Saturday, 14 March 2015
Worlds And Words
SM Stirling, "Shikari in Galveston" IN Worlds That Weren't (New York, 2003), pp. 63-148.
Science fiction writers show words changing their meanings in the future. In Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time, Jack Havig, time traveling to his future, meets a young woman who, when asked what she does with her time, replies that she jokes a lot. An amateur comedienne? However, when she and he share a picnic with no one else present, she announces that she had figured they could joke after eating but why not before and after?
(15 Mar: Also relevant is Anderson's "A Tragedy of Errors.")
In Neil Gaiman's sequel to Alan Moore's Miracleman, "London" means an event as "Hiroshima" does to us and "Kidding" has become a swear word because of what the Kid did in London. (Alan Moore had asked, "What would someone with Superman's strength and speed but not his scruples do?" He then answered this question with extremely detailed instructions to a comic strip artist.)
In SM Stirling's "Shikari in Galveston," a Bengali trader surprises us by telling Eric King that the local savages "'...are a clean people...'" (p. 80) Clean? King has just complained of sweat, squalor, smoke, sewage and stink. However, the trader's use of the word "clean" does not refer to hygiene. He spells it out:
"'From the time of the Fall.'" (ibid.)
"King nodded...that was one of the fundamental distinctions in the modern world, between those whose ancestors had eaten men in the terrible years after the hammer from the skies struck, and those who hadn't. The only more fundamental one was between those who still did, and the rest of humanity." (ibid.)
And I am certain that the use of the word "clean" would be extended in precisely this way in those circumstances.
Tomorrow there will be a family outing for Mothers' Day (we have two mothers in the household) so maybe not much time for posting. Before turning in this evening, I have had to stop reading Stieg Larsson in order to post and must now stop posting in order to watch Smallville. Retirement, as expected, is an endless choice between enjoyable activities.