On Truth and Propaganda

truth and propaganda

'On Truth and Propaganda', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on politics.

On Truth and Propaganda

In an age of individualism, what made people feel secure was having themselves reflected back to them. Just like in a mirror.”

It’s difficult to express an opinion these days. No matter what you say you’ll manage to piss someone off, and while I can get my head around that part, it’s the reactionary aspect of debate that irks me. Discussion and opinion have evolved into ideological war, and no doubt it’s always been this way to some extent, but I don’t recall it being so pronounced as it is now. It’s a battleground out there, and it’s not exactly clear where the lines are but sooner or later you’re gonna cross ’em. Cause there are definitely lines.

I’m referring in the main to responses I got on a piece I wrote some months ago called ‘European Stupidity’ about the shortsightedness of the EU’s energy policy. In the piece I lambasted the EU for their schizo policies when it came to Russia, how they seemed intent on shooting themselves in the foot in order to maintain some kind of aggressive posturing towards our big eastern neighbour. Go try it yourself: Try to publish a piece on Russia that is not virulently Russophobic and see how you fare with the reactionary wingnuts. You’re not allowed. It’s against all policy. Russia? How dare you side with Moscow! They will descend on you like a plague.

Yep. You piss off the Occidentally inclined (I don’t know the terminology – shall we call them the ‘Atlanticists’?) and they’ll come out all guns blazing. They’re gonna cut you down to size. They’re out to revoke your license. They’ve come to take you down a peg or two. Cause get this: You’re not a commentator, you’re a shill. You’re not expressing an opinion, you’re a troll. Fuck knows, you might even be a bot. You’re not anti-stupidity or even pro-Russia, you’re a Putin agent. Speak out against Western political gangsterism, and you’re being “financed by the KGB”.

There is no opinion, it seems, only propaganda.

But why argue? I get the sense these are not a people who can grasp subtlety. Anyone who calls you a ‘shill’ or a ‘troll’ is a person who’s convinced there is but one truth, and that they and all who agree with them are alone possessed of it. Differing opinions are not only erroneous, but malicious. Sinister. Subversive. (Now there’s a word that we could get right into…)

So I don’t get into it. There’s nothing to be gained by involving yourself in discussion with someone whose kneejerk reaction is to accuse you of having sold yourself to the highest bidder. Let them fester. I’m not gonna roll around in the muck.

What is propaganda? For me, it’s the systematic dissemination of information designed to support an ideology or a body politic. There are surely some subtle deviations from that definition, but not enough to skew the basic principle. By the above rationale, can individuals engage in propaganda? I don’t think so. Not unless they’re working as part of a larger, organised whole. Maybe you’ll disagree. Maybe you’ll say I’ve been subliminally co-opted into Putin’s Soviet mind factory, working as part of the Kremlin machinery to disseminate perverse anti-European dictates and infect the pure and straight-thinking peoples of the West. He’s an agent! Flush out the rat!

This is what I say: If your first response to hearing an argument you don’t agree with is to call someone a shill or an agent, then your mind is not equipped to deal with nuance. In other words, you have shunned a world of contrast and colour to take refuge in a cold room of blacks and whites.

Adam Curtis was right. We’re living in the ‘post-truth’ world. There is no more recourse to truth; dictate and dogma suffice. In a world of elusive and shifting complexities it is far easier to view society through a prism of stark simplicity; there is no need to account for the cacophonous array of viewpoints, outlooks and opinions when you only hear in monotone. Life is simpler, and isn’t that what we all want?

Well, yes. To a degree. But if simplicity means living life in a world of hypernormality where nothing is true and nothing is a lie, and where truth is whatever anyone thinks and says it is, then no, I’ll take the swamp any day. Because the kind of ennui this blinkered outlook engenders is eerily similar to what those who rail against Russia are, I imagine, ultimately terrified off, and that’s the grim nihilism of totalitarianism. Like in North Korea, where there is but one truth, the truth which the state so benevolently dispenses.

So let’s all get with the story, my fellow Putin agents, and unite under the same auspicious opinion. Because there’s no irony in that at all, is there?

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

 ‘On Truth and Propaganda’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Book Review: All Saturn’s Children

all saturn's children

Book Review: 'All Saturn's Children' by Dylan Boyer. Apocalyptic fiction.

Book Review: All Saturn's Children

“May you live in interesting times.” I’ve heard it a lot recently, that old Chinese proverb. And you might even say that, yes, we are most certainly living in those times. The paradox of the proverb is, of course, that it’s a curse as much as a blessing, and you might venture that the modus vivendi of our current era (the pandemic, lockdowns, inflation, mass migration, civil unrest, rampant corporatocracy masquerading as government, yadda yadda) is an absolute shitshow, and you would have strong ground for such an analysis. Interesting times indeed.

