The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, October 25, 2004


The New Republic is really kicking ass by running "The Undying Fire" by HG Wells. I forget sometimes how prolific HG Wells was and the only thing I know about him is that he was massively prolific. As the Scientologists say of L. Ron Hubbard, Wells wrote competently no matter what the genre, even in this genre:
Two eternal beings, magnificently enhaoled, the one in a blinding excess of white radiance, and the other in a bewildering extravagance of colors, converse amidst stupendous surroundings. These surroundings are by tradition palatial, but there is now also a marked cosmic tendency about them. They have no definite locality; they are above and comprehensive of the material universe.

There is a quality in the scene as if a futurist with a considerable knowledge of modern chemical and physical speculation and some obscure theological animus had repainted the designs of a pre-Raphaelite. The vast pillars vanish into unfathomable darkness, and the complicated curves and whorls of the decorations seem to have been traced by the flight of elemental particles. Suns and planets spin and glitter through the avanturine depths of a floor of crystalline ether. Great winged shapes are in attendance wrought of iridescences and bearing globes, stars, rolls of the law, flaming swords and similar symbols. The voices of the Cherubim and Seraphim can be heard crying continually, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Now, as in the ancient story, it is a reception of the sons of God.

The Master of the gathering, to whom one might reasonably attribute a sublime boredom, seeing that everything that can possibly happen is necessarily known to him, displays on the contrary as lively an interest in his interlocutor. This interlocutor is of course Satan, the Unexpected.

The contrast of these two eternal beings is very marked. While the Deity, veiled and almost hidden in light, with his hair like wool and his eyes like the blue of infinite ace, conveys an effect of stable, remote, and mountainous grandeur, Satan has the compact alertness of habitual travel; he is as definite as a grip sack, and he brings a flavor of initiative and even bustle upon a scene that would otherwise be one of serene perfection. His halo even has a slightly travelled look. He has been going to and fro the earth and walking up and down in it; his labels still upon him. His status in heaven remains as undefined as it was in the time of Job; it is uncertain to this day whether he is to be regarded as one of the sons of God or as an inexplicable intruder among them. (But see upon this question the Encyclopaedia Biblical under his name.) Whatever his origin there can be little doubt of his increasing assurance of independence and importance in the Divine presence. His freedom may be sanctioned or innate, but he himself has no doubt remaining of the security of his personal autonomy. He believes that he is a necessary accessory to God, and that his incalculable quality is an indispensable relief to the acquiescences of the Archangels. He never misses these reunions. If God is omnipresent by a calm necessity, Satan is everywhere by an infinite activity. They engage in unending metaphysical differences into which Satan has imported a tone of friendly badinage. They play chess together.

But the chess they play is not the little ingenious game that originated in India; it is on an altogether different scale. The Ruler of the Universe creates the board, the pieces and the rules; he makes all the moves; he may make as many moves as he likes whenever he likes; his antagonist however is permitted to introduce a slight in explicable inaccuracy into each move, which necessitates further moves in correction. The Creator determines and conceals the aim of the game, and it is never clear whether the purpose of the adversary is to defeat or assist him in his unfathomable project. Apparently the adversary cannot win, but also he cannot lose so long as he can keep the game going. But he is concerned, it would seem, in preventing the development of any reasoned scheme in the game.
The raving-madly genre.