Strange Attractions

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Strange Attractor describes itself as a celebration of “unpopular culture”. It’s often lumped in with magazines like the Fortean Times, but that’s somewhat unfair: the paranormal and occult are merely two topics within Strange Attractor‘s vast purview, and the factuality or otherwise of its articles is beside the point.

The joy of Strange Attractor for me, a materialist sceptic with a love of fantasy, is that it seems to select its articles for aesthetic reasons as opposed to any other factor. Like Ferretbrain itself, being interesting is more important than being right. The level of erudition is higher than your average New Age rag, and the variety of topics broader. In issue three, for example, there’s a journal of a visit to a Burmese festival of transvestite mediums, biographies of the real-life Kings of the fraudulent country of Redonda, accounts of the strange and sprawling tunnels built under Liverpool by an eccentric industrialist, an autobiography of a self-proclaimed anti-artist which reads like a savage attack on artists in general and the subject in particular, poems from a forgotten Romantic poet, an alleged account of an encounter with an incubus in a pre-Great War Paris opium den, and other fancies.

Strange Attractor is expensive and obscure: 14 an issue, and I’ve only ever found it in Oxford’s Inner Bookshop – if you can’t find a store which stocks it you’ll have to order it from the website. This, I feel, is a consequence of the occasional occult piece presented within; but these are only included for the sake of completeness. No topic is verboten: a rambling rant about how magic mushrooms can totally stop time, duuuuuuude, can sit next to a well-researched discussion on the medieval legends which sprang up around the Roman poet Virgil. (Did you know he was a necromancer who invented a robot prostitute? Apparently medieval storytellers claimed as much.) In addition, the production values are excellent and, at over 200 pages long, it’s excellent value. It should, damn it all, be available in Borders’ and newsagents; it’s not yet another paranormal magazine, it’s a journal of every topic conceivable, so long as that topic is unusual, obscure, and interesting.

Undercurrent!

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

I swung by Quix on Cowley Road and noticed that they seemed to have a magazine crisis. The shelves were almost bare aside from High Times and other magazines for weed enthusiasts, a bunch of tattoo and fetish periodicals, and a note saying that the magazines were half price, and that new stock would come in in 2 weeks.

Oh, and a few lonely-looking copies of Undercurrent, issue 47, a magazine apparently produced using a good-old fashioned photocopier as opposed to some more advanced printing service. Undercurrent proudly proclaims itself to contain “Original Articles in Philosophy of Natural Sciences”. It is a dense read, since the sole author (there is no evidence of any contributors to the magazine aside from Shari S. Temochin, its editor) either hasn’t quite got the hang of English grammar or writes in the disturbing not-English that the likes of Gene Ray or Francis E. Dec use. For what it’s worth, all quotations from the magazine here will retain Temochin’s idiosyncratic spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Continue reading “Undercurrent!”