Sep 25, 2007

Riverworld

Yesterday, V and I were walking the Burke-Gilman trail in Redmond (home of Microsoft) - a popular bike/pedestrian path along a river. The river is in the process of being violently terra-formed into something resembling it's earlier, naturally serpentine state, after being previously terra-formed in the 50's by river bank farmers into a shape that resisted flooding - but at the same time - killed all the fish.

We met a couple and their dog, who they called 'Finnegan'. In an off-hand comment at Through the Looking Glass, aferrismoon mentions Finnegan's Wake, by James Joyce, which begins like this:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

From Wikipedia:

"Commodius vicus" refers to Giambattista Vico (1668-1744). Vico believed in a theory of cyclical history. He believed that the world was coming to the end of the last of three ages, these being the age of gods, the age of heroes, and the age of humans. This opening also contributes to the effect of Joyce's novel as a whole, since it begins and ends with "riverrun" on the lips.

I happened upon the Riverworld series by Philip José Farmer in a second-hand bookstore many years ago, but I've been thinking about it lately. Riverworld is a fictional universe set millennia in the future. It begins with the recently deceased Sir Richard Francis Burton awakening (along with every other human being who ever lived) on a moonless, terra-formed planet who's singular feature is a global serpentine river that begins and ends in the North polar sea.

Wikipedia says:

Awakening hairless and naked on the alien world without explanation, the psychological shock to the collective human species is staggering. Apparently left to their own devices, the people set about recreating their Earthly societies and coming to terms with an afterlife no religion ever described.

Well, almost no religion:

...and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. --Revelation 20:4-8

The mysterious overlords have an invisible mark on their foreheads. The planet has almost no minerals, so no Vulcan ventures starting up. Later in the series, it becomes apparent that Riverworld is intended to be a moral testing ground by mankind's alien makers. We even get a final "gog/magog" battle at the end. The story has grails, dirigibles, catamarans, mushrooms, aliens and pirates - practically heaven!

Farmer almost never mentions queers in Riverworld, though the male overlords are described as being unnaturally beautiful - and even wearing makeup.

However, the historical Sir Richard Burton had homosexual rumors circulating around him like a whirlpool. Sir Richard is the heroic figure of this story - a British explorer, seafarer, a captain in the East India Company (the Blackwater of its day) a poet, hypnotist, orientalist, mystic, fencer and diplomat (where DID he find the energy?). In other words... a classic Mason.

That said, he was also a barely closeted queen, and I wonder... if the actual Sir Richard suddenly found himself incarnated as a naked, perfected youth (immune to aging and illness) on a beach with gorgeous boys, gorgeous weather, plentiful food, and left to his own devices, maybe his story in Riverworld would be rather different than the one presented by Philip José Farmer. Maybe the farmer's path isn't the one that charms the snake.

I could leave you, say good by, or I could love you, if I try, and I could, and left to my own devices, I probably would. --Pet Shop Boys

8 comments:

FilmNoir23 said...

Tremendous stuff Michael. Honestly. Some really fine writing.

Mark Leclair said...

I second f23 - great post. 'Riverworld' really got me thinking.

Consider the following. From Joyce: 'riverrun' is a slurred 'Reverend'. Joyce ribs at the Catholic Brotherhood with the use of the lower case 'r' at the beginning of a sentence.

So we can wheedle a refer-ence to Peter. 'Rock' of the Church. The New Testament plays the rook in the story of Peter's 'denial' of Christ.

'Peter' is 'Cock'. The crowing of the Cock is Peter's own crow. Was Peter denying a (three-time?) sexual union with Christ.

As the foundation of Catholicism, it could be that Peter represents the continual denial of homosexual practices. This shouldn't be a surprising notion - it is all over the news: Catholic Repression.

Now the Farmer story gives forth its fruit. Farmer's River is the River Alph of Coldridge's 'Kublai Khan'.

To paraprase...

...for I have dined on Honey-dew (Honey Dude?) and drunk the milk of Paradise (Milk - Semen. Pair of Dice - Testes?).

The River of Alph is the eternal out-put of the sacrificial Ox, namely Christ. The reason that Farmers 'Supers' seem asexual is that their entire form of worship is a sexual act, probably oral copulation with Christ. This copulation has become a feature of Riverworld's geography.

See also Crowley in the Book of Lies '69. How to Succeed and How to Suck Eggs.' Crowley claims that he was granted his Third Degree as the direct result of his publication of this revelation. The idea confirms pegging Sir Dick-Hard Burton as a practitioner of Homosexual Magick.

Mark Leclair said...

Hey Micheal,

P.S.

Thank You for adding The WWWiz to your site list.

Much appreciated.

Michael said...

FM - thanks. And back at ya with your new collaboration. Bee-fruitful.

ML - holy Fuck! I think you just repaid me back ten fold. Really good... neuron re-arranging time...

- and thanks for adding me as well.

aferrismoon said...

River-ting stuff
Both the topsawyers ROCKS and a PENISolate war crop up on the 1st page of the Wake. Apparantly June 16th, Bloomsday , which celebrates the day ULYSSES takes place, celebrated a blow-job from wife-to-be Nora Barnacle which so blew Joyce's mind that he wrote that very book. Deep sexual experiences I feel have a direct inspiratory influence on the creative mind.
The Rook stands in the CORNer [ which is Horn , see UniCORN], and I imagine Peter standing on the corner on his 1st night as a 'rentboy' denying the first 3 customers , finally allowing the Romans to screw him for everything. Also in Cyech RUH - pronounced Ruch- means Horn and Corner and flows into Little Jack Horner who sat in a corner
Great articles or Great art tickles

hoi polloi said...

Hi Michael, you mentioned gog/magog, what is that? I've heard it quite a bit lately...Also, that first picture reminded me of a dream I had recently

Michael said...

FM - I'm with ya on sexual experience being pivotal to 'creativity' Kinda makes sense. Regarding 'rent boy' Peter - that shocks even moi, though I'm reminded that it is always the prostitute that Joshua goes out of his way to "save".

HP - I'll need to do some research, I'll get back to you.

Michael said...

To Miss Polloi: Regarding Gog and Magog: ancient archetypes first mentioned back in Genesis, one of the sons Japheth - who was a son of Noah. Later, Ezekiel "sets his face against Gog, of Magog, and then finally John the Revelator mentions them again.

Great massing of armies and battles is what gets conjured for me, but that's just me. And yea, we have our very own Magog in G W Bush - his Skull and Bones "nickname" - and he seems to be fulfilling the archetype perfectly.

Hope that helps - Michael

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