Bugged Out!:

Scarab Reconsidered 20 Years On, Part Six

In the immortal words of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “And Now For Something Completely Different —”

It’s my belief, dear reader, that we live in drastic times — and that we have been for some little while now. Think about it : the bastards have won, haven’t they? And by “bastards” I mean international finance, the banking cartels, the permanent – warfare state, the capitalist plunderers of our natural resources  — they’re in the driver’s seat. They’ve rigged the game. The rich (and no I do not in any way, shape, or form, mean any specific ethnic, religious, or cultural group) have had their decades-long party and they’re stealing the tablecloths and silverware on their way out the door.  It’s all over but for the crying and dying.

Call it slow-burn apocalypse. We’re irrevocably screwed, and everyone knows it, even if it’s more than many folks, especially those with young kids, would want to admit. Sure, “hope” and “change” sounded good on paper, but in the end we got another corporate shill administration that escalated drone wars and the surveillance state, expanded our purportedly endless battle against those who, we’re laughably told, “hate us for our freedoms,” and while some positive social progress has been in terms of advancing the cause of same-sex marriage and the like, in the end all it probably amounts to is an equal-opportunity crack at the deck chairs on the Titanic.  I’m as glad as anyone to see Bush and his puppet-masters gone, make no mistake, but has our overall trajectory really, fundamentally, changed at all?

I sincerely wish it weren’t so, believe me — and maybe there are a few genuine optimists out there who view things in a far better, and certainly more mentally healthy, way than this, but for my money I just can’t see any way out barring some sort of miraculous complete re-evaluation of situation on species-wide level. The “New Age” crowd keeps bleating on about some sort of “universal shift in human consciousness,” and goodness knows that’s exactly what we need, but how likely is it to happen at this point?

To his eternal credit, visionary author/editor/publisher Adam Parfrey (pictured above), saw the writing on the wall as far back as 1987, when he first unleashed his seminal collection, Apocalypse Culture, under the auspices of legendary underground label Amok Press, and in 1990 he revised and expanded his tome through his own,  then-nascent,  Feral House publishing imprint. Feral House has gone on to become more or less the best of the best in terms of publishers of unsettling and controversial material, of course, and Apocalypse Culture is rightly considered to have started an absolute groundswell of interest in the taboo, extreme, esoteric, and just plain disturbing. Believe it or not, in the days before the internet, weird shit was had to find, and anyone with an interest in having a front-row seat to society’s decline was inexorably drawn to this volume of, in the words of J. G. Ballard, “terminal documents of the 20th century.”

Yup, friends, this book had it all — from essays on the history of the notorious Process Church Of The Final Judgment (whose leader, Robert DeGrimston, is pictured above), to breathtaking jeremiads bemoaning the rise of art and agriculture by anarchist philosopher/intellectual John Zerzan, to interviews with notorious libertine Peter Sotos, to screeds detailing an “invisible war” by late Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey to speculation on the secret history of Freemasonry and other occult brotherhoods, to stomach-churning examinations on bizarre sexual practices like necrophilia, to paeans to the power and glory of death and destruction by Boyd Rice — you name it. Everything the ambitious young sociopath could ever hope to see collected between two paperback covers, and then some.

We’re screwed. All is lost. This book was (and still is) the proof — and what’s more, it was proof that the situation we find ourselves mired in is actually quite fascinating. Sure, it’s all gloom n’ doom, no doubt about it, and while Parfrey’s selected works offered no actual way out of our predicament — chiefly because there isn’t one — Apocalypse Culture is, by no means, an entirely inaccessible or relentlessly grim piece of work. The term “morbidly fascinating” comes to mind whenever I think of it, or find myself re-reading parts of it, and I think that sums it up as well as anything.

If you’re in any way, shape, or form, interested in the obscure, the hidden, the intellectually and morally challenging, the esoteric — you know, anything that isn’t spoken of aloud in polite company — then this book unquestionably belongs on your shelf. In fact, it’s probably already there.

So what’s this got to do with our continuing post-mortem on John Smith and Scot Eaton’s Scarab, then, you rightly ask?

Simply this : given the subject matter that Smith covers in his scripts, there is absolutely no way that he didn’t read this book. The type of information he would have required to inform his storylines simply wasn’t available anywhere else at the time. You just couldn’t Google this shit and find dozens of links to these subjects in the early 1990s.

Furthermore, it’s pretty obvious to this writer that many of the ideas Grant Morrison gleaned for The Invisible (especially) and The Filth could very probably have first come to his attention by way of Apocalypse Culture, as well. But that’s probably another matter for another time.

For our purposes here today, I recommend this course of action : If you’ve got a copy of this book at home, follow along as we begin our issue-by-issue analysis of Scarab, paying particular attention to Dennis Stillings’ Meditations On The Atom And Time, Parfrey’s Cut It Off : A Case For Self-Castration, and two pieces by Tim O’Neill, Surgeons And Gluttons In The House Of Flesh and A History Of Vengeance And Assassination In Secret Societies.

If you don’t have the book, don’t sweat it — we’ll cover the basics as we go along here, and you don’t need to drop ten or twelve bucks on it (even though it’s money well spent and you’ll thank me later) to get the gist of where Smith’s influences came from. It’ll help, sure, but I’ll try to do my best to make sure that not having it won’t be an impediment to your understanding of just what the hell it is we’re talking about here.

And on that note — now that we’ve got everything in place, all the pieces are aligned on the board, and the clock is running (out, for all of us, whether we like it or not) — next up we’ll finally get the the meat of the matter and begin our trek though the world of Scarab in print, as it finally came to be presented to audiences,  with what’s sure to be, I feel fairly safe in saying, the most detailed and comprehensive review and analysis each of the eight issues has ever received,  either online or in print. Join us then, next time, as we finally “meet” Louis Sendak, his comatose wife, Eleanor, his “superhero” alter-ego, and an ancient, and decidedly ugly, supernatural assassin in the pages of Scarab #1! Get those back issues handy!

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Ryan Carey maintains a B-movie (with occasional comics-related content) blog at trashfilmguru.wordpress.com, and writes about films and comics for sites such as unobtainium13.com, dailygrindhouse.com, geekyuniverse.com, and now Sequart. You can follow him on Twitter @trashfilmguru.

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