As our mission statement expresses, the Dose seeks to promote those who–as academics, physicians, alt-acs, independent scholars, authors, and just plain curious and intrepid souls–add to our shared knowledge of medicine, literature, and the search for what it means to be human. That search occasionally takes us out of the usual borders of traditional and traditionally accepted topics for exploration. And so, it is highly appropriate that today’s guest is editor of Beyond Borderlands, A Critical Journal of the Weird, Paranormal, and Occult. Welcome, Editor-in-chief B.D. Mitchell!
B.D. Mitchell is a writer and historian of science currently completing his PhD in science and technology studies at York University. His dissertation focuses on Friedrich Nietzsche’s critiques of genius, the genealogy of the Übermensch and physiological aesthetics. He is also interested in the relationship between science, literature, the occult, and paranormal in the nineteenth century. He is the editor-in-chief of Beyond Borderlands: A Critical Journal of the Weird, Paranormal, and Occult. Under his nom de plume, Edmund Siderius, he blogs at The Starry
Messenger. Thank you, B.D. for telling us about the journal and launch!
Beyond Borderlands–a look at the weird and wonderful:
Those interested in how weird and occult themes have influenced society often find themselves confronted by competing and unhelpful extremes: “bat boy found in cave” style journalism and conspiracy theories, Dawkinesque debunkers and professional mythbusters. There are quality journals, such as Aries and Preternature, that explore some of these themes from an academic perspective, but nothing that offers the space for a fuller dialogue between amateur and academic, artist, writer, and occultist. This is unfortunate, for the intellectual fringes of society have historically been a major, though often chaotic, source of innovative artistic, scientific, and political approaches. Beyond Borderlands seeks to create a space in which the quality of these dialogues can be improved by providing a set of shared resources and a forum for the exchange of ideas that does not compromise the methodological integrity or creativity of those involved. We’ll be officially launching our website and accepting submission on May 4th and you can currently follow us on facebook and twitter.
I first began thinking about the community building potential of public media after taking a course in the history of science and print culture in the nineteenth century. It was amazing to see the ways in which people at the time related to the flood of journals and newspapers made possible by the steam press and related technologies. They described themselves as living in an increasingly global, decentralized communication network. It was a network that opened up spaces for new forms of social organization and ways of sharing information. It also brought with it concerns about intellectual property rights and the trustworthiness of what was being shared, suspicions that it was compromising both traditional and emerging forms of authority, and the potentially destructive effect it was having on language.
In short, they seemed to have related to it in ways surprisingly similar to how we currently relate to the internet. The journal Borderland, edited from 1893 to 1897 by the eccentric William Thomas Stead and Ada Goodrich Freer, emerged from out of this heady mix of media. Stead described it as a great experiment in periodical literature. With it, he hoped to be able to democratize the scientific study of the “spook” and other occult phenomena. To facilitate this, he set up a Borderland library, suggested best practices for studying the occult and connected subscribers through the Borderland circle. While Stead faced challenges to this model of public engagement, the journal attracted the attention (and sometimes the ire) of some of the most interesting minds of the fin-de-siècle: Mark Twain,
Alfred Russel Wallace, Oliver Lodge, Robert Louis Stevenson and a host of prominent psychical researchers. Even Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in, though, to be fair, only to chastise Stead for appropriating his notion of agnosticism. While I’ve never intended Beyond Borderlands to entirely take on Stead’s project, the journal has certainly been inspired by it. Stead saw Borderland connect people from all across the English-speaking world, from India to Canada. Likewise, I hope to see Beyond Borderlands become a community-building project with an increasingly international scope; one capable of forming a creative correspondence, in its most mystical and profane sense, between all the varied peoples of the borderlands.
You have the facts, folks! Now, let us prepare to party–The Beyond Borderlands launch party will be this weekend, May 4th! Juggling, belly dancing, puppets and the Chirurgeon’s Apprentice. What more could you ask for? Oh yes. Baked goods. Come join the weird, wonderful fun!