Dylan Boyer’s novel, All Saturn’s Children, is one which examines our current climate and takes it to its logical, horrific conclusion, a world in which nothing––except perhaps business––is sacred and nothing is certain. A world where human life is disposable and careening towards some awful, burning end. Such is the near-futuristic setting in which the ailing main protagonist of the novel, Kurt, struggles to ground himself:

“When he opened his news app in the morning, as he lay in bed smoking a joint, Kurt saw portions of the coast of India flooding. Bangladesh was gone. That was the top of the hour. He continued to scroll, and as he did, Kurt saw China’s ongoing genocide against Muslims, he saw Brazil’s civil war raging, the Sahara blooming, Japan’s coasts shriveling under constant tsunamic tides, monks committing public suicide by the dozens, the water bubbling up from the collapsed tunnels in the Hudson, the mudslides creeping towards L.A.”

Yes, it’s as apocalyptic as it sounds, yet what’s most frightening is that none of it is the least bit far-fetched. Cataclysm is the order of the day, and who can look around them today and not see the shadow of collapse somewhere on the horizon, perhaps over there beyond the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, threatening to wash ashore and consume us all? There has never been a better time to be a fatalist.  

Fighting alcoholism brought on by the death of his wife and daughter, a dark cloud hangs over Kurt’s shoulder as he takes refuge in the beach house of his dead parents, his father (fighting his own demons) having recently killed his mother and shot himself. Kurt fights the impulse to block out the disintegration of the world around him, failing miserably as the ghosts of his past refuse to let go. “Jesus, I’m too drunk for the end of the world,” he says at one point, and can we blame him? While the world burns, what else is there to do?

An assortment of drifters pass in and out of Kurt’s final days, among them his own sister and brother. Together, they rail against a world which is determined to swallow them whole. And when civil society breaks down, so does conscience. Bad shit happens.

“What was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ seemed now to be abstract notions lingering in a place that had moved out, past polarities and determinations of guilt and innocence, of blame and responsibility, out into the lands of Reason’s waste.”

With the demise of law comes the death of basic human responsibility, and horror follows.

The horror which marks the climax of the novel is foreshadowed throughout as we watch society come to reflect personal and familial disintegration, which feeds off of itself in an unrelenting and orgiastic frenzy. As Kurt’s wife commented to him once in his long-gone past, “The spirit of the west has become some sort of schizophrenic, bloated, cannibal phantom.” That spirit is the cloud that chokes the novel, one which will eventually consume all its players, the clawing and desperate dregs of humanity.

 All that said, the end of the world is no time to get queasy. Apocalypse requires a strong stomach, and that is just what you’ll need to see through All Saturn’s Children. As Kurt muses in the midst of total collapse:

“But the world was ending; why bother with trepidation, with fear?”

Why indeed.

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

Book review by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Why the Response of Big Pharma to the COVID Pandemic is a Crime against Humanity

not getting the vaccine

'Why the Response of Big Pharma to the COVID Pandemic Is a Crime against Humanity', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on politics.

Why the Response of Big Pharma to the COVID Pandemic Is a Crime against Humanity

Last week Twitter nixed the account of Dr. Robert Malone, the inventor of the mRNA vaccine delivery technology. His offence? He shared a link to research by the Canadian Covid Care Alliance (CCCA) who have issued a damning report on the safety data behind the COVID jabs. The paper, titled ‘The Pfizer Inoculations for COVID-19: More Harm than Good’, is a devastating expose on the clinical trials behind the COVID shots and its subsequent deployment. Immediately tagged as disinformation by Twitter, the tweet was scrubbed and Malone’s account permanently suspended. What was in the report and why does it frighten Twitter’s gatekeepers?

Twitter’s policy on the dissemination of info relating to COVID is clearly stated on their website. Their concern is to cut down on “persistent conspiracy theories, alarmist rhetoric unfounded in research or credible reporting, and a wide range of false narratives and unsubstantiated rumors” that no doubt plague the site. Yet the report shared by the CCCA merely cites Pfizer’s own safety findings and therefore cannot be banished into any of the above categories. What’s clear from the step is that Twitter’s policy is being used to scrub the site of narratives that do not fit with the one peddled by Government and Big Pharma, the line that the sole way to deal with the pandemic is to submit yourself to as many shots as you’re instructed to take because Big Pharma knows what’s good for you and so does the government, and because they’re all such benign and trustworthy individuals we’re to just shut up and take our medicine.

To insist that the CCCA’s findings can be automatically consigned to the dustbin of “conspiracy theory” or “alarmist rhetoric” is to turn a wilfully blind eye to science itself. It is this science that Malone, a virologist and immunologist, was banished from Twitter for sharing.

The CCCA, an alliance of some 500 “independent Canadian doctors, scientists and health care practitioners’, put out the paper that ripped the academic and medical rigour of the clinical trials that were employed in order to test and pass the COVID jab. I won’t go into the details, but I’ll sum up the findings briefly here:

  • Pfizer’s own trials indicated an Absolute Risk Reduction against illness of only 1% by inoculation for COVID-19.
  • Taking the vaccine increased adverse events (read ‘illness caused by the jab’) in trial patients by up to 300%.
  • Twice as many trial participants who were inoculated died from cardiovascular complications compared to those who received the placebo.
  • The shots were tested in the main on healthy participants, ignoring those who are at most risk from suffering complications from the vaccine. There is NO safety data for the elderly, pregnant women, those who are immunocompromised and others with underlying medical conditions. None.
  • The trials proved conclusively that the vaccine caused, among other things, myocarditis, even in 5–11-year-olds, for whom there is questionable benefit in taking the shots. There is also no long-term safety data on jabs for children. Informed consent is therefore impossible.
  • Pfizer’s clinical trials overwhelmingly proved HARM, not safety.
  • The Pfizer safety report was largely written by those who are employed by or own stock in the company, a clear and enormous conflict of interest.

