Thursday, September 19, 2019

'The Four Exterior Monsters'

I just found this photocopied image in a stack of papers and figured I ought to share it, since I can't find it anywhere else online. I'm sharing here just to share, because the image deserves to be shared and preserved. I'm 95% certain that I got this from Sam Tomaino at LaffCon2. I don't remember the source or the artist. Hopefully someone will comment here with that information.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Last post to EoL

(re-posted here because I think that it gets deleted immediately with the deletion of my account--which FB holds hostage for 30 days instead of deleting immediately)

Thanks to everyone here in East of Laughter for the years of fun. It has been wonder-full to get to know so many of you, both here online, and especially face-to-face at LaffCon.

I hate to be the guy who does a public "I'll be leaving now" post, but that's what this is. I've found that publicly and privately discussing Lafferty (or anything else for that matter) *on Facebook* causes me more anxiety and trouble than it's worth. Many of you know that I've deleted accounts and changed names frequently on this account as a way of coping with what I consider the inherent strangeness of FB. I've been reluctant to delete this account and leave this community because it has been a source of much joy to me, even if it also causes (largely self-inflicted) pain.

David Cruces, you created an incredible monster. What a privilege to live and talk in its belly with you and so many others that I've grown to love. Truly, I love so many of you.

"Ah, goodbye, people, or whatever you are. Yes, I think 'goodbye' is the word."

Thursday, April 11, 2019

"it's part of science fiction"

R.A. Lafferty, from "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Magician":
And another minus for SF is to be found in the apotheoses that are presented from time to time. Among the great bravura presentations that are somewhat controversial are the apotheoses. You like them or you like them not. I didn't like the apotheosis of the Roman Emperors that took place when I was around in my earlier manifestations; and I didn't like the apotheosis of this tedious pusher of fascism-for-boys (Oh, the twigs he's bent, the twigs he's bent!) which event took place in the Meuhlebach Hotel in Kansas City near the end of summer of 1976. This was in the main banquet hall, and it was as elaborate as it was stuffy. Perhaps it was appropriate that this master of fulsomeness and tedium should have a fulsome and tedious ceremony. But how were they able to draft such a crew to be fulsomeizers and tediumizers? I asked several of them about it later. “Oh, you have to go along with something like that,” they said, “it's part of science fiction.”
There were tributes and tributes and still more tributes, many hours of them. I slept and woke and slept and woke again and they were still going on. I remembered that at the apotheosis of Roman Emperors, the tributes went on all the time while the bulls were being caught and slaughtered and then roasted whole on giant spits, and that always took many hours until they were roasted through and through. So did this take many hours.
Most of the tribute-givers were arrant fools, but not all of them. Bob Tucker was up there. Alfred Bester was up there. How did they get such intelligent though roguish persons to take part in such concatenated and lock-step cheesiness? And the supreme tribute was to come after many hours of these lesser tributes. 
God Himself was to be involved in that supreme tribute, and the arrangers of the apotheosis believed, rightly or wrongly, that they had a commitment from God to play a part. Oh, a ceiling panel was to slide back at the climax of the ceremonies. The giant Hand of God was to come down through that opening, and the index finger was to touch this candidate for apotheosis. And then the Voice of God was to boom down through the aperture in the celing:
“This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” 
But it didn't happen quite that way. Wouldn't you know it, the panel in the ceiling of the main dining hall of the Muehlebach stuck. It rattled and rattled but it wouldn't slide open. There was a long and tiresome and uneasy moment but it still wouldn't slide open. So the Hand of God never did come down, and the Voice of God never did sound. 
This didn't really happen? Or it didn't really didn't happen? I tell you that more than half of the people in that dining hall were rolling their eyes up towards that ceiling and muttering “Oh God Oh God Oh God!” as the thing dragged on and on, and they were pale and twitchy and nauseated by the ecstasy of it all. And yet it ended up as ‘bad show’. 
This was probably the lowest moment in the entire history of science fiction, almost the lowest moment in anything. And yet the squalid apotheosis did take place, and now Heinlein is one of the Gods.

