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Embassytown Discussion > SECTION 3: Part Two: Festivals and Part Three: Like As Not

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Nataliya | 378 comments Welcome to Section 3 of our ‘Embassytown’ read, for which I decided to combine Part Two and Part Three as they essentially are telling the same story and finish setting the stage for the second part of the novel, bringing us, 47% in, to the meat of the conflict, to the development of pretty crazy events that follow.
“Something’s changing. Which may or may not be a good thing,” I said finally.
So, without much further ado, here we have PART TWO: FESTIVALS and PART THREE: LIKE AS NOT [Latterday, 4 - Formerly, 10] (Kindle 28-47%, pages 93-162 out of 345), where the intertwined storylines of Formerly (prior to the arrival of EzRa) and Latterday (what followed) continue.
”I admit defeat. I’ve been trying to present these events with a structure. I simply don’t know how everything happened. Perhaps because I didn’t pay proper attention, perhaps because it wasn’t a narrative, but for whatever reasons, it doesn’t want to be what I want to make it.”
Latterday: The Hosts’ reaction to EzRa is, to say the least, baffling. Something strange happened once this unusual Ambassador spoke, and nobody among the Embassy staff seems to have a clue about its nature or the implications of it. The sense of unease and waiting for something terrible to happen becomes paplpable. Eventually a bunch of Ariekei come to the city just to hear EzRa and leave without any explanation. Avice realizes that Wyatt, the chief Bremen official, is as much out of the loop as she is.
”We thought of Ariekei in terms of stuff from an antique world— we looked at our Hosts and saw insect-horse-coral-fan things. Those were chimeras of our own baggage. There they were, the Hosts, humming polyphonically in reveries that were utterly their own.”

Formerly: (Where the main story is happening.)

- Avice meets more people like herself - those that have become the elements of the Language just like she had (similes, topics, examples). To her amazement and disdain she discovers that being Language is the central part of existence for them - and yet finds herself inexplicably drawn to them. In these gatherings, she gets to meet their fans - several Ariekei that come to watch their living Language elements.
”They spoke me every day, Scile told me afterward. That was what they said to CalVin. I do not know, one Host said to CalVin, about me, how I did without her, how I thought what I needed to think.”
This is when we revisit the idea of lies being fascinating to the Hosts, and get to see these ‘Liars’ in action, attempting to go from similes to telling untruth by ‘stretching the fabric of analogy’, equating things that are NOT alike using similes as a starting point. I found these parts fascinating to read and follow the train of thought, witnessing the attempts to overcome the rigidity of thought imposed by the Language on the Ariekei.
Before the humans came we didn’t speak so much of certain things. Before the humans came we didn’t speak so much. Before the humans came we didn’t speak.’ ” He glanced at me. “ ‘ We didn’t walk on our wings. We didn’t walk. We didn’t swallow earth. We didn’t swallow.’
Scile, on the other hand, finds what’s happening very disturbing and attempts to stop it.
“A simile,” he said, “is true because you say so. It’s a persuasion: this is like that. That’s not enough for it anymore. Similes aren’t enough.” He stared. “It wants to make you a kind of lie. To change everything. “Simile spells an argument out: it’s ongoing, explicit, truth-making. You don’t need … logos, they used to call it. Judgement. You don’t need to … to link incommensurables. Unlike if you claim: ‘This is that.’ When it patently is not. That’s what we do. That’s what we call ‘reason,’ that exchange, metaphor. That lying. The world becomes a lie. That’s what Surl Tesh-echer wants. To bring in a lie.” He spoke very calmly. “It wants to usher in evil.
I find this transformation of Scile from a dedicated linguist to someone who can conspire with the officials (Terre and Ariekei alike) to arrange the murder/execution of the Host that was disturbing the status quo. Scile’s reasons appear to be his desire to keep the Language in its unusual form, based on truth and reality.
”He wants to protect the Ariekei. From changing language.”
“There’s nothing like this anywhere,” Valdik said. “No other language anywhere in the universe. Where what’s said is truth. Can you imagine what it would be to lose that?”
This did make me think about a common trope in fantasy/sci-fi/adventure - an outsider/foreigner coming into a new to him society and being able better than the natives see what’s best and worst for the society, and as a result of such insight fix the problem (I can think of the movie examples - ‘Dancing with Wolves’ and ‘Avatar’ spring to mind).
”He worked as apparatchik, but I wondered if he really was a prophet.”
----
As a bonus, we finally get a description of the Embassy, which does remind me of the towering presence of Perdido Street Station in New Crobuzon.
Arced over Embassytown was the Embassy itself, edging up to those plains. At something over a hundred metres it was the tallest building we had. A fat pillar, studded with horizontal boughs and landing pads, to and from which, even so late, bioluminescent corvids moved. Like something melted, the Embassy spread out at its base and became part of the streets that surrounded it. Staff neighbourhoods were half-covered, as much the innards of the Embassy itself as alleyways.



