AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NOKIZI
A Fictional Necromantic Manifesto
The stories of H.P. Lovecraft are filled with references to all kinds of bizarre, ancient books, some fictional, some real: Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon, the Pnakotic Manuscripts, Trithemius’ Poligraphia, Giambattista Porta’s De Furtivis Literarum Notis, De Vigenère’s Traité des Chiffres, Falconer’s Cryptomenysis Patefacta, and Kluber’s Kryptographik.
The texts he mentions are a mix of grimoires, ancient histories, cryptographic works, and books of black magic, but the effect is that you feel like there’s a canon. When your stories revolve around forbidden knowledge and terrifying secrets, creating a canon of obscure or hidden books is great worldbuilding.
As I said on the original post on my blog, the Nokizi was partly inspired by the books you could find and read in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, especially the necromantic texts like Arkay The Enemy and N’Gasta, Kvata, Kvakis! I also liked books like The Dragon Break Reexamined, which was a dissenting opinion on the historical record. I liked the idea that manifestos and pamphlets were being circulated and read among black magicians, sort of like (as my friend compared it) underground zines or newspapers. From there, I imagined a sort of clandestine scholarly community of necromancers who had their own schisms and internal drama.
Some of the literary influences on the Nokizi include Don Quixote — mainly the preface, which was based on Cervantes’ mock-apologetic introduction to his work, used to ingratiate himself to a potentially hostile audience. Another is the work of German philosophers like Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger, who had a very logical, scholarly way of constructing their arguments and essays. The idea was to create a pseudo-philosophical work that was both an anti-establishment screed and a new forbidden necromantic text, with its own mind-bending revelations and hints at further, more terrible secrets.
About Worldbuilding and Old No-Eyes
I think narrative fiction should always be the main focus of a fantasy writer, but I also think worldbuilding is one of the key things that sets speculative fiction apart — when we write, we can build entire new worlds, complete with magic, philosophy, history, culture, and secrets. The Nokizi is meant to be a reference doc for me, so that I can make my stories richer. It also served as an exercise to get into the head of its author, who plays a major part in my world — both as a necromantic thinker and as a character.
I always imagined my world’s necromancers being less focused on raising the dead and more concerned with attaining immortality. As the text hints, there are a variety of methods: body modification, astral projection, or even constructing pocket-dimensions. It was helpful to write an anti-establishment text because it meant I had to give Old No-Eyes something to critque and rail against. It also helped to create a dynamic or a narrative in the fictional necromantic community, one where No-Eyes is the outsider and the ‘auspicious masters’ are the centers of popular prestige and respect.
Old No-Eyes, as the first Commentary at the end of the text reveals, actually approached one of the masters with his work before writing the Nokizi. He was looking for vindication, to be recognized as a new and respectable thinker by the establishment, but his arrogance (and disturbingly original ideas) causes the meeting to end in disaster and humiliation. It’s stated by the commentator that the Nokizi is not just a scholarly work, it’s an attempt at revenge.
This becomes clear if anyone manages to decode the passages in Part 5: rather than the promised insights into Old No-Eyes’ methodology, which he spends the entire manuscript setting up as a radical new approach the immortality, the encoded text is just a collection of mocking limericks. No-Eye’s revenge is carried out by tearing down the works of the auspicious masters and offering their followers an alternative, then reneging and denying them the secrets he’s been teasing.
The Concepts: Zen, Phenomenology, and Fractals
One of the passages that inspired the content of the Nokizi came from the mathematician Cantor, in communication with the famous mathematician Leibniz:
‘I am so in favor of the actual infinite that instead of admitting that Nature abhors it, as is commonly said, I hold that Nature makes frequent use of it everywhere, in order to show more effectively the perfections of its Author. Thus I believe that there is no part of matter which is not, I do not say divisible, but actually divided; and consequently the least particle ought to be considered as a world full of an infinity of different creatures.’
I’ve been fascinated with fractals for the past several years, including the pattern that bears Cantor’s name, the Cantor Set, which is included in the Nokizi. Fractals represent a lot of things to Old No-Eyes: paradoxes, expressions of eternity, and parables for transcendence.
Interesting enough, Zen Buddhism is also concerned with paradoxes, eternity, and transcendence. Old No-Eyes’ anecdotes, especially having to do with Igokiki, are inspired by Zen koans and stories. No-Eyes himself is based on the Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, who was radical, iconoclastic, and eccentric — No-Eyes’ interview with the White Architect, as told in the first commentary, is based off of Bodhidharma’s famous meeting with the Emperor of China.
One of the key ideas of Zen (and Buddhism in general) is the concept of anatman, or no-self (or no-soul). This is the idea that the self is an illusion, and that one is really identical to the universe. This comes into direct conflict with another philosophy on the self, which is phenomenology. This conflict is brought up in the Nokizi, with Mahdi standing in for Hegel and mi and omi standing in for subject and object.
The central idea of the Nokizi is that immortality can be obtained, but enlightenment — the true understanding of immortality and eternity — is harder to come by.
A lot of people encourage writers to write a diary entry in the voice of one of the characters to help nail down their voice and personality. The Nokizi was essentially that, but on a bigger scale: it helped flesh out not only Old No-Eyes, but his world and the world of my stories. It also provided an outlet for all the ideas I’d been dealing with while imagining the character.
The title, translated, is supposed to mean “No Eyes” — a reference to the author’s moniker and his paradoxical thinking that it’s only the people with no eyes who truly see what’s there.
You can read the first part of the Nokizi here.