The novel “Cosmocopia” by Paul Di Filippo was published for the first time in 2008.
Frank Lazorg is an artist specializing in work for comics and illustrations who was very famous but after suffering a stroke he can no longer resume his activity. His situation is made even worse by the fact that his great rival Rokesby Marrs took advantage of his misfortune and is churning out a lot of works that mimic Lazorg’s style.
Everything seems lost when Frank Lazorg receives a package sent by a sorcerer containing a very special powder with the promise of positive effects. The man starts taking an increasing amount of the powder and his health seems to improve considerably. His old model, Velina Malaspina, answers his invitation but things don’t go as Lazorg hoped and his reaction leads him to commit the irreparable. In an emotional turmoil, he ends up in another universe where he meets Crutchsump and everything changes.
“Cosmocopia” is a really short novel by today’s standards, with barely long enough to fit into the novel category and not into that of novellas. For this reason, its plot is essential and the author develops it around some elements linked to creation, which is not only artistic and even when linked to art ends up concerning the creation of life.
Paul Di Filippo tells the story in part from the point of view of the artist Frank Lazorg and in part from the point of view of Crutchsump, an inhabitant of another universe. Physically different from human beings, she has a psychology that’s very human so the author doesn’t need to explain the meaning of her actions and her thoughts because they can be easily understood by the reader.
The union between artistic creation and life creation is clear from the beginning because a work that Frank Lazorg would like to complete is a tribute to the famous “The Origin of the World” by Courbet. Velina Malaspina, the model the artist would like to bring back to him after she started working for his archrival, is a character who exists almost exclusively in her physicality, in the descriptions that Paul Di Filippo writes in details of her femininity.
Eroticism is an important part of “Cosmocopia” but it’s developed having creation as its purpose. In fact, Frank Lazorg never thought about that when he was having sex with his models and when he tries to resume his carnal relationship with Velina Malaspina but in one way or another in the course of the novel sex and creation end up being always interconnected.
These bases, developed with very vivid descriptions, also makes labels for “Cosmocopia” limiting. The novel is listed as science fiction but Paul Di Filippo doesn’t even try to provide scientific explanations for Frank Lazorg’s experiences. There’s no real explanation of the way used to go into another universe, let alone for what happens there but that’s not what the author is interested in.
As a whole, “Cosmocopia” has no real logic. At some point it may seem at least in part a story of redemption but the last part of Frank Lazorg’s adventure goes against this interpretation. The protagonist’s journey and experiences are closer to Carlos Castaneda’s stories than to a classic science fiction work.
Frank Lazorg’s emotions influence his whole adventure in this universe and in the one in which he meets Crutchsump. Often his emotions are negative because he has a bad temper and tends to anger, sometimes with violent consequences. The drug received from the sorcerer alters his perceptions allowing him to follow in a deeper way a path linked to life creation but also to death, however, his negative emotions remain.
The result is a very particular novel, impossible to define in rational terms. It’s in some ways “lysergic” and therefore reading it is a bit like taking a ride on the roller coaster. For this reason I recommend it only to people who appreciate this kind of stories, regardless of labels.