Fantastic Knots: Hellspark by Janet Kagan

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My entertainment reading of choice is science fiction, fantasy, myths, legends, the occasional light horror if written by a favourite author, that sort of thing. As a general rule I stay out of the romance, mystery, fiction and literature areas of bookstores. I will often be found on the children/youth sections looking for books for the kids as well as myself (I have a particular soft spot for remixed fairy tales). Where knots intersect with fantastic fiction, well, it's a happy place for me.

A book I have just finished rereading (bed time story for Tiger for the last couple of weeks) is Hellspark by Janet Kagan, and therein the character of layli-layli calulan (a shaman of Y) ties and unties a "glittery koli thread" throughout the story (I have read this book many times in my life, but reading it out loud was just brutal if totally worth the effort 8). "Intricate" knots are tied in her "thread" as both meditation and ritual. When she is done, she pulls on both ends of her thread and all the knots come undone.

If we assume that it's a "thread" because it's small stuff in the general vicinity of 1mm or so and glittery because it's a synthetic like rayon or similar material which makes it more slick, then there is more leeway for knots that will come undone as described.

Other than the slip knot, Peter Suber's exploding knots are probably a good place to start. How many decorative knots can be tied slipped which will then "explode"? An interesting experiment for idle hands...

Other stories with knots off the top of my head are:

  • student knots from the land of True Game (Sheri Tepper)
  • guild shoulder knots (or badge knots?) from the Dragonriders of Pern (Anne McCaffrey)
  • I think the spell locks in the Witches of Karres by James Schmitz were knots, but I'll have to reread to verify (what a hardship! 8)
  • also I think The Patterns in the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny were Celtic-ish knots
  • also by Zelazny, the magic in Changeling took the form of ribbons. Again, I'm going to have to reread it to verify knot content...

There are more half-remembered and no doubt more you can contribute. Share!

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