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Poe’s Maelstrom for HYLOZOIC

In my “Maelstrom from Poe’s PYM” entry on February 7, 2008, I quoted part of the ending of Poe’s Narratiave of Arthur Gorden Pym. My notion was that Poe was describing how it would be to sail into a very large maelstrom.

I’ve been rethinking the meaning of the passage, keeping Poe’s fascination with Symmes’s notion of the Hollow Earth, under which there might be an ocean-covered hole at the South Pole, and that a ship might be able (pace Newton) to be able to sail over the lip and into the inner seas.

I think that’s what Poe is in fact describing here; that’s why the distant cataract of gray mist seems to get higher and higher in the sky and why the sky seems to get get darker. To understand about the rising cataract, look at the figure above. In position A, the opposite side of the hole is just a stripe on the horizon. But in position B, the opposite side of the hole sees to lie some thirty or forty degrees above the horizon.

Of course if there were a really big maelstrom down whose slope you were gradually proceeding, you would also see this effect.

Yesterday I worked this passage into Hylozoic, with today’s (still rather rough) draft quoted below. My hero Chu is flying along over a higher dimesional sea, carried in the mouth of a giant flying manta ray called Duxy, and accompanied by Heironymus Bosch.

Drained by the steady effort, Chu grew numb and dreamy. He didn’t quite notice when things changed, but at some point they’d entered upon a region of novelty and wonder. A high range of light gray vapor hung on the horizon, occasionally flaring up in lofty streaks. Here and there, the surface below them seemed to boil, as if stirred by vagrant eddies.

A huge bubble shot up from the sea below Duxy, accompanied by a wild flaring up in the vapor ahead. Duxy teeped that she wanted to turn away; she begged her passengers to stop pushing. Worn and frightened as they were, they ceased their efforts. Nevertheless they continued sweeping forward in Groovy’s wake, perhaps even more rapidly than before. A swirling wind was driving them along.

As always the interbrane air glowed with light, but a still-brighter illumination rose from the roiled sea’s surface. The glare cast an odd light upon the lean, weathered features of Bosch, who’d never stopped craning from Duxy’s mouth. Chu was lying beside the artist, also staring out.

The gray band had risen prodigiously above the visible horizon, and had taken on a more distinct form. It resembled a limitless cataract, rolling silently into the sea from some immense and far-distant rampart. The gigantic curtain ranged to the left and right as far as Chu could see. But rather than a roar, he heard a singing hiss.

Crosswise currents were ripping the surface of the sea below them. Through the foamy rents, Chu could glimpse a chaos of flitting vegetal beings: the subbies. As they in turn noticed him, he felt the tingle of their root hairs reaching out to his skull, feeding him altered images of how they looked. They took on the forms of men with the heads of birds, and of fish with human legs. Racing along half-submerged beneath the surface, the subbies were awaiting a chance to attack.

Chu had a sense that the ocean’s surface was slanting down, and that the summit of the distant cataract was bulging into heavens. And now he saw something horrific, less than a mile ahead. Beyond a raging band of foam, the ocean surface curved down sharply and plunged out of sight. They were scudding towards the anomaly with hideous velocity, the fierce gale fluttering Duxy’s wings like rags.

With a distinct mental effort, Chu grasped that he was looking across the mouth of a maelstrom some hundred miles wide. As they neared the seething lip and the vast void of the great pool’s core, the Hrull let out an anguished squeal of terror. She opened wide her mouth and spit out her passengers, forcing them forward with her powerful throat and cheeks.

And, huzzah, I pushed on and actually finished the first draft of the ending of Hylozic. As of February 8, 2008, my latest strand of spider silk reaches across the void! Yeah, baby!

3 Responses to “Poe’s Maelstrom for HYLOZOIC”

  1. Gamma Says:

    i was going thru some drawers in the Martian Embassy in KT 2day & came across a foto i took of A.E.Van Vogt who should i post it 2 – also i found a page from am old FILOFAX saying RUCKER & WILLIAMS (Blue Post) 1982 – was i there?

  2. Ian / HAL-1701 Says:
    (heironymous-synonymous brueghel-burroughs-mashup : “Ah Pook Is Here”)
    (ward cunningham’s “what if bacteria designed computers” incredible)

    and wow, gamma met aevanvogt … don’t you think the ‘morton cargill’ (name of hero of vogt’s book Null-A) terraforming of the bay into saltflats owned by ‘leslie morton cargill’ salt-railcars (insert photo of cargill tanker-traincar all rusted next to the amtrak tracks along southbay saltflats with pink bacteria making salt for cargill morton leslie) but now those 50s lands are being donated back as wildlife refuge birdmigration wetlands)… and now i see gamma wrote WILLIAMS as in “Burroughs”!

    ps: the cover of Hylozoic is awesome. hey, check out the Stanford Ency of Philosophy page on “Panpsychism” ( as it is not quite the usual obscurant mindfog around the magic of world-alive-mind. a rather awesomely (rudylike) bodacious article. it is good to have doorstops that hold open the doors to the corridors of PaWo.

  3. Ian / HAL-1701 Says:

    “it is good to have doorstops (well-written webpages) that hold open the Core-of-doors of Pa_Wor_” might have been a better way to write that.

    Parallel World geometry seen as archistructures;
    the corridor of doors in Yellow Submarine.


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