fredag 31 december 2021

Sex, Soul and The order of Egression


I've recently read two books, that to my surprise and delight held unexpected similarities although they at a first glance seemed to be very unrelated:

The Soul of Sex, by Thomas Moore (1998)


The Marriage between Heaven and Hell, by William Blake (1793)

Moore is a psychotherapist, theologian and former monk, who with his book aims to do away with the concept of soul and body being different things, one good – one bad, one elevated – the other base, etc. He suggests that we can only live a full human life if we care for both, respecting bodily pleasures while placing these in a wider context. It's a very rewarding book to read, and I especially liked Moore's historical examples (among these, I find the etymology of the word ”fascination” hilarious: it stems from ”fascinum” – penis-shaped talismans carried by the Romans.)

Sensation can not be separated from imagination. We are always living in a story, always surrounded by images, and always percieving with imagination.

Blake's book basically says the same thing, illustrated in Blake's unique style, wanting to do away with the separation of soul and body, referred to as ”reason” and ”energy”, the former represented by anemic angels and the latter by passionately roaring devils. That is, he wants the two to marry:

Man has no Body distinct from his soul; for that called Body is a portion of a Soul discerned by the five senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.


In Ravenland

Apart from taking a personal interest in both books, I find them useful for the Ravenland novel I'm currently writing. My protagonist is a doula of The order of Egression, a bunch of people helping the restless dead to actually die in the name of the mysterious Nightwatcher God*. Books like the two mentioned help me flesh out the egressors' beliefs and hopefully make them more plausible. The Nightwatcher is a god of transition, of passages from one stage to the next – and not only life to death. He watches over opposites and the merging of these, since they are actually considered one. As Blake puts it:

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to human existance.

Enantiodromia was Carl Jungs name for when one extreme flips into what seems to be its opposite, but which is actually its yin-yang-ish complement. This I learned from Moores book.

To me, Nietzsche's attraction to passion and acceptance of both body and soul – good and bad experiences, hoovers over these waters. Now, I don't agree with everything that Nietzsche says, nor with Blake, Jung or Moore, but they are all inspiring – on a personal level and especially for writing fantasy novels.

* The Nightwatcher's name in Swedish would correctly translate into ”Being the Night”, which I find far cooler.


onsdag 15 december 2021

On gender equality in Trachoria

Sandra Zurbuchen & Corina Wehinger

Sweden recently won the World championships in floorball* for both women and men. Both Swedish national teams beat their Finnish counterparts in final matches that were even and could have ended either way.

For the first time ever, two women were the referees of the men's final: Sandra Zurbuchen and Corina Wehinger from Switzerland. This may be remarkable in itself, but even more remarkable was that I didn't hear a single gender-related comment concerning the referees during or after the match, not from reporters, not from interviewed coaches nor from players. The men's final was an intense and physical match with lots of prestige, played in a packed and loud stadium in the Finnish capital Helsinki – Finland and Sweden being long-time arch enemies in this sport. Still the referees handled it superbly and professionally, even when it meant stepping in between hot players on the verge of a fist fight. They were so professional that nobody simply thought of their gender, even less commented on it.

It struck me that Sandra Z and Corina W did what I have tried to do with gender equality in Trachoria; to make it a non-issue. In Trachoria, men AND women may be generals, heroes, corrupt politicians, assassins, bosses, swine, sluts, business people etc. Favours are not given, predjudice not aired and considerations not made due to gender. This is however not based in ideology, morals or rights. People in Trachoria are not above saying nasty things or screwing each other, literally or figurately, independently of gender. I simply wanted gender equality to be a non-issue. Whether I succeeded or not in doing this is of course another thing. Comments welcome.

* FYI, The war scythes of the RhabdoRana murder league in Trachoria are modelled on floorball sticks.

fredag 9 april 2021

Reversed archeology


This month I'm participating in no less than four interviews concerning fantasy world building. Gathering my thoughts on the subject, it struck me that I practice archeology of sorts, only it's of a reversed kind.

Let me explain: In archeology proper, scientists make findings, classify them, compare to already sorted out patterns and try to deduce what the new findings imply. When I create fantasy worlds, I litter them with strange details that I often have only vague ideas about: rumours, historical persons, unexplicable artefacts and habits, etc. These details lie around in piles while I build. I contantly rummage around, twisting and turning what I happen to encounter, trying to understand how this particular piece fits in my stories and what on earth it's for. In my experience everything will always fit together in the end, in one way or the other, resulting in complex visions of something strange and fantastic. It's like putting puzzles together – I'm confident that every piece will fit, although everything appears to be a jumble right now. The confidence is key here, for without it you're tempted to give up. You can always leave a particular piece for later.

The reason for doing reversed archeology, as opposed to build in an orderly and planned way (which I also do), is that it keeps me curious and often surprises me. I don't work to explain something I already know everything about, but instead explore the unknown, getting the feeling that there actually is a strange world out there, waiting for me to discover. Hopefully I will pass my enthusiasm on to the players or readers. Strange connections constantly appear, things I wouldn't have thought of with pure intellectual effort. It doesn't matter that some details seem totally off, refusing to participate according to principles or even set natural laws – this is the way the explanations of our own world works, as the paradigm shifts of Thomas Kuhn. Another benefit, is that with the mere amount of strange stuff in my piles, some things will always fit with any new turn my tale takes, readily cascading into unexpected order, only to open up new possibilities.

You should try this! 

Of course, I at the same time work in more structured ways, but strictly rational creativity, or even worse: creativity primarily concerned with attracting money or followers, in my experience makes for contrived and even dead worlds that might entertain for the moment, but often leave a sense of unfullfillment behind. I find this a lot in current streaming services.

The picture shows the Antikythera mechanism, believed to be part of
a more than 2000 year old analog computer found in a shipwreck. Feel free to speculate about its use!