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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (urth) Shattered Scots (but mostly to Tony)
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 12:18:00 

to Michael Straight:
> Many Universes means all possible universes exist.  I can't belive
> this is a possible universe.

At this point I'm not sure whether you're talking about Pullman's 
alternate U in TGC, or Wolfe's in TAD, but in either case, this
doesn't disqualify them as possible universes, only as plausible-
with-respect-to-Michael-Straight universes.

To Tony Ellis:
> Hey, -my- hypothetical child occasionally looks words up when it
> finds them being used in an unexpected manner, or asks a grown-up.
> I can't help it if your hypothetical child is too lazy. :-)

Actually, so does mine, and so do I; but frankly, this doesn't seem
to qualify as using the word "daemon" in an unexpected manner. It's
some supernatural being that changes shapes, okay, that's a demon,
my hypothetical ["You bitch about the present/and you blame it on
the past/I'd like to find your hypothe, uh, inner child/and kick his
little ass" -- D. Henley] child has no problem with that. And then,
because said child has read a moderate amount of SF/F, she has no
problem adapting when the word is revealed to mean something like an
externalized soul. At no point does anything happen which would send
such a child scurrying to look it up in her funk & wagnall's.

Nor, if she did, would I bet on said child giving even a glance to 
the word's etymology; nor, if she did, is said etymology likely to
be much help -- consider Merriam-Webster's Collegiate etymology of
"demon" (to which "daemon" refers one), for example: 

	Middle English demon, from Late Latin & Latin; Late 
	Latin daemon evil spirit, from Latin, divinity, spirit, 
	from Greek daimOn, probably from daiesthai to distribute

Nothing in here even hints at Socrates' usage, which is what (I
presume) Pullman has in mind. From all of which I stand by my 
original conclusion: that it is fairly unlikely that a child, 
reading THE GOLDEN COMPASS, will (as you originally put it)
	learn that a word used by Christianity to mean an
	incarnation of evil originally meant something as 
	harmless as "spirit."

> As for Pullman's alleged "childishness"... We're getting down
> to personal taste here, and it seems pointless to argue about
> that. You say "childish", I say "pleasingly irreverent".

As a veteran of (among many other things) more Robert Anton Wilson 
books than I immediately care to admit, I think I have a handle on 
irreverence, including at least some of the pleasing sort. Again 
and again I have to say that my problem is _not_ that he dislikes
mainstream (whatever that is!) Christianity; it is that he expresses
his dislike in a manner that frankly reminds me of a child shouting
"poo poo!" over the school PA system as soon as he's sure the 
microphone is on. Yes, this is a matter of taste, and I have to 
admit I have developed a rather jaded palate where irreverence and
blasphemy (which is _not_ involved here) are concerned; if it can't
be at least moderately subtle or original, why bother? And in the 
context of a book which is in so many other ways tremendously subtle
and tremendously original, this crudeness stands out like the proverbial
hammer-whacked digit.

> The main thing is that you're still enjoying the story. I hope you
> enjoy the other two books as well.

Picked up the second over the weekend. Probably won't pick up the
third until Del Rey issues the paperback -- I don't buy _that_ many
hardcovers; Wolfe is a significant percentage of 'em.

To Alga:
> What fun to have stimulated such a lively, informative and
> entertaining sparring-match! Do carry on.

Yes, and thank you for recommending the book in the first place; I
enjoyed it and am enjoying this little contret, uh, discussion, a
great deal.

And to Tony agin:
> > I'm willing to bet the Holocaust would turn out not to have
> > happened, at least not in the form and to the extent it actually
> > did.

> ...[T]here is no shortage of people who think that the one thing
> their country needs is a good ethnic cleansing.
> ...Hitler just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
> There was an emergency backup anti-Semite standing on a chair and
> shouting in every second beer hall in the Weimar Republic. Kill
> Adolf, and it would be rather surprising if one of these other men
> -didn't- rise to power.

All true.  And quite true that nasty anti-Semitic shit would have gone
down. But I seriously question that anything really closely resembling
what we know as "the Holocaust" would have gone down without Hitler's 
syphilitically-crazed brain in charge of the whole operation. And maybe 
it would have, and I could be wrong; obviously neither you nor I can 
_know_ the outcome of such a fantastically complex counterfactual. 

> Nobody said anything about history "simply healing over", only of
> it managing to arrive at a similar 1988 to our own -through
> different means-.

.....mmmmaybe. And maybe there is some plausibility here (the idea
of converging forms in evolution comes to mind, i.e., why sharks,
dolphins, and icthyosaurs are so similar in shape); maybe there is
some kind of convergentness in the shape of societies at some given
tech level.

And maybe not. As I said above, you can't really know "the" answer 
to a counterfactual this complicated (orders of magnitude more 
complicated than the "if Hitler had died" thing). But the more 
different the starting premises, the more unlikely I find convergence.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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