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Authors: Michael Cisco,Rhys Hughes

The Great Lover

BOOK: The Great Lover
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The Great Lover


The Great Lover


Michael Cisco



By Rhys Hughes


Chômu Press


The Great Lover


by Michael Cisco


Published by Chômu Press, MMXI



Great Lover
copyright © Michael Cisco 2010

Foreword copyright © Rhys Hughes 2010


The right of Michael Cisco to be identified as Author of this

Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


Published inApril 2011 by Chômu Press.

by arrangement with the author.

All rights reserved by the author.


First Kindle Edition


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Design and layout by: Bigeyebrow and Chômu Press


[email protected]





For Autumn



It seemed as if
The Tyrant
was the biggest monster Cisco could make, but
The Great Lover
is now his new masterpiece. Brilliant, light-years beyond … still marauding. He should receive plaudits for conceiving the Prosthetic Libido alone. Cisco has an identity as much as any writer I’ve read.”

Thomas Ligotti


The subterranean mindscape of
The Great Lover
is a cosmos entirely unto itself, a mysterious, reeking, unutterably strange, hazardous, fecund and carnivalesque digestion of events, ideas, opportunities, revelations and mutations. Cisco’s imagination is the most monumentally Tartarean of any dark fantasy writer currently writing.”

Rhys Hughes


The surreal narrative [of
The Great Lover
] is something like a 400-page T.S. Eliot poem: otherworldly, lyrical, deeply philosophical, and supersaturated with extraordinary imagery and ideas (like the Prosthetic Libido, a golem-like device constructed to house a scientist's unwanted desire). Fans of stylish and thematically sophisticated weird fiction should seek out this mad testament to Cisco's visionary genius.”

Publishers Weekly





by Rhys Hughes


The Great Lover

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen



by Rhys Hughes


Is it possible to say anything at all about a perfect work of art? I ask this question not merely for rhetorical effect, but because I genuinely want to know the answer. I’m fairly sure the answer is “no” but I’m willing to be corrected on this point. Certainly the idea of writing about music has been ridiculed, not least by Wittgenstein, who argued that it is fundamentally absurd to describe one language in terms of another.

Michael Cisco’s work,
The Great Lover
, is prose rather than music and thus should be a valid construct to write about. Yet because of its special rhythmic force and dark energy, the way it inhabits its own length exactly but does so by propelling itself constantly forward like the purest melody, it seems to me to be the closest any example of writing can get to being music without producing audible sound. I know of almost no other writer who can do this. So does Cisco’s sublime use of language in this manner position his book beyond critical discussion?

I say “almost” no other writer, for there are a small number who also know the secret. Cisco is not an entirely isolated author but certainly he belongs to an extremely rarefied group. Last year I discovered a book entitled
The Blind Owl
, a short novel, almost a cosmic horror prose poem, by an author previously unknown to me, Sadegh Hedayat. The theme of Hedayat’s remarkable book is partly the effect of isolation on the creative mind. It is heady stuff indeed, blackly rapturous.

When I was younger I remember feeling a particular kind of shudder at the sheer strangeness of certain passages in Michel Leiris’
: the clarity of the oddness was awful but also somehow ecstatic. In Leiris it comes in waves; in Hedayat the effect is constant.
The Blind Owl
is a deeply disturbing book and one feels there is a malignant intelligence about it that is independent of its author; that once it has been read one may never escape from its influence. It is difficult for me to explain this feeling rationally, because by definition it is a
rather than an analysis. On some level I believe this book has planted a seed in my soul and I don’t know what sort of nourishment the growth will take from me, nor what sort its fruit may eventually provide.

Cisco’s work is powerful in precisely the same way and has the same effect on me. In terms of narrative drive, dynamic form and force,
The Great Lover
is radically different from
The Blind Owl
, but it haunts the waking mind with equal conviction and bittersweet dread. It therefore comes as little surprise that Cisco is an expert on Hedayat; but it doesn’t seem that the Persian writer, who committed suicide in 1951, is a direct influence on the contemporary voice of Cisco: rather it is a case of two great and odd minds inventing authentic forms of mystical terror that despite many cultural differences have also a few parallels, or perhaps meta-parallels, utter originality being one of them and an ability to root itself into a reader’s soul being another.

