“Stephanie’s First Date”: A Conversation with the Authors of ‘Seawater and Stars’
The collective editorial entity of Martian Migraine Press known as “The Face” (on Mars, natch!) sat down for a virtual chat with authors S R Jones and Justine G, the morally bankrupt creatures responsible for Seawater & Stars: The Last Novel of Gideon Stargrave, to talk about comics, Grant Morrison, metafictional conceits, and the titillating challenges inherent with mashing up two-stage expansion steam engines and Victorian smut…
Jones Oh, The Invisibles. Hands down.
Justine I found The Invisibles to be, I don’t know, almost impenetrable. Sorry to say, I did not get it. Though I can see where he was going, but dimly? If that makes any sense. Much preferred The Filth. Loved The Filth, actually.
Jones The assassin chimp.
Justine Spartacus Hughes. Richard Nixon as the submarine captain, with his trusty Gill-men. Brilliant.
Jones Hold on. You found Invisibles inpenetrable but The Filth was OK for you?
Justine There was more penetration. And satire. That’s what this little girl is made of, mostly. So yes.
The Face Jones, are you one of those “The Invisibles changed my life!” types?
Jones Oh, not so much, that. Somewhere, Morrison said that the series was designed to identify or activate or otherwise agitate Invisibles that were already out there, and I guess that’s how I feel about it. Being introduced to the work (and I was definitely one of those “what, comics? I don’t read comics anymore” people when it happened) was, OK, not an eye-opener so much as a realization that, y’know, these people were out there. And that I was one of them.
The Face The Invisibles seven-volume hyper-sigil doing what it does!
Jones Something like that, I guess. It certainly re-wrote me to a degree. I recall thinking, somewhere in Volume 2, was it? That whole infiltration of the underground military installation. “Let’s do Dulce.” I recall thinking “Jesus, this Scots bastard is just giving this stuff away!” and I loved it. And this was back in, oh, ‘98?
Justine And here it is, December 2012! We’ve got, what, twelve days left?
The Face It’s Sunday 9 December, so yes. Twelve or thirteen, depending on where you like your Mayan end dates. How do you feel about that?
Jones In general, or specifically to The Invisibles?
The Face Let’s hear both.
Jones As far as The Invisibles go, I think Morrison was spot on in giving us a preview of the spirit of the 2012 culture, if not the details. I re-read The Invisibles now, and I know it was a success, because it just reads as, I don’t know… almost quaint, if that’s even possible. We’re all Invisible now.
In general… I don’t know. Back in the 90s, for me, it was all McKenna and Timewave Zero. The Mayans and all this hippie consciousness shift hoo-ha never even came up on the 2012 radar in any kind of significant way, for me. Fractal wave forms embedded in the I-Ching were where it was at, y’know? Novelty theory. And there certainly wasn’t any of the kind of standard apocalyptic end o’ the world Learning Channel boilerplate like you see these days…
Justine You kids get off his lawn!
Jones Oh hey now. I was into 2012 before 2012 was cool. But yeah, even saying that, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna pan out now, does it?
The Face There’s still time.
Justine Twelve days.
Jones Yeah. And you know, now that I think of it… I mean, the whole deal with the Timewave… the Bros. McKenna said it themselves in The Invisible Landscape, right? All the major changes, or at least a good percentage, a large percentage in fact, all the big changes in their theory, and they were talking about the kind of grand changes akin to, you know, fish deciding to go for a stroll on the beach, all of them were supposed to take place in what they called “the short epochs” at the end of the wave.
The Face Which are… ?
Jones Which are something like the last half dozen hours in the final cycle. Maybe not even that. The last hour and a half, the last fifteen minutes of which will be white-knuckle.
Jones So, like, there’s still a chance? I guess is what I’m saying. It may look like bunk at this point, with only twelve days to go, but, y’know, get back to me on the 21st. And if for some reason you can’t reach me, I guess I’ll see you in the Supercontext!
