Peripheral Versions

February 8th, 2018

(or ‘How the Mindless Ones Probably Saved my life’)
(and/or also maybe ‘How the Invisibles Spell Failed But Also Kinda Worked’)

by Erstlaub

I had in my head that it was our benevolent Pope, Robert Anton Wilson that had said ‘find the others’, of course, it wasn’t, or rather it was, but he was directly quoting Timothy Leary in Quantum Trigger I when he did. Of course once I finally got round to reading Wilson, I already kind of knew it all via Morrison’s reseeding and threading but there you go. Anyway, it seems sort of apt to chuck this out epigraphically as the rest of the text is concerned with how connections are important and how although The Invisibles didn’t quite pan out the way it was intended in our universe, that maybe in some respects it did.

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…”

My own journey feels distinctly tangential to the standard secret origins of most of the Mindless Ones (not that they all have a shared cosmic space ray explosion origin to the best of my knowledge). I only really know the Barbelith message boards vicariously through the whispered gossip of the past and the occasional shit talk about the latest awful comics person that it turns out is a horrible sexist/racist/arsehole that someone called out way back then (usually Bobsy or Botswana Beast it seems).

So anyway. I was something of late convert to Morrison (I wasn’t, I was actually indoctrinated ridiculously early by somehow convincing my mum around 1988 that, at the age of 8, a weekly subscription to 2000AD would be a fantastic idea and as such was inoculated against The Achrons through the immense and terrifying weekly download of Zenith in its pages through my letterbox along with the Saturday papers) but acted as a sort of sleeper cell eventually reconnecting somewhere in the mid 2000’s I’d guess, picking up the trades of 52 and then grabbing the baton and running with it like the Black Racer. (of course I owned and knew Arkham Asylum from probably around the time it came out but who didn’t?).

//So this technically isn’t another bit of writing on the internet about how good big Granto is (well, it sort of is but there’s context, plus, y’know, he really IS pretty damn good and eventually I will reach a point but hey, just go with it).//

Naturally The Invisibles was next and that, pretty much was that. Like Kal’s pet Sun-Eater I was off, greedy for more, occasionally breaking off this way or that, into the source material, the references, the systems – Crowley, The Thoth and RAW most notably.

My switched on Morrisonian mind eventually caught up the rest of the world somewhere around Batman RIP (2008) during the reading/unpacking and hungry research of which led me to Deepspace Transmissions (well actually it led me to Rikdad’s annotations first and then I found Ben’s but there’s never such a thing as a straight line in this space). Somewhere within those lovingly deconstructed posts was a nod to SILENCE! and that, as they say, is that. Well it’s more the start of things.

Through the years, The Beast Must Die and Gary Lactus (and of course the occasional Bobsy shaped intermissions – throwing extreme knowledge into things while getting swearier and broader with each sonorously cracked open can) equal amounts of genuine passion and stupidity helped drag me through some incredibly rough and lonely times. The weekly missives provided warmth and trust, recommendations were highly valued and when followed through would often add to my constitution or help me to discover new tools to help process the world.

So long story short (aye right, I’ve been banging on for ages here), it was a SILENCE! discussion on Glyn Dillon’s The Nao of Brown that led to me recommending it to my then Non-Wife who I knew from the MFA I was doing who knew I was into comics and occasionally mined me for arcane knowledge on both comics and tarot things as both were fairly central to her first graphic novel and MFA project StoryCycle.

Anyway, she went back to the US for Christmas that year and for unrelated reasons (I mean we weren’t anything other than pals at that point) I had one of the harshest, most self destructive periods of my life – lots of excess, lots of dark nights in Chapel Perilous/Castle Revolving, the bottoms of a lot of lonely bottles.

By the Non-Wife was back and we’d gone back to the MFA, I was running on fumes. Then Non-Wife’s best pal, another auslander from Sweden from the MFA had also gone back home for Christmas but decided to stay on for the rest of the month. Out of the last of my vaporous reserves of empathy, I thought that it was a shame that she’d be missing her pal and suggested that we could go and hang out one day and get some food and stuff and probably talk about comics or whatever.

So like 3/4 of the way through our hanging out (nice Chinese dinner at Chopstix, Dundee and then up to the Artbar for drinks), this genius realises that he’s on a date with an amazing person who is into similar things that can stand to be in the same room as him (well in truth, she told me she was sort of into me and then had to explain it in clearer terms because I wasn’t really following how that sort of thing was possible). Oh aye, mind all that magick you’d been in training for and then done, about trying to not make the universe such a shite and empty place? What if it actually works sometimes? About 2 weeks later I gave her her blank badge.

This was a meandering way of saying that I believe that the Mindless Ones were in part responsible for Now-Wife and I getting together, and then her talent, drive and creative energy fed back and caused us to be in a situation to then meet up with them which in turn leads to new energies and projects and ace people and well, we know this, it’s the Ouroboros innit…

The rest of this origin story falls into place somewhere around Thoughtbubble 2015 where we first met the fleshy avatars of The Beast Must Die and Gary Lactus in person (Gary in his fabled SCIATICA! Tour and Beast nursing a particularly necrotic hangover) and Illogical Volume and Bobsy and James Baker and Andrew Hickey who all stopped by Now-Wife’s table by design, chance, or on the recommendation of others.

That weekend was really it, or the beginning of it. It was the cosmic stoplight turning green, the Rubik’s Cube solved in 17 moves, Batman defeating Darkseid, the music of the spheres. It was the other members of the cell, a perilous and circuitous path, but there they were, ‘The Others’. Of course from there the extensions and associations started to build and more people click into place, more discovery, more knowledge download from the corners. There are at least a few folks I’ve had lovely times with and then somewhere down the conversation, I’ve found out that they are actually the meatspace secret identity of a screen name from some piece of writing, or a comic, from years ago that blew my mind and it still makes me a bit giddy sometimes.

Every single person from the extended family, and I mean family, and I mean that in quite an important way, is some of the best people I’ve ever met. The talent contained in the Mindless Sphere is astounding. The pure thought and energy, the comics, the broadcasts, the compassion, the humour, the Good and Important Work are all right there and sometimes it’s so broad and deep that you realise you can’t tell what sort of 5 dimensional omnishape it even is anymore.

At our localised, spin-off Cell meetings, ‘Scottish Comics Twitter ™’ drinking and shouting about how terrible Neil Gaiman is events are amazing offshoots of this and cause such intense ripples in spacetime that I’m certain he can sense them like the shadowy tendrils of a spider child, clambering across a photocopied clock/cutlery. In amongst all the important dumb bullshit though, you can feel the room buzzing with love and respect and a desire to make the world more Mindless.

Thank you for all of it, I’m sorry it took so long to get here.

Disclaimer: Now-Wife will probably roll her eyes and reserves the right to dispute some/all of the claims levelled against her in the above text. However, her comics are good so you should probably go and buy them anyway.

2 Responses to “Peripheral Versions”

  1. Illogical Volume Says:

    This is just lovely, thank you.

  2. The Beast Must Die Says:


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