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Veteran of the Psychic Wars

« Veteran of the Psychic Wars » est une chanson du groupe de hard-rock américain Blue Öyster Cult, écrite par Eric Bloom et l’auteur britannique Michael Moorcock, qui se trouve aussi être le créateur d’Elric de Melniboné.

La chanson est sur l’album Fire of Unknown Origin, une version longue apparaît sur l’album Extraterrestrial Live et également dans la bande originale du film d’animation Heavy Metal de 1981.

L’expression « …veteran of a Thousand Psychic Wars » vient de la chanson « Standing at the Edge » du groupe Hawkwind, qui se trouve sur l’album Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975), et qui traitait également du mythe du Champion éternel.

Elric de Melniboné

Elric de Melniboné est un personnage de fiction, inventé par l’écrivain anglais Michael Moorcock et héros du Cycle d’Elric, écrit entre 1961 et 1972.

Inspiré par Zenith l’Albinos, le méchant de la série Sexton Blake, Elric est un albinos à la santé défaillante, ce qui l’oblige à consommer de nombreux remèdes jusqu’à ce qu’il trouve Stormbringer, une épée qui, en buvant les âmes de ses adversaires, est capable de lui redonner de la vigueur.

Dernier empereur de l’île de Melniboné en pleine décadence, il tente vainement d’y introduire des réformes, mais se voit finalement contraint d’amener sa chute à la suite de la félonie de son cousin Yyrkoon. Tourmenté par le meurtre qu’il a lui-même commis de sa cousine et amante Cymoril, il parcourt par la suite son monde, ainsi que quelques autres mondes du Multivers, aux côtés de son fidèle ami Tristelune d’Elwher.

Le mythe du Champion éternel

Sur chacun des plans des millions de sphères du multivers, il existe une incarnation du Champion éternel qui, délibérément ou pas, est le gardien de la balance cosmique. Chaque incarnation du Champion éternel est déchirée par le doute, la crainte, et souvent la culpabilité. Parfois, il recherche un être plus élevé qui commande les dieux lunatiques de la Loi et du Chaos.

Les différentes incarnations du Champion sont liées par divers points communs, par exemple leurs noms : celui de Jherek Carnelian rappelle Jerry Cornelius, et le nom complet de Corum, Corum Jhaelen Irsei, est une anagramme de Jeremiah Cornelius.

Michael Moorcock emprunte parfois à la mythologie ou à l’histoire pour nommer les champions éternels. Ainsi dans le multivers, Ulysse est une incarnation du champion éternel :

« Ryan, Hawkmoon. Powys. Cornell. Brian. Umpata. Soian. Klan. Clovis Marca. Pournachas. Oshbek-Uy. Ulysse. Ilanth.

Ma propre voix s’éleva soudain.

– NON ! JE SUIS SEULEMENT EREKOSË !

-Champion Eternel. Soldat du Destin ».

extrait de Les guerriers d’argent (The silver Warriors),1970.

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal est un film d’animation pour adulte, anthologie de diverses histoires de science fiction et de fantasy, adaptées du magazine Heavy Metal et d’histoires originales dans le même esprit. Sorti en 1981, il est mis en scène par Gerald Potterton et produit par Ivan Reitman et Leonard Mogel, qui était également l’éditeur du magazine Heavy Metal, qui est la base du film.

Un petit peu de steampunk dans ce clip pour la chanson Eye of the Storm de Lovett :

Cela me permet de parler un peu du mouvement steampunk, qui est au départ un genre littéraire dont l’intitulé a été forgé par allusion au cyberpunk par l’auteur K. W. Jeter à titre de boutade. Pour cette raison, il est parfois plus approprié de parler de « rétrofuturisme » pour désigner le mouvement.

L’expression steampunk, (« punk à vapeur » littéralement) est un terme inventé pour qualifier un genre de littérature né à la fin du XXe siècle, dont l’action se déroule dans l’atmosphère de la société industrielle du XIXe siècle. Le terme fait référence à l’utilisation massive des machines à vapeur au début de la révolution industrielle puis à l’époque victorienne.