Documentary footage of The Apotheosis of Robert Heinlein:





Monday, October 15, 2018

Gardner Dozois introduces "Slow Tuesday Night"

From the anthology A Day in the Life, first published 1972, still available as an ebook via Baen (see links below).
“By 1990, we will have television.” SF has always been fond of statements like that. Most of them have been wrong—hardly anyone foresaw the incredible- acceleration of our society, the cultural/technological/psychological explosion that wrenched us from Kitty Hawk to Copernicus in seventy years, that gave us credit cards and pollution and LSD, that shoved us into the mass nervous breakdown of the late sixties. As a result, only those stories that were the most radical and farfetched in their conception of life in 1970 bear even a conservative correlation to reality. Satire ages best—I’m sure to the horror of the satirists, who must watch their created absurdities and distortions creeping into the headlines and becoming mundane. Listen to a TV commercial, watch an X-rated movie, look out the window (remember windows?), step outside and discover that you can’t breathe the air. Notice how much your morning newspaper resembles The Marching Morons? Catch-22 is one of the most realistic war novels ever written. Ask any private who’s ever been caught in the gears.

One thing we can be fairly sure of: if we don’t blow up the world or strangle in our own excreta, the future will be more complex and strange than we suppose, maybe more strange than we can even imagine. R. A. Lafferty—a man possessed of one of the most daring, flexible and incisive imaginations in the world—here blips us through a slow Tuesday night with the speed of a computer data transfer. Read it and laugh, because it is very funny, and at the moment it is satire. If you’re still around forty years from now, do the existing societal equivalent of reading it again, and you may find yourself laughing out of the other side of your mouth (remember mouths?). It will probably be much too conservative.
G.D.

https://www.baen.com/Chapters/9781618249203/9781618249203.htm

https://www.amazon.com/Day-Life-Gardner-Dozois-ebook/dp/B00O8Y5BYE/


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Harpo Marx and Albert the Alligator




I've been inspired by Bill Rogers' recent artwork. Not inspired to do all of the work needed for something great, but inspired enough to put up a brief poking, plodding blog post in the hopes that someone else will run with the idea and write the essay I want to read, but don't want to write.

Bill's art: https://www.flickr.com/photos/giveawayboy/36831469492/

"I found that there are more mysterious creatures inside of every person than there are persons in the world."

I'm no Greek scholar. Not even a Greek amateur. It's all Greek to me. But I am able to find my way around Greek "study tools" such as dictionaries and concordances.

Lafferty's "ktistec" is an obvious derivation of the greek verb "ktizó" (I'm going to be using transliterations instead of copying and pasting the actual Greek here). Specifically, Ktistec is from the noun "ktístēs": Creator. http://biblehub.com/greek/2936.htm

After his birth, Epikt the machine is immediately baptized in wine and named by Valery (one of Lafferty's greatest characters).

“Epiktistes!” Gregory crackled. “That can not be its name. That means the ‘creative one,’ and it is ourselves who are the creative ones. This thing will be a mere receptacle and reactor.”

In Greek as in English (following the Latin), there is a closeness in the language to describe two very distinct things. Ktistes is the creator. Ktistis is the creation. Lafferty very clearly uses the 'e'. Our favorite machine is indeed the created Creative One.

With this naming begins one of the key themes of Arrive at Easterwine, that of creating, creation, new creation, and creatureliness.

A search for "creat" in the digital text of Easterwine reveals that the root "creat" appears 54 times in the text. It's often Epikt referring to others as creatures. Epikt never forgets that he is a created being, a creature, and he relates to others as such. "Creature" stresses the created reality of each.

Also, from his beginning Epikt is given a fundamentally creative objective:

“It is necessary now that we state our purpose,” Gregory insisted (horrendous blasting and that urbane maniacal laughter at the front door again!), “that the mechanismus should become the paragon of group-man, I have said; and that it will attempt the next steps in man that man himself is incapable of taking. But this fine-honed machine (though you do seem a little rough yet, Epikt) must now be set to three primary tasks. These may be the types of all tasks and problems there are. The three tasks (and I will outline them as briefly as possible, no more than an hour to each) will be to establish or create—” “A Leader,” said Valery. “A Love,” said Aloysius. “And a Liaison,” said Cecil Corn.

Besides the creation talk, there is some related "generation" and "generating" talk throughout the book.

