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January 9, 2012 / Wythe

On names: characters in A Voyage to Arcturus


  • Faull
  • Backhouse
  • Maskull
  • Nightspore
  • Joiwind
  • Panawe
  • Slofork
  • Oceaxe

and of coures

  • Krag—the Devil…

Read this classic/ooold-school Scottish tale of space travel (?), impossible colors/physics, and philosophy (!?) >>

Here’s an excerpt, and yes, it’s all this weird/hypnotic:

The broad, clear waters flowed past them with swelling undulations, from the direction of the mountains. Oceaxe knelt down on the bank, and peered into the depths. Presently her look became tense and concentrated; she dipped her hand in and pulled out some sort of little monster. It was more like a reptile than a fish, with its scaly plates and teeth. She threw it on the ground, and it started crawling about. Suddenly she darted all her will into her sorb. The creature leaped into the air, and fell down dead.

She picked up a sharp-edged slate, and with it removed the scales and entrails. During this operation, her hands and garment became stained with the light scarlet blood.

“Find the drude, Maskull,” she said, with a lazy smile. “You had it last night.”

He searched for it. It was hard to locate, for its rays had grown dull and feeble in the sunlight, but at last he found it. Oceaxe placed it in the interior of the monster, and left the body lying on the ground.

“While it’s cooking, I’ll wash some of this blood away, which frightens you so much. Have you never seen blood before?”

Maskull gazed at her in perplexity. The old paradox came back—the contrasting sexual characteristics in her person. Her bold, masterful, masculine egotism of manner seemed quite incongruous with the fascinating and disturbing femininity of her voice. A startling idea flashed into his mind.

“In your country I’m told there is an act of will called ‘absorbing.’ What is that?”

She held her red, dripping hands away from her draperies, and uttered a delicious, clashing laugh. “You think I am half a man?”

“Answer my question.”

“I’m a woman through and through, Maskull—to the marrowbone. But that’s not to say I have never absorbed males.”

“And that means…”

“New strings for my harp, Maskull. A wider range of passions, a stormier heart…”

“For you, yes—But for them?…”

“I don’t know. The victims don’t describe their experiences. Probably unhappiness of some sort—if they still know anything.”

“This is a fearful business!” he exclaimed, regarding her gloomily. “One would think Ifdawn a land of devils.”

Oceaxe gave a beautiful sneer as she took a step toward the river. “Better men than you—better in every sense of the word—are walking about with foreign wills inside them. You may be as moral as you like, Maskull, but the fact remains, animals were made to be eaten, and simple natures were made to be absorbed.”

“And human rights count for nothing!”

She had bent over the river’s edge, to wash her arms and hands, but glanced up over her shoulder to answer his remark. “They do count. But we only regard a man as human for just as long as he’s able to hold his own with others.”

The flesh was soon cooked, and they breakfasted in silence. Maskull cast heavy, doubtful glances from time to time toward his companion. Whether it was due to the strange quality of the food, or to his long abstention, he did not know, but the meal tasted nauseous, and even cannibalistic. He ate little, and the moment he got up he felt defiled.

“Let me bury this drude, where I can find it some other time,” said Oceaxe. “On the next occasion, though, I shall have no Maskull with me, to shock…. Now we have to take to the river.”

Aaaaand can’t forget the shrowks:

She still returned no answer, but smiled rather peculiarly and sat down beside him. Before many minutes he was able to distinguish the shapes and colors of the flying monsters. They were not birds, but creatures with long, snakelike bodies, and ten reptilian legs apiece, terminating in fins which acted as wings. The bodies were of bright blue, the legs and fins were yellow. They were flying, without haste, but in a somewhat ominous fashion, straight toward them. He could make out a long, thin spike projecting from each of the heads.

“They are shrowks,” explained Oceaxe at last. “If you want to know their intention, I’ll tell you. To make a meal of us. First of all their spikes will pierce us, and then their mouths, which are really suckers, will drain us dry of blood—pretty thoroughly too; there are no half measures with shrowks. They are toothless beasts, so don’t eat flesh.”


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