Bean Burger

I’ve had a little dream.

I suspect that it finds its source in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, a cool little turn based strategy game with rpg elements that I finished around Christmas time while I was back in Scotland.

Anyway, for whatever reason I’ve had this urge to build myself a little garden, possibly on a flat rooftop somewhere, and kit it out with a vegetable patch and a clutch of solar panels. I think this sentiment grew out of the game, as that is very much the aesthetic of the Kreusbazaar, the game’s central environment, a tough little anarchist state holding its own in the sea of violence and exploitation that surfaced in the wake of Berlin’s Dracopocalypse.

Around the same time I was eating a lot of bean burgers. There was a stand at the Edinburgh’s Christmas Market, just down the strip from the waffle stand run by a gang of South German accountants and lawyers, that sold a wide selection of burgers, and we learned to get along well with them selling vegetarian food and my rarely having time to make my own lunch.

So if I had a rooftop garden I feel like, climate permitting, I’d probably grow beans.

And I made a bean burger for myself, which is tangentially connected to all this babble and rather more so to the title of this article. Why it is I seem to feel the need to misdirect so aggressively in my opening statements is a facet of myself I am yet to understand.

So there was a bean burger. The bean mix functioned a bit more like a spread than a burger, but it turned out pretty well.

Instructions!

Fry your beans in oil, and then mash them to a paste with a fork in the pan. Throw in some finely chopped onion.

Spread the mix onto an English Muffin, or whatever bread product you have handy.

Fry a strip of firm tofu in oil, and put this on the bean mix like a cute little soy steak (omg! so cute!)

Add sweet chilli sauce.

Eat.

Use glucose extracted by your digestive system to collapse Australia’s monstrous government and attend celebratory drinks in quorganism’s solar bean garden.

Enjoy your week, imaginary readers.

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Changelings of the Outer West Part 6

Part 6: The Summer of Blood Part 3

And welcome back imaginary readers! I know its been a while since our last installment, but given these events transpired about a year and a half ago now I figure my memory isn’t getting any worse. So here I am diving back into my haphazard little notes to bring you our tales from 1970s Cootamundra. For those of you just joining us, see here for our Rogues Gallery, Setting Summary, Hedge Summary, and the Summer of Blood Part 1 and Part 2.

Our heroes, as always, are Anais the Fairest Dancer and Blaize the Fireheart Elemental, former servants of the Lord of the Maze, and Father Callahan, an escapee from the Witch of the Wilds’ bio-luminescent forest. We left our heroes fleeing from the wrath of Father Damian Crowley, who they had tried to rob on behalf of a local Korean Demonologist and restranteusse they had met a few days earlier.

The motley limp home as the sun is rising and collapse into their respective haphazard nests. The days wear on, and the motley ponders the mess they’ve gotten into.

Anais begins to leaf through the classifieds of a discarded newspaper in search of a job, while Father Callahan grills Christine, a younger woman doing volunteer cleaning at a church that serves more tourists than worshipers. Blaize, finding her hunting talents largely uncalled for in the town, wanders a while before seeking out Solomon at the library, having formed a curious fascination around the old academic. The others find their way in as the day moves on.

Solomon, unfortunately, doesn’t have much to offer in terms of job advice, but he does decide that now is the time to call in a favour. Reminding them of his help in their first stuttering days, he asks them to look into something for him.

A few nights previous, a couple of young drug enthusiasts met in the graveyard and were attacked by the Devil.

The paper man hopes that it was nothing. The gnawed wounds on one of the young men’s legs could have been a dog, and the Devil they saw little more than a shared hallucination. But he doesn’t want to discount the possibility that something more problematic is active, and would prefer that the problem were resolved without drawing too much mortal attention; by the time monster hunters have taken notice, chances are the more worrying focus of the True is already incoming. As the librarian is already occupied with maintaining the local peace as he puts it, and rather forcefully requests that the motley investigate and report back to him when they have more information.

Anais asks what Solomon knows about Black Hill, and the strange sickness hovering over the town. Solomon thinks for a moment, before recounting that perhaps seven years earlier there had been a great furore when a star had fallen to Earth near Black Hill. There had been a brief flurry of scientific interest, until the heat of the meteor had caused it to fall into the old tin mines beneath the town. Since then, there have been fewer visitors from the outlying hamlet. The old fae agrees to look into it while the motley checks the graveyard.

The motley returns home.

Blaize takes a brief detour, wandering the streets near the house. Drawn by a collection of curiously twisted night sounds, she finds a beige envelope on a doorstep. A voice from the deepening shadows warns her to leave it be, and she beats a cautious retreat.

As the night grows deeper, Owl flutters in through Blaize’s window.

“There’s someone on top of the nest.”

“What was that little guy?

“Someone’s on top of the nest. They gave me jerky.”

