For this next installment of my interview series, I am pleased to introduce author Christopher Loring Knowles, proprietor of The Secret Sun Blog . For those who are not already familiar with Chris’s work, he is a man doing some amazing research and writing about pop culture, the occult, metaphysics, alternative history and where all these dots connect.
He is the Author of the Eagle Award-winning Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes, published by Red Wheel/Weiser and co-author of The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths, and the Movies, published by Insight Editions as well as The Secret History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
I started following Chris thanks to Gordon White of Rune Soup. I highly suggest that readers of my posts dive into Chris’s blog as it is a world of thought and insight which has few parallels in the blogosphere today.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: Since I was a kid. I started out writing my own comics, then song lyrics, then these long, elaborate scripts for a very Blade Runner-influenced comic book project. But the artist went off to school and I was nowhere good enough at the time to draw it myself.
I did a year at the Kubert School then got a job in New York as a staff artist, so I spent my nights playing in bands and writing songs, which is a great way to learn how to play with words. I got on the Internet fairly early and did a lot of writing on AOL boards, often on Gnosticism and Mysticism. I published a ‘zine in 1994 called Clash City Showdown that morphed into one of the first websites on the band.
There wasn’t anything happening in the local musical scene at the time so I started work for my first comic series in 1994, and it was published in 1996. That series got the attention of some movie people including Kevin Smith, and I spent a few years doing the Hollywood runaround, which was kind of excruciating. I also did some writing for a Jack Kirby fanzine which ultimately led to my association with Comic Book Artist magazine, which won the Eisner Award five years in a row, which is basically the Oscar for comics.
I self-published a book with all my Clash material in 2004, which got the attention of an editor for one of the big rock glossies in London. That eventually led to the Lucifer Rising cover feature, which was the best-selling issue of Classic Rock and given the current magazine market, probably still is. That in turn led to Our Gods Wear Spandex, which in turn led to The Secret Sun.
Q: What prompted you to write the “Lucifer’s Technologies” series and what do you hope readers take away from it?
A: Well, I’m glad you asked. That series began as nothing more than a filler piece on the Lucifer TV show, which is based on a comic series I was a big fan of. I was really busy with my freelance work at the time and just needed something to post on the blog to keep it current.
But here’s the thing: sometimes forces outside you take control and you become nothing more than a vessel for stories that want to tell themselves.
So as Fate would have it, the project I was working got put on hold so I suddenly found myself with a lot of time to write. And suddenly all of this information on the Lucifer archetype and the postwar tech boom started raining from the sky and dropping right into my lap. Connections I’d never seen anyone else make were demanding that I chase after them. It was actually kind of a grueling and unpleasant process, very similar to what I went through with the Secret Star Trek series. Staying up all night reading reams of material- books, pdfs, websites, etc. I’m not sure I’d recommend the experience. Eventually I broke the Lucifer history off into a separate series.
Q: What role if any, does magic(k) play in your life?
A: A very cautious and respectful one. I ended the Lucifer Rising article with a quote about magic from Jack Parsons’ friend Ed Forman: “It’s all real, it all works. Don’t touch it. You’ll get yourself in real trouble.” My earliest experiences with magical rituals were amateur productions on the face of it , but they had extremely grave consequences for some of the people involved. I learned from a very early age that you don’t play around with this stuff. It’s not the toy some people make it out to be these days.
So most of my “magical work”, if you want to call it that, is about divination. I do a lot of sync work that I don’t publish on the blog. I work with the Tarot in a very hamfisted and indelicate way, but seem to get the results I’m after. I work with the UFO Tarot, which is probably one of the most opaque, sophomoric and confusing decks out there, but we seem to hit it off.
Q: You write a lot about pop culture, metaphysics and science fiction. You have written about the occult roots of rock and roll as well as comic book superheroes and are currently dissecting Netflix new series “Stranger Things” on your blog. What do you suppose occult currents are doing in the context of modern music, art and science fiction these days?
A: Doing what they always do- animating them, giving them resonance. A lot of our pop culture comes from 19th Century occultism, whether it’s superheroes or zombies or science fiction. We take it all for granted now but it’s all rather new. 60 years ago most American kids would be reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries and watching Westerns and family sitcoms on TV. Even shows like Superman were hammered into a very inert pabulum in which a character who is essentially a god was reduced to fighting gangsters and rescuing puppies.
