Underlinings (#42)

From Laird Barron’s Nemesis:

“Let me be clear, there is no Machine,” Director Mallory said to close his remarks at the Star Chamber deposition. This emergency hearing was in response to an international crisis that appeared to be rapidly mutating into a global apocalypse. Blame had to be apportioned and attributed. Heads were going to roll, and how. The Director snapped his briefcase shut and strode out a side exit. He skipped lunch at the grill that day, became quite scarce indeed.
The Machine activated again six hours later and its effects were irreversible.
But by that time, when shit hit the fan for real, the Director was already aboard an emergency capsule speeding toward the moon. He and ninety-seven other bureaucrats, technicians, scientists, and prostitutes survived on a base hidden in a crater on the dark side for nineteen months. Eventually, they all perished of starvation, or mayhem induced by a cabin fever type syndrome. He went last—blew the station to smithereens with mining explosives and then unzipped his environmental suit to vacuum and watched his life boil away. He was lonely, not sorry. No one back on Earth cared. He’d been long forgotten.


Underlinings (#41)

From Peter Watts’ Blindsight (p.261), on dark interspecies cryptographic game-theory:

Hurt them.
It may take a while to figure out how. Some may shrink from fire, others from fire, others from toxic gas or liquid. Some creatures may be invulnerable to blowtorches and grenades, but shriek in terror at the threat of ultrasonic sound. You have to experiment; and when you discover just the right stimulus, the optimum balance between pain and injury, you must inflict it without the remorse.
You leave them an escape hatch, of course. That’s the very point of the exercise: give one of your subjects the means to end the pain, but give the other the information required to use it. To one you might present a single shape, while showing the other a whole selection. The pain will stop when the being with the menu chooses the item its partner has seen. So let the games begin. Watch your subjects squirm. If — when — they trip the off switch, you’ll know at least some of the information they exchanged; and if you record everything that passed between the, you’ll start to get some idea of how they exchanged it.
Whe they solve one puzzle, give them a new one. Mix things up. Switch their roles. See how they do at circles versus squares. Try them out on factorials and Fibonnacis. Continue until Rosetta Stone results.
This is how you communicate wuith a fellow intelligence: You hurt it, and keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams.

Underlinings (#40)

This is too intelligent for its own good. Early snippet:

… I opened the door and caused a stunningly beautiful girl to fall off a stepladder. “Euphemism!” she said. I swear to God she said “Euphemism.”
“Are you okay?” I asked. She was. She was holding two big yellow letters. I looked up at our sign. It was missing two big yellow letters.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked. I am bad at sounding threatening, but she was like 5’4, maybe 5’5, and also lying on the ground looking very ashamed, and so putting menace into my voice was easier than usual.
“Kabbalah,” she said.
I looked up at the sign again. It read CASH OR GOD
“It’s a kabbalistic protest,” she said faintly. “Against a society that thinks…”
“You’re not a kabbalist. If you were a kabbalist, you’d have more respect! You can’t just go removing letters from signs like that! Matthew 5:18: ‘Verily I say unto you, not a single letter, nor even a stroke of a letter, shall be removed until all is fulfilled.’”
“Oh, you want to go there?” She caught her breath and stood back up. “Matthew 16:4: ‘This evil and adulterous generation wants a sign, but no sign shall be given to it.’”
I blinked. Maybe she was a kabbalist.
“But,” I said, “By removing the letter L, you make “God” out of “gold”. But the warning against idolatry in Exodus 20:23 says ‘You shall not make a god out of gold.’”
“But,” said the girl, “Exodus 25 says that you shall take gold and turn it unto the Lord.”
Now I was annoyed.
“You have taken an L and an F,” I said. “But if you map the Latin alphabet to Hebrew gematria, L and F sum to twenty-six. The Tetragrammaton also has a gematria value of twenty six. So taking an L and an F is mystically equivalent to taking the Name of God. But the Third Commandment is ‘You shall not take the Name of God in vain.’”
“But the sound of L and F together,” she said, “is ‘aleph’, and aleph is silent and represents nothingness. So I have taken nothing.”
I heard the whine of a siren.
“Tell it to the cops,” I said. …

It wanders into more science fictional territory.

Underlinings (#33)

John Conway on The Iron Law of Six:

I was astonishingly lucky. I literally remember my former undergraduate teacher telling my then wife that John would not be successful. She asked why. And he said, “Well, he does not do the kind of mathematics that’s necessary for success.” And that’s true. I really didn’t do any kind of mathematics. Whatever I did, I did pretty well, and people got interested in it — and that’s that. I did have a recipe for success, which was always keeping six balls in the air. Now I have had a stroke, so I can’t catch those balls terribly well. But what I mean is: Always be thinking about six things at once. Not at the same time exactly, but you have one problem, you don’t make any progress on it, and you have another problem to change to.

Underlinings (#24)

Pynchon in Cow Country?

Hmm. Somewhere I have heard of an author as reclusive as J.D. Salinger (who has no further need to defend his privacy). No, not the Italian Elena Ferrante (also a pseudonymous invention), but an American. Rather than face what he (assuming the gender itself is not fictional) calls “a false and destructive system” that is nonetheless “a reality of our world,” Pearson notes that his response is to “manufacture disposable authorial personae for every book,” making each one earn its own way rather than piggybacking on whatever reputation a previous title may have earned its author. … […] … The great Portuguese poet and novelist Fernando Pessoa created what he called heteronyms, alter egos or personas that allowed him to write as “them” instead of himself, a liberating and fruitful creative approach, he found. It is possible that something akin to that is going on here, if the same sensibility is behind both names, and that freeing oneself and one’s book from the connotation-heavy name seemed a good idea. However, Pessoa’s heteronyms are characters in his fiction — they express themselves and feel and act as personas — and that is not the case with Pearson, who, except outside the novel as his reality is created online, is merely a name affixed to Cow Country. So far.


Classic fungal number horror from Stephen King’s ‘Gray Matter’:

What we saw in that one or two seconds will last me a liftetime — or whatever’s left of it. It was a huge gray wave of jelly, jelly that looked like a man, and leaving a trail of slime behind it.
But that wasn’t the worst. Its eyes were flat and yellow and wild, with no human soul in ’em. Only there weren’t two. There were four, an’ right down the center of the thing, betwixt the two pairs of eyes, was a white, fibrous line with a kind of pulsing pink flesh showing through like a slit in a hog’s belly.
It was dividing you see. Dividing in two.
Bertie and I didn’t say nothing to each other going back to the store. I don’t know what was going through his mind, but I know well enough what was in mine: the multiplication table. Two times two is four, four times two is eight, eight times two is sixteen, sixteen times two is —
We got back. Carl and Bill Pelham jumped up and started asking questions right off. We wouldn’t answer, neither of us. We just turned around and wondered if Henry was going to walk in outta the snow. I was up to 32,768 times two is the end of the human race …