“Giant huntsman spider” from Wikipedia

Walpurgisnacht:
What other creatures remain to be discovered?
-The Voice before the Void

“Giant huntsman spider”

Wikipedia

The giant huntsman spider (Heteropoda maxima, “the largest”) is a species of huntsman spider (Sparassidae), a family of large, fast spiders that actively hunt down prey. It is considered the world’s largest spider by leg span, which can reach up to 1 foot (30 centimeters).

1. Taxonomy and naming

The giant huntsman spider was discovered in a cave in Laos in 2001. Over a thousand new species of plant and animal were found between 1997 and 2007 in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

A representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that “some of these species really have no business being recently discovered,” suggesting that it is surprising for such a large species to go undiscovered for so long.

giant huntsman spider Heteropoda maxima Sparassidae species Laos Greater Mekong river basin cave largest leg span Continue reading

“The Ash-tree” by M.R. James, with Digressions

Walpurgisnacht:
Vernal weird horror.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Ash-tree”

M.R. James

Everyone who has travelled over Eastern England knows the smaller country-houses with which it is studded—the rather dank little buildings, usually in the Italian style, surrounded with parks of some eighty to a hundred acres. For me they have always had a very strong attraction, with the grey paling of split oak, the noble trees, the meres with their reed-beds, and the line of distant woods. Then, I like the pillared portico—perhaps stuck on to a red-brick Queen Anne house which has been faced with stucco to bring it into line with the ‘Grecian’ taste of the end of the eighteenth century; the hall inside, going up to the roof, which hall ought always to be provided with a gallery and a small organ. I like the library, too, where you may find anything from a Psalter of the thirteenth century to a Shakespeare quarto. I like the pictures, of course; and perhaps most of all I like fancying what life in such a house was when it was first built, and in the piping times of landlords’ prosperity, and not least now, when, if money is not so plentiful, taste is more varied and life quite as interesting. I wish to have one of these houses, and enough money to keep it together and entertain my friends in it modestly.

But this is a digression. I have to tell you of a curious series of events which happened in such a house as I have tried to describe. Continue reading

“Body Ritual among the Nacirema” by Horace Mitchell Miner

Worth listening twice.
-The Voice before the Void

“Body Ritual among the Nacirema”

Horace Mitchell Miner

Most cultures exhibit a particular configuration or style. A single value or pattern of perceiving the world often leaves its stamp on several institutions in the society. Examples are “machismo” in Spanish-influenced cultures, “face” in Japanese culture, and “pollution by females” in some highland New Guinea cultures. Here Horace Miner demonstrates that “attitudes about the body” have a pervasive influence on many institutions in Nacirema society.

The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different people behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe. The point has, in fact, been expressed with respect to clan organization by Murdock. In this light, the magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go. Continue reading

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

All lost, all forgotten.
-The Voice before the Void

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction” from Wikipedia

Some of the most challenging of ideas.
-The Voice before the Void

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction”

Wikipedia

The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.

Sexual themes are frequently used in science fiction or related genres. Such elements may include depictions of realistic sexual interactions in a science fictional setting, a protagonist with an alternative sexuality, or exploration of the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.

1872 illustration by David Henry Friston in lesbian vampire story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu 0Science fiction and fantasy have sometimes been more constrained than non-genre narrative forms in their depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also offers the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures, making it an incisive tool to examine sexual bias and forcing the reader to reconsider his or her cultural assumptions. Continue reading

Octavia E. Butler, Part 2: Notable Works

Extraordinary stories.
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Octavia E. Butler, Part 2: Notable Works

compiled from Wikipedia

Lilith’s Brood

Lilith’s Brood is a series of three science fiction works by Octavia E. Butler. The three volumes (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) were previously collected under the title of Xenogenesis; the collection was first published under the current title of Lilith’s Brood in 2000.

