And now a happier thought. One of the books I picked up at the last con is The White People and Other Stories: The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen. Being something of a Lovecraft otaku myself, and knowing that Machen was one of Lovecraft's personal role-models, I'd read three of these stories, because those were all of the Machen I could find. So I was delighted to find more Machen in print, and I'm having some fun reading it. Skimming his most famous story "The Great God Pan" again (because I've already re-read it too recently) reminds me of a thought experiment that I love to run on my friends.
First, a note of explanation. The premise of the story is that a Victorian mad scientist's experiment opened up a young girl's mental filters, allowing her to see (and, we find out, interact) with levels of reality that the rest of us can't see. She becomes pregnant by the omnipresent god of nature, and gives birth to a daughter who looks human (while alive), but who has an amazing effect on the world: every single one of her (many) wealthy lovers first loses his health and wealth, then his sanity and will to live, and within months every single one of them eventually commits suicide. We find all of this out because one of the two investigators pursuing her (independently) knew one of her victims, managed to speak with him briefly right before his suicide, and found out from him just what it is that Helen Vaughan does with her partners in bed. Just knowing this, not even seeing it, let alone doing any of it, immediately wrecks the health and imperils the sanity of the investigator - he ages 20 years overnight, his posture collapses, and he acquires a permanent mild palsy. He is persuaded to try to explain this to the other investigator (in an off-camera whisper) - who cuts him off after only a few sentences, shocked to the core. What is being described is so disgusting that it can't possibly be true. Not only would no human being do that, it is such an offense against God that God would have to intervene to stop it. No, worse than that, it's such an offense against the laws of physics themselves, as well, that the Earth itself would dissolve, boil, or crack spontaneously to swallow the lovers up before they could complete what they were doing. And yet, here the world still was, and she'd done this a half-dozen or more times. This is such a depressing revelation that he becomes permanently depressed, for the rest of his life, just from knowing part of a beginning of a few hints as to what Helen Vaughan does in bed.
Now, first, try to imagine what it is that Helen Vaughan does in bed. Can't do it, can you? But let's suppose that I had a written description of it, and handed it to you in an envelope. Let's assume that I could convince you, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that every human being who'd ever performed this sex act went mad instantly and committed suicide within a matter of months. Let's assume that I told you that I'd read it, ages ago, and that's why my health is shot, why I have such anger management issues lately, and why all my hair turned white and fell out.
Would you open the envelope and read the description?
Would you assume, in advance, that in all likelihood you were going to want to do it, whatever it was?
Consider it a test of your attraction to forbidden lore, and to the lore of the forbidden.