Last year I wrote a series of articles for the online and print magazine Monolith. I posted links to the articles on this blog as and when they appeared. The brainchild of writer Lore Oxford, Monolith currently operates an excellent tumblr site that features a visual archive of heavy sci-fi, cosmic psychedelia and fringe science. The great strength of the magazine was its ability to weave together the late 70s mood of Heavy Metal and Omni with a contemporary focus on current science, parapsychology and high strangeness. Monolith successfully channelled the atmosphere of late-counterculture, futurology and artistic experimentation that characterised Dune, Alien, Dark Star and is evident in current hauntological works like Beyond the Black Rainbow. This cosmic, air-brush aspect of neo-psychedelia is superficially well known but is still in need of a comprehensive mapping. Along with magazines like Arthur, Monolith made great strides towards the charting of this territory. I hope it reconfigures again in the future.

The following posts feature most of the articles I contributed to the magazine. I’ve already posted a text on telepathy that originally appeared on the Monolith site. The others cover Steve Quenell, in-vitro meat, and Area 51.  

Monolith 1: An Interview with Steve Quenell

“I'm not exactly sure when it happened but at some point in the 60's the hippy culture embraced the occult.”

Steve Quenell is a collage artist based in Seattle who has cultivated a distinctive visual style that combines heavy psychedelia, occult motifs and anthropological imagery. He has designed distinctive posters for Six Organs of Admittance, Black Mountain and The Black Angels and has also provided stunning album art for The Warlocks, amongst others. Aside from his poster work, Quenell continues to produce personal works that re-cast the ambience of the late-1960s into strange, hypnogogic landscapes.

Riley: Let’s talk about the word ‘psychedelic’. I read an interview with you in the Seattle Weekly that used the term in relation to your art. Elsewhere you’ve described your work as  “psychedelic collages”. What do you take that word to mean? Are you linking your work to the experience of altered states of consciousness and ‘mind-manifesting' experiences, or are you using it in a more panoramic sense to refer to a particularly resonant aspect of 1960s culture?

Quenell: In the 60's 'psychedelic’ was used to describe music, art, films, etc., during a time when certain artists began to link their experiences of altered states of consciousness directly to what they were creating. I use the term more in homage to the spirit of that time. I draw a lot of inspiration from the 60's and early 70's. But I also feel the word ‘psychedelic’ (as it relates to art) is a term that can be used when the fantastic meets the weird. Bosch, the Symbolists, the Surrealists, even sci-fi paperback artists (like Richard Powers) were psychedelic. I know that some people feel the word should only be used to describe black-light head-shop posters but I think it's much bigger than that.

Riley: With that in mind, are there any specific artists who you see as having a significant influence upon you work?

Quenell: I've been making this type of art for almost 10 years now and my influences have fluctuated but I always have my go-to guys...many of the 60's San Francisco poster makers (especially David Singer), Nik Douglas, James Koehinline, Harry Smith, and Polish film posters from the 60's. With the advent of the internet there's a constant stream of new and inspiring artists. I started a Tumblr account just to keep track of them all.

What really influences me is the feel of the late 60's and early 70's, from the vibrant print ads and the art-house films (especially the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky) to the widespread appropriation of occult imagery and ideas. These are the touchstones of my aesthetic.

Riley: I've mainly encountered your work via album covers. Do you work in collaboration with musicians to develop an image or do they request existing images?

Quenell: I've actually done both. For Heavy Deavy Skull Lover I already had several pieces done when a friend of mine heard through the internet that The Warlocks were looking for art for their new album. She thought my work would be perfect, gave me their email address, and they bought the pieces. Alternately, when I work with Ben Chasny (of Six Organs of Admittance) he has an idea ahead of time and we work together to come as close as I can to the vision he has for his cover.

Riley: I love that Warlocks cover. It does indeed seem perfect for the band and the tone of that album: intensity, animal ferocity but also a kind of beauty... Could you talk about this image in more detail? What’s being suggested through the juxtaposition of the animal mouths and the naked torso? When I look at it, the image seems to be suggestive of transformation, as if we are seeing a shamanic transmutation from human to animal at mid-point. Also, because there's a photographic quality to the image it seems as if it’s a still from a bizarre, long lost late-60s movie. Were these ideas that you were going for at all?