A panic grips Blaize’s heart. With the weight of a promise already on her mind, she doesn’t want to consider what the Mirrorbirds might do if something happened to the egg they were caring for. Shoving Owl under her arm, she leaps out the window and sprints for the tree. Clambering to the top, she finds the nest she built… and the Hedge-bird’s egg remains, safe and undisturbed.

“Owl… what happened?”

“Like I said. There was jerky.”

“You said there was someone on top of the nest…”

“Yeah.”

“Where are they?”

“Not this nest, silly.”

“Then what nest?”

“Our nest.”

Cursing loudly, the Fireheart leaps from the branches, letting Owl fly off as she tucks and rolls on the ground. She runs back to the house.

Clambering onto the roof, she finds a hunched figure sitting over the gutter, a crawling pall of shadow surrounding her.

“Your little friend is a pretty crappy messenger. Ate all my jerky too.”

Blaize approaches cautiously, and the figure rises to her full height, the shadows slipping from her skin like silken sheets. Her dark skin in a tapestry of burn scars, her eyes empty pits like the night sky. A loose bun of dreadlocks twitches like a mass of worms.

The stranger introduces herself as Half Penny, and says that she had come to check on the newcomers Solomon mentioned. Given the recent surge in Cuckoo activity, and the disappearance of a number of resident Cootamundra fae, she made it clear that she intended to find out for herself if these events and the arrival of the newcomers formed anything more than coincidence.

Nodding slowly along at the barely veiled threat, Blaize asked if the Tunnelgrub wanted to come inside.

Blaize climbed down, while the newcomer slithered down the wall ahead of her, and was waiting when the Elemental moved to open the door. The dark fell behind as the ropy young woman strode into the house, interrupting Father Callahan’s painstaking sorting and sampling of his most recent Hedge-berry harvest. There was a brief but cagey conversation; where the motley had come from, what they intended to do in town, and a number of reasons why they should consider the area around the Cold Hill Slaughterhouse off limits. Anais brings forth a new concoction, a glamour rich tea, and the meeting begins to settle. Soon, Half Penny makes to leave.

“You guys are either the best liars…” she mutters from the door, “… or the worst Cuckoos I have ever seen. You’ll be hearing from me.”

And with that the night swallows her again.

A little worried by the local denizens, the motley opts to settle in for the night. Upon awakening Callahan finds a surprising amount of loose change in his socks, and smiles at the idea that maybe their luck is changing. Bouyed by this, the trio head into town once more, trying to source what they’ll need for the coming troubles. Anais dials a number she finds in the classifieds of a discarded paper, responding to the request for new exotic dancers at Lady May’s Adult Entertainment company. The voice who answers sounds tired, but after a short chat agrees to meet.

Blaize wanders into a record store to find a collapsed, aging hippy face down on the counter, with a couple of others hidden away under the shelves and a pile of discarded pizza boxes. Waking Petey, the counter dwelling proprietor, she strikes an agreement to clean the place once a week in exchange for David Bowie postcards. She catches a wisp of glamour from the agreement, the crackling voice of the fire within surging into activity.

Father Callahan takes some time to study the book he took from Crowley’s Black Hill Church, and notes that despite the references to Antebellum America, the print plate the book keeps falling open on is out of place; over the chain gang stands a man in a British Colonial Officer’s uniform, and the plants in the background suggest an Australian scene. The chained man in the foreground is a tall and muscular African, but the print does not belong in the book. Holding his crucifix close, the Father closes the book, and decides that its time to go to the library.

He spends the afternoon amongst the books, and eventually begins turns up a name to go with the figure.

Cesar.

The former slave turned convict enjoyed a brief bout of fame after having delivered a knockout punch to the Aboriginal war leader Pemulwuy, a man of no small reputation for toughness, while the latter was leading a raid. Tracking the name through records over the next few days, he found that both Cesar and, later, his son were buried in the area that would later be Cootamundra. Any haunting that old had no choice but to be entrenched and resilient. The Father, it seemed, was going to need extra supplies.

Christine did indeed know where to find some priests’ vestments. The former priest had left a set with the church, saying they belonged to it and not to him, and she knew exactly where they were. She was also entirely willing to trust Father Callahan when he said that he was a priest. What took a bit of convincing was why exactly he needed a set immediately. In the end he spun some tale of a wedding on a tight turnaround, as it were, and made off leaving behind a promise to have the Catholic paraphernalia back in good condition.

He’d figured she probably wouldn’t believe he was going to exorcise a ghost in the church of the next town over.

Having stowed his new acquisitions, the trio meet up to discuss a potential solution to the Devil in the graveyard. The place has no history of unnatural trouble that they can find, but the night tourists’ statement made the local papers, and has circulated to the local rumour mill with a chuckle ever since. Figuring there’s not much they can do without a bit more information, they decide that they should take a closer look. Better to get at least one favour owed out of the way.

