Charles Platt - psychedelic porn: within 24 hours society self-destructs in a vast orgy of lust, aggression, and psychosis, as men and women everywhere act out their deepest, weirdest obsessions

The Gas by Charles Platt


Charles Platt, The Gas, Savoy Books, 1980.


"A delicious erotic dream explodes into an uncontrollable nightmare of perversion, violence, and insanity. An accident at a secret germ warfare laboratory allows a deadly vapour to infect all of Southern England. The vapour is an aphrodisiac that releases every pent-up human urge. Within 24 hours society self-destructs in a vast orgy of lust, aggression, and psychosis, as men and women everywhere act out their deepest, weirdest obsessions."


Eighteen years after publication, the Savoy editions of The Gas and The Tides of Lust, were listed in the UK's Bizarre magazine as two out of five of the most obscene books to have been published in Britain. Notoriety travels.


Charles Platt's classic novel of comic depravity and future sex, The Gas, is being reissued by Orion as part of a nine-book deal that will see most of Platt's titles available once again. Other titles will include Dream Makers, his book of interviews with SF writers, first published by Savoy as Who Writes Science Fiction?, and his 'New Wave' science-fiction novel The City Dwellers. All titles will be in ebook format.
Prior to Lord Horror, The Gas was Savoy's most notorious title. Not only did bookshops in Britain refuse to sell it, our distributors of the time, New English Library, declined to handle it. The book also came under the censorious purview of the Manchester police, and its seizure in 1980 resulted in Savoyard David Britton's first prison sentence: twenty-eight days in the riot-torn slammer of Strangeways. (For writing and publishing Lord Horror he was sentenced in 1993 to four further months in Strangeways and other prisons.)
With this history in mind, Platt has dedicated the reissue to David Britton; the new edition will also contain an insightful introduction by Platt outlining his novel's chequered history including an account of the police attacks on Savoy Books and our fight-back. To the finger-wagging moralisers who object to extreme content in fantasy, Platt's introduction offers this reminder: "In the immortal words of Robert Crumb, 'It's only ink on paper, folks!'" - http://www.savoy.abel.co.uk


This incomparably vile relic from the UK is the highlight of sci fi author Charles Platt's seventies-era excursions in literary pornography (which include THE IMAGE JOB, THE POWER AND THE PAIN and SWEET EVIL). For that matter, I'd say THE GAS is the apotheosis of the "Fuck Book" trend of the 1970s. The idea of a man-made drug causing people to lose their sexual inhibitions had been done before THE GAS saw print (see R.L. Seiffert's THE POLLUTERS from 1968), and after (see James Herbert's THE FOG from 1975), but no other novel took the concept as far as Platt did. So extreme are its contents that the Savoy edition of THE GAS was seized by British police in November of 1980, and used as evidence in a trial that landed Savoy's David Britton in prison. Hence, this sickie is now a bonafide historical document.
    Of THE GAS'S three editions the Savoy publication is the one to read. It was revised somewhat from the original Olympia Press version (which appeared after Platt's intended publisher Essex House went belly-up) yet fully retains the crudeness of its humble fuckbook origins (and contains a record number of typos), and so is far preferable to the more heavily revised Loompanics Unlimited publication that appeared in 1995, in which Platt made the story's satirical bent more overt--and, I feel, lessened its impact. However, the Loompanics version does at least contain an introduction in which Platt retrospectively details the book's origins--it was written, apparently, to "exorcise my British inhibitions once and for all"--and so isn't entirely without worth.
     But anyway: Vincent is a British researcher on the run from the spread of the titular gas, a yellowish contagion accidentally released from a government laboratory. As the book opens Vincent picks up Cathy, a young hottie, in a stolen car and, infected by the gas, fucks her every which way. From there the madness only increases, with mass orgies, a specially designed sex machine, parachuting lovers and other wackiness (of which it's best not to give away too much) gradually giving way to unbelievable violence and perversion as the British populace's darker impulses rise to the fore. Vincent certainly isn't immune to this aspect of the gas's influence, and gives vent to his ugly side in a thoroughly repellent cavalcade of gory aggression that prefigures, and outdoes, the excesses of the splatterpunks.
     Obviously this book isn't for wimps, and nor will it appeal to connoisseurs of arty porn (of the type practiced by writers like Samuel R. Delany and David Meltzer). Yet in its crudity and outrageousness THE GAS achieves a definite artful catharsis, being very likely the last word in extreme erotica. - http://www.fright.com/edge/TheGas.htm