The fact that all these occult themes are so well-established in pop culture is a symptom of niche marketing and audience atomization but also a symptom that our society is in serious trouble and that most people today feel vulnerable and marginalized. I essentially said in Our Gods Wear Spandex that superheroes – which are actually the apotheosis of esoteric philosophy- are so popular these days because most people feel like the kid being bullied in the schoolyard, the archetype of the superheroes’ audience in the first place.
Q: After reading your blog, it seems you experience a fair bit of synchronicity and high strangeness. As an author, do you suppose that you attract these phenomena? Which is to say, are you “getting their attention”? “They” of course, being spirits or non-physical entities.
A: It’s the other way around. I started writing about this phenomena because I’ve experienced so much of it. And the writing is an attempt to understand it, to put it into some kind of recognizable context.
I was born in the midst and the thick of one of the biggest UFO flaps in history, one that both Jacques Vallee and John Keel both reported on in some detail in Magonia and Trojan Horse. When I was a kid and my parents split up my father’s house was so haunted that a medium was actually brought in to deal with it. Which goes to show how extreme the problem was, since my father didn’t go for the paranormal. At all. And the high strangeness portfolio certainly seems to be growing in the past few years, which seems somewhat counter-intuitive to me.
So I guess the blog and the rest of it are simply reinforcing the loop. It’s all a result of an obsessive process of evidence gathering, which lead to all kinds of connections that would later inform the work I do today. I have this major OCD thing for evidence, since I feel you can find yourself in very dangerous waters without it. You can find yourself in dangers with it too, but at least you’ll have some kind of anchor.
Q: Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one?
A: Well, probably the Clash book, since that’s the only one I had control over.
One of the reasons I’ve concentrated on blogging and haven’t published anything in a few years now is that I’ve been frustrated by the restrictions I’ve had to deal with, ever since my first comic series 20 years ago. Publishers are very pennywise and pound-foolish when it comes to page counts. I can’t be constantly worrying over the word count as I’m writing. Economy is very important but sometimes you need space for your ideas to breathe.
Q: Do you draw any parallels between the art of writing and the art magic?
A: Yes and no. I think there’s a lot of very loose and facile talk about writing and magic but it starts to feel very precious after a while. Magic and writing are two very different disciplines and are after different outcomes. Writing is still essentially about the exchange of information through ordinary means and magic is still essentially about influencing outcomes through extra-ordinary ones. Writing can wield its own kind of magic but it’s important to understand the lines of demarcation do exist, and neither writing nor magic is served by promiscuously blurring them.
Q: What advice do you have for young authors just getting started today?
A: Learn how to write lyrics. It will teach you three vitally important elements in writing, and that’s rhythm, economy and color. There should always be a pulse to your writing, a backbeat. You’ll find it helps the process in ways you couldn’t imagine. Economy is another essential tool in the Internet Age, since there’s so much competition for the same eyes and ears. Studying and writing lyrics will also help you to punch up your prose, and add a color and texture that puts more zing in the reading.
Q: Who are your personal heroes, in writing and life in general?
A: I don’t know if I have any heroes anymore. I don’t know if this is a function of age or a reaction to the crushing realities of the so-called New Normal, the grim, everyday world of oligarchal control and contrived chaos. The world today reminds of the original Rollerball film, in which a sport to specifically engineered to instill the sense of futility of individual effort- and of heroism itself- in the masses. It’s amazing how prophetic those dystopian 70s scifi movies were. There are a lot of people I admire, but I suppose the people I will take as heroes will be the ones who can figure out how to lift the Globalists’ Sword of Damocles from above all our heads.
Q: Any interesting projects coming up on the secret sun or other creative outlets?
A: Well, I do have a novel series plotted out and most of the first book has been dialogued. I’m very excited about this project, the question remains if it’s the best way to get back in the game. So I’m also looking very seriously at my archives right now and deciding what would make for worthy book projects, since it’s way past time I get back out in the market again.
Scheduling is always an issue for me since I’m a freelancer and need to take work as it comes in, especially in this new economic order we’re all faced with. I was actually working on a graphic novel project for a number of years but just like clockwork I’d have to drop it for paying work just as I was really hitting my stride. Which is another reason I’ve concentrated on blogging, since I can publish whenever and whatever I want to, depending of the time available.
I’ve been very punk rock about putting all work out there for free on the blog, but blogging is a very ephemeral form. Even the very best work tends to evaporate fairly quickly. Books still matter, which is a good thing. I do want to get back in the game, but I’m leaning towards self-publishing given my prior experiences.