Monthly Archives: June 2024

June 14/2024

Working on my far-in-some-undefined-time-in-the-future book, wherein the population has declined by about 85%, and villages are full of coping folk and a race of hominids with edgy mohawk hairdos and psychic ambitions lurk about generating mayhem. Those suspected of suffering from the wasting disease are triaged out to the woods to expire in their own good time. But otherwise life is good! There is whiskey, bread, singing unenhanced and no radio contact with anybody. The world is full of bogles; LLorona crying for her lost children, Beulah Queen of the Night, Gentleman Jack, and the dancing holograms.

So have been reading other far-future after-the-collapse works, to see what others’ imaginations have generated and so re-read Riddley Walker. First published in 1980.

Especially interested to look at it again because it supposedly takes place 2000 years in the future when England has reverted to a village-tribal world, written in first person dialect.

It’s still as engaging as when I read it twenty years ago in the sense that it initially captures one’s attention, this strange world, if you ignore some glaring implausibilities, but it starts to collapse as a constructed, believable space in the imagination about two-thirds of the way through. We stop believing in this far-future world because the main character loses his energy, which is what carried one past the totally improbable stuff in the first place. By the end you’re saying , ‘Oh come on!’

Problem one is that the people Riddley describes and interact with seem to be urban proles more on the order of Clockwork Orange. These are people from a city street culture. They just don’t behave in tribal or village ways. Riddley is 12 years old, sees his father killed in an accident and upon his return to the tribal center/home/fortress thingie he has sex with an old woman, the mystic lady, mistress of witcheries, and then they lay around and get high. On something like hash. You have to remember he was 12 years old. She sounds like she was about 60. Okay.

The people all have two-syllable names that sound ‘village-y’ or ‘working-class’ and it gets repetitive. CHAL-ker MARCH-man and SKY-way MOAT-ers and STRAIT-er EM-py and LEAST-er DIG-man and on and on. There are no strong, intelligent men, almost no women at all, and nobody ever succeeds at anything — all is dismal, all is failure. This is a literary style or sort of fashion that has grown old and stale but it seems writers can’t find their way out of it, or what the fashion alternative might be.

It seems in this far-distant future, all people want is the wonderful consumer objects that the old people had.

Then, the author makes the common and mistaken assumption that the simpler the society, the simpler the language. So this ‘English’ is very broken and unvaried, bald, dull. On the contrary, all languages that are pre-literate, pre-bookish, pre-alphabet are incredibly complex. The Australian aborigines, who led one of the world’s simplest life-styles, have/had one of the world’s most complex languages. In the two thousand years without reading matter (or radio/tv) English would have changed into something very elaborate. I know this out of my attempts to learn Ojibway, which has not been literate long enough to change the original linguistic structure.

The literate languages Spanish and French were far and away easier for me to learn. Also, it would have changed, in two thousand years, to something unrecognizable anyway. Think of what English was like two thousand years in the past. There wasn’t any English. Maybe Common Germanic.

But that is all nit-picking I suppose, and I remain with the attitudes, relationships, motivations etc. of the supposedly tribal characters in the story and not only with this work but many sci-fi/fantasy far-future novels. All appear culturally very urban. There is the matter of the extended family —- they don’t seem to have any. No aunts uncles or cousins. In a group that small one would have been related to everybody, including Lorna the mystic tell-woman. That’s why there is this thing called exogamy.

So many villages in this novel seem to be named after private parts. There’s Horny Boy and Bernt Arse and Monkey’s Hoar Town and Bollock Stoans and Nelly’s Bum river. And then, as in most modern literary novels, the protagonist begins to malfunction about two-thirds of the way through, s/he is perpetually wrecked, adhering to whoever passes by as a means of psychological locomotion.

The best character is the ephemeral Stag in the Hart of the Wud. But he only gets a few lines. His curling horns are like the Deer Stones of the Cimmerians, joyful and exultant.

June 6/24 D Day

Everybody has been having adventures except me, but have to start off this post with a WW2 photo because it’s D Day.

A landing craft listing enormously to starboard and as you can see all the men have been told to stand at the port rail. I bet there were a lot of seasick guys on that boat.

Elvia and Mariana have got home from Uzbekistan, I was astonished that Samarcand has become a comfortable tourist destination! Elvia send a great many pictures of the architecture. Here are a few.

Here is, first of all, the amazing subway in Tashkent.

Bread in the market in Tashkent

This beautiful work of art is the mausoleum of one of Timerlane’s soldiers, in the necropolis of Shaji Zenda in Samarcand

Elvia and her niece Mariana enjoying the good life in Samarcand. Usually one thinks of remote caravanserai and blowing sand and bandits and runaway camels and depleted water-bags and running out of ammunition and struggling toward the next oasis but no! We live in 2024 now and romantic adventures are a great deal safer.

This tilework is astounding. There is another picture with goldwork and I’ll try to find it next post. they are home now in time for the election in Mexico, Elvia worked at a voting post in her old school where she taught for so many years, helping voters.

And now here’s Seamus, son of Woody and Jeff of Lighthouse Island, who is crewing on the Zulu, a 42-footer, on the Juan de Fuca race, (Juan de Fuca strait around the bottom of Vancouver Island) Woody is doing appearances for her children’s books and I’m waiting to hear how the Zulu did. He’s in the red crew suit.

rough seas!

I am staying inactive as much as possible until I see a specialist in sciatic nerve stuff, and anyway we’re in yet another grim, dry, overheated drought, yet again I am putting old dog in the guest room all day with the air conditioning, old horse down in front corral with the mister — all this a repeat of last year. Never mind, I am progressing on the post-apocalypse book, doing well with it, it’s fun, I like my two characters. Doesn’t matter the genre if you have characters that are up to no good, or some good, and are happy about it, until they become unhappy, then do things to happy themselves in the ruins of a proto-civilizational rearrangement.

This is one of Jakob Rozalski’s paintings, I don’t know anything about him but he does the most bizarre stuff.

I’ve re-read a bio of George Orwell and then re-read Riddley Walker which I disliked much more than I did the first time I read it. More on that later.,

The Zulu won their race! More photos from the ship and crew. That’s Seamus in the red, up in the bow changing sails and with the victorious crew. He looks more and more like his mother, my friend Caroline Woodward-George, as he gets older.