The Face Thanks for the lead-in there, sir! Because of course, the inspiration for this weird little experimental effort of yours is a throwaway line in a one-off Morrison story that saw print originally in a Vertigo Winter’s Edge special in 1998. And We’re All Policemen is, basically, eight pages of the fevered fantasies of King Mob as he emerges into the Supercontext at the end of History and–
Justine In twelve days.
The Face In twelve days, yes, and he does so in the character of Gideon Stargrave, psychedelic hyper-spy and pop mega-star. And of course the character of King Mob, as has been noted elsewhere exhaustively and explicitly mentioned by Morrison, is Morrison. Or Morrison’s fiction-suit for moving through The Invisibles.
Jones So blurry and meta in there! Morrison, King Mob, Stargrave: it’s all much of a muchness, as me old mother would have said.
Justine My old mother would have said “if you’re going to wear character armour, at least make it fashionable!”
The Face So in the panels in question, we have Stargrave activating his magic-mirror-goop sex-droid and instructing it to… Justine?
Justine Oh what! You’re testing me now? Shit. It’s “enhance tits a percentage” or something like that. And then the blurb! The blurb is what stuck with me, or at least made me remember that it was there. Which is why I floated the idea, what? A couple of weeks back?
Jones Not long, anyways. This thing has been fast. But then, we are living in the Sun of 4-Motion, in which things speed up.
Justine Twelve days.
The Face OK! OK! But the blurb!
The Face We’ll just read our copy, shall we? “I want the nerdiest guy in school transformed by a gifted surgeon’s knife into a beautiful, sexy girl and exhibited as a living erotic sculpture at Dionysian ceremonies of heathen bondage…”
Justine Ha! You bastard. Had it there all along.
The Face Next panel! Stargrave: “That kind of look.” Text box: “Thus runs the promo copy on Stargrave’s latest, most frustrating sex novel; the alluring and racy cover conceals a dry marine-engineering text with buzzwords like ‘crawlspace’ and ‘Stephanie’s first date’ sprinkled throughout to help maintain the erections of the surprisingly substantial audience for brainy-geek-to-hot-slut gender pretender stories.”
The Face There you go. So, couple of questions for you two: how’d it go? Did it, or does it, work? Justine, you’re our pornographer…
Jones Yeah, I just edited all the dry stuff. Going on record.
Justine As erotica? Not really. It’s weird. As an experiment, I’d say it’s a little successful. The text Jones found was some public domain thing from way back in the day, and after he cleaned it up there–
Jones 1921. The fifth edition I pulled was from 1921. Those Google scanned documents are bah-rutal! Lemme check the deets, hold on…
Justine Well, I was reading through it and thinking how best to go about making it work as something a person could have a little wank over, and the archaic language was so… anyway, I just naturally gravitated to Lazenby’s The Pearl. Like you do. And of course, there’s all the pistons and pumping and warm valves and so on. Certainly the larger bodies of text made it easier than the bits that are all formulas and definitions…
Jones Tompkins, Albert Edward. “Marine Engineering (A Text Book)”… oh, sorry. Engineer-Captain A. E. Tompkins, C.B.E., Royal Navy (Retired).
Justine Albert was just a barrel of laughs to work with.
Jones He was a little light on the narrative end of things.
The Face Did you bother to work around that with Seawater & Stars?
Jones Not really?
Justine No. We pretty much took Morrison at his word there. It’s the text, with buzzwords. There’s some story in it, but it’s fragmentary at best. I pulled a couple of lines from The Pearl and there’s small chunks… small?
Jones Small-ish. I wouldn’t say chunks.
Justine There’s a sentence or nine from my own Blackstone series, yes. But mostly it was just me reading through this goddamn thing and dropping dirty stuff in when it seemed appropriate. Which, again, with all the pumping and heating of expanding vapours going on, was surprisingly often!
