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The Life and Times of R.T. Gault

Who was R.T. Gault? As the editor of numerous websites on a range of subjects from literature to magic and the occult, Gault’s work became a magnet to seekers of esoteric literature. Gault’s essays and photographic galleries on the Tarot, Arthur Machen, and the Order of the Golden Dawn were extensions of his most ambitious work entitled Absolute Elsewhere, which was nothing less than a master list of all the visionary, esoteric and fringe works published in America during the second half of the 20th Century. Although extensive, Gault’s bibliography is not exhaustive — the works he selected and arranged in a year-by-year chronology and in order of their appearance — were carefully chosen and arranged. When viewed in sequence, the works capture an intriguing hidden history of American letters. Like a spider weaving an invisible web, Gault created a tapestry of strange, mind-bending, and mystical ideas, at once recognizable to those who have read the books being cited, and at the same time serving as a guide for newcomers. But who was R.T. Gault, anyway? No sooner had I become a casual addict of his website, Absolute Elsewhere, did the site vanish. After months of digging, I could find no information about R.T. Gault, and more than a year elapsed before I discovered that Gault was desceased. At that time, my attempts to find someone who knew R.T. Gault were fruitless, leading only to an obscure reference to Centaur Books and Comics in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Eventually, I decided to post my reconstruction of the _Absolute Elsewhere_ website, which I launched on New Year’s day 2010. Subsequently, I began to receive enthusiastic thank you emails from readers who had lost track of Absolute Elsewhere and were happy to see it back online. One of these messages came from Karen Price, who was married to R.T. Gault. It was a great to finally have a tangible lead to the mysterious editor of Absolute Elsewhere! Even better, Karen graciously agreed to conduct a wide-ranging interview on the Life and Times of R.T. Gault, which you can listen to or download here: an interview with Karen Price (May 2012) [37:37] http://www.yunchtime.net/podcast/KarenPrice_20120524.mp3 Richard Thomas Gault was known to most of his friends as “Ditch” Gault. He grew up around Indiana, Pennsylvania where his father, Thomas Gower Gault, was a Professor, and also served as Chair of the Geography Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Ditch Gault was a true rennaissance man, surrounded by books, and he was an eternal student, having racked up college courses on every subject in the humanities for more than a decade without ever having earned a degree in any subject. In the 60s he was an enthusiastic member of the counter-culture at the University, and became obsessed with politics.

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LTIMA, the lost novel cover art

Some more fun with the tablet, this time mashing up a few random images from the files and layering on a sketch scanned from my daily margin notes.   This is my imaginary lost Russian Science Fi

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Tablet sketching

Some more goofing around with the Bamboo tablet, this time with the application, Seashore, which seems to have slightly better brush handling than Gimp…

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The Dark Knight: apologia for Dictatorship or Insanity, take your pick

Repost of Dark Knight Review (originally published July 2008) If you haven’t yet seen the film, Dark Knight, please do that first before reading this post, because you will definitely spoil the “tension” of the plot, assuming there is any. For some reason this film is a runaway hit, with critics pissing all over themselves to outpraise each other. From my perspective, despite some excellent cinematography and a stellar performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker, it is really just another Batman movie, but with a troubling dichotomy at its core that is getting scant attention. There are clearly two very conflicted subtexts in the film, one centered on Batman and the other on the Joker. Batman’s supposed internal conflict we are all familiar with — having to take the law into his own hands in order to fight evil — dating back to his first appearance in Detective Comics #37; on the other hand, unlike the ridiculous slapstick Joker that Burton and Nicholson gave us, Ledger pushes his exploration of the Joker’s mercurial psychology into whole new realms of uncharted territory.

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The Boat to Orient Point

It’s hard for me to believe that during my years in NYC I never made it East of Flushing, Queens, but there it is.   So this weekend, when we had a chance to visit our friends on the North coast of Long Island, we decided to drive down to New London and catch the car ferry to Orient Point, the extreme Eastward tip of the island.

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Microburst Storm Damage

A sudden wind from nowhere swept through Arlington and tossed trees around like matchsticks! They call it a “microburst.” A huge round-up of photos can be seen on Arlington Patch. I uploaded my own

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Etheria Film Festival

Picked up this fun flyer at Readercon 23 & rather liked the artwork, by Linsday Beach, more than the art on the festival website.   In any case, this looks like a lot of fun!

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Summer Sketching

Finally got around to setting up the digital tablet with Gimp on Snow Leapord.   Trying it out with this test sketch.   The fun part is that I could just scan a small 3cm doodle, than add s

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In defense of Privacy

Recently I heard a pernicious argument, namely that privacy does not exist and the notion of it should be abolished. The person who said this argued that hundreds of thousands of people are dying every year because of a false notion of privacy. To him, this conclusion is based on privacy concerns related to medical information, and that if there were no privacy, then everyone’s medical records would be open to scientists, thereby somehow leading to medical discoveries that would save lives. This is notion, that somehow anyone who expects privacy is indirectly responsible for people dying, is meant to make us feel guilty enough to agree that we should have no privacy at all. But I take issue with this! I proposed that “privacy itself is a good thing, which we all benefit from,” but this fellow refused to hear it, saying that privacy is just a form of belief, the same as Mormonism. “If privacy does not exist, would you want people to just walk into your back yard garden and set up tents for camping?” I asked.

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Biographies of Tanith Lee, James Tiptree Jr, and Jack Vance

In recent weeks, I’ve been on a biography reading jag, first tearing through The Hidden Library of Tanith Lee, then James Tiptree, Jr., the Double Life of Alice Sheldon, and This is Me, Jack Vance! The Hidden Library of Tanith Lee by Mavis Haut begins with a heavy academic tone, delving into the mythopoeic layers of meaning in Lee’s writing.   Although this is perhaps a necessary piece of work, since Lee’s writing is so dense with mythology, metaphor, and explorations of the subconscious, it doesn’t exactly flow off the pages. Fortunately, for all those pages which made me feel like I was treading in molasses, there were an equal number of more conversational sections, in which Lee’s many books in many genres are summarized.   There is also a long and valuable interview with the author which I have not seen elsewhere.   Not a book for everyone, but a must read for all of you Tanith Lee addicts out there, and I know you are legion! It has taken me years to get up the nerve to read Julie Phillips book on James Tiptree, Jr., one of the unique voices in sf literature.    Perhaps other readers of sf in the 1970s had the same introduction to Tiptree that I did:  reading through 800 pages of Again Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison, only to be shocked with 50 amp jolt of electricity in the concluding story, Milk of Paradise, which opens: “She was flowing hot and naked as she straddled his belly in the cuddle-cube and fed him her hard little tits.  And he convulsed up under her and then was headlong on the waster, vomiting.“ This was clearly a writer who could grab anyone by the scruff of the neck and rattle them around like a rag doll.