They listened, and they believed him. They had always believed him. It scared him, the way they believed, almost as if they were half asleep, or some part of them were missing. Truth be told, he, too, felt as if he were half asleep or half real.

Michael Poore, Up Jumps the Devil [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Poore Up Jumps the Devil listened believed always scared half asleep part missing truth told felt half real

Engines of Desire

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Doktor Sleepless: Engines of Desire [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez.

Ellis Rodriguez Doktor Sleepless Engines of Desire

This volume contains the first eight issues of Doktor Sleepless, plus some endmatter consisting of painted cover art from individual issues, and print snapshots of the wiki at Doktorsleepless.com. Having started in this vein, I plan to follow this title in trade paperback format, though goodness knows there’s enough meat to each issue to make it worth reading in individual comics. 

Although there is no resolution to the steadily-intensifying plot in this collection, there is a climactic epiphany in the eighth issue. Doktor Sleepless invites comparison with Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, although the target is clearly today’s USA, rather than the Thatcherite UK of Moore’s dystopian fantasy. As in V, the central character is a self-caricaturing enigma who is engineering the collapse of the existing social order. He’s got a girl sidekick, and seems as much villain as hero. There’s even business with mass-distribution of masks — Ellis doubles down on that trope, in fact. 

Creepy, violent, and believable, this comic picks up and continues the outrage over injustice that Ellis exhibited in Transmetropolitan, while stripping the (always somewhat ornamental) science-fictional elements down to a bare minimum. A kindred cyberpunk comic would be Testament, but where Rushkoff uses the Bible to frame his tale of techno-sociological crisis, Ellis substitutes the Necronomicon (or something worse). 

Anyhow, it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll be impatient for the next collection.

The Ape Who Guards the Balance

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Ape Who Guards the Balance [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Elizabeth Peters, book 10 of the Amelia Peabody series.

Peters The Ape Who Guards the Balance

In this volume of the fearsomely-long Amelia Peabody series, the second-generation Peabody-Emersons are no longer children. They are even given their own voices as narrators in the interspersed documents designated “Manuscript H” (Ramses, evidently, though he writes of himself in the third person), and “Letter Collection B” (Nefret). The majority of the text remains Amelia’s journal, although given the growing centrality of the younger characters, she is increasingly “Aunt Amelia.” More than many of the other books in the series, this one is anchored in previously-developed characters and plot strands. I don’t know if I have much confidence that it would read well as a stand-alone novel. 

After a fairly lively start involving a theft in England and the attempted abduction of Amelia herself, the bulk of the book takes place in Egypt. The archaeological focus is in the Valley of the Kings, with the Emersons somewhat sidelined by the antiquities establishment. There are kidnappings and murders, and the perpetrators and motives remain obscure for much of the book, with some perplexity resulting from the numerous past villains at loose ends in the Emersons’ world.

There’s a little more action and violence here than the average Peabody book, and plenty of humor — also, some heartache and sorrow. It’s definitely worth the read for someone who has enjoyed earlier volumes in the series.

Call for submissions, July 2022: Anthology, Zine, and Calendar

Here’s a quick reminder about all current open calls for submissions for you to check out.

Hermetic Library Anthology Album for 2022: Magick, Music and Ritual 17

Hermetic Library Call for Submissions to Magick, Music and Ritual 17 for 2022

Magick, Music and Ritual 17 will be the 2022 release from the Anthology Project. The deadline for submissions to this anthology album is September 30th, 2022. Read the call for submissions to Magick, Music, and Ritual for 2022

Hermetic Library Zine

Hermetic Library Zine call for submissions

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Galactic Empires: Volume One

Hermetic Library Anthology Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Galactic Empires: Volume One [Amazon, Local Library] ed Brian W Aldiss.

Aldiss Galactic Empires Volume One

This anthology volume is made up of science fiction stories mostly from the third quarter of the 20th century (1951-1975). It is constructed around themes within the general space opera subgenre. Its four subsections are titled “A Sense of Perspective,” “Wider Still and Wider …,” “Horses in the Starship Hold,” and “The Health Service in the Skies.” The themes were not as coherently demonstrated as I would have liked, and the book got off to a shaky start with two weaker stories from authors I like: R. A. Lafferty and Arthur C. Clarke.