They make their way across town, and do a brief reconnoiter around the edge of the cemetery, figuring that a quick clamber over a lower section of the eastern wall is their best option. Sneaking through the long shadows of funerary gardens and being careful to avoid the lone nightwatchman, they pick their way through the dark towards the old mausoleums where the incident took place. As the  graves grow taller around the paths, an unseasonal mist and chill begins to well up around them.

Anais steps into the clearing first, and she sees a name carven upon a gravestone in the dark that she recognises as her own, even if she can’t truly remember it. She falls to her knees, and starts digging at the ground with her fingernails. In an instant, Anais is gone.

The others notice her disappearance, and try to fan out and search for her. The shadows of the tombs crawl with malice, writhing forward to snatch more of the feeble light from their torches. Then, they see a tombstone too, with the name “Anais” dripping darkness on the face. Blaize lays into the earth with her shovel as they scramble to open the grave in time.

Meanwhile, their friend is cold. She can see her motley scrabbling away, mere meters before her, but her arms feel constricted by an iron grip, and when she raises her voice to scream the breath is snatched from her lungs before it can make a sound. As she struggles, she feels consciousness ebbing away, and makes one last desperate push…

The huntress’ shovel cracks a slab of stone, and the dancer falls wheezing out of the air.

While Blaize and Callahan struggle to get Anais back on her feet, a vicious neck wound bleeding into her dress, and fear itself steps forth from the shadows.

Blaize and Anais see the Lord of the Maze strut forth from between the tombstones, while Father Callahan sees his own Keeper limp forth from the shadows. The old priest slumps to the ground shaking.

Blaize raises her shovel and, interposing herself between her friends and her once Keeper, screams out for the interloper to back off. The Maze Lord’s face snarls back for them to leave the cemetary before it gets angry, but there is a creeping baritone in its voice that seems unfamiliar. Blaize scents the illusion; there’s none of the Maze Lord’s wisps of perfume or debauchery here. The thing before her reeks only of worms and cold, dark places, and it is in their heads.

When she refuses to back down, the thing leaps forward. Caught in its shadow, Callahan’s mind plummets back to an image of his Keeper’s son, the Wilting Waxen Woodsman, beating him bloody with the haft of his axe. The old priest screams and runs with the devil’s own speed. The nightmare surges on towards Blaize and Anais.

The Elemental snaps her lighter, and drives the flickering flame into the skin of her arm. The flesh singes, and in response the Wyrd honours her contract; the fire within her surges out, flashing and coruscating in a raging shroud around her. The thing wearing the Maze Lord’s face falters and takes a cautious step back, like a cornered wolf.

“Not so cocky now, huh? Who the hell are you?” the Fireheart snaps.

“Nobody you’d want to get close to,” the figure replies in its sepulchral tones, before single handedly wrenching a gravestone out of the earth and pitching it like a discus at the furious fae. Blaize tried to dive out of the way, but the massive stone caught her under the arm, and she felt at least two ribs break as she falls with the slab on top of her. Through the veil of pain, the illusion around her crumbles, the night in the graveyard returning to the crisp mugginess of the Western summer. Anais struggles with the heavy stone before managing to lever it off Blaize’s chest with the haft of the shovel, and the younger fae drags in a wheezing, painful breath. Seeing that her friend is stable for now, she briefly follows the footprints of their assailant; finding the door of a mausoleum thrown open and a flight of steps beyond; she spies an incense burner flickering dimly in a small alcove below, but no sign of their attacker, and figures it wiser to avoid any further confrontation at this stage. She slips back to Blaize, and manages to help her friend to her feet as they both stagger away from the mausoleum.

They find Callahan cowering in the shadow of the outer wall. Coaxing him out of his near catatonia, he feeds some of his Hecate’s Eye extract to Blaize; not enough to heal the broken ribs, but sufficient to stop the injury getting any worse while they head home. They drop down over the wall and limp back through the midnight streets.

They are relieved at least that in the morning they will be able to tell Solomon that whatever is in the graveyard is no True Fae; after all, fear of flames and crushing people with tombstones never really were the Maze Lord’s style. They are also reassured that whatever it was seemed to wish more for privacy than expansion. And they are at least ninety nine percent sure that it was definitely not the Devil, which is probably another plus.

What is  worrying is that they don’t really know what it was at all.

And I think we’ll leave it there for this week folks, nice little bit of a mystery for you. I’m afraid competition for the historical figure guessing game are now closed in light of Father Callahan’s revelations, but  phone ins from my dear imaginary readers are always welcome. As ever, feel free to use any of the ideas you like in your own games, though I guess if you publish it refer to my usual CC-A-SA-NC spiel. That is, throwing me a mention would be appreciated. Anywho, have a good week everybody.

Oh, for the love of…

I shouldn’t be writing about this.

I should be writing for you, imaginary readers. I should have something light and whimsical and charming, like more Changeling or another lentil recipe. Or working on the super secret project I haven’t told you about yet. But no.

