I inhabit a crossroads where speculative literature, the occult and experimental music intersect. The thoughts, ideas, and personalities which daily percolate through my brain are later distilled as dreams in the alembic of my soul as I sleep creating a wonderful feedback loop. It should be no surprise that some of the characters I dream of are caricatures of authors I admire, both living and dead. I document these encounters in my dream journal. One of the most important things I learned from reading Aleister Crowley is that the diary, or the magickal record as he often called it, is the primary tool of the magician.
A fragment from July 2010 initiated a series of episodes revolving around China Mieville and his work. In it I am reading what I take to be part of the Bas-Lag Trilogy, but it takes place between The Scar and Iron Council. Waking up from this experience, I was very excited and when I got the chance, looked up Mieville’s bibliography to see what, if anything he had written between the two aforementioned books, and learned he had written a novella, called The Tain. This was very significant to me on many levels. Celtic motifs have been recurring elements in my dreams, and as part of my research into Celtic folklore I have begun making my first tentative steps into Irish mythology and the Ulster cycle, and the tales which culminate in The Tain Bo Culaigne. I read Mieville’s The Tain and enjoyed it thoroughly, though I couldn’t find a scrap or hint of anything which seemed to point in the direction of the Irish Tain epic.
Mieville’s Tain was in part, however a riff based on a tale by Jorge Luis Borges, and this provided me with other joys. The word tain can also mean “a tinfoil used for the backing of mirrors” and this is the sense that Borges and Mieville use it. The novella takes the familiar post-apocalyptic trope and spins it on its head. The setting is a London where the surviving humans get by on their own wits while the failing military tries to impose martial law. The people are under attack by otherworldly beings called imagos who have come into this world from the other side of mirrors, from the reflections in pools, metal, anything that reflects. The novella itself is a reflection on the injustices of our own society, but the approach is never heavy handed, he never has to belabor the point at the expense of the story. Told with two monologues, the voice of the imagos is heard alongside that of the human narrator, creating what is essentially a view on both sides of the mirror.
I also spent some of this time delving into the Tain Bo Culaigne but must admit I still haven’t gotten into the thick of it yet. I tried out several translations, and have finally settled on one by Randy Lee Eickhoff. Now it sits once again in the lower portion of a book pile, of which I have many.
Sharing a Taxi with China
Then in October of 2010 I shared a taxi with China (in a dream). I get into a taxi. China Mieville is in the front, but also a passenger. We are in Northern Kentucky, either Covington or Newport. We get to talking. I tell him that I’m also a writer, and that I have written one novella that year, and a few short stories. “I’m going to revise the novella soon,” I say to him, “but I thought I’d work on the short stories.”
Then I start telling him what I have read by him, clearly geeking out in fan mode, saying, “And I’ve read a number of stories in your short story collection, including The Tain.” He seems to be slightly annoyed by mention of The Tain. He says, “Oh yeah, The Tain.” I ask him when the taxi slows to a halt, “Is this where you live?” thinking I might come by sometime. He doesn’t answer but all manner of information starts passing between us telepathically: He wrote The Tain while he was experiencing a block, or blocking himself from writing a much longer work. Still there is a knowing smile in Mieville when he beams this information to me. Thoughts of Borges and Mirrors pass between us as well. He is dressed in a loose punk rock style, with a chain going through a loop in his jacket on his shoulder. Then more information passes between us about his publishing history. His most recent book, which is [in the dream] his first book King Rat, was self-published and done up nicely. Mieville, now established is moving into self-publishing.
I cannot account for the veracity of my dream. In fact aspects of it seem to be pure invention. As King Rat is not China’s most recent book, but his first book. It seems to have been traditionally published. The point of the matter is I awoke from this dream in a creative frenzy with tons of energy to get words on the page. I also felt it would be good for me to go ahead and self-publish some of my works. I also do not claim this was the “real” China Mieville visiting me in a dream, but rather a form my dream producers latched onto, a person who inspires me, and whose likeness in a dream inspired me to continue doing the necessary work.
The next dream I had about China took place the day after the winter solstice. I am in my neighbor’s house. There are a bunch of people there, and everybody is kind of punk rock. The guy tells me that China Mieville lives in the neighborhood, and when he shows up I am very excited because I think I’ll be able to show him my manuscripts. Everybody is smoking. There is a nervous energy. Things speed up. I leave. China walks with me, and I tell him, “Hey, I’ve read a few of your books and short stories.” He seems pleased that I have done so.
I then say “And I just got a copy of King Rat from Earthling Publications. It’s really nice.” Mieville seems very fond of the book. He says, “Oh yes. Henric. Ratty,” and something else related to one of the characters in the book. Then I am in some type of factory. I squeeze beneath some oil tubing spigots to get to the next scene.
A few weeks after the dream I finally got around to reading the book, and I wrote a review of it for Brainwashed.com. King Rat was an important book for me in a number of ways, but two stand out: 1) the way he incorporates his love of music into the story 2) the way he twists a traditional fairy tale or legend (in this case The Pied Piper of Hamelin) and uses it as a sinister plot device.
I wouldn’t presume that China has the time or inclination to take a look at my stories, but I do know that my dreams of him have spurred my writing onwards. Consciously or subconsciously everything we writers read has an influence on us. Utilizing the energy and inspiration from our dreams can help a writer work consciously with the influences that are best suited to a person at a given time. In our dreams we also have direct access to teachers and masters of whatever art it is we are given to pursue. Tapping into them can be a source of tremendous strength and power.