Shadow-World

Excerpt from the novel 1984 icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by George Orwell icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

George Orwell's "1984" book cover. [Formatted]

     Winston examined the four slips of paper which he had unrolled. Each contained a message of only one or two lines, in the abbreviated jargon—not actually Newspeak, but consisting largely of Newspeak words—which was used in the Ministry for internal purposes. They ran:

times 17.3.84 bb speech malreported africa rectify

times 19.12.83 forecasts 3 yp 4th quarter 83 misprints verify current issue

times 14.2.84 miniplenty malquoted chocolate rectify

times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling

     With a faint feeling of satisfaction Winston laid the fourth message aside. It was an intricate and responsible job and had better be dealt with last. The other three were routine matters, though the second one would probably mean some tedious wading through lists of figures.
     Winston dialled ‘back numbers’ on the telescreen and called for the appropriate issues of the Times, which slid out of the pneumatic tube after only a few minutes’ delay. The messages he had received referred to articles or news-items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, as the official phrase had it, to rectify. For example, it appeared from the Times of the seventeenth of March that Big Brother, in his speech of the previous day, had predicted that the South Indian front would remain quiet but that a Eurasian offensive would shortly be launched in North Africa. As it happened the Eurasian Higher Command had launched its offensive in the South India and left North Africa alone. It was therefore necessary to rewrite a paragraph of Big Brother’s speech, in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually happened. Or again, the Times of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today’s issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones. As for the third message, it referred to a very simple error which could be set right in a couple of minutes. As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.
     As soon as Winston had dealt with each of the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of the Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames.
     What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. The largest section of the Records Department, far larger than the one in which Winston worked, consisted simply of persons whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies of books, newspapers and other documents which had been superseded and were due for destruction. A number of the Times which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies uttered by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the files bearing its original date, and no other copy existed to contradict it. Books, also, were recalled and re-written again and again., and were invariably re-issued without any admission that any alteration had been made. Even the written instructions which Winston received, and which he invariably got rid of as soon as he had dealt with them, never stated or implied that an act of forgery was to be committed: always the reference was to slips, errors, misprints or misquotations which it was necessary to put right in the interests of accuracy.
     But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted the Ministry of Plenty’s figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connection with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connection that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head. For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at a hundred and forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in re-writing the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been over-fulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than a hundred and forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population in Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain.
     Winston glanced across the hall. In the corresponding cubicle on the other side a small, precise-looking, dark-chinned man named Tillotson was working steadily away, with a folded newspaper on his knee and his mouth very close to the mouthpiece of the speakwrite. He had the air of trying to keep what he was saying a secret between himself and the telescreen. He looked up, and his spectacles darted a hostile flash in Winston’s direction.
     Winston hardly knew Tillotson, and had no idea what work he was employed on. People in the Records Department did not readily talk about their jobs. In the long, windowless hall, with its double row of cubicles and its endless rustle of papers and hum of voices murmuring into speakwrites, there were quite a dozen people whom Winston did not even know by name, though he daily saw them hurrying to and fro in the corridors or gesticulating in the Two Minutes Hate. He knew that in the cubicle next to him the little woman with sandy hair toiled day in, day out, simply at tracking down and deleting from the press the names of people who had been vaporized and were therefore considered never to have existed. There was a certain fitness in this, since her own husband had been vaporized a couple of years earlier. And a few cubicles away a mild, ineffectual, dreamy creature named Ampleforth, with very hairy ears and a surprising talent for juggling rhymes and metres, was engaged in producing garbled versions—definitive texts, they were called—of poems which had become ideologically offensive but which for one reason or another were to be retained in the anthologies. And this hall, with its fifty workers or thereabouts, was only one sub-section, a single cell, as it were, in the huge complexity of the Records Department. Beyond, above, below, were other swarms of workers engaged in an unimaginable multitude of jobs. There were huge printing shops with their sub-editors, their typography experts and their elaborately-equipped studios for the faking of photographs. There was the tele-programmes section with its engineers, its producers and its teams of actors specially chosen for their skill in imitating voices. There were the armies of reference clerks whose job was simply to draw up lists of books and periodicals which were due for recall. There were the vast repositories where the corrected documents were stored, and the hidden furnaces where the original copies were destroyed. And somewhere or other, quite anonymous, there were the directing brains who co-ordinated the whole effort and laid down the lines of policy which made it necessary that this fragment of the past should be preserved, that one falsified, and the other rubbed out of existence.
     And the Records Department, after all, was itself only a single branch of the Ministry of Truth, whose primary job was not to reconstruct the past but to supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen programmes, plays, novels—with every conceivable kind of information, instruction or entertainment, from a statue to a slogan, from a lyric poem to a bioligical treatise, and from a child’s spelling book to a Newspeak dictionary. And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious needs of the Party, but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit of the proletariat. There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole sub-section—Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak—engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.
     Three messages had slid out of the pneumatic tube while Winston was working; but they were simple matters, and he had disposed of them before the Two Minutes Hate interrupted him. When the Hate was over he returned to his cubicle, took the Newspeak dictionary from the shelf, pushed the speakwrite to one side, cleaned his spectacles and settled down to his main job of the morning.