Aujourd’hui le steampunk est considéré comme un esthétisme pouvant intéresser à la fois des œuvres littéraire fantastique, de fantasy, d’anticipation et certains sous-genres de la science-fiction.

Vadzim Khudabets, un producteur russe de bande-annonces, a condensé dans son court-métrage les meilleures scènes les plus explosives de 250 films et blockbusters les plus impressionnants pour créer le mashup ultime des films d’action, de superhéros, de fantasy et de science-fiction.

Admirez un peu le résultat :

En quelques 6 minutes, il reprend tous les films de ces dix dernières années – dont certains sont devenus des classiques – pour une bonne claque visuelle (merci les effets spéciaux!) et sonore. Epic !

Alors, bien sûr, cela reste du mashup – n’empêche qu’il doit y avoir quelques heures de boulot pour avoir compilé et édité tout ça.

Musiques :

  • Shockwave Sound – Call For Heroes (Rock Mix) : http://www.shockwave-sound.com/
  • Shockwave Sound – Fatal Fight (Rock Mix) : http://www.shockwave-sound.com/
  • Les Friction – World On Fire : http://www.lesfriction.com/
  • Immediate Music – Falling Skies : http://www.immediatemusic.com/
  • Pfeifer Frankfort – Valentine : http://www.pfmusicgroup.com/
  • Two Steps From Hell – Breathe : http://www.twostepsfromhell.com/

Petit jeu : retrouvez le nom des films !

Merlin est une série britannique diffusée sur BBC1 qui prend pour base la légende arthurienne : Merlin est un jeune homme qui débarque à Camelot, envoyé par sa mère pour apprendre auprès de Gaius, le médecin du roi Uther Pendragon.

Par contre, je vous préviens tout de suite : cela prend pour base les personnages de la légende du roi Arthur mais n’en respecte absolument pas l’histoire.

Ne cherchez donc pas les références historiques, la série est plutôt à considérer comme un spin-off familial.

Merlin est né avec le pouvoir de télékinésie mais ne doit pas manifester son pouvoir car la magie et la sorcellerie ont été bannies du royaume par le roi Uther Pendragon.

Arthur, fils du roi, est légèrement plus âgé que Merlin et la première rencontre entre les deux futurs héros se passe plutôt mal. Guenièvre est la servante de Morgane – qui n’est pas une fée, mais la pupille d’Uther et qui est amoureuse d’Arthur.

Suck my Geek !Suck My Geek ! est un documentaire de Tristan Schulmann et Xavier Sayanoff d’une durée de 48 minutes que nous avions évoqué dans cette colonne le mois dernier. C’est l’occasion de découvrir ce que sont vraiment ces gens étranges et décalés que sont les geeks : des fanatiques de divers milieux, qui vivent leurs passions à fond…

La réalisation du documentaire est superbes et certaines interventions sont vraiment très fines, poussant à la réflexion. On en ressort heureux. Je suis assez soulagé de voir qu’il y a (beaucoup) plus geek que moi !

Robert JordanJe viens d’apprendre par mon père que Robert Jordan, né James Oliver Rigney Jr, célèbre écrivain d’heroic fantasy nous a quitté le dimanche 16 septembre 2007 à l’âge de 58 ans. En mars 2006, Robert Jordan avait expliqué que les médecins avait diagnostiqué chez lui une amyloïdose, une maladie du sang qui touche 8 personnes sur un million chaque année. Depuis, son état semblait stationnaire, voire en amélioration.

Il laisse inachevé son gigantesque cycle de La Roue du Temps (The Wheel of Time), dont le premier volume était paru en 1990. Il travaillait sur le douzième et dernier tome de la saga, A Memory of Light, un roman qui, une fois terminé, aurait dû s’étaler sur près de 2 000 pages.

