light a few candles or put on your favourite tunes or whatever, and engage in some sort of respectful severance ceremony, some kind of warm official ceremonial goodbye.  And then you jab yourself with a needleful of ‘Soft Farewell’TM and slip into unconsciousness and eventually the void.  No shame, no vilification, no coercion.  Imagine if it was just a normal thing that everyone did: imagine if people chose their own deaths as much as they choose their own holiday destinations.  Would that really be so bad?  (Even if you had no loved ones to speak of, the idea of vanishing slowly within a cocoon of warm oblivion sounds preferable to trying to slice open the right artery or fall from a high enough bridge.  You’ve got to go some day, might as well make it nice.  Self-determined.  Clean.  Thorough.  Dignified.)

“But Mat,” I hear you ask, “if suicide was socially-approved, legally-sanctioned, easily-accessible, no muss, no fuss, and non-controversial, more people would see it as an option!  We’d have more suicides!  And that blood would be on your hands, Blackwell!”  To which I respond, “Well, sure, maybe, but as a non-controversial, socially-approved activity, that’d only be as shocking as saying more people were playing Bingo, or more people are putting fucking butter in their coffee.  They’d’ve gone with approval and dignity instead of furtive secrecy and shame.  They’d’ve made a choice about their own lives, and that would be okay with everyone, because we’d all be mature adults who respect other people’s decisions about what to do with their own personal bodies.  And their blood might be on my metaphorical hands, but at least it wouldn’t be all over the literal real-life bathroom for their literal real-life loved ones to have to clean up.  Besides, a lot of really fucked up sad sad people would no longer be with us, so, overall, society would be a happier and more highly-functioning place.  You’re welcome, buddy”.

And what kind of monster am I?  It turns out I’m that kind of monster.  


FICTION: The Moral of the Story

The Moral of the Story

At first, he did it to prevent himself climaxing too early.  Like most men his age, he wanted to be seen by his romantic partners as an unselfish lover – indeed, much of his self-identification as a “manly” man was tied up with his ability to bring his partners to climax in a sensual-type situation.  Sure, he had many of the other mainstreamer-type privileges – he was fully employed in a well-paying job, was physically-abled, felt relatively well catered for in terms of opportunity and social support, and was not under-bestowed with what passed for broadly-recognised facial and physical attractiveness in his culture, etc – but despite the relative ease with which he slotted into life, his self-diagnosed lack of stamina in the bedroom left him feeling less than optimal.  Indeed, the relative ease with which he “picked up” didn’t help ease his inner turmoil whatsoever, more often than not actually “rubbing his face in it” when it eventually came time to turn off the lights and get down to business in the heteronormative boudoir.  A man who never “picked up” at all (he reasoned, ruefully) would never so thoroughly have to face his own ineptness as a lover; a man who never “picked up” could go on without having his masculinity so often tested and found so desperately wanting.

To be honest, it was in the heteronormative boudoir (with its decadent mirror-tiled en-suite spa-bath and all) that he really wanted to shine.  His job and privilege and easy navigation of the mainstream world seemed to mean less to him every time he found himself unable to bring ladies to fulfilment in a sensual-type scenario; what he really wanted was to be a master lover, a craftsman of the sheets, a rugged macho machine-man of almost dangerously powerful proportions.  He wanted his erotic partners to be delightedly surprised at his prowess, lip-bitingly incredulous at the dizzying heights to which he was taking them.  He wanted the heteronormative boudoir to be his domain, his princely estate, over which he had absolute dominion.  Attractiveness - pah!  Wealth – phooey!  He wanted to be a damn good root.

However, life being the contrary thing it is, he wasn’t a damn good root at all.  He was pedestrian at best, at worst embarrassingly short-lived.  He went into the physical act of love-making with passion and fervour, but would all too often find this very passion and fervour being his undoing, as, with only a handful of thrusts under his belt, he’d come to fruition while his partner was still just getting warmed up.  It was through no selfishness that he was quick to orgasm, it must be said, but through a lack of staying power that he blamed squarely on gusto – if anything he was too enthusiastic, too present, giving it too much of a red-hot go.  If he could somehow become more detached from the process (he reasoned), he’d be able to keep it up for longer; if he could reduce his own fiery gusto (he suspected), he’d be able to become a better lover, and prince of his domain.  And life would be good.

And that’s why he first started to imagine the old obese man shitting.

(He wasn’t particularly ageist, nor was he particularly interested in fat-shaming: it was just an image that, to his own personal tastes, was conducive to not blowing his load inopportunely.  In all honesty, many of his closer friends were on the larger side, and he certainly had no qualms with the elderly: he just found that, personally-speaking, imagining a very old, very fat man straining to expel faeces from his rectum helped somewhat diminish his ardour.)