And probably the most obvious connection to all of this creation talk is that Lafferty begins Chapter 1 with the powerfully resonant phrase, "In the beginning," echoing the book of Genesis (and maybe perhaps also an echo of the Gospel of John's own echoing twist on Genesis; Lafferty does also play with the language and idea of Logos as well as the "central terminal" of Easterwine).

That's all I've got. I haven't actually re-read the book or put any work into this idea. I'm just rambling as usual. I'm hoping that maybe my rambling post will lead to new posts from Daniel and Kevin on anything. I know I came late to the blogging party. But I'm here insisting that the party is NOT over!! I've also been eagerly awaiting Andrew's next Archipelago post. Please, Andrew, come back to us! More Archipelago! Even better than hearing from any of those guys, maybe I'll convince someone else to take up the task of blogging about Lafferty. "Hey, if that idiot John can do it, I can do it better!" Yes, you can! Do it!

 I confess that I've been in a dry period of Lafferty reading myself. Besides re-reading a few of the essays a month or so ago, I haven't read any Lafferty since reading Not to Mention Camels (which is a very bad book. I shouldn't have used it). I've been reading Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (my first time tackling more than the first novel, which I read nearly 20 years ago) and the usualy stack of non-fiction (most notably for Lafferty-related thought, I'm re-reading Augustine's Confessions and see plenty of connection between Augustine's descriptions of the dis-integrated self and Lafferty's work). When I'm finished with that, I'm hoping to tackle either More Than Melchisidech or East of Laughter. There's an essay that's long been bubbling inside of me about the Argo trilogy and Lafferty's alcohol use and abuse, so I need to, you know, actually finish the trilogy(!) before I can re-read it and then finally start to intelligently comment on it. But I'm currently leaning towards a first read of East of Laughter. The recent passing of Robert Jenson had me re-reading this essay:
 https://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/03/how-the-world-lost-its-story. The same day had me searching Daniel's blog for something I half-remembered, that the Jenson essay had stirred in me:
 http://antsofgodarequeerfish.blogspot.com/2011/08/they-learned-that-quest-for-reality-is.html

They also learned that they themselves were outside of reality, that they had never touched it at even one point, but that sometimes they came close. They were imbrued, all through their happy suppertime and into the night hours, with an almost-happy philosophy. They hadn’t yet come to the centrality of the philosophy, but they found themselves more and more on the near fringes of it as they discussed and reveled and studied. They learned that a quest for reality is possible.’

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fool's Ranking

I've now read twelve Lafferty novels. (It's been a while since I counted, but I think that my short stories read count is up around 170--out of 220+ published!)

As deep as I am into Lafferty, I still feel like a newbie. So much to read. So much to learn.

Here's how I'd personally rank the novels if someone asked me today. The order would probably change by tomorrow.

1. Archipelago
2. Sindbad: The Thirteenth Voyage
3. My Heart Leaps Up
4. The Devil is Dead
5. Fourth Mansions
6. Not to Mention Camels
7. Annals of Klepsis
8. Serpent's Egg
9. Arrive at Easterwine
10. Past Master
11. The Reefs of Earth
12. Space Chantey

If someone wanted me to assign star or number ratings, that's easy. Each of these books is a perfect 10/10 or five stars out of five stars. I have not yet met a Lafferty novel which has disappointed me. They have confounded me, but never disappointed. There are some stories that I can take or leave, that I've definitely felt lukewarm towards, but I've never felt that way about any of the novels (except maybe Aurelia--sorry, Gregorio!--which I started and did not finish).

Eleven published novels left to go!:
Dotty
More Than Melchisidech
The Flame is Green
Half a Sky
The Three Armageddons of Enniscorthy Sweeney
Where Have You Been, Sandaliotis?
Aurelia
East of Laughter
The Fall of Rome
Okla Hannali
The Elliptical Grave

So, by my count, that's 23 published novels? Right? Am I missing anything?

And then 14 unpublished novels? And six unpublished novel fragments?

I'm planning on reading Aurelia next, then I'm not sure. Maybe More Than Melchisidech and Dotty. It's possible that before this year is over, I'll get serious and write an essay on one specific aspect of the Argo Cycle, an idea that I've been rolling around in my head for a while. I need to read MTM and Dotty before I can feel good about starting this.

