April 16, 2021

Q is for Quentulus Quazgar

         (My A-Z Blog Challenge theme this year is Mythical and Imaginary Places.)
        The Quentulus Quazgar Mountains dominate the southern edge of the Great Red Plain of Rars, in the land of Sevorbeupstry, on the Planet Preliumtarn, which orbits the star Zarss, in the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine, beyond what used to be known as the Limitless Lightfields of Flanux, until the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine were discovered lying behind them.  And on the far side of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains can be found God’s Final Message to His Creation, written along the crest of the mountain in thirty-foot high letters of fire, guarded by the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob.
        God’s Final Message to His Creation is a popular tourist destination, and the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob is a little man in a strange hat who will sell you a ticket.  I could tell you what God’s Final Message to His Creation says, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise should you ever make it to the Quentulus Quazgar Moutains yourself.  For better or worse, today’s illustrations don’t include any spoilers either, because I couldn’t find any pictures of the scene.  The first is simply a photograph of the surface of Mars that I photoshopped a bit for more exotic space-pizzazz, and while the second does show Arthur Dent and Marvin the Paranoid Android, famous visitors to the area, it doesn’t include the Message.
        This place appears in my A to Z Challenge because I needed a Q, of course, but if it hadn’t been Q I would certainly have picked another of Douglas Adams’s locations (perhaps Magrathea, because what could be more appropriate for an alphabet of Fantasy Places than a planet devoted to building Fantasy Places?)  However, the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains are representative of the particular way that Adams imagined and used places in his Galaxy: they are not required to be logical or consistent, because there are hundreds of locations that are little more than throwaway lines, invented and tossed off for comic effect.  Adams’s galaxy is a “universe” in which a quirky concept or funny turn of phrase is all the justification needed, and such delightful and often ridiculous places abound in positively effervescent abundance.  Adams regales us with references to Arkintoofle Minor where the Hingefreel people built spaceships powered by bad news; beautiful Bethselamin where erosion is so bad that you have to get a receipt every time you go to the bathroom; evil Frogstar B which was entirely overrun by shoe shops; and Kria, the home of the second worst poetry in the Universe (jumping to first place after Earth is destroyed).  The swamps of Sqornshellous Zeta are where the best mattresses in the galaxy grow and flollop, and Viltvodle VI is the home world of small blue fifty-armed beings who live in perpetual fear of “The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief”… and so on.  This is a wholly different approach to world-creation, where instead of creating the world that best supports the story, the world is created every-which-way as the spirit moves, and if later it ends up being useful to the story, all the better.  That isn’t to say that Adams didn’t devise some of his locations more deliberately, such as the above-mentioned Magrathea, but it does represent a very different view of world-creation than the terribly serious and scholarly methods of, say, J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth.
        The MORAL of Quentulus Quazgar:  Never let geographical improbability get in the way of a good story.
              OR:  We apologize for the inconvenience.
        So, how would you like to go hitchhiking around the galaxy for thirty Altarian dollars a day?

[Pictures: Tweaked Mars landscape, anonymous photo (Image from Vaisala);
I think this illustration is by Jonathan Burton for The Folio Society’s edition of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams, but I’m not 100% sure, thank you Pinterest, scientifically designed to discourage any sort of credit or attribution being given to artists for their work (Image not from The Folio Society).]
Almost-quotations from So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams, 1984.


Melanie Atherton Allen said...

Ha, I love this post, and especially your notes at the end addressed to Pinterest. Because yes. It tends to insert itself between the artist and the viewer in a most obtrusive way, doesn't it? I also love your observations on Adams' world-creation. And--that picture of Dent and Marvin! Gorgeous.
I used to really, really enjoy those books. So much so that I still can't really read Hitchhiker's Guide to this day, because I read it so much as a kid that I still remember several of the passages pretty much exactly. It is like a song that you have listened to so much that you can no longer hear it. If that has ever happened to you.

Anstice Brown said...

I love The Hitchhiker's Guide! Douglas Adams' humour is right up my street. I hadn't really thought much about his worldbuilding before but I think you're right about how he mostly invented places as he went for comedic effect. I agree with the moral you chose. I like the flexibility that speculative fiction gives. You can make the geography work however you like, really.

Sumel said...

What an amazing theme! Now I have to go back and read them all!

J Lenni Dorner said...

Certainly an interesting setting there.
Q can be a difficult letter. Good job finding something to match.

J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

Olga Godim said...

As a writer, I prefer Tolkien's approach to world-building, but Adams' humor surely works for any reader who appreciates a good laugh.

Lisa said...

The description of where the mountains are is like the description of where the notice of the highway work was posted! So tangled and muddles the brain!
Magrathea would have been a good one.

Anne Higa said...

I love how Adams does world creation. Every now and again, him and Terry Pratchett do little on-off cameos in my thought world and I'm sure subconsciously in my written fiction too. His Heart of Gold improbability drive for example. Best spaceship ever! To visit anywhere, anytime and all you have to do is muck up physics a smidge. Heck yeah! That's world creation done right. I also love Tolkien. I guess. ;-)

Anne from annehiga.com

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Melanie, I was pretty obsessed with the books back in high school and college, but the bait-and-switch depression of the fifth book took off the bloom for me. I still think the first four are pretty brilliant, though.

Olga, I agree that I am more of a Tolkien-style world-builder. On the other hand, in my teens and early twenties I did write a lot of satirical short stories for my friends with a much more Adamsian style, and they were a blast to write, although I did not consider them my "serious" work.

Anne, yes, his style has a lot in common with Pratchett, (who got passed over in my A to Z through no fault of his own. I wanted to include something, but it didn't fit in anywhere). I'm sure they have influenced me, too.

Deborah Weber said...

The opening description of the QQ mountains may be the most fabulous passage I've read in a long time. My husband has been telling me for years I need to read Adams, and now suddenly I'm convinced. And if I haven't mentioned it before, you talent for creating morals totally cracks me up. You need to hire yourself out.

JadeLi said...

I love the way Adams' mind works and have had many chuckles while reading him. You do a good job of describing his creative process.

My "Q" song for the day:

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Deborah, The Hitchhikers Guide can be very cynical and somewhat crude in places, but it's also extremely clever and funny, and you will enjoy the wordplay. Also, I'm so glad you're enjoying the morals. Morals are not very fashionable these days, but I always make them up for all kinds of things. It's my way of pinpointing underlying issues that I think are actually important.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

LOL I didn't recognize the name, but after the first sentence I went "Yup, Douglas Adams." :D

The Multicolored Diary

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Geographical improbability indeed.

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Season Fae

Kathe W. said...

You are amazing- fantastic posts!