Mar 302012
 

(The second part of a short essay.)

So why would anyone get so much of a frisson out of Kitty Carroll and her many (but not enough) sisters in the world of erotic mad science? There’s a simplistic answer, which is that putting pretty, scantily (or un-) clad women in a situation that sets the adrenaline going (whether out of fear or anticipation or for whatever reason might not matter much) is something that my Male Gaze naturally wants to be directed towards. Well, that’s fine, but it doesn’t really help distinguish the Kitty Carroll from the Distressed Damsel, who is also scantily clad and in a situation that will get anyone’s heart pounding. Why go to the trouble to find (or the even greater trouble of creating) Kitty Carroll’s when there are so many Distressed Damsels?

I’ll venture an explanation, one which begins, rather counterintuitively, in pessimism, a sense that human existence isn’t really that good. Having reached full middle age I find that I cannot dispute George Orwell’s casual dictum that while most people get a fair amount fun out of life, on balance life is suffering and only the very young or very foolish think otherwise. I am more than half convinced by David Benatar‘s rigorous argument that coming into existence is always a harm and that it would have been better never to have been. But I have been, and am, and being in full middle age I’m embedded in a web of human relationships that I cannot countenance tearing myself out of, and so on things go.

Now I’m not so pessimistic as to think I’m helpless in the face of life’s suffering. We can’t abolish our suffering but we can always palliate it, and encounters with the erotic are splendid palliatives. Intense pleasure makes us forget about both life and death, so much so that even the contemplation thereof in fiction helps lighten our burden. This aspect of imaginative contemplation is a large part of the reason why I write and publish Tales of Gnosis College. It’s time and resource intensive, believe me, but it also does a lot to make my life bearable. A little pleasure from one’s hobbies does a lot to push back the day when one aches to reach for the Nembutal (I realize it’s not generally available, but you get the picture). And my publication efforts might provide others with a little pleasure, helping to push back their own dark thoughts and the dreadful sequelae thereto: if that’s not hedonic philanthropy then what could be?

As we contemplate pleasure enough, we dream.

Gustav Courbet, (1819-1877), Sleep (1866)

Some of us dream of the possibility of pleasures such that no human has ever had them or probably ever could. It seems only sensible, somehow: since being human sucks why not imagine transcending human possibilities? Thus the appeal of the mad science, and thus the appeal of the scenario of the mad science embraced with enthusiastic consent and quivering anticipation rather than contemplated with fear.

But why women? Wouldn’t it be easier for this male author to identify with male characters? Why not Charlie Carrolls? I suppose that we could always think back to the Male Gaze, etc., but I suspect that something else is going on here. I have this belief, motivated perhaps in part by observation of multiorgasmic female partners in my own experience, and perhaps partly by science that suggests that women’s sexuality is more fluid than men’s, that the erotic possibilities of women are somehow just wider and deeper than those of men, that Tiresias of myth spoke truly when he told Zeus about sex that “of ten parts a man enjoys one only.”

Gustav Klimt, (1862-1918), Flowing Water (1898)

I admit it’s possible that I’m full of shit in my belief about the superior erotic possibilities of women and, if so, I regret my epistemic failure. But there it is — the imagination doesn’t care whether the tributary beliefs that feed it are true or false, it just flows the way it does. And the way mine flows female characters make superior imaginative vehicles for reaching the wonderful weird of impossible erotic experience.

Hence the search for Kitty Carrolls.

May 312011
 

It has been there for a while, but if you haven’t so far you should really drop in and pay The Velvet View a visit.  It’s a general blog guilt around images of erotic (or at least, sensual) art, but it’s worthy of special attention because site creator Alvaro has a real eye for the exquisite.

And yes, there’s some stuff there that’s definitely appealing to the thaumatophileAn example:

Not an image that hits you over the head with its eroticism…but one you can fall into with its level of detail.  It’s “Marionette,” by DA artist dcwj.

Nov 172010
 

Script for today:

Page 43

View of Pandora with her arms wrapped tightly around the jar.  Pandora is weeping.

CAPTION: Pandora was trying to save mankind from the worst of her action.

High-up view, looking down at bodies sprawled across the floor of the orgy room

CAPTION: But tell me, Taylor.  Why are you here?

View of Marie, trapped in the abduction bubble in the scene from Commencement.