It was interesting to me to read the original Asimov “Foundation” story in the text first published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1942. Although it has been decades since I read the Foundation novel, one difference was obvious: Hari Seldon was not the pioneer of psychohistory, but simply “the greatest psychologist of our time” (96). I suspect some actual psychologists set Asimov straight regarding the aims and limitations of their discipline. The cliffhanger ending made this piece an odd inclusion here, though.

It had been a long while since I had read anything by Clifford Simak, and I found his longish story “Immigrant” to be one of the more enjoyable ones in the book. I also appreciated the rather naïve romp of Coppel’s “The Rebel of Valkyr,” even though its plot twist was telegraphed quite obviously. It offered better star wars than Star Wars. With some exceptions, I found the longer stories more deserving of my attention, and the shorter ones tended toward negligibility.

Representations of gender in these selections are often painfully dated, if not downright reactionary by today’s standards. There is only one female author included, and her story “Brightness Falls from the Air” is a mournful one about interracial exploitation.

I have a copy of Volume Two of this collection. The first volume was good enough that I expect to read the second, but not so cohesive that I feel any special urgency to do so.

So much of the internet is garbage, and much of its infrastructure and many work hours are devoted to taking out the garbage. For the most part, this labor is hidden from plain sight. But in recent years, the garbage disposal has broken down.

Sarah Jeong, The Internet Of Garbage [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Jeong The Internet of Garbage so much Internet garbage infrastructure work hours devoted taking out garbage labor hidden plain sight recent years disposal broken down

The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Stephanie Lynn Budin.

Budin The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity

A few words to describe Budin’s The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity: scholarly, thorough, agonistic, persuasive. As is obvious from the title, the author provides a revisionist approach to a matter that has been taken as factual in many modern histories of the ancient world. Readers should note that she defines sacred prostitution in a very circumscribed fashion, to mean “the sale of a person’s body for sex, where some or all of the money is dedicated to a deity” (261)–of the sort described most notably in Herodotos’ account of Babylon. She does not evaluate the likelihood or possibility of temples as places of sanctioned erotic assignation, or sexual sacraments such as hierogamies, nor does she argue against the sexual element in the worship of the generative powers in antiquity.

According to Budin, the modern expositions of the “sacred prostitution” myth gather their initial steam at the outset of the 19th century, with key inflections occurring later in the contexts of Frazerian anthropology and Neopagan religion. She recounts the origins of skepticism on the issue among scholars studying the ancient Near East, and describes the tenacity of the notion among classicists. 

Most of the book is given over to close examinations and contextualizations of the putative evidence from ancient sources. These are tackled in roughly chronological sequence from Herodotos on. Within the chronology, they are often sorted by geography. This organization permits the collation and comparison of accounts regarding Corinth specifically (260-265), or, say, Heliopolis (276-283). 

In many cases, Budin demonstrates that sacred prostitution has been a matter of misguided inference, and that it actually fails to appear in many texts often-cited to support its reality. In those cases where it does appear, it is unsupported by firsthand testimony, and can be explained in terms of accusational rhetoric and/or quasi-historical fabulation. Even then, the tendency to view it as an actual phenomenon (rather than a rhetorical product) owes more to modern interpreters than to ancient efforts to deceive.

Budin has certainly done her homework. One of the passages I found most impressive and intriguing was her philological re-estimation of the term hierodule. While the prevalence of the sacred prostitution hypothesis has led classicists to understand this term almost uniformly as designating a temple slave with typically sexual duties, Budin demonstrates from scholarship grounded in primary materials that the more likely significance of the term is to describe a former slave who had been manumitted through a mechanism of religious authority (184-189). 

The book is replete with intriguing references. Not only is the immediate topic of great interest, but the whole affair serves as an excellent cautionary example of how a robust historical consensus can be constructed on the basis of shockingly weak primary evidence, to the point where revision like Budin’s is called for.