Cause once again I’ve gotta watch my government run a perfectly serviceable country genitals first into a fusking disk sander.

Now, you might be wondering “Quorganism, what can you be talking about? Your government have been a bunch of apparently lobotomised and strategically shaved chimps for years now. What’s special about today?”

Well, today I read this article.

So our incompetent, human rights abusing government has decided that the best way to deal with domestic terrorists is to remove their Australian Citizenship.

That’s right. In a move oddly reminiscent of the British policy that gave this country its very first genocide, the Federal Government of the Commonwealth of Australia has decided that the best response to crime is to throw up their hands and say “Hey! Its somebody else’s problem!”

As if we weren’t an international joke already. As if our leaders hadn’t already spat in the eye of international law.

I’m not even considering the human rights implications. An Australian arrested on terrorism charges should go to prison, with a chance of rehabilitation. I don’t want to think about what would happen if we let the Americans get hold of them, let alone if we just dumped them on whatever Middle Eastern country caught them. A firing squad would be a mercy.

But its the sense of casual irresponsibility that really makes me mad. Not only does the government not care that helpless refugees are being tortured and abused on its payroll, it also wants to simply disavow any responsibility for people who were born within its borders, raised in its schools, and ruled by their policies. I’m not making any moves to support the ideas of extremists, hell, the very notion of theocracy for me stinks of a collaboration of the weak and cowardly screaming in futility against their own cosmic impotence, but that does not mean we should abandon our citizens. They remain our problem, whether we want them or not.

Naturally, the Labor party, their role of Opposition apparently an ironic one, has naturally rolled over and agreed with the idea.

And another thing that sticks in my gnashing craw is that the imbeciles call this approach “modern”. Naturally, with the moral compasses of the current administration being set to some LSD addled version of Disney’s Camelot, they seem to believe that the idea of simply declaring someone outside the law was enough. Of course medieval kings didn’t have a police force, standing army or pervasive surveillance state to “keep us safe”.

But the fact that these laws are absurd won’t stop this absurd Kafka parody. Only we can.

And I’m beginning to think that, given current trends, we probably won’t.

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Photo “FKD”, courtesy of Newtown Graffiti on Flickr

Circus Oz in Review

Ok. Notes to self.

1) Get buff.

2) Run away and join the circus

And I feel if you come away from a circus feeling like that then they’ve done their jobs.

I hadn’t seen Circus Oz before, but I would recommend their current Melbourne show. Cast in the shadow of ruins out of Ozymandius, or its nearest circus equivalent, my partner and I had our collective socks knocked off by these stellar performers.

Personal highpoints included a German Wheel routine in which a man resembling a Scottish Wolverine defied gravity for heavy metal infused minutes on end, and a static trapeze routine there’s around narcolepsy, which is exactly as tense as it sounds. In another brilliant touch, the performers cycled between the band and the centre stage effortlessly, showing off a fantastic breadth of talent.

If anything felt a little laboured, it was the beginning of a consumerism themed sub plot, but these naturally suffer for inertia. It built nicely between other acts to a manic, creepy, bar coded, spruiker fueled explosion of theatrical chaos.

So imaginary Melbournites! If you have a night free, I heartily recommend. You’ll be smashing situps and flying about on any geometric shapes you can lay your grabby mits on. Hm, there might be some merit in that… I wonder if I can market that as an exercise scheme…

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Photo “Circus” by Marja van Bochove aka on1stsite on flickr

In Which Quorganism Finds Work, and Loses Energy to Write

I have begun to detest the suburbs.

I mean, there’s the obvious stuff. The lack of convenience, the obnoxious McMansions, the neighbours who won’t even say hello to each other when their out walking their dogs. More recently I’ve come to associate them with exhaustion, hunger, and vengeful ankle pain.

You see, my dear imaginary readers, yours truly has taken to selling light bulbs door to door to make ends meet.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I’ve been trying to give them away for free, complete with a qualified electrician to install them, which makes sense in the context of the State of Victoria’s emissions reduction scheme. This has been harder than it sounds.

That’s mostly because we’re clearly not the first to have this idea. It becomes difficult to give something away when the recipient already has said thing in abundance. The very selling point of these bulbs is their extremely long life, so with replacement not an option the market dwindles rather rapidly.

So that’s another way in which I feel that the suburbs have sleighted me.

Despite all this, though, returning to the city center still makes me smile. From the Hyatt hotel glowering down on us like a golden parody of a Communist Parliament, to the riverfront dredging up memories of London stowed half a world away, to the church towers nestled beneath the immense glass megaliths surrounding them,  like tiny remora between the teeth of a shark. At night the towers ascend into mist like something out of Disney’s Gargoyles, and the city blooms with a sky climbing garden of electric flowers.

I have also been making forays into getting back into radio theatre, for which I will need more material. You’ll know the outcome as soon as I do. I’m not holding out on you guys, just its not something I’m working on alone like the blog.