CAPTION: I am looking for someone taken here against her will.

View of Taylor, crouched forward, a deep angry frown on her face.  She is hugging her knees.

CAPTION: I will find her.  I am not giving up hope.

View of Marie floating in a transport tube.

CAPTION (faint lettering, indicating that these are words being whispered by Taylor): Her name is Marie…from Gnosis College…have you…

View of Taylor, on her knees, looking up.  Donna, now lying on her back, is also looking out of the panel in the same direction as Taylor.

DONNA: Oh, dear, it’s time to go.  Would you kiss me goodbye, Taylor?

 

Page 44

Taylor and Donna in a deep, mouth-to-mouth kiss.

Donna leaning forward and whispering into Taylor’s ear.

DONNA (faint lettering indicating whispering): Look into Dr. Abdullah’s work.

Donna’s face, backing away from Taylor.  Donna is smiling innocently.  Taylor looks surprised.

A view of the orgy breaking up.  A servant in middle-eastern costume is carrying Donna away.  Taylor remains on her knees (her back to us).  In other parts of the room, girls and orgiasts are beginning to rise, lean on each other for support as they try to leave the room, etc.

 

Page 45

A group of nude young women, Taylor among them, walking along a featureless corridor.

CAPTION: The night’s entertainment done, we walk back to our quarters.

A shower scene, with soapy young women showering, one throwing a sponge at another, laughing.

CAPTION: We bathe ourselves.

Taylor standing at a basin in front of a mirror, brushing her teeth.

CAPTION: And brush out teeth.

Taylor lying between two other nude young women amidst cushions on the floor. One is curled up next to her, the other lies to one side.  Both are asleep, but Taylor is lying awake, staring upwards.

CAPTION: And go to bed.

CAPTION: If this weren’t all so porny I’d be reminded of a certain book my mother read to me as a child.

Close-up on Taylor’s face from previous panel

CAPTION: It’s clear I need to go in even deeper.

Same close-up before, except that now Taylor is squeezing her eyes closed.

CAPTION: And for the first time, I’m beginning to feel really scared.

CAPTION: END OF PART TARTARUS PART ONE

 

As we reach this point in Taylor’s adventures, I’ll try to end on an erotically-upbeat note, a harem bathing scene.  Fortunately orientalist painters never seemed to get tired of painting harem bathing scenes.

Rudolph Ernst (1854-1932) The Harem Bath.  Found at The Orientalist Gallery.

Nov 132010
 

Script for today:

Page 31

Taylor crouching forward, about to take one of Donna’s nipples in her mouth.

TAYLOR: But why…how…

DONNA: Pleasure first, stories after.

Close up on Taylor sucking hard on Donna’s nipple.

TAYLOR: That’s a fair trade, I guess.  I tell her my name is Taylor and set to work, trying to ignore…

DONNA: Oh, Taylor…yes…

Taylor and Donna lying curled together on the floor.

CAPTION: She holds up her end of the bargain.  She tells me her name is Donna.

DONNA: For me, this is running away to join the circus.

Puffy-bordered panel indicating a memory.  A MATRONLY WOMAN with a kindly expression is standing in front of a classroom, teaching Sunday school.

CAPTION: Puffy-bordered panel indicating a memory.  A MATRONLY WOMAN with a kindly expression is standing in front of a classroom, teaching Sunday school.

MATRONLY WOMAN: So those who accept Jesus will spend all eternity together in heaven, praising God.

A puffy panel, a close up on the Matronly Woman’s face, which has now taken on a stern expression.

MATRONLY WOMAN: Whereas those who reject Jesus, no matter how well they behave, will have an eternity of torment in hell.

Puffy panel, showing a little girl version of Donna in tears. A pair of adult hands can be seen at the edge of the panel, holding a belt.

CAPTION: My parents did not believe in sparing the rod.

 

Page 32

Puffy panel.  Little Girl Donna playing dolls with another little girl who resembles her.

CAPTION: Not that it was an entirely unhappy family.  I had a little sister whom I adored.  Her name was Emily.  She was the sweetest little girl ever.

A group of teenagers in standard-issue T-shirts, including a teenage version of Donna, sitting around a campfire, singing.

CAPTION: In the summers I was sent off to Bible Camp.

Close up on YOUTH PASTOR CLINT, a strkingly handsome young man, strummign a guitar and singing, his face lit up by firelight.