message 2: by Ian (last edited Mar 14, 2013 08:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye As an aside, I love the fact that the linguistic concerns are so abstract, yet CM has built a really strong story around them. I've been thinking of analogies with Umberto Eco. It just amazes me that he started this story with a blank screen. It just seems so perfectly conceived and executed.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "As an aside, I love the fact that the linguistic concerns are so abstract, yet CM has built a really stong story around them. I've been thinking of analogoes with Umberto Eco. It just amazes me tha..."

I'm ashamed to say I've never read anything by Umberto Eco. Recommendations?

As for turning such abstract concepts into a story - well, after all we are talking about a man who wrote a story about space elevators.


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I've only read "The Name of the Rose" and some non-fiction. I think it's still the best place to start.


message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye If you examine the sequence of sentences that lead up to a lie, they start as a composite which is true and bit by bit a phrase or qualifier of some sort is omitted.

Before the humans came we didn’t speak so much of certain things. Before the humans came we didn’t speak so much. Before the humans came we didn’t speak.’ ”

We didn’t walk on our wings. We didn’t walk.

We didn’t swallow earth. We didn’t swallow.’

The lie is achieved almost by progressive omission.

The full sentence is literally true. The second, probably true. But the third is untrue.

If we embark on a sentence that we are repeating, perhaps we can fool the brain into believing that we will continue towards truth. However, if we stop midway, we can achieve a lie.

So we lie by omitting to complete the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "So we lie by omitting to complete the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Precisely.

I loved how CM shows the birth of the untruth from the truth. It has quite a powerful effect, I believe.


message 7: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Me too. I love the movement from "like" to "is".


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "Me too. I love the movement from "like" to "is"."

Such a subtle little stretch of imagination - but an incredible milestone for the Ariekei, isn't it?


message 9: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I've been trying to think of analogies with other authors as I read.

Around this point in the novel, I was thinking of JG Ballard.

There is a sense in which CM takes a point in time, in the future, and builds a world that is totally convincing. You can imagine that, if you were in this time and place, this is exactly how it would be.

It's so authentic, it's almost documentary.

That's how much I'm prepared to believe CM.


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Nataliya wrote: "Ian wrote: "Me too. I love the movement from "like" to "is"."

Such a subtle little stretch of imagination - but an incredible milestone for the Ariekei, isn't it?"


I'm hoping that later on there will be an opportunity to talk about the construction of language and vocabulary in terms of naming things, differentiation and synonyms/antonyms.

Roget's Thesaurus is one of my very favourite books.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "I'm hoping that later on there will be an opportunity to talk about the construction of language and vocabulary in terms of naming things, differentiation and synonyms/antonyms."

Now is as good of a time as any :)


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I'll come back to it later in my day when I've typed up my updates.

Anything you want to say?

I find his ideas so exciting that I want to project forward into the implications of what he is saying, not realising that that might be exactly what he is going to write about next.


Nataliya | 378 comments A way I see for the Hosts to learn to lie by stretching the truth would be using the "A is like B, B is like C, C is like D, and therefore A is like D" construct.

A bird flies like an airplane, therefore bird is in a way like an airplane. An airplane is a machine like a tank is a machine, therefore an airplane is in a way like a tank. A tank is a weapon like a rifle, therefore in a way a tank is like a rifle. So if a bird is like an airplane which is like a tank which is like a rifle, can we say that a bird is like a rifle? Therefore a bird is NOT UNLIKE a rifle. Would the next step then be "a bird is a rifle"?

Do you think the language restrictions of the Hosts could have supported such a structure? Or is that overreaching for the Hosts?


