Thursday, August 23, 2012

Defining Robinson’s ‘2312,’ Part 4

In which I continue to define some terms that Kim Stanley Robinson uses in his new novel, 2312.

Note: A reader sent me a message about these definitions suggesting that Robinson invented many of these terms. Actually, he invented very few (“smalls” and “wombman” being examples of invention). Some are existing terms that Robinson has tweaked with new meanings, such as accelerando, which is a musical term. Most are pre-existing terms that demonstrate an inquisitive mind on a broad spectrum of subjects.

dhalgren sun, p.183: a reference to the giant sun in the novel Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, originally published in 1975, a controversial novel that has sold over a million copies. A friend of the blog, Monkeyblake, wrote a meditation on the novel (follow here).

The Copenhagen interpretation, p. 198: an early interpretation of quantum mechanics, which holds that the act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to immediately and randomly assume only one of the possible values. This is known as wave-function collapse. The Copenhagen concepts were devised by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others in the 1920s.

The Zanzibar Cat, p. 198: the title story of a collection of short fiction by Joanna Russ, originally published in 1983.

Arabia Deserta, p. 198: the travel journals of Charles Montagu Doughty, first published in 1888. The title refers to the desert interior of the Arabian peninsula.

The Whorl, p. 199: The name of the large, hollow generation starship which provides the setting for The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe, a novel that was originally published in four volumes, beginning with Nightside the Long Sun (1993).

ursuline cultures, p. 205: cultures that deemphasize gender. The reference is to author Ursula K. Le Guin.

Another note: As your humble blog correspondent, I’m compelled to point out that Robinson is referencing four of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers: Delany, Russ, Wolfe and Le Guin, all of whom presumably were influential on Robinson’s work.

Related links on this blog:
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 1
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 2
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 3

Friday, August 10, 2012

Defining Robinson’s ‘2312,’ Part 3

In which I continue to define some terms that Kim Stanley Robinson uses in his new novel, 2312. (If you haven’t read the novel can you construct a novel from the clues these terms provide?)

imago, p. 140: The final developmental stage of an insect after undergoing metamorphosis. Also, an idealized concept of a loved one, formed in childhood and retained unaltered in adult life.

Brocken spectre, p. 140: also called Brocken bow, mountain spectre or glockenspectre is the apparently enormous and magnified shadow of an observer, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun. (Wikipedia link.)

Messiaen, p. 158: Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), French composer, organist and ornithologist. He believed birds to be the greatest musicians. He notated bird songs worldwide and incorporated birdsong transcriptions into much of his music. (Wikipedia link.)

ostinato, p. 158: from the Italian: stubborn. In music, a repetitive motif or phrase.

gynandromorph, p. 166: to have both male and female characteristics. Here, a female modified to have male genitals in addition to her own.

vasovagal, p. 166: an episode of syncope or fainting relating to the vagus nerve. (Wikipedia link.)

wombman, p. 170: a male modified for pregnancy.

craquelure, p. 175: a dense, complex pattern of cracks on any surface, such as glaze or paint. (Wikipedia link.)

folie à deux , p. 179: from the French for "a madness shared by two.” Shared psychosis, a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another. (Wikipedia link.)

Related links on this blog:
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 1
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 2
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 4

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August book arrivals

Here are some August 2012 book arrivals.

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer is massive, over 1100 pages, two columns of text per page. The stories are arranged chronologically, representing fiction across the past 100 years or so. It's a remarkable anthology. Michael Moorcock contributes a "Foreweird" and China Mieville an "Afterweird."

Sharps is the latest novel from K. J. Parker. Parker is the author of The Fencer Trilogy, The Engineer Trilogy, The Folding Knife, and The Hammer.

The Fox Woman (2000) was the first novel by Kij Johnson. It won the Crawford Award for best first fantasy novel. After reading her Nebula Award-winning novella, "The Man Who Bridged the Mist" (2011), I decided it was time to catch up with Johnson's novels.

Fudoki (2003) is the second novel by Kij Johnson. It was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award and the James Tiptree Award. Johnson has a new collection of short fiction due out this month, At the Mouth of the River of Bees.

Bullettime is the newest novel from Nick Mamatas. Mamatas is the author of Sensation, Under My Roof, and Move Under Ground.

Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson is an odd mix of non-fiction and fiction, essays, interviews, and journalism. It should provide plenty for readers (like me) waiting for Stephenson's next huge novel. Norman Spinrad has a review of Some Remarks, available at Los Angeles Review of Books.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Defining Robinson’s ‘2312,’ Part 2

In which I continue to define some terms that Kim Stanley Robinson uses in his new novel, 2312.

terrarium, p. 36: a small, usually dry habitat, usually decorative. Here, a Terran biome created on a large scale, often inside a hollowed-out asteroid, starting with an empty cylinder at least five kilometers in diameter and ten kilometers long.

Ascensions, p. 38: mixing up Terran biomes to create a new hybrid. Named for Ascension Island, the first hybrid biome, inadvertently started by Charles Darwin after his visit in 1836. (BBC News story and Wikipedia link.)

Accelerando, p. 40: A period of rapid change across a spectrum of issues, including technological progress, social progress, and economic advancement as human civilization spreads across the solar system. Robinson is borrowing the term from his novel, Blue Mars (1996).

Archilochus, p. 60: a Greek poet of the Archaic period, noted for fault-finding and stinging attacks. (Wikipedia link.)

Lake Vostok, p. 62: the largest sub-glacial lake in Antarctica, similar in size to Lake Ontario. The water in the lake has been isolated and undisturbed for at least 400,000 years and perhaps millions of years. In 2012 a Russian scientific team claims to have completed drilling over 12,000 feet through the ice shield to reach the lake and take samples. Scientists hope to find ancient forms of life. Controversy has surrounded the project and the drilling techniques. Critics suggest the drilling will compromise the habitat and contaminate results. (Wikipedia link.)

Deinococcus radiodurans, p. 64: extremophilic bacterium, one of the most radioresistant organisim known. (Wikipedia link.)

entheogens, p. 80: psychoactive substances such as peyote used in a shamanic or spiritual context. The term entheogen was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists and scholars of mythology as a replacement for the terms hallucinogen and psychedelic. (Wikipedia link.)

hypotyposis, p. 83: “the visionary imagination of things not present before the eyes.”

bardo, p. 84: a Tibetan term for the “intermediate state” between two lives or incarnations. Robinson used this concept to considerable effect in his novel, The Years of Rice and Salt (2002).

Related links on this blog:
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 1
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 3
Defining Robinson's '2312,' Part 4

Monday, August 6, 2012

Defining Robinson’s ‘2312,’ Part 1

I’ll be defining some terms that Kim Stanley Robinson uses in his new novel, 2312. This is not intended to be an exhaustive or definitive treatment. I’ve selected only the terms that interested me.

inuksuit, p.2: a stone landmark or cairn, used by the Inuit and other peoples of the Arctic regions of North America. (Google images link.)

goldsworthies, p. 2: art in the tradition of Andy Goldsworthy (born 1956), an environmental artist or site-specific sculptor, whose outdoor art often involves stone walls, wood, or leaves, often fashioned into arches, cones, sinuous curves, or crystalline shapes. (Wikipedia link and Google images link.)

abramovics, p. 4: art in the tradition of Marina Abramović, Serbian-born (1946) performance artist, who styles herself as the “grandmother of performance art.” In 2010 the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective show of her work and hosted her performance piece “The Artist is Present.” HBO Documentary Films produced the film “Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present” which originally aired July 3, 2012, a remarkable documentary. (Wikipedia link.)

Terminator, p. 4: the moving line on a rotating planet’s surface that separates day from night. Here, the capital city of Mercury, moving at a constant speed, staying just ahead of the dawn. The city moves across tracks which expand as they reach daylight, driving the city forward. Robinson is borrowing from his own early novel, The Memory of Whiteness (1985), which describes the city of Terminator on Mercury, constantly moving on rolling cylinders ahead of the dawn.

smalls, p. 12: genetically altered humans, waist high to average humans.

exergasia, p. 21: rhetorical restatement, a form of parallelism where an idea is repeated and the only change is in the way it is stated.

Mondragon Accord, p. 26: “one of the most influential forms of economic change had ancient origins in Mondragon, Euskadi, a small Basque town that ran an economic system of nested co-ops organized for mutual support. A growing network of space settlements used Mondragon as a model for adapting beyond their scientific station origins to a larger economic system. Cooperating as if in a diffuse Mondragon, the individual space settlements, widely scattered, associated for mutual support” (p. 125)