Some afterthoughts on the recent ‘Onlandish Inlandish Outlandish’ essay

My re-viewing of ‘Solaris’ was a lockdown choice at a point where I had finished Netflix. Both versions of the film have preoccupied me for years and this time round I continued to appreciate the suggestion that bereavement or loss can generate an intense yearning that may induce hallucination and this apparition, from the point of view of the bereaved subject, is real. The psychology of this phenomenon is long understood and is used to explain the fact that a great range of experiences that are preposterous to some are credible to others. The psychologised interpretation is benign to the degree that it is implied that the subject is the passive witness to the unusual phenomena: the subject is ‘seeing things’ but the things are actuated by psychological operations that cannot be detected by the subject.

The psychology is partially explanatory but the physiology is entirely mysterious: a very strong desire can somehow reconfigure perception to a degree whereby everyday perception is overridden. What are the neurochemical pathways and subsequent optical modifications involved here? I have no idea.

If it is the case that desire can never be satisfied then it may also be the case that this state of affairs is sufficiently destabilising to warrant banishment from consciousness. But there is always leakage. And this may contribute to the incubation of magical thinking wherein not only will desire be satisfied but the mind will strive to give material existence to whatever is desired.

It is at points like this that I tend to introduce a raft of examples that would give context to my claims. The examples in this instance would be of the many types of magicality that persist in a post-magical world. Rather than retread that territory and then fail to return to the starting point I will just submit my view that the ultimate objective of all thought is to give material existence to its figments. May all my dreams come true. I would like a big cake. Ah – there it is! I would like more trees in my road. Ah – see how shady they are!

Outlandish Inlandish Onlandish

I wrote a novel in 1988, called ‘A Diet of Holes’. It featured a man the objects in whose dreams would appear on the pillow beside him in the morning. Initially it was just pound coins but it escalated to the point where cascades of random items would pile up around his sleeping form.

I interviewed the prolific science fiction writer Michael Moorcock for something or other some years ago and was keen to ask him about his four-book series ‘The Dancers at the End of Time’ in which a group of eccentric immortals uses power rings to conjure into existence just about anything that takes their fancy. I wondered if he did not find this device so flexible that it would neutralise any event that took place in the fictions. How were you able to get round that? I enquired. He stiffened very slightly and replied, crisply, “Experience.”


Outlandish Inlandish Onlandish