Thursday, 20 October 2011

An Article by Jonathaniel Aspick

Well! It's simply been an outrageous time since one posted last on this so-called "weblog". The world building review series has been somewhat put on hiatus (although a second instalment focusing on the world of P.G. Wodehouse is slowly being assembled backstage). Nevertheless, even though over a month has passed since the last post, we needn't declare Ethereal Gears wholly moribund just yet. In lieu of anything topical or philosophical to spew out, I thought I would relay an article written by a dear friend of mine, the Rt. Hon. Jonathaniel Heimdall Aspick, from the city of Goemagot.

Goemagot, as everyone knows, is located on the northern shores of the Bay of Belaine, situated on the Mittelmarian Peninsula. The Herzogdom of Goemagot, which is really little more than a city-state with a minuscule surrounding fief, nevertheless exerts a rather potent cultural and political hegemony over the rest of the scattered duchies, bishoprics, electoral microstates and monastic polities that make up Mittelmaria. As such, the herzogdom's premier paper of news, The Goemagot Scrutator, is read far and wide, not just on the peninsula, but across the whole continent of Japhety. As far as the southern tip of sunny Sapardas, bordering the sultry desert realm of Saracay, The Scrutator can be regularly seen unfolded before the old morning cup of tea or whatever the regional equivalent may be. "The Premier Wellspring of Magotian Opinion and Fact" the paper proudly proclaims on its broadsheets, as well it might, considering how those two substances are so often indistinguishably intermingled on its pages. Mr. Aspick's columns, while firmly relegated to the Opinion pages, has been snarkily remarked by certain liberal-minded critics and radical phronistery-types (c.f. the Terran 'university) to on average contain more facts than the average Scrutator editorial. Perhaps they keep him on merely to provide "balance" to the otherwise markedly conservative slant of the publication, or perhaps it's the way his sharp quill and debonair wit, coupled with a marvellous breadth of scholarly insight for such a young author, have simply captured not only the Magotian public but in fact the Japhetic as well to such an extent that sacking the fellow would prove truly disastrous to subscription numbers. At any rate, owing to the recent sensational capture of the Lexagonian ex-general Leonapis Benesect following his second failed uprising in Mittelmaria's troubled neighbour to the south, Mr. Aspick penned this little meditative piece, which was published in the Archday edition of The Scrutator:

* * *

On the Dreams of Empire,
In Light of the Recent Imprisonment of “High Consul” Leonapis Benesect for Causing Civil War in Lexagonia and Attempting to Take Over the World

By Jonathaniel Heimdall Aspick

Three thousand two hundred and sixty-nine years before the present day, the Antediluvian Empire held sway over most of Japhety. From the furthest stretches of civilized Aursalia in the west all the way to the easternmost tip of the Politanian peninsula and Sapardas, overlooking the endless leagues of the Inclement Ocean, the Empire ruled supreme. To the south its provinces even spread beyond the Mesiochoric to touch the northern shores of Saracay. The reach of the will of the Prelapsarchs, Antediluvia’s fearsome, mystical god-emperors, extended as far to the north as beyond the bounds of inhabited Codanonia, past Variagard’s remotest outposts and onto the uncharted waste of the Fimbulwinter Plains.
We know the Empire, even though it lasted for millennia before the Metastrophe struck, was ruled by madmen almost from the very beginning. The twisted clerics of the Order of the Briarean Hand, which comprised both its supreme religious authority and its elite military organ in the form of the nightmarish Centimani, controlled the population with fear and plague and fell alchemics. Although the Prelapsarch was its nominal leader in both secular and spiritual affairs, almost as dreaded as his authority was that of the Archimandrite of the Briarean Hand, at whose command a thousand legions of ruthless zealot warriors and hundreds of towering Centimani would march and obey without question. Beside the Archimandrite stood also the High Augur of the Empire, arguably third in power within its borders. The High Augur was the president of a college of seers and soothsayers in the Prelapsarch’s personal employ, and in the lands of Antediluvia prophecy ruled as law.
It has been variously theorized and debated among historians as to what extent the Empire orchestrated the Metastrophe and thus fulfilled the ancient prophecy of its own demise, spoken according to Antediluvian lore by the first High Augur in primordial times. It seems fantastical to our modern minds that an empire could last for such extraordinary lengths of time, never dissolving, barely ever contracting, its millions of subjects held utterly under the sway of a small, fanatical ruling caste. One must imagine that whatever gnosis and art went into the execution of the Metastrophe had also throughout its history sufficed to keep the Empire’s multitudes fully in thrall to the Prelapsarch and the Briarean Hand. Whether the population was cognizant of the horrific designs its overlords had in store for what amounted to the entirety of Japhetic civilization we shall never know. The records are too cryptic and fragmentary by far even to begin unmasking the nature of the Metastrophe itself, much less to shed any light on the minutiae of its circumstances. What we know stems mostly from records only recently retrieved from the Empire’s former Saracaean provinces, where apparently the breadth of the Mesiochoric Sea helped to stave off some of the more devastating effects of the Metastrophe. Yet even these reports speak only of inhuman and ineffable horrors, their descriptions shrouded in a vexing mingle of riddles, nonsense and hoary apocalyptics.
The Psechentine scholar Eljar Rafinzuwartur records in his Apostasies (ca. 30-50 PI) how the city of Alcassandar fared after what scholarly consensus agrees must be a reference to the Metastrophe, but which Rafinzuwartur calls simply “the birth of death”. He writes, after a translation into New Classician by Vetus:

“There are no memories left. There are only scars. There are places in the city which are no longer city (sic) not even places. We saw the sky turn inside out like a water skin, and empty its terrible innards over our heads. There was no darkness anywhere. There was no depth. Everything was terrible and bright and we knew Everything, and the All was horrible. Minds screwed themselves shut with lids of fear and now we will never open again. A neighbour down my street, Master Besq, he can only sing now. His wife cut the ears off the children with a bread knife and then she went and drowned herself in the Iteru River. I do not blame her. He sings such terrible songs, Master Besq, and he dances such terrible dances. There are hundreds more like him, thousands even. There are no patterns. All the madness is disgusting (sic) unique. But even though they are not true memories, there is strange knowledge, and we all share. It is especially apparent at those times when we walk in amongst the worst of the ruins, making our fruitless attempts at salvage. We try to rebuild things sometimes. The city recoils. It is not here anymore. It is Other. There is a scream in the paving. People suffer, and never learn- Sometimes, a whole crew of three dozen citizens will all stop dead in the midst of digging and carrying out the impossibly maimed and twisted dead, and all will gasp and look about. Everything will cease. Things are different. We will not recall, but we will know, that sometimes sometimes (sic) whole worlds turn on their sides and awful pale things caper and twirl across the lands, and the unborn neverborn (sic) slither slither (sic) from the deep and from up high, from corners and crevices and the eyes of lovers and songs that were never meant to be sung are given voice and children scream and scream and scream and wish for the simplicity of hell. Then we see them smiling. But not with mouths.”

Alas, these recondite ramblings constitute the most lucid account to have survived of that baffling event. Perhaps its nature shall never be revealed to us, and some scholars have argued that may well be for the better. The science of stargazing was born in Codanonia, and it has been said that was where the Metastrophe was originally born, to then spread south like brushfire to engulf the entirety of the continent. What we know of the Antediluvian Empire tells us, that from its architecture and religious life, to its social structure and its technological paradigms, it seems so vastly different from the Japhety we inhabit now that it appears almost an entirely different world. Its relegation, either partly or wholly, to the realm of myth by certain historians is perhaps understandable.
Yet even if it was only that, a Fiddler’s Green draped in the language of a fallen empire, it was certainly one that left a deep impression on a huge cluster of cultures. All our sciences, the Classician language, the great canon of Antediluvian drama and poetry, are attributed, wrongly or rightly, to this elliptical realm. While it may never be completely settled whether the sinking of Lost Belaine was actually a consequence of the Metastrophe or not, and thus whether the Achanes Gear that drives our whole city is really an artefact of the Antediluvian Empire, it is nevertheless true that the Herzogdom of Goemagot has built its entire sense of civic pride from this assumption. In fact, if one stretches the matter a bit further, so have really all the great Japhetic nations of the last three millennia. From the Classician Empire that was founded only a bare century after the events of the Metastrophe all the way up to the monomaniacal dreams of conquest that lead Leonapis Benesect to unleash his Grand War upon the continent, the shadow of Antediluvia has always hung like a brooding cloud over the heads of Japhety’s states. Its vision of total domination, unimaginable power and glory must be a dazzling prospect to every lord and cleric from the lowest junker to the Bathyspex in Amorarte himself. The fact that its achievements, if indeed they are more than the stuff of legend, were owed to strange faculties and powers which we not only cannot even begin to understand in our age, but which also apparently led to its catastrophic (or rather, metastrophic) downfall, seem generally to be swept under the rug when present-day rulers invoke the heritage of the Prelapsarchs to bolster their claims to earthly or sacral power.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Ethereal YouTube Tips #2: The YouTubening

