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Skull and Bones Publishing – A Comparative Analysis

Today I shall be pretending to be some sort of academic scholar and endeavouring to write a comparative analysis of the two new books that have been released by Skull and Bones Publishing. These are "Therein Lies the Problem" by Steve Dupont and "Gospel of he Pantheon" by Eric Strauss. This article contain mild spoilers.

The purpose of this article is by no means to validate either author but rather to investigates the methods that they have used to in order to create two highly engaging and often entertaining pieces of media. And whilst this piece is unsolicited I believe that both authors, who are also form he management team of Skull and bones Publishing, would encourage this kind of behaviour on the grounds that it potentially could result in a growth of sales for either of both of these two books – (one of which free to view online anyway).

I am comparing these two books because they represent the core output for this fledging company and consequently set a benchmark for any subsequent releases. As debut novels for both author I was initially concerned about the usual traps and pitfalls that inexperienced writers often have to to go through, especially given the status of Skull and bones Publishing as an ‘on demand’ label. Thankfully this fear is completely demolished with the opening acts of both works as the authors successfully set their respective plots and settings. Likewise both books are free of errors or and other such flaws and in fact highly competent works. Authorial self indulgence is kept to an absolute minimum though those who read Strauss’ series of essays ‘A Description of Art as Manifestation of the Truths of the Articles of the Existence of Everything‘ will see how neatly he has transposed his theories into narrative.

In terms of relevance – which ultimately proves to be the bottom line in the cut throat business mainstream fiction publishing – Dupont goes straight for the throat. Set in a seemingly imminent future, he uses the scenario of Corporate Wars (a violent escalation of dirty tricks between Corporations) not only as a colourful dystopian backdrop but also as key catalyst for the main event, the creation of a closed community, within a giant pyramid, as an experimental pocket Utopia. In doing so Dupont is exploring a modern, and almost affectionate look at tyranny that blends both Marxist Communism with a distorted Capitalism; The pyramid community, Whilst technologically autonomous – powered by solar panels, PyroVegas’ economic power is entirely self contained but relies on gambling revenue generated by it’s many casinos.

The plausibility of such a scenario is underscored by the use of present tense. This isn’t some far flung speculative work but rather a statement of what just round the corner – a statement of ‘just you wait’ for the staff of the Pepsi corporation to take up arms against Coca-Cola.

Strauss on the other hands deals with relevancy in completely different way – by use of faux mythology, he essentially creates his world entirely from scratch. And through use of character dialogue and physical description of setting it is a familiar historical world, Strauss is in fact playing with what we think we know is familiar, i.e. our history, or rather history as seen on the Hallmark Channel rather than the History Channel. And by manipulating it for reasons both narrative and humour, the world that Strauss creates is silly world yet with relative ease the people that populate it look straight back at us and accuses us of being far sillier. In terms of relevance then, I’d argue that this book could be enjoyed for centuries to come, and hopefully misinterpreted at a distant point in the future as a genuine historical theological text.

Retuning to the issue of setting let us look at the scope of these worlds. For whilst the Gospel of the Pantheon deals with the symbiotic relationship between gods and mortals and the enormity of the results of these interactions (for example the invention/creation of music) it confines itself to a very small number of physical locations. The Villa of the Gods, which cleverly pops up all over the world seeming of its own volition is whilst being a magical place recognisable as stone villa. Likewise the mortals’ lands, of which only a hand full seem to exist are drawn almost from that of a RPG computer game. Yet this bare bones simplicity works in the favour of the work – adding an almost comedic theatricality. In one section we learn that all building are designed in one place, the land of the Accutronians, and the few blueprints they offer have been used repeatedly, so that the cathedrals in every land are the same but redressed.

This notion of replicating the scenery is used in ‘Therein..’ too. But it is the rooms of the Pyramid that serve to remind us of the protagonist’s intentions that the populace treat each other as equals. These identical habitation spaces, whilst being customisable are generic, not unlike the interface of a computer operating system; you can change the desktop but little else. In an interesting turn, Lester Ginn reconstructs the interior of his former home within his cubicle, in order to some how evoke the magic of better days. Yet the characters that populate PyroVegas and beyond are a lot more individual that than their identikit luxury prison cells. Dupont defines clear hierarchies and positions of power that often change. This is reenforced by the many backstory sections of the characters lives prior to their emigration into the pyramid. Yet these flashbacks seem ill placed – that is to say they serve to help define character rather than informing the main plot itself. In fact, the outside world seems to suffer most from this process. Whilst things like the Corporate Wars are often referred to they are rarely seen, and despite being taken to places such as Russia, where the protagonist Lester Ginn meets his eventual butler, we never really see beyond these relationships.

