Domus Exsulis

A Preface for New Exiles

Islands are mysterious things. Surrounded by water on all sides, it is as though one is cut off from the rest of the known universe. I grew up on such an island, surrounded by raintrees, flames-of-the-forest and casuarina trees. And so, like many others who grew up in Penang, Malaysia, the island became a continuous presence in my dreamscapes. Penang was both a magical and a terrifying place to grow up in. There were winding roads at the sides of cliffs that people drove past at breakneck speed. There were stories of gristly murders and terrifying acts by witch-doctors. But there were also beautiful buildings of Colonial, Moorish, Malay and Chinese architecture. In a place with so many competing cultures that somehow managed to coexist – how could one not grow up dreaming?

But there were other islands that enthralled me from myth and folklore. There were the sunken islands of Ys and Crete, there was that ever present mystic isle of faeries, or pagodes, or whichever land fantasists would write about. I was particularly drawn to Madame D’aulnoy’s The Green Serpent and how it intersected with the story of Amor and Psyche.

In 1997, Domus Exsulis grew out of an eighteen-page poem I wrote about that extreme loneliness felt by any exile – except, I anchored it in the story of Amor and Psyche. A friend had taught me HTML, and I took to it like a duck to water. I began to notice there was a pattern with some poems and short stories of mine; I pretty much decided spontaneously to connect all of them via the magic of notepad and hyperlinks. As I began adding and adding to the hypertext project, the story grew and became stranger and more convoluted than I had imagined. It gained shape and texture from not just my readings of classical mythology, folktales and fairytales. It was inspired by the bustling open-air foodcourts of Malaysia where I would often sit with an exercise book or paper notepad to jot down ideas or to draw maps. It was inspired by my dreams and my nightmares. And on many nights, it was inspired merely by the blankness of a .txt file, begging to be filled both with fiction and with code.

The isle of Yrejveree is a strange, forlorn sort of place. It is situated on the Sea of Exiles (Alta Exsilii), and one may find their way here, but they may not always find their way out. This isle has been here long before there was a certain, much-loved television series that features a mystical, magical island that crashes planes. This isle has been here long before a few other things – but I acknowledge the presence of other mysterious isles, written by people as diverse as Jack Vance and H.G. Wells, the aforementioned Madame d’Aulnoy and even William Moulton Marston (the creator of Wonder Woman, whom I adored as a kid!). Islands attract us, because they sit in-between. They’re exiled mini-continents, almost. Almost, one could imagine inhabiting an island the world forgot.

And perhaps this is what Yrejveree has always been. A hypertextual island that the world forgot, but every now and then, a stranger will wash upon our shores. They may instinctively call this place home in the way all dreamers and exiles may call any place home.

Perhaps, stranger, this may be you.

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The stories exist as a cyclic, storytelling web here with many intersections and strands, but will eventually transform during the novel-writing process.

Lost and do not know where to start? Consult the Storytelling Index!

Want to know more about me? Visit the Arboreal Preface for The Mythogenetic Grove.

Comments are closed but you may contact me via email. I live on gmail, and the id is: mythopoetica.

Credits

– Writers who have inspired and influenced this hypertextual project: Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Angela Carter, Madame D’aulnoy, Charles Perrault, Jack Vance, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mary Renault, George Eliot, George Macdonald (particularly for Phantastes).

– I received help from A. Yang with the latin translations for some of the titles for this isle, particularly in making sure that the titles are grammatically correct.

– The template for Domus Exsulis is my modification of the default and open-source template Pixel for WordPress. The background is an original work of digital art by me and may not be reproduced in any way or form.

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