Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Atrox Legend

‘This is an article by Mr. Delany in the Dublin Docket that the Mayor of Port Erin read out loud to the citizens of the three towns as they breakfasted on Old Cow Stew.

‘“The world is being strangled by lack of input. It’s as simple as that. The silliest (but at the same time the only) explanation for the world being in such straits is that the input, till the last day or two, was funnelled by a group of mythological creatures (Seven Scribbling Giants), and that now it is failing. The silliest (but at the same time the only) seriously proposed remedy so far, is that we should provide surrogate mythological figures (neo-scribbling giants, perhaps) to begin generating input again.

‘“It has been stated (falsely) that it is the business of science to get answers to the static question What?, but this is not correct. It is the business of science to answer the kinetic question: What seems to be going on anyhow? This requires science carefully to analyze the several subjective wrappers that enclose every what in the world. If the subjective wrapper is a mythological one, why should we take exception to it? If a giant named Atrox Fabulinus and six fellow giants are felt to have been writing the world heretofore, then let us at least examine the Atrox legend.

‘“Atrox Fabulinas was a fifth century Irish Giant who sailed with pirates in his youth. He was captured by Roman-Goths in a salt-water scuffle off the coast of Spain, and he was handed on from slave market to slave market. Then a Pannonian Gothic Kinglet (Flavius Placidius Valentinianus) sent out his seneschal to buy two specified slaves for him, the sweetest-tempered giant who could be found, and the most imaginative scribe who could be found. The seneschal was surprised to find, at the very first slave-market, not only a giant who could write, but also one who was both sweet-tempered and outstandingly imaginative. The Gothic Kinglet was delighted, and he told Atrox to sit down and write the history of he world. ‘It has already been done several times,’ Atrox said. ‘I didn’t know that,’ the Kinglet answered, ‘the history of the world from its beginning until doomsday has already been written?’ ‘Not so,’ Atrox admitted, ‘only from the beginning of the world until now.’ ‘Then sit down and write the history of the world from now until doomsday,’ the Kinglet said, ‘and how long will it take you?’ ‘Till doomsday,’ Atrox answered. So then the world began to receive futuristic input. And now it cannot get along without.

‘“Why am I, the renowned Daniel Delany, top scientist and scholar, jabbering such nonsense as this in print? For this reason: When we wade into the treacherous waters of reality, science serves us remarkably well at first. When we wade out where the waters of survival are ankle-deep, science is our staunch friend. When we wade out where the waters of survival are more than arse-deep, forget your science! Latch onto something more aerated, something with more flotation to it. And we are suddenly, without knowing how it happened, chin-deep in the waters of survival, and the cross-currents are quite tricky. We must find New Giants, or we must drown.”’

-R. A. Lafferty, East of Laughter (1988), pp.112-113

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)