This weeks prompt is: 2. Inhabitants of Zinge, over whom the star Canopus rises every night, are always gay and without sorrow.
The Resulting Story:The Tragedy of Elinor Thompson
Hello everyone, welcome back to the Undead Author Society where nothing stays dead forever!
So, like last time, my research began with looking up all the proper nouns. Canopus according, to Wikipedia, has some strong associations as the second brightest star in the sky. The big mythic ones are Chinese (longevity, as the star of the old man), several associations with birds (Polynesians and Kalapalo), a regal title in Hawaiian myth, and Tswanan associations with flying ants, termites, and winds. Canopus is also interesting in its association with navigators and sea travel.
Canopus is also significantly hotter than the sun, and a distinct white color. I’ll come back to this in a bit, but sometimes turning to the actual scientific nature of an object over the symbolic is helpful. Lovecraft himself was a rather strict materialist (ignoring the Dreamlands), so the choice of Canopus might be due to its brightness.
Then there’s Zinge. Zinge appears, in the context of the sentence, to be a planet of some sort, clearly inhabited. The word is meaningless, unless its an odd version of Zingdagi, the Hindi word for life. In which case, the title fits with Canopus as the Star of the Old Man and the general utopian flare of the prompt.
And that’s the hardest part of this prompt. Utopian literature was quite popular for a time and have an illustrious history, reaching all the way back Plato’s Republic arguably, and definitely to Thomas More’s Utopia in the fourteenth century, continued in works like Letters from Nowhere. The genre is political in nature, presenting an ‘ideal’ that society should strive for. The tradition of political literature is still alive and well, in the nightmarish form of the dystopia. Dystopia outlived its happier ancestor, probably because dystopia’s have a clear plot and conflict. The world is an awful, horrifying, nightmare. Go and stop it.
Utopia’s…don’t have that clear of a plot, thought they have a clear structure. Typically, a visitor from the time of the author visits, and gets a grand tour of the world, and how much better it is then the world he comes from. Typically there’s a not-so-subtle call to action about how to make this Utopia a reality, but that’s it. This literature doesn’t immediately lead to horror or plot at all. And while thinking this over, it occurred to me that there is an alternative.
First of all, the inhabitants of Zinge are left ambiguous. Life on a distant alien world would definitely evolve differently than here, especially given a much hotter star. And if Lovecraft has taught us anything, it’s that the alien is truly alien in thought and body. How such a society achieved such joy is also open, though Canopus and the possible root of Zinge indicate longevity was involved. Clichéd answers would say some sort sacrifice or sadism would be there. Or sacrificing orphans. I wonder what visitor will come, and what news from Zinge they will bring, next week when I raise them from their grave.
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