Underlinings (#61)

Nick Mamatas interviewed, on Lovecraft:

As I argued in the Los Angeles Review of Books a couple of years ago, Lovecraft is wrongly considered a bad writer because he’s actually a difficult writer. He engages in polyphony, using the modes of everything from learned rhetoric to personal letters and newspaper reports to build a case for the verisimilitude of his creations. Lovecraft’s bad reputation as a writer comes largely from his epigones, who ape his style without understanding choices, or from people who really haven’t read him closely. Complaining about his prose is like complaining that a modern filmmaker made a film in black and white instead of color — it’s a choice with a purpose, not an accident or an artifact of incompetence. …

Underlinings (#60)

From Tim Powers’ Declare (p 236-7):

And for getting Russian documents translated he found himself having to consult the weird old women in the MI5 Soviet Transcription Centre. This was located in another St. Albans house, in a tiny room which these fugitive White Russians had converted into a little anachronistic corner of Tsarist St. Petersburg, with carved wooden saint-icons standing among the dictaphone cylinders and acetate gramophone disks on the shelves, and a perpetual perfume of tea from the steaming samovar in the corner. To these wizened babushkas the NKVD was still the Cheka or even the pre-revolutionary Okhrana, and they took a particular intense interest in Hale’s researches, often pausing to cross themselves as they translated some musty old report of a Russian expedition to Turkey, in 1883 or a description of burned grass around little coin-sized eruption holes in the grave plots of Moscow cemeteries. All of these old grand-mothers were of the Russian Orthodox faith, but Hale noticed — uneasily — that their use of the term guardian angel was hesitant and fearful, and always accompanied by them splashing their lumpy old fingers in the holy water font by the locked door.

Underlinings (#51)

The master’s eyes darted around, and he continued in a low voice:

When we do our work poorly, we are replaced with our betters. When we do our work well, the thing we have built grows larger, faster, more powerful, more entrenched, more hungry. Sometimes I lie awake in a cold sweat, unable to decide if we are still building it, or if it has begun using us to build itself

(Link received with gratitude from JF — a more precise attribution might be unwelcome.)

Underlinings (#47)

Bakker (in fictional mode):

“… is the experience of freedom the same as having freedom?”

“They are one and the same.”

“But then why … why did you have to be blinded to experience freedom?”

“Because you cannot experience the sources of your actions and decisions and still experience human freedom. Neglect is what makes the feeling possible. To be human is to be incapable of seeing your causal continuity with nature, to think you are something more than a machine.”

He looked at her with his trademark skeptical scowl. “So what was so wrong with the other DIMEs, then? Why did they have to be destroyed … if they were actually more than humans, I mean? Were the people just scared or something? Embarrassed?”

“There was that, sure. Do you remember how the angry crowds always made you cry? Trust me, you were our little nuke, public relations-wise! But your father thinks the problem was actually bigger. The tools humans have evolved allow them to neglect tremendous amounts of information. Unfortunately for DIMEs, those tools are only reliable in the absence of that information, the very kinds of information they possessed. If a DIME were to kill someone, say, then in court they could provide a log of all the events that inexorably led to the murder. They could always prove there was no way ‘they could have done otherwise’ more decisively than any human defendant could hope to. They only need to be repaired, while the human does hard time. Think about it. Why lock them up, when it is really is the case that they only need be repaired? The tools you use—the tools your father gave me—simply break down.”

If the example she had given had confused him, the moral seemed plain as day at least.

“Sooo… you’re saying DIMEs weren’t stupid enough to be persons?”

Sour grin. “Pretty much.”