Synopsis

The first novel in the trilogy, Dawn, was published in 1987. The story begins after the United States and the Soviet Union obtained nuclear weapons and their actions resulted in a terrible nuclear war that left the earth uninhabitable. Humans are all but extinct. The few survivors are plucked from the surface of their dying world by an alien race, the oankali. The title character Lilith (a black human female) awakens from stasis centuries later on an oankali ship. She meets her saviors/captors and is repulsed by their alienness. The oankali don’t have eyes, or ears, or noses, but sensory tentacles over their entire bodies with which they can perceive the world much better than a human can. Stranger still, the oankali have three genders: male, female, and ooloi. All oankali have the ability to perceive biochemistry down to a genetic level, but the ooloi have the ability to directly manipulate genetic material. Ooloi can mutate and “evolve” any living thing they touch and build offspring gene by gene using the genetic material from their male and female mates. Despite their alienness, the ooloi are strangely alluring – sexually arousing even while being visually repulsive. Continue reading

Octavia E. Butler, Part 1: Biography and Themes

Octavia E. Butler’s Birthday Special:
An extraordinary writer.
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Octavia E. Butler, Part 1: Biography and Themes

compiled from Wikipedia

Octavia Estelle Butler (1947 June 22 – 2006 February 24) was an American science fiction writer. A multiple-recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship.

Biography

“I began writing about power because I had so little.”
-Octavia E. Butler, in Carolyn S. Davidson’s “The Science Fiction of Octavia Butler”

Early life

Octavia Estelle Butler was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California, the only child of Octavia Margaret Guy, a housemaid, and Laurice James Butler, a shoeshine man. Continue reading

“Of Withered Apples” by Philip K. Dick

Walpurgis Night Special:
From autumn into spring, perfect weirdness from the regent of reality-challenging stories, Philip K. Dick.
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“Of Withered Apples”

Philip K. Dick

Something was tapping on the window. Blowing up against the pane, again and again. Carried by the wind. Tapping faintly, insistently.

Lori, sitting on the couch, pretended not to hear. She gripped her book tightly and turned a page. The tapping came again, louder and more imperative. It could not be ignored.

“Darn!” Lori said, throwing her book down on the coffee table and hurrying to the window. She grasped the heavy brass handles and lifted.

For a moment the window resisted. Then, with a protesting groan, it reluctantly rose. Cold autumn air, rushed into the room. The bit of leaf ceased tapping and swirled against the woman’s throat, dancing to the floor.

Lori picked the leaf up. It was old and brown. Her heart skipped a beat as she slipped the leaf into the pocket of her jeans. Against her loins the leaf cut and tingled, a little hard point piercing her smooth skin and sending exciting shudders up and down her spine. She stood at the open window a moment, sniffing the air. The air was full of the presence of trees and rocks, of great boulders and remote places. It was time—time to go again. She touched the leaf. She was wanted. Continue reading

“The Mermaid” by Ben King

International Women’s Day Special:
Glorious romance, if a bit fishy.
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“The Mermaid”

Ben King

Sweet mermaid of the incomparable eyes,
Surpassing glimpses of the April skies.
Thy form, ah, maid of the billowy deep!
So rare and fair, but to possess I’d creep
Where the old octopus deep in his briny haunts
Comes forth to feed on anything he wants;
Where mollusks crawl and cuttlefish entwine,
There on crustaceans be content to dine.
What ecstacies in some calcareous valley,
Had I but scales like thee ’tis there we’d dally,
There seek each peak and let no other bliss
Be more enchanting than one salt-sea kiss;
There sit and bask in love, and sigh, and feel
Each other’s fins throb, Continue reading

“Quest of the Golden Fleece” by Hugh Clifford, with Discussion

A lurid story of headhunters in colonial Borneo, yet a story of engaging complexity, with an ending that almost makes the reader complicit in the horror, followed by our breathless analysis.
Read by Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
“There’s a lot on the other hand.”
Authors and works referenced in the discussion include: Mark Twain, Clifford Geertz, Gilbert Herdt, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, editor Milton Crane, “A Distant Episode” by Paul Bowles (anthologized in The Granta Book of the American Short Story Volume Two edited by Richard Ford), “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson, The Earth (La Terre) by Émile Zola, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España) by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Diego de Landa, and Charles Dickens.
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“Quest of the Golden Fleece”

Hugh Clifford

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” by the Marquis de Sade, version 2

Second version. Read with Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
Actually, I was full drunk.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man”

Marquis de Sade

translated from the French

PRIEST – Come to this the fatal hour when at last from the eyes of deluded man the scales must fall away, and be shown the cruel picture of his errors and his vices – say, my son, do you not repent the host of sins unto which you were led by weakness and human frailty?