Cecily | 301 comments Nataliya wrote: "...Do you think the language restrictions of the Hosts could have supported such a structure? ..."

Not easily, but it's an example of the sort of techniques they used when trying to lie.


message 15: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "This did make me think about a common trope in fantasy/sci-fi/adventure - an outsider/foreigner coming into a new to him society and being able better than the natives see what’s best and worst for the society, and as a result of such insight fix the problem (I can think of the movie examples - ‘Dancing with Wolves’ and ‘Avatar’ spring to mind)."

I believe you mean "Dances with Wolves" ...

But I think you're thinking of the wrong trope. You're not supposed to think of the outsider bringing insight, instead you're supposed to think of the hazards of foreign aid (google "foreign aid dependency").

Nataliya wrote: "A way I see for the Hosts to learn to lie by stretching the truth would be using the "A is like B, B is like C, C is like D, and therefore A is like D" construct.
...
Would the next step then be "a bird is a rifle"?"


No, "A -> B, B -> C; therefore A -> C" is simple logic (and even then only true of certain domains). And the same logic says that A ≠ C unless the operator '->' is itself an equality. 'is like' is not an equality.

What that means for the Hosts, I believe, is that it's no easier to get from
A -> B, B -> C, C -> D; to A = D
than
A -> B; therefore A = B


Of course, they really are trying to get from "A is like B" to "A is B": as I said before, from simile to metaphor.


Nataliya | 378 comments Derek wrote: "I believe you mean "Dances with Wolves" ...

But I think you're thinking of the wrong trope. You're not supposed to think of the outsider bringing insight, instead you're supposed to think of the hazards of foreign aid (google "foreign aid dependency")."


Yes, 'Dances with Wolves'. My version of the title sounds like yet another reality TV show ;)

There is a trope for depicting foreign aid dependency? Tell me more.
---
I was trying to see how else you could arrive at the untruth within the constraints of the Ariekei language other than the examples CM uses. My example seemed weak even to me, and your logic further underscores that.


message 17: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (last edited Mar 15, 2013 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Now seems like a good time to raise a point that's been bugging me. I'd been waiting for our resident gynecologist to bring it up.

"On Arieka ... our representatives hadn't been twins but doppels, cloned. It was the only viable way. They were bred in twos in the Ambassador-farm, tweaked to accentuate certain psychological qualities. Blood twins had long been outlawed."

One, "why?" On what grounds would anybody outlaw the production of twins?
Two, "why the insistance that twins (at least identical twins) are any different from clones?" Avice makes that distinction at least once more. Identical twins ARE clones. I understand that the Ambassadorial end-result is not the same as a twin, because, in the first place, there's the psychological tweaking, but secondly there's the ongoing work to keep them identical (which I presume extends to their psychological makeup as well as the physical maintenance described in the chapter where EzRa are introduced to the Hosts. Nevertheless, they are (until EzRa) definitely twins.

However, we get a little more insight into the necessity of a mind to produce Language. As soon as EzRa make their first speech, the Hosts react strangely. As far as is possible, all of the other Ambassadors are "of one mind". Ez & Ra are only technically Ambassadors - they can speak Language and be understood, but they're clearly (to the other humans) very much individuals, not merely physically but mentally. And somehow that makes a huge difference to the Hosts.

And one last point: why is Avice even welcome at any official functions? I'd have thought her actions with CalVin (so far just barely mentioned), which have left her "out of favor" would have been considered criminal, and at the very least left her persona non grata, and on the next ship out.


Nataliya | 378 comments I think part of the twins-clones distinction is the preconception in the minds of people that clones would be somehow 'more identical' than identical twins. I think many view the idea of cloning as creating of a perfect carbon copy of the 'original' (which, I think, implies in this perception so much less of a personality/individuality in the 'copy', reducing him/her to the secondary, 'copy' status) - which looks cool if you imagine the rows and rows of clones in the (ugh!) 'Attack of the Clones', for instance - but is very not true.

