Canon and Theme: Notes on Belief and the Loss of Magic


“What do you think is become of the art of forcing the thunder and celestial fire down, which the wise Prometheus had formerly invented? ‘Tis most certain you have lost it; ’tis no more on your hemisphere; but here below we have it. And without a cause you sometimes wonder to see whole towns burned and destroyed by lightning and ethereal fire, and are at a loss about knowing from whom, by whom, and to what end those dreadful mischiefs were sent. Now, they are familiar and useful to us; and your philosophers who complain that the ancients have left them nothing to write of or to invent, are very much mistaken. Those phenomena which you see in the sky, whatever the surface of the earth affords you, and the sea, and every river contain, is not to be compared with what is hid within the bowels of the earth.”

―Rabelais, 1534

“There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life. But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.”

―H. P. Lovecraft, 1922

“It had taken him years, and much conniving, to get access to the mighty, and more trickery still to learn which of them had dreams of magic. When pressed. He’d used the jacket, seducing those who fawned upon potentates into revealing all they knew. Many had no tales to tell, their masters made no sign of mourning a lost world. But for every atheist there was at least one who believed; one prone to moping over lost dreams of childhood, or to midnight confessions on how their search for Heaven had ended only in tears and gold.”

―Clive Barker, 1987

“See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”

―Robert R. McCammon, 1991

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The Canon ― Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel


Excerpt: Gargantua and Pantagruel, by François Rabelais

What do you think is become of the art of forcing the thunder and celestial fire down, which the wise Prometheus had formerly invented? ‘Tis most certain you have lost it; ’tis no more on your hemisphere; but here below we have it. And without a cause you sometimes wonder to see whole towns burned and destroyed by lightning and ethereal fire, and are at a loss about knowing from whom, by whom, and to what end those dreadful mischiefs were sent. Now, they are familiar and useful to us; and your philosophers who complain that the ancients have left them nothing to write of or to invent, are very much mistaken. Those phenomena which you see in the sky, whatever the surface of the earth affords you, and the sea, and every river contain, is not to be compared with what is hid within the bowels of the earth.

5.XLVII

Sometimes It Just Works


Inevitable humor in a merchandise display at Barnes & Noble, Woodinville, Washington, 28 November 2014. (Photo by bd)

Every once in a while, inevitable humor just happens to coincide with one’s mood. That nexus of circumstance is the difference between this sort of thing being mildly amusing or just annoying enough to make one cuss beneath his breath. On this occasion, the merchandise arrangement at a Barnes & Noble had everything it needed, though in this case the one factor that makes the joke work is beyond the control of any hapless employee who figured it would be negligent, even counterproductive, to skip the obvious. One would not be surprised, indeed, if these were the merchandising instructions. But with comedy, timing is everything, and yes, in those days ‘twixt Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is also more generous. Besides, it’s all more decent than I would be. You know, Keep calm and go f―

That is to say, er … um … ah … as we were saying.

Right.

Carry on, then.

Blue Rabbit in Real Time


Steven Brust has high argumentative ambitions.

A “blue rabbit” is, simply, the term I use for an occasional random flash of insight. Specifically, it has to do with something already in your memory and knowledge base suddenly fitting together with a similar component, resulting in a brief, but usually useless flash of dialectic resolution.

The term comes from third grade; a girl complained about a boy coloring his rabbit blue. The teacher blithely mediated: “Well, I think there might have been blue rabbits, maybe. But there aren’t anymore.” Six years later, for absolutely no reason I could remember, it struck me over breakfast: There never were any blue rabbits.

It’s not like this was a particularly vexing question; I had long forgotten the episode until, suddenly, right: There never were any blue rabbits.

Thus prefaced, a note for Steven Brust, and several years later than … er … right. So, the only reason to even mention this is the fact that the pieces took years to correspond, join up, and click into place.

So, anyway: Ingenious use of the inclined plane?

Yeah. That one finally hit me. I’m accustomed to playing Where’s Devera? but I freely and even gladly admit that it never occurred to me to ask, “Where’s Eddi?”

And just like wrecking Buddy Ebsen’s credit record, Steve knows why. Well, most likely.

And maybe he’ll even tell us.

Anyway, yeah. Now it’s just a matter of digging up the text.

____________________

Image credit: via The Dream Café.

Good News, Everyone!


“Lady Teldra wakes up, realizes she’s just a collection of gender signifiers, and goes back to sleep. You’re welcome.”

Steven Brust

Never mind.

Coming October, 2014Anyway, Corwin says … er, at least we think it’s Corwin:

His next project as regards Vlad is Vallista, something he may or may not be working on at this very minute. Even though it’s Saturday afternoon. He says his boss is a dick, as though that were an excuse. I won’t say I interviewed him, but I did get permission to run this review and may have attempted to collect facts overtly. Stalkings by sexy fangirls never came up. He is clearly having no fun at all.

Oh, right. Cover art. Hawk.

October.

____________________

No, really, do I need to disclaim that’s not a real spoiler? So help me ….

A Note for Steven Brust: Philosophy and Fish


It’s just one of those things; as long as I don’t do anything about it, the idea preys on my mind. Now, having actually scribbled it down, it seems kind of useless. Then again, it’s an exorcism, so ….

From Steven Brust’s Tiassa (p. 293):

“That is true, Brigadier. You have often said that when you assume, you are thinking like a fish.°”

• • •

° In the Northwestern language, the word “assume” consists of syllables that, when taken apart, are not dissimilar to the sound for “fish” followed by the symbols that form the word “thought.”

Meanwhile, from the anime FLCL, episode five (“Brittle Bullet”)—the English-language voiceover:

KITSURABAMI: [shooting an anti-tank rifle] Blue! [fires] Blue! [fires] Blue! [fires] Blue! [fires] Cobalt blue! [fires] If Seven of Nine heaves a sigh, what do you have? Cyborg!

HARUKO: [swings bass guitar, slaps shot back] Cyborg, my butt!

KITSURABAMI: [gasps with alarm]

MAMIMI: [holding Takkun-cat] Actually, confusing cyborgs with robots is a common mistake.

And a more transliterated version in the English-language subtitles that accompany the Japanese dialogue:

KITSURABAMI: [shooting an anti-tank rifle] Blue! [fires] Blue! [fires] Blue! [fires] Blue! [fires] Cobalt blue! [fires] If you write “fish” and “blue”, and it looks like … saba for mackerel!

HARUKO: [swings bass guitar, slaps shot back] Mackerel, my butt!

KITSURABAMI: [gasps with alarm]

MAMIMI: [holding Takkun-cat] Actually, writing fish with blue is a common mistake.

And thus having exorcised the blue cyborg mackerel demon, I’ll shut up, now.

My opinion, based on someone else’s critique of yet other people’s opinions, or something like that


If you want my two cents on the fractious relationship between genre and literature (derived, of course, in consideration of someone else’s), it’s over at the Southern California Writers’ Conference blog.

If you don’t care either way, disregard this note.