Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Fantasy Novelist

For the lost friend of the last childhood

Time highlights a puzzle in our minds' design. Time highlights a puzzle in our minds. Time highlights puzzles. Time is a puzzle. Time, the puzzle, is. Design is a puzzle in our minds' times. Design is mind time. Design time.

She had published a trilogy, attended a hundred workshops, maintained an elaborate web presence, placed her stories with marginal, genre-themed zines for years and years.

She started again. New story is new life. Too bad they're all borrowed, all both of them. She was a professor of transfinite mathematics at an obscure college in southwest somewhere. She had a contradictory passion for the likes of Doctorow and DeLillo. She considered herself a probabilist with a weakness for proofs.

Her cat miaowed, seemingly plaintively. She was sure it was telling her it was moved by the pale moon on a clear night. But first, a word about magic. Two words about science and magic. Who can say what your predictions know? Only time.

If change were bent to desire for a specific change, magic would be magical, science would be scientific, and life would be divine. Change would be correctable by changes when change has ever been irrecoverable by itself. Ever otherwise has been ever thus.

Science and magic are cultural activities. The best predictor wins. Another world? Still, she thought, if humans were around, even in another world, for them the best predictor would win. Humans are hellbent on prediction. Could be a different winner, could be magic, but it would still be prediction.

She was sick of prediction. She imagined cat-like predators, immune to time, immune to uncertainty, capably balancing out change against change, devouring the mousy differences they fed on and thus erased. Nothing to be done, nothing to result from doing it.

At Princeton she had written about Ursula K. LeGuin and dated a future commodities specialist who affected a meerschaum pipe and a tidy goatee. Then there was Ireland, the posted gold ring by way of proposal from an IRA admirer desperate to leave for LA. Then the lowly position at the prestigious bastion of weekly literary self-reference. Then the fantasy career, the penny whistle in the pub, the blue collar lover and husband, Ireland again, all those workshops, then leaving to live with the cats and the stories that eked a little living from the zines. Something like that. Not how she would tell it. She was a fantasy novelist, after all, and what was the point then, of giving up on fantasy?

She started again, this time with the confession she had never actually started and not stopped. She had just been going whenever she bothered to look at herself. Where's the magic in that? Displaced worlds need to provide some reason for wanting to visit them. Her plaintively moony cat yawned a familiar yawn, like one of the kids of Sylvia Plath. Enough of that.

All science-fiction, she thought, if not all fantasy, starts with the moon. A moon is the best place for a wandering mind. With that, she reawakened as the Wanderer, ghostly silver in the fox light.

Time on the moon is not the same as time in the world. Nor is this any moon. This is the one true moon of imagination, the one Lucian visited. In this most abstract of domains, time is. Time is the dust, the night sky, the impossible path through the ridiculous lunar forest. Time is the Wanderer, laughing with delight at having both transcended her worldly biography and brought along her mewing black cat.

One foot on the moon, then, but one still down in the world. How does one such wander? Where does the next step fall?

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