Quenell: Oh, thanks so much. The cover of Heavy Deavy is actually a cropped version of my collage Weird Scene at Dusk. Having just finished a very painstaking, meticulous piece, I decided I just wanted to construct a collage as spontaneously and off the cuff as I could. With this in mind I went through a stack of old magazine cuttings and found a burlesque body, wild dogs fighting, and a goat head. Everything fell into place and the piece made itself. The original art actually shows the full body with the goat head and the dogs fighting at her feet. Looking at the finished piece, it had a similar feel to the Hammer film posters of the 60's (especially the Dennis Wheatley series).

It, like most of my collages, has that balance of weird and beautiful that I strive for. I thought the vibrant colors of the stripper and her necklace were really beautiful. These juxtaposed with the ferocity of the dogs at her feet and the cropped goat head created a perfect composition. I always try to get that symbiotic relationship in every piece I construct.

Aesthetic is the key--an aesthetic that at its very essence is beautiful and wicked. I find aesthetic is more important to me than any overt message I might try to convey. I want my art to be open to interpretation. I really like your take on this one.

Riley: The edition of the Warlocks album I have also has another image on the inlay which your website identifies as Coronation of the Plague King. What’s the story behind this one?

Quenell: I had these patterns that I drew with Prisma pen and pencil lying around my apartment and I decided to cut them up. I noticed a shape forming from what I had cut out so I placed it on top of a bit of watercolor that I had done. Next, I added the hands then some flower patterns and then the skull. To this day I still love that piece. Its completion surprised me and forever altered the way I did my art because it was the first time I had ever used illustration, water colour, and collage all in one piece. Up to that point I was doing some illustration and a few simple collages but this was something entirely new for me.

Many of the artists I admire have this amazing balance of beauty and wickedness. In amongst them there are a select few that take it to yet another level that makes me question what I'm seeing. That combination of factors is a huge inspiration. For me, it doesn't get any better than beautiful, bizarre art that makes me do a double take. Francis Bacon, Moebius, AJ Fosik, Max Ernst, Bob Pepper, and even poster duo Seripop are a few of the artists that exemplify this.

Riley: It’s interesting hearing you talk about one of your own pieces surprising you once completed. It seems as though you were in some kind of trance. Is that how you see your creative process? Is it a kind of meditative exercise?

Quenell: I wasn't in a trance but I was definitely in a zone. When constructing a collage I sometimes have a basic idea in mind as I search through old magazines but sometimes I'll have no preconceived notions at all and I'll just rifle through my archives, putting pieces aside that look good. Then I'll start to take other aspects under consideration. Is it for a band or a show poster? What are the aesthetics of the band?  With these things in mind, the pieces just emerge. I have done rough sketches beforehand but almost every time the end product looks nothing like the initial sketch.

Riley: Why do you find that collage is a particularly effective medium for you? Is there an 'archival' or more ‘de-contextualising’ interest at work in your use of copies of National Geographic?

Quenell: I think I was drawn to collage because I found that I couldn't pay homage to the art I loved any other way. I don't like to paint and I feel confined by illustration. Nothing looks more of that time than the actual photographs from the 60's and 70's.
I don't consciously de-contextualize any image. The beauty of collage is that you can take just part of an image and get something completely different than if you used it in its entirety. That said I find that I am drawn to holy or ceremonial imagery because these images are often both beautiful and sacred.

Riley: Your work could be described as quite ‘dark’. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s unpleasant but the images seem to veer towards skulls, sinister creatures and foreboding landscapes. To return to the idea of the ‘psychedelic’, do you see this material as different from ‘traditional’ psychedelic images, the kind that that highlight peace, transcendence, pastoral imagery etc.?

Quenell: The darkness is the weird or eerie visuals that I'm drawn to. As far as what is traditionally psychedelic, I guess I'd refer back to how I define that term. To me those images are the building blocks of my psych compositions which I suppose aren't traditionally psychedelic but then again, what is?

Riley: In the Seattle interview you mentioned something that I found particularly interesting, the fact that when you were growing up, ‘a lot of the hippies were getting into the occult’. Could you expand on this a bit? I see a lot of occult imagery in your work, obviously with your Tarot images, but there's also your piece The Temptation of Kenneth Anger. Do you think there was a general shift in the late sixties towards an interest in the occult? If so, why do you think this occurred?

Quenell: I'm not exactly sure when it happened but at some point in the 60's the hippy culture embraced the occult. Maybe it was a hearkening back to pagan ideals; maybe it was an acceptance of all things weird, who knows. So by the time I was a kid growing up in the 70's the residual effects of this paranormal acceptance was everywhere--and (as someone who was drawn to the weird even at an early age) I loved it. Book stores had an occult section, department stores started carrying Ouija boards, etc. My own aunt bought an encyclopedia of the supernatural. So I still have an interest in the imagery of the occult (probably because many of the images make me question what I'm seeing) but I don't subscribe to it--I find it all kind of silly. That said, nothing tops a collage off better than a mandrake root or a hand of glory.

Riley: Kenneth Anger said that for him the process of making films was like casting a spell. Would you say that making a collage has similar implications for you? Jodorowsky also springs to mind here. Is he an artist you admire?

Quenell: Jodorowsky is one of my biggest influences but only in terms of composition and imagery. He has a very methodical, masterly eye for the symbolism he incorporates into his films (so did Anger). Personally, the final aesthetic of a piece is more important to me than any contextual symbolism.

Monolith 2: In-Vitro Meat

In 2008 a trend emerged for super-expensive hamburgers. In restaurants like the Wall Street Burger Shoppe in New York you could get the Richard Nouveau Burger (Kobe beef, truffles, foie gras) for $175 while over at Fleur in Las Vegas you could get the virtually identical Fleurburger for just $75 (or $5,000 if you decided to have it with wine). At the same time Dr. Mark Post of Maastricht University started work on his own special burger. It would take him five years, but now that Wall Street Burger has closed down and the PR effect of the Fleur is wearing off, it seems that at least in terms of cost, Post has won the prize. At a crowded press conference on August 5th, the world’s media crowded in for a glimpse of a single patty that carried a hypothetical price tag of $330,000.

This burger did not consist of pampered Kobe or Beluga caviar, nor was it served on an Iranian saffron bun. Post’s burger was the first in the world to be cooked using laboratory grown beef. This synthetic product, known as ‘in-vitro meat’, has been developed from the biopsied stem cells of cows. The cells are bonded with muscle fibres and are cultivated in a nutrient rich mixture of lipids, glucose and amino acids. The resultant tissue is then formed into translucent strips before the whole process is repeated until enough material is accumulated to be colored and packed into the shape of the burger. 

This story has been periodically hitting the press since the start of the project. In an article from November 2011, the process was described as using stem cells harvested from “leftover animal material from slaughterhouses”, with Post claiming that

It may sound and look like some kind of imitation, but in-vitro or cultured meat is a real animal flesh product, just one that has never been part of a complete, living animal -- quite different from imitation meat or meat substitutes aimed at vegetarians and made from vegetable proteins like soy.

Following on from the high profile unveiling of his ‘prototype’, this kind of simulacral and detrital imagery will no doubt fuel the claims that in-vitro meat constitutes ‘frankenfood’. Indeed, some responses to the launch brought Soylent Green into the mix of references.

Soylent Green is a film from 1973 directed by Richard Fleischer based Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! Set in the far-flung year of 2022 (the year in which, according to the predictions of Post’s team, will see the mass production of in-vitro meat) it shows an over-crowded population facing a severe housing crisis and a potentially terminal food shortage. As an efficient solution the global Soylent Corporation produces ‘Soylent Green’, a rationed protein wafer allegedly made from plankton.  Sincere apologies for the spoiler, but the product turns out (of course) not to be planktonic but human: the solution to the food shortage caused by over-population being the harvesting of corpses and the implied establishment of human farms.

Cannibalism is obviously not in question with in-vitro meat, but the comparison with Fleischer’s film does raise some points worthy of critique.  The stated advantages of the process are environmental and humanistic. Using stem-cells to create meat in the laboratory will reduce the need to harvest cattle directly, thereby achieving a cheap, healthy food supply in the absence of the animal cruelty and excessive land cultivation that is involved in industrial farming.  

It is very hard to challenge such a socially conscious discourse. What can be said is that given the long history of the industrial slaughterhouse and its opposition (Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle from 1906 being a key example), it’s notable that this argument is being made now in relation to this particular technology. A more pragmatic and less idealistic view would argue that the process and its discourse is a manifestation of the post-2008 ideologies of austerity and capitalist apocalypticism. If, as Josh Ozersky argues, the hamburger is symbolic of American corporatism, it’s appropriate that its early 21st century incarnation is one that eschews the production-line of the 1950s, responds to the environmental crisis of the 1990s and appears to reverse the trajectory of the excessive spending of the 2000s. 