So that’s more or less where I’m at currently. Having had some decent interviews, I hopefully won’t be pounding the pavement too much longer out in the suburban sprawl. But I’ll keep you posted on that.

And you should have your usual fix come Saturday. Hoping the week’s been nice to y’all.

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Why the alley has its own flagpole, I have no idea.

Herbert’s Transgender Messiah

Well, this whole Caitlyn Jenner situation has kicked up quite the kerfuffle, hasn’t it imaginary readers? The internet has veritably lit up with… well, more than its usual amount of nasty vitriol, I guess. There have been some interesting points, and some beautiful shows of solidarity, but as is often the way with our medium, the upswing of fundies and fusk-weasels has made the whole episode less than welcoming.

The media has made a meal out of it too, which is irksome as ever.

And I mean, I’m not one to pass judgement, really, and in truth this is all preamble. I’m not going to stand in the way of anybody looking to change their body; I’ll admit that I’d prefer nanoswarms and chrome inlay to what’s currently on offer, but whether you want to transition to the gender you’re more comfortable with or just be more like a tiger, you have my full support. So good for Caitlyn, she’s been lucky enough to be able to live the dream.

I will note that I have all of zero authority to speak on behalf of trans people, I am cis as best as I can tell, and I don’t want to diminish anyone’s struggle. And like anything on this blog, I’m mostly just writing what I’m thinking about. And with that, I can end this totally not a cynical tag grabbing preamble, and get on to the actual article.

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Photo “Santctuarium” courtesy of Theirry Ehrmann aka home_of_chaos on flickr

In which I consider Transgender themes in Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Dune is one of the biggies. Though it lacks the reach in the popular mindset of say, Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, Frank Herbert’s fearsome turtle-cracker of a tome (and its myriad sequels) has slouched heavily into the science fiction mindset, and its echoes can still be seen in recent favorites, from the political slaughterhouse of Game of Thrones, to the deranged absurdist feudalism of Warhammer 40,000, to the fantastical apocalyptic landscapes of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. Its never been blinding, but its always been there.

Its held a bit of a soft spot in my mind, in that it has always felt like the sort of thing that Tolkien would write if he just learned to loosen up and take a crap-tonne of LSD. Tolkien’s famed linguistic thoroughness is matched, I think, in Herbert’s work, even if Chakobska is based on real world languages; lets face it, someone speaking Elvish doesn’t sound all that different from someone speaking Welsh. The setting’s sprawling feudal society and mystic traditions may seem dated today, but part of that at least stems from the depth of imitation they have spawned.

And its those mystic traditions I’d like to explore here, as I have noticed a distinct theme in the path of Paul Atreides in the initial novel; before Paul can reach his messianic status, he first has to become transgender.

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Photo, “Dune/Arrakis/Fremen” by Rufus Gefangenen, aka rufo_83 on flickr

This must be taken in context. I don’t think one could truly describe Dune as a progressive novel on gender lines; the society depicted is one with very firm gender roles, with the feudal trappings of the galactic government leading to women being treated as chattel or bargaining chips fairly commonly, and the all female Bene Gesserit, despite their fearsome psychological and autonomic skill set, almost inevitably accept the role of advisor and shadowy manipulator. It is a patriarchy with strongly defined social roles, with little room to transgress. The nomadic Fremen have a more egalitarian society (as you often get with hunter gatherer groups, see Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind), with leadership of tribes shared between the Reverend Mother and her war leaders of either sex.

Paul, however, in amongst the first scene of the book, is forced to meet a transgression with lethal consequences; the trial of the gom jabbar, a test of endurance that no male has survived. In some ways, this is a ploy by the Reverend Mother to remove what was considered a mistake, with Paul having meant to have been born a girl to satisfy the Bene Gesserit’s ancient eugenics program. Against expectation, the young man is able to endure the trial, marking the beginning of his shift away from his masculine identity. This begins a number of jarring shifts for Paul. His mother, Jessica, had already secretly taught him some of the rites of the Bene Gesserit, and after forsaking his disintegrating family to live with the desert nomads, he drinks the Water of Life, another trial that no male has a right to survive, and thus blows open the doors of his own perception and begins his ascension to godhood and leader of a revolutionary jihad. By shedding his connections to his gender, his ties to the feudal state, and his family name, he steps forth into an enlightened state.

This is not a new idea. There are a number of cultures throughout history that have practiced a form of symbolic gender realignment, particularly in relation to mystic societies. Sometimes this related to an abrupt shedding, such as the celibacy oaths of ascetic traditions, but in other cases, such as the self castrating worshipers of Cybele in ancient Rome, the change is more direct. A personal favourite in modern film is a scene in Onmyouji 2 (skip to about 2:20 for the good stuff), in which the male protagonist, attempting a hazardous ritual with no time to spare, must play the role of the priestess to placate angry deities. Indeed, early depictions of Christ show a strikingly effeminate figure, thought to stem from Jesus’ enlightened and life restoring reputation, before the newly formed Church attempted to repaint itself as an implacable moral authority, recasting their saviour to look more like Zeus, with all the delicious irony that entails.