‘Hieronymous Bosch directed by Shivers-period David Cronenberg’
You don’t pick up a book like The Gas thinking it will be anything but what it actually is: psychedelic porn.
There’s this gas, you see. Gas that makes you want to have sex. If you can’t have sex, the gas makes you violent. Sex and violence, sex and violence, sex and violence. That is the gas. It has escaped from a top secret germ warfare research laboratory two hundred miles from London, and Vincent (our narrator) may have been responsible. Still. Don’t let that stop you. It doesn’t stop Vincent. He is driving to London, trying to get to his wife and children so they can all get away. Only there is this young hitch-hiker who appears to want to have sex with him. So they do. Afterwards, Vincent explains to her what is going on but – oh-oh – they get horny again. Vincent doesn’t want to stop driving so she rides him as they make their merry way to London. Only it can be quite difficult to drive and have sex at the same time. So they crash the car. Cathy the hitch-hiker is unconscious so Vincent stumbles into the nearest village, hoping to wake up the local policeman and alert him to the fact that something serious is going down. Only the policeman is too busy wanking off his dog (I kid you not) to pay any attention. The next thing you know, there is an all-out orgy and everybody is having sex as far as the eye can see.
And that’s only the first couple of chapters.
From there on in, it’s Hieronymous Bosch directed by Shivers-period David Cronenberg all – and I mean all – the way. There is sex and buggery at thirty thousand feet. There are nuns who have sex in the street (with a gardener dressed up as Christ). There are children eating shit (a la Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden). Genitals are fondled and jism is spurted pretty much everywhere. It’s the kind of book that would mightily offend most people (and, let’s face it, that can only be a good thing). It will particularly offend religious types and – coming on the morning that I read how The Catholic Herald felt that Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass was a book “fit for the bonfire” (harking back, no doubt, to those glorious days when we could just burn all those who disagree with us at the stake) – I’m all for that.
The Gas is not great literature. Praise be to God for that. What The Gas demonstrates – and demonstrates in quite spectacular fashion – is what can be achieved by someone in a country that allows you to do, say, act, write and live just the way you want to.
Saying all of that, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that scene in Manhattan. Woody Allen is attending a party at which a bespectacled guy is telling a group of four or five people about his film script. “There’s this guy,” he says, “who screws so good” (and Woody interrupts to say “Screws so good?” as if that phrase alone sums up everything the guy is saying, which, of course, it does) – “who screws so good, that women die on reaching orgasm . . .” Cue Woody – “Jeez-us, are you serious . . .?”
There is no doubt that Platt has issues. No doubt. But don’t let that stop you.
Any Cop?: Psychedelic porn on a grand scale. Not for your grandma (not for most people actually), but worth reading all the same. - bookmunch.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/hieronymous-bosch-directed-by-shivers-period-david-cronenberg-the-gas-by-charles-platt/




NW_0168


Charles Platt, Garbage World , 1966.