The conclusion is slightly worrying, for it implies that there is more to the printed page than the end product of playing with patterns, shuffling conventions, the mechanical games of sentence structure. A cluster of monkeys bashing on anachronistic typewriters might eventually recreate the books of, say, Anatole France or Olaf Stapledon, two writers I admire enormously, but one feels they could never properly replicate Hedayat or Cisco. Even if an infinity of years was available to those poor primates and the inevitability of eternal randomness meant that Cisco’s exact
were reproduced in perfect order, there still lurks the mysterious suspicion that the
would be missing.

Wittgenstein once postulated a magical pill that could fill the man who swallowed it with the same feelings, to the same degree of intensity, as if he had just listened to a Bach fugue. He asked us to consider whether the existence of the magical pill would make the fugue superfluous. His own answer was that the pill could never be a substitute, because a fugue, both in idea and reality, is more than its final effect. It is a process in time and space, and the process is the thing itself.


Those teeth are like fence pickets. I touch the oily lapels and collar. Their grit clings to my palms like wet sand. I throw my arms around his neck — it’s so thick my hands don’t meet… I climb up onto him and press against the unyielding surface, with my cheek to the pebbly pig-iron of his bulging, bull-like neck… Now it’s turning into skin, the metal is changing, and begins to yield. It softens — it yields. The statue is turning its face to me, turning into a human being.


The ultimate value of
The Great Lover
is not merely in the sensations generated by its resolution, which are more than the sum of the sensations created in the reader during the reading itself, but the peculiar fact that during the reading one begins to feel the text really is alive, transforming itself into something human too. That is
process, or life cycle. Cisco doesn’t rely on horror props to manipulate the reader’s reactions in this regard. He has created an organism rather than a machine, and the resultant entity, this book, seeks to engage with its reader on a basis that is still, for me at least, unclear. Symbiosis or predation?

Although that sounds rather fanciful, this impression is tangible, not purely lyrical or symbolic. Perhaps it is the sheer wealth of imagery and multitude of concepts that achieve this daunting effect.
The Great Lover
is full of clever conceits, tangential ideas that fly off, twist and re-root themselves back into the main body of the text. It is a densely layered work consisting of so many strata of meaning that its dynamic has the appearance of accelerated geology, passages rising, enveloping, drifting into new configurations like the continents of an unknown world buried beneath our own, rather than merely queuing up and waiting their turn to perform, as passages in the vast majority of novels do.

Given the proper conditions,” declares the character Ptarmagant, “life could arise spontaneously again, as it did at first. Nothing prevents this. It could happen… anywhere. New, unevolved organisms, living by wholly other principles.” One wonders if what is possible for life might also be feasible for works of fiction. The works of Cisco, Hedayat, a precious few others,
give the impression they belong to a separate tree of existence, growing in parallel with the more familiar trunk of mainstream weird writers, perhaps even in pre-established harmony with it, but not dependent upon its shade or support.

As for Michael Cisco himself: I know very little about him. In fact I have deliberately avoided researching the man. Bizarrely, it feels almost sacrilegious to do so; better by far to preserve the riddle. I received a copy of
The Divinity Student
through the mail several years ago and was excited to discover a writer who cared about philosophy and used it in a way that was beguiling and dreamlike, but also highly controlled and assured. In my mind, Cisco forms an unholy trinity with Hedayat and Ligotti as the chthonic gods of existential horror.

The subterranean mindscape of
The Great Lover
is a cosmos entirely unto itself, a mysterious, reeking, unutterably strange, hazardous, fecund and carnivalesque digestion of events, ideas, opportunities, revelations and mutations. Cisco’s imagination is the most monumentally Tartarean of any dark fantasy writer currently writing. In this endlessly unfolding network of cavities and situations, nothing at all is predictable. Cisco, after all, is the man who dared dream not only of invasion of the celestial realms by the denizens of hell, but a counter invasion of hell by those of heaven, for the sake of a perverse balance.

BOOK: The Great Lover
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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