Introduction to In the Wake of Poseidon

July 26, 1995

Here are some brief background notes about the story. As should be clear, it was an attempt to imitate Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The title is taken from the name of King Crimson's second album, and the headings are the names of the songs of that album. I wrote the story in one day, probably just a few hours, and it was done entirely stream-of-conciousness. Although a lot of it makes sense, particularly if you understand the obscure references, some sections were deliberate nonsense, words being chosen mainly for musical effect. This is probably the closest I've gotten so far to writing literature as pure music.

A few changes were made in the electronic version. The introduction (which was rather lame) and table of contents (just a list of the song titles) were left out. The original was written with an electric typewriter with normal and italic-like fonts. It's impossible to capture some of the typographic features of the original. For example, the story was written using one side of each page, and all of "side two" of the story was written on the "back" of each page (as they were stapled together). The "nonono..." part near the end went off the page with the last o cut in half. The heading "side one" at the beginning was originally typed sideways in the margin, although I think that's just because I forgot to put it in originally. Finallly, the last all-caps WILL was originally in lower case and underlined.

Using the PRE format of html I've been able to otherwise print the story more or less as it originally looked--thankfully PRE lets you still do italics and even keeps them uniformly spaced. I've broken lines exactly as they were in the original, and left gaps of several lines to indicate where the page breaks were in the original. My drawing for "Peace--A Theme" was scanned in by Daniel Sternbergh (thanks!).

I have some sympathy for Joyce's editors, because looking at the story years after writing it I found some things that looked like mistakes, but I can't be sure whether or not they were intentional. So I've been very conservative, but I have made a few corrections in places where I felt the flow of the story was diminished. They are:

There are a lot of inside references in this story, some so obscure even I don't remember them. For example I think "resp" originally stood for something, but I can't recall what. [2/1/07: I later remembered it stands for "realistic situation projection", in other words daydreaming.] Many words were taken from "The Second Language" (TSL), a language my high school friend Larry Sparrow and I invented so my mother and other people couldn't understand what we were saying on the phone. We found that by just changing a few key words we could make our conversations incomprehensible.

Thus Sollum, Halfaya Pass, and Fort Cappuzzo were names for people--the names were taken from the GDW game Operation Crusader and are locations in Egypt near the Libyan border. [3/8/98: I've added a scan of a portion of the game map to the main page for this site.] Sollum was the girl I was infatuated with the first year of high school, Halfaya was the one for the next three years, and Cappuzzo was a male friend also interested in Halfaya, whom he dated briefly at the end of senior year. As you might guess from reading the story I was too shy to tell either of them I liked them, so I just suffered for four years only to realize how stupid I'd been when it was all over. Halfaya Pass became a fictional character with her own identity (actually several) and has been a major character in my writing since then. One pseudonym for myself which appears in the story is TAA, which stands for The Anonymous Author.

We had a simple system of making pronounceable abbreviations of people's names so we didn't have to think of special names for everyone. Sollum's and Halfaya's names under this system, "mafi" and "kaho", both appear in the story, as do the names of some other women in one section. PAT stands for "poisioned arrow trap" and BPL stands for what comes next, namely "blood poison level". I don't remember if I was influenced by Nathanial Hawthorne's wonderful story "Rappucini's Daughter" when I came up with these concepts or if I thought of them independently. The poem "BPL Rising" was written before this story and just stuck in (and then deservedly made fun of). It may have been part of a longer poem that I never completed titled "Operation Crusader (The Po-em)".

That's about it, then. The only other advice I can give is that it helps to know a little (very little) French, and (the same advice I heard about reading Finnegans Wake) if you can't understand something, try pronouncing it out loud. Indeed, I learned more about Finnegans Wake by writing an imitation of it than I could have by merely reading it.

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