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Old 04-19-2010, 01:34 PM   #46
Ed Stansfield
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 15

I guess this approaches thread drift, but given that this is about the first thing in a TIE discussion that I felt able to contribute to, I'll have a bash...

Peter Goldsbury wrote:
An important question for me is how Stephenson regards semantics: how he believes that words actually 'mean'. I think this area is where kotodama derives its interest--or mystery--or irrelevance.
It's quite a while since I read Snow Crash and most of my books are currently boxed up in the anticipation of moving house, but my recollection of the "virus" and the Sumerian Ur-language was pretty much in line with the Wikipedia article. My interpretation of it, in the context of the novel, was that they both were intended to be things that slid underneath the level of "meaning" - people didn't need to understand them to be affected by them (trying not to give spoilers...).

It's possible that you might find more clues as to Stephenson's view of semantics (in so far as an author's views can be determined by their works of fiction) in the monolithic "Anathem", provided that you are happy to read about them through his alternate-world filter. There is a fair bit of discussion of where forms / meanings / ideas come from and how they arrive in the world (as well as cloisters of academic monks and encounters with aliens).

When Harry Potter casts a spell, for example, the utterance of the words functions in a straightforward way.
Given that Stephenson's genre is SF, it is difficult to make direct comparisons, but my guess is that he would have a similar "technological' approach to language and meaning, notwithstanding the words he puts in some of the characters' mouths in "Anathem".

A distinction could be drawn with someone like TIm Powers, much of whose work might be seen as based on one central idea: "What if symbols of things had real effects in the world?"

Anyway, enough blathering from me.



It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

Winston Churchill, 1930.
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