Robert Jordan vivait à Charleston, en Caroline du Sud et j’avais eu le grand plaisir de le rencontrer dans une petite librairie de Melbourne et de discuter avec lui de l’évolution des personnages de la Roue du Temps. J’ai toujours sa dédicace, signée au dos d’une carte postale à l’effigie d’un platypus, accrochée sur le mur de ma chambre à Nantes.

Nous n’aurons donc pas la fin de l’aventure… à moins que ses derniers écrits ne soient publiés un jour ?

I. Washington IRVING: evolution, nostalgia and imaginary compensation

Irving was not under the influence of sentimentalism or romanticism, the two big influences of that time. In a way, he was the perfect incarnation of the American early literary development. He was a figure of literary transition in a society where American literature was still a hybrid. Irving’s artistic opinions and his style changed dramatically over time but we can detect certain opinions and thematic elements that dominate his early as well as his later works. One of the most important things about Irving is the nostalgic consciousness of change and the evanescence of things and people. This melancholic sensibility is to be found in all his works. Other distinctive aspects of Irving’s writings are:

  • The transformation of material reality through fantasy and imagination. Such a transformation allows the author to represent reality as a fable.
  • The use of humor: human enterprises as trivial and ridiculous (cynicism and bitterness).
  • The use of sentimentalism to describe scenes and characters.

On the whole, Irving emphasizes narration and description rather than analysis and critic. This choice can be explained for he did not consider his prose as an expression of political or cultural positions (consciously). Irving started his literary carrier writing satirical pieces of journalism about the New York cultural and social scene, especially about the Theater circles. We can see that his humor and his early satire were a collage of rational critic, nonsense humor and irony.

In his satirical works, he turned all human beings into fools including the writer himself: that’s self-reference (makes funny comments about himself as a writer), a very modern way of writing. He gave full expression to the sense of his satires and historiobiographies (history in a novel or in historical books); it showed his sharp sense of satire. In 1809, he wrote A History of New York from the creation of the World to the end of the Dutch Dynasty, which is a parody of the New York Dutch descendants and an ironic questioning of objective historical facts and historiographical skepticism. The narrator is Dietrich Knickerbocker. It’s not a monumental but an ironic history. Behind the irony, there is a very serious historical effort on the part of Irving. He rewrites history from his own point of view: it’s very modern. As he develops these two themes, the narrator of the book sees this historical monument of human accomplishment as a monument of human ridicule: he turns it upside down.

In 1815, Irving sailed to Liverpool and traveled extensively in Europe. His English travels inspired The SketchBook of Geoffrey Crayon, a collection of 33 essays and stories. The narrator of his book is the sentimental G. Crayon who expresses his attachment to British culture and its old monuments. The SketchBook is essentially homage to English scenes and English writers. It is conservative in its cultural views and antiquarian in its aesthetic inspirations. Indeed, Crayon doesn’t hesitate to express his preference for tradition, aristocracy and rurality rather than for innovation, democracy and urbanization.

Rip Van Wikle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow are his most distinguish pieces. These excellent short stories present a mixture of fantasy and realism, of fable and fact. As far as the use of fantasy is concerned, the short stories already announced the narrative art of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Presently, the legendary opposition between New York and New England, Sleepy Hollow, is comic variation on Gothic fiction (develops an atmosphere of terror, horrifying, macabre and where strange events happen). Throughout the narrative, Irving metamorphoses the setting of the story (the Hudson River Valley) into a fabulous landscape where we can follow his analysis of American history, although we know that the images of the history are the product of his wild imagination and fantasy. The historical context of Sleepy Hollow is that of a rapidly changing American in the face of America: it reflects Irving’s profound fear of America’s territorial expansion and its rapid socio-economic transformation. In this sense, Sleepy Hollow is found on a profound sense of melancholy and nostalgia, as ideal rural past.