Though Paul does exhibit a number of socially feminine roles in his context, having survived their trials and learned their secret language (the Bene Gesserit Voice), this may be less of a direct gender change and more of an attempt by the protagonist to escape his destructive male nature. The Dune series has a very pessimistic outlook on male bio-psychology, to the extent that in God Emperor of Dune the titular character rebuilds his army as an all female fighting force after having come to the conclusion that men are incapable of maintaining civilisation. Even in the first novel, Paul’s fedaykin Death Commandoes view themselves as a gruesome necessity for a desperate time, with Stilgar considering himself not an honoured warrior or authority but a desert executioner, or even at times little more than a tool in the hands of his Prophet. Perhaps here we can see a degree of obsessive behaviour attributed to the male brain; most of the Mentats of the series are male, and where this obsession is not turned to rigid computation it quickly devolves into the sadism of the Harknonnen barony or the brutality of the fervent Fremen.

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Photo “Face 001” courtesy of Frl. Schrodinger, aka 44913276@NO7 on flickr

Perhaps Paul tends more towards the point of a spiritual hermaphrodite in his ascension to Messiah. He still maintains socially male roles; those of father, war leader and destroyer, while access to his feminine nature, that precious X chromosome, allows him to throw off the limiting factors of his male mind. The story certainly has a touch of the old 1960’s flair to it; that a Messiah is born not from divine will but through a cocktail of psychotropics, the demolition of rotten social structures and the merciless enlightenment of the empty reaches where humanity clings to life. Paul’s marriage into the Imperial family that forms the culmination of the story feels almost like a disappointment, a surrender to the forces he had been attempting to escape, a crushing return to a realisation that even as Emperor and the monopolist of the vital Spice, the structure cannot be changed through violence alone. He returns to his male role, and his frenetic path to enlightenment fades, never to be fulfilled in his lifetime.

So we have, in our hands, a path to enlightenment through a mystic step across established gender boundaries. This is important, I feel, because it is very difficult to grow beyond one’s assigned role in the world if one is unwilling to question it. Though Dune approaches the path to enlightenment in a hopeful manner, with the sense that it is there if you can just find the right circumstances, with the right drugs or music or ritual, the though remains that with or without an end goal, with or without the throne of the Kwisatch Haderach to claim, one ceases to grow as a human being once one ceases exploration of the entire human condition. For Paul, this was a systemic and painful shredding out of the masculine limits on his mind to allow for broader comprehension.

Dune, as I read it, was a call to tear down the walls that are holding you back, and it remains relevant today. It is not hard to see the calcified, self interested nobles in our own time, the willful sacrifice of chattel slaves and attempts to enforce gender and social roles in a world desperately wanting to be free of them, the monopoly of vital resources making kings of killers, and the word jihad sings across the popular mind despite its meaning being so very different.

And it wants you to bust loose of all that. Throw aside everything your society wants you to be, twist at the foundations and limiting functions that you think your brain is locked into, and call your generation to tear down the old order on a tide of blades and nuclear fire. To give you a chance to see what the other side of life is. I’m not saying its not a great drama; hell, its probably the seminal political melodrama of twentieth century science fiction. But it wanted something, Herbert did, but it never quite reached the people. It was a good story, but I think we lost the mysticism along the way.

Perhaps Paul Muad’dib transgressed for nothing.

So yeah, that’s some stuff I thought about Dune. In summary, be nice to the trans people in your community. Or I’ll pull out your fusking spine. Also, transgress against everything you’ve ever believed was true; our history is a pack of lies as any fool can tell; and no, poor quorganism has made no money out of this article, and any part of it can be redistributed under an Attribution-Share Alike-No Alterations Creative Commons License, so you know. Butcher it, but name the relevant pig (that’s a metaphor; authors/creators as pigs, inhumanity of the meat industry… yada yada, you know the drill…).

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park http://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/coral-pink
inhumanity Photo “Arrakis?” courtesy of Tony Heussner, aka big_t_2000 on flickr

Scenes from the City Part 6: The Scavenger

Another installment in this delectable serialised fiction, my dear imaginary readers, after three weeks of fluff- I mean quality articles. A familiar narrator again, if you haven’t heard from the Scavenger yet his previous outing was in Part 2. For those of you who have just arrived, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

The Scavenger

“Vulture,” Twin muttered in my ear as we trod down the newly crawling undergrowth.

Twin doesn’t speak often, and I often think that is for the best.

I can’t forget the first time he told me about his brother.

“Vulture,” the witch boy whispered again.

That story had sunk in like a rock in the pit of my gut.That was when I came to understand what it was the boy had missing, something broken inside him. Like we all did.