I think the distinction here is to highlight even higher similarity of doppels than you'd see in identical twins. Even identical twins can be born not quite identical - one, for instance, can be smaller than another because of growth restrictions in the womb on one of them. In the culture that created the Ambassadors such difference would be unacceptable - thus their obsession with daily erasing any signs of potential differences between the doppels. Twins in our culture, despite the outward similarity, are still viewed as two distinct people - outside of the cutesy toddler stage, many are dressed differently and are often encouraged to find their own niche/expression that highlights their individualities and not their similarities. Twins therefore are viewed as people who look alike and are alike but are distinct nevertheless. The perception of clones being 'identical' of course then would make it seem that they are more 'one' than twins - the only viable option for creating an Ambassador as far as we know in this world. I'm inclined to think that they simply taken identical twins and put them through the exact same strict 'unification' as they do with the Ambassadors, at least some would have turned out the desired 'doppels'(not all, but as we learn later, not all Ambassadors do anyway).

Another reason for emphasizing doppels may have been simply this - making it appear so much different than the 'mundane' twins creates an illusion of it being some entirely different, special process that can produce one person/one mind with two bodies and discourage Bremen from continuing to try and make their own Ambassadors instead of the ones created in Embassytown. Thus, I understand, outlawing twins - getting rid of the 'natural' way of creating something akin to the Ambassadors in order to emphasize the uniqueness of the resulting one-mind/two-bodies creature.

(Strictly speaking, clones in the modern understanding of this word are different than twins based on natural/artificial splitting, the timing of it, the wombs used, and in the modern world the age of the clones in question, etc - but focusing on these differences is not really relevant to this discussion).


message 19: by Ian (last edited Mar 15, 2013 01:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I'm also interested in how this issue of two being one, but with the potential for a loss or a cleavage, runs through CM's work in both TC&TC and Embassytown. Will it emerge in later work as a cleavage between the Self and Other? Does each of us have a lost twin or Other? Are we missing something? Or am I just missing something?


message 20: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (last edited Mar 15, 2013 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "I think part of the twins-clones distinction is the preconception in the minds of people that clones would be somehow 'more identical' than identical twins. I think many view the idea of cloning as creating of a perfect carbon copy of the 'original' (which, I think, implies in this perception so much less of a personality/individuality in the 'copy', reducing him/her to the secondary, 'copy' status) - which looks cool if you imagine the rows and rows of clones in the (ugh!) 'Attack of the Clones', for instance - but is very not true."

I woudln't know about 'Attack of the Clones'. I was so disappointed with 'The Phantom Menace' I couldn't bring myself to watch the next two.

That certainly seems to be the point of the distinction, but it seems beneath CM - he's so careful with his use of words, I find it hard to believe he stressed a distinction which doesn't exist in reality.

"I'm inclined to think that they simply taken identical twins and put them through the exact same strict 'unification' as they do with the Ambassadors, at least some would have turned out the desired 'doppels'(not all, but as we learn later, not all Ambassadors do anyway)."

Oh, you spoilerizer!

It's probably easier to take a single egg, and let it divide, and separate the cells - making identical twins - than to wait for that to happen spontaneously, but yeah - actual cloning makes no scientific sense.

"Another reason for emphasizing doppels may have been simply this - making it appear so much different than the 'mundane' twins creates an illusion of it being some entirely different, special process that can produce one person/one mind with two bodies and discourage Bremen from continuing to try and make their own Ambassadors instead of the ones created in Embassytown. Thus, I understand, outlawing twins - getting rid of the 'natural' way of creating something akin to the Ambassadors in order to emphasize the uniqueness of the resulting one-mind/two-bodies creature."

Ah. I was coming at this from a slightly different angle, and didn't want to ask leading questions, but you're confirming a thought I'd had. It wasn't clear to me whether "Blood twins had long been outlawed" meant outlawed in Embassytown, or in Bremen and colonies, or throughout human space. I wondered if she specifically meant Embassytown, and your theory makes very good sense. If we accept it's outlawed for the reason you suggest, then we can also suspect that there's a very real fear that if you permit women to bear natural identical twins you might end up with natural Ambassadors - which would be a pretty scary concept for the bureaucrats!

"(Strictly speaking, clones in the modern understanding of this word are different than twins based on natural/artificial splitting..."

No, strictly speaking, only the method of creating a clone (artificially inserting DNA into a cell) differs. Genetically it's exactly the same. More to the point, in agriculture, cloning refers to simply splitting a plant, not to anything more complicated.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "I'm also interested in how this issue of two being one, but with the potential for a loss or a cleavage, runs through CM's work in both TC&TC and Embassytown. Will it emerge in later work as a clea..."