CAPTION: Every girl there had a huge crush on this really handsome Youth Pastor, named Clint.

View of teenage Donna knocking on the door of a rustic cabin.

CAPTION:Imagine how thrilled I was when, at the age of fourteen, Pastor Clint invited me to his cabin for “special religious instruction.”

View of the cabin only.  No human figures are in sight.

CAPTION: “Let me fill you with Jesus’s love,” he told me.

CAPTION: He also told me I would go to hell if I ever told anyone.

View of Donna, in a sweater and skirt, holding a set of textbooks close to her with a cupola of a college campus building in the background.

CAPTION: Still, I kept it together.  I got into college.  Euphoric State.

 

Page 33

DONNA’S FATHER having just opened the door to a bedroom at night.  He is silhouetted against the light behind him.  His face wears an outraged expression.

CAPTION: While I was away at college my father caught Emily masturbating in her bedroom.

Teenaged Emily, wearing a nightgown, kneeling on her bed.  The bedroom walls are covered with “Christian Rock” posters, and there are stuffed animals and dolls about.  She is wearing an angry, defiant expression.  The belt is held in her father’s hands, which are also in the panel.

CAPTION: Which made Baby Jesus cry, of course. In our family, Baby Jesus had an avenger.

View of Donna’s father, lying on his back in the doorway to Emily’s room, looking stunned.  Emily’s hand is in the panel, holding his belt.

CAPTION: Emily decided not to take it lying down.

View of Emily, putting on a coat and leaving a house, viewed from within the house.  A hand is seen in the panel, pointing out.

CAPTION: Emily and our parents screamed at each other for hours.  Then Emily left.

Donna in a dorm room, holding a phone, looking shocked.

CAPTION: We didn’t hear anything for months.  Then I got a call from Chicago.

Donna standing in an autopsy room.  A MEDICAL EXAMINER is holding back a sheet, showing a body on a gurney.  Donna stands behind the gurney, her head buried in her hands.

CAPTION: My parents wouldn’t even come to identify her.  “That little whore was already dead to us,” my father told me.

 

I regret that I can’t think of a sexy image to go with Donna’s depressing backstory (I’ll admit I’m pulling out perhaps-overfamiliar tropes), so I’ll offer something more appropriate thereto instead.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 -1890), Woman with a Mourning Shawl.  Found here, original in the Van Gogh Musuem, Amsterdam.

Nov 082010
 

Script for today:

Page 16

Kupler, sitting behind her desk, her eyebrow raised, holding the packet of money by her fingertips.

CAPTION: I’ve assured at least some good might come from this grisly adventure.

KUPLER: I understand you.

Taylor standing in the entrance foyer of an elegant hotel room, next to a BELLHOP who is gesturing obsequiously.

CAPTION: Even if Kupler understands me, she still insists on my staying 48 hours in a luxury hotel to make sure I think it over.

Taylor looking into a mirror in an elegantly appointed bathroom, sticking something up her nose on the end of a pair of tweezers.

CAPTION: Which works for me, because I have a comm device I need to put somewhere safe…

View of Taylor’s face.  She is biting her lip and a trickle of blood is running out of one of her nostrils.

CAPTION: Fuck that hurt.

Taylor lying her back, naked, her hand between her spread legs.

CAPTION:Since in fact there’s nothing for me to “think over” I lie around.  I watch CNN and BBC and masturbate to pass the time.

Taylor staring out a window.  The light indicates the sun is at a low angle.

CAPTION:And watch the sun rise and set twice.

 

Page 17

A view of a hi-rise cityscape.  In the middle there is a solid black cube.

CAPTION: “Level II” is a vast, windowless building right in the middle of Munai City.

View of Taylor’s face, looking up, brow wrinkled, through the window of a limousine.

CAPTION: It would stand out most places, but all modern architecture in Munai is brutal and ugly.

A uniformed guard holds open a black door in a black wall leading to a black space beyond.  We see Taylor from behind, about to step over the threshold.

CAPTION: “Abandon all hope…” but I love you, Marie.

Taylor stands facing a group of black-robed figures who sit on a high bench in front of her.  Behind them are blazing torches.  To Taylor’s right there is some sort of brazier with a lit torch next to it.  In front of her, a pool of water that seems to glow slightly.

