The latest in our irregular series of anthologies, Strange Attractor Journal Four, recently emerged after a five year incubation period.
Where else can you read about ancient chinese poisoning cults, Europe’s failed spider silk weaving industry, Jesuit conspiracy theories, nineteenth century models of higher dimensional space, madness in animals and sentient lightning? There’s really too much within the 18 pieces contained in its 320 pages to go into detail here, and you can see a full contents listing here (http://www.strangeattractor.co.uk/pdf/SAJ4_contents.pdf) to get a full sense of them.
From its stunning psychedelic front cover by artist and musician Julian House (http://www.ghostbox.co.uk) to the painting by magickal artist and author Joel Biroco (http://www.biroco.com/kaos) on the rear, I think that this is the most exciting edition of the Journal yet, but then, as its editor and publisher I would say that!
One thing I’ve been very happy to be able to do in this new book is to run longform essays like Erik Davis’ mesmerising ‘collecteana’ of global peacock-related folklore, Stephen Grasso’s study of voodoo influences on popular music from big band to dubstep, or the existing stage designs and libretto for Alan Moore’s aborted opera about the 16th century English philosopher-magician Dr John Dee. These 8-10,000 word pieces just aren’t suited to print magazines or web sites, so a book-format publication like SAJ is the perfect home for them. I only hope it won’t take another five years to get another one out, though with our increasingly busy publishing schedule, SAJ5 won’t be happening for at least another year.
So what, after all this time, is Strange Attractor?
In fractal mathematics a strange attractor, or a Lorentz attractor, is, broadly speaking, what happens when dynamic, chaotic systems interact. It also, conveniently, looks like a pair of owl’s eyes. While we initially ended up using the name somewhat arbitrarily, it serves as a perfect metaphor for what Strange Attractor has become: it is a complex information feedback loop made up of multiple points of intersection and transition, syncretic filaments connecting culture and nature, science, magic and the imagination, one that explores the relationships between secrets and mysteries, humans and animals, us and not us, and the questions that arise from those relationships.
I’ve always felt that, like blind people making sense of an elephant, we can only truly understand our culture and its histories by exploring its outer edges, and so in some way the Journals are autobiographical, the invisible threads that tie each edition together reflecting my own fascinations, the people I’ve met and the ideas I’ve stumbled across during the period of their assembly. But while those interests may alter in detail, the more books I put together, the more I realise that those interests remain constant: the ties between the human and non-human worlds, the shifting paradigms of science and belief and how these feed our imaginations, popular culture and personal visionary experience. Again, I see this as a giant, all encompassing feedback loop, one that works from the macrocosmic scales of nature and culture right down to the microscopic firing of neurons in our individual nervous systems. And what does this look like – perhaps something like a strange attractor, or perhaps just a shelf full of books…
Ten years on, Strange Attractor continues in its mission to celebrate unpopular culture and fight the forces of mediocrity. Please, join us.