A.J. Hackwith, The Library of the Unwritten (2019)

A Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith tells the story of a librarian and her assistant from the ‘Unfinished Book’ wing of the library of Hell tracking down escaped characters from the books, attempting to meet their authors or change their stories. Towards the beginning of the story, as they are about to depart the library of hell for Earth so they can track down an escaped character, a figure appears and quotes most of the inscription which is written on the gate of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.”   –Contributor Robert Alex Lee

Here is the synopsis of the 2019 novel, from Penguin Random House: “In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

“Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

“But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.”   —Penguin Random House

Contributed by Robert Alex Lee (Florida State University ’21)

The “Maze” in Westworld

Cristian Ispir, Associate Fellow of the Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire, writes, “The influence of Dante on the HBO series Westworld is as subtle as it is undeniable. The focal point of Season 1 is the ‘Maze’, an elusive place/concept represented by a schematic labyrinth having a human figure at its centre, analogous to the human effigy in Paradiso 33 (“painted with our effigy” [Par. 33.131]) which symbolises the accomplishment of human self-understanding and the end-point of Dante’s upward journey. In the simulacrum that is Westworld, the Dantean idea of reaching self-knowledge through a labyrinthine guided pilgrimage is key to the emancipation of the artificial ‘hosts’ from the engineered universe they inhabit and a kind of trasumanar available to each agent endowed with free will. The Westworld theme park becomes an existential iteration of the Comedy moving through vertical worlds away from ignorance and towards self-realisation.”

See Cristian Ispir’s blog Biblonia, where he often posts on Dante.

David Meredith, Aaru: Dante’s Path (The Aaru Cycle Book 3) (2020)

aaru-dantes-path-david-meredith“The virtual paradise of Aaru is destroyed. The lords and ladies are overthrown. Most of the Vedas are captured, and Magic Man’s dark creation, Hel rules with an iron fist, exacting her horrible revenge.

“Arch Veda Rose is afraid it’s all her fault. While the defeated lords and ladies sequester themselves in the impregnable tree-fortress of Yggdrasil, Rose decides it is up to her to make things right. Together she, and her bitter rival Matteus decide to work together to secretly infiltrate Hel’s Kingdom of Dis and rescue their tormented friends.

“At the same time, Koren has struggles of her own, mourning the untimely death of her father and separation from her sister Rose even as the corrupt megachurch pastor, Benjamin Belial, inserts himself deeper and deeper into her life, affairs, and family, and public opinion turns increasingly against Elysian Industries. Though worlds apart, both sisters must traverse a proverbial Dante’s Path with no guarantee of success or survival.”    –David Meredith, Amazon, 2020.

Abe Kōbō, “The Boom in Science Fiction” (1962)

“[. . .] Rediscovering the Vision of Science Fiction. We cannot call everything with a monster in it science fiction, but if we make the presence of a hypothesis our standard, then we are free to widen the field considerably. The evolutionary line of science fiction could include not only Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. [1920] and War with the Newts [1936], but even Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis [1915] and David Garnett’s Lady into Fox [1922]. We could broaden our definition endlessly, going beyond the commonly accepted idea of the ‘science fiction writer’ to include authors like Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, August Strindberg, Guillaume Apollinaire, Vladmir Mayakovsky, Jules Supervielle, Lu Xun, Sōseki Natsume, Uchida Hyakken, Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, Ishikawa Jun, and so on.

“And we could go even further back, to Swift, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dante, Apuleius, and Lucian. The pedigree for our literature of hypothesis would eventually trace itself all the way back to the Greeks.

“Viewed in this light, science fiction’s vision is not a narrow branch within literature but part of the mainstream, a literary current far longer and deeper than a movement like Naturalism, for example. Even if this vision does not encompass all of literature, it is a part too important to leave out. And if there is a potential for a boom in science fiction in our country, it will be a great blessing for Japanese literature, afflicted as it is with a shortage of hypotheses. [. . .]”   –Abe Kōbō, “The Boom in Science Fiction” (1962), trans. Christopher Bolton, Science Fiction Studies 88 (November 2002)

Dante 01 (2008) Review

“There will be three circles to this particular hell, introduced by the words ‘First Circle’ and so forth, superimposed over the darkness of space. Voiceover by the craft’s lucid and compassionate Persephone (Simona Maicanescu), one of three doctors on board, tells us that everybody on the crucifix-shaped vessel Dante 01 is doomed. Cool.

In the bravura opening, a shuttle docks to deliver two passengers. Frozen, shrink-wrapped Saint Georges (Lambert Wilson) is rudely defrosted and left to vomit and sweat with understandable acclimation problems.

Other passenger is no-nonsense doctor Elisa (Linh Dan Pham, in an impressive 180 from her role as Roman Duris’ piano teacher in ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’).  She’s there to use the prisoners as guinea pigs for a new nanotechnology-derived ‘treatment’ that’s obviously really painful, not to mention unethical and evil. Her corporate approach is odious, but mission chief Charon (Gerald Laroche) sanctions it.”    –Lisa Nesselson, Variety, January 2, 2008

Check out our original post about Dante 01 here.

Khan’s Bookshelf in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

star-trek-wrath-khan-bookshelf-infernoStar Trek: The Wrath of Khan involves a complex weaving of many borrowed elements, the most important of which is the Star Trek television series, as well as Moby-Dick, and A Tale of Two Cities. The intertextual mix is suggested in a shot early in the film when we are first introduced to Khan by scanning his bookshelf. In addition to a sign from his ship, the Botany Bay (named after a historic port in Australia through which many convicts entered the country), there are Dante’s Inferno, King Lear, The King James Bible, Moby-Dick, and two copies of Paradise Lost. Each book suggests aspects of Khan’s character. Though other references remain implicit, the Moby-Dick references are explicitly explored throughout the movie.” — Posted by ebreilly on Critical Commons

“Westworld” Just Created A New Version Of Dante’s Inferno

“HBO’s series Westworld draws inspiration from any number of different sources. Just this season (season 2), Episode 3 entitled ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ drew from the famous early Italian political theorist, Machiavelli, while the following Episode 4 entitled ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’ was heavy with references to the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus, the most recent episode that aired last this past Sunday, ‘Les Écorchés’ seems to be drawing from the famous 14th-century Italian poem by Dante Alighieri, the Inferno.” […]    –Matthew Gabriele, Forbes, June 4, 2018

Dante and the Ninth Circle Align in a Shocking New “ARROW”

“Turns out Emiko isn’t just working for the Ninth Circle — she’s running it.

“After revealing last week that Emiko has been working with new big bad Dante, Laurel wasted no time bringing that factoid to Oliver’s attention. Then, by the second act or so, Oliver had confirmed it was true. This is one of those plot points they’ve been known to drag out in the past, so nice to see them just get to the meat of that reveal in “Inheritance” and start dealing with the fallout. Oliver is keen to give Emiko the benefit of the doubt, something she uses to her advantage to manipulate him for a while to get the drop on Team Arrow.” […]    –Trent Moore, SyFyWire, March 25, 2019

Firefly and the Special Level of Hell

In the 2002-2003 science fiction television series Firefly, one of the main characters is threatened with a “special level of Hell” in the clip below.

You can watch Firefly on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and on Vudu.

Contributed by Philip Smith (University of the Bahamas)

Westworld S01E05: “Contrapasso” (2016)

Episode 5 of the first season of the HBO original series Westworld is called “Contrapasso.”

westworld-contrapasso-ed-harris

To read about key moments from the episode, see this October 30, 2016, blogpost on The Hollywood Reporter (beware of spoilers!).