(urth) Shapeshifting Evidence and Principles

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Sun May 28 22:13:23 PDT 2006

On 5/28/06, b sharp <bsharporflat at hotmail.com> wrote:
> In regards to 5th Head, I do have a sense of the time frame and when I say I
> think they belong in the same universe I don't mean the immediate story
> blends right into BotNS.  But Sainte Anne and Sainte Croix don't just
> disappear when the 5th Head story ends. They have a future and I see the
> established principles there appear in BotNS.


How do you feel about extratextual statements by the writer?
I ask because some people feel that the author of a work has no
special authority over the work or its interpretation once it has been
published (which makes me wonder how they deal with revised
versions and suchlike but anyway). I tend to take a more moderate
stance myself.

At any rate Wolfe has made some surprisingly unequivocal
statements that 5HC does -not- take place in the past of the Solar
books. I think that it's beyond clear that they are conceptually
linked, but with such statements on the record, only extremely
cogent, exigent, and -clear- evidence would convince me to accept
an interpretive framework which involved assuming that 5HC
did, in fact, take place in the past of the New Sun.

(Perhaps more problematic: Wolfe seems to have it clearly fixed in
his mind that the Solar books take place in a previous "cycle" of the
universe, and not in our "future" at all. If that's the case, then it might
be argued that the Solar books are in 5HC's _past_, assuming of
course that 5HC is in our possible future.

> So..take a look at this picture:
> http://www.valerio.net/pictures/image_2_996.jpg
> What are your first thoughts?

"What is it made of? Is it an ancient piece where the jewel has
been lost, or a modern piece from one of those stores where
you select the jewel and the ring and they assemble it for you?"

I also find myself wondering whether those are gem chips of
some sort in the filigree work.

It would not occur to me to say "Okay, a ring," because that
flashes past too fast for me to notice. That it's (a picture of) a
ring registers before I can have any _conscious_ thoughts about
it at all.

If I were to follow in your analogy, I guess I'd have to say that I
agree with you that the lack-of-a-jewel is the most interesting
feature of the ring: but I'm more interested in the space where
the jewel might go than I am in the (hypothetical) jewel itself.

To me, it is a space where any number of different jewels might
be affixed by any number of different jewelers -- if you want to
get all technical about it, it represents (to me) a paradigm with
a space held open for a selection from a syntagm of different
objects (jewels), but I really don't want to go into all that theoretical
language right now.

What can we tell about the jewel? In some ways, very little --
the picture being decolored, we can't tell what color the metal
or any chips in the filigree might be, so we can't tell what color
of jewel might fit well into it.

We can tell a bit more about the shape -- it looks to me like it's
fitted for a square-cut jewel; a pearl wouldn't work very well, then.
But then, looking a little more closely, the corners of the square
are edged-in a bit, so not quite square, more of a semiregular
octagon. This together with the filigree work suggests a fairly
fancy cut.

And, though we don't know what size this ring is, we can make
a general estimate of the size of the gap from the normal range
of human fingers: the jewel would be, at the absolute outside, a
centimetre across. If someone were to tell me that this were
actually a ring made for an Angrborn, of course, I would have to
revise that estimate upwards.

So that gives me a range of possible jewels ... or, to return from
the ring to its analogic sense, a range of possible interpretations
of a mysterious feature in a text. Ideally, I like to keep that range
open, rather than choosing a single "right" interpretation. What I'll
do is build mental models of the text that allow for rich and
interesting interpretationS, and while I'll often argue for the
interpretation that fascinates me most, it doesn't mean that I think
that others are necessarily "wrong."

Gaps -- elisions -- are fascinating things...


I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.
                        -- St Teresa of Avila

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