The need for grey scales. Reflections after reading “Mörk choklad” #2

Review of comic fanzine “Mörk Choklad” No 2. Edited by Lars Krantz. Contributions by Lars Krantz, Andreas Rosengren, Ushiri Stenberg
56 pages, black and white
Language: Swedish
Released: 2021

Out on the side-walk I realized I’d forgotten to talk to USHiRi about that collaboration; that text that a friend of ours maybe wanted to write for the magazine.

“I’ll do it next time” I said to myself, while pressing the numbers of the code to the lock in front of me. Earlier in the morning I had come through this door to go park my bike in the backyard on the next side of the vault. Now the lock didnt “click” like it used to.

I pressed the handle to check; it was locked. I pressed the digits one more time. Nothing happened. I pressed again. Nothing.

“I need to doublecheck the code” I thought and took up my phone to scroll through the chat we’d had the other day. There was the address to where I was right now, there was the code. There was no discrepance between this and the one I’d just tried. Maybe the door was broke or something. I pressed the code again. Now it opened. “I really should have said something about that text”, I thought.

On both sides of the vault were stairs up to the houses’ apartments. Sprigs were painted on the walls. Through the glass doors ahead came a bright, sharp spring sun and on the other side was the backyard and somewhere my bike. The next door I could just open, but before I went out into the yard I had to fasten the door with that springy little metal pole, so that the it stayed open.

Then I don’t know what really. I found my bike, got back, released the pole from the ground and let the door shut. It didn’t. It stopped half-way when the pole suddenly dropped down, by itself, and stuck.

Noone was there. I looked at the door and on the pole. It didn’t seem broke or loose. I released the door and with my one hand steering the bike through the vault I took up my phone with the other and called USHiRi about the collaboration.

In the beginning of Huvuden ska rulla (Heads will roll), the opening story of Swedish horror and sci-fi cartoonist Lars Krantz’s fanzine Mörk choklad No 2, (Dark Chocolat No 2), Lars is asked by his friend Martin if he is interested in drawing the artwork for a music video, for a song called Heads will roll. The song is about “ideological extremism”, inspired by a woman Martin knows of that believed she could communicate with God via the sun. She had these conversations just her and God first, while later introducing also her son. The experiences was described by the woman on Facebook. Appearantly she had a schizofrenia diagnosis.

Exactly why and when any heads are gonna roll, I’m not really sure of, and this, of course, builds up a certain suspense. Is it something that will be exposed or disclosed? Is it the woman, her alikes, and ideological extremism, that subsequently will be squelched? Or is it something else going on? Will people get killed?

In the beginning of the story, Martin talks vibrantly about an imminent apocalypse and Lars replies in an ironic tone that “Yeah, I guess God will have it his way, as always”.

Later in the night, after having discussed Heads will roll out on the pub, Lars wakes up in his room, only to find himself surrounded by skulls staring up to the sky. He gets out of bed, walks up to the window and put the blinds aside. He then discovers what they’re all glaring at; the sun. Conciously or unconciously, Lars seems to be very influenced by, or maybe even identify with, that woman Martin told about.

Women with visions of light and divine contact take some part in the subsequent story in the fanzine too; the dark and humorous narrative zest of Andreas Rosengren’s Guldbenet (The Golden Leg).

A girl called Veronica visits the library where André works, asking for literature on Hildegard von Bingen. Von Bingen was a Benedictine abbess, philosopher, mystic, visionary, writer and composer, who in the 12th century in Germany experienced the umbra viventis lucis, the reflection of the living Light, via which she could observe different people from “distant lands and spaces”.

Von Bingen wasn’t considered schizofrenic or anything, instead she was actually one of the first persons to be brought up for Roman canonization. Also in modern times, only ten years ago, Pope Benedict XVI said of Hildegard that she is “perennially relevant” and “an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music.”

Veronica’s interest in Bingen is the spark for a sexual, thrill-seeking and inevitably destructive relationship between her and André (who manage to ask her out after vivid input from his dick and his soul that say they’re gonna kill him if he screws up), later putting him in a state of something similar to dissociation.

André is mesmerized by Veronica’s beauty, and the notions of vertigo, abysms and adventure he sees in her eyes. Veronica, on her side, soon also reveals that what she wants is not conversations on middle age’s saints, but late night ventures and escapades.

She seems to have a complex relation to defenselessness and susceptibility; while at the same time indulging in intense experimenting with lust and desire through drugs, sex and death challenges with André, she shuns from conversations touching on vulnerability, making André for instance feeling totally dull when telling her about his depressions.

These messing-with-reality-actions make me think a little of American neuro-scientist Erik Hoel, who has written a lot about the biological ground for fiction. The hitherto established idea of dreams is that they help create and establish long-term memories by processing our different experiences. Hoel, however, argues that dreams occur for the sake of themselves, as of assets of “noise injections”, to help us to not get stuck in a too well-known environment; to help us better perceive and recognize different kinds of things and beings. Hoel is inspired by machine learning; if an artificial intelligence is trained to recognize for example cats, and is presented to only one type of pictures of cats, it will be very good at recognizing these kinds of cats but no others. If “noise injections”, concisting of odd or weird pictures are mixed up with these data, the AI will have easier recognize a wider range of various types of cats; the generalization ability will improve.

In Kult, the final story of Mörk choklad (and the continuation of Heads will roll) Lars tells about his love for the dark and savage roll playing game “Kult”, “a deeply philosophical” game that offered “a terrible explanation of our existance”. He goes on musing about the current world, concluding that “things mustn’t come ready-packaged. If we don’t see the grey scales when we’re young then it won’t be easier when getting older”.

This is to some extent a reoccuring theme in all of the stories of Mörk choklad I think. It’s in Krantz’s explorations of different dimensions, worlds and beings, it’s in Rosengren’s description of foundations and paths of desire and confusion, and in (my friend’s and colleague’s) Stenberg’s playful recounts of odd characters.

The shortage in some people’s ability to recognize a human is told in for instance Stenberg’s Too tall, a (true) story about a dude who cannot sit straight on buses, cannot sleep in hotels bed, have difficulties finding things to wear, and is made fun of when going to the pub, because of being taller than average.

Sci-fi, oddities, fiction, the unknown, dirt or fifty shades of grey is perhaps more or less vital for humans. If we don’t see a difference between two things we’ll often try to find it; either in dreams, prejudices, fantasies, art, innovation, mental “illnesses” or in the theory of QAnon. Some seem to find exciting differences in numbers or location, in age or descent, time or space.

The collaboration I called USHiRi about that day when the code lock didn’t work and the door stopped by itself, later turned into a first-person recount about being isolated because of certain conditions that increases the risk for severe Covid-19 symptoms (Sweden hasn’t had the same extent of restrictions as many other countries; here it has mostly been extra vulnerable people that have had to stay home).

The woman writes about feeling lonely, how she just wants to go out, be noticed and socialize. She fears however that when society opens up there are gonna be lots of people like her, too many in fact, and where can everyone find their place? Her story is a recount of someone who doesn’t really have her needs fulfilled, and who thinks that everyone else is in the same situation; therefore fearing a fight over resources and upcoming opportunities.

I don’t really see the difference between her anxiety and Lars or Martin’s ideas about the apocalypse, their struggle with not getting jobs, or getting payed, with not being seen by an condescending girlfriend. But whereas they are certain that heads will roll and they will win, she seems for some reason worried that she will be left behind.

Text: Anna Karlsson

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