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Literature / Cosmicomics

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Cosmicomics is a collection of short stories, connected through a frame story. A 1965 work by Italo Calvino, in which scientific facts become premises for the mind screwy tales and love stories of an undefined being named Qfwfq.

As indicated by its title, Cosmicomics is a book that is at once cosmic and comic, the sublime and the ridiculous coexisting on the same plane. Each chapter opens with a scientific fact and a following assertion by Qfwfq that he was there to see that science in action, before launching into a narrative that spins an imaginative and strangely human story from a seemingly cut-and-dry factoid with inhuman creatures as the characters. Atoms and galaxies become toys for children. A universe comes into being thanks to a statement about tagliatelle. Major historical events on Earth are the subjects of bidding between immortals. The love between two mollusks enables everyone around them to gain eyesight. Sometimes the scientific premise will actually be a disproven one. This in no way hinders Qfwfq.


Truly, Cosmicomics is a work best experienced through firsthand reading than secondhand telling. If you've ever wanted to know just how inventive stories based on scientific theories and principles can get, this book will be more than happy to show you - and maybe get you to see more than a little bit of yourself in seemingly cosmic and unapproachable beings.

This book contains examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: In "The Distance of the Moon," Qfwfq loves Mrs. Vhd Vhd who loves Qfwfq's disabled cousin The Deaf One who loves the moon.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: invoked In "The Other Eurydice" and "The Count of Monte Cristo", re-imaginings of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and The Count of Monte Cristo, respectively.
  • Darker and Edgier: Some of the later stories are noticeably darker.
  • Fun with Palindromes: See The Unpronouncable below. Of course, with completely made up names like Qfwfq, it's kind of cheating...
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  • Grumpy Old Man: Well, fish thing in Uncle N'ba N'ga's case.
  • The Heart: The kindly woman in "All in One Point" who is the only one the quarrelling neighbours can all love.
  • Love Hurts: Qfwfq can't catch a break with any of his love interests. Even if they reciprocrate, something always happens to drive them apart.
  • Mind Screw: Just what kind of being is Qfwfq? Has he really lived through all the experiences he claims to have, presumably changing in sync with the universe, or is it more of an alternate universes/reincarnations thing? And let's not get started on the individual stories themselves; "The Distance of the Moon" is the least mind screwy of the bunch as it's actually about concepts you can easily imagine (the moon once being close enough for people to be able to obtain cheese and milk from it) instead of things like, say, everyone in the universe being at the same single point (or rather, before there is any distance or space) or Qfwfq managing to create a sign in space long before materials for signs existed.
  • Negative Continuity: The scientific theories for some of the stories contradict each other (notably, one story is set before the Big Bang, another is based on the Stedy State Theory). This didn't hinder Calvino in the least.
  • Painting the Medium: The story "Gli Uccelli" is narrated as if it is a description of the panels of a comic, including some jokes and tropes that would only made sense in a comic and some jokes and tropes that wouldn't made sense in a comic.
  • The Power of Love:
    • In "All at One Point," the universe is formed when a kindly woman's declaration that she'd love to make tagliatelle for everyone else causes them to envision the tagliatelle and then the kitchen and then the entire universe from there, and that's when all of that somehow comes into existence.
    • The Power of Love also fuels a number of important events, such as the creation of eyes, time and shells.
  • Racist Grandma: In this case, Uncle N'ba N'ga, who hates land animals.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Oh Uncle N'ba N'ga... thinks he can be rude simply because he's still a fish.
  • Scry vs. Scry: The plot of the story "How Much Shall We Bet?"
  • Through His Stomach: See The Power of Love.
  • Time Abyss: Qfwfq has witnessed all the history of the universe, and even more: All at one Point describes his life before the Big Bang, that is, before time exists.
  • The Unpronounceable: Almost all of the characters' names qualify: Qfwfq, Rwzfs, De Xuaeaux, etc. Some even have things in their name like ^(x). It's actually a bit jarring when the love interest in "The Form of Space" has a recognizably human name...and even then, she has the last name of H'x.
  • When I Was Your Age...: Uncle N'ba N'ga again.