On the back of this analysis, a basic counterargument to the stated efficacy of Post’s burger would be that catering to the world’s food needs has nothing to do with supply or volume. The issue is not one of shortage per se, but one of distribution. The right amount of food exists but it simply does not reach everybody who needs it.  An extended version of the same argument would point to the financial involvement of Google founder Sergey Brin in the in-vitro meat project. The symbolism of Google possibly moving into the food market to complement its monopolization of web searches, global maps and cybernetic interfaces could at best be seen as a further prescriptive creation of supply in the absence of a pre-existing demand and at worst, an example of what could be called ‘hostage capitalism’. That’s to say, now that Google is channeling some of its considerable resources into a high-profile product with a seemingly undeniable social benefit why should the company be questioned about its dubious tax practices? After all, “don’t be evil” is coded into Google’s existence. Do you really want the flow of capital (and hence research, development and therefore food) to stop?

The point is this: apocalyptic scenarios and their seemingly miraculous solutions often obfuscate the longer term, specifically catastrophic processes that have led to the points of crisis themselves. Such emergency conditions do not allow the deeper fault lines to be inspected and improved. In addition, the liberal humanist ideology at work in the promotion of in-vitro meat is fabulous in theory but becomes questionable when hypothesized in practice. Once developed into mass production it’s unfeasible to assume that laboratory meat will entirely replace the cultivation of cattle and thus achieve its stated utopian aims. Livestock farming is far too hard-wired into the global economy and labor culture for it to be rendered obsolete.  As such, the most ominous scenario to be extrapolated from the public launch of Post’s ‘petri’ meat is that at some point it will exist as a synthetic food source in parallel with the production and consumption of ‘real’ meat. This would be problematic because as has been demonstrated by structural developments in comparable sectors such as health, education and transport, the emergence of a seismic differential parallelism in the food industry would quickly ossify into (or at the very least be read as) a qualitative hierarchy. 

For all its hysteria, it’s at this point that Soylent Green’s prophetic potential is revealed.  At one point in the film Robert Thorn, a detective played by Charlton Heston visits the home of Tab Fielding, a possible suspect in a murder investigation. There he finds a jar of strawberry jam. After savoring a single spoonful, Thorn considers the jam to be suggestive of Fielding’s involvement in the murder. Why? Because within the food shortages of 2022, authentic strawberry jam is an enormous luxury and an extremely expensive commodity.  For a mere ‘bodyguard’ like Fielding, Thorn reasons, it must have come as a result of a significant pay-off. A conspiratorial reading of in-vitro meat would project a similar outcome as a result of its widespread production: not the end of cattle farming, but the amplification of its meat products to the level of elite consumer items.

If the August 5th launch is to be taken as an opportunity for speculation what, then, is the probable rise of in-vitro meat realistically likely to produce? A healthy market for Kobe hamburgers at $5,000 a shot. 

Monolith 3: Dreamland

[Last summer] the Central Intelligence Agency publicly acknowledged the existence of the Nevada Test and Training Centre, a large isolated airfield some 83 miles northwest of Las Vegas that is more commonly known by its designated Atomic Energy Commission grid number, Area 51. Despite the clear visibility of the complex on Google Maps, the detailed testimony of former employees and the embedded presence of the facility in popular media, the specific location and function of Area 51 have not previously been subject to any official confirmations. Since the establishment of the site at Groom Lake in 1955, the US military and the CIA have maintained a stubborn silence on the mater through a combination of denial and redaction. However, following a series of freedom of information requests made by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the CIA have for the first time made available a clear map of the base and provided some details of the projects developed there.

Area 51 has long been known as the site of cold-war era research into surveillance and stealth technologies. The expanse of Groom Lake provided the space and isolation necessary for the development of sensitive prototype aircraft. However, this combination of security, obscurity and experimentation also caused the base to become one of modern ufology’s most glamorous sites of attention. Often seen shimmering in photographs like a distant mirage, Area 51 stands as a physical crucible of post-war conspiratorial thinking, associated with everything from UFO recovery and reverse engineering to research into time travel and teleportation. There is no other Air Force location that so immediately signifies the apparent actuality of government funded black operations. 