The Ghost of Rationality

Excerpt from the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Robert M. Parsig icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" book cover. [Formatted]

     Some things can be said about Phaedrus as an individual:
     He was a knower of logic, the classical system-of-the-system which describes the rules and procedures of systematic thought by which analytic knowledge may be structured and interrelated. He was so swift at this his Stanford-Binet IQ, which is essentially a record of skill at analytic manipulation, was recorded at 170, a figure that occurs in only one person in fifty thousand.
     He was systematic, but to say he thought and acted like a machine would be to misunderstand the nature of his thought. It was not like pistons and wheels and gears all moving at once, massive and coordinated. The image of a laser beam comes to mind instead; a single pencil of light of such terrific energy in such extreme concentration it can be shot at the moon and its reflection seen back on earth. Phaedrus did not try to use his brilliance for general illumination. He sought one specific distant target and aimed for it and hit it. And that was all. General illumination of that target he hit now seems to be left for me.
     In proportion to his intelligence he was extremely isolated. There’s no record of his having had close friends. He traveled alone. Always. Even in the presence of others he was completely alone. People sometimes felt this and felt rejected by it, and so did not like him, but their dislike was not important to him.
     His wife and family seem to have suffered the most. His wife says those who tried to go beyond the barriers of his reserve found themselves facing a blank. My impression is that they were starved for some kind of affection which he never gave.
     No one really knew him. That is evidently the way he wanted it, and that’s the way it was. Perhaps his aloneness was the result of his intelligence. Perhaps it was the cause. But the two were always together. An uncanny solitary intelligence.
     This still doesn’t do it though, because this and the image of a laser beam convey the idea that he was completely cold and unemotional, and that is not so. In his pursuit of what I have called the ghost of rationality he was a fanatic hunter.
     One fragment becomes especially vivid now of a scene in the mountains where the sun was behind the mountain half an hour and an early twilight had changed the trees and even the rocks to almost blackened shades of blue and grey and brown. Phaedrus had been there three days without food. His food had run out but he was thinking deeply and seeing things and was reluctant to leave. He was not far away from where he knew there was a road and was in no hurry.
     In the dusk coming down the trail he saw a movement and then what seemed to be a dog approaching on the trail, a very large sheep dog, or an animal more like a husky, and he wondered what would bring a dog to this obscure place at this time of evening. He disliked dogs, but this animal moved in a way that forestalled these feelings. It seemed to be watching him, judging him. Phaedrus stared into the animal’s eyes for a long time, and for a moment felt some kind of recognition. Then the dog disappeared.
     He realized much later it was a timber wolf, and the memory of this incident stayed with him a long time. I think it stayed with him because he had seen a kind of image of himself.
     A photograph can show a physical image in which time is static, and a mirror can show a physical image in which time is dynamic, but I think what he saw on the mountain was another kind of image altogether which was not physical and did not exist in time at all. It was an image nevertheless and that is why he felt recognition. It comes to me vividly now because I saw it again last night as the visage of Phaedrus himself.
     Like that timber wolf on the mountain he had a kind of animal courage. He went his own way with unconcern for consequences that sometimes stunned people, and stuns me now to hear about it. He did not often swerve to right or to left. I’ve discovered that. But this courage didn’t arise from any idealistic idea of self-sacrifice, only from the intensity of his pursuit, and there was nothing noble about it.
     I think his pursuit of the ghost of rationality occurred because he wanted to wreak revenge on it, because he felt he himself was so shaped by it. He wanted to free himself from his own image. He wanted to destroy it because the ghost was what he was and he wanted to be free from the bondage of his own identity. In a strange way, this freedom was achieved.
     This account of him must sound unworldly, but the most unworldly part of it all is yet to come. This is my own relationship to him. This has been forestalled and obscured until now, but nevertheless must be known.
     I first discovered him by inference from a strange series of events many years ago. One Friday I had gone to work and gotten quite a lot done before the weekend and was happy about that and later that day drove to a party where, after talking to everybody too long and too loudly and drinking way too much, went into a back room to lie down for a while.
     When I awoke I saw that I’d slept the whole night, because now it was daylight, and I thought, “My God, I don’t even know the name of the hosts!” and wondered what kind of embarrassment this was going to lead to. The room didn’t look like the room I had lain down in, but it had been dark when I came in and I must have been blind drunk anyway.
     I got up and saw that my clothes were changed. These were not the clothes I had worn the night before. I walked out the door, but to my surprise the doorway led not to rooms of a house but into a long corridor.
     As I walked down the corridor I got the impression that everyone was looking at me. Three different times a stranger stopped me and asked how I felt. Thinking they were referring to my drunken condition I replied that I didn’t even have a hangover, which caused one of them to start to laugh, but then catch himself.
     At a room at the end of the corridor I saw a table where there was activity of some sort going on. I sat down nearby, hoping to remain unnoticed until I got all this figured out. But a woman dressed in white came up to me and asked if I knew her name. I read the little name clip on her blouse. She didn’t see that I was doing this and seemed amazed, and walked off in a hurry.
     When she came back there was a man with her, and he was looking right at me. He sat down next to me and asked me if I knew his name. I told him what it was, and was as surprised as they were that I knew it.
     “It’s very early for this to be happening,” he said.
     “This looks like a hospital,” I said.
     They agreed.
     “How did I get here?” I asked, thinking about the drunken party. The man said nothing and the woman looked down. Very little was explained.
     It took me more than a week to deduce from the evidence around me that everything before my waking up was a dream and everything afterward was reality. There was no basis for distinguishing the two other than the growing pile of new events that seemed to argue against the drunk experience. Little things appeared, like the locked door, the outside of which I could never remember seeing. And a slip of paper from the probate court telling me that some person was committed as insane. Did they mean me?
     It was explained to me finally that “You have a new personality now.” But this statement was no explanation at all. It puzzled me more than ever since I had no awareness at all of any “old” personality. If they had said, “You are a new personality,” it would have been much clearer. That would have fitted. They had made the mistake of thinking of a personality as some sort of possession, like a suit of clothes, which a person wears. But apart from a personality what is there? Some bones and flesh. A collection of legal statistics, perhaps, but surely no person. The bones and flesh and legal statistics are the garments worn by the personality, not the other way around.
     But who was the old personality whom they had known and presumed I was a continuation of?
     This was my first inkling of the existence of Phaedrus, many years ago. In the days and weeks and years that have followed, I’ve learned much more.
     He was dead. Destroyed by order of the court, enforced by the transmission of high-voltage alternating current through the lobes of his brain. Approximately 800 mills of amperage at duration of 0.5 to 1.5 seconds had been applied on twenty-eight consecutive occasions, in a process known technologically as “Annihilation ECS.” A whole personality had been liquidated without a trace in a technologically faultless act that has defined our relationship ever since. I have never met him. Never will.
     And yet strange wisps of his memory suddenly match and fit this road and desert bluffs and white-hot sand all around us and there is a bizarre concurrence and then I know he has seen all of this. He was here, otherwise I would not know it. He had to be. And in seeing these sudden coalescences of vision and in recall of some strange fragment of thought whose origin I have no idea of, I’m like a clairvoyant, a spirit medium receiving messages from another world. That is how it is. I see things with my own eyes, and I see things with his eyes too. He once owned them.
     These EYES! That is the terror of it. These gloved hands I now look at, steering the motorcycle down the road, were once his! And if you can understand the feeling that comes from that, then you can understand real fear—the fear that comes from knowing there is nowhere you can possibly run.

“He Didn’t Even Say ‘Please’”

Excerpt from the novel Rising Storm icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Rising Storm" book cover. [Formatted]

MONTANA

     Crack.
     The Terminator raised its head, scanning in the visual and infrared. The sound had been a medium-caliber rifle with a 98 percent probability of being a hunting weapon; it had been fired approximately 1.2 kilometers to the northeast.
     It turned and walked in that direction, wading through a knee-high stream of glacially cold water, then through open pine forest. Animals fell silent as they scented its approach; that might alert the humans, and so might the unavoidable crackling of fallen branches under its five-hundred-pound weight. Otherwise it made little disturbance in the environment as it passed, dipping and bending with eerie grace to avoid the standing vegetation.
     The two hunters—poachers, given that this was out of season, at night, and on private property—were stringing the deer up to a branch and preparing to butcher it. They turned with startled speed as the Terminator approached over the last ten yards. One wrinkled his nose.
     “Hell, what’s that smell, man?” the shorter one said.
     The Terminator’s machine mind drew a wire diagram over them both. The larger human’s clothes would be suitable; its own were saturated with decay products. If they did not see him clearly, there would be no need to arouse potential attention by terminating them. At present, both orders and its own estimation of the proper maximization of mission goals indicated stealth tactics.
     “You,” it said. “Fat man. Lay down your weapons, give me your clothes and boots, and then go away. This is private property.”
     The flat gravel of his voice seemed to paralyze both men for an instant. Then the bigger of the two spoke. “What did you say?”
     “I said: You, Fat man. Lay down your weapons, give me your clothes and boots, and then go away. This is private property.”
     “The hell you say!”
     The bigger man’s accent held a good deal of Western twang, overlaying something else—the Terminator’s speech-recognition software estimated his birthplace as within twenty kilometers of Newark, New Jersey.
     “He didn’t even say ‘please,'” the smaller man put in.
     “Please,” the Terminator added.
     “Mister, your ideas stink worse than you do,” the bigger man said, and reached for the angle-headed flashlight at his belt.
     “Don’t turn on that light.”
     “The hell you say!”
     The light speared out and shone full on the Terminator’s face, glittering in the reflective lenses no longer hidden by false flesh, highlighting the shreds of rotten skin hanging from his lips and the white teeth behind.
     A sharp smell of urine and feces reached the Terminator’s chemoreceptors from the smaller man. The bigger snatched up his rifle—Arms Tech Ltd. TTR-700 sniper-weapon system, the Terminator’s data bank listed—and fired. The hollow-point 7.62mm round flattened against one of the pseudo-ribs of the Terminator’s thorax and peened off into the darkness. The T-101 stepped forward three paces as the poacher struggled to work the bolt of his rifle and snatched it out of his hand, tearing off one finger as it came. A blow with his fist between the eyes disposed of the big hunter, and it stooped to pick up a rock for the second, who was fleeing in a blundering rush through the night. The rock left the Terminator’s hand at over a hundred meters per second, and transformed the back of the smaller man’s head to bone fragments and mush.
     The Terminator appropriated the big man’s hunting jacket and hat as well as his boots. Then it dragged the two corpses deep into the woods for the wild animals to finish off; after a thoughtful pause it carved a short slogan into their chests with a hunting knife: PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS.
     Their truck’s windows were only partially darkened, so that the driver could still be seen, but dimly. It found a pair of sunglasses on the dash and put them on, trimmed away the strips dangling from its lips, started the engine, and began to drive. Except for the smell and the Band-Aid on its nose that hid exposed steel, it could pass for human again, in a dim light and as long as the human didn’t get too close.

I Tried Levitation, and Flying in Formation

Falling Down icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track 02 from the Raoul and the Kings of Spain LP by Tears for Fears icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

Tears for Fears' "Raoul and the Kings of Spain" album cover. [Formatted]

Is this world spinning round?
Has this ship run aground?
What’s that shape?
What’s that sound?
That’s just me falling down

Some of us are free and some are bound
Some will swim and some will drown
Some of us are saints while some are clowns
Just like me they’re all falling down

I lied to the nation while my reputation ran dry
From my lungs to my liver, I clung to the river bank’s side
Now I’m back in the water doing what I ought to and trying to lead an ordinary life

Is this world spinning round?
Has this ship run aground?
What’s that shape?
What’s that sound?
That’s just me falling down

Some of us are green while some are brown
Some are lost and some are found
Sight unseen and sound on sound
Pray for me, I’m falling down

I was lost in the jungle and crossed over enemy lines
I got a red nose by sleeping under hedgerows at night
I tried levitation, and flying in formation, but heaven knows the weight of these crimes

Is this world spinning round?
Has this ship run aground?
What’s that shape?
What’s that sound?
That’s just me falling down

Falling down