DYING MAN – Yes, my friend, I do repent.

PRIEST – Rejoice then in these pangs of remorse, during the brief space remaining to you profit therefrom to obtain Heaven’s general absolution for your sins, and be mindful of it, only through the mediation of the Most Holy Sacrament of penance will you be granted it by the Eternal.

DYING MAN – I do not understand you, any more than you have understood me. Continue reading

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” by the Marquis de Sade, version 1

“An interesting, well-reasoned argument for atheism,” as Brent describes this piece.
Read with Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
We were drinking when we read these.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man”

Marquis de Sade

translated from the French

PRIEST – Come to this the fatal hour when at last from the eyes of deluded man the scales must fall away, and be shown the cruel picture of his errors and his vices – say, my son, do you not repent the host of sins unto which you were led by weakness and human frailty?

DYING MAN – Yes, my friend, I do repent.

PRIEST – Rejoice then in these pangs of remorse, during the brief space remaining to you profit therefrom to obtain Heaven’s general absolution for your sins, and be mindful of it, only through the mediation of the Most Holy Sacrament of penance will you be granted it by the Eternal.

DYING MAN – I do not understand you, any more than you have understood me. Continue reading

“The Sorceror” by Grazia Deledda

Nobel Prize-winning weird fiction of a secret midnight rite.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Sorceror”

Grazia Deledda

translated from the Italian

They lived at the further end of the little village, one of the strongest and most picturesque villages among the mountains of Logudoro; indeed, their dark and tiny cabin was actually the last of all, and it looked straight down the mountain-side, overgrown with thick clumps of broom and mastic. Continue reading

“Joy” by The Voice before the Void

Armistice Day Special:
In commemoration of World War I

“Joy”

The Voice before the Void

Millions died in mud

Joy exists only as a shadow’s shadow
For death is the model and senses but fracture

Yet within ten centimeters lies buried pleasure Continue reading

“October’s Bright Blue Weather” by Helen Hunt Jackson

Autumn Special:
Jackson asserts that people want to have sex with each other in the autumn even more than they do in the summertime.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“October’s Bright Blue Weather”

Helen Hunt Jackson

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather; Continue reading

“Masters and Johnson” from Wikipedia

Science boldly marching.
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“Masters and Johnson”

Wikipedia

The Masters and Johnson research team, composed of William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, pioneered research into the nature of human sexual response and the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders and dysfunctions from 1957 until the 1990s.

The work of Masters and Johnson began in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis and was continued at the independent not-for-profit research institution they founded in St. Louis in 1964, originally called the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation and renamed the Masters and Johnson Institute in 1978.

In the initial phase of Masters and Johnson’s studies, from 1957 until 1965, they recorded some of the first laboratory data on the anatomy and physiology of human sexual response based on direct observation of 382 women and 312 men in what they conservatively estimated to be “10,000 complete cycles of sexual response.” Continue reading

The Alien and the Human: 4 Novels by Stanisław Lem, from Wikipedia

Summarized narratives of four philosophical novels from the greatest science fiction writer. Spoilers.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Solaris

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. The book is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem science fiction classic Polish sci-fi novel book cover first English edition

Continue reading

“A Woman Waits for Me” by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s Birthday Special:
Nation-creating glorious smut.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“A Woman Waits for Me”

Walt Whitman

A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the right man were lacking.

Sex contains all, bodies, souls,
Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk,
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,
These are contain’d in sex Continue reading

The Ten Commandments from the King James Bible

Easter Special:
The omissions–support the impoverished, honor thy children, don’t commit slavery, don’t commit warfare–are glaring, and the inclusions–don’t create any representative art, don’t swear, don’t do any work every seventh day, don’t commit adultery–are baffling. Basing a civilization’s ethics upon such nonsense would likely lead to immense human suffering. / Interesting about Chapter 20 of Exodus are the forgotten commandments that follow the primary ten, to wit: 11) that you shall make a dirt altar to your god and upon it sacrifice your sheep and oxen to him; 12) if you use rock to make an altar, don’t work the rock; and 13) don’t have any steps leading up to the altar, because when you climb steps, dudes behind you can look right up your skirt and see your junk.
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The Ten Commandments: Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus

from the King James Bible (Authorized King James Version, standard text of 1769, Cambridge edition)

