(urth) This week in Google alerts

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Sat Nov 5 05:01:35 PDT 2011

On 11/4/2011 10:16 PM, Gerry Quinn wrote:
> *From:* James Wynn <mailto:crushtv at gmail.com>
>> >
>> >
>> On 11/4/2011 1:01 PM, Gerry Quinn wrote:
>> >
>> >
>> The significance of Silver is obvious, surely? The full quote is:
>> >
>> >
>> ****************************************************
>> >
>> >
>> But Tartaros generally turns them black and speaks. Silk said he 
>> didn't speak
>> >
>> >
>> or make the window change at all, pretty often. He just looked on."
>> >
>> >
>> ****************************************************
>> >
>> >
>> In contrast to Tartaros, Silk leaves the windows the colour they are. 
>> Which is described the
>> >
>> >
>> first time we see one as “luminous grey”. ‘Luminous Grey Silk’ lacks 
>> both poetry and
>> >
>> >
>> alliteration; thus ‘Silver Silk’.
>> >
>> Oh. I thought your method relied SOLELY on the text. Now here you go 
>> and draw connections
>> >
>> based on cryptic word-smithing to derive intent from the author. 
>> Based on your model,
>> >
>> shouldn't we expect him to be called "Gray Silk"? "graysilk" has a 
>> certain poetry does it not?
>> >
>> Silver Silk sounds like a comic book super hero.
>> Here’s the difference between what I’m doing and ‘cryptic word-smithing’:
>> First point: the deliberately stated contrast with Tartaros. In both 
>> the Tartaros and Silk sentences, both colour and sound were 
>> referenced. In the case of both, Silk does something different from 
>> Tartaros. Wolfe put in the Tartaros sentence so that we know exactly 
>> what the Silk sentence is telling us about what Silk does – or 
>> doesn’t do - when he controls a Window. He was afraid people wouldn’t 
>> understand what he was saying.
>> So, we know Silk just turns on the webcam without doing anything 
>> visible or audible. The screen stays its normal colour, which Horn 
>> describes in his book as luminous grey (maybe he describes it 
>> elsewhere too, I just looked for the first description), and of 
>> course we can easily picture what that looks like. But that doesn’t 
>> mean someone who hasn’t read Horn’s book (and in the Whorl they 
>> probably haven’t) will come up with exactly the words “luminous grey” 
>> when describing it. Especially when creating epithets for a god named 
>> Silk.
>> Let’s create some based on this behaviour. ‘Silent Silk’ comes pretty 
>> easily and rolls nicely off the tongue. What else might he be called? 
>> ‘Colourless Silk’? Not very positive. ‘Grey Silk’? It *could* happen. 
>> “Pearly Silk” as suggested by David Stockhoff? That’s pretty much 
>> there. But ‘Silver Silk’? I think most devotees would prefer that. 
>> Silver is a semi-precious metal. It alliterates with Silk, and in the 
>> same way as the other epithet ‘Silent Silk’.
>> This works, and it’s clearly what Wolfe had in mind in this passage. 
>> No knowledge of obscure fauns needed, you just read the book and 
>> imagine the things that Wolfe is describing and how his narrators 
>> see, understand, and describe them. *That’s* my methodology.
>> I talk about reading the text, but I guess I mean reading it 
>> carefully and thinking about and imagining what is described in it, 
>> and how the description is affected by the situations and characters 
>> involved.
>> Another part of my methodology is to look for a better hypothesis. 
>> And if it’s found, it strongly suggests that the weaker hypothesis 
>> should be rejected. Yes, Wolfe *can* say two things at once, but he’s 
>> not always doing it and if he is doing it I think he will tell us. 
>> (Again, he’s not writing a secret text between the lines of the overt 
>> one.)
>> Wolfe isn’t trying to be obscure. Readers don’t need to go hunting 
>> for cryptic clues, and in my opinion they are almost certainly 
>> wasting their time if they do. If he’s afraid he’s being too subtle, 
>> he sticks in an extra flag, like the Tartaros sentence. We’re 
>> supposed to read the passage, and come away knowing what Silver Silk 
>> and Silent Silk refer to. (And it is indicated that Tartaros is 
>> active on the Whorl – in fact he seems to have come out of his shell 
>> a bit now that Echidna and her gang have been purged. *That’s* a 
>> typical example of Wolfe saying two things, and neither of them 
>> depend on onomancy... onomastur... onomasty.)
>> When Wolfe wants to talk about Dionysus, he does, and he makes it 
>> clear that he’s talking about Dionysus. He’s not talking about 
>> Dionysus here. If he were, in the first place he’d actually say 
>> something about Dionysus, and in the second place he’d have a proper 
>> reference and not just a couple of random syllables shared with some 
>> fauns one of which was associated with Dionysus.
>> >
>> How does one cross the line between "drawing inferences from the 
>> text" and "extending the
>> >
>> text in a way that annoys"?
>> >
>> Typically, the line is crossed when "he" does it, instead of "me".
>> I think there’s a real difference here. In the first place, I look in 
>> different places for possible inferences. In the second place, I 
>> aggressively reject hypotheses when there are better ones. (I try to 
>> do that with my own hypotheses too.) Another difference is that I am 
>> not satisfied with ‘links’. ‘Links’ are an invitation to find stuff 
>> in random noise. And another is that a ‘theory’ needs to be a theory. 
>> Links to Dionysus would convince me more if I had some idea of what 
>> the appearance of Dionysus is supposed to mean other than the overt 
>> meaning of the references in the text, i.e. that he is or once was 
>> one of many representations of God that are useful or appropriate in 
>> certain times or circumstances.
>> So why did Wolfe put in Silver Silk and Silent Silk? Well, they 
>> certainly don’t seem to be a major point of the story, but then they 
>> don’t have to be. There’s a characterisation of Silk/Pas’s behaviour 
>> that’s a little different from the other gods of Mainframe, but how 
>> much it means I don’t know. And there’s an example of one way in 
>> which Man creates representations of the gods. The little things add up.
>> - Gerry Quinn

All this seems perfectly true. However:

(1) You're right that no knowledge of obscure fauns is "needed." Full 
understanding of exactly how Wolfe composes and constructs his stories 
is not "needed." Not every reader knows his/her mythology backwards and 
forwards or wants to. But Wolfe does.

(2) These fauns are hardly "obscure"!

(3) The syllables "silen" and "silv" are not exactly random. If they 
were random, they might be "xy" or "kra" or "chih." Perhaps you mean 
it's pure alliteration? Silly Silk would do just as well then. Sober 
Silk. Serious Silk. Anything that starts with S and fits Silk would do.

You may not realize it but you are actually formulating a separate 
theory here, based on nothing visible, that says "why we should reject 
particular data as evidence." It's the intellectual opposite of "all 
noise (i.e., linkage) is evidence."

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