Do words play some role in helping us assemble? Can we with them raise consciousness, as does the hornplay of Ornette Coleman’s “Beauty Is a Rare Thing”? Sit back, I tell myself. Close eyes, listen to the mad scramble of “Kaleidoscope,” and then scramble downstairs, assemble and play drums. Repair what needs repairing, tune what needs tuning.
After performing these tasks, I return to my office and read a weird tale from Gerald Heard’s AE: The Open Persuader, the final part of the book, when AE leads L to a “Fulfiller Dome” in Antarctica, home to reindeer and a Baleen whale. Through AE, Heard gives voice to a radical cultural pessimism, wearied to the point of despair. Another voice intervenes, however, with news of a “psychic ‘thaw out'” made possible by “Polar radiation” (258-259). Under the glare of the latter, “ideological-conditioned fanatic ideologies, defrosted, fall off” (259). The voice warns, though, of a further false step along the ladder of enlightenment, the retreat inward to escape suffering, claiming that “the greatest brains in the world” have fallen prey to this error. As example, the voice points to what it calls “those stupendous body-mind hypertrophies, the Baleens,” the voice regarding these large-brained creatures as “living specimens of the utmost terminal state of false samadhi” (261). By this point I’m out of my element, exhausted by the book’s elaborate eccentricity, as well as the occasional cruelty of its worldview. One way to approach the book would be to read it in light of José Esteban Muñoz’s ideas about “queer futurity.” Ideas from Lee Edelman’s book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive also seem relevant and applicable.
I perambulate the lush pages of Gerald Heard’s AE: The Open Persuader (1969), a work of gay transhumanist utopian science fiction — surely one of the most peculiar books I’ve yet encountered, published under a pseudonym (“Auctor Ignotus”), read I’m sure by at most only a few hundred people planetwide. In certain ways, the narrative is fairly straightforward. As is common to the genre, a traveler arrives to a previously occulted utopia and, after being sketched in biographically in a bewildering first chapter titled “The Interviewer Interviewed,” receives a tour from a mysterious host. Heard’s prose is so maximally cultured and so mannered, however, that one has a difficult time determining who’s who. The guest character, in his relative innocence a stand-in for the reader, responds to the name “Ulick Stackpole” (or, later in the novel, the name’s abbreviated form, “L”), his initials reflecting his county of origin, while the more experienced “host” character, dialoguing at length on the workings of the utopian creation, answers to several titles: Preter Praetor, the Lord Persuader; Arbiter Elegantiarum; AE. Because utopias are inherently political, consensus reality encircled, relativized, compared and contrasted with another, I find myself wondering at Heard’s aims. What is the nature of this utopia? In trying to imagine the evolution of humanity toward what he calls “total uprightness” (in which one should also hear “erection”), Heard seems to have crafted a secret gay separatist demimonde, home to a race of immortal or at least semi-immortal elites. As AE’s various titles indicate, there’s no great fondness for democracy or self-rule in this utopia. One should thus be wary as one reads, noting questions and concerns. Why is the utopia set in Uruguay, for instance? Why has the book’s author invented elaborate fictions about money manipulation featuring European refugees fleeing to South America during WWII?