 Given all this, how is it the jabs were passed for use by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)? Well, could the revolving door between the FDA and the big players of Pharma have anything to do with it? Three former commissioners of the FDA now sit in top positions at Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna, which is great if you have an experimental drug that needs rapid authorization from the FDA, or if your goal is to appropriate billions in taxpayer dollars for your emergency pharmaceuticals.

Big Pharma Crime against Humanity

We need investigations. People who own Pfizer stock writing the company’s safety reports? How is this not illegal?

What it comes down to is this: An insufficiently tested and clinically dangerous drug has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting public, and somehow our media and governments have been co-opted into selling it to us or outright pushing it down our throats (See what’s happening in Austria and other European countries), with blind disregard for emerging revelations concerning the safety data. Our own governments are complicit in forcing an unsafe treatment upon us. Make no mistake, at best they’re guilty of negligence, at worst they are criminally culpable for their rash and unjustified actions over the last twenty months. When all is said and done, who made the decisions: was it the doctors, or was it politicians who were lobbied by Big Pharma to push their product? Was the decision a medical one or a business one?

We need to know.

If you felt vulnerable to the COVID virus and you made a studied and informed decision to take the shot, and you feel safer for it, that’s all well. But if you felt pressured into taking the vaccine in order to keep a job or simply to assuage pressure from your peers, then you’ve been wronged, perhaps criminally so. And there are a small number of people out there who’ve become disgustingly rich by this enterprise, people who work for organisations with proven criminal track records.

I’ll say it again: You have been wronged.

Millions worldwide are the potential victims of a huge corporate scandal. Millions of children may have had their immune systems irreparably damaged by this bogus ‘vaccine’ rollout. It is global, it is pervasive, it is shameless. It is a Crime against Humanity and nothing less.  

UPDATE: Only days after writing this a team from the UK includung Dr. Mike Yeadon, former vice-president and chief scientist of Pfizer, brought a charge of crimes against humanity to the International  Criminal Court in The Hague against multiple perpetrators, including: Albert Bourla,CEO pf Pfizer, Bill Gates and Boris Johnson.

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

 ‘Why the Response of Big Pharma to the COVID Pandemic Is a Crime against Humanity’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Best Indie Books 2021

best indie books 2021

Kindra from The Bubblegum Review picks her favourites from 2021. (No book links. Get your little google-fingers working.)

Best Indie Books 2021


Happy End of 2021. 🎉As the world and my country has burned away all around outside of me, I’ve been reading my little heart away. Something like,

best of indie books

With that said, I’ve really come to love indie books, or books published by authors and/or small presses. It was a little shaky at first … but also because I didn’t quite know where or how to look either.

I started “The Bubblegum Review” not too long after I published my own book. I really did want to be the change I wished to see and yada cliché, but it’s true. Before I came into God in 2020, I was doing all this promotion and writing and asking, which, there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing. But what I realized is that I was seeing the same carbon copy of mainstream publishing inserted into indie publishing. People reading and talking about the same books, no diversity of opinion, etc. I knew that my own book might not be that popular and that it was a tough sell for many reasons, but I didn’t care. I at least wanted someone like me out there willing to read it … objectively, and from a well-read background. Someone who wouldn’t be huffing and puffing and offended at every little thing, which is really not what literature and art is about.

And so, I also came up with Beta Reading Services. Because I love to read, and I love to read wide; and the greatest gift I could’ve been given as a young awful writer myself was the gift of someone willing to affordably read my work with an objective opinion.

I’ve read a lot of indie books in 2021, and I think all I have that might be helpful is:

1) I personally don’t really read book blurbs (though, of course, they’re important). I pick a book based on the cover and the first few pages. So if a book doesn’t offer a sneak peek just in general, or because it’s a pre-order that doesn’t allow for sneak peeks, or there’s only a physical copy and no eBook available, I’m probably not going to buy it.

2) If I’ve read an eBook riddled with errors but still enjoyed it, I will not buy a hard copy.

And that’s all I got! If interested in Beta Reading Services, mosey on over here. I’ve also got a bevy of indie books available for just 1 more circulation. If interested in borrowing, click here. Otherwise, thanks for the reads 2021. Indie reads I’ve particularly enjoyed this year …



*P.S. the above graphic is edited from KC Green’s illustration. Visit here.

God, devil, Faith, good, evil, Horror, Christianity, dark, Medieval

Work/professional, culture/war, Corporate, bureaucracy, Government, biographical fiction/memoir, Politics, metaphysical, urban fantasy

Dark, dystopian, Surreal, strange

Magical, Magical Realism, Ancient, Classic Literature, Celtic, Medieval, Sumerian, Dark, Fable, Fairy Tales

Ex-pat Fiction, International, Danger, Intrigue, Mystery


Forgiveness, transformative, Coming-of-age, Aging, magical

Psychological, Criminal, mystery, Local, hard boiled, Cozy mystery, historical

Coming-of-age, manhood

Flash fiction

Young Adult, Fantasy, War, Sci-fi, Historical, Special/magical

Sci-fi, Series, Novella, High fantasy, Legend

 This is the work of Kindra from The Bubblegum Review. Check out her blog.

