Before him is the woman girt with a sword; she represents the Scarlet Woman in the hierarchy of the new Aeon. … This woman represents Venus as she now is in this new aeon; no longer the mere vehicle of her male counterpart, but armed and militant.
I’d only been there a few days when I got myself into another serious mess, undeserved to tell the truth, because this time around I was entirely blameless—whatever you may have heard.
Catalina De Erauso, trans Michele Stepto, Gabri Stepto, Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]
This book reprints the story “The Future Is Blue” from the Drowned Worlds anthology, and follows it with a further novella “The Past Is Red.” The latter was written about four years later for the author Catherynne M. Valente (in late 2020) and ten years later for her protagonist Tetley Abednego (sometime after 2133).
Tetley is an irrepressible survivor and an unreliable narrator who hails from Garbagetown on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, evidently one of the largest of remaining human communities in the 22nd century. The first story accounts for her becoming a hated outcast by age 19, and the second gives the saga by which she matures into a “trash Plato” (138) in her third decade.
The Garbagetowners have an ambivalently hostile envy for their antediluvian ancestors (i.e. us), to whom they consistently refer as “Fuckwits.” In light of the current situation in US society, it’s not hard to read this sentiment as the Millennial/GenX view of Boomers writ large.
Valente herself compares Tetley to Voltaire’s Candide (148), and there’s a little of de Sade’s Justine there as well. But the tone here is not so satirical, and the concerns of the parable are remote from those of the philosophes. The afterword and the acknowledgements claim an independence for Tetley, whom her author has gradually come to know, and the character does have an engaging voice to draw the reader into and through her world, which is enchanting to her, and ultimately, only differently horrible than ours.
The whole book is wonderfully weird but sadly feasible cli-fi that I read in about three sittings: a speedy read and a satisfying one.
Religion, like nations and individuals, passes through the regular gradation, first of infancy, when religious ideas and thoughts are crude in the extreme; the age of Puritanism, when innocent women and children are burned at the stake for witchcraft, when with gloomy faces and in unsightly dress the poor fanatics sacrificed every pleasure on the altar of duty; the time when Sunday was a day of horror to children from its gloom, a day when every innocent amusement was forbidden. After religion’s infancy comes youth. At that stage, the absurd dress and gloomy faces were not considered essential adjuncts to religion, but free discussion was not allowed upon religious subjects. Everything must be taken for granted, without any investigation on the part of the people. After youth comes manhood, the time when reason has full sway, when superstition and credulities form no part of religious teaching and thought. People are able to think, to reason for themselves. After the age of manhood, comes old age and that is the stage of agnosticism. Questions are being asked, and ideas propounded which must not be overlooked nor treated with contempt. All questions asked in a fair spirit, must be answered in a fair manner. It is not sufficient to say, “it is so”, but good and tangible reasons must be given to prove the truth of an assertion. We are now in the stage of “old age.” Agnosticism and Infidelity are wide spread. After old age comes decay and the decline of the absolutely orthodox. From time immemorial, every religion has passed through the same gradation, of infancy, youth, old age and decay finally comes philosophy.
Corelli was Queen Victoria’s favorite novelist, which should tell you a lot about the book, but Crowley was also familiar with Corelli’s work and honored her with a reference to her toe-jam in one of his better poems, “Birthday Ode” in Snowdrops, owners of the 1986 Teitan Press edition will note that the editor has confused Marie Corelli with Mabel Collins, the book’s charm is more antiquarian than literary, i.e. it is quaintly Victorian but is no masterpiece by modern standards, it is, however, not without appeal to the occultist, as the tale revolves around magical themes, its main character is determined, Crowley-like, to master the secrets of life through the power of will, and there are several amusing jabs at Theosophy, there is also an unintentionally hilarious character–an idealized self-portrait of the author–who voices all of Corelli’s complaints about society, over and over and over, her style is long-winded and moralizing, and her characters and situations are none too believable, four of the main characters, e.g., are non-Muslim Arabs (three Christians and a pagan), two of whom are uneducated peasants who speak flawless English, and one of whom is blonde, but all her faults notwithstanding, we must hail Marie Corelli as a Past Master of the Bewildering Run-On Sentence, in fine, then, the book is entertaining, if not wholly in the way its author intended, I would, however, recommend that you not buy some arm-and-a-leg Kessinger xerox, but wait till you can find it for $1.50 in a junk-shop in Kokomo.
We have pretended that there was no such thing as sex, no such thing as venereal disease, that our publicists were True Believers in Christianity, that our women were pure and our men brave; we have howled down every man who dared to hint the truth: we have sowed the wind of pious phrases, and we must reap the whirlwind of war. It has been the same in every drawer of our cupboard—and now the skeleton is out.
Aleister Crowley, The Vindication of Nietzsche