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LSD and endogeneous serotonin

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  • #31
    Hmmm...all this talk of druggy writers is making me curious...

    MM - did anything you took influence your writing, do you think? And if so, which drug(s), and how?

    Just out of curiousity of course - sleep deprivation and dehydration provide all the inspirational hallucinations I need. ;)
    Arma virumque cano.

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    • #32
      It might be more to the point to ask how many famous writers haven't been 'druggy'. It amuses me to note that so many of the poets and novelists revered by the Establishment were as out of their faces as the 'countercultural' figures that are frowned upon. If only one could still go to the local pharmacy and stock up on laudanum like those straitlaced Victorians (including the old Queenie herself). Wilkie Collins, for example, was on enough to kill a roomful of people.
      \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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      • #33
        Well, I did live in Notting Hill most of my adult life and was involved with various rock bands, so you must draw your own conclusions. One thing I can fairly say is that my books were not the result of acid-imbibing nor did I get stoned in order to turn the novels out. In fact, given the speed at which I wrote most of them, I suspect they couldn't have been done on laudanum, mescaline or, indeed, the Demon Weed. Neither did I use amphetamines to achieve that speed. Strong coffee and too much sugar, mostly. However, I think it's fair to say that all the experiences that short Golden Age offered my generation I enjoyed as thoroughly as everyone else. Well, not all. With Hawkwind, for instance, I have frequently made it clear that heroin is a very bad thing, as is nicotine.
        I'm a clean living old man, these days. Very boring.

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        • #34
          Funny how good it feels to be boring though, eh?

          I still lead sort of a double life working a government job by day and occasionally donning the ski-mask to wreak havoc on small stages, but even though that's usually in a bar I don't even drink. I'd prefer not to breath all the second hand nicotine too, but that's pretty hard to avoid.

          Reading books such as yours and Mieville's is the ultimate high for me these days (aside from making music in public of course.) It's amazing how little I read when I drank and smoked pot all the time, and how much I read now.

          Wouldn't you say though, that on some level at least the Cornelius books, especially the first couple, are influence by the '60s drug experience? Perhaps more on a cultural than personal level though?
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          • #35
            I weakened and am now well into Iron Council, though I have other books I should have read before it! Bloody good so far.
            Honestly, though, the Jerry Cornelius books were not in any way influenced by drug experiences or, as far as I know, anyone else's drug experiences. They were far more to do with my sense that too much fiction consisted of exposition which we didn't need and that the form of the narrative dictated the message. So they have more in common with Marshall McLuhan ('the medium is the message') than with toking weed.
            William Burroughs, admittedly, was a junkie for a large part of his life, but even his books didn't directly influence the Cornelius books, any more than they influenced Ballard, though there were those who said they did because we were both great champions of Burroughs. What we saw in Burroughs was a new kind of narrative, a faster way of getting the stuff across. A stronger influence on the JC books was Ronald Firbank.
            Henry Green might have been another. I wrote what came to be called 'post-modernism' because of an instinctive sense that the sophisticated reader already knew what characters were thinking and how they might act -- that the reader, if you like, was ahead of the book.
            Now, I might have been wrong, but that was what I believed, based on my own experience. Characters anticipated other character's responses, they anticipated the explanations for motive and so on. They lived in an atmosphere which was wholly ironic. Again, there are arguments these days which suggest there's something wrong with this -- post-post-modernist argument, if you like -- but I wasn't writing from any academic notion, merely from my own instinct for narrative. There are many other narratives, many associations running through those stories, but they are there on the assumption that the reader will either 'get' them consciously or will recognise them unconsciously. When I wrote The Final Programme, moreover, I was going through one of my periodic anti-drug phases and certainly wouldn't have promoted anything inspired by drugs.
            One of the things the IT Cornelius strip, for instance, was taking the mickey out of most of the assumptions being published in IT. Both Mal Dean and I were rather cynical about drug-induced logic. We felt that pot and LSD had turned perfectly good musicians, for instance, into idiots. We weren't exactly puritanical -- I think we remained tolerant of 'leisure' drug-taking -- but we were pretty convinced that the drugs in use at the time were not very useful, even detrimental, in creating music, books, poetry or graphics. We had seen too many good bands, writers and artists pretty much ruined by using drugs. I don't feel so puritanical, these days, and am more inclined to believe that drugs work for some people and not for others, but I doubt if you will find anything supporting drug-taking in The Cornelius Quartet. I think you will find some description of 'good times' in such books as Mother London and King of the City.
            Some writers I know who people believed had to be heavy drug users not only didn't do LSD, weed or coke, for instance, but, like me, didn't even drink when working. Some of the most influential writers of their generation, in fact -- including Ballard, MJ Harrison, Harlan Ellison and many others -- were fairly strongly anti-drug. Some of the writers who produced the most straightforward narratives were pretty heavy drinkers and, in a couple of cases, heavy amphetamine users.

