FIND in
<--prev V30 next-->

From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (urth) RE: Digest urth.v030.n164
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001 09:47:21 

To Alga: 

You're doubtless right about everything you say. Pullman's use
of the word _is_ correct. And as a sometimes-writer myself, I agree
that the unexpected use of a word can be extraordinarily effective.

Pullman _is_ an extraordinary writer. I will remind you that the 
first substantive thing I said about TGC is that it is "a marvellous 
_novel_. The characters and action are just plain overwhelming." I 
stand by that, and TSK (approximately 2/3 through) continues at that 
level. The only reason I am going to wait to buy a paperback of TAS
is so I can shelve them together; I shelve pb's and hc's somewhat

None of which bears directly on what you were responding to. I was
in turn reacting to Tony Ellis's original comment that a child 
reading this book would be interested to learn that the Christian
churches have repurposed a word meaning "spirit" to mean "evil
spirit," and what I claimed and claim is that few, if any, children
will learn that from TGC.

I originally stated that I believed Pullman's choice of the word 
was motivated by his anticlerical agenda. Indeed, I believe that 
many of the weaknesses of TGC and TSK are due to his serving his
agenda preferentially to serving the work. 

Theodore Sturgeon once remarked of an entirely different writer 
that he had "sold his birthright for a pot of message." While I
don't think Pullman has sold his birthright, I believe he has
allowed something of a lien on it. TGC and TSK have, in my opinion, 
too damn much _power_ to squander it on didactics.

In other words: I am not condemning Pullman; I am praising him,
albeit with faint damns.

To John Bishop:

That your "actual child (now 11)," approximately at the same
place with Pullman, "had no problem whatsoever with 'daemon',"
is a good sign for that child. That he "figured out quickly 
that it was unrelated to 'demon'," is a bit more problematic,
since it _is_ in fact related (if only etymologically) to 
"demon," and, as Alga points out, "spirit" is simply a legitimate,
if somewhat-disused, meaning for the standard word.

I believe that Pullman _wants_ your child to make that 
connection, and chose the word (out of many possible alternatives)
specifically for its propensity to offend the less literate sort
of Christian. The few quotes from Pullman I've seen on this list
tend to reinforce this impression: he's a Christian-baiter, and
not a very subtle one.

> BTW, he far prefers Lemony Snicket's series to Pullman.

I saw those for the first time this weekend while I was picking
up my TSK. Should I bother?

To Tony Ellis: 

> If the word 'daemon' is at some point "revealed to mean something
> like an externalized soul", right at that point the child -knows-
> that a word with Christian connotations of evil is being used to
> mean something as harmless as 'spirit'. If she's spared my lesson
> in political etymology, fine. She's still being given something to
> think about, which was my original argument.

Well, no, it wasn't. You actually wrote, 
	I would hope that a child reading Pullman's book might be 
	very interested to learn that a word used by Christianity 
	to mean an incarnation of evil originally meant something 
	as harmless as "spirit",  and might wonder what other little 
	misappropriations and mistakes may have taken place over 
	the years.

While the sense of "being given something to think about" is 
certainly in there, your original argument seems to have been, 
precisely, that the child would receive and be "interested" in
the "lesson in political etymology."

To Pippen:

Regarding Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" trilogy (which, by the way,
I recommend highly), you wrote:

> The storms that rage around the planet are called "armada storms"  
> One Earth dweller gives the derivation as coming from chaos theory. 
> "If a butterfly flapping its wings in China can create a hurricane
> off Florida, what could an armada of butterflies accomplish?"
> I did feel a twinge of recognition, though when I read that bit in
> Hamilton.  Obviously, the man knows his Bradbury 

Ummm... no, he knows his chaos theory, or at least the pop version
of it. The "butterfly in China" is a standard rhetorical trope of
chaos theory, and to the best of my knowledge is unrelated, except
perhaps by accident, to the Bradbury yarn. The basic idea is that
weather is a chaotic system, where small changes in initial conditions
(where, again, "initial conditions" simply means "the conditions at
the time the difference first appears, or when we first begin 
monitoring") can have arbitrarily large or small -- in short, 
unpredictable -- consequences. Thus, the small disturbance in the
air caused by a butterfly's wings flapping in China may, through a
series of interactions with other air motions, be a contributing
cause of a hurricane in Florida six months later; if that damn
butterfly had just sat still, there'd have been a snowstorm in 
Appalachia instead. 

Or not. The sensitivity of the weather "system" to something _this_
small is highly questionable, but it stands as a dramatic, if
not melodramatic, example of "sensitivity to initial conditions."


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

<--prev V30 next-->