Countdown to Close Your Eyes: Ten Years Later and It’s Something Sublime

June 15, 2018

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Paul Jessup is a critically acclaimed and award winning author of weird, strange, and surreal fiction. With well over ten years in the genre publishing field, he’s had stuff published in Apex, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, PostScripts, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and a billion more. He also has four books under his belt.


Ten years ago. Ten years. A long time, a life time, and I’m practically a different person now. I’ve lost enough skin cells that I am physically in a different body. I’ve shed it all, a snake of the ages. And yet, somehow, I’m still at core that same burning star.

And it was ten years ago I first wrote down that sentence. That sentence that kicked it all off. Ten years ago, I wrote, Her lover was a supernova. That first line to Open Your Eyes. I had no idea what I was starting, but I knew it would be weird and insane and surreal as all get out. A space opera unlike anything else.

And now, ten years later, it’s being re-released and packaged together with a sequel novella, Close Your Mouth. Throw in a short story and these three books make an ad-hoc fix-up novel, titled Close Your Eyes. A book to be published almost exactly ten years after I wrote that first sentence. There is a beautiful symmetry to it all.


It took me nine years to write the sequel novella and finish the book. Why did it take me so long? What was I doing? I started and stopped. I had a few almost-written novellas. One I called Spiral Suns, I kind of liked. But it all felt wrong. I wasn’t following the same characters. Those space scavengers from the Good Ship Lollipop. I thought I was finished with their story.

But that’s where I was wrong. I needed to go back. I needed to follow them. Nine years later, I’m laughing about this idea on twitter. And then, yes. I start writing it. Oh, how grim and beautiful it all is. Writing it all with just enough time for that ten year anniversary.


Do you know about Open Your Eyes? Do you know that it starts off with the main character literally having sex with a sun going supernova? That it is wild and surreal and weird and insane? That it contains dark horrors and brilliant light and beautiful passages, so clear and heartbreaking?

Do you know about Mari, the woman who has only half a face? The other half is a steel cage filled with butterflies. Do you know about Ekhi, the mother still pregnant with the offspring of a star explosion? This is not Star Wars. This is unlike any other space opera you will ever read.  I’m not saying that lightly at all. It was the goal of Open Your Eyes, to break Science Fiction to pieces. To create something so completely new and unique.

Some called it “New Weird Space Opera.” Others just called it “Surreal Space Opera.” And still others just called it “Weird.” I call it something new, something different. Something so wonderfully insane.


Do you know about the sequel? About Close Your Mouth? About it all being put together? Nine years apart, separated by life changes and writing changes and everything else? Yet the words still burn. And what is this? It’s even weirder than the first book?

How is that possible? Yet it is.

There is more to life than afterlives. Life after life after life. They are post-singularity. And yet, disease haunted. The cast and crew of the first book, now in a giant labyrinth. A floating space asylum. The size of a moon, carved out of stone and metal and suspended around a blue dwarf sun.

That sun is the daughter of Ekhi. Those passengers are trapped against their will. Trapped there and experimented on.


How did they survive the first book? Let’s take their blood. Let’s fill them with lizard parts. Let’s kill them and revive them and make a million clones. Various versions filled with different genetic variations. All to find a cure.

A cure. A cure. A cure.


Did you know that language is a virus? That it corrupts and changes the mind? It’s an alien virus, it is. Did you know that in Open Your Eyes, this becomes literal? And they start chanting and convulsing and then their brain turns to milk and leaks out their ears? Oh, yes. Trust me, it’s not spoiling a thing. You can’t spoil anything in this book.


The universe of Close Your Eyes was meant to be a playground for all the things I thought were awesome. I snagged a bit from Star Wars, and then some from Alien, and the designs for the interiors of the ships. Snagged some of the Lynch Dune movie with all of its wonderful weirdness. I grabbed a lot from Jodorowski. Though, when I wrote the first book, his Dune was only a whisper. No one knew much about it. It was before that documentary.


Instead, I borrowed from the Incal. Took inspiration from Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre. I pulled stuff from several favorite Delany stories (Nova, Empire Star), and I swiped my favorite parts from Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness. Not to mention the huge influence of my favorite space-opera writer, Leigh Brackett. Both her and Tanith Lee played a big part in how I wanted to construct the language of these books.


It wasn’t meant to have elements of horror. Or have things dark and gothic, not at first. But they seeped in. Changed it all. Was this a haunted house in space? What were the aliens doing. What were the humans doing? Places terraformed and releasing a ghost of a virus that destroyed the intellect, the mind.

I remember thinking that, in order to create tension in a post-singular world, I had to create real death. Forever-gone-and-permanent death. If you can store the mind and stick it in a clone of a body, what fear is there?

The fear of total annihilation.


That’s the key to both books. That void in the heart of it all. And the way humans are all out there, in the distant shadow amongst the stars, fighting against the void. Against entropy. Against the complete annihilation of the self in a surreal, strange universe. Full of star-lovers and butterfly-faces, and jeweled skulls filled with Artificial Intelligences, we’re still fighting against the futility of time and death and emptiness.

There is something noble in that. Something sublime.

And that is the heart of Close Your Eyes. That struggle. That dream. That noble human frailty in the face of an immense, uncaring universe.


© Paul Jessup


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