Saturday, 26 August 2017
Decimon Huydas: A Romance of Mars (1906) by Sara Weiss
And so again I have to repeat myself, re-affirming that age-old wisdom: mediums and spiritualists write terrible fiction. It was the same with Charles W. Leadbeater and Margaret Bloodgood Peeke. An interesting idea barely developed.
The book in question, whose labourious full title runs as "Decimon Hûŷdas : a romance of Mars : a story of actual experiences in Ento (Mars) many centuries ago / given to the psychic Sara Weiss and by her transcribed automatically under the editorial direction of spirit Carl De L'Ester ; illustrated with six original drawings." concerns a vile priest named Zeydon forcing Frona, a young woman and her cousin Invalou into priestly service via abuse of his near absolute power due to his lust for the women, interwoven with stories of the all but recently practiced human sacrifice and mentions of the seeming abuse of power and throttling of the nation at the hands of the priests.
This seems like a good enough basis for a story, unfortunately Mrs. Weiss may have refused to actually give it it's propper shape due to the fact that, in her fixed belief as a medium, if this she really was and this wasn't just a fictitious vehicle for explaining the story, she may have come to regard these ideas as coming to her through external inspiration and thus jotted them down without caring that this made her story limp about piteously without ever really getting anywhere. Also in the book she presents the cessation of the previous mandatory human sacrifice as a boon, with the institution itself having been, according to her words, holy and good and the only reason it was ceased was because the Chief God felt pitty for all the families chosing mass suicide to avoid their children being publically sacrificed in the flames. Mrs. Weiss doesn't treat the practice with any contempt, and acts as if it was completely propper that it was instituted and maintained, and that it could even be re-instated.
Furthermore, in connection to this, she presents the idea that people see the actions of the Priests to be tyrannical, only to drop the idea and never brings it up again. Even the guilty Priest repents halfway through the book, thus having us go without an actual antagonist for the rest of the book.
The main characters, if they can so be called, as well as all the other characters in the book aside from those having short cameos or the villainous but not so villainous Priest Zeydon, all suffer from the consequences of being written by a person with seemingly a religious regard for their material, who makes good only entirely and absolutely good to an utterly sickening degree. Barely any screen time is given to the main characters, apart from one or two scenes of them to make statements as concerning their mutual love and their hate for Zeydon, and despite them remaining at the cloister for years, almost none of the incidents therein are related to us. We only learn that Frona had a friend and confidante in a fellow would be novice in one paragraph in passing after the latter dies. We see nothing of their youth, know none of their friends or associates and even the role of their grieving parents is entirely restricted to making pilgrimages back and forth to try and get the Priests to release their children and repeating the same assertations of their own pious nature ad nauseam. We know nothing about them either, nor about their relative and friend who wishes to aid them in this process apart from the fact he is a widower.
The entire novel is almost exclusively dedicated to this back and forth petitioning and repeated asertations of faithful religious service. None of the particulars of the lives of most of the characters are given us, no details of the life on Mars or the deeper religious lore of the Planet. Sometimes Weiss reffers to some of it's aspects in passing, but after that we are right back to lengthy statements of the sacredness of "Our Holy Religion".
The odd thing in this instance is that the author would seemingly have enough material from her own pen to fall back on. As far back as 1903 she published Journeys to the planet mars; or, Our mission to Ento which seems to be an account of mental communication with Mars and a description of life thereon. Weiss has even gone so far to even provide a glossary of specific Martian terms prior to the text of Decimon Huydas, yet she doesn't use any of this in her story propperly, aside from using made up names for plants and birds.
If this idea was indeed sabotaged by a deep conviction that this idea in it's rough and unpolished state was mentally communicated and thus beyond reproach or alteration, then it is indeed a shame.
Incidentally, the title of the book is a bit odd since it is framed as something Weiss wrote down after getting it dictated by a Martian spirit named Genessano, who recites the story of Invalou and Frona as recorded many centuries later by Decimon Huydas, who thus seems an odd choice for the title character.