I think it's interesting how in the "two equals one" CM seems to land on the side that 'no, two equals two' - both here and in TC&TC. Cleavage is definitely a theme in several of his works.

"Does each of us have a lost twin or Other?"

I will gladly read about that if Miéville decides to address it.


Nataliya | 378 comments Derek wrote: "I woudln't know about 'Attack of the Clones'. I was so disappointed with 'The Phantom Menace' I couldn't bring myself to watch the next two."

The fail-free recipe for successfully watching that pile of steaming awfullness:

1) Alcohol
2) Rifftrax.com presents their spoof of that awful dreck full of wooden acting and stilted dialogue. How do you think I managed to actually see the pop-culture phenomenon of 'Twilight' movies without my brains spontaneously exploding all over the wall?

"That certainly seems to be the point of the distinction, but it seems beneath CM - he's so careful with his use of words, I find it hard to believe he stressed a distinction which doesn't exist in reality."

Well, since this is the narration by Avice Benner Cho, these distinctions may still be the prevailing myth in her society, and, given what we learn of Embassytown, would be widely supported by official media. So I prefer looking at this description as CM staying 'in character'.

"It wasn't clear to me whether "Blood twins had long been outlawed" meant outlawed in Embassytown, or in Bremen and colonies, or throughout human space."

I interpreted it as a local custom more than anything. Otherwise, there seems to be little reason behind it - unless it's something demanded by the 'Christ Pharotekton' religion or the super-conscious medicine perceiving that twin pregnancy are usually more complicated than singleton pregnancies. But I tend to think that it's just the regulation stemming from the needs of local bureaucracy.

"No, strictly speaking, only the method of creating a clone (artificially inserting DNA into a cell) differs. Genetically it's exactly the same."

And since this is the method for cloning (and I'm referring only to animals; botany has always been and probably always remain outside of my comprehension), the resulting clones come to be through a very different way than what we think of as natural. That's really all I was trying to say but in the fervor of typing I phrased it poorly. Thanks for clarifying!


message 23: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "I think it's interesting how in the "two equals one" CM seems to land on the side that 'no, two equals two' - both here and in TC&TC."

Yes. The Ambassadors (other than EzRa) are "one" to the extent needed to fool the Hosts, but Avice knows that Cal & Vin are actually "two" (sorry, if I'm getting ahead of things, but if that's actually a spoiler, I insist it's not a bad one!), whereas EzRa are from the the very beginning obviously not "one".

Who was it hypothesized that we each have a doppelganger (may well have been Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, for all I remember)?


message 24: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "There is a trope for depicting foreign aid dependency? Tell me more."

It's not like a TV trope, but it's a very prevalent topic of debate, to the extent that it's become cliché enough to be trope-like. Of course, if it's ever discussed at the level of those who actually provide foreign aid, they invariably say that "they" aren't causing these problems, it's all the other foreign aid donors who just throw money at a problem...


Nataliya | 378 comments "Who was it hypothesized that we each have a doppelganger (may well have been Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, for all I remember)?"

Ummm, yeah. The extent of my familiarity with 'Star Trek' is exclusively through 'The Big Bang Theory' and a couple of snippets from the new 'Star Trek' movie that I glimpsed on TV. But I do pride myself on at least knowing what franchise 'James Tiberius Kirk' is from!

Derek wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "There is a trope for depicting foreign aid dependency? Tell me more."

It's not like a TV trope, but it's a very prevalent topic of debate, to the extent that it's become cliché en..."


Well, the topic of foreign aid is so riddled with controversies and hypotheses and finger-pointing that it's hard to actually know whether foreign aid is causing more good than harm or vice versa. Surely one can argue for both, and people definitely are. I think it's one of the issues that evades a simple solution and a satisfying answer.


message 26: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "The fail-free recipe for successfully watching that pile of steaming awfullness:

1) Alcohol
2) Rifftrax.com presents their spoof of that awful dreck full of wooden acting and stilted dialogue. How do you think I managed to actually see the pop-culture phenomenon of 'Twilight' movies without my brains spontaneously exploding all over the wall?"


Alcohol is not a problem :)
As for "how did I think..." - well, I suspected that being an Intern had already caused your brains to spontaneously explode...

Presumably, "it got better".


message 27: by Traveller (last edited Mar 22, 2013 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Derek wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "The fail-free recipe for successfully watching that pile of steaming awfullness:

1) Alcohol
2) Rifftrax.com presents their spoof of that awful dreck full of wooden acting and stil..."


Nooo.. why does apparently everybody else in the known world (except myself and my son) prefer the muppetshow above the much more sophisticated SW prequel trilogy? Booo!!!

..and Phantom Menace happens to be my favorite. I can't stand the actors and the "aliens" used for the "original" Star Wars trilogy. It's sooo.., well kiddy-ish. :P

Oh golly, and now I'll probably be ganged up on and buried by a mob. *starts running already*

Anyway, before we get too sidetracked by our own SW wars, here are a few notes I made while reading this part:

Lying: I think the techniques he describes that the Ariekei use to manage to lie, are very similar to how we lie to ourselves when we try to convince ourselves of something, or when we (not literally 'we', but humans generally) tell lies of omission especially. I mean, Bill Clinton, anyone?

I found especially the quick-lie and the pretend-forget interesting. These both sound like methods humans use to sidestep their own conscience.
Then, in the absence of religion, I find it interesting that Scile labels lies as evil.

I can't help having a few dubious thoughts about Scile. He sounds very much like a manipulator and a climber. Just look how much stuff he manipulated behind the scenes..-started a whole movement, arranged a murder. One can't help wondering how much he has perhaps just been using Avice from the outset.

I had a few thoughts about the Ariekei wanting to learn how to lie. Not being able to lie, makes them pretty vulnerable in the sense that others can exploit lies against the Ariekei, but the Ariekei cannot make use of any subterfuge, cannot even really hide anything. Learning to lie, would give them a lot of added power. Scile and others must have realized this, and that might have been the true reason for the murder, not because they wanted to 'save' the Ariekei in any way.

I may be wrong though, further events may prove me wrong, but those were just my thoughts while reading those parts of the book.

I laughed a bit at the viruses that were patched. Software devs will know why.

Re the paragraphs where the narration becomes metafictional, that I see had also caught Nataliya's interest:
”I admit defeat. I’ve been trying to present these events with a structure. I simply don’t know how everything happened. Perhaps because I didn’t pay proper attention, perhaps because it wasn’t a narrative, but for whatever reasons, it doesn’t want to be what I want to make it.”

Mieville almost breaks the fourth wall there- but in any case goes meta in a very Gene Wolfe fashion. ..and then he does a similar thing here:
It’s me who’s monomaniacal, here: it’s unfair to insinuate that all Hosts cared about was Language, but I can’t fail to do so. This is a true story I ’m telling, but I am telling it, and that entails certain things. So: the Hosts cared about everything, but Language most of all.

With the paragraph above, he almost seems to prod us into taking into account that we may be dealing with an unreliable narrator here, at the very least a biased one.

Re the twins/clones thing, I've read a bit into the next part, and there seems to be a lot more said about the subject there, so I imagine that particular discussion might be continued in the next thread. I'll leave off discussing it for then, in any case.

Oh, and I almost forgot: notice that for the very first time, at 38% of the novel, Avice actually calls them 'Ariekei' instead of 'Hosts'.


message 28: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (last edited Mar 22, 2013 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: "Then, in the absence of religion, I find it interesting that Scile labels lies as evil. I can't help having a few dubious thoughts about Scile. He sounds very much like a manipulator and a climber. Just look how much stuff he manipulated behind the scenes..-started a whole movement, arranged a murder. "

To be fair, we have only Avice's opinion that Scile's behind that (qv your own note below that she may not be reliable). It could as easily be CalVin (they were working together, but we can't tell who led who - we do know, though, that nothing really happened until Avice directed CalVin's interest at Scile), but she's not prepared to believe it of Vin, at least.

otoh, I don't particularly want to be fair to Scile. I didn't like him from the start, and nothing that happens makes me feel any more sympathy for him.

I've said that this is a retelling of the Garden of Eden story. Learning to lie is, to the Ariekei, equivalent to Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and, in that sense, it certainly would constitute "evil" to a believer.

