The Rime of the Postmodern Mariner

More ramblings of Rhys Hughes.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

PM Question Time #3: with a Subaquanaughty Boy

The third of the conversations is with the pirate of the western zone, Jacob Qwerty Wuthering, and this is how it goes:

PM: You are the captain of a steampunk submarine. In what way do you regard yourself as a modern Nemo, in other words a free citizen of a realm without official rules and regulations or value added tax?

JQW: Hardly at all. First and foremost, I am anything but modern: all the trappings of my life are carved and moulded in mahogany and brass and I still refer to radio receivers as ‘wireless sets’. I’m more inclined to describe myself as an archaic Nemo, but that label is equally inaccurate, for the real Nemo was exactly contemporary with his own age, and ‘archaic’ is older than ‘contemporary’, and there’s no way I can precede the real Nemo because I’m based on him... Secondly, I didn’t base myself on him: that was done for me, without my consent, by my author. I am only based on the original Nemo in the most superficial way. My author had a steampunk submarine and needed a captain for it and so forced me into the role. Questions of my political significance simply never entered his head.

PM: But do you feel immensely liberated in your swirling deeps?

JQW: To a lesser extent than might be imagined. I don’t have all the oceans of the world at my disposal. My playground is the Sea of Tea, a giant teacup with no outlet, and so I’m confined to an area of 7,854 square kilometres because the diameter of the cup is 100KM. Having said that, I never feel claustrophobic or imprisoned because I always find plenty to do in my assigned territory. There’s the Earl Grey Atlantis to explore and various monsters to elude, not just the notorious Oc-Tea-Pus but also the Tannin Zaratan, Brew Behemoth and Milk No Sugar Sea Serpent. And there’s the perpetual game of postmodern piracy with my rivals. That keeps me especially busy.

PM: Which of your rivals is the best and which the worst, in your estimation?

JQW: I prefer not to cast aspersions. There are enough other things to cast during a liquid-based life. Possibly Henry Morgan is the best and worst, if that’s of any help. As for myself, I’m out of the equation because I’m not a pirate in the conventional sense. Yes, I loot and plunder and drink rum, but storybook pirates travel around on ships, not in submarines: I’m an anomaly. The western eighth of the Sea of Tea is my personal domain and it’s ironic that I’m mostly below the surface during the magnificent sunsets that occur every night over the porcelain horizon. One more disadvantage to dunking oneself under the high teas!

PM: Are you certain you have no ideology, no anarchist agenda, that urges you to ram galleons with the tapering brass nose of your vessel?

JQW: None at all. As I’ve already stated I’m not a Nemo, quite the reverse. What’s the reverse of a Nemo? An Omen, I guess, so I must be an omen, a warning of something to come, but what that thing might be isn’t contained within my awareness. I ram ships to depopulate the Sea of Tea, to ultimately make my life easier, to enable me to stay for longer periods on the surface without being spotted by hostile eyes. One day I will be able to enjoy those sunsets unmolested – when I’m the last pirate left in the entire teacup!

PM: Is it true you were formerly a museum curator?

JQW: Indeed so. I’m a curator and also the main character in a novel not yet written, a novel entitled Wuthering Depths. The idea for that book has been in the mind of my author for many years but he simply hasn’t found time to write it. One day he will, I hope, and then my identity will be more real to me. At the moment I feel like a musical echo from an instrument that doesn’t exist: and a pfaaarp without a trombone-mother is the saddest sound in any impossible orchestra. But at least I do have minimal substance rather than none at all. You wouldn’t be able to interview me if I was like them.

PM: Like who?

JQW: The people with no substance at all... People like Hokey Raindrop, Cassius Befuddle, Molas the Unrefined, Jimjam Spreadwinkle, unwritten characters without any shape, history or texture, pure names, ridiculous names, because I invented them just now, without any thought at all. When I order my submarine to dive and it reaches the very bottom of the Sea of Tea, my hull resting on the cracked china floor, I’m still high above people like those, even though I can go no further down, and that thought gives me solace and causes me to wonder what gives them solace? Not much, I bet! Moving on... you haven’t asked me about my favourite kind of cake yet. We’re in a sea of tea. Isn’t that an obvious question?

PM: Very well, I’ll ask the question now...

JQW: Teacake.


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