Like a modern day Alamut, Area 51 seems to hold the most glittering prizes relating to the grandest of conspiracies. And yet it’s this impossible prestige that points to another kind of glamour, glamour in the sense of spell or charm; that which is used to project a particular belief or perception of reality. A glamour is a type of smokescreen and the ‘disinformation’ school of ufology would say the same thing about Area 51. Its status as ‘Dreamland’, the HQ of the unexplained, is a constructed reputation. Its strange combination of visible invisibility and badly kept secrets have been used as decoys that have allowed something else and somewhere else to hide in plain sight.          

Both of these perspectives are active in the media response to news of the CIA disclosure. On August 16th, The Telegraph carried a story headed “Area 51 does exist and there were strange goings on admit CIA”. ‘Admit’ is the key word here. In contrast to ‘disclose’ in which the possessor of information allows it to be seen, ‘admit’ relates to a confession, a process of conceding to the truth of that which is already known by others. By tying this word to “Area 51” and “strange goings on” the implication is created of a revelation worthy of Deep Throat; a confirmation that everything associated with Dreamland is true. This is reiterated in the story’s subhead:

The existence of Area 51, the US airbase rumored to house UFOs, along with details of some strange activities that went on there have been officially acknowledged in newly released CIA documents.

Here, a clausal phrase is used to describe Area 51 as “the US airbase rumored to house UFOs”. Although the contentious word ‘UFO’ is clearly tied to ‘rumor’, by using this as the point of definition in the sentence, the suggestion is created that by acknowledging the “existence of Area 51”, the CIA have simultaneously confirmed the rumor. 

However, the reality of the ‘admission’ is somewhat more prosaic. The story emerged from a post on the National Security Archive blog (dated 15th August) written by their Senior Research Fellow Jeffrey T. Richelson. He explains that the information released is specifically linked to the history of the U-2 spy plane. In 1992 the CIA issued an account of the U-2 programme and the later OXCART project by their official historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach. This study, The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance remained an exclusively internal document until it was published in 1998 as The CIA and the U-2 Program, 1954-1974, a volume that contained what Richelson called “a heavily redacted version of the U-2 portion”. The FOIA request, made in 2005, related directly to this volume and what the NSA announced was the appearance of a “substantially less redacted version” of the text.
For Richelson and aviation historians like Chris Pocock, the main value of the new text lies with the information it provides with respect to the previously unknown minutiae of the U-2 project:
names of pilots, code names and cryptonymes, locations, funding and cover arrangements, electronic countermeasures equipment, organization, co-operation with foreign governments and operations, particularly in Asia.

The references to Groom Lake and Area 51 appear as part of the contextual background to this new data. As a result, whilst these geographical references are symbolically important for the historical report, they are comparatively less useful than the details listed above as their declassification merely confirms facts that have been known – and verifiable – for decades. 

However, what is significant about the acknowledgement of Area 51 is the light it sheds on the politics of governmental transparency. As Richelson explained to the BBC, the “long period of secrecy was notable because of the extent people across the world were already aware of Area 51’s existence.” These recent disclosures must then have emerged from a “conscious, deliberate decision” having first reached a “high-enough level” of discussion.

Although the wave of news stories each reported on the details of Richelson’s blog post, the latter implication was largely obscured beneath the kind of admissive implications used in The Telegraph. The recapitulation of this myth of absolute revelation, central to what could be termed ‘epiphanic’ ufology, essentially puts into operation the kind of smokescreen decried by critics of disinformation. It avoids the key issue that pinballs between paranormal speculation and official declassification: the political economy of information.

This is the concern of Area 51 researchers such as David Darlington, whose book The Dreamland Chronicles (1998) reads conspiracy theory as a critique of political obfuscation within an apparent democracy. As the Snowden case continues to prove, the ethics of disclosure in a security context are difficult to unravel. However in order to effectively question the policies that govern knowledge, it’s important to understand their internal mechanisms. So, while those termed ‘UFO hunters’ by the media may indeed be disappointed that the contents of Area 51’s  underground tunnels have still not be revealed and that the Men in Black remain in the shadows, there is much to be welcomed in the recent U-2 papers. Although they may actually disclose little, they have much to say about the strategies that make disclosure possible.  


Horror Story

In the shadow of the recent announcement over at The Haunted Shoreline I came across this grisly story in the Accrington Observer and the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. The synchronicity of one wave receding and then seeing another strange tributary opening up was too speculative an opportunity to miss. Certainly comment might be apt because – to make a suggestion – might one future application of Shoreline’s psychedelic omnivision be in the direction of England’s inland empire: its serpentine network of streams, rivers and canals?