The first time he pictured the old obese man shitting, he swore that the image gave him a good two minutes extra: that perspiring, grimacing man astride the obscured porcelain throne, laying thick cable with audible groans and splashes, helped defocus his own sweaty thrustings just enough to curtail his rising passions, prolonging his love-making by that extra one hundred and twenty seconds or so, and thus making him, in his own estimation, a better lover.  (Not that his partner had mentioned anything at the time – but had that glance been a little more satisfied-seeming than was the norm?  Impossible to tell for certain – but deep inside, he knew that he was on to something.  Something good.)

The second time, he really tried to focus.  As his outsides were busy with all the normal required sexually-centric activities, his insides were conjuring up vivid detail: the beads of perspiration that ran down the shitting man’s jowls; the red flush to the large man’s forehead as he strained at stool; the laboured breathing; the shuddering of the rolls of fat as the warm cargo was finally ejected into the hidden recesses of the bowl.  From this distracting mental picture, he gained several precious minutes extra, and when he finally reached orgasmic release, his collapse onto the bedsheets was triumphant.  (And he couldn’t be sure, but he thought – he felt – that his intimate partner displayed a contentment that he’d hitherto been unable to deliver.  Given he was too scared to ask about such things, that would have to do.)

As his sexual confidence increased, so did his goals.  He didn’t simply want to avoid premature ejaculation, he wanted to become a regular Casanova.  And, as his heteronormative goalposts shifted further and further away from their humble beginnings, so did the level of detail required to stem his libidinous tide.  Soon enough, he was spending most, if not all, of his sensual congresses with his head filled with close-up scenes of faecal matter gliding wetly downwards between cellulite-pocked buttocks, of grunts and sighs and facial contortions, of stubborn excrement being slowly forced through puckered apertures distending, of dark brown heads of obstinate waste inching towards him with all the tension and inevitability of a horror movie.   As he became (in his own estimation) a finer and finer lover, an imaginary army of enormous elderly naked men soiled toilet bowl after toilet bowl, while he prodded and arced in the very opposite of arousal.

Finally, he was content with his activities in the heteronormative boudoir.   Finally, he was a magnificent lover. (Yes, he did spend an awful lot more of his time imagining elderly corpulent gentlemen backing out brownies than he’d like to, but: priorities.)

When he went swaggering through the laser-lit dance-floors of the night-club underworld, he knew he was king, and that any lady who was lucky enough to be going home with him that night was going to be boned by a master.

Then came the tipping point, the threshold:  

One day, he found that, at the mention of sex, his mind was not filled (as it once had been) with images of bouncing bosoms and labial filigree, but man-boobs and the hairy winking of sphincters.  Instead of pleasing images of fellatio in his mind’s eye, he saw aged chaps dislodging brown loads from wrinkled rectums.  Instead of the womanly moan of passion, he heard wheezing and cold kerplops.  Even worse (in a practical sense), he soon found that the images that now flooded his mind served no longer to prolong his love-making, but to prevent it entirely.  As his partner had looked down at his unstirrable member, asking what was wrong, he realised too late that his libido was now so thoroughly enmeshed with the images of a naked shitting fat man, that what had once given him the sex life he’d craved had now rendered him limp and useless.

He’d never cried in front of a partner before, but that night, he sobbed (inarticulately, it must be noted – there was no way in all seven levels of heck that he was ever going to admit any of this stuff to anyone).

Ashamed, defeated, he’d left the dating game entirely.  Unable to cope, he’d left his job, let his social circles atrophy.  Eventually, he became a recluse.  But the images wouldn’t leave him.  Somewhere in the back of mind there was always the difficult defecation of the pendulous elderly.

The years dragged on.  Most days, he barely left the house.  Some days, he barely left the room. 

Until the day came.  Going to the toilet one day, he paused and looked at his reflection.  The mirrored en-suite which had once seen so many acts of one-sided sexual pleasure now saw nothing but a sad, broken, crushed old man.  Age had not been kind to him (and, let’s face it, like many recluses he’d let himself down in the personal grooming department).  Years of inactivity had piled onto him layers of sadness and fat.  As he gazed at himself in the en-suite’s ubiquitous mirror-tile, he saw an old, overweight man, who, just at this moment, needed sorely to defecate.  Sitting himself on the matte plastic seat of the toilet, he suddenly felt a tingling sensation in his groin he’d not felt for years.  As his excrement departed his ballooning anus and the cold backsplash from the water below tickled his perineum, his eyes widened.  His hands eagerly pushed and pulled at his abdominal rolls until his glory was revealed: there, the erection of all erections!  Good god, how it stood proudly against his old-man sags, turgid with enthusiasm!  It was like seeing an old friend, or discovering a treasured childhood memory.  With his excrement still cooling beneath him, he tugged on his long-lost todger: and in a matter of seconds, all three of his eyes were gushing.

Tears streaming down his liver-spotted cheeks, his hand sticky with seed, he leaned back on the white throne and breathed in his pungent collection of bodily odours.  His old lips curved upwards in a smile.

He was back.  And finally, finally, he was filled with self-love.

He wiped his face, wiped his hands, wiped his arse, and flushed.