Friday 26 February 2016

In Search of the Miraculous #11: Tormented by Deros

Not a role-playing post today. It's obligatory though to mention that Chariot is still funding at
Look at this. Look at everything it means.
I Remember Lemuria is a piece of pulp fantasy sci-fi from the 1940s. I Remember Lemuria is horribly written. I Remember Lemuria speaks of grief and thwarted desire, and most of all, of illness. Every word of it is made of pain. VII.CHA.BE.CHA.

There is a history of mental illness in my family and among the people I love. I'm not going into it. I wrote a lengthy essay just now about my close family and the devastation it wrought on my life and others, and then realised that it was going to be longer than the rest of this post, and far more than anyone needed to know, so I deleted it. I just need to tell you that I've seen the destructive power of mental illness. It can ravage lives, and not just the lives of its sufferers.  

Facts, then.

So in March 1945, Amazing Stories published Richard Sharpe Shaver's story "I Remember Lemuria." It is a heady, fruity mix of fear, mind-control, unusual sexual fetishes, bizarre science that could never work, even in the imagination, and past-life regression. It's presented as fiction... but not. Over the next few years, Amazing Stories would run a series of stories credited to Shaver, all of them presented as fiction-but-not-really, and the letters pages would come alive with people who shared the conviction of Shaver: that even in the present day, twisted former humans whose minds had been enslaved by a "detrimental will" – "Deros" – were living underground and using telepathic machines to ruin the lives of people living above.

Richard Shaver believed this. He had sent "I Remember Lemuria" to Amazing Stories edtor Ray Palmer as a factual account. Palmer realised he had something and cleaned it up for public consumption, and so these stories, not quite true, not quite a hoax, not quite fiction, became the basis of what would eventually be called "The Shaver Mystery". People started to believe that Shaver had something. People wrote in to Amazing Stories about the voices they heard, too, and about caves and UFOs and malevolent forces from Outside, or Beneath, or Yesterday. Palmer lumped it all in with his "Shaver Mystery".  

But this first part of it, which I'm concerned with because, well, Atlantis, concerns a "ro" (a member of an ordinary human slave caste) called Mutan Mion, a past life of Shaver's, who travels from Atlantis to Tean City in underground Lemuria, or Mu, to be an art student. There he experiences the amazing science of Mu: anti-gravity, video screens, starships, ray guns, and physics that don't make sense.
Exd is Atlan for ex-disintegrance or energy ash. It was the principal content of the beneficial vibrants. It is the space dust from which all matter grows into being. Mutan Mion amplifies the exd theory later on in the story. 
– Shaver, "I Remember Lemuria", footnote, chapter 1
Science-dust is pretty nifty, actually (note to self:  I can use that).

The theory of sexual attraction though...
The stimulation of human attraction between male and female, she told me, was due to the generation of many kinds of tiny and fecund spores which grow and are released upon stimulus by male and female. The male spores grow in the female and vice versa, just as pollen between flowers. This cell pollen and the sensation of its growing presence is love. 
– Shaver, "I Remember Lemuria", chapter 3
I won't lie to you, love-fungus is a step too far, even for me.

Anyway, Mutan meets the variforms, people who have hybridised themselves with animals and aliens. Shaver gets into his stride talking about the variforms, or about the variform women at any rate. Mutan falls in love early on with a variform girl called Arl.
My rapt study of the paintings was interrupted by the sound of a pair of hooves that clicked daintily to a stop beside me. I glanced at the newcomer, who had stopped to stare up at the paintings also in that curious way that people have when they see another craning his neck—and my glance became a stare.

What was the use of aspiring to be an artist, my reason said, if those great masters who had placed that mighty picture book on the vaulting walls above were so easily outdone by the life force itself!

She was but a girl, younger than myself, but what a girl! Her body was encased in a transparent glitter; her skin a rosy pale purple; her legs, mottled with white, ended in a pair of cloven hooves. And as my brain struggled to grasp her colorful young perfection—she wagged her tail!

It was all too much. Speculating about the life-generating force possible in the variform creatures was one thing; but having it materialize beside you was another thing entirely. Such a beautiful tail it was. Of the softest, most beautiful fur.