Hallo and so on and so forth,
I am currently pondering a second, and hopefully more well-researched and coherent instalment in my world building review series, and in the meantime, to stave off the malicious rumours pertaining to the death of this blog that may or may not be circulating in the imagined community of readers that I, aha, imagine that it has, I am tossing out another slew of these YouTube recommendations. So, without further ado, here come the next four awesome YT channels:


This channel is run by a British science journalist who's been in the game for 20 years. His videos include mostly various well-researched, pithy and thoughtful debunking of various pseudoscientific theories and so forth. He's done brilliant series on global warming, creationism and other forms of madness. Also included are some very interesting videos about the journalistic profession, and also the world-renowned Golden Crocoduck Awards series, whose coveted trophy is given, each year, to the most bafflingly cretinous creationist pundit on YouTube. Highly watchable; entertaining, educational and charmingly British!


This is a channel which mostly focuses on uploading interviews, debates, lectures and so forth by the great linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky. Nothing really flashy here, just a very good resource for those interested in learning more about the work of one of the premier sources of intelligent political dissent within Western Society for the last few decades. Whether one is a supporter or detractor of Chomsky, this channel is a rich and fascinating deposit of his ideas, and thus a most valuable resource.


Picnic face is an almost eerily hilarious Canadian sketch comedy group. They provide a blend of wit, off-kilter absurdism and deliciously exaggerated madness that it basically requires having had one's sense of humour surgically removed not to enjoy. They also have a movie in the works, Rollertown, and a website (, although the videos of all their sketches are conveniently available right on YT. Check it out, or you will vomit a wedding!


MarbleHornets is the original Slender Man-themed original web series (as always, the mythology of Slender Man can always be absorbed at:, and arguably the best one. Ostensibly a young man's search for a college friend and fellow film student who's recently disappeared after suddenly shutting down production of his class project, the eponymous student film "Marble Hornets". The friend, Alex, has bequeathed the tapes from the film to the series' protagonist, who uses them as a jumping-off point to explore the strange circumstances of his disappearance. A truly frightening, uncanny and wonderfully atmospheric series, still running at the time of writing, which manages amazing feats of horror with only the barest minimum of filming equipment and crew. A DIY masterpiece of the digital age.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sweden in under Three Minutes


Please peruse this little video:

This short video contains everything anyone will ever need to know to understand the country of my birth. Simply delicious. Le mot juste, my good friends!

Charlie O. Johansson

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Ethereal YouTube Tips

Since I am at a bit of a loss at present for what to write a new snide and non-humorous rant about, I figured I'd instead supply some neat links to interesting and stimulating YouTube channels, whose rich and uplifting, thought-provoking and simply brilliant content will make the paltry scribbles littered across this so-called "blog" appear like so much shit smeared across the walls of a bedlam solitary.