And God spake all these words, saying,

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Continue reading

The Secret Book of John from Wikipedia

Easter Special:
Angelic incest, repercussive masturbation, and mutant demons: a bizarre secret mythos meant to be revealed only to adepts, complete with an injunctive ancient curse… straight from the lips of Jesus Christ.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Secret Book of John

Wikipedia

The Secret Book of John, or the Apocryphon of John, is a 2nd-century CE Sethian Gnostic Christian text of secret teachings. Since it was known to the church father Irenaeus, it must have been written before approximately 180 CE. It describes Jesus Christ appearing and giving secret knowledge (gnosis) to the apostle John. The author describes this having occurred after Jesus “has gone back to the place from which he came.” Continue reading

“April Afternoons” by The Voice before the Void

Springtime Special:
The month of April returns and fleets.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“April Afternoons”

The Voice before the Void

A Wednesday
Young men die in April
The time of the spring offensives
Sortying south of the wall
Or over the top into the mud

A Friday
It is a feat to survive the guileless aimless lust-surge of youth Continue reading

“Ole and Lena” from Wikipedia

April Fools’ Day Special:
Oh, you know.
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“Ole and Lena”

Wikipedia

Ole and Lena (along with Sven and Helga and Lars) are central characters in jokes by Scandinavian Americans, particularly in the Upper Midwest region of the United States, particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota where Scandinavian immigrant traditions are common. The popularity of the jokes was enhanced by the numerous Ole and Lena joke books authored by Red Stangland.

Ole and Lena jokes can be long and drawn-out stories, or as short as two or three sentences. Ole and Lena are typically Norwegian, and Sven and his wife are Swedish.

One would not find Ole and Lena jokes in Sweden or Norway. Rather, they are an outgrowth of an immigrant experience. Language mistakes are a frequent source of Ole and Lena joke material. The characters of the jokes speak with the marring accent and fractured English of the recently arrived immigrant. Turning misunderstandings and mistakes into jokes enabled people to jest about their American immigrant experience.

The core of this folk humor may lie in the strongly egalitarian code that permeates the culture of the Nordic countries. Maybe.

Examples

Ole is on his deathbed. The doctor has told him he has only a few hours to live. Continue reading

“How many more times must we meet…” by Susan Loone

An extraordinary piece.
⁓The Voice before the Void

View other art and poetry by Susan Loone at sloonepoems.wordpress.com and at sloone.blogspot.com

How many more times must we meet Susan Loone art love

“How many more times must we meet…”

Susan Loone

When I took you aside and told you we have met a thousand years ago, it was not meant to be a pick up line. It was meant to be a reunion of two old souls.

Eventually, it was only I who recognised you, while you have no inkling of who I am. Continue reading

“North Dakota, Devils Lake, 2013 October” by The Voice before the Void

Halloween Special:
The fanciful horror of supernaturalism confronted by the visceral horror of mortality.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“North Dakota, Devils Lake, 2013 October”

The Voice before the Void

I awoke unnaturally, suddenly, opening my eyes, looking straight up. At the left side of my field of vision was a disembodied face.

I had been sleeping on my back on the sofa in the front room, where I usually sleep. I swivelled my eyes to look fully at the face. It was black and white: the planes of the face shone with white light; the lines of the face were dread-black. The pupils of the eyes were black and too large, almost but not quite filling the eye-slits, so that but small triangles of white shone at either side of the pupils. The nose was large and sharp and jutting, almost like a snout. The teeth were black and pointed, and the interior of the throat shone white behind them. Continue reading

“Bathos” from Wikipedia

Ever onward in our quest for knowledge.
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“Bathos”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bathos (Greek βάθος, meaning “depth”) is an abrupt transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect. While often unintended, bathos may also be used deliberately to produce a humorous effect. If bathos is overt, it may be described as Burlesque or mock-heroic. It should not be confused with pathos, a mode of persuasion within the discipline of rhetoric, intended to arouse emotions of sympathy and pity.

Examples

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant. Continue reading