"What were you staring at?" she asked. "The paintings?" 
– Shaver, "I Remember Lemuria", Chapter 1.
Yes. He was totally staring at the paintings. Of course he was.

The conversation that follows is actually just a boy and a girl meeting in an art gallery and flirting. Mutan gets her phone number (really) and he calls her and they start dating. It's sort of sweet in how mundane it actually is.

And then there are the Titans, the ruling people of Atlantis.

The Titans are immortal and never stop growing, Shaver says, so they're literally giants, and they have a powerful force of animal magnetism within them, especially effective towards the opposite sex. A ro like Mutan is in danger of being reduced to a mind-controlled love-slave of a Titan woman of sufficient power simply by being in her presence. At several points, the life-energy of gorgeous fifty-foot-plus women hypnotises Mutan, and at one point, it does literally enslave his mind.
As we passed through the lock, the terrific stimulation of this conductive electrified medium seized us in a mighty ecstasy. We were drawn as by a powerful magnet toward a huge figure which was an intense concentration of all the vitally stimulating qualities that make beauty the sought-for thing that it is.

Within me I could feel the compass of my being swinging toward its new center of attraction. I was no longer myself. I was a part of that mighty being before me. My thought was her thought; I was her ro until she chose to release me.

Could she release me? I could not even wish it, nor ever would. Within me I knew that, and I felt no resentment, no regret—only joy.

All of eighty feet tall she must have been. She towered over our heads as she arose to greet us, a vast cloud of the glittering hair of the Nor women floating about her head, the sex aura a visible iridescence flashing about her form.

I yearned toward that vast beauty which was not hidden for in Nor it is considered impolite to conceal the body greatly, being an offense against art and friendship to take beauty out of life. I was impelled madly toward her until I fell on my knees before her, my hands outstretched to touch the gleaming, ultra-living flesh of her feet.

Beside me the other youths from center Mu were in the same condition of ecstatic desire.
– Shaver, "I Remember Lemuria", Chapter 5.
It's OK, he gets put in a mind-control machine so he can be un-enslaved by the giant princess and becomes Arl's love-slave instead so that's OK –

Yes, yes, this is pretty kinky. This is very kinky. It's clear that Shaver is really quite excited by fifty-foot women, six-armed women, snake-women, women with hooves, and being mind-controlled by them. Consider: there are variform men too, but apart from two nameless characters with exceptionally big heads, none of them get much of a description.

The entire book, with its constant talk of sexual energies, love-spores, and sexy mind-control is a seething catalogue of one man's fetishes. Now, of course, with an internet where you can find pornographic alien infestation fiction and pictures of sexy women being eaten alive and erotic Kim Possible fan-art – and all for free! – Shaver's fetishes aren't all that weird at all.

In the story, Mutan works out that something terrible is going on. The deros from below the earth are sending death rays to the world above, killing people instantly and randomly. Mutan takes Arl and a rag-tag group of Lemurians and Atlanteans on a starship to Quanto, the eleventh planet, where with the aid of the godlike Nortans and their (giant, habitually nude) Princess Vanue, he gets help, and goes back to Earth, where they discover an Atlantean noble called Zeit has sold out the human race to the deros. They defeat Zeit, fight off the deros and manage to evacuate the people of Atlantis and Mu to the stars, leaving behind a dire warning for the human race.
If one of future man's really healthy men creates a machine of value to his people, one of the destructive men will take the same machine and destroy that same gain with it. Disintegrant energy must be neutralized by an equal amount of healthy integrant energy. If it is not, this disintegrant energy will work out in continual social troubles, famines, diseases and death—if it does not actually take the form of a war.This need not be the fate of future man! The life which grows in integrative source material concentrating chambers can be safe, immortal life—but all life outside such chambers will be destructive, if not by actual fierce blows, then by stupid interference and destructive disapproval.

