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misce stultitiam consiliis brevem

Who’s the medium now? Part II

Nur

Nur - Enemy of darkness and illuminator of consciousness

Xyn

Xyn - Bringer of sleep, keeper of secrets and guardian of Mysteries

Earlier this fall I encountered an pair of goddesses to enthrall me, part of a larger pantheon on display in a coffee shop. More recently I found contact information for the artist, Jonah Kamphorst, and asked for their stories; he has been kind enough to send some preliminary pointers prepared for an earlier show.

I had earlier on the evening I wrote to Jonah re-read my other recent post on fiction, reality, and communication by/through artists. This pretty clearly influenced the particular questions I posed of this artist:

Are they from a world of yours? If so, to what degree are they yet fleshed out in your consciousness?  If not, where else can I look for more?

Jonah’s response is that he created the goddesses (note the direction of the agency) for himself, but has hoped others might find them illustrative or more. Also that he has an “extensive narrative … which is nowhere near complete” regarding them.

I haven’t checked yet, but my first guess is that Jonah has less than extensive experience writing narrative fiction so far. Again, as I noted last month, many writers seem to find themselves less than entirely in control of their narrative worlds. Also, I would describe none of my favorite fictional worlds as “complete”—or at least not as “completely described.” Wholeness in a world, whether this in which we live or those into which we follow storytellers’ great tales, is to my senses crucially dependent on there being always more to discover. One should always sense that one does not yet know everything that’s going on. Even, I expect, as a world’s creator.

Certainly that’s how I maintain my self-respect as a proper Dune fanatic: by insisting that it is not a universe belonging to and best understood by Frank Herbert. Herbert was merely the first to show it to us.

Likewise, I quite without remorse discarded Farscape barely into Season 3 and Six Feet Under part-way through Season 2, feeling the writers had lost track of their characters. And, despite my continued absorption in and deep respect for the character creation from Martha Cooley in The Archivist, I feel she mistakes her plot at the end.

Nur and Xyn here, from Jonah Kamphorst’s pantheon, remind me visually somewhat of “The two sisters,” from Margaret Mahy‘s The Door in the Air, and Other Stories, although these two are not actually complements as Jennifer and Jessica are. The obvious visual influences of Indian, Celtic, and cyberpunk cultures are quite striking and super-fun in combination. The image of Xyn linked here, though, does not quite feel the same as when I first saw it; it may be a different image, or possibly I feel different enough looking at it through the computer screen. In either case, I don’t have quite as forceful a feeling today as I did earlier this fall that there is more to discover—but it’s forceful enough.

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Let’s talk about Great Sci Fi

Because, well, why not?

Personally, I am a proper Dune fanatic. Dune is the War and Peace of speculative fiction, and, yes, I say that believing War and Peace is the greatest novel yet written. Dune, too, encompasses everything:

  • War
  • Peace
  • Guerrilla tactics
  • Religion
  • Fanaticism
  • Time
  • Space (tesseracts)
  • Love
  • Death
  • Psychology
  • Compromise
  • Ecology
  • Legend
  • &c…

The plot is intricate and deeply thought out, several of the characters can break a reader’s heart, and the world-creation is quite simply complete.

I first encountered the Dune world at age 13, through the David Lynch movie adaptation.  I read the novel immediately afterwards, and since then have owned somewhere on the order of a dozen copies, most of which I have given away (indeed, the purpose of having extra copies on hand).  I generally try to start reading the book slowly with lots of processing time; this works with many books I love, but in the case of Dune I am inevitably absorbed, and I career through the last 150 pages in a short evening.  I am left feeling somewhat heartsick each time, for Dune ends but does not resolve: the story is wide-ranging and messy, and even the “right” solution to the crises involve lots of death and–worse–soul-destruction and the breaking of barriers that protect people, like self-preservation.  None of which will be forgotten or forgiven, the ending makes clear.  I love the story for its truth to life that way. 

I have seen a friend become a creature.

In my family, I should note, “proper Dune fanatic” means that we attempt to forget the existence of all series books subsequent to Dune itself.  Or at least to spare ourselves any interaction with them.  Dune ends openly, and so theoretically open to sequel, but Herbert was quite evidently utterly unable to keep up the intensity of engagement that any true succeeding volume would have required.  I don’t necessarily hold this against the author; I have been told that many of the subsequent books were written to make money for Mrs. Herbert’s medical bills, and I tend to imagine that Dune as a universe is something powerful enough that it existed (somehow) prior to the books, while Herbert merely (somehow) saw it and tapped into it.  Which is a great accomplishment in and of itself, and should be enough.

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