As if the Sea should part: Quid Nunc? Cui Bono?    
 Quid Nunc? Cui Bono?0 comments
picture7 Mar 2005 @ 00:55, by Quidnovi

Illustration: Carson Ellis, Ghost Ship, 36" x 36", oil on canvas, 2002

I am a sea with doors, but the doors are stuck.
Watch out! The skin will burst; the doors will break.

Riders of the Purple Wage
or The Great Gavage [extract]

by Philip José Farmer

"Call me Ahab, not Ishmael.
For I have hooked the Leviathan.
I am the wild ass's colt born to a man.
Lo, my eye has seen it all!
My bosom is like wine that has no vent.
I am a sea with doors, but the doors are stuck.
Watch out! The skin will burst; the doors will break."

"You are Nimrod, I say to my friend, Chib.
And now is the hour when God says to his angels,
If this is what he can do as a beginning, then
Nothing is impossible for him.
He will be blowing his horn before
The ramparts of Heaven and shouting for
The Moon as hostage, the Virgin as wife,
And demanding a cut on the profits
From the Great Whore of Babylon."

"Melville wrote of me long before I was born.
I'm the man who wants to comprehend
The Universe but comprehend on my terms.
I am Ahab whose hate must pierce, shatter,
All impediment of Time, Space, or Subjects
Mortality and hurl my fierce
Incandescence into the Womb of Creation,
Disturbing in its Lair whatever Force or
Unknown Thing-in-Itself crouches there,
Remote, removed, unrevealed."

"Quid nunc? Cui bono?
Time? Space? Substance? Accident?
When you die—Hell? Nirvana?
Nothing is nothing to think about.
The canons of philosophy boom.
Their projectiles are duds.
The ammo heaps of theology blow up,
Set off by the saboteur Reason."

"Call me Ephraim, for I was halted
At the Ford of God and could not tongue
The sibilance to let me pass.
Well, I can't pronounce shibboleth,
But I can say shit!"

"Sir, I exist! And don't tell me,
As you did Crane, that that creates
No obligation in you towards me.
I am a man; I am unique.
I've thrown the Bread out the window,
Pissed in the Wine, pulled the plug
From the bottom of the Ark, cut the Tree
For firewood, and if there were a Holy
Ghost, I'd goose him.
But I know that it all does not mean
A God damned thing,
That nothing means nothing,
That is is is and not-is not is is-not
That a rose is a
That we are here and will not be
And that is all we can know!"

"The earth lurches like a ship going down,
Its back almost broken by the flood of
Excrement from the heaven and the deeps,
What God in His terrible munificence
Has granted on hearing Ahab cry,
Bullshit! Bullshit!"

"I weep to think that this is Man
And this is end. But wait!
On the crest of the flood, a three-master
Of antique shape. The Flying Dutchman!
And Ahab is astride a ship's deck once more.
Laugh, you Fates, and mock, you Norms!
For I am Ahab and I am Man,
And though I cannot break a hole
Through the wall of What Seems
To grab a handful of What Is,
Yet, I will keep on punching.
And I and my crew will not give up,
Though the timber split beneath our feet
And we sink to become indistinguishable
From the general excrement."

"For a moment that will burn on the
Eye of God forever, Ahab stands
Outlined against the blaze of Orion,
Fist clenched, a bloody phallus,
Like Zeus exhibiting the trophy of
The unmanning of his father Cronus.
And then he and his crew and ship
Dip and hurtle headlong over
The edge of the world.
And from what I hear, they are still


As indicated in the title, the above is an extract from Philip Jose Farmer's Riders of the Purple Wage (or the Great Gavage.) The story---the longest, and, according to the editor, arguably the best in the book (something over 30,000 words)---was especially written for Dangerous Visions, an anthology of science fiction, edited by Harlan Ellison. The stories were supposed to be "dangerous" stuff, in the sense that they might be rejected or censored by most editors.

The Anthology came with the following dedication: The compassionate learn from wiser others what they know of themselves, of the world in which they must live, and of the world in which they would like to live. This book is dedicated with love, respect and admiration to Leo & Diane Dillon who painstakingly, out of friendship, showed the Editor that black is black, white is white, and that goodness can come from either; but never from gray. And to their son Lionel III, now known as Lee, with silent prayer that his world will not resemble our world.

I am sure that Philip Jose Farmer needs no introduction. Harlan Ellison says it best:

He has persisted in writing stories that demanded considerable cerebration and the knocking down of previous ways of thinking. Though his work has been met with the blank stares of readers accustomed to soft pink and white bunny rabbit stories, he has doggedly gone after one dangerous vision after another. Knowing he could make a substantial living writing pap, knowing the deeper and more unnerving topics would be met by animosity and stupidity, he still held firm to his styles, his concepts, his muse, if you will.

His writing has been described by some as pyrotechnic, so appropriately the above extract is listed, here, under the Flame category, a symbol for Fire. And talking of fire, I am dedicating this post to Invictus, may the fire of his spirit ever burn brightly, in this generation, and the generations to come.

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