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In Search Of The Mezentian Fiorinda (rainy day activities)

Friday 12th July, rain rain rain. Stuck indoors, for my errands are not the amphibious kind, I have spent half the day messing about, creating a glyph for a new ebook, my first actual new book in this medium (it is a Bold As Love world story, and couldn't possibly interest any mainstream publisher except myself*); by my own string-and-glue roundabout methods. I'm quite pleased with the result. The other half of the day so far has been wasted in trying to find an online and therefore shareable image of the original Fiorinda; Eddison's Fiorinda, the lady in the frontispiece of The Mezentian Gate 1958 edition (I don't own a copy, and it is now rare; apparently and some may say understandably!). Drawn by Keith Henderson, on Eddison's instructions, from a painting of a lady (unnamed) 1596, which currently belongs to the Hispanic Society of America.

It's an odd choice, if you ask me. El Greco, fine, dead right as to period: but if the Lady Fiorinda is an El Greco you might want her to look like this (the lady in a fur wrap, who may or may not be a portrait of El Greco's long time love Jeronima De Las Cuevas) But no, Eddison seems to have taken great pains to make sure we know she looks like this tough looking bird:who is very difficult to find online, although
I'm sure I saw her there just the other day. This detail from the Keith Henderson drawing I stole from the fan-ficcer "fiorinda_chancellor"'s archive of our own site. The Chancellor, btw, is Fiorinda's brother in the story. Make what you will.

Eddison. What a problem child! Hard to believe he went to the same school as the so sensible and normal Arthur Ransome. Never mind the undeniably fascist imagery (whatever he called his world view, I'm afraid the truth is obvious): those sentences! Sumptuous prose is one thing, but Lessingham, love, she's gone to sleep two paragraphs ago. I remember thinking, even when delighted with Mistress of Mistresses, many, many years ago, people don't talk like that. Not to each other. They don't even talk like that in Jacbean tragedy, except in soliloque; theatre's internal monologue feature. But I can't claim I'm not attracted, obviously. Eddison's Fiorinda is a case in point, she says everything about the dubious allure of it all for me. She's a goddess, the Demiurge of Eddison-world, the uber-avatar of Aphrodite, but all her powers are bestowed on her by her father (well, of course: name of Eric Eddison, but you know what I mean). She's the top sex-doll in the range, the ultimate uber sex-doll, but that's all she is, for all her smouldering Jacobean periods. And collusive too, as she doesn't even say anything sarcastic about being a puppet, not once, just sits there smugly saying ca, m'amuse; which for years I misremembered as Je m'amuse, subtly much more acceptable. . . Yet I wanted to ask Eddison, was he also thinking, surely, as I was when I borrowed her name, of Blodeuwedd (=Fiorinda, in Italian), the woman made of flowers by her "father" Gwydion the magician, in Welsh mythology. Who broke free, and became a person, kind of like Pinocchio; and got into terrible bother with her dad, over her cunning plan to escape from a forced marriage. All these stories about what men think women are (we can start with owned); images of sensuous fragility, fearful enchantment . . . Which can equally be read (re-visioned) as stories about how women get trapped by looking at themselves in that mirror . . .

Why am I looking up Fiorinda? Because I'm planning to ask Bryan Talbot if I can use the "Fiorinda" portrait he did for me, way back then, in my cover design. Interestingly, this portrait was another magic mirror. I was taken aback when I saw it for the first time, far more so than with eg "Aoxomoxoa"). Huh? Is that what she looks like? Admittedly I don't think I ever have a clear idea of what my characters look like, but I'm sure she was much younger, a lot less like a haughty super-model, and far more vulnerable. But you write them, and then somebody else sees them: I'm lucky to have had a glimpse, and I have long accepted that this is the face my character lives behind.

It's stopped raining, I'm going out. The keynote picture is a cheat, the most forward of my Lilium Regale (outside the front door in a tall pot, as they are poisonous to cats) looks like this.

*Still coming to terms with the idea that if there's a print edition (I mean, a print on demand edition and a few samples), it will have to be with Create Space An Amazon Company. But I've looked into it, and realistically there is no alternative. None that I can see.


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