Happy Xmas from Black Tarn

Happy Xmas from Black Tarn


Happy Covid-Christmas, with Santa in the Bunker – surrounded by mutant chickens, philosophers and the eternally bickering monkeys of fate. In the irradiated glow of fallout there’s no need to cook a thing, it’s already well nuked. 

“Peel ’em from the top down.” Sage words from the man himself. 

The Death of Lore

the death of lore

'The Death of Lore', by Ultan Banan. Upcoming fiction.

The Death of Lore

Lore died and no one heard. She may have died in a car crash on a lonely road in the back-arse of nowhere, or drowned on a solitary fishing trip, her body at the whim of the tidal to-and-fro until she was carried to some forgotten shore and lay unseen for an age. Such was her death. Anonymous. Indifferent. Ignoble.
No one saw and no one heard, so life went on and none and nobody acknowledged her dying. It was as if she’d never existed. Not a single lament was heard in the town squares or in the taverns, or even in the halls of the cold castles where she was born. Not even around the hearths of the old, those who still remembered her, did they weep. The tea had gone cold, the scones were hard, but no one cared to think of death and dying. And yet the shadows of it were there in every dusty corner, in every ashen flue, in the scum at the bottom of the teacups and in the stone of the cold castles. The old sensed it, shivered, and pulled their shawls around them all the tighter; the caretakers of the castles boarded up rooms to keep the shadows locked away. It didn’t work, they just crept under the doors. Drinkers in taverns were beset with mystery ailments, the sickness caused by the draft of the absence of Lore. Lore was dead but lived on in absence. She was not there but there. They all felt it and shuddered.
Denied a funeral, Lore was like a lost soul. Floating here and there, tormented, her absent shadow turned malignant. Dogs barked and attacked the air, the cause of their aggravation eerily unclear. Hitherto healthy and fertile women miscarried, giving birth to cold, blue babies. Children turned hysterical; in one corner of the land, all the town’s children went berserk, harming themselves and screeching madly before attacking their parents with forks and rolling pins. The lake of the Salmon of Wisdom boiled. The salmon was found floating belly up, his beautiful coat devoid of shine or colour. One accomplished artist protested when he found out by cutting off his hand and painting in blood on the side of the town hall, but with Lore gone there was no merit to his work. He died, and the only thing people remembered him for was the abomination on the side of the town hall. They whitewashed over it. Certain species of birds turned cannibal, feasting on each other’s children. The crow, the raven and the eagle, and the swan and the robin. Parks were full of butchered avian corpses. Children would pick up the poor broken bodies and chase their friends around, holding them aloft like war trophies.
Thus was the death of Lore celebrated. Yes, celebrated. For without Lore’s vast archaeology, things unravelled. It did not please the shadow of Lore, nor did it sadden her. Violence rushed in to fill the vacuum of her absence, and she but conceded. For there can be no emptiness and a vacuum must be filled.
A synod of elders saw what was happening and lamented the great change come over the land. They set about writing catechisms and dogma, and procedural law and edicts, but since they too were ignorant of the death of Lore, they were unable to affect change. —God has abandoned us, they cried, and for what? Are we not his blessed servants? But little did they know that it was not God that created order, but Lore, and since they’d paid no heed to her when she was alive, they certainly could not account for the magnitude of her passing. When the edicts and the laws and the dogma failed, they burned women alive and decried witchery and paganism. And nowhere was the absence of Lore felt more powerfully than there at the burning of the witches, yet the people still failed to comprehend.
Some wept and did not know why. Yes, perhaps what the people lost most of all was their sense of humour, and without it only torture followed. Weeping became the thing to do in certain social strata. Women and men would gather in halls and weep; entire towns would come together and lament, the rooms in which they sat sodden with their newly heightened sense of tragedy. They bathed in it, prayed in it. Sat in it til their arses pickled. In one isolated valley, the people wept so violently their homes were washed away in the torrent. Had she been alive, Lore would have laughed. Yes, Lore knew what mattered.
Nay, there is no shelter from misery. The artists knew it. The people didn’t know it but they made their homes there all the same, because it was a home even warmer than joy. Soon, the world and everything in it was submerged under the comforting cloak of misery.
One knew, however. One little girl, an orphan child who begged for bread outside the town churches and held out her hand for pennies after mass had finished. The girl was a mute and they all thought her mad, for sometimes she would lift her dress and piss right in the street, in front of the carriages and the good folk, and sometimes even the priest himself. Women would cross themselves. —She’s possessed, they would say. —God has abandoned her. All these things they would say about her. Then one day, the girl started speaking. —Lore-Lore-Lore, she would rant. —Lore-Lore-Lore-Lore. All day and night she would go on, and now the people said: —The Devil is in her. And they might have burned her too but for her young age. They left her be. Then one day, this little girl went into a library. She took a book from the shelf and sat down, and when she opened it, she found it empty. She took another and it was empty too. She held it up for the librarian to see, as she ranted: —Lore-Lore-Lore! But the librarian merely hushed her. —Shush, silly girl! What do you know of books? But the girl knew. Simple as she was, the girl was filled with the ghost of Lore. So the next time she went to a library, she took a book of matches with her, and every empty book she found, she burned. Soon whole libraries were burning. No longer able to forgive her ways, the people cried for her to be burned. —She is destroying our history! they cried. Put her to the pyre as she does with our books! Blind, they could no longer see that the books were empty. They called the synod, but the old men could not bring themselves to burn a child, even one so full of wickedness. So they took her to the mountain and put her in a cave, and bricked up the entrance that she may never escape. —Lore-Lore-Lore! she ranted as they did it.
Soon they forgot her as they’d forgotten all else. But she’s there still. She eats of the mushrooms that grow on the walls of her cave, and drinks of the water that trickles from the roof of her cold abode. Blind now, yet she hears well. She hears the very earth, even above the very lamentations and sorrow of the people, she hears how it was, and how someday again it may be. And she writes. Scrawling in chalk, and charcoal scavenged from her small fire, she writes. Her walls are a woven tapestry of words, and music and myth and poetry, the language one of soul and earth. She writes the world that has been lost and that will be lost for yet a long time. And one day, years from now, when the cave is opened and we discover a cold fire and the bones of a simple child, Lore may live again.

