Book Review

the heads of cerberus by Francis Stevens

early sci-fi and smh so sad

cw: self-harm, mental illness, alcohol abuse

i write on october the twelfth

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

i can’t do anything

i haven’t done anything for ages

i haven’t done anything for weeks

months

years

i’ve been reading a lot recently and reading a lot of things that have been fucking brilliant but maintaining this blog has become a source of anxiety for me and writing about books has become a source of anxiety and i’m just waiting every day for, suddenly, unexpectedly, someone will start commenting and writing about the pleasure of regret and they’ll be mean about it and tho that’s slightly less likely to happen than someone being mean about me/Bad Boy Poet when that was released because I directly asked someone who I don’t “see eye to eye with” to review it for a magazine (and actually he was nice about the book tho critical of me) and this new book, the pleasure of regret is even more about me than that one was and it’s a lot less positive and and and and and and and

fuck

fuck fuck fuck

i just can’t fucking type any more

the only poems i’ve written for months are fucking limericks about how much i hate my fucking fat bald body and about how i was self-harming a few weeks ago tho i’ve stopped that again recently but i have been drinking more the last couple of weeks and my drinking has, irritatingly, got to the point where my alcohol tolerance has risen up again which means that i need to drink a bottle of wine and like two other drinks before i start feeling the necessary and welcoming positive feelings that i look for in bottles and cans and mixed beverages and yes i suppose i do drink too much but it’s been well over a year since i last disgraced myself by drinking but that’s only because i don’t fucking do anything and i’m sure if i’d had the opportunities to disgrace myself with drinking this year then i would’ve done tho actually, i did cycle home off my face a few weeks ago (the same time as when i was self-harming lots) and i cycled into a street sign and fell off my bike and if i hadn’t been wearing a helmet would have been badly hurt (all the weight went on my shoulder and my head lol) so i suppose for some people that would count as disgracing oneself but for me it doesn’t because it’s just doing something stupid the like of which i have done stupider and stupider and stupider things a thousand times before and

by my standards i haven’t disgraced myself in drink for a while

the white turtleneck i wore once and threw up red wine and pizza all over and woke up in a puddle of my own vomit on the bathroom floor just over twelve months ago is what i count as my last disgraceful act, because it was a nice turtleneck and i just fucking ruined it and then i hid it (after washing it in the bath once and then through the normal laundry twice) with its massive red and orange stains for a year and then a few weeks ago I bleached it with toilet bleach in the massive bucket my lover used to dye my birthday jumpsuit yellow/gold and so now i have a nice white turtleneck that can be worn and that feels like an achievement of sorts even tho even tho even tho i know it shouldn’t tho should it

fuck

i’m going to get a gin and tonic

fuck

then i’m going to start cooking

but first im going to going to

it’s canadian thanksgiving today tho i don’t really know what it means

i mean i don’t know if it is like a bad thing to celebrate

obviously i’m celebrating nothing i am home alone with my dog i have the day off work but i don’t know anyone here and the sad thing the very very sad thing i suppose is that i don’t particularly want to i don’t want to make myself a social life here and i don’t have much faith in being able to establish a social life somewhere else in the future if that’s even possible christ christ fuck

so the book i read today was called the heads of cerberus and was by Francis Stevens, the male pseudonym of Gertrude Barrows Bennett, and she wrote this novel[la] when she was in her late thirties in 1919 so it’s an old book

it’s an early sci-fi book, i suppose doing that thing where it straddles sci-fi and fantasy in that way that doesn’t really appeal to my sensibilities in that it depicts things that are completely unbelievable and fantastical and then tries to use fucking scientific language and tone to try and pretend that it’s real so there’s lots here about multiverses (a theory or idea I’m honestly surprised dates so far back) and a concluding chapter that seems to deny the reality of experience that the protagonists had while time-travelling (or not?) because rather than journeying into a dystopian future they had instead journeyed into a dystopian projection of their own 1918 Philadelphia, which explains why the 2118 Philadelphia they found themselves in was so similar to their own in all manners except sociological and political organisation and the narrative was kinda strange and confusing but also simple and direct and to get to this possibly-not-real version of the future they had to first walk through the moon in a purgatorial type of fantasy land (with proper like magical creatures in it etc) called Ulithia which they had got to by first ingesting some dodgy powder this rich twenty-something Irishman had bought in an auction that was housed in a cute little pendantish thing decorated with the three heads of Cerberus on it, and another, older, person who he outbid kept trying to get it stolen back because he (the old man collector) knew that the powder inside had the power to transport the body and the soul out of the world but he also knew how to bring people back, which he had somehow facilitated (by accident) happening to the people who did go time travelling (or not) through his previous journeys into alternate worlds

there is a corrupt political system of complete subjugation for normal people (“Numbers”) and elevated freeloading for the elites (“Superlatives”) and there seems to be an information economy which, again, is kinda prescient but is perhaps me-as-reader projecting foreknowledge and wisdom onto something that happens to gel with the way time turned out, tho, as the characters in the novel even say, if the 2118 Philadelphia is a projection of our reality and our reality as it exists now is the same reality (with a few significant technological developments) as that of 1918 and so the nepotism and the sociological barriers and the state violence and state repression and defunding of education in the pursuit of a more ignorant, less questioning, populace that have transpired in the century since Francis Stevens wrote this text were always inevitable

there is no escape from the past, not even in the future

whenever i brashly and blithely criticise the idea of genre fiction my lover always chides me with a comment about the importance of how worlds are imagined being a significant societal tell: how someone envisions (or is able to envision) a dystopia or a utopia is a valid signifier of a world and worldview in the ways in which their fiction amplifies or ignores reality

i dunno if i agree with this as sometimes genre texts can feel like they are prescient and wise and intelligently questioning the status quo and the heads of cerberus is probably a positive example of that, however i’ve also read genre fiction since i began reading genre fiction that has been utter utter shite so i’m still undecided about its importance because most arguments for the validity of sci-fi/fantasy tend to try to justify all of it, not just the good examples, which imo is reductive.

oh that’s nice, i did get a literary blog post out of this by the end

maybe the gin helped

maybe typing my mopey mopey unpunctuated prose helps

i like to write

i do not make time to do it

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