SA4QE 2017 - Yvonne Studer - Zürich, Switzerland
I posted my contribution in the form of a Facebook status with accompanying cover photo. This is what I wrote:
Today, on 4th February 2017, would have been the American writer Russell Hoban's 92nd birthday hadn't he passed in 2011. To celebrate the day, I have chosen a quotation to post on my Facebook page, as many other Hoban fans will do too. We've been doing this since 2002 - it's an event we call the SA4QE, the Slickman A4 Quotation Event. As always, my quotation reflects what seems to be "in the air", a sentiment or mood transmitted on a special frequency.
So, what's in the air, you might ask. Well, to me, our present time resembles the early 1980s, when we seemed to be living on a ticking bomb and it wasn't certain if there would be a future. In 1980, Russell Hoban published Riddley Walker, a post-apocalyptic novel about a boy who must get his bearings in a world built on the rubble of our own civilization. 1983 saw the publication of Pilgermann, a novel about a Jewish pilgrim who meets his death in 11th century Antioch. By 1985-6, Hoban still hadn't been able to let go of images of doom while he was already searching for a story about women and men. In fact, he did find one eventually. It was published as The Medusa Frequency exactly 30 years ago, in 1987.
However, I haven't chosen a quotation from The Medusa Frequency. There would no doubt have been excellent ones from this novel, e.g. "'Fidelity is a matter of perception.... Nobody is unfaithful to the sea or the mountains or to death: once recognized they fill the heart." But I've used it before, and there was another one which urgently asked to be spread when I was leafing through my Hoban books. It is from one of the story fragments written in 1985-6, between Pilgermann and The Medusa Frequency. Titled "Untitled", it was first published in the collection The Moment Under the Moment in 1992.
Suddenly the air was ripped apart by a whistling shriek and a big bomb hit the water amongst them with a tremendous splash. There it was, unexploded.
'O my God,' said Flesmok. 'This is it, this is the end, we're finished.'
'No, we're not,' said Nuz. 'It didn't blow up, it's a dud bomb.'
'NO, I'M NOT,' said the bomb with impeccable BBC diction. 'I'M ONE OF THOSE VERY ADVANCED THINKING BOMBS WITH A VERY COMPLEX PROGRAMME. I WAS DEVISED BY A RACE OF SUPERIOR INTELLECTS LONG GONE AND LAUNCHED BY AN AUTOMATIC SYSTEM AND I'M GOING TO BLOW YOU ALL TO HELL IF YOU DON'T DO THE RIGHT THING IN THE ALLOTTED TIME, MOTHERFUCKERS.'
'What do you want us to do?' said Flesmok.
'TELL ME A STORY, YOU FUCKING SONS OF BITCHES,' said the bomb.
'What's a story?' said Mummel.
'A story is what happened,' said Nuz. 'Like when the radio says, "There were heavy losses in scattered sectors yesterday."'
'THAT'S NOT A STORY, CREEP,' said the bomb. 'THAT'S NOT EVEN NEWS.'
'Well, what is a story then?' said Nuz.
'Listen,' said Flesmok: '"The sea is full of marvels but there are no answers in it." How about that?'
'GO ON,' said the bomb, 'TELL ME MORE.'
Let's hope that someone will find the right thing to say or do in our times too, the thing that will persuade the ticking bomb not to blow us all to hell.
In this spirit, happy Russmas Day to everyone!