Anyhow, here goes:

This is a very nicely produced, educational and highly informed channel created by graphic designer Peter Sinclair as a forum for discussion of global warming and related topics. What it basically boils down to is a series of wonderfully erudite videos debunking various anti-global warming myths and lies, coupled with regular updates on progress within the field of climate research and also the progress of the phenomenon of global warming/anthropogenic climate change itself. This is of course a topic that should interest every human being, but even if you find yourself not overly engrossed by this very imminent and important topic, just a few of Greenman3610's smart and gripping videos are categorically certain to utterly sway you. Also, if you're some kind of demented global warming "sceptic", just fuck the fucking fuck off, thanks, pip-pip, cheerio!

This channel hosts a continuing web series about a group of young men who start out by posting a bunch of exercise videos, sort of self-help snippets with tips and so forth about how you can get an effective work-out at home cheaply and easily combined with dietary tips and so forth. Rather, quickly, however, the plot dissolves into a nightmarish metafictional absurd horror drama cantered around the Internet-spawned entity known as the Slender Man (look him up at: for further info. Incredibly interesting, surprisingly well-acted and, most of all, very, very scary. If you are at all interested in innovative horror, do at least give this quirky ride of madness a try.

Arguably the best comedy web series every produced. This channel hosts episodes of the eponymous show Mister Deity, charting the Larry David-esque shenanigans of the creator of the universe, Mister Deity, not at all based on the Judeo-Christian God Yahweh (honestly!). The cast also include the Holy Spirit, also known as Larry, Mister Deity's on-and-off fling/archnemesis Lucy, and also a hunkalicious brown-bearded man who may or may not end up affixed to some sort of a structure reminiscent of a mathematical symbol. The show will make you think, feel and ponder, but mostly just laugh and laugh until you accept it as your own personal saviour.

This channel is arguably less high-profile than the trine listed above. Nevertheless, it deserves all the shout-outs it can amass and then some. Hosted by an American philosophy professor, this channel contains simply wonderful videos of short-to-medium length discussing all manner of topics from the perspective of philosophy, including vegetarianism, abortion, religion and even Tool. Highly eloquent, accessible, smart and possessing that quality so rare in high-level academics, namely an earnest desire to communicate his ideas clearly and to truly be understood, Sisyphus Redeemed parcels out YouTube-sized nuggets of thoughtfulness that both provoke thought and invite to discussion and reflection, very much in the true Socratic spirit, minus the hemlock (thus far, at least). Go a give 'im a go, guv! You'd never have thought you could become this sexed-up by practical philosophy!

Well, them's them, as they say. If this list is at all well-received (as in, if anyone reads it even once and mentions that they found at least one of the channels advertised vaguely interesting) I might easily dish out additional ones. I do so love spreading the word!

Till later,
Charlie O. Johansson

Friday, 5 August 2011


 Hullo, hullo, hullo!
 I have been thinking lately about truth. Specifically how it pertains to all of us who either produce, consume or are in any other way partake of the whole fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk etc. community, if community is the word I want. Well, I am sure the perspicacious reader gathers the gist of what I am attempting to convey.

Truth. The Truth, to be exact. The whole of it, and nothing without it, nothing it withstanding. I have a strange relationship with the truth. I lie a lot. Like, I lie a lot even by the standards of human beings, the most mendacious animal known to man (or so he would have you believe). Not a day goes by without me amping up an anecdote, spicing a recollection with a bit of bullshit fairy dust, or just plain inventing little things, both to myself and in my discourse with others, to make life more interesting. I could go into how I socially inherited this bad habit from my mother, but that is neither really here nor there. It's a kind of subconscious compulsion, and I do it mostly without realizing it completely until afterwards. I will be describing some historical period or person or some scientific concept or literary piece of which I am more knowledgeable than my interlocutor, and I will sort of move bits around, make up utter, whole-cloth lies, and just generally shift things up to make whatever I am telling seem more appealing, more narratively felicitous, more poignant and witty and neat and perfect.

