RAVENSBANE QUENTIN — BEYOND THE CHAOS GATE — 2017
Do not believe Chaos is in any way some kind of Brownian soup. It certainly isn’t, or at least we can question its being it just as we can question the meaning of the name of the author: “The Scarecrow is introduced into society as Lord Ravensbane, with Dickon as his tutor. Ravensbane seems to enjoy smoking a corncob pipe, but the truth is that the pipe actually keeps him alive.” (The Scarecrow, a play written by Percy MacKaye, 1908.) I am no specialist of H.P. Lovecraft and will not judge the book as a continuation or an inspiration or an imitation of the said author. That would actually be unfair to the book itself.
So what? So what! The book starts with an FBI agent who is called in a small community in Texas to investigate a strange crime, a multiple murder made particular by the beheading of the victims, all members of one family, in their very home. A serial Killer? You would be wrong. Ritualistic murders? You would be just as wrong as before. You are propelled into a science fiction horror story that is based on the sheer negation of all human values, of all human sanity, of all human dimensions. After this gate crossing, because you will cross this gate, you will be in a world where no dimensions exist, temporal, spatial, mental or simply existential. Welcome to the universe of no-universe, to the planet of no-planet, to the darkness of no-darkness, to the light of no-light, to the time of no-time, to the space of no-space, to the matter of no-matter just as much as of no-antimatter.
What is chaos? A few dimensions are actually described.
“If time happens all at once, all the time,” as the author says, then there is no more time at all. We are in total temporal stillness. We are in what Saint Augustine called eternity, the eternity that existed before the creation of the universe and of time by God at the alpha moment of our divine existence, and the same eternity that will exist again after the Second Coming, after Doomsday and the Last Judgment, and after the Apocalypse. This reference is behind the book and the alpha and omega are quoted as translating some Latin incantation calling for the coming of the beast: “Erat in principio Et erit in fine.” The proper translation should have been “beginning and end” but the use of the Biblical expression is maybe justified but it is a Christianization of a horror story. Is it justified? In the minds of the six heroes of this story, maybe but not sure because they do not show any really deep Christian or religious feelings.
But even so, this negation of time is more complex. Eternity is when time that started with alpha comes to an end with omega. Then there is no time. We are out of time. That’s Saint Augustine’s reading of it. But here we are within time and each instant of that time contains all time, past or future meaning that there is no past and no future because there is no perspective and no descent or ascent of any kind of timeline that is nothing but a maelstrom of Brownian soup. There is no really a-temporal dimension in this story. It is all-temporal but it is all-contained and has no direction, no depth, no relief. It is just a maelstrom of Brownian soup without the big-data logic of this Brownian soup. It is nothing but the caprice of a tyrannical force that can only exist by enslaving everyone to its (or isn’t it rather their) power, control, vampiristic symbiosis. By the way, the spiders of the end are rather simple if not trite.
And yet the whole book is based on the myth that time is part of nature and the laws of physics are also part of nature. Unluckily for the sane and balanced high-school educated minds of the six characters, time does not exist in nature: only duration captured in existential urgency and survival by animals or by plants. In the same way, the laws of physics are pale constructs of the human mind to describe and explain the complex reality of nature and the universe. Those laws of physics are full of mistakes that will be corrected later by some more precise mistakes, by at times some more metaphysical and philosophical mistakes because human physics is entirely under the domination of the human vision of what man considers to be nature. Look at the mess about climate change that is by some reduced to the warming-up of the planet, to the thawing of the polar ice-caps, to storms, hurricanes, and other blizzards, to so many other elements that have no connections one to the other. We do not know what is happening right now as for climate, though we can easily see that the climate is not exactly a direct illustration of what we’ve considered for centuries (or rather for about ten or twelve decades) the normal weather on earth.
If time does not exist because it is an invention of man (with his calendars that are so imperfect that they require corrections every four years, every century and every millennium), duration on the other hand is part of nature and if there is any experience of duration by animals it totally erases past, present, and future. There is only experiential existential awareness in the t-zero instant of right now, right there in the sole urgency of surviving in a way or another. This is clearly captured at the end when surviving is no longer an instinct but eternal surviving becomes a fate, a curse, an enslavement.
In the same way space and even distance disappear and only “close” seen as dangerous and “far” seen as innocuous and indifferent remain in all animals’ consciousness, awareness or whatever you may decide to call it, with maybe an intimation about orientation, this side, that side, in front, in back, etc.
The fact that the incantation of the end, along with a couple of punctual quotations, is in Latin is just plain absurd because rather easy. Latin is one of the most recent languages of man. And the idea is that beyond this human rationality that is pulverized by this coming of darkness, supreme blackness (think of the black holes in the universe that can swallow stars and other celestial bodies as if they were marshmallows) there exists no language, and communication is purely extra-sensorial, extra-mental, extra-linguistic or extra-discursive. Communication is a flow of vibes or waves of no nature whatsoever. If we wanted to follow with language the same track as with time or space, we would have to go beyond the third articulation of human language and the question would be: “What is the fourth articulation of language?” No linguist, cognitive or not, can provide the slightest answer to this question. We are thus reduced to what science-fiction authors have caressed often and in length: direct communication from mind to mind, from irrational unidentified locale to irrational unidentified locale. That’s actually what the author has in mind but he identifies this communication with dreams or nightmares that everyone shares. That’s easy.
We thus end with the negation of the idea that time does not exist anymore, that light does not exist anymore, that space and gravity do not exist anymore, that language does not exist anymore and yet in this absence of basic human constructs, suffering, pain, the feeling of being exploited, suck up dry, tortured and yet part of the life of this transcendental being, if it is a being and not something even more basic, more elemental, more unstructured, this transcendental undefined and undefinable entity. What in the universe and cosmos we believe we know better and better every day can this entity be? We thus come to the idea that beyond the human world, beyond the human realm, there is nothing but some vision of hell and this book is thus a redirected lethally inspired rewriting of Dante’s Inferno. With some kind of a Christian-Jewish pattern: six main fighters, four eliminated one by one and vanishing completely into oblivion. And two, a sexual couple, captured at the end to become part of the wall of this supreme being that is conquering the universe.
For a story situated in a small town in Texas, I am surprised that there is no Mexican or Latino Christian that could have brought up a extra dimension to the story: the cult of death as a friendly human dimension, with deep under the Maya culture of blood sacrifices either ritualistically practiced as human, meaning male, adult or under-age, sacrifice or ritualistically reduced to the self-drawing of blood by men particularly from their genitals. The author would be inspired if he read some of Stephen King’s novels where he is able to integrate American Indian lore and culture, or some of Anne Rice’s novels where she is able to integrate the voodoo culture or plain black culture of the descendants of slaves in Louisiana. Texas deserves a diverse treatment in their population and imagination. We are no longer living in H.P. Lovecraft’s world of absolute segregation and absolute rejection of anything Black or Indian. America deserves an open vision of its mental and cultural reality. It was simple to make one of the six characters a black person or a Latino person. It was, of course, more complicated to integrate their histories and their cultures.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU