Orwell Meets the Group of Seventeen Meets …

by Henry Farrell on September 28, 2003

John M. Ford comments in an “Electrolite”:http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/003727.html#003727 thread on mixed metaphors and cliches.

bq. If you want a vision of the future, it is a wireless broadband network feeding requests for foreign money-laundering assistance into a human temporal lobe, forever. With banner ads.

As Brad DeLong readers may recall, Ford is responsible for introducing “Zweeghb”:http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/archives/000845.html into the Scrabble lexicon. A man of many talents.



Chun the Unavoidable 09.28.03 at 9:14 pm

Since there are a lot of Wolfe fans about, I’d thought I’d throw out the plate tectonics question about The New Sun books. Any thoughts?

Also, why can I not, however hard I try, stop thinking of the Ascians/Group of 17 stuff as nothing more than an exceptionally (for Wolfe) crude political comment?


--kip 09.29.03 at 1:11 am

I dunno. It’s been a good long while since I read them, and I remember that passage as being more a giddy language game, with any political commentary being secondary, lagniappe. But prompted by the Electrolite thread, I went digging after some Group of Seventeen quotes on the web (having lost my New Sun books in something not entirely unlike a divorce), and found them much more overtly political than I’d remembered.

As a linguistic game, or a language idea, I’d always wanted to see it kick around more. Not so much in prose, but in the area of world building: specifically, for RPG purposes–which would add the dimension of performance (in a limited, parlor-setting sort of way). The challenge of a character attempting to communicate through a limited, rote, highly specialized phraseology appeals; in practice, it’s proven almost unworkable. At least for me, and at least as a gaming situation and perspective I’d find enjoyable over the long haul.


Henry 09.29.03 at 1:15 am

Plate tectonics question? Something to do with the absence thereof in the dying earth? More information needed …

Don’t know if I agree with you that the Ascians are merely crude political comment. Surely, there’s some of that in there – the fact that they live in current day North America can’t be coincidental. But I also think that there’s something important in Loyal to the Group of Seventeen’s story. It’s a rejoinder to Orwell’s Newspeak and to vulgar versions of Whorf-Sapire; Wolfe makes it clear that even in the most debased and politicised form of speech imaginable, there will still be room for ambiguity and backhanded political comment.

And if you want crude political comment from Wolfe, check out his first (and awful) novel, Operation ARES.


Chun the Unavoidable 09.29.03 at 7:28 am

The geological similarity of the time presented to our own was what I was referring to. I’m wary of just ascribing this to something he didn’t know or think about (though plate tectonics, as far as I understand, wasn’t really accepted until not much before he began writing these books).

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