I want the world to be a book, or a film, or a television show. I suppose, in this day and age, at the nadir of Western Civilization and all that jazz, it's a very common impulse. It's hyperrealism and postmodernism and so on and so forth and go fuck yourself you pointless, pretentious, lazy, smug relativist social constructionist bastard. That's not the important thing here. The important thing, in a good move in the age of individualism and right-wingism and general nihilism, the Anglophone Generation Y-era, is me. Or rather, the queer perspective I have on truth. I'd call it schizophrenic, except that word doesn't really mean what people think it means when they use it. I cannot allow myself to step into that groove, anal-retentive linguist that I am. My attitude towards the truth is...compartmental. It is cognitively dissonant. It's dual-natured. It's hypocritical. It's everything I despise and, on the flip side, all the things I love in life. It's a bitch, and it'd take a multi-volume novel to tackle it in earnest, but at present a mere weblog entry shall have to suffice. Bear with me; I shall try to keep the wall of text to an acceptable minimum.

I love science, but I hate science fiction. I firmly believe that there has never been a fantasy monster invented, nor a strange and alien realm conceived of, a magic spell cast or a time vortex manipulated in such a fashion as to, within a thousand miles of the target, be able to best the simple, and true, achievements and discoveries of science. Science fiction, for all its literary value, is a genre that by and large bastardizes and prostitutes and plays willy-nilly with these fine things. Yet, predictive sci-fi is better than mere fantasy-hybrid space opera stuff, but it's all horrid. The "alien" life forms in Avatar are biologically utterly improbable, yet the movie masquerades about as some sort of scientific action movie. It's set in the real world. It's a dashed damned fucking liar of a flick, and it's utterly shameless about it. The same goes for one of my most beloved movie monsters, the Alien xenomorphs. One of the coolest, most original, horrifying and simply, otherworldly beautiful monstrosities ever to parade the silver screen or elsewhere. Yet its science makes zero sense. Its corrosive blood, its DNA-theft, its whole concept is a scientific crock of shit. It angers me to ludicrous, parodic degrees, this kind of playing fast and loose with the truth. Yes, reality is complex and multi-faceted and there are degrees and continua and our knowledge of the world is pieced together from disparate perspectives and there are no complete and grand unifying metanarratives to explain it all as far as we know.

BUT! And it's a one of Sir Mixalotian proportions. This does not mean that all ideas are up for grabs. Just because it renders the truth more elusive, it doesn't mean that honourable people who sincerely wish to understand the world, including its social, cultural and humanistic aspects, have any right to cop out and start babbling on about discourse until the government cuts off the very last department in their field because, for all intents and purposes, we are dealing with an entire discipline involved in nothing but mental masturbation.

Lies are wonderful. Illusion is glorious. "Do you want the truth, or something beautiful?" Paloma Faith sings, and I do believe, and consider it a fundamental part of my life philosophy, that this is a very true and very serious question. The truth is often dull. It's often disappointing. It isn't easy or reductionist or aligned with any side of a political spectrum. But it can be colourless. It can also be beautiful, but its beauty is often stark, hard and difficult to digest. Which is why weaker individuals like me, can't, no matter how much we tell ourselves, to come to terms with that we live in a world where everywhere is already explored, where the only frontiers lie in the cold, heartless depths of interstellar space, whither it is questionable if science will ever even bequeath us the capacity to venture. Which is why sometimes, for just a few moments, we dream ourselves away into silly, atavistic dreams of knights and dragons and supernatural darkness and decay and alien tongues and worlds and notions, primitive and fantastical, crystal and brass and steam and glowing sigils upon moonlit heaths beneath turquoise skies.

Well, this is a pointless rant, isn't it? What doesn't one do to rationalize one's own tastes? But I will say this; I would rather have my fiction be so fictional as to give one a toothache as soon as one bites into it, and keep to my dreary, materialist science, the kind that works, out in the real world. That seems to me a far better trade, if, such as in mine own case, it is a necessary one, than the opposite: a science of mental constructions and houses of cards and sophistry and mental regurgitation and schmess metaphysics (look up Daniel Dennet's views on the wonderful board game of schmess), coupled with endless deconstructions of Joyce and all the rest of them. Call me old-fashioned, but I like stories. I like the telling of them, and I like the acknowledgment, unambiguous, of their utterly insincere nature. The taller the better. As tall as the topless spires of Illyon, or the summit of Mount Doom.

Rambling on,
Charlie O. Johansson