In 1980, 3,000 copies of Charles Platt’s SF novel The Gas (1970)—in which, the “eponymous gas, accidentally released over England, works as an irresistible aphrodisiac […]” and, according to John Clute at SF encyclopedia, contains “sex material” in “transgressively pornographic terms”—were seized by UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions in effect preventing a UK distribution [article].
Platt’s first novel, Garbage World (serialized 1966), feels like The Gas‘s SF juvenile little brother i.e. without the transgressive porn but all the intent to shock a 14 year old boy, although it’s never more than “the warmth of the mud mingled with the warmth of their lovemaking” (95).  So, what is this tidbit of effluvia all about?  First, the silliest part of the novel—the often scatalogical chapter titles: “Garbage Party” (21), “The Hole” ( 57), “The Yellow Rain” (81), “The Defecated Village” (100), “The Great Purgative Plan” (105), etc.
And the rest of the silly novel… Garbage World dolls up a plot rudiment straight from the pulps with a distinct patina of mud and mire.  Nice Oliver Roach and his evil villain colleague “Minister of the Government of the United Asteroid Belt Pleasure Worlds Federation, Zone Two, Commander of the Imperial Survey Craft” (9) Larkin are from the clean astroids.  These men fetishize the clean and bathe compulsively.  They arrive at the astroid of Kopra, which is the astroid belt’s trash heap, to ostensibly avert a catastrophe.  Kopra has grown from a small rock to a giant veritable ball of trash with jungles and yellow rain: “a century’s worth of refuse has accumulated here, and the layer is now more than ten miles thick in places […] This vast layer is only held in place by a three-quarter gee field from an obsolete, malfunctioning generator” (12).  The goal, replace the generator to prevent the astroid from falling apart because…
…an entire society of trash dwellers—who plod across the squalid, mushy, and smelly trashscape—eek out an existence tracking down the trash “blimps” lobbed over from the other astroids.  The new trash in the “blimps” provide food and the status providing “cool” trash fragments that form each man’s horde.  The man with the largest horde rules the town.  Evil clean man Larkin has other plans of course—to streamline the astroid belt’s trash problem.  And, he can’t get over how dirty everyone is: “You seem to see these slimy creatures as human beings, rather than the offensive vermin they really are.  They are not men” (107).
Soon, as Oliver’s last name (dirty insects are the best insects) indicates, his dirty interior takes over and his cleanliness fetish disappears.  As is so often the case, Oliver wants to get the girl.  But, first, he must grapple with the fact that Juliette is covered (literally) with trash.  As they trek across the trashscape looking for trash nomads, fighting giant trash slugs, falling into giant vaginal trash chasms, Oliver has a revelatory trashgasm of belonging and love and well, discovers he has a thing for oozy trash mud:
“He had to admit it.  He could never go back to the clean life, now.  Not anymore.  Never again.  Lying in the mud, in the gentle sun, he picked up a handful of ooze and squeezed it out between his fingers.  He rubbed it over his arms, smooth and warm.  He wiggled his toes in it and felt its gentle touch all over his body” (95).
He proclaims, “I just can’t believe what’s happened to me” (95).  I proclaim, “I just can’t believe I read this far.”
Final Thoughts
What is Platt’s purpose in all of this?  Why did Michael Moorcock serialize Garbage World in the highly influential New Worlds magazine?  Other far superior authors of the day played with and subverted the SF trope of a clean/sterile future.  For example, Brian W. Aldiss in The Dark Light-Years (1964)—another highly problematic novel—posited a sentient alien species which spent their days copulating, laying around, and eating in their own filth.  Humankind is confronted, and bewildered, by these aliens.  And again in “Legends of Smith’s Burst” (1959), Aldiss took a Vance-esque planetary romance story but filled the worldscape with filth and decay, elements the human hero can never come to grips with.
Platt attempts to chart similarly subversive waters.  At the core Garbage World is a SF juvenile: morally upright man encounters and wins woman and saves the planet.  But, here the world worth saving is a ball of trash, and everyone on the planet is covered with trash, and governs the entire social structure of the society—like Aldiss’ aliens in The Dark Light-Years, Kopra’s inhabitants revel in their environment.  Consciously or unconsciously, Platt conveys the entire work in the vocabulary of a SF juvenile.  The language is simple, clunky, and superficial.  An intriguing exercise, but ultimately, Garbage World is about as engaging as finding a fecal remnant left by my cat which just missed the litterbox.  Darn cat. -




Charles Platt (born 1945) is the author of 41 fiction and nonfiction books, including science-fiction novels such as The Silicon Man and Protektor (published in paperback by Avon Books). He has also written non-fiction, particularly on the subjects of computer technology and cryonics, as well as teaching and working in these fields. Platt relocated from England to the United States in 1970 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He has one daughter, Rose Fox. He is the nephew of Robert, Baron Platt, of Grindleford.

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