Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Fiction On Fiction

Neil Gaiman writes fictitious characters who speak about fiction:

Arion of Atlantis to Tim Hunter:

"...where humanity gets it wrong, by your time, is in imagining Atlantis as having any kind of quantifiable existence.
"Which of course it hasn't; not in the way they imagine, anyway.
"There have been an awful lot of Atlantises, will be quite a few more.
"It's just a symbol. A symbol of the art.
"The true Atlantis is inside you, just as it's inside all of us. The sunken land is lost beneath the dark sea, lost beneath the waves of wet, black stories and myths that break upon the shores of our minds.
"Atlantis is the shadow-land, the birth-place of civilization. The fair land in the West that is forever lost to us, but remains forever, true birth-place and true goal.
"It is Lyonesse, and Avalon, and Hy-Brasail."
- Neil Gaiman, The Invisible Labyrinth (New York, 1990), p. 27

There have been many Atlantises because every author imagines the lost island differently. Arion inhabits one DC Comics Atlantis but other versions have been visited, for example, by Doctor Who and a companion and by time travelers in Poul Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis.

Titania to Tim Hunter:

"You wish to see the distant realms? Very well.
"But know this first: the places you will visit, the places that you will see, do not exist.
 "For there are only two worlds...your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy.
"Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there.
"These worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power, provide refuge, and pain.
"They give your world meaning.
"They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. Do you understand?"

Tim: "No."

- Neil Gaiman, The Land Of Summer's Twilight (New York, 1991), p. 34.

It is harder for Tim to understand because, although Titania says that his world is the real world, he also is a fictitious character visiting fictitious realms - so how is he to see the difference? Titania spells out that our real world would be meaningless if it contained no non-existent fictions.

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