The external appearance of thought

“Here’s the whole story of how Fain the Gardener became Fain the Sorcerer. But I’ll tell it quickly by leaving out the lies.” In my project to read everything by the satirist Steve Aylett, (well somebody should), I’ve come to his one contribution to fantasy. Fain the Sorcerer is a 90 page riff on fairy tale conventions and time travel. Fain, on escaping from the royal castle where he’s failed to revive the enchanted princess, (a local tradition because it gives people “something to think about other than what is important”), comes across a lunatic who grants three wishes. Fain wishes the ability to travel backwards in time, does so, and immediately returns for three new wishes. And so on. Through elaborate attempts to avoid the loopholes of wish-granters, (“I wish to be able to see in the dark, and by this I do not mean to be able merely to see the darkness, but to see in the darkness as though it were illuminated, though without conflagration”), Fain gains many useful powers (and some useless ones), visits remote kingdoms, fights the evil wizard, woos the princess, and goes on a reckless rampage throughout the timeline. And there’s the usual Aylettian linguistic bombshells and satirical stabs, though less than in Slaughtermatic. Read it, and read Aylett.

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