As for the story, it reported the discovery of a dead python in the waters of the Leeds to Liverpool canal. The 10ft carcass was found on the canal’s Huncoat section just a few miles outside of Accrington in Lancashire. The story interested me for a few reasons, not least because I grew up around there and the canal was always a source of strangeness. A body of still water surrounded by coke ovens and empty mills, redundant industry and exhausted fields. Snakes for some reason were also a source of great fear for me and my sister. I didn’t have an actual phobia per se, but snakes and similar creatures always came to mind whenever I thought about monsters or demons. I think it was this image that did it. And this one. And not forgetting this one.

I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about memory and geography; where do we actually go when we think about a specific place, particularly a place that we associate with childhood? Whether the conjuration is positive or negative, this thought-place is inevitably simulacral. It’s a place one builds out of nostalgia, longing or as part of an intentional act of forgetting. Either way, when I saw the snake in the water it precisely summed up the nature of this architecture.  The snake, like the projected place is a creature from the depths. Liminal: neither in nor out. It’s something that floats around in liquid aether and occasionally shows itself. A peculiar combination of myth and matter that’s uncanny insofar as it generates a groundless but nonetheless resonant familiarity, a sense of homecoming and recognition: I have found it, I am here.

The report in the Telegraph hinted at this ambiguity when it quoted RSPCA officer Charlotte Brooker: 

It is obviously an animal that has been kept as a pet and not something that would naturally be found near the canal. It could be that someone has dumped their pet in the canal so as to avoid the charges of disposing of it or it could be something more sinister but we can only speculate at this stage.

Between the ‘obvious’ and the ‘speculative’ there is the ‘sinister’. Sinister is an interesting word. It’s generally used as part of the gothic lexicon of fear and fright like “spooky”. It does denote that which is “suggestive of evil and mischief” but there is a much more specific meaning connected to its role as a mantic signifier. Sinister describes a particular category of omen, one that “portends or indicates misfortune or disaster; full of dark or gloomy suggestiveness; inauspicious, unfavorable”. The word took on this currency because it originally related to a particular type of information, that which is “prompted by malice” and given with “the intent to deceive or mislead”. The link to prophecy comes via the idea that divination involves the reading of signs sent through various natural phenomena. Such occurrences were intuited across the elements including, of course, water. That which is sinister, then, is a bad sign. It is not just that which is frightening but that which is indicative of bad things to come. To describe an object or creature as sinister is to suggest that it exists both here and there. It has not just appeared but has been sent and has broken through. Sinister thus describes exactly the kind of thing we might expect to find in a half-imaginary place of memory and it is precisely the right kind of terms in which to speak of the canal snake.

The Observer also spoke of ‘Horror as remains of 10-foot snake are spotted in canal’. The idea of the snake as an ill-omen could be archetypally linked to myths of serpents crossing paths and fighting at forked roads. As for horror, the discovery clearly connotes this in terms of its overt abjection. However, as with sinister, ‘horror’ also has a more specialized meaning that the resonance of the episode similarly manages to tease out. Horror is a term of sensibility that relates to an experience of shuddering or shivering.  In a leap of metaphor from effect to cause the word also has an obscure sense that describes a shuddering or rippling on the surface of water. As a figure of horror, the found snake encapsulates both of these senses. It is an alien thing that physically troubles the surface of the water, but in so doing also causes a disturbance in the waterways of the imagination. It hints at a cryptozoological depth containing unknown creatures that are potentially physically and philosophically dangerous. This is why The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) remains such an effective horror film. The creature can emerge and attack from beneath the surface but at the same the appearance of this pre-historic anomaly disturbs a much wider set of preconceptions relating natural, human and anthropological history.

Lovecraft’s Arkham is full of such things and there are glimpses of similar entities in the streets and factories of David A Riley’s Grudge End. What characterizes these fictional locations is their combination of horror and deep, imagined histories.  Both are also literary conceits that work (at the very least at a genetic level) as superimpositions upon actual territories. Geographical re-imaging is a technique of habituation just as much as it is a device of estrangement, but there is also something both sinister and horrific about such a cathexis, perhaps inevitably so. The conscious or unconscious construction of a place in the memory is an act of cosmogenesis, (the creation of a world or universe) however much it is grounded in geographical specificity. Whilst the boundaries of such a space are potentially vast they are also porous, open to visitation from the outside in as well as the inside out. I’m not sure which side of the door the snake is on.