The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Wood Between The Worlds as primary setting

CS Lewis in The Magician's Nephew introduced The Wood Between The Worlds. He pretty much lampshaded it as a plot-device: the action wasn't happening there (and magic couldn't function!), but it was needed as a nexus for travel between worlds. Tim Burton used something like this in Nightmare Before Christmas. Grossman tried to use it in The Magicians as well but Viking's lawyers forced him to reskin it as the "Neitherlands". Several other nexi have featured in Dungeons & Dragons.

The Wood device is related to the Library Of Babel concept, a nexus of infinity. Michael Ende adapted this much in his Temple of a Thousand Doors; and there is in fact a library in Grossman's Neitherlands. However for Lewis - and, for different reasons, Grossman - the Wood is finite or at least countable. It joins worlds that do or, in Charn's case, used to, exist. God, who is lawful so countably-infinite, has built the worlds and links those He chooses. God's imagination is greater than ours but, if lacking mathematical limits, does follow metamathematical rules.

It occurs to me now that Frederick Pohl's Gateway station is the Neitherlands of sci-fi. If a corporation were to discover portals to other worlds but nothing about why and how such portals could exist, Gateway is the company village this corporation would establish in the Wood.

The reason Pohl's Heechee books don't work after Gateway is because the question of Gateway is the question of all existence. Lewis had an answer, whether or not we agree with his answer. Grossman doesn't have an answer, and doesn't attempt it. When Pohl wasn't trying to answer the Gateway's questions, he wrote a psychological study based on 1970s mores, successful as such. When Pohl expanded his ambition, he failed.


posted by Zimri on 11:32 | link | 0 comments

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