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Posts Tagged ‘Aliens’

Smoke This Book, and Other News

September 8, 2014 | by

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The novelist Martha Baillie turned her book into installation art. Photo via Publishers Weekly

  • In praise of the footnote1: “Many readers, and perhaps some publishers, seem to view endnotes, indexes, and the like as gratuitous dressing—the literary equivalent of purple kale leaves at the edges of the crudités platter. You put them there to round out and dignify the main text, but they’re too raw to digest, and often stiff … Still, the back matter is not simply a garnish. Indexes open a text up. Notes are often integral to meaning, and, occasionally, they’re beautiful, too.”
  • One way of arguing for the necessity of print: “Rather than stand on a street corner yelling, ‘Literature is not commodity!’ I decided to inflict a series of physical experiments on my published work, to take several copies of the new book, go at them with my hands, and see what might result. I stripped the book of its cover, bought a pouch of tobacco, tore the pages, rolled the words.”
  • Among the many treasures of the Bodleian Libraries: “A bivalve locket with locks of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s hair. ‘Blessed are the eyes that saw him alive,’ an inscription reads in Latin.”
  • Metaphor is actually a fundamental constituent of language … In the seemingly literal statement ‘He’s out of sight,’ the visual field is metaphorized as a container that holds things … Ordinary language is saturated with metaphors. Our eyes point to where we’re going, so we tend to speak of future time as being ‘ahead’ of us. When things increase, they tend to go up relative to us, so we tend to speak of stocks ‘rising’ instead of getting more expensive.”
  • Really, though, if humanity discovered evidence of extraterrestrial life, could we be expected to behave ourselves? “There might be happiness and celebration to mark the end of isolation, or the news might be met with a shrug. But human nature suggests it’s more probable that this discovery triggers a chain of events that lead to utter disaster. Suddenly your safe haven is threatened by an unknown ‘them.’ Your time-tested principles of governance and social order are put under pressure. Gossip, rumor, and conjecture will gnaw away at your stable home.”

1. And the endnote, too.

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Micromégas

March 12, 2014 | by

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Photo: Axel Pixel, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of my closest friends are sick of hearing my “theory of aliens.” This is not a political stance, but rather a strong opinion about extraterrestrials. For much of my life, I’ve had a faint aversion to aliens. I didn’t like movies or X-Files episodes that dealt with them; I avoided science-fiction stories featuring life on other planets; I couldn’t even get into the campy, genre-defying sidekick on Futurama. (And yes, we all understand that from the time of Voltaire, and later Wells, the alien invasion narrative has been an allegory for the threat of military hegemony—from Eastern powers, specifically.)

This was not about whether or not aliens existed. If pressed, I guess I would have said probably not, but that wasn’t even the issue: they could have existed, and shown up, and done a bunch of amateur proctology, and I’d still have been averse. From what I could gather, aliens had no sense of humor, and no interests besides probing and machinery.

Then I was watching Gravity, and I thought, Hmm, even though these are pretend astronauts, I could never be an astronaut. And then I thought, But maybe most of the aliens on other planets couldn’t be astronauts either! And then came the real revelation: Maybe the aliens we meet are just the nerds of outer space! Read More »

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