Saturday, April 16, 2005

Further Report from Zytron

On this planet are chain coffeeshops so ubiquitous they're a kind of religion to the Zytronians. The coffeeshops/chapels are everyplace, on every streetcorner, inhabitants stampeding into them in zombie-like fashion to get the nourishment required to keep these machine-like creatures operating. I stumble into one of the generic white-and-blond-wood places to refresh my thirst, with a handful of Zytronian coinage I've scrounged together which I hope will allow me to buy something. (I've become a ventriloquist street entertainer of sorts with "Dana" the literary puppet.)

The Zytronian girl behind the counter stares at me with perplexity, as if I'm scroungy when I have trouble figuring out how many coins to give her for a small cup of green tea. (I'm not too scroungy though, as I wear a unique leather jacket brought with me on my journey-- that's another story.) The countergirl's wide eyes stare from beneath dark Zytronian bangs overhanging her pale greenish face. (I see everything in green.) "Sorry," I tell her about my confusion. "I'm not from this planet," I add as explanation. Her quirky contemptuous expression is a puzzle to me. I'm eager to find out more about these humanoid people.

At least she's not one of the upper-class of the species. I've realized there are as many castes here as in my own land. The trendoid Affluenti are distinguished by their extreme artificiality.

An example: I was walking down a block of expensive shops in the downtown section of the city. In a large lighted window a robot model who had been standing motionless like a mannequin began waving and smiling. Then she became frozen again, then began waving. I didn't know if I should wave back. I gaped, then smiled. She winked and smiled back, before resuming her routine. She wasn't a robot-- only acting like one.

The people on the streets in this district behave the same way, alternating fake friendly smiles with fixed robotness. Very disconcerting.

In my confusion I walk and walk, to gauge the full extent of the city. I encounter poorer sections; vast stretches untouched by Antiseptification. Here live a different breed of Zytronian; darker, often shorter, much shabbier dressed. The gray shack dwellings are old beyond determination. They could be many thousands of years old, or a million, so different are they from the gleaming clean streets of the central city. (The green and blue skyscrapers rise like Oz far behind me, glowing against the purple sky.)

On one of the narrow streets along this way is a tiny, dilapidated bookshop. I step inside to pause my tired walking feet.

"Looking for anything? Any author in particular?" a bearded clerk behind the counter asks me.

Not knowing any of Zytron's writers except the mechanical posers at the recent reading, I'm unsure what to say.

"Literature!" I tell him.

In response he shows me a huge novel of twenty thousand pages titled Eternal Clown, by an author named Davydd Frosty Walassd. (My imperfect translation.) "He has a Z.I.Q. of 253!" the shopclerk exclaims. (Zytronian Intelligence Quotient.)

I look at the pages. The complexity of the sentences is way beyond my understanding. Footnotes and asides are inserted throughout the hieroglyphic text. I wonder how anyone could get into a narrative flow trying to read this massive object. It's a thing to be analyzed and studied by hermetically sealed priests.

"No, I'm looking for underground lit," I explain.

"Walassd is avant-garde!" the clerk insists.

"Where I'm from this kind of thing IS establishment writing," I say.

The eager Walassd reader-- a writer himself, he adds-- explains to me DFW's philosophy that literature isn't aimed at everybody, and shouldn't try to be.

"Outrageous!" I thunder, an opinion he's never heard in his life. "This guy's ideas sound like Rick Moody's. Real literature is for everybody."

Except maybe not on this planet. That this essentially working-class dude could have been brainwashed into such ideas is troubling. The influence of the Affluenti reaches far from the center of the city, I realize.

Outside a heavy purple rain begins. I need to return to my small room many miles away. Before I depart the clerk rummages far beneath the counter and comes up with a dusty red-lettered publication. Its cover shows crudely scrawled writing. It's like an Earth-style zeen.

"Here's something for you," he says apologetically. "Real underground."

I take it he means Zytron's version of Jack Saunders or somebody-- the True Gen. The clerk urges the book on me. Without deciphering the author's name I shove the artifact inside my protective leather coat and rush into the crushing pouring rain.

(Note: This installment is at least two weeks old, delayed in communication. I'll be posting more recent adventures on the mysterious planet shortly-- you won't want to miss it, as things for me have somewhat changed.)

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