I hammered a ragged, low hanging branch into the earth with my boot, tearing it loose from its trunk like a shirt torn in half.

He’d come in a package, you see. He and a brother, just like him, born together, and I guess that’s why he’s called Twin. The two boys, as he tells it, are happy enough. Always closer to each other than the other street rats, naturally, just like my sister and I were, as long as you forget that she was the only one with enough iron in her gut to look me in the eye.

So the boys are just that, just a pair of whippets kicking about in the streets in the times between when their aunt can sober up enough to try again at teaching them their letters. They have great fun being able to convince people they’re in two places at once.

Then it goes bad, as these stories always seem to. For most little ones, you grow up the day your dog dies, or when your sweetheart leaves off, or you find out your sweet mother lied to you.

It hit Twin when a cart, rattling along like lightning on lake water, thrashed his brother to the ground and broke his neck.

That would be enough for decent folk to fall apart. But when its your brother, a life you shared, the very mirror of your face, that’s got to be something else.

Give it that.

Now remember that it takes at least a quarter hour for the boy to die. The bells ring as the brother screams for a doctor.

There’s a saying in the City, that when its your time to go it’ll surprise you, an you won’t feel it. I’ve seen that untruth with my good eye, seen that the whole of the City is built on the lies they tell each other.

I’ll know an angel has kissed me if I have the luxury of dying fast.

So Twin has the chance to see the lights go out in his brother’s eyes, and he thinks his life is over at that moment.

But what twists the knife is that, after all this happens, nobody talks about his brother anymore. Not his ma, not his aunt, and folks start tearing up or spitting madness when Twin talks of him, so he stops. he starts to lose his memories, like little ones do, and he comes to a point where he struggles to remember his brother’s name.

“Vulture!” Twin screeches out, and hurls himself at me, taking the both of us down into the mud.

And letting the gunshot echo around us, the bullet ripping open a tree instead of my stomach.

“Stay back, you gutterfilth goat fuckers!”

That voice was familiar.

And I guess that’s what hurt the most.

His brother might have been forgotten. It might only have been Twin that remembered him at all.

“It’s Vulture.” he rasped into my ear as we took cover behind a ridge of earth.

“Vulture… is dead.” I muttered back, “You told me!”

“Plenty of bullets for all of you, come and get ’em!” the voice rang out again.

“Alright,” I nodded, “Definitely Vulture. Why did you say she was dead?

Twin closed his eyes, squeezing them shut and gripping his head.

His brother’s voice had found him, while he was trying to sleep. It had told him what would happen, about what might happen, about the terrible things he might do now that he could choose them for himself.

“Why didn’t you know?” I shouted as another shot rang out. I could see it when I glanced out of our hiding place; the Temple was ahead, and it seemed that Vulture had dug in between the pillars. The sun was beginning to set.

Maybe it was the loss of his brother that made Twin into a witch. Or maybe he was born that way, and his witch blood had made him a brother. I won’t pretend to know.

There’s a saying in the City, that a witch among you is worth a legion at the gate.

In the Woods, one can save your life.

“Damn it all Vulture, its us!”

“Great! Get the hell away!”

“Listen-”

“I can hear you just fine! It ain’t that I’ve not been listening, darlings, its that you won’t let me sleep!”

“We need to come in! Now!”

“You can come in after a course of lead, you lying pigs!”

Twin wasn’t just a witch, and City folk are fools to have only one word.

Twin, best as I’ve managed to guess, is living the gambler’s dream. His brother tells him what was, what will be, what he could bring to pass.

His brother gets quieter in the Woods, like something is trying to smother him.

There is more than one kind of witch.

Another shot rang out. I signaled for Twin and Dram to make their move around to the right, and the two lads nodded. They broke off, an I steppe out from behind the overhang, pistol in hand, flint under thumb.

I saw Vulture step out from behind one of the obscene stone pillars, the sun crawling into dusk at her back. One rifle in hand, another six at her feet, with the barrel aimed squarely at me.

“One more step and your dead, trickster!”

“Brilliant!” I shrugged, raising my own weapon, “You’re not looking to join me, are you maman?”

She locked her flint, and squared her shoulders. I took a few steps forward, then dropped my pistol where she could see it.

“Its me, Vulture! We’re pals, aren’t we? I still owe you a drink, you’ll throw that away if you put a slug in me…”

“Liar!”

Her shoulders were shuddering with her breath, eyes ringed with grey and filled with terrified fire. “No closer, imposter!”

“What’s the imposter lark, Vee?” I steppe slowly closer, hands open, mere paces away now, “You don’t have to shoot me. Hell, its bad luck to kill somebody who’s already cursed.” I tapped a finger under my milk eye. “We’re friends aren’t we Vee?”

She gritted her teeth, stifling I don’t know what.

Her finger twitched, and the hammer fell.

The empty click resounded between the ancient pillars.

