|log (2003/05/16 to 2003/05/22)|
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
A reader to whom we are eternally grateful (perhaps this reader to whom we are eternally grateful) writes:
You didn't ask, but you may be thinking of "Omnilingual," a 1957 story by H. Beam Piper, also collected in a 1981 anthology called "Federation."
Yes, that's it exactly!
Well, they had published magazines, and one of them had been called Mastharnorvod Tadavas Sornhulva. She wondered if it had been something like the Quarterly Archaeological Review, or something more on the order of Sexy Stories.
When I was a kid there were, up in the attic (the dim or bright, hot or cold, dusty and good smelling attic full of fascinating things, not the least of which were boxes of plastic army men and tied up bundles of old Playboy magazines), a bunch of boxes holding (entire universes, systems of thought, world-views) old Astounding and Analog (and Galaxy and If and Fantasy and Science Fiction) magazines.
These were incredibly wonderful magazines (many of them (and not a few of the old Playboys, for that matter) are now in my own attic), and I would spend hours reading them.
I remember one story, which was probably in one of those magazines (although it may have been elsewhere; I read lots of science fiction), about these (brave pioneer) Earthfolk exploring the ruins on Mars, and trying to figure out the writing and the language and so on.
They're having great trouble, and are quite discouraged, because since the Martian civilization vanished before it had any contact with the Earth one, they know they're not going to find any kind of Rosetta Stone.
But then of course they do; it turns out that the Martians were a quite sophisticated civilization, and had discovered various bits of science and physics and all, and science is the Universal Rosetta Stone (in most of those Astounding and Analog worldviews in those fragrant attic boxes). So they find a recognizable Periodic Table of the Elements, and diagrams of atoms and stuff (or something), and eventually it All Fits Together, because Martians and Earthfolks are all one when they're doing Science.
I remember (despite how many years ago this was, and perhaps accurately and perhaps not) that in the arbitrary transliteration they used for the Martian glyphs, the ending corresponding to the English "-ology" was "-hulva". So Physics was maybe "Thornhulva".
There were lots of things about the systems of thought and worldviews in those boxes that I liked (and like) quite alot. Reading those books probably shaped my character, or at least helped hold it in the shape it was already assuming while the glue had time to try.
I'm not sure if I hope that Martians and Earthfolk really are all the same then they're doing Science. If it'll help us avoid War with Aldebaran, I'm all for it; on the other hand it'd also be potentially Very Neat if the Venusians had some completely different way of doing Science, that worked just as well for them as ours does for us, but is so different in all respects that it would have served those brave pioneers as no sort of Rosetta Stone at all, and only by dint of decades (centuries, millenia) of close and dedicated collaboration between the U.N. Academy of Science and the Close Inverted Operative Huddling of Venus do we finally come to understand something of how each other think (to the great betterment of all concerned, if you don't mind sea changes).
Either one would be good, I guess.
Also an amusing very large rebate. But we shouldn't make fun. ("Don't anthropomorphize computers: they don't like it.")
Hm, if you want to read stuff, you should just read all of Boing Boing; of recent stuff I especially noted this piece about the Florida town founded by Walt Disney and this one about a California town that's outlawed the Patriot Act. And definitely read all of Steve's latest uncorrelated images. And don't forget Amptoons / Alas, which led me to this:
It will be interesting to see whether Breyer allows himself to be swayed by the facts, whether Thomas continues to think that something with zero measured effect is still "reasonably effective", and whether Scalia is prepared to deal with the possibility a proposition that strikes him as self-evident might nevertheless be untrue.
Note also that Flutterby has discovered the hitherto unsuspected identity between "The Matrix" and "Monsters, Inc.".
So, you might say to yourself, why is this guy just telling me other things to read, rather than writing stuff himself? The answer to that question is that other things have called me, other diversions occupied my time. These include
Once again I feel it necessary to remind the Goddess that I did not (did I?) ask for all this bliss, and that it would therefore not be proper to expect me to pay for it at any point in the future. Okay?