CAPTION: These perverts…

CAPTION: They sure love their little rituals.

 

Page 18

Close up on FIRST ROBED FIGURE.

FIRST ROBED FIGURE: Who dares come before us to beg admittance?

Close up on Taylor’s face.  She looks forward, confidently.

TAYLOR: My name is Taylor Chase.

Close up on SECOND ROBED FIGURE

SECOND ROBED FIGURE: Henceforth address us in a manner befitting a slave.

Close-up on Taylor’s face.  She hangs her head abjectly.

TAYLOR: Yes, my lords.

Close up on a THIRD ROBED FIGURE, who points with his index figure.

THIRD ROBED FIGURE: You realize that you may go only by our leave, perhaps never?

Close up on a FOURTH ROBED FIGURE

FOURTH ROBED FIGURE: You realize that we may do with you what we will and you shall submit and obey without complaint?

Close up on the FIFTH ROBED FIGURE

FIFTH ROBED FIGURE: You agree that henceforth you are nothing, save a vessel of pleasure?

Close up on Taylor, who continues to hang her head abjectly.

TAYLOR: Yes, my lords.

Close up on Taylor’s feet. It becomes clear in this panel that she is standing on a patch of dirt.

FIRST ROBED FIGURE (out-of-panel balloon): Then strip completely.  Expose yourself to use and to the air.

 

The image of a naked woman facing judgment from a group of robed figures is, naturally, an opportunity to put in another striking image from Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Judgment of Phryne,who found herself in a similar situation once:

(Click on image for a larger version.)  It is said that the Aeropagus, on seeing Phryne naked, promptly acquitted her of whatever it was that she was accused of.

Well, I would have, wouldn’t you?

Death or victory

 Thaumatophilia  Comments Off
Jul 222010
 

I’ve often wondered what might have lead to my writing something like this exchange in The Apsinthion Protocol.

MOIRA

It would be a one-way trip for whoever did it.

NANETTA

It would mean giving up everything in this world.

MOIRA

And possibly entering a far more wonderful one.

NANETTA

Or it might mean a few moments of ecstasy, and then annihilation.

MOIRA

And there is likely very little time to decide.

(In my bleak moments I often think that what Nanetta and Moira would eventually achieve — even if it was just blissful annihilation — would be superior to the alternative:  adulthood.)

One finds one’s erotic inspiration where one is.  Where I was for a lengthy stretch of young adulthood was Harvard’s Widener Library.  Had I had my druthers, the erotic inspiration would have taken the form of a studious-but-sultry meganekko but sadly there was a severe druthers shortage in Cambridge at the time and so I didn’t get mine.

There was, however, this mural executed by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).

A doughboy embraces death and victory in the same moment.  (We know he’s victorious because there’s a defeated figure in a stahlhelm at his feet, presumably one of those nasty wicked Germans.)  At the time I would pass this mural daily (it’s on the library’s main entrance stairs) my conscious thoughts were that it was a singularly shameless bit of militaristic propaganda.

My subconscious thoughts, I conjecture, were on a different track entirely, thinking that maybe it’s cool — erotic even — to throw one’s life in like that.  It’s a natural interpretation — look at the soldier’s face, it’s expression and positioning under Victory’s bared breast.   It would explain a lot about the sort of things I’ve written.

Sargent didn’t do much in the more explicitly erotic line, although there is some, for example this study of a nude Egyptian girl.

Orientalist art — something I’ve found appealing before.

Jun 152010
 

Well, I suppose no set of post about the process through which Aloysius Kim begins his ascent into a new form through a descent into the depths would really be complete withott a visual reference to pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones‘s “The Depths of the Sea”  (1887), shown here to the left.

The visual relevance is perhaps too necessary to merit much further comment. Various vesions of the image float around the web:  this one was posted some time ago at Janitor of Lunacy, while the original can be found in the Fogg Museum at Harvard.

Bram Dijkstra reproduces this picture (among many, many others) his Idols of Perversity (p. 269) and has this to say about it:

In Burne-Jones’s “The Depths of the Sea”…a woman with hypnotic eyes and a vampire’s mouth has already completed her seduction and is carrying her prey — as if it were a huge, flowery bouquet of lost male morality — into the oblivion of her sensuality, where, we can be quite certain, he is to suffer the brain death which unfailing accompanied the state of perpetual tumescence promised by the hollows of the siren’s lair.

