Progress updates on my published and forthcoming work for all my projects under both variations of my name will be posted here first, so you can bookmark this page for the latest news.
Recent published work and author interviews
Here’s my third article in a much-appreciated series on underrated dark ambient albums for the respected online music publication I Die: You Die. And yes, there will be a fourth volume in the series as well. And why not? There’s a lot of underrated dark ambient music out there. In fact, a good case could be made that the entire genre is underrated. (I’m sure it’ll surprise no one that I would be the one to make that case.)
This essay received an enthusiastic response that far exceeded my expectations, and was widely shared. I am planning to expand it for re-publication.
“What does it take to learn to appreciate music with no vocals, lyrics, or rhythm, and without conventional song structure – especially when it’s unsettling, gloomy, or melancholy in mood and style? Where should a curious neophyte begin to explore in a musical genre with such a notorious reputation for being dull or off-putting that it’s even been dismissed as “not really music”? And what might this music have to offer for Pagans? Let specialist Danica Swanson – author of the in-progress book Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture – guide your first steps into the obscure genre that began its life as “industrial ambient,” and whet your appetite for more.”
“Danica Swanson, the entity behind The Black Stone Hermitage and author of an upcoming book focusing specifically on dark ambient, gives us a proper introduction to the genre. After years of following dark ambient music, interviewing many of its most prominent artists and studying the history and inner workings of the genre, Danica Swanson is uniquely positioned to speak with authority about the genre as a whole. Her latest article focuses specifically on introducing the genre to polytheistic practitioners, but it’s an equally informative and interesting read for any dark ambient fan.”
– Michael Barnett of This Is Darkness
“Recommended read for those interested in perspectives on the art of listening.”
– Marcus Lonebrink of Sinke Dûs
“Awesome article…I sense that the book is going to be an important (and much needed) ground stone for anything dark ambient related.”
– Matej Gyarfas of Phragments
“Danica has re-sparked my decades-long love for “dark music” and I’ve used her playlists in my own personal and ceremonial grief work….even if you don’t find an appreciation for dark ambient, there is still much to learn in these considerations of how music contributes to creating a sacred atmosphere.”
– Syren Nagakyrie of Many Gods West
What Is Sacred Endarkenment? (March 2017)
From the article:
“We practice sacred endarkenment when we look deeply into darkness and acknowledge its worth, instead of turning away. Annihilating forces, after all, are just as essential to life as generative ones, as alchemists know.
There is nothing inherently negative about darkness. Darkness has been discredited – and associated with evil and doom – by oppressive forces that benefit when noses are kept to the grindstone and “dark” emotions are suppressed. Why?
Because within the sacred dark lies deep wisdom, regenerative power, and liberation.”
An Interview with Danica Swanson – conducted by Sarah Sadie (2016)
The Impact of My Polytheism – a piece by Crystal Blanton for Pagan news daily The Wild Hunt, including comments from me about the My Polytheism project (2016)
(as Danica Swanson)
Work Less, Play More – a piece by Lucy Purdy for UK-based Positive News, including short interview comments from me about basic income (2015)
(as D. JoAnne Swanson)
Twilight Magick: An Interview with Abby Helasdottir of Gydja (2015)
The ID:UD Dozen: 12 Underrated Dark Ambient Albums, Vol. 2 (2015)
The ID:UD Dozen: 12 Underrated Dark Ambient Albums, Vol. 1 (2013)
Work in progress: articles and essays
1. Label Profile: Hypnagoga Press
Hypnagoga Press is a new, up-and-coming label and publishing house in northern Sweden that has already created a stir in the dark ambient scene with their first album release, Hymnambulae’s Orgelhuset, in 2016. The album has been described as “exquisite – destined to become a classic of the genre.” In addition to dark ambient and classical music, the label also publishes zines, limited-edition fine art prints, children’s books, and poetry. Intrigued fans have noted that hypnagogic states possess an intelligence that often surpasses that of the waking mind, and are eagerly awaiting future Hypnagoga Press releases. Label founders Pär and Åsa Boström – who are not only creative collaborators, but also siblings – discuss their unique aesthetics and give us a glimpse of what’s in store for the label’s future.
2. Darkness Rising: The New Renaissance of Dark Ambient Music (scene report)
Driven by the rise of streaming music platforms such as Bandcamp, and by influential labels such as Cyclic Law, Loki-Foundation, and Cryo Chamber, the dark ambient scene is growing steadily, and reaching a new generation of listeners. Dark ambient is even making inroads into yoga studios, meditation retreats, and other unexpected realms far outside the shadowy industrial music scene of its origins. What is attracting newcomers to such an obscure musical style, and why is the dark ambient scene so well-poised to thrive, despite its limited size? Danica Swanson guides the curious explorer through today’s dark ambient landscape.