"You'll add to it yourself in your death straits, if there is any deformed originality in you."

I read the entirety of Not to Mention Camels over three days while on a family vacation this past weekend. It felt good to relax into a novel, especially one as thrillingly good as this one. I knew Camels only by its reputation as a "very bad, terrible book" and knew that DOJP was hesitant to fully love the novel. I think that Gaiman specifically mentions it as a failed novel in his Coode St episode. I also learned at this year's LaffCon that the book had been astoundingly popular in Spain when it was translated there, going through multiple print runs. (Weirdly, there's no entry for the Spanish edition on isfdb.)

I wrote the following the other day after reading the first four chapters.....


Anyone really love Not to Mention Camels? I think I do.

I'm four chapters in and really enjoying it. It's definitely strongly Laffertarian, but it's also giving me a strong PKD vibe with its immoral protagonist and unstable, uncertain realities. It's funny, but it's a much darker funny. Something about a highly capable male protagonist trying to exert his will over the world makes this novel feel more closely aligned with core sf than many of Lafferty's other texts. It almost feels like a subversion of the Campbellian/Heinleinian self-sufficient man myth.

Reading Camels jolted in me an awareness (I'd already known this but now thought it afresh) of how important community is to Lafferty's work.

In Space Chantey, Roadstrum is captain of an entire crew.

In Past Master, Thomas More joins a small band of misfits.

In Reefs of Earth, the Puca children are a family unit.

In Fourth Mansions, Freddy Foley is in constant contact with almost everyone else in the novel.

In Sindbad, there is, like in Past Master, a small band of weird heroes facing down swamp dragons.

In Serpent's Egg, there are the 12 children.

In Archipelago, there is the core group of friends.

In The Devil is Dead, Finnegan is central, but there are several women orbiting around him, and also the Devil and Mr. X.

Arrive at Easterwine features the Institute.

Annals of Klepsis is another ship's crew.

My Heart Leaps Up features dozens of kids.

Those are examples from the novels that I've read (excluding a few novels that I've dipped into but haven't read in their entirety).

Examples could be multiplied from the stories. (So too could exceptions.)

Multiplied is a good word. Lafferty dealt in multiples and abundance was a regular thing. Including a multiplication of and abundance of characters.

In Not to Mention Camels, though, so far there is no such community. There is the force of will of a man (?) Pilgrim and those who bend to his will. His antagonist, Evenhand, is surrounded by a company of eight, but even then, the are described as extensions of himself.

The Case of the Moth-Eaten Magician was published in 1981, five years after the publication of Not to Mention Camels. I believe that the opening of Moth-Eaten Magician gives us one clue as to what Lafferty was up to in this hellish novel. Contra Sartre, hell is not other people. It is a complete disregard for anything Other, anything outside of oneself.

Long excerpt from the beginning of Magician:

Well, following the same cleavage, there are two kinds of almost everything. There are two kinds of people in the world, and that's the difficulty.
There are persons with a strong interest and affection for themselves and themselves alone.
There are persons with a strong interest and affection for the world about them, and for its furniture and people.
So far as I know, these are the only two sorts of people there are, and the difference between these two sorts is very deep. It would seem that the persons of the first sort, having no real interest in other persons at all, would not be interesting to those other persons either; but this isn't always the case. These persons of the first sort are often able to transmit their intoxication with themselves to others.
 
“Everybody look at me,
I'm way and out the best there be,”
 
— the persons proclaim, and often groups and clots of folks, loitering and guesting clusters or clumps of people will give them the echo “Amen, Amen, you sure are!” This is mostly inexplicable to me. Many persons of the first sort do become cult figures and have followings. But it seems as though a universe with only one person in it, and a group of shadows, is too small.
These classifications have nothing to do with the artificial categories of introvert and extrovert. A person of the first sort will see and admire himself both from within and from without. He will see himself from a series of exterior vistas set like spotlights to highlight him.
And a person of the second sort will see the world objectively in whatever manner persons do see exterior objects and complexes. And he will also see it in a subjective and personalized way. No one can see things without putting his own personal signature on his seeing.