Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Completing Causal Circles

This post on the circular causality paradox has been occasioned by reading Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016), BOOK TWO: MANSOUL, Forbidden Worlds, pp. 675-714, but the example has been simplified for discussion purposes.

Assume a single, continuous, immutable timeline:

at time t3, Bill learns of event E that had occurred at t2;

Bill time travels to t1;

between t1 and t2, Bill realizes that E will occur only if he deliberately causes it;

so what happens if Bill decides not to cause E?

The answer is that, if Bill were the kind of person who, in those circumstances, would decide not to cause E, then E would not have occurred and Bill would not, between t1 and t2, be deciding whether to cause it. There is a relevant event in Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife. Knowing that a picture has been seen undated in the future, the artist decides to date it...but later trims the date off. But I think that I first encountered this aspect of circular causality in a short story by Brian Aldiss.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Eternal Questions

"...this had all occurred a billion times before."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 678.

In "Eternalism," does each event occur just once but timelessly or many times, thus recurrently? Are we static or repetitive? If the latter, have there been a billion or beginningless repetitions?

In Jerusalem, time traveling ghosts can relive bodily experiences or remain disembodied. Thus, they can live again a billion times.

The Dead Dead Gang is given a task to perform, does not know how to perform it but does know that it will be performed. This is possible given the dual premises of time travel and an immutable timeline.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Hereafters

Again I wonder about the value of detailed fictional accounts of a hereafter. Or are they fictional? We might differentiate four kinds of accounts:

(i) ghost stories or other fictional works in which survival is a mere fantasy premise;

(ii) works in which, although the author does believe that there is a hereafter, he does not claim to know any of the details and therefore must invent such details for fictional or allegorical purposes, e.g., CS Lewis' The Great Divorce and The Last Battle;

(iii) works of fiction set within what the author believes is the real hereafter, e.g., Richard Matheson's What Dreams May Come; Arthur Conan Doyle's The Land Of Mist; some passages in Aldous Huxley's Time Must Have A Stop;

(iv) works that simply describe the alleged hereafter, e.g., the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

In which category is Dante's Comedy? Alan Moore's Jerusalem is somewhere between (ii) and (iii), I think.

Some Ovid

("Ovid banished from Rome" by Turner.)

I was puzzled by an Ovid quote in Alan Moore's Jerusalem (London, 2016):

"Neve Liturarum pudeat: qui viderit illas. De Lachrymis factas sentiat esse meis." (p. 633)

After struggling with a dictionary, I googled. See here, lines 13-14. This fits the context. It is as if we have been transported to a literary hereafter where all the texts and their meanings are preserved forever.

Neil Gaiman's Library of Dreams contains all the books that have never been written, maybe including the adventures of Alan Moore's Dead Dead Gang? - although those adventures do exist as a fiction within the fiction. The Gang are surprised to be told:

"'Tetsy and I count ourselves amongst your most ardent admirers, and now here we are, right in the middle of your "Choking Child" chapter, saying all the parts of dialogue that we've already pored over a dozen times.'" (p. 624)

This is something that I imagined in childhood: reading a narrative in which I was a character, then looking up to see that the events described in the narrative were happening.

Meanwhile, the Library of Dreams must have a small annex for all the works that did get written?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Temporal Scenery

HG Wells' Time Traveler sees his environment accelerated forward or backwards. Some time travelers see nothing. A philosophical article on "Doctor Who And The Philosophers" argued that, if a time machine travels from London, 2000 AD, to Manchester, 1900 AD, then the visible, tangible vehicle should be seen moving slowly south throughout the twentieth century.

Alan Moore's Dead Dead Gang in Jerusalem (London, 2016) walk along a bridge from which they see that:

"...several different eras were all happening at once.'" (p. 618)

Structures crumble, vanish and reappear and historical periods are superimposed.

"...the sky was marbled with the light and weather of a thousand years..." (p. 619)

Quite a thing.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Salamanders

In Jerusalem (London, 2016), Alan Moore describes the Great Fire of Northampton, 1675. This is historical. However, he describes the Fire as witnessed by time traveling ghosts who see the Salamanders in the flames. This is fantasy. Moore's Salamanders, resembling young women with flames for hair, do not speak but merely laugh whereas, in Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates (London, 1986), Salamanders, here called "yags," converse with the magician who has conjured them. (pp. 259-269) They sound like violins and assume "...roughly human shapes..." like "...burning giants." (p. 260)

The Anubis Gates, involving gods, magic and fantasy time travel, is on the same wavelength as Jerusalem and as Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.

One of the Jerusalem ghosts lists the kinds of elementals for us:

Salamanders, fire;
Undines, water;
Sylphs, wind;
Gnomes, Urks or Urchins, earth.

Lastly, without looking it up now, I think that Narnians saw Salamanders deep underground?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Roaming The Universe

(The Boroughs, Northampton, 1965.)

Are dead souls free to roam the universe? I doubt their existence, let alone their mobility. However, speculative fiction about the hereafter can both delight and enlighten.

In CS Lewis' The Great Divorce, the dead can:

remain in the grey town that will turn out to have been Hell;
take the bus to the foothills of Heaven, then climb into the mountains;
haunt libraries to see if their books are still being read;
bother those women we call mediums.

Hell, Heaven or Earth: fairly comprehensive.

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem, the Dead Dead Gang:

have amazing adventures, adding time to their directions of movement;
give each adventure a title like an episode of a series;
in 1645, watch Cromwell writing a letter to his wife on the eve of the Battle of Naseby;
in 2025, eavesdrop on a black woman berating a Council Department on her mobile -

- the supernatural, the historical, the mundane and everything between. We join them in imagination and reflect on life along the way.