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After The Party

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Whitechapel, London. 1888. Madeleine Fell is dreaming of Babylon. Not the Victorian Babylon of London, but a second, Mesopotamian Babylon that exists in a parallel dimension, a world populated and ruled by Ishtar’s sacred prostitutes that has of late gained ascendancy over our own.

In Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper is murdering Babylonian whores. And off-world, on Babylon itself, the men of the Black Order plot revolution—by instituting a ruthless program of gendercide. Unbeknown to her disapproving parents, Madeleine enters the Babylonian novitiate, her heart set upon travelling to the exotic, parallel world of her dreams, fearful, yet at the same time strangely excited, by the intimation that her demon lover awaits.

When Madeleine’s parents discover what she has done, she escapes to Babylon with the help of her irrepressible friend and fellow novice, Cliticia. As the two adventuresses journey through a landscape of magnificently bizarre ruins towards the consummation of their amour fou and a concomitant disillusionment, they begin to understand that Babylon the Great, like London, is as much a city of the mind as a set of co-ordinates on a transdimensional map, and that they owe the Black Order, and even Jack the Ripper himself, a debt of complicity.

Richard Calder's controversial novella After the Party: A Nymphomaniad is a companion to the author's novel Babylon. It can be seen as a culmination of Calder's long fascination with issues of eroticism: the association of orgasm with death; the fetishization of the sexual Other as Object; decadence and the politics of “perversion”. The setting is an alternate Earth of the late 19th or early 20th century, where female worshippers of Ishtar, long exiled to a parallel world, have returned, changing history by toppling patriarchy and installing a new global order dominated by Orders of sacred prostitutes and the male Illuminati who relish the attendant fleshly circus. The problem for women in this timeline is that although they have in a sense liberated themselves from bondage, forcing men to concede their equality and their power, they have also had to reify themselves in the image of masculine desire, becoming stereotypical maenads or dolls in consequence; nymphomania has become a plague, often of a literal and lethal kind. And males who resent the dictatorship of sensuality, in effect the ideological brothers of Jack the Ripper, have formed a dissident Black Order, dedicated to the destruction of all whores. What occurs in After the Party is the tentative, only vaguely successful reconciliation of the conflicting opposites, as a doctor belonging to the Order encounters a prostitute who draws him platonically as well as physically; the fatal psychological contradictions of the late Victorian Age come into sharp focus, and Calder achieves a powerful bleak finale.

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