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

 ‘The Death of Lore’, by Ultan Banan. Image by [email protected] Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Morning dread: On the Sisyphean task of getting up every day

morning dread

'Morning dread: On the Sisyphean task of getting up every day', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on daily ritual.

Morning dread: On the Sisyphean task of getting up every day

I’ve struggled with my fair share of atrocious mental health over the years. Thankfully, these days, I enjoy more good days than bad, something I can only say about the last two or three of my twenty-odd years of adulthood. Yet, despite this, over the last six months, I’ve been suffering a pretty serious case of the morning heebie-jeebies, the dawn funk, the waking dreads. Why is that, I’ve been asking myself? There are some pretty obvious aggravating factors to the onset of this debilitating condition: instability in my working life, instability in my living situation, relationship difficulties, stresses over money and lack thereof, all of these things and probably a dozen others. These are the surface reasons. Are there deeper causes, also? There could be – as I said, I struggled with my mental health for a long time, and there’s a chance the ghosts of those foregone times have drifted from the grave, perhaps as a response to the difficult conditions we’ve all been living through these last few years. The world feels smaller, the world feels more constrictive, more repressive, more cloying

We all (or at least many of us) have lost jobs and livelihoods, social outlets, a social life; our health – emotional, psychological and physical – may have suffered due to the ongoing (read ‘never-ending’) pandemic. It has hit us all, and hit us hard. Isolation, lack of freedoms – these are things we’ve all endured for too long now, and it’s perhaps wearing on us.

How does the morning funk manifest in me? I wake up with an inexplicable tension in my gut, like a rock almost, and it sits there while I pull the covers up around my chin and lay with my eyes closed and just shake. Don’t ask me why – shaking seems like the only response to the sensation. It feels like I’m trying to cast some demon out of my body, an exorcism of sorts. This can, and usually does, last up to an hour. After an hour of this, my mind can finally get around to throwing back the sheets and getting up.

But it doesn’t end there. That’s just when I entertain the idea of getting up.

On a brief reading of the phenomena, it’s apparently due to high cortisol levels that are released into the body first thing in the morning. For people with high levels of anxiety, the very act of being awake can trigger the release of stress hormones; simply coming around from sleep in the morning sends the body into a reactionary biochemical response. Pretty heavy thought, that simply being awake can elicit a feeling of stress and anxiety in some of us. And it’s debilitating, no two ways about it.

Some mornings, the act of rolling back the duvet can seem like a momentous, terrifying task. And very often I do so, only to pull it back over me again and curl up in the foetal position. It doesn’t help that it’s winter. Yes, sometimes, throwing your legs over the edge of the bed after waking can seem like a Sisyphean impossibility. But what you have to remember is this: you only have to get your feet into your slippers. Once there and standing up, you simply need to keep moving. Staying busy is the key. Once you’re up and going, you gotta keep going, it’s the only way to keep the anxiety at bay. Don’t burn yourself out – rest when you need to rest, and close your eyes for an hour in the afternoon if you need it, but a busy mind is a sure way of keeping the dread at bay.

No one begrudges you that time in the morning. Let it assail you, haunt you, for however long it takes to face it down. Then get your feet in the slippers and get to work. And stay busy. The dread’ll still be there the next day but at least you’ll sleep like a baby, and a good night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold.              

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

 ‘Morning dread: On the Sisyphean task of getting up every day’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Sex is Dead, or, Why My Wife Smells Like a Fighter Jet

sex is dead

'Sex is Dead, or, Why My Wife Smells like a Fighter Jet', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on sexuality.

