Sunday, February 28, 2010

I've Been Remiss in My Jack Vance Posts

Jack Vance shares a marked disdain for religion with his predecessor Clark Ashton Smith. Both authors regularly depict religious sects with hilariously absurd doctrines. In the fifth chapter ("The Pilgrims") of The Eyes of the Overworld, originally published in the June 1966 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the following conversation takes place among a group of pilgrims traveling to a religious festival:

Lodermulch had been asked his opinion of the so-called Funambulous Evangels, who, refusing to place their feet upon the ground, went about their tasks by tightrope. In a curt voice Lodermulch exposed the fallacies of this particular doctrine. "They reckon the age of the earth at twenty-nine eons, rather than the customary twenty-three. They stipulate that for every square ell of soil two and one quarter million men have died and laid down their dust, thus creating a dank and ubiquitous mantle of lich-mold, upon which it is sacrilege to walk. The argument has a superficial plausibility, but consider: the dust of one dessicated corpse, spread over a square ell, affords a layer one thirty-third of an inch in depth. The total therefore represents almost one mile of compacted corpse-dust mantling the earth's surface, which is manifestly false."

A member of the sect, who, without access to his customary ropes, walked in cumbersome ceremonial shoes, made an excited expostulation. "You speak with neither logic nor comprehension! How can you be so absolute?"

Lodermulch raised his tufted eyebrows in surly displeasure. "Must I really expatiate? At the ocean's shore, does a cliff one mile in altitude follow the demarcation between land and sea? No. Everywhere is inequality. Headlands extend into the water; more often beaches of pure white sand are found. Nowhere are the massive buttresses of gray-white tuff upon which the doctrines of your sect depend."

"Inconsequential claptrap!" sputtered the Funambule.

"What is this?" demanded Lodermulch, expanding his massive chest. "I am not accustomed to derision!"

"No derision, but hard and cold refutal of your dogmatism! We claim that a proportion of the dust is blown into the ocean, a portion hangs suspended in the air, a portion seeps through crevices into underground caverns, and another portion is absorbed by trees, grasses, and certain insects, so that little more than a half-mile of ancestral sediment covers the earth upon which it is sacrilege to tread. Why are not the cliffs you mentioned everywhere visible? Because of that moistness exhaled and expelled by innumerable men of the past! This has raised the ocean in exact equivalence, so that no brink or precipice can be noted; and herein lies your fallacy."

"Bah," muttered Lodermulch, turning away. "Somewhere there is a flaw in your concepts."

"By no means!" asserted the evangel, with that fervor which distinguished his kind. "Therefore, from respect to the dead, we walk aloft, on ropes and edges, and when we must travel, we use specially sanctified footgear."

As a resident of the Northeastern United States, I have been insulated from creationist rhetoric for most of my life, so I was unaware that this satirical tour de force was a response to any particular belief. Due, oddly enough, to the technological marvel known as "teh t00bz", I have, much to my dismay, found that this is not the case.

1 comment:

Smut Clyde said...

"Moon dust" drifting down from interplanetary space? What arrant nonsense. Any fule kno that it is actually zorb poop.