Saturday, January 30, 2010

High Gygaxian

A language preserved only in certain obsolete texts, whose more recent editions, though much clearer and better organized, have been drained of a sense of wonder. What a treat, to grow up reading text like this:
The true splendor of the Vault can be appreciated only by those with infravision, or by use of the roseate lenses or a gem of seeing. The Vault is a strange anomaly, a hemispherical cyst in the crust of the earth, an incredibly huge domed fault over 6 miles long and nearly as broad. The dome overhead is a hundred feet high at the walls, arching to several thousand feet height in the center. When properly viewed, the radiation from certain unique minerals give the visual effect of a starry heaven, while near the zenith of this black stone bowl is a huge mass of tumkeoite -- which in its slow decay and transformation to lacofcite sheds a lurid gleam, a ghostly plum-colored light to human eyes, but with ultravision a wholly different sight.

The small "star" nodes glow in radiant hues of mauve, lake, violet, puce, lilac, and deep blue. The large "moon" of tumkeoite casts beams of shimmering amethyst which touch the crystalline formations with colors unknown to any other visual experience. The lichens seem to glow in rose madder and pale damson, the fungi growths in golden and red ochres, vermillions, russets, citron, and aquamarine shades. (Elsewhere the river and other water courses sheen a deep velvety purple with reflected highlights from the radiant gleams overhead vying with streaks and whorls of old silver where the liquid laps the stony banks or surges against the ebon piles of the jetties and bridge of the elfin city for the viewers' attention.) The rock walls of the Vault appear hazy and insubstantial in the wine-colored light, more like mist than solid walls. The place is indeed a dark fairyland.
...and then to actually go there in your imagination and explore it, and do battle with the degenerate denizens of that alien fairyscape. Yes, it's overwrought to the point of ridiculousness. But to read stuff that when you were 10 years old was like entering a whole different universe, one where authors took you seriously. Compare it to the stuff that schools (even my super-cool Montessori school) were offering kids that age.

In everything, I still seek that amazing sense of wonder. I think Avatar did a little bit of that for me, its numerous flaws notwithstanding. I'll forgive a lot if you open up a new imaginative space for me.

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