from The Book of Melusine

Half-breed, she can only have her birthright by denying her matrimony. She must be all light, all air; her chthonic rage invisible, mute, erased. But mother will out—the Sabbath is her mother’s day, and, a new Daniel, Melusine retires to her chamber, closes door and windows and allows herself one day of license. Snakeskin breathes again, airkissed, unashamed.

This is the moment trapped in amber and on canvas, this space of incipient revelation. Raymond’s hand is on the latch; her secret revealed at last, Melusine asserts her fundamental unity, forgives her husband his trespass as he forgives her deception. Illusory forgiveness; his acceptance is personal, not political. Raymond loves, or perhaps only endures, but does not acknowledge. She must pass still in borrowed skin six days out of seven. Later, when tried, he will repudiate her knowable strangeness, cast her out to mother’s knowing arms.

Melusine does not hope. For three steps forward, two are lost. Rosie, strong-armed and dutiful on the rivet line, is shunted back to Levittown at war’s end; Alice Sheldon is driven into Tiptree’s elusive shadow. She is scarred with backlash, charcoaled out with swallowed fire; Medea’s dragon wings lift her not to revenge but instead to Avalon.

Still. She is powerful in her departure. Beneath demure skirts, a thousand serpent tails begin to grow.

The Graeae

Theseus and the Graeae

They can have had no childhood. Old women, poor old women, with one eye passed between them and one tooth in three mouths, with unending patience they chew through iron bars. Aeschylus has them half-swan, half woman, grey hair gone to feathers. They are called beautiful, cruelly, but like Ran’s children, they are strong together; with one eye they see well enough, with one tooth eat well enough. They neither seek the light, nor shun it; neither hope nor despair, but argue causes and cases, foods and fashions interchangeably.

The Graeae are the ineradicable mass of humanity. They are not loved, and they are not regarded. Perseus extorts the location of a more glorious danger and throws their eye in a lake; exit hero, laughing. They endure, they persist. They are chthonic figures, sea goddesses. They are never single, never paired: they are a society unto themselves. Winston Smith looks out a window and sees them singing to themselves, and sneers, enviously, happy proles.

The Cyborg

As is appropriate, this needs to be rewritten

Tool use on the level of biology; civilization internalized, inscribed within the body. The cyborg is the understanding of limits and the judicious, persistent transcendence of those limits. She cannot exist without society around and within it—in this sense, the cyborg may be understood as the evolution or counter to the Rider, for where the Rider exists to reflect the judgmental otherness of the wilderness that frames society, the Cyborg mirrors the way civilization defines and erases its constituents. Cyborg bodies are always plastic, always changing, always discarded, amended, rewritten: an ever-changing and bewildering array of adaptors, ports, connections and grips.

The Rider spirals outward, away from society; the Cyborg inward. The Cyborg is always becoming accepted, always approaching respectability. Always being purchased, coopted, gentrified, adjusted—tools change what is thinkable, and in doing so become invisible, unnoticed, standard. In this disappearing act, the Cyborg goes underground, returns to her chthonic slumber, and loses something of her genius. No matter: there is always another standing in the wings, waiting for her entrance.


by Stephen Cole

Corruption, senescence, rot. The distressing cafes of Interzone in the summer: that thick, ropy smell, like almond blossoms, like ivy berries. See them slumped on their stools, thin purple lips wrapped tight around alabaster straws, their debauched attendants writing at their feet. Mugwump.

Purity, rectitude, condemnation. An arctic blast of air sweeping across the Hudson, sweeping the canyons clean for just an instant, New York in the summer of ’84. Spoils were heavy in the branches, sweet and heavy, so full of juice their skin split with it, gentle enticing tease of heavy syrup sliding out through a crack in peach-skin: no! Rectitude! Mugwump.

They are writers, essayists, playwrights. They sit too long over their unpleasant drinks, drenched in shadows, lashed in sunlight. They are sex and politics: breathing hot and heavy after the workings of the machine, always brokering backroom deals for backroom deals. Mugwump.

The Sphinx

Before we talk of the Sphinx–gatekeeper sphinx!– it is perhaps wise to review what we know of her nemesis Swollenfoot.

Of his ill-starred birth you know, and of the abandonment that gave him his name. His name, that mocking name! For him was the riddle of the Sphinx formed; she asked, and he wondered (as he must always wonder), did she tease? Did the feet of her riddle take him for their model? Of course. Wrong-footed he started, and so wrong-footed he put her, down among the rocks and the potsherds.

So. Gatekeeper she, sphinx she riddles that none may pass except the right one. Agent of destiny, defender of plague. Not cause of plague; she is herself a riddle to be unraveled, a right clue in the wrong direction.

Half-lion, half-woman, counterpart to the lamassu, the sphinx represents a sharp line between what is knowable and what is not. This is knowledge and that is fancy. This is the true king, the true betrayer, and that is… is nothing. Is empty death. Where the lamassu asserts himself as unity, as godhood, as the One Voice that cries the storms to being, the sphinx is martyr to the unthinkable, to the immiscible: a thousand voices raised in song, none quite alike in pitch, tempo, meaning. Without her there are no categories, no growth, no one who may be king, but she must be surpassed before true healing can begin. Swollenfoot must own his crimes; the sphinx is a gate, but not the destination.