I’m currently writing a novella called Angels & Genies that offers a view on the world of Jinnistan. It’s a contemporary romance set on a New Jersey beachfront, but our jinni hero is determined to protect his homeland. Where is it? How does he get to it? Certainly not via the Garden State Parkway. No. Jinnistan exists parallel to our world and there are portals that occasionally allow access…sort of like potholes in the atmosphere. Every once in a while, the portal appears, like a comet in a clear night sky.
So, if you know my blog, you know I do my genie research. History, legend, myth, and anecdotes offer postcard images of this fabled land. With those resources and a little imagination, I’ve woven together a vision of what Jinnistan looks like. The more difficult question is: Where is it?
I like this theory of Jinnistan based on news reports of U.F.O. (Unidentified Flying Objects, for those of you living under rocks) sightings in Nigeria. Apparently, what appeared to be a city in the sky hovered over the remote village of Dulali last year.
Here’ what they saw:
Suddenly, he became aware of a pervading bright light enveloping the atmosphere, followed by a sudden realisation that the heavens were falling on the village. As he looked up at the encroaching sky, he saw the most amazing view of his forty years existence. According to him, “There appeared a wide, large mass of something that looked like a cloud from nowhere and it was flying slowly over the village just at the height of an average tree.
“The cloud was transparent and I saw beautiful tall buildings inside it, with tarred roads and cars. It was like a flying city. And from it I could hear the sound of machines making noise just as you would hear at Ashaka cement factory.
Here’s what they think it was:
Mallam Shehu Liman is the Chief Imam of the village. He confirmed the general consensus of the villagers and specifically affirmed that, “We believe that maybe Allah used those sightings to open our eyes to see how Jinns (spirits) live in their own world. Allah is great, and there is nothing He cannot do on earth.”
I’ll buy that for $3.99. What do you think?
For $3.99, you can buy The Genie Ignites.
And stay tuned for the cover unveiling of Angels & Genies next Monday, February 25, 2013.
Among the ruelle of the Casbah in Algiers, Algeria, the jinn lurk. Or at least you could imagine they do. That’s why I used the Casbah as a setting in my novel The Genie Smolders [coming this winter from Boroughs Publishing Group]. A ruelle is a narrow street that sometimes winds into a cul-de-sac. Cobbled streets, crumbling walls, dark alcoves are all perfect havens for jinn. The Casbah is rife with crumbling, cobbling, and dark. Officially, Algeria is in north Africa, but this coastal citadel is in the Arab world. And here roots of belief in the jinn burrow deep into the chalky stone. Maybe that’s why the city is crumbling. The jinn have taken hold and begin to uproot what humans have built. Or maybe the infrastructure has no resources. It’s one or the other. Perhaps a combination of both. Genies and poor economic development.
Once a stalwart citadel, the Casbah has fallen prey to the ghosts of what it once was. The historic city needs major renovations. You can still sense the lives, intrigue of centuries, but today it’s almost as if humans have abandoned possession to the jinn. There is beauty here. But there is disquiet, too. A lingering unease. A perfect place to look for the jinn. I think tourists should return here just to walk the streets and listen. Hot draft on your ankles? It’s either a turgid breeze or a genie. Salty scent tickling your nostrils? Either an approaching jinni or wind off the Mediterranean Sea. I want to see Americans in pastel pants and white linen shirts glancing back over their shoulders as they walk up this staircase. The streets are ancient and the atmosphere is fraught with mysticism. That’s hard to find in the States. Well, you could visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando in Disney World. But it’s not quite the same. You’ve got to go the Casbah to Rock the Casbah.
Or you could read The Genie Smolders when it comes out. In the meantime, read The Genie Ignites to get up to speed on Zubis and the world of the jinn. And when you do, Rock the Casbah in time to the Clash….
What Would You Wish For?
Check out THE CHRISTMAS BOTTLE.
A jinni released in the Winter Solstice brings heat and hope to one woman’s life.
I write about genies. A good Irish-American former Catholic girl like me writes romances about an iconic Middle Eastern elemental. How did that happen? Let’s just break that down. It’s really not such a stretch. If you’re interested in history and myth–and I am–then any fantastical figures are fair game. My background gave me fairies, banshee, and demons. Jinn fit right into that population.
I think part of what makes all elementals so durable is that they’re hard-wired into our consciousness. They’re..well…elemental. They all sprang up before religion; way back when nature and imagination were the only way to describe what was happening in the world around us. Genies were described in a pre-Islamic world when fairies and banshee were flying in a pre-Christian world. Yet, they were so intrinsic to how humans explained good and evil influences that each was incorporated into the major religious texts: Jinn have a chapter in the Koran and demons show up repeatedly in the Bible.
I first came across genies by reading The Arabian Nights. With research, I would learn that the jinn and how they live and appear and what they’re believed to be capable of are not all that different from Western world elementals. Demons as described in Western literature are really not all that different from how genies are described. In a translation of The Arabian Nights by Husain Haddawy, genies are interchangeable with demons. (Part of why genies get a bad rap is that they’re often described as demons. Literally, they have been demonized.)
Check out this passage from The Ninth Night. Shahrazad has started the story of a fisherman who has bad luck and catches no fish. One day, he captures a brass jar in his net. Here’s what happens next:
After a while, there began to emerge from the jar a great column of smoke, which rose and spread over the face of the earth, increasing so much that it covered the sea and rising so high that it reached the clouds and hid the daylight. For a long time, the smoke kept rising from the jar; then it gathered and took shape, and suddenly it shook and there stood a demon, with his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds. He had a head like a tomb, fangs like pincers, a mouth like a cave, teeth like stones, nostrils like trumpets, ears like shields, a throat like an alley, and eyes like lanterns.”
Wow! What a sight, eh? You can also see why Westerners put the genie in a bottle and make him emerge in a cloud of smoke. In fact, genies are created “from the smokeless flame”. So, maybe it’s more of a mist. It all depends on the translation. Which would also be why this particular guy is so darn ugly. The jinn supposedly don’t look much different from humans. But there’s the power of the imagination again, creating tales and figures from the unknown. From what I learned about banshee, they have a similar travel ability. They are frightful spirits who portend a death. They wail and screech. If you see one, you will die soon. Therein lies the link among all these elementals. We can’t see them. The jinn means “the hidden.” Yet, we have all sorts of descriptions about what they look like. Because that’s what humans do. They try to explain the unseen. And that’s what writers do. They create stories to construct a world around the things that are part of our consciousness but which have no evidence for their existence. And that’s how I came to write novels about genies.
You don’t have to believe in them as being real. But it sure is fun to imagine a world with them in it.