Sex is Dead, or, Why My Wife Smells like a Fighter Jet

She dips her hand in the bucket and draws it out, slaps the axle grease onto her calves and massages it in. Soon, I’ll feel her legs slip over my back as I dive toward the trench of her navel where a rainbow-glisten sits atop the miasma of sweat and motor oil that has pooled in her belly button; I’ll dip my tongue in and lap, tasting the machine-reek of her body.

‘More,’ I say.

Her hand goes back in the grease-bucket and she throws it on thick; I lick my lips.

Her tits are painted camouflage, two nipples poke out like gun barrels. In the low-light of the bedroom, her torso is barely distinguishable from the biscuit-tan of our headboard. Does she know something I don’t? Is the PLA about to burst from our wardrobe and ambush our greasy congress? She’ll mow them down with her twin turrets. I crawl toward her. I smell fuselage, I smell cockpit.

She pulls her hand from under the duvet; she is wielding a torque wrench.

‘What’s that for?’ I say.

‘You have to ask?’ she says. She winks.

Peak Hypersexuality

Welcome to sex in the post-sex world. Sex is dead, or if it lives, it is couched in the language and accoutrement of brutalism and the industrial. Just last week a Russian perfumer launched a fragrance ‘in honour of’ a new Russian jet, a state-of-the-art fifth-generation fighter called the Checkmate. The eponymous fragrance released alongside the jet was said to “underline the aircraft’s reliability and modernity, as well as its willingness to work in all conditions: under the scorching desert sun, in subtropical and mountainous areas, as well as in the Far North and the tropics”. Great, if your wife is an all-terrain vehicle. What is it about this product that stands out so, and how can we view in in the context of the post-postmodernist world, the world post-sexuality? For we have reached that stage, surely – sexuality has become so mercurial as to be redundant. Every stripe of kink has been discovered, every form, object, ideal and idea has been fetishised, every manner of pleasure has been sucked, licked, poked, tasted, fingered, sat on, eaten, pissed upon, fiddled with, frotted, diddled, tortured, cuddled and raped until… well, what else is there to say? We have done it all, and it was good. For a while. But what is left for us to discover?

A glaring example of this new post-sexual phenomena might be Yuri Tolochko, the Kazakh bodybuilder who divorced his first sex-doll wife, Margo, after cheating on her with a ‘strange silver object’ while she was in hospital. Yuri has since met a new woman (doll), the ‘queer’ Lola. Speaking of Lola, Tolochko says, “Lola has a woman’s head, a chicken’s body, the navel has depth and can be used as a vagina and a penis inserted into it. I’ll show you this one day. I identify her as a massive chicken.” Are you following? Lola’s a big queer chicken sex-doll with a fuck-navel. Go on, Yuri, ya wild thing. Taking shenanigans to a whole new level not so long ago, Tolochko announced he was also in a sexual relationship with an ashtray: “I wanted to touch it again, smell it. I love its brutal scent, the touch of metal on my skin. It’s really brutal. I also like that it has a story, that it’s not new, that it has served many people and continues to serve them.”

sex is dead

Ashtray’s been around, ya hear? It was askin for it…

Is he a mad fella? Is it that simple? Or is Tolochko symptomatic of a wider, deeper, more pervasive unravelling of sex and sexuality? You do a quick Google search on people in relationships with objects and you’ll come across (no pun intended) a whole array of folk beholden to statues, pillows, walls, cars… you name it. There’s a woman in love with the Eiffel Tower. Another with a fairground ride. And not only in love, but in ‘sexual’ relationships with too.

What is all this, if not peak hypersexuality? Manic, relentless, crazed, hyper, schizoid sexuality – that’s where we are today. Hypersexuality, sexual addiction, erotomania, nymphomania, satyriasis… call it what you will, it’s here, has been here for a while, and we have reached the end. What else is there to love, to fuck? The alpinists of the flesh have climbed their peaks, the pioneers of desire have come and gone and there is nothing new to discover.

Eros and Thanatos   

According to psychotherapists, there are four major existential bogeymen that plague us: freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, and death. Tell me that in the modern world we don’t, each of us, stare these in the face as part of our daily lives, and how much more intently over the past two years? Locked in our homes, cut off, bombarded with media depictions of our impending end – what have we come to, if not the edge of the abyss? We have all stared into the maw.

“When the repression of the terror of death breaks down, people will often behave in ways that might seem frenetic or even psychotic. Frequently, those reactions will manifest sexually… For many, sex is experienced as a life force, the antithesis of death that can neutralize the terror of the end of one’s existence.”

There are many documented examples of those with life-threatening illnesses being plagued with out-of-control, rampant, sexual urges. Some Nazi death camp survivors tell of the train rides to the camps, relating stories of people abandoning all inhibitions and engaging in sex right there, standing in the carriages, with no thought to those around them. Sex is one of the impulses and the instincts which are triggered when people are forced to face horror, the horror not only of death, but of meaninglessness and loneliness too.

“The awareness that death is inescapable, coupled with the instinctive desire to live, can constitute an unbearable paradox. To escape this potentially paralyzing terror and to maintain psychological equanimity, some people may employ certain defense mechanisms, which are designed to remove the awareness of death from conscious thoughts by imbuing the world with meaning, order, and permanence. Often people will reach for symbols of immortality. And sex can be a big one.”

