Monday, 30 September 2013

Imagination And Reality

Occasionally, I broaden blog perspective by referring to other works being read at the same time. Often, accident determines what we read or reread. To draft a talk on Zen, I bought an A4 pad, then, to write on the pad, I rested it on a large format hardback volume. Then, since the volume in question was The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, I began to reread it. Graphic fiction can be a welcome break from prose fiction, currently The Devil's Game by Poul Anderson.

Moore and O'Neill synthesize every kind of fiction and incorporate many actual fictions: Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain climb the thirty nine steps to Greyfriars School where corpulent caretaker William recalls the schooldays of Alexander Waverly, Harry Lime, Big Brother, Quentin "Q" Quelch etc. We know them all. Well, we might not all of us recognize all of those names but we get the idea: a fictional world where all of the fictions are real.

Moore also argues that fiction is a necessary part of humanity, therefore is, in that sense, as real as we are. There would be no Sherlock Holmes if no one had imagined Holmes but, equally, we would not be who or what we are if we did not imagine fictitious characters like Sherlock Holmes. If Holmes had not caught our imagination, then someone else would have caught it and we would now be, to that extent, different people with a different history. We and our heroes are like hands drawing each other.

Conscious beings with no imagination or capacity for fiction would certainly not be human and probably not even rational. To think about what is is implicitly to think about what is not and about what might be. Myth and magic necessarily preceded science and then came to be valued as such. Thus, we now appreciate not one but many flood myths as well as scientific explanations of past cataclysms.

The common ground with Poul Anderson is considerable:

both Anderson and Moore are comprehensive writers of imaginative fiction;
Holmesianism - The League, like Anderson's works, refers creatively to Moriarty, Mycroft and, of course, the Great Detective;
Shakespearianism - the concluding speech of The Black Dossier with the line, "Two sketching hands, each one the other draws...," is delivered by the Duke of Milan, whom we know from Shakespeare's The Tempest and from Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest.

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