The main thrust of the plot of Dupont’s book is the power struggle between Ginn and casino boss Seth Jipt. Through use of trade unions strikes, blackmail and other dirty tricks the conflict between the two never lets up – but it is a personal struggle, based quite clearly on ego and machismo. The demonstrations of which are at times entertainingly painful. Ginn and his son at times seem to disappear into a world of pirates; a perpetually ongoing theatrical production that is so well rendered that it transcends plausibility into what resembles the holodeck from Star Trek. It one point a character even comments, almost as an aside to the reader his own confusion as to the significance of the pirate play. Yet it’s effect serves not only to clever unhinge the reader, at one point the pirate caption, played by Ginn is stabbed by his deputy, played by Ginn’s son Tim and you quickly wonder if Ginn himself has been stabbed. This and many other sections of the book imply something other than the main plot going on behind the scenes – not a subplot as such but rather, through use iconography and other semiotics, some other secret message or hidden agenda. I’ve accused Dupont of exactly the same thing in the past with his podcast the Obtuse Angle, as if his media works in a similar way to a family film with jokes that only adults will understand but can still be enjoyed by children. Yet in this situation I feel as if I am the child and I find that very unsettling – in short, and perhaps only to be isolated to me, it seems to solicit paranoia.

The role of the protagonist is very important to both works as neither of them, the aforementioned Lester Ginn, nor the Duchess of New Hamptingshire are by any means likeable. Ginn’s behaviour is consistently irritating and self absorbed yet he seems to be excused (if not by the reader than by himself) due a number of factors including the pressure of his work, failing mental health and even on the grounds that he is British and therefore a bit eccentric. Whilst this makes him at times amusing, for example by disguising himself through use of a top hat, tails and false moustache, it does not explain why he is liked by so many that surround him. The use of hypnotism and is implied for controlling the masses, which culminates in a grand finale speech that echoes Hitler’s rally cry at Nuremberg, He likewise is blessed with a Hollywood ending, rather than assassination – justified by his good intentions. Redeemed by his failure, or perhaps by selflessly delegating his achievements to his followers his failure becomes a personal success and we wins back his marriage and his son. I was surprised to find that the fate of the Duchess left unresolved.

But where the protagonists fail to provide a comfortable avenue into their respective stories it is the secondary characters who offer all the charm. The Immortals themselves depicted in Gospel of the Pantheon are all beautifully rendered as genuinely higher beings, despite their foibles and three generations of groundsman serve as different kinds of reluctant hero. It is these three men, who share the surname Religetti that see the absurd wolrd they are forced into through our eyes. Humble and naive yet honourable and humble they too each have their own foibles yet fit into the grand scheme of the gods as perfectly as their reactions to their successes and failures. In fact it this grand scheme of things that works so well in this book that it’s overall gravitas slips in so cleverly unannounced. Opting for an extended contemporary coda rather than a the brisk conclusive cleanup deployed by Dupont, Strauss grounds the book’s message by placing it up against a more modern threat – that of fascism (although this is only implied). This ultimately leaves the reader begging for more, and wondering if microcosm that we have seen can be inflated to stand up against a larger modern world.

To conclude I would suggest seeing for yourself the two seemingly small worlds created by messrs Strauss and Dupont and seeing that therein lies two very much larger worlds that merit close and vigilant attention.

Skull and Bones Publishing.

3 Responses to “Skull and Bones Publishing – A Comparative Analysis”

  1. eric says:

    that, sir, might just be the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me.

    thank you,

    eric strauss

  2. Luca Talbot says:

    I work for the Skulls and Bones >> 322, I helped plan and implement several attacks on ‘we the people.’ Yet the Skull and Bones do not know I work for the Illuminati, ‘the infinitely enlightened’ and we are planning an attack of our own on them. The Skull and Bones will soon lose their power over the people, and will have to stop the tyranny, deceit, fear mongering and war propaganda. We the people will be free to live in peace, prosperity and happiness once again, as our fore-fathers and mothers wanted.

  3. It’s spooky – when someone remembers your art essays….

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