The Face The question that burns at the heart of things here, lady and gentleman! Can you wank to this?
Jones What can’t you wank to, these days?
Justine Get off his lawn! Darn wanking kids! Wankers!
Jones No, but see, that’s the point of those panels in And We’re All Policemen. Right? That the breakdown of information has brought us to a place where there’s only garbage left in the system. Is narrative even necessary, when sex-entertainment is involved?
Justine As a purveyor of high-class paranormal erotica, I’m obliged to say yes, but as a warp-speed denizen of these hectic End Times, I’d say no. Have you seen the animated sex GIFs?
Jones Nope. What?
The Face Oh yeah!
Justine It’s like, there used to be a process, when the technology for viewing your porn was your Times Square theatre or VHS or Cinemax or whatever the hell they had. You were, for the most part, obligated to slog through a narrative. A shitty one, but still. And then of course the Internet blah blah blah. Faster, weirder. And now, Jesus, they take maybe three, four seconds of the best bit of a porno, and loop it into an animated GIF.
Jones Like those little irritating avatars in profiles?
The Face Naw man, the tech is way better now…
Justine Yup. It’s not, like, full screen HD or anything, but fill a screen with these things and it’s overwhelming. Tumblr is full to bursting with… anyway, that’s the point. It’s all boiling down to sound bites, clips, a barrage of trigger images and phonemes. The fetishization of everything… obviously, I’m for that.
The Face So why not pepper a marine-engineering text with smut? So, it works.
Jones It works. It’s weird. But it works. Mostly it’s funny.
Justine All the funny. I like Chapter One the most. And the Preface.
Jones Which is likely as far as anyone will care to get.
Justine But there are themes. There’s a Madam who shows up randomly, and of course, there’s Stephanie…
The Face From ‘Stephanie’s first date’?
Justine That, and there’s a sorority hazing that’s referenced.
Jones Some of the leading lights in late 19th Century marine-engineering get a little play, too. Sorry, boys!
Justine And by the end of the thing, which is only three chapters…
Jones The second of which is terms and definitions. Three chapters of this doorstop was already topping out at 9000 words, I mean, c’mon! No one needs or wants that much experiment.
Justine By the end I’d started throwing in a lot more stuff from Blackstone, so it gets weirder and I think the final lines have a certain eerie pathos? We’ll see, right?
The Face We hope people like it, frankly. Why the last novel of Gideon Stargrave? If faithfulness to the text was something you were going for, then why the last? It clearly states that the novel in question is merely the latest sex novel from Stargrave…
Justine Umm. Because twelve days?
Jones Twelve days. Also, I’m not sure I’m up for another experiment. Bringing this thing up from 2D comic-book-space was more of a chore than I expected.
The Face Twelve days. I suppose, if your novelty thing holds, that we could be meeting up with all our fictionsuits on the other side of Christmas this year. In a perfect, Supercontextual world, would either of you “collaborate” with Gideon Stargrave again?
Justine Well, why not? I like his style.
Jones And if that doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t say no to working with Morrison. And before you say it, yes. Yes I’m a cheeky bastard.
The Face That’s how we like you both. Stay cheeky, fella and lady!
S R Jones is the author of the short story collections SOFT FROM ALL THE BLOOD and THE ECDYSIASTS, both from Martian Migraine Press. He’s written for the Lovecraft ezine and has had his anti-poetry published in Broken City Magazine. He is a spoken word performer, a massage therapist, a dad (horrors!), a Gnostic-Chaoist with Lovecraftian overtones, and is thoroughly, unrepentantly Invisible. You can follow him on the twitter @PimpMyShoggoth
Justine G is the author of the BLACKSTONE Erotica series and the erotic sci-fi novella ORGY IN THE VALLEY OF THE LUST LARVAE (due out in January 2013), both from Martian Migraine Press. She’d probably eat you alive, mantis-style, but man, it’d be worth it. You can follow here on the twitter @BLACKSTONErotic
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