In this, Irving proved to be an author with profoundly American impulses. He faced a country plunging into change, development and expansion but at the same time, when he’s trying to understand this country; he expresses his nostalgic desires to preserve the eternal arcadia of the colonial vision. His paradox is the American one.

During his diplomatic service in Spain, Irving turned to biography: The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus represents an important change in his literary life. In this biography, he kept using the narrative techniques that he used in his novels, mixing history and fiction. In his historic books, he abandoned his ironic tone: it became more serious and formal despite the fact that he kept using the narrative techniques. All his novels are the products of very precise researches. However, Irving did not define such works as purely economic literature. In The Conquest of Granada, he described Granada as somewhat "between history and romance". From this period, The Alhambra is the only book that can be compared with the SketchBook.

In 1832, after 17 years in Europe, Irving returned to the USA that was in full expansion and he realized that its New Frontier was a big source of literary inspiration. During that period, he traveled extensively in the West. Results:

  • A Tour of the Prairie (1835)
  • Asteria and The Adventure (1836)

Irving has always been interested in the Frontier. Like James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers, in a way, Irving thought of his western books of the 1830’s not just as literary experimentations but also as a concrete contribution to the west world expansion of the USA and the realization of his "manifest destiny".

II. James Fenimore COOPER: the voice of the Frontier as general critique

Jacksonian democracy’s rise and its effect on the Frontier represent the most important elements in the historical background of Cooper’s fictions. 1829-1837: democratic populist campaign based on a fight for poop people (land, farms and realization of the American dream) but no place for Indians. For Cooper, realizing your dreams is a good ideal. But it does not come without the extermination of Puritans entities: Indians and Nature.

Cooper’s role in this history of American literature: his representation of the Frontier certainly appears as his greatest contribution to an authentically American literature. Cooper transformed the American Frontier into a symbol of a national myth. Among the general public, Cooper is known for his leatherstocking tales (main character: Natty Bumpo):

  • The Pioneer (1823)
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1823)
  • The Prairie (1827)
  • The Pathfinder (1840)
  • The Crater (1847)

The Last of the Mohicans

Compared with the other leatherstocking novels, Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans is the most complex and dramatic. It’s complexity and dramatic powers come from the ambiguities of the Frontier itself. Similar to Captain Smith’s vision of nature, The Last of the Mohicans represents the Frontier as the scene of constant struggle. His characters are more characterized by action than reflection. In Cooper’s fictions, action and struggle very often degenerate into violence and absurd tragedy. This representation of the Frontier shows an understanding of American history in general as an ambiguous and complex process in which the people struggling to possess and keep the land are subjected to natural and historical forces they can not control: Nature is seen as bigger than man in tragic view. Indeed, The Last of the Mohicans often describes scenes of a devastated Nature, scenes that powerfully suggest the theme of what America has lost, the grace of primitive natural beauty. Nature is humanized: we can’t remain indifferent. Along with the poetry of its natural scenes, The Last of the Mohicans also reflects Cooper’s sense of realism. Indeed, judged by the standards of his time, his wilderness fiction as the whole follows very closely the best sources of Indian studies that existed in the early 19th century. Moreover, Cooper met and spoke with the most important Indian chiefs of this period. He overall pictured that general picture we get in his narratives: the tragic, dramatic and ambiguous change. Even his most courageous and energetic characters find themselves incapable of facing the forces of Nature and History. According to Cooper, the phenomenon of settlement is the ideal metaphoric expression of the tragedy of American civilization. But, in Cooper’s narrative vision, the Frontier is also an image of the sense of opportunity that comes from with change. In this description of the process of settlement, Cooper describes with eloquence the hopes and aspirations of the pioneers and simultaneously the Indians’ feeling of loss and displacement.

The Pioneers

The vastness of Cooper’s historical vision, the complexity and tragic sense of this Frontier can be seen in his first Frontiers novel, The Pioneers, which shows Cooper’s profound attachment to the Frontier as a philosophy of life based on hope, with its suggestion of autobiographical nostalgia. More than anything else, the autobiographic element shows the eloquence with which Cooper described the Frontier. Again, as in his other narratives of Nature, Cooper’s conception of the Frontier is never simplistic. On the one hand, he describes the daily life of the pioneers and their relations with Nature in idyllic terms. On the other hand, behind the Frontier idyll, there is the irreversible march of historical process. The settlers’ irresponsible destruction of natural resources is a dramatic reminder of human intrusion upon the wilderness. The complexity of Cooper’s narratives of a Frontier resides in the ambiguity of his feelings toward the settlement process. In The Pioneers, one has certainly the sense of his enthusiasm concerning America’s conquest of Nature; however, we also feel his profound anxiety as an unstoppable march of civilization. In this sense, his works are the first expression of a really ecological consciousness. Although the question of ecological danger was a serious subject for Cooper, he found the social disorder that comes with economic changes even more problematic. In this sense, the social themes of his novels have a prophetic quality. They tell of the limits and dangers of Jacksonian democracy and its proclamation of the possibilities on the individual. He saw in it the future destruction of America’s sense of community and responsibility. In the final analysis, The Pioneers and its contrast between Nature and civilization is less pessimistic than some of Cooper’s later novels.

Indeed, The Pioneers offers a harmonious synthesis between the European and Indian past. The American Frontier is supposed to be the neutral ground where the synthesis is supposed to happen. This trend to make a synthesis of the past and the present, development and wilderness, the American people and Native Americans, seems to be the result of a division within Cooper himself. This particular aspect of his fiction reflects his own role in the settlement of American, which is full of contradictions. On the one hand, Cooper grew up in a Frontier community, believed in the ideal of success through progress: his imagination was influenced by the beauty of Nature and by the hopes of building a civilization. On the other hand, for he grew up in a Frontier community, he knew more than anyone else the ecological and ethnic disasters that the Frontier communities created. So, his fiction can be considered as the product of his contradiction.

The Crater

Cooper placed the settlement setting on a fantasy island in the Pacific. The Crater is perhaps America’s first really allegorical novel. It offers a symbolic representation of America’s evolution from a hopeful past to a chaotic present to an apocalyptic future. As in Cooper’s other settlement novels, the settlement on his imaginary island is confronted with the outside dangers of Indian tribes. Eventually, the community succeeds only to realize that the most serious danger to the development of the settlement comes from the community itself.

Cooper’s change from the ambiguous optimism of The Pioneers to The Crater‘s vision of disorder is also a personal change. This change marks his move toward an increasing position with social order. Cooper’s later novels show how deeply he felt the necessity to put a sense of order into his social vision, the vision of a society of a society developing beyond control. Despite his conservatism, Cooper was no extreme conservative but moderate. However, his positions were misinterpreted: his argument for a re-consideration of the principles of American democracy, his critic of mad development and ecological irresponsibility were considered as conservative. His opinions were seen as an expression of unhappiness with the very existence of democracy as a system. In fact, the negative things that Cooper associated with Jacksonian Democracy were not just the negative aspects of a political system but of an entire philosophy, of an entire society. Through his novels and political writings, Cooper wanted to expose several social and economic symptoms:

  • Explosion of cities aligncenter upon the accumulation of capital.
  • Superficial press.
  • Disintegration of civility and social coherence.
  • Generalized materialism and the collapse of small communities.

In the final analysis, Cooper’s greatest accomplishment as a novelist does not reside in his critic of the abuses of Jacksonian Democracy but in his transformation of his personal contradictions into an imaginary scene of truly mythical dimension. His works remained as essential models for an American literary sensibility and its mystique of Nature. They also represent the first model for a sensibility committed to ecological responsibility and cultural tolerance.

Sommaire de la série History of American Literature

  1. An authentically American Literature
  2. Puritanism : a New World Vision
  3. Declaration of Literary Independence
  4. The American Renaissance
  5. Modernism

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