Yes, we found coping mechanisms and we milked them royally. But we have sucked on the teet and now the teet is dry. It is empty, barren. But there are those who have embraced the barren and the brutal. What of Yuri with his queer fuck-chicken, or a spiritual predecessor, the woman who fell in love with and married the Berlin Wall? Who knows, maybe they are the brave ones. Beyond the love and the fetishisation of the industrial, the cold, the brutal and the inanimate, there is no more to discover, no more earth to plough. Nothing. Love of the inanimate is symbolic embrace of the dead. They have seen the way forward. We have new pioneers now.

What about the rest of us? Go find your coping mechanism. Open an OnlyFans account and video yourself inserting summer vegetables of increasing size into one or all of your orifices until you feel satisfied, satiated, filled, ALIVE. Close your eyes as you stuff the cantaloupe in your hole and repeat it like a mantra: 

There is no death, there is no death, there is no death…’

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

‘Sex is Dead, or, Why My Wife Smells like a Fighter Jet’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Utopia in the Age of the Pandemic

utopia in the age of the pandemic

'Utopia in the Age of the Pandemic', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on politics.

Utopia in the Age of the Pandemic

Utopia. Now there’s a piece of television. I’m not talking about the Hollywood rehash, I haven’t gone there (why would I?) and have no plan to; I read Gone Girl and it’s a first-class thriller, but with Utopia, Flynn took on something that could not be improved. And maybe improvement was not the goal of the reworking, but I’m nevertheless reassured (and even pleased) to hear of the inferior cut of Flynn’s rewrite. The original stands as some of the best television to ever come out of Britain (I’d rank it up there with This is England and Black Mirror) and to chance a remake was perhaps an act of questionable hubris.

Of course, it’s not true that the remake never bests the original. The American take on The Office is widely regarded as having outstripped its British predecessor, and I’d say the US Shameless did a similar job (the first three series notwithstanding). But there are some things that should not be fucked with. Utopia is one.

I rewatched it recently, and was no less enthralled by it than I was when I first saw it six or seven years ago. The writing, the cinematography, the score – come now, when have you ever heard a score that so perfectly accompanied and encapsulated a series? Flawless work, and I’ve been enamoured of Cristobal Tapia de Veer ever since (The White Lotus? Superb). Characters, beautifully depicted in all their flawed, vulnerable and comic glory. Plot. Dialogue. Dennis Kelly really nailed that script. I watched The Third Day last year, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite have the raw ferocity that Utopia has.

But enough gushing. I’m a fan, and I’m still waiting, hoping expectantly (like thousands of others) that one day we may get to revisit Mr. Rabbit.

It’s an interesting watch, in the world of today. I’m not here to peddle any out-there theories about government conspiracies to poison us all and render us sterile, and commit mass genocide and worldwide depopulation, but watching the series in the current climate cannot fail to raise a few questions.

I do believe that, worldwide, we have just been subjected to one of the most potent, widespread and disproportionate media campaigns of all time, one that far outstrips the efforts to sell us the Iraq War. I remember that campaign, too – endless stories in the press about the unforgivable opulence that Saddam Hussein lived in while all around him his people suffered (as if those selling us the war were not pontificating from their own mansions), and the pure evil cruelty of his sons. Stories peddled in generally ‘respectable’ news outlets, stories that we can look back on now and say, Yeah, this is an out-and-out hit piece. Not that he wasn’t a bastard, but you shouldn’t get to pick and choose your bastards, cosying up to them when they do your bidding and turning on them when they don’t. We had endless such pieces on evil Saddam and his regime, all with the purpose of selling us a bogus war.

Not everyone bought it. One of the biggest protests of all time came out onto the streets of London to protest Blair’s eagerness to make a war criminal of himself, two million people, which is massive. But did the kleptocrats listen? Did they fuck. War went ahead, and two million dead Iraqis later, we know it was all a sham.

What has any of this to do with Utopia? Well, much like in the show, I believe we have all seen a similar media campaign, fear-mongering, a stoking of our most basic insecurities and terrors, all with the effect of making us compliant to the wishes of the powers-that-be. What are those wishes? On that, I’m not going to speculate, suffice to say that, to a large extent, the fear campaign has worked. The world over (the ‘developed’ world, at least), people are having some of their most basic rights trampled on, ripped up, discarded, and all in the name of this invisible (and let’s face it, as we now know, not-so-scary) bogeyman. Weren’t we all persuaded that our lives were in grave and unequivocal danger? Subjected daily to pictures of people on ventilators, medical professionals in Hazmat suits, cities being sprayed down for the infection, the plague, the pestilence. Truly, there was some apocalyptic shit afoot. Or so it seemed. What now appears to have happened is that we were subjected instead to a horror that existed largely in the media – not a real horror, just the threat of a horror, the façade of horror; you know like that scene in A Clockwork Orange where Malcolm McDowell has his eyes pinned open and subjected to images of war… that was us. For a whole year. Locked in our homes, the television broadcasting images of death and destruction. Apocalypse. We were the experiment. We were the subjects of the Aversion Therapy.