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            • #36
              Well! That's a few illusions about JC and The Final Programme shattered. :(

              Mr M's post also clears up a few things that troubled me about
              The Adventures Of Jerry Cornelius comic strip, which had originally been serialised in the International Times.

              The times themselves have left their imprint on Jerry's adventures. :)

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              • #37
                Originally posted by AndroMan
                Well! That's a few illusions about JC and The Final Programme shattered. :(
                In a way, it's quite healthy, for me at least to have those illusions shattered. Those of us born in the '60s and afterward all too often have all of the cultural and social change reduced down by the media and popular consensus to a stereotype of being all about the drugs. Obviously the Civil Rights movement as one major example had nothing to do with drug culture, and an activist friend of mine who did stuff back then often comments that he and his friends had no use for hippies who were too busy getting stoned to actually do anything. It's a good thing to have it pointed out from the inside that experimental fiction wasn't necessarily fueled by drugs either.

                In the '80s there was a huge upsurge in LSD use, that was big enough to be noted in High Times, plus the beginnings of the ecstacy and other synthetic drug crazes (not to mention the arrival of crack in the inner city from whence it quickly spread out.) Nonetheless, we don't look back on that decade as any sort of cultural love-in except for junk bond salesmen, Reagan youth, and abortion clinic bombers. There was a pretty active underground music movement, arguably tied to the drug experience, but by the '90s all of it was available in watered down format at Walmart with little trace of political content, and the major icons all started ODing.

                Perhaps a few too many of us believed the hype that drugs had somehow spurred the cultural upheaval of the '60s. I know that I did, though I certainly was of more use to any movement once I stopped tripping three times a week.
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                • #38
                  "Almost always what people create on drugs is less creative than what impassioned sober people create. There are even studies about this. "

                  I find this statement to be both extreme and completely subjective. What do you think of the work of Edgar Allan Poe? Gertrude Stein? Picasso? Or Sigmund Freud for that matter, since you're a therapist? How can a study possibly determine if one thing is more creative than another? Is there a machine I don't know about that can measure creativity like counting dots on an index card? Were the people that did these studies an evenly matched number of drug users and non-drug users? Why do I think that the people that did these studies might have been a tad biased? Maybe I'm just paranoid from all the dope I used to smoke...

                  I'd be one of the last people who advocated using drugs to stimulate creativity, but lets not get unrealistic to the point of delusionary sobriety. People have done good and bad work both sober and high. You personally get a better feeling of accomplishment when you do things "straight". I do too as a matter of fact, but offhandedly cutting down others because they got somewhere by a means you don't approve of smacks of a superiority trip.
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                  • #39
                    I think Freud was quite creative, though I'm not so sure that coke didn't drive him crazy. Staying sane is unfortunately not any sort of measure of creativity. Not to say that both cannot be achieved simultaneously, but often creative people exist on the edge (and over the edge) of sanity. This may be even more common than drug use.

                    The study you site (well you don't really site it you paraphrase it without a source) reminds me of the hogwash in a junior high school health book about the guy who thought he had a brilliant revelation while stoned and then wrote it down only to find later he had written, "There is a strange odor in this room." Nobody's going to deny that this type of thing happens, but I could just as easily use the insubstantial "exception/rule" argument you keep throwing around. The truth is human beings are a little more complicated than that, and there really aren't any rules to begin with, just exceptions.

                    Certainly Poe, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Aldous Huxley, W. S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Ken Kesey, and (to go full circle here) Phillip K. Dick are all exceptions. They are exceptions to the rest of society purely for doing art to begin with, and then that is heightened by it being exceptional art. Anyone who tries to attain what they have by merely taking the same drugs is destined to fail (and in many of the cases above, probably destined to either die or wind up a vegetable.) To deny however, that drugs played a part in their creative processes would be patently ridiculous.

                    Drugs can cause all sorts of mental and physical damage and even destroy someone's creativity, but people do turn to them for actual reasons. Beyond the most obvious ones of pleasure and escape, a heightened awareness and/or creative process is one that a lot of people look for and some actually find. You can say that the ones who do are exceptions, but I will maintain again, that everyone is an exception (which is basically what Michael has said in this same thread.) It's not a good idea to deny the reasons people turn to things when arguing in favor of making the choice not to turn to them. If you really want to convince people to make reasonable choices denying reality just because you don't like it isn't going to work.
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                    • #40
                      Drugs are not a source of inspiration, though they might release ideas and enable us to make certain creative associations. But, as stated here, the sixties showed us that drugs alone don't turn you into a creative person. William Blake, perhaps one of the most original creators we know, didn't do much in the way of drugs at all -- perhaps a mug of beer occasionally. Drugs can stimulate psychosis, especially those who already have psychotic tendencies, and I have seen many, many people destroyed or ruined by drugs. Recreational drugs in moderation are probably okay, but again can do great damage to people who are already of an unstable or depressive disposition. We need to understand more about them and in order to do this we should legalise them, though it might be best to control them. The Cato Institute, the rightwing thinktank, is actually for lifting the ban on drugs, arguing that people are going to get drugs if they want them and leave them alone if they don't. Many Republicans I know believe in private that drugs would do less damage in society if they were legalised. But given the kind of puritans who vote for Republicans, they daren't admit that.