3. Is Nothing Sacred? On ‘Doing Nothing’ and Leisure as Resistance
In a culture held in thrall to the Protestant work ethic, and in which it is difficult to survive without selling our hours to employers, too many of us have little or no room for true leisure. Women often struggle under the structural violence of economic and cultural pressures as they contend with the need to support themselves financially and carry a disproportionate share of emotional labor, caring duties, and other unpaid work – or face consequences if they refuse. De-centering wage labor by making space for leisure and self-care – and refusing to feel shameful about it – can be a vital form of resistance to a culture that enforces productivist values and extracts emotional labor from women at every turn. It can also be a path toward right relationship with the Earth and the divine; from an ecological standpoint, ‘doing nothing’ can be far more responsible than having a job. Unconditional basic income and a wide-scale balance in emotional labor are keys to building a culture of leisure that is truly inclusive.
(This is a revised and expanded version of a reader favorite essay from Rethinking the Job Culture that has been expanded into a book chapter for On The Leisure Track.)
4. USA: Land of Suffering With a Smile
You must suffer to earn money. You endure your job and pay your dues like everyone else, to prove you’re worthy of subsistence in the eyes of capital. And you must do it in the proper way: silently, while performing “positivity.” It’s not enough to be structurally exploited by the need to sell your hours to employers so you can survive. It’s not enough to conceal your misery about it, either. You must also express gratitude for your job. After all, it could be worse. You’re lucky to have a job at all! If you speak up about your suffering, you risk being branded as “difficult” or “entitled” – a complainer who deserves their fate.
This is what passes for a work ethic in the USA: the logic of the abuser, writ large.
It’s also one of the reasons people on benefits are so frequently denounced as “lazy” or”mooching off the system”: they have managed to escape the suffering of the wage laborer, or so the story goes. The message behind this is: You should suffer, like everyone else. The vitriol directed at “laziness” reveals how much Americans hate their own jobs.
The expectation that we paste on a smile and present as “positive” is just one of the many insidious ways affective labor is extracted from Americans in service of capital – while preventable suffering and structural violence continues on, largely unacknowledged and unaddressed. This pattern can be seen everywhere – from stressed-out (but smiling!) retail workers to the way strangers ask us a perfunctory “how are you?” and the only socially acceptable answer is some variation on “good” or “fine…” Perhaps all this is not too surprising for a country in denial about the fact that it was founded on colonialism and genocide, but still.
Laying the blame on individuals for structural problems is a time-honored ideological tradition in the USA. D. JoAnne Swanson – author of the in-progress book On The Leisure Track – provides an eye-opening tour of the land of suffering with a smile.
(This essay is extracted from “Do What You Love, Lazy Bums Who Refuse to Work, and Other Lies of Job Culture,” an in-progress chapter from On The Leisure Track.)
Work in progress: book manuscripts
I’ve received many inquiries about expected publication dates for my books. As of June 2017, On the Leisure Track is approximately half finished. Endarkenment is still in the interviewing stage, and will be for quite some time. At the moment, I do not have a publishing contract for either one of my book manuscripts, so they’ll be finished whenever I manage to finish them.
I fund all of the time for writing these books myself. My Patreon supporters for Rethinking the Job Culture have certainly helped, but my day job is still my main source of income and consumes most of my time, so progress on all of my writing projects will continue to be slow.
Nonetheless, I will continue to work on the books as often as I am able. When I have publication information, it will be posted here first!
Finished but unpublished work
These titles are from my archives. Most are unpublished. One has been edited and shared with patrons; I may do the same with the rest.
- On The Limitations of ‘Spiritual’ Language (2001)
- What Really Matters? (2001)
- Maladjusted: On Pop Psychology, Resistance, and Staying Home (2003)
(posted for $5+ Patreon supporters for Rethinking the Job Culture)
- Undermining Patriarchy: Slash Fiction as Feminist Utopia (2004)
- Confessions of a Spiritual Dilettante (Or, How I Became a Heathen) (2004)
- The Emotional Distance Problem: A Radical Lesbian Feminist Awakening (2004)
- Rethinking Relationships and Sexual Identity (2006)
- Shared Ideals: Reflections on the Pitfalls of Counter-cultural Communities (2006)
- Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life as Experimental Epistemology: A Systems-Feminist Approach (final paper for graduate class in Systems Philosophy, 2000)
- Playing God: Artificial Intelligence as An Old Theodicy in New Hardware
(honors paper for philosophy of religion class, 2000)
I have an unpublished book-length collection of short erotic fiction stories, and a slash fiction story published in a fanzine. All my fiction was written 15-20 years ago. These days I write non-fiction exclusively, so you won’t see any new fiction from me. However, I do eventually plan to edit and publish the book of erotic fiction under a pseudonym.