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June 21, 1994

Book Reviews: Fantasy and Science Fiction

by Feòrag

Hermetech by Storm Constantine,
(Headline Book Publishing, 1991, 502pp, £4.99)

Set some time after an environmental holocaust in a Neo-Pagan world where the two major factions officially get on with each other. Naturotech rose from the Neo-paganism we know as a belated response to ecological disaster—a radical liberal attempt to use new technology to fix the mess made by the old. Tech-Green is a capitalist offshoot.

The land is full of new sacred sites built by a rich convert—parodies of Bronze Age and Neolithic monuments with a touch of Thelemic theatre.

Our heroine, Ari, is the daughter of an eminent Tech-Green scientist (deceased) and the result of some genetic experiment. Her sympathies lie more with the Naturotech, some of whom, ex-colleagues of her father, are fulfiling his wish and looking for her.

One Beltagne (sic), she comes across a group of Randomati (New Age Traveller types) and sets off with them. She meets a few interesting characters, and the story eventually comes to a satisfactory ending about 200 pages later than really necessary.

Meggie's Journeys by Margaret D'Ambrosio
(Polygon, 1987, 175pp, £4.95)

No beating about the half-flaming bush here—this is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read in my life. I was introduced to it by a friend back in 1988. It tells the tale of an ancient Celtic girl around her adolescence and her experiences through the four elements and ether. At each of the great Sabbats, she is taken on a journey by an Otherworld guide to receive a gift from the sidhe and to learn their knowledge. The tales make excellent material for meditation and remain consistent throughout—D'Ambrosio obviously knows her stuff. There are songs in here, too, complete with music. I know not whether the book is still available—I had difficulty getting it back in '88, but have seen it in secondhand bookshops and it's well worth the search.

The Fires of Bride by Ellen Galford
(Women's Press, 1986, 229pp, £4.95);

Queendom Come by Ellen Galford
(Virago Press, 1990. 158pp, £4.99)

Two overwhelmingly Scottish books. The first concerns Maria, an artist who falls in love with a remote Scottish island and its matriarch Catriona—the local clan chieftain and witch.

The island has always been woman-positive it seems, with the Sisters of Bride worshipping the One True Goddess and a history of women fighting off male marauders since Viking times. This book has recently been made into a play by Red Rag—a feminist theatre company.

Queendom Come is set in the Blue Reich—a Britain run by a fearsome female prime minister.

The health service, post office and everything else has been privatised; sacred sites have been sold to developers and the Sexual Normality Bill (outlawing homosexuality) has just been passed by a House full of adulterers, voyeurs, fetishists and secret spankers.

The social workers make the present bunch look keen to leave well alone—snatched kids are made to work for their keep.

At this time, Albanna—She Wolf of the North, a proto-Celtic queen rises from her grave on Arthur's Seat to save her people. After spearing the local Arch Druid (not approving of his nonsensical rites) she meets up with a couple of locals and her old Priestess. What follows is hilarious as the Priestess tries to look after Albanna and two kids she's been landed with. The frightening bit is that the government in the book is only one step more extreme than a certain British government to which it bears no resemblance, honest!

The Revolution of Saint Jone by Lorna Mitchell
(Women's Press Science Fiction, 1988, 204pp £4.95)

Like most science fiction (it seems), this is set in post-armageddon times. A church of fundamentalist mathematicians and scientists are evangelising their message of rationality across the world. To them, violence and disorder is all caused by the id and sexuality. Beauty is judged on geometric principles and nature is reduced to a series of equations.

The enemy are the Babylonians—Goddess mythomaniacs who revel in carnality. Here we have the tale of a newly sanctified missionary arriving at a Scottish abbey to convert the heathen.

Once she gets to know the locals, she starts to have a crisis of faith—some of the pagan music is perfectly mathematical yet it is still a sin, and she struggles with a long-repressed sexuality.

The metaphor is not subtle—the fundies are Krischan and they have an inquisition to stamp out all traces of heresy. They use brainwashing drugs and other such techniques and are not averse to a bit of torture despite their avowed abhorrence of violence (the pagans are seen as a lower life form and pain as the only language they understand).

Among the highlights is one of the most erotic love scenes I've ever come read, but it's overall importance is in how it relates to the current situation with religious fundamentalism and their demonisation of the "other".

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Posted in Pagan Prattle: Summer 1994 and Reading Matter at 16:29. Last modified on March 20 2007 at 16:47.
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