These are the truths I, Mutan Mion, culture-man of Mu, realizing even more forcibly now, must pass on to future man, written on tablets that will be deposited in likely places so that they may be found in some future time. These truths—in addition to a history of the great war I am now observing; a war which wishes to save all future men, but which cannot, because of those lost ones of the forest whom we will never be able to search out—must reach future man!
– Shaver, "I Remember Lemuria", chapter 11 
The deros are still there, you see.

Shaver knew this because they spoke to him.

He'd spent the 1930s going in and out of psychiatric institutions, Shaver had, and almost the only stabilising force was his wife, Sophie. It was while he was institutionalised that Sophie stopped visiting, and it was only after he was released to visit his parents that he found out that she had died in a tragic and pointless domestic accident, electrocuted. It wasn't long before that his brother had died of a heart attack, and the voices, voices from, among others, the deros, the cannibal pervert deros, living beneath the earth, taunted him. He believed that it was their energy rays that had killed his brother and his wife. He had to tell someone.

Long ago it happened that certain (underground) cities were abandoned and into those cities stole many mild mortals to live, At first they were normal people, though on a lower intelligence plane; and ignorant due to lack of proper education. It was inevitable that certain inhabitants of the culture forests lose themselves and escape proper development; and some of them are of faulty development. But due to their improper handling of the life-force and ray apparatus in the abandoned cities, these apparatii became harmful in effect. They simply did not realize that the ray filters of the ray mechanisms must be changed and much of the conductive metal renewed regularly. If such renewals are not made, the apparatus collects in itself—in its metal—a disintegrant particle which gradually turns its beneficial qualities into strangely harmful ones.

These ignorant people learned to play with these things, but not to renew them; so gradually they were mentally impregnated with the persistently disintegrative particles. This habituates the creature's mind, its mental movements, to being overwhelmed by detrimental, evil force flows which in time produce a creature whose every reaction in thought is dominated by a detrimental will. So it is that these wild people, living in the same rooms with degenerating force generators, in time become dero, which is short for detrimental energy robot.

When this process has gone on long enough, a race of dero is produced whose every thought movement is concluded with the decision to kill. They will instantly kill or torture anyone whom they contact unless they are extremely familiar with them and fear them. That is why they do not instantly kill each other—because, being raised together, the part of their brain that functions has learned very early to recognize as friend or heartily to fear the members of their own group. They recognize no other living thing as friend; to a dero all new things are enemy.
– Shaver, "I Remember Lemuria", chapter 3
I think what most interests me about this book, as a piece of outsider art as much as anything, that strange category of people who write pathological writings (Henry Darger springs to mind here), is that Shaver's obsession with mind-control is both a fetish and a horror for him. Mind control is, in Shaver's Atlantis, a recognised fact of life. People hypnotise the "ro" all the time, for good and ill, and people like Mutan wander around with their emotions basically being controlled by higher beings wherever they go.

Mutan can think of nothing better than being brainwashed into being Arl's love-slave; he can think of nothing more horrible than to become a dero.

Mind-control rays from an outside agency are a common and well-documented delusion among schizophrenic patients (the first study done on this, so Wikipedia tells me, was by Victor Tausk way back in 1919) and Shaver felt, as many schizophrenia sufferers do, that his mind was not his own. "I Remember Lemuria" and its host of sequels are the pathology of a man who has lost control of his mind. He needed to tell you this; his imaginary world is full of people, even heroic protagonists who find love and win through to the end, whose minds are influenced by terrible outside forces, and Shaver was, it is quite plain, profoundly ambivalent about it, because his condition was, I think, his muse. It was sex and death for him.

Shaver heard the deros taunting him every day. Shaver saw the deros' work everywhere he went. And Shaver read a lot of pulp science fiction.

So he wrote to Ray Palmer at Amazing Stories, and Palmer indulged him and enabled him. And the two of them fictionalised Shaver's stories to make them marketable, and Palmer manufactured the "Shaver Mystery" that, among other things, led directly to the original publication of the long-standing American Fortean magazine Fate. 

 But there was never a "Shaver Mystery", only a man, bereaved, tormented and ill, who found that with the right outlet, other people might listen to the voices that plagued him.

You can download an ebook of "I Remember Lemuria" in a bunch of places, since it appears it's public domain. This one is as good as any