"Oh, and I almost forgot: notice that for the very first time, at 38% of the novel, Avice actually calls them 'Ariekei' instead of 'Hosts'."

Good catch - twice as far in, I just came across, "...Hosts--we still called them that, sometimes in unpleasant humour". I guess the point being that they're no longer "hosting" anybody, as they can't even look after themselves.

One word should be sufficient to put down any claim to greatness for The Phantom Menace. Jar-jar.

But if that's not enough, what about that utterly ridiculous space fish chasing them through the interior of a planet. My wife and I, as we have often done, went to the cinema together - and watched different movies. I came out wishing I'd seen Huge Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

btw, you live on a tiny island - where you going to run to?


message 29: by Traveller (last edited Mar 22, 2013 01:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Grr, I seem unable to edit my posts. As soon as the problem is rectified, I'll delete the post above, which was supposed to be an edit of the one above it, though I still see a few errors in it. That will teach me to edit before I post!

Well, Derek, Surely it's logical that Tuvaluvians, surrounded by so much sea, must be good swimmers. So i'll swim away before you even manage to catch sight of me!

Ok, you were obviously focusing on the wrong stuff in the movie. I actually quite enjoyed Jar-jar, btw, but, there's tht cool Ben-Hur race re-enactment (I love that part of the Ben-Hur book and movie as well!)-and anyway it's pretty. Visually attractive in general, and best of all if you're a girl-- Liam Neeson! :P No seriously, I like Liam Neeson.

Now shush. Bc if you say anything more, (about Phantom Menace) i'm going to go lalalalalalalalala

Yes, funny, I did have a fleeting thought in the direction re what you said about the Garden of Eden analogy, but then it struck me that.. I don't know, I just get bad vibes about Scile... He feels to me like either a spy or some kind of sociopath. ..but that might be Avice's bias rubbing off on me, addmittedly.


Cecily | 301 comments Traveller, fear not: I hate the Muppets (and have a soft spot for the original three Star Wars films).

I like you points about the way the Ariekei learn to lie being similar to the way we lie to ourselves and (try to) bypass our conscience.

Your metafictional quote, that stood out to me more for it illustrating Avice's weaknesses as a narrator (the one I picked out to make that point was “I wasn’t there but that’s how I was told it happened”).


message 31: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Avice is a fairly generous narrator. She doesn't aspire to omniscience and seems to give credit where it is due. She is on the outside of the Ambassadors, therefore must write her history of the court based on courtly rumours. Her views on Scile fluctuate like those of illicit or forbidden lovers under watchful eyes. At this stage in the novel, I wondered how much it had to do with their fundamental incompatibilty. Was it a relationship held together only by language, empty language at that? Or was language symbolic of some other bond? I give you my word, my bond.


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "Lying: I think the techniques he describes that the Ariekei use to manage to lie, are very similar to how we lie to ourselves when we try to convince ourselves of something, or when we (not literally 'we', but humans generally) tell lies of omission especially."

This is a very interesting observation, Trav. I guess Miéville underscores the similarity between us and the Ariekei despite all the apparent difference between the species.

"Scile and others must have realized this, and that might have been the true reason for the murder, not because they wanted to 'save' the Ariekei in any way."

I think you are giving Scile more credit than he deserves. I do believe Avice's hunch that it's the purity of the Language that Scile, the passionate linguist, is trying to preserve since he was absolutely fascinated with the Language and its uniqueness. However, maybe the reasons you mentioned above is how he justified his actions to himself.
As for the reasons other Ambassadors/Ariekei may have had for the murder - well, they had reasons, I'll leave it at that.

"Oh, and I almost forgot: notice that for the very first time, at 38% of the novel, Avice actually calls them 'Ariekei' instead of 'Hosts'."

It's a jarring transition, isn't it? Given how appalled she was when the linguists at that meeting Scile dragged her to were saying 'Ariekei' when Avice wanted them to be referred to as 'the Hosts'.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "At this stage in the novel, I wondered how much it had to do with their fundamental incompatibilty. Was it a relationship held together only by language, empty language at that?"

It seemed that their relationship was built on Scile's fascination with everything Avice represented - the Embassytown, the mysteries of immer. It's like she was a path to the parts of the world Scile was not familiar with. