Monday, April 25, 2011

Carnal Machines edited by D.L. King : Book Review...

Those wonderful people at Cleis Press sent me a copy of Carnal Machines, edited by D.L. King, to review, and, I have to say, I am highly impressed by this collection of hot Steampunk Erotica.

I have to be honest and say that Steampunk was not a genre I had ventured into much in the past, even less so erotica in that genre, so I was keen to be exposed to what I considered to be, for me, virgin territory!  Sure, I have read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as a large number of other Victorian classics - and there are a LOT of those - so I have an impression of what to expect from fiction based in that period. I was, therefore, doubly interested to see how eroticists handled that era, bearing in mind the ubiqitous belief that the Victorian era was one of sexual repression and inhibition.  The other aspect of the collection that intrigued me was the "Machines" part of the equation! There is something wanton and naughtily delicious about the thought of a machine that can satisfy our sexual cravings, removing the dependence on the time, mood, and capability of other humans, which I was looking forward to discovering in these stories!

Oh, dear! How naughty of me!!!

Carnal Machines is a collection of 14 short erotica stories, covering all aspects of the era popularized through the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne and H.G Wells.  Anyone who has seen the recent series of Doctor Who will appreciate the modern attempts to bring the Steampunk era back to life in the most inventive ways - and these stories are very inventive!

Like all good reviewers (so modest of me!), I started at the back of the book with The Succubus by Elizabeth Schechter. This delightful story had little to do with the occult, as the title seemed to indicate. It was, however, the start of a tantalizing and sensual ride through a varied range of stimulating, entertaining tales.

I read the tales in random fashion, enjoying each for its own unique take on the many and varied types of machinery invented for the purpose of satisfying our carnal needs. Some, like the ingenuous Dr. Mullaley, aren't content with just the one machine, inventing a whole series of devices designed to cure the ailments of those poor Victorian ladies whose husband's either have negelected or are not skilled enough to satisfy them! A common complaint, it seems, judging by the Doctor's over-filled appointment book! Other machines are designed to reduce men to that state of compliance and obedience wherein they are most amenable - another popular theme - while there are entertaining attempts at creating the perfect woman, a steamy oriental adventure in Hong Kong, a wonderfully ruthless Russian dominatrix, and yet more "fucking" machines! There's even a home visit by the venerable Doctor Watson!

I love this collection for its inventiveness alone, not to mention the wonderfully wanton feelings stirred up by the activities described. While some of the tales have the technological feel of Doctor Durand Durand's love machine in "Barbarella", the fun and ingenuity shine through to make this more than just a collection of erotica. It is Steampunk fiction at its best. My personal favourites are Dr. Mullaley's Cure by Delilah Devlin, and Deviant Devices by Kannan Feng, but there's enough here to satisfy every taste.

Carnal Machines, edited by D.L. King, with stories by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Janine Ashbless, Renee Michaels, Poe Von Page, Kannan Feng, Jay Lawrence, Delilah Devlin, Lisabet Sarai, Kathleen Bradean, Elias A. St. James, Essemoh Teepee, D.L. King, Tracey Shellito and Elizabeth Schechter.

Happy reading!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Necronomicon - Tarot and World!

I have enjoyed a lot of activity and feedback since I first posted a review of the Necronomicon Tarot at the end of January.  Some of this is based on the "Tarot" side of the equation, and some centres around the "Necronomicon" part of the subject matter. 

Ye Elder Sign
The Necronomicon is a constant source of discussion and research.  Even today, scholars and researchers cannot answer whether this is purely a work of fiction developed by H. P. Lovecraft as a foundation on which to base his tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, or if it actually has some basis in long lost arcane or occult works by the "mad arab" Abdul Alhazrad or others. The argument itself matters little, as what really matters to most is - even if Lovecraft invented the term and parts of the content himself, what did he base his research on in the first place?  One only has to delve a little to discover many corollaries to the "Book of Dead Names" and various other so-called Dark Grimoires.  One of the most famous of these is the Egyptian "Book of the Dead", which is actually a manual that teaches the soul of the deceased what they need to do to survive in the afterlife.

One aspect that has fed into the confusion surrounding The Necronomicon is that there are published versions of book that purport to be historical works that predate anything Lovecraft wrote.  The entire work has taken on a mythos of its own, so that no one can for certain say that this is really and totally a work of fiction!  And wouldn't that be the way Lovecraft would have wanted it to be?

One of the most popular of these "real" versions is known as the Simon Necronomicon. This version draws on historical occult and religious works from Sumerian-Babylonian mythology, and attempts to correlate the gods of those pantheons to that of Lovecraft's Necronomicon. It also describes a number of "religious" practices and observations that should be followed in order to summon the power of The Old Ones and have them obey your bidding.  This is typical of many so-called Grimoires, promising powers, or success, or many other wants and needs of those disposed to tempt their sacred and dangerous rites and rituals! Oh - the Joy! The Pain!

And such a fountain of imagination for horror writers and would-be occultists to enthral their audiences with!

Which brings us to Tyson's trilogy of Necronomicon-inspired works, culminating in The Necronomicon Tarot.  Tyson is a well-read researcher into all things occult and magical, and his website - - is a rich resource for any would-be magicians, occultists and workers in the darker realms! He even has an excellent introduction to the origins of Tarot - The Truth About The Tarot - which I thoroughly recommend as a worthwhile read.

Tyson's three works on The Necronomicon are:
Tyson's intention in producing these works is to provide a more realistic provenance for The Necronomicon, satisfying the cravings of occult researchers and investigators stirred up by H.P. Lovecraft in the 1920's. Tyson's Necronomicon is a much more complete and detailed version than any other I have read, and should really be considered the de facto standard for what is, after all, a fictional work.  I am less convinced in the value of his early biography of Alhazred, but it is an interesting read nonetheless. In his tarot, Tyson has tried to visualize - in some cases very successfully - the imagery of The Necronomicon in order to allow diviners to derive readings from the visions portrayed. Also, by tying a storyline to each of the four suites of the Minor Arcana, he has made the deck easier to use for novice diviners, as they have less to do to create a story themselves.

One of the "warmer" places in The Necronomicon is Leng, which Tyson has portrayed in the scenery and content of XVIII The Moon: The Hounds of Leng.  This is described in another version of The Necronomicon:

 "Know ye time-shunned Leng by the ever-burning evil-fires and ye foul screeching of the scaly Shantak birds which ride the upper air; by the howling of ye Na-hag who brood in nighted caverns and haunt men's dreams with strange madness, and by the grey stone temple beneath the Night Gaunts lair, wherein is he who wears the Yellow Mask and dwelleth all alone."

Almost sounds like a version of Jabberwocky!

Another ominous and doom-ridden place is the mountian of Kadath. This warm and inviting spot is described in The Necronomicon much as Chekov describes Ceti Alpha 5 in The Wrath of Khan - the "garden spot" of evil!

"What man knoweth Kadath?
For who shall know of that
which ever abides in strange-time,

twix yesterday, today and the morrow."

"Unknown amidst ye Cold Waste lieth the mountain of Kadath where upon the hidden summit an Onyx Castle stands. Dark clouds shroud the mighty peak that gleams 'neath ancient stars where silent brood the titan towers and rear forbidden walls."

Sounds like just the place to spend some quality time with a few witches, demons, and ravenous, nymphomaniac banshees, eh? 

Tyson actually has two additional works based on The Necronomicon - The Grimoire of the Necronomicon, and The 13 Gates of the Necronomicon - but I cannot find any details about these works other than the blurb on, and they do not appear on his website.  Shame, Donald - update your internet presence!
Have fun out there, y'all!!

The Eye of Ashen White