Gee, Professor, thanks for the fetish fuel!

 

Jun 092010
 

Looking for the appropriate link about Jules Joseph Lefebvre for yesterday’s post brought my eye to this lovely image, which I thought worthy of a digression.

La Vérité (Truth) the original of which hangs in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  The Wikipedia caption notes  “The painting is contemporary with the first small scale model made by Lefebvre’s fellow-Frenchman Frédéric Bartholdi for what became the Statue of Liberty, striking a similar pose, though fully clothed.”

Great Cthulhu, thinks I.  If only they had used Lefebvre’s version for what now stands in New York Harbor, instead of the severe and heavily-draped figure created by Bartholdi!  I for one would be so much more patriotic.  (Maybe it’s a bit late but if you’re a U.S. citizen and want to write your congressman and protest the choice, you can use this form.)

All well and good, but any link to Erotic Mad Science, except the bloggage?  Well, I suspect there is a connection to patron divinity Prometheus, anyway, through this piece of artwork created by Maxfield Parrish.  I for one suspect a visual influence:

Prometheus bringing light to the world.  In the form of light bulbs made by Edison Mazda, it would seem.  A reproduction hangs right outside my study.  Honest.

Jun 082010
 

The process through which Aloysius and his ad hoc band of resisters swiftly wreck Colonel Madder’s mental equilibrium is the sort of Hail Mary play that makes basically no sense outside of a mad science-driven fictional world…

…and perfect sense within it.  The fictional concept of resurrecting the dead to create an artificial woman has a long history.  One of its most distinguished moments would be the appearance of ravishing Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein.

(Image source cinemastrikesback.com.)  Though for my money, I think I like better the 1967 Hammer Horror production Frankenstein Created Woman, which among many other strengths has some very arresting imagery.

(Image source Frankensteinia, an entire blog devoted to things Frankenstein.)  And of course Peter Cushing.  Cushing might be best known to American audiences as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, but before that he had a whole series of brilliant British horror-movie roles.  Naturally he gets a site of his own, from which this French-language poster is taken:

That’s an EroticMadScience two-fer at least, because not only does it make us of the whole “created/resurrected woman” theme, but it also makes good use of the tube-girl meme.

Unsurprisingly, “woman created to make trouble” is itself a very old idea:  certainly as old as Pandora, represented here in an 1872 painting by Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

And Pandora is also an Erotic Mad Science two-fer.  Not only is she herself a woman created on purpose by a god associated with technology, but she is part of a plot by Zeus to punish mankind for the transgressions of Prometheus who, if mad science ever had a divine patron, would surely be it.

Jun 062010
 

Let it not be said that Colonel Madder is an amoral individual.  Clearly he thinks things like Marie’s abduction through.

MADDER

(handing him the dossier)

Transmit this to the Kupler op, and make arrangements to receive a transfer into the special operations account.

HORST

(leafing through the dossier)

She’s very pretty. Are you sure nothing about these ops bother you, sir?

MADDER

(leans back, calmly)

Nothing in either Hebrew or Greek scriptures forbids slavery, Horst, and some of us are inclined to the view that its classification as an evil is merely a heresy of secular liberals. Did not St. Paul himself enjoin slaves to obey their masters? In any event, we are having no one killed, and as long as the girl still lives, there will be an opportunity for repentance, as I once explained to your predecessor, prior to his unfortunate disappearance.

HORST

The girl will suffer terribly, I do not doubt.

MADDER

The evil of suffering is another liberal heresy, Horst. The presence of suffering reminds us of our fallen nature and brings us closer to God.

HORST

It is heartening to see that you have thought this through, sir.

And that’s worth reflecting on, and not just because it’s an opportunity for posters like me to post from the world’s abundant collection of slave-market art.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, "Slave Auction in Rome"

No, clearly this is an opportunity to look a little more at Colonel Madder’s reading, because when he tells us that nothing in the Greek or Hebrew scriptures forbids slavery, he’s not making it up.  And he could have gotten it from Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation.  Read below, or if the embedding doesn’t work, follow this link.

Food for thought.

Henri-Frederic Schopin, "The Slave Market" (detail)

Back in my graduate school days we sometimes had a saying:  “One man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens,” and that seems to be true here.

Switch to our mobile site