January 23, 2014

The Giant Maze On Which We Live: a guest post by J.M. McDermott, author of "Maze"

J.M. McDermott is the author of Last Dragon, Disintegration Visions, The Dogsland Trilogy, and Women and Monsters. He holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program from the University of Southern Maine. He lives in San Antonio, Texas. He will be at the Twig Bookstore in San Antonio, Texas on February 1st around noon to sign copies of Maze and his other books.

Maze: a guest post
by J.M. McDermott

Have you ever been lost at night in an unfamiliar city without a GPS? I was in Wiesbaden, Germany, and staying at my sister's apartment in Erbenheim. I was cat-sitting. I had gone to midnight mass for Easter at the cathedral, from the bus. I had to hurry to catch the last bus home. I missed the bus. Alone in the dark, then, in an unfamiliar city on foot. Germany has enough foot paths, and the cities were small enough, it could be done, and though it was as dangerous as you can imagine, it also wasn't as dangerous as all that. I walked through empty neighborhoods of mansions and industrial parks. I walked along the empty highway, oriented around a tall tower with neon lights. I walked alone.

It is hard to think about a city as a warm and inviting place when it is a vast, empty, dark, and foreboding foreign landscape. 

The stone walls rose up on either side of me - rich houses with very solid brick walls - and the darkness past the streetlamps was more absolute than stone. 

Easter mass had been beautiful, but during the mass drunk kids shouted out "Teuffel" (devil) in the side doors, a howl of Fasching left for the holiest night of Lent. Walking home, through the edge of the parks, a Turkish man shouted at me from far away, and I knew he was a gay man looking for other gay men in the only way his culture and space allowed. I kept walking on.

Cities are such mazes. Americans don't really understand what it's like. Europeans do. Cities are such mazes. There was this restaurant where to get to it, we had to go down two levels of a department store then out to the only entrance on the street of a restaurant that was hundreds of years older than all the buildings around it, where they served fancy food. There is no grid here. All the roads are older than the buildings, older than cars and older than bicycles.  Dig down deep enough, and you'll find temples, castles, old bones and older bones and older than all bones.

One time I hiked through the black forest alone, all the trees around me so tall they blocked the sun. I stuck to the trail and struck other trails, and what a maze it was there, with the old castle on the high hill, and the old paths walked over older paths cut through by new paths and roads. 

Did you know we live on a giant maze? The whole globe revolves around streets and pathways cut into pathways cut into pathways. We will never reach the goblin city, here. We will never duel the devil in the dark. We will only walk away from him, hope we do not see the minotaurs around us, no wild creatures come for our skin and bones and flat screen televisions.

When I was writing Wang Xin's section, conceiving of it, where the Djinni entered his eye and showed him a straight line of time from one point to another - this wonderful, happy life he was going to have - it was me thinking about these trails all over Germany where I walked and walked in daylight and then, unexpectedly, in darkness. We walk and we move and we scurry, and all the paths we lead are towards traffic accidents, towards cancer, towards sudden and unexpected joy and sorrow swooping in from the wings and corners like ghosts grabbing us. Fate itself shakes every tree down eventually. 

I don't know the way to the center of this maze. Time moves in a straight line for us, but I know that can't be right, and I don't know what it means or how to change anything. I walk on my straight line, and I'm lost. I know what is supposed to happen next, what is planned, but I'm lost. 

We're all doomed, right? The trolls are walking out there, with their unknowable and alien gaze, hunting us all. Shakespearian bears await for all exits to come in time. 

Wang Xin's maze is a straight line of false memory. I was thinking about Germany, being lost in the dark and knowing where I was supposed to go, and all those rat warren winding goat trails that became streets and sidewalks and centuries of shoe leather moving in darkness. I could know the roads, but in the dark the same familiar streets are so changed. The stone walls rose around me. The monsters in the dark called out to me, stalking unknown in the empty void of wee dawn. 

This is probably the origin of Wang Xin, or at least it is close enough that it might as well work.

Maze is here. Wang Xin is one of the survivors you will meet inside this book. He sees a future. It is probably not the only thing that keeps him from having it.

If you want to find out a little more about J.M. McDermott and Maze, check out his blog (http://jmmcdermott.blogspot.ca/), or visit Apex Books official site, or just buy the book from Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. Your post brought back memories. I too spent some time in Germany in the seventies and can attest to the maze like nature of the cities I visited.