In the mid-90s I took a trip from Fairchild AFB to Seattle, Washington. It was by pickup truck. There were three of us on this journey, and our distaste for sitting hip-to-hip necessitated one of us riding in the back.
So it was that I entered Leavenworth, Washington without a soul to advise me.
As the buildings passed, I began to see them get more and more ornate. I later described it as though a normal small town had caught a “Bavarian Plague,” and as we got closer to town I was seeing it in advanced stages of infection.
Of course, later I learned that it was a tourist attraction. The alteration of architecture to that of a Bavarian Village was not a warping of reality, but an undertaking of full intention. Still, the concept of a city that became infected with another city stuck with me.
Years later in Edwardsville, Illinois, I improvised the following lyrics while “jamming” with my friend Jamie Primas:
You don’t know my real name.
You co-signed my loan just the same.
I’m going to go to Izmodido
Or perhaps just Maine
When asked what Izmodido was, I replied in an offhand manner that it was a city that infected other cities. I then told the story of the Bavarian plague.
As I was recounting this, I suddenly remembered a plot from Grant Morrison’s run of Doom Patrol: Orqwith.
Orqwith was an imaginary world, created when a group of philosophers that eventually started taking over the real world.
Given the fact that I first read Grant Morrison’s run of Doom Patrol in the early 90s, there is a very real chance that the concept of Orqwith remained dormant in my head and simply emerged as a way of interpreting the creeping Bavarian presence in Leavenworth.
I had convinced myself, however, that Izmodido was the true name of Orqwith, a name that had revealed itself to me in the altered state one produces when improvising. I began to catalog changes and inconsistencies within the real world.
I would count the number of steps in staircases, note the page numbers of books, looking for anything that would belie some sort of transformation. I refused to take notes, assuring myself that such notes would be the first thing to be altered. I then realized that memory, too, could be transformed. I considered myself at an impasse. I decided the best thing to do would be attack the problem head-on. I began writing about Izmodido, constructing its language, trying to reproduce its art. Only too late did I realize that I had unwittingly begun doing its work for it: I was transforming our world into Izmodido.
I quickly abandoned the concept as much as I could. I can feel bits of it creeping into my contemporary work, but I try to eradicate it as soon as it is recognized.
I write this now because I have, for the first time, read Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Borges, which predates Morrison’s run of Doom Patrol by decades.
I have now gone insane. I began to realize that this will indeed be a losing battle.
It struck me when reading the story, that Orqwith is a hrönir of Tlön, and Izmodido a hrönir of the former. From this, I realized that with each branch, there must be others who have created second and third generations of this concept, each believing themselves to be the originators.
Even worse, I realized that as we begin rejecting physical objects for digital ones, the effort needed to create counterfeit reality will lessen to the point that the cost will no longer be prohibitive. What percentage of Wikipedia is currently fiction?
If our relationships with others atrophy to those of like-minded individuals whom we meet only through electronic media, how much easier to replace them? This concept alone has necessitated my exiting from the world of social media in an attempt to strengthen my bonds with people in the physical world.
Will the physical world be safe for long?
Once 3D printers are commonplace, how hard will it be to receive an artifact from an unknown world?
Izmodido, Orquith, and Tlön benefit grant us a gift with their otherness. Their alien architecture and practices set them apart, a creeping wave of unreality you can witness in horror. How much more terrifying, insidious, would a world almost identical to ours be? A world populated by the same people and places you have always known, with only the most subtle changes?
Do we not already live here?
Be seeing you.