Thursday, April 30, 2015

Who invented Wotto metal: Otto Wotto or Joe Spade?

"Then the great inventor Otto Wotto invented Wotto metal. With wotto metal used as the matrix of a computer, any circuit or any million circuits could go anywhere desired. The circuits would create their own pathways, strings of single molecules; and they would uncreate them again when there was no data crying to be transported over those particular paths. Wotto Metal pretty much took the lid off of what computers could do. They could do just about anything."
-Serpent's Egg

"I'm Joe Spade--about as intellectual a guy as you'll find all day. I invented Wotto and Voxo and a bunch of other stuff that nobody can get along without anymore."
"I compute it and build it at the same time--out of Wotto-metal naturally."
"And that bushy-tailed machine just sparkled--like everything does that is made out of Wotto-metal."
-"Hog-Belly Honey"

"What we eat out of your ships and your stores are the most nourishing and sophisticated things you have brought, wotto metal, data gelatin, electronic reta, codified memories and processes."
-"Thieving Bear Planet"

A few possible answers to the question of who invented Wotto metal....

1) Joe Spade is lying. Otto Wotto invented Wotto metal.

2) Joe Spade is telling the truth. All that he claims is that he invented "Wotto" which could be taken to mean that he invented Otto Wotto who went on to invent Wotto metal. Thus, the two accounts are reconciled.

3) Both Otto Wotto and Joe Spade worked collaborated on the invention of Wotto metal.

4) There is no such thing as Wotto metal. No one invented it.

5) I like saying Wotto.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

And what does he say of himself?

"Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great."
"The glory, jest and riddle of the world."
-Alexander Pope, from An Essay on Man: Epistle II

"Wit that can creep, and Pride that licks the dust."
-Alexander Pope, from An Epistle to Arbuthnot

"Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan;"
-Alexander Pope, from An Essay on Man: Epistle I

"Man, Homo Sapiens, the most widespread, numerous, and reputedly the most intelligent of the primates."

"Question 48: What is Man!"
"Man is a creature composed of body and soul,
And made in the image and likeness of God."
                                      Baltimore Catechism

"There shone one woman, and none but she."
-Algernon Charles Swinburne, from The Triumph of Time

"The heart of man is evil from his youth."
-Genesis 8:21

"Woman clothed in the sun."
-Revelation 12:1

"We are fearfully and wonderfully made."
-Psalms 139:14

"The torrent of a woman's will."
-Anonymous, from a pillar in Canterbury

"The Mind of Man, my haunt, and the main region of my song."
-William Wordsworth, from The Recluse

"Hail, fellow, well met,
All dirty and wet."
-Jonathan Swift, from My Lady's Lamentation And Complaint Against The Dean

"Man is nature's sole mistake."
-W.S. Gilbert, from Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant

"Man in his hasty days."
-Robert Bridges, from I Love all Beauteous Things

"Man is an embodied paradox, a bundle of contradictions."
-Charles Caleb Colton, from Lacon, or Many Things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think

"Says he, 'I am a handsome man,
But I'm a gay deceiver."
-George Colman the Younger, from Love Laughs at Locksmiths
(hear it sung by The Kingston Trio)

"The Legend of Good Women."
-Geoffrey Chaucer

"An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be."
-Ambrose Bierce, from The Devil's Dictionary

"Art thou a man of purple cheer?
A rosy man right plump to see?"
-William Wordsworth, from A Poet's Epitaph

"And thus, from the bad use of free will, there originated the whole train of evil, which, with its concatenation of miseries, conveys the human race from its depraved origin, from its corrupt root, on to the destruction of the second death."
"Of the fall of the first man, in whom nature was created good--"
-Augustine, from The City of God

"Of Man's first disobedience and the Fall--"
-John Milton, from Paradise Lost

"If he is an angel, then he is a fallen angel. If he is an animal, then he is a risen animal. Doctor Faustus attained power over the Devil by learning his secret name: 'Mephistopheles'. Come, and I will whisper to you the secret name of Man and you can attain power over him. The secret name of man is 'Ambiguity'."

"Well, the things that human people have said about human people are not at all conclusive. It seems that man, being inside man, cannot get a good look at man."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

But could such a world work?

It's a great moment when one finishes a Lafferty novel and finds that DOJP has already done all of the difficult work of writing intelligently about the novel. There's not much that I can add to his excellent review of Serpent's Egg

Everyone should:

-Read Serpent's Egg.

-Read Daniel's essay.

If you've done those two important things and you're still hanging around here, well, I guess I owe you some original content. I'll try to add a little to what Daniel has written. Here are a few quickly sketched out points from my reading of the novel that aren't directly addressed by Daniel.

1. The title is surely a reference to Julius Caesar.

It must be by his death, and for my part
I know no personal cause to spurn at him
But for the general. He would be crowned.
How that might change his nature, there’s the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder
And that craves wary walking. Crown him that,
And then I grant we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with.
Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections swayed
More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber upward turns his face.
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.
Then, lest he may, prevent. And since the quarrel
Will bear no color for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities.
And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg—
Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous—
And kill him in the shell.

2. Daniel does a great job of situating the plot and themes of Serpent's Egg among Lafferty's other works. I find it surprising, though, that he didn't mention Reefs of Earth. Maybe he hadn't read it yet at the time he read Serpent's Egg? The connection between the two novels (and to stories like "Seven Day Terror" and "Among the Hairy Earthmen" and "Primary Education of the Camiroi" and so many more) is that children are the protagonists. I'm not willing to put in the work right now, but I'm sure that there are many fruitful ways to compare/contrast the mischievous Puca children and the interspecies "royal" Mega-children. There is certainly a shared love of pirates. Lafferty's use of children in his fiction is screaming for a full-length treatment.

3. I'm going to hunt down the sources for the quotes that open Chapter Four. Besides interacting with his own other fiction as Daniel pointed out, it is clear that Lafferty is always doing more than navel-gazing. The beginning of Chapter Four is the clearest evidence of this as Lafferty lets several sources speak for themselves though he doesn't explicitly give his sources.

4. I want to re-read Daniel's FoL2 essay. It'd be wonderful to see Daniel re-visit Serpent's Egg and discuss what is being done with the literalization of animal imagery. Somewhat related, I did off-handedly mention on FB that I think that this novel is in some ways an answer to Wells's Island of Dr. Moreau.

5. Related to #2 above, Lafferty's plotting in Serpent's Egg is strongly reminiscent of little kid comic book/strip logic. There's a fluidity of logic that always makes sense in its context, but is highly ridiculous the moment it is divorced from its context. This is the way that little kids tell stories and also the way that the best early comics are constructed. In Serpent's Egg, this is seen in the way that Inneal constructs realities around her and it is seen in the way that all of the children talk to each other. It's also seen in the action. There's one spot where the assassins are coming after the children (as the children are putting on a circus as children do) and we're told that the assassins can't hurt the children because they don't have the proper weapons. They need to return to their lair to fetch the python-gun and angel-gun, etc. I wish I had been taking notes because this sort of thing is found throughout the novel. There were so many times where I'd slowly re-read a paragraph or two and block it out as a comic strip in my head. My hands won't translate those mind's pics properly, but I may take a stab at a Serpent's Egg strip. I started thinking that maybe I could find a talented collaborator to do the art for me.

That's all I've got for now, rambled out during slow moments this morning.

When I get a bigger chunk of time and actually have the text in front of me, I'll try to follow through with the promise of #3 above and maybe also post some examples illustrating #5.