Our first newsletter!
Summary of inaugural publications on lpru.co.uk; A brief history of Lye epidemics; Forthcoming papers
|May 5, 2020|
Hello from the Lye Planet Research Unit!
Thanks to everyone reading this for being among the first to sign up for the LPRU newsletter. We will mostly be using this resource to update readers when there are new articles added to the LPRU website, or to announce any live readings, performances, or adjacent publications (books, cassettes) that we’re hoping to launch over the coming months.
To summarise the articles we released last Monday:
Prof. Orem Homer, co-founder of the LPRU, has written a brief article that summarises the events of the Decline, the recovery of the Lye artefacts, and what they tell us about the former civilisations of the Lye Planet. We strongly recommend reading this to help contextualise the rest of our work. We’ve already received a handful of messages requesting further clarification on the history of both the Lye Planet and the Research Unit, and while there is some information we’re not yet at liberty to disclose, we will continue to provide further details in our publications.
We should also note that any inquiries regarding our work or a specific article should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest contributor Prof. Axethorpe offers a startling list of proposed explanations for how the Lye Planet acquired its name, via a glimpse at the life of its discoverer, the 3rd Lord Stumpstone.
Dr. Grace Linden analyses the Wolf’s Head artefacts — a text and two garments discovered in a preservative vat at the summit of a remote rock formation, as well as offering views on the still-developing field of Lye Translation. Views expressed concerning her predecessor are hers alone.
Dr. Frances Whorrall-Campbell’s first entry on a body of diagrammatic drawings, each featuring the same set of figures in different arrangements, can be found here. Whorrall-Campbell is writing a series of posts about these artefacts, which will explore the possible interpretations of the objects depicted.
Kiran Leonard’s commentary on the Song of the Husband piece can be found here, preceded by a translation of the full text led by Dr. David Coolidge. Leonard writes on the connection between the piece’s repetitive, polyphonic musical structures and planetary mythology, as well as on the unstable identities of its two voices.
On Lye Epidemics
Laura Reinhardt, working under the supervision of Prof. Leach at the Department of Lye Textual Studies, has shared with us a brief report on what she’s been able to uncover regarding the history of Lye epidemics:
Texts recovered from the Lye Planet describe symptoms common to both bacterial and viral diseases. Response to epidemics was often informed by mythological beliefs related to the planet being conceived as a single organism (more information on these beliefs can be found here). At this point I should stress my own views on the issue, which tie in with the subject of the thesis I am writing at Textual Studies: that the belief in the unification of all spirits — and that a spirit was destined to re-manifest in a new body after its old form passed on — has been sorely misunderstood by earlier analyses as indicating a lack of empathy on the part of these communities with regards to individual suffering, a collective deficiency only challenged by the onset of the Decline. Even a cursory overview of Lye epidemics, which put both individuals as well as the wider planet under threat, thoroughly debunks this misreading.
Certainly there were disease prevention methods that will seem ‘primitive’ or superstitious to some. For example, inhabitants are known to have regarded land treatment as an essential part of fending off particularly aggressive illnesses. I quote here an excerpt from a longer folio on the subject of home maintenance and farming:
The emergence of unwell bodies on the land must be countered by the unveiling of soil. Bury under the soil river stones; fire pit ashes; any circular whispers. Cross their bodies over the span of the unwell and once past it. Mark their position on the ground with other stones, not to exhume them while working for crops. And do not cease to tend them and disappear for grasping panic.
However, the placing of objects with merely ritual significance into the soil is not as naïve as readers might think. For one, the practice may have helped outsiders to know where an afflicted population was situated. The reference to ‘river stones’ possibly indicates that inhabitants understood the importance of water in treating and cleaning infection (sound treatments for the sick were widely shared, as numerous illustrated texts, instructing the preparation of medicines for a wide range of illnesses, can attest). Like many Lye texts, the folio is keen on framing its concerns within the context of communal responsibility: empathy towards all beings and a wider consideration for the unified world-organism as they conceived of it. The burials acted as a precursor to more direct applications of these dual convictions (as the final phrase in the quote above implies).
Nevertheless, there is no record of organised, mass quarantines or protective sequestrations in any of the decoded texts; this could be the result of a belief, partly derived from ritual land treatment, that epidemic diseases literally spread through the land, burrowing into the soil like viral molecules in living tissue. Given that a disease was taken to already be within the (world-)body, communities instead resorted to more dramatic forms of land treatment — the deliberate flooding of plains and the setting of large fires — but did so in addition to aiding afflicted individuals. Ironically, these dramatic actions probably did help to dissuade communities from mixing and prevented further outbreaks. What’s more, there is some evidence to suggest that inhabitants had reason to disregard the notion that infection was transmitted between themselves, for it appears that many of their most severe diseases spread indiscriminately across species. Some of the most extensive outbreaks of these illnesses, for example, were preceded by a reduced crop yield, or in one case, a pronounced discolouration on the bark of local trees.
One of the few pieces in the LPRU’s pre-Decline collection is a text describing the journey of two farmhands fleeing an outbreak of disease that has afflicted most of the living beings in their settlement. Believing that the sickness spreads beneath the ground they walk on, they are constantly kept on the move. Despite the farmhands’ dislocation, the themes of community and natural symbiosis so common to Lye literature persist:
Circling the hills, circling of the moons and the flow of red whisperers — Passing above their tongues red under grass — Their faces are not face-red, but flames, their roots and breath become flame-red — When they were not brought back to their stems we crossed over — At river partition we slept well beneath two trees but by dawn they had set fire – We fled in great bellows across a wide valley where the stems were all red — Later then dug deep into brown soil for traces of red where there were none — We were joyous, twined our bodies and branches lent in to our breath — Later then we rested
In the last circle his body gave in — A travelling guardian gave stone-oil but blankets of red held him on both sides — Hand in mine the wind and valleys bowing weaving breaths of dust I kissed him — Star-fire flowed into rivers — Rivers of red-flame air carried red into the bellies of mountains — Circling the hills, then as a stem, become riven
Far ahead they traced our stem with welcome bellows — Their roots are warm, they have given reeds to rest on — Later then the youngest nearly gave but sap revived him — Later then still, not stem-fire, but a true warmth from colour — Circles — Food now hurries to our table, leaves turn folding in dance in families’ orbit — I — Seeds then took to hills by our breathing — See that the trees are well tall and star-filled — At night the tall grass gathers his voices — Far ahead from here his roots will circle our markings — At sun’s unwinding — Later then his song will weave wind colours at our threshold
We’re hoping to publish the second half of our inaugural publications in a couple of weeks’ time:
'I Become a Figure’: Traces of an Emergent Voice from the Lower Wetlands - a study of various items (drawings; preserved flora, texts) recovered from the same vat. As the short written accompaniment will outline, the artefacts share a nascent self-expression and minute attention to detail.
Recurrent Motifs: the Huddling Figures - a collection of sculpted figures with similar features located in a number of vats from across the Lye Planet. We’re hoping to make ‘Recurrent Motifs’ itself a regular feature.
Grave Forecasts - Excerpts from an interview with Adeline Monan on her attempts to uncover the meaning of a perplexing set of diagrams.
Some Propositions Following the Translation of the ‘Moorland Diary’ - Prof S. A. Leach submits a long-form essay on a revolutionary, recently decoded text, recounting the tale of two figures of authority, and offers his views on the role of metaphor in the languages of the Lye Planet.
We’ll be back in touch when these articles have been published on the site. Until then, have a good weekend, and stay safe!