But it’s all fine now. They have the answer for us. They gave us our shots and we’re okay now. The shots don’t seem to do much but they keep pumping it into us, and in that we’re comforted. And hey, the apocalyptic reels have slowed a bit and we all feel somewhat reassured. Isn’t life better now?

Apocalypse makes for great television. And not only in fiction. We had our own ‘real-life’ apocalypse, and we watched it avidly for over a year. We’re still loaded with it; perhaps it’s part of our DNA now. Just as long as there’s the mirage of a cure…

I’m not really one to go looking for messages in fiction, but if Utopia has one it may well be this: We can always be counted on to be complicit in our own subversion. In a world of apocalyptic certainties, we are all Mr. Rabbit. 

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

 ‘Utopia in the World of the Pandemic’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

Forced Vaccination and the Breakdown of the Social Contract

forced vaccination

'Forced Vaccination and the Breakdown of the Social Contract', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on politics.

Forced Vaccination and the Breakdown of the Social Contract

You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose

Forced Vaccination

“Jab ’em in their sleep!”

That was the message of Rogrigo Duterte when faced with of the reluctance of his fellow Filipinos to taking their shots. Now, I’ve always liked the guy and still do, but, joking or not, it’s difficult not to see a sinister omen in his words. Having seen the dialogues that are taking place around the world, I do see it as a looming possibility in the not-so-distant future.

There have been several instances in previous weeks of people getting in hot water for comparing the plight of modern-day anti-vaxxers to that of the Jews during World War II (for instance here and here), and while we may not quite be there yet, what else do you bring to mind when you conjure up a picture of someone being held down and subjected to medical procedures against their will? It’s an obvious jump to make; either that or aboriginal women in Australia being subjected to forcible sterilisation from the late nineteenth all the way to the 1970s because of their ‘inferior’ genetics. (A quick and horrifying aside: Forced sterilisation is a practice which I was shocked to learn is still legal in Australia and inflicted upon girls with disabilities and those who show intersex characteristics.) Beyond these two examples, I’m hard-pressed to think of other instances of large-scale, forcible, medical interventions.

A swift internet search on the legality of forced vaccinations led me to the case of a man from Ukraine in 2012 who was forcibly vaccinated against diphtheria. The court ruling decided that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the legislation than deals with the ‘right to respect for private and family life’. The ruling came to the conclusion that “the interference with the applicant’s physical integrity could be said to be justified by the public health considerations and necessity to control the spreading of infectious diseases”. This is all very well, but it’s likely to be of little comfort to those who insist on the right to make choices on their own health and wellbeing. Many readers will be of the same opinion as Rodrigo Duterte (Jab the fuckers!), but there are those (myself among them) who will not be satisfied by an obscure ruling on the case of a single guy from the Donetsk if it comes to deciding on the right to the bodily integrity of millions – billions, perhaps – worldwide.

The Breakdown of the Social Contract

Do we need to have this conversation? I believe we do. The campaign that has been unleashed against those who have so far refused the jab is, quite frankly, astounding. Some elements of government and the media (and the public too, for that matter) are salivating at the thought of the expulsion of the filthy unvaxxed masses from society, and in some cases, stating openly that this is their intention. The premier of Australia’s Victoria said the following:

“There is going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated. We’re going to move to a situation where, to protect the health system, we are going to lock out people who are not vaccinated and can be.”

Harsh measures, which only just stop short of forced vaccination. These measures raise the question, however, of what happens to the people who are excluded from said economy. Make no mistake, this is essentially the creation of an underclass (a generous epithet, since it implies they are still within society), or Untermenschen. What of said people once they are pushed aside, and can no longer work, shop, participate socially or even receive healthcare? Are they still required to pay taxes, for example? Why, if they receive none of the benefits of participation in society? Are they expected to abide by society’s laws? Why should they, if they have been cast outside society’s embrace?

It seems to me that the social contract is being called into question. Is it the case that, by their exclusion, the social contract has been ripped up for this new ‘class’ of people, or are we to view this as merely the legitimate application of violence by that body with (under the terms of the social contract) the monopoly and the authority to do so? (And make no mistake, violence is already being applied, by means of exclusion, threats and economic pressure.) Have the great unwashed masses legitimately abdicated their rights to a central authority with their best interests at heart, or is government attempting to usurp people’s natural right to health and bodily integrity? Furthermore, to add another layer to the mix, is it governmental or corporate violence (can we even distinguish between those two anymore?) that we are actually facing, and if it is the latter, do we not have a human and civic duty to resist?

These are the questions.

Regardless of what happened to one guy in Donetsk with diphtheria, I support the right of all people to choose whether to subject themselves to a medical procedure if it may have ramifications for their own health, be that procedure for the common good or not. There are many who will disagree. But what is happening around the world right now sets a dangerous precedent that calls into question the foundations that our societies are built upon. Exclusion is now an active policy of many governments and institutions around the globe, and if you think things are unstable now, what do you think happens when you create and entire sub-strata of people left with nothing, and nothing at all to lose?

Beware, friends, that Rodrigo Duterte does not creep through your bedroom window one night with a big jabby needle. Perhaps it’s time to sleep with one eye open.

To see books from Black Tarn Publishing, follow the link below:

 ‘Forced Vaccination and the Breakdown of the Social Contract’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.