I took my last three steps, and took the gun from Vulture’s shaking, unresisting hands. She slumped against the pillar, face pressed into her palms, a low scream scrabbling out between them.

Over her shoulder, I saw Twin slumped against another pillar, and he threw a mock salute as blood sloughed from his mouth and nose. Playing the odds for me.

There’s more than one kind of witch.

Vulture fell to the floor, her cache of rifles clattering around her. I wrenched my blanket from my pack, put it around the shoulders of a woman I knew to be one of the toughest creatures in existence. The story ran that as her son was being born, she laughed and told the midwife to quit making faces.

There’s more than one kind of witch. Twin’s kind play the odds better than any gambler, but the ones in the Woods are different. They force their music along bonds of blood, closing off doors, forcing things to their natural conclusion. I’d heard whispers that the Charnel Sisterhood and the Boat Tribe who live beneath the City worked dark witchery in the same way. Sickening flesh, breaking minds. Natural ends. Death. Despair.

Madness.

There’s more than one kind of witchcraft, but they all drive you mad, one way or another.

The lads skulked from the Woods and into the Maze of ancient pillars, making camp and getting a fire going. I kept my good eye on Vulture as the sky went dark.

If the Aldermen knew Twin was a witch they’d string him up like a squab for sale. But there’s not a guard alive who’d go down the tunnels to fetch a Charnel Sister. Funny how the law works, especially when lawsmiths know they’d rather die in bed.

Better in bed than on a cold stone slab in the depths of a midnight dark pit.

Eaten alive.

Vulture’s twitching quietened, and eventually she seemed to dose off. From what we’d seen, she’d earned it.

Twin wandered over to me, firewater  flask in hand, a darkening rag in the other, held over his mouth and nose.

“Why is she here?” I whispered as he slouched down beside me, “You said you’d found her corpse.”

Twin shrugged, and passed me the flask.

“Might have been. Could have been. Maybe.”

“That’s not all that helpful, if we’re being honest, Twin.”

“It… should. Should have been. But, she’s here, so… a change. Feathers and blood. New Vulture. Sacrifice.”

“A scapegoat.”

“A scapeman.”

“A curse?”

Twin laughed, before hurriedly pressing the rag back in place as the blood leaped forth again.

He did his best to talk around it.

“All cursed, here,” he whispered, “You and me both, Sarge.”

6511512805_624ea46c69_oPhoto, “Lights through the trees in the Dark Forest”, courtesy of joansorolla on Flickr. Enjoy your weekend, imaginary readers.

Five Days, Four Beds and Two Thousand Klicks

Well, in the last week I’ve spent about five days driving.

There’s not a whole lot that can be said for that much highway.

But we’ve made it from Melbourne to Canberra to our childhood home in the Blue Mountains, and then back in the same direction.

Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria
Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria

The long haul through country New South Wales and Victoria is like a churn through Australian colonial folklore. We lunched in Chiltern, a town all too willing to cash in on its proximity to Ironbark, and we found no trace of any barber around. Chiltern is also incidentally one of the few words that has managed to stump me in Articulate.

We took the Road to Gundagai, and found a very quiet small town winding down on a Sunday afternoon, with hills surrounding that reminded me of the monstrous Sentinel Hill in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. It wasn’t so worrying, in truth, as Tarcutta, which touts itself as the true centre point between Sydney and Melbourne despite the popular myth being that Canberra was built in such a place, and I have to say the real median has a slow buildup of dereliction that evokes an inland Innsmouth. The place feels haunted for all the traffic it sees, though it stands on the false grounds of a mythic capital that never was.

Hilltops of Gundagai
Hilltops of Gundagai

There’s also about five turnoffs for Wagga Wagga, spread over maybe a hundred kilometers, which is a bit strange. Gives the feeling your going in a big circle.

My insomnia got worse across these myriad towns, though we stayed in familiar places with friends and family. Part of that must have been the strange exhaustion of driving that leaves your mind burned out but your body unable to rest.

There’s Glenrowan too. They have a monochrome image of Ned Kelly in his famous armour on the road sign. We didn’t stop.

Imaginary readers, I wouldn’t usually post something as aggressively referential as this, though I don’t imagine my analysis is anything particularly special.

The point is that this road is a terrifying object, to my mind. You move along it, and you and hammered with the scale of this place when you see just how much colonist culture is crammed into a thin stretch not far off the Eastern seaboard, what a tiny part of this country has provided so many of our stories and how much of our discourse.

There was more than once that I pondered just how much trouble we’d be in, how far we were from help, if the car were to break down along that road. I can cover ten kilometers in an hour at a run. For how many hours, I do not know. You ask yourself if that would be enough. You find yourself asking these questions, or maybe you don’t. Maybe that’s just me.

The land is huge and it is hungry and so many of its stories fail to reach our ears.

Strange how much can be said of a stretch of highway.

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