                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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                      • #41
                        I've been hesitating to break into this thread with my usual inanities - it's been a fascinating exposition! I'm personally very interested in the 'endogeneous' state of an individual's chemical 'balance' and this ties in with what TheAdlerian has been saying re: 'confidence' - possibly itself a dynamic state, as it seems to derive both from environmental conditioning and the psychological (and hence 'internal chemical'?) state of the individual at any particular time: Most people will recognise the seiche between super-confidence and its occassional waning associated with events, time of year, physical health etc. Like TheAdlerian, I'm also a very 'confident' type, enjoying public rhetoric, a bit of (self-mocking) exhibitionism, etc and not being too upset if a particular person doesn't take to me, but happy if they do. A lot of this 'attitude' is inherent (ie born with) but much of it I attribute to the high circulating levels of endorphins I experience due to intense daily physical activity. This is as seemigly addictive and a 'drive-leader' as any 'inhaled or ingested' product: certainly my mental state and creativity is compromised by its absence to a certain extent, and this is a common finding. Interestingly, the one severe period of (suicidal) depression I experienced seemed to be partially induced by a 'burn-out' effect of getting up on too much endorphins, and crashing as my brain refused to work at the exagerrated speeds any longer.

                        I think Mike used a highly appropriate phrase about a character in the Cornelius cycle, that he 'Got up on his own steam'; it's an expression that I 'clicked' with, as it seemed to embody the ability to 'stoke' one's own 'internal inferno' - without external drugs. I can remember experiencing this 'spinning internal flywheel of creativity''lift' when I was under ten years old - I had to dash off a page or two of fiction, or paint or construct something in a type of mania.

                        The effect is a bit more controllable today (I possibly kid myself) but if anything more potent. I write most effectively (I think!) after a hard training session plus a strong coffee or two; it seems to provide the 'visionary' extremes without the downsides of more conventional 'drugs': although internal overdoses of endorphins, and certainly excessive caffeine, are not exactly risk-free!

                        I'd be fascinated to actually know the detailed electrochemical changes in a 'creating' brain and determine the effects of both endogeneous and external chemical stimuli, but beyond MRI coupled with serial blood-sampling and probably neurohistochemistry, that's probably difficult.No, I'm not volunteering!

                        Anyway, that was some fairly freeform blather. Too much coffee and rowing at lunchtime, I 'spect. :)

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                        • #42
                          I'm afraid the Alderian has missed the point I've made repeated that I am not still using drugs. So I won't be able to partake in his "study", though I don't see the point either. I do have music and writing I made while using drugs and I will vouch now in a sober state that much of it was indeed creative. Of course I'm being biased and subjective, but so is he, and I can at least admit it.

                          Also the long list of artists I put up all created art while under the influence and much of it is considered masterpiece material by the public at large. Again, I'm as impressed as he is with people who achieve these things without chemical aid, but I think it's delusional to deny that such people and such work exists. I'll stop repeating myself though, as it must be getting tedious for others to read.

                          I actually agree rather wholeheartedly with the points the Alderian raises in regard to the possible dangers of legalization. I too probably favor it, particularly because of the huge number of people incarcerated for nothing more than possession, but have misgivings. If you legalize it, then the people who will sell drugs would be the pharmaceutical companies and/or the tobacco corporations. No wonder so many right wing groups are actually pro-legalization, they want a piece of the action. I think I'd actually rather smoke weed from the mob than from Phillip Morris. The tobacco people would probably find a way to sneak some physically addictive additives in there.
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                          • #43
                            Well, I never really said that I thought drugs made people creative. I don't. I agree entirely with Michael's stance on this. They might influence people during the creative process, but they don't make people creative, and can often lead to a serious downfall of some sort.

                            What I took exception to was your basic proclamation that people who use drugs can't be creative, or are automatically losers. It sounds as if you've met some pretty unfortunate examples in your time. I on the other hand have known innumerable artists, writers, and musicians who created all sorts of really inspiring art. Many, probably most, used drugs of some sort at one time or another. Some let it influence their art, others did not. I've also watched people create what I deem to be crap who were both wasted and completely sober. Such things can't be oversimplified.
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                            • #44
                              Nor do I, so we are in agreement on that point. I still maintain that a creative person could make "drug influenced art" that might also happen to be good. It might not be worth it in a cost benefit analysis in the long run, but that wouldn't affect the quality of the art.
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                              • #45
                                I'm confused by your query? Are you saying that you personally believe that the insane cannot create art, or that there was at one time such a theory and your class debunked that?

                                Personally, I'm pretty certain that the insane can create art, some of it quite good. At least those that might be diagnosed as mentally ill often create art, and art therapy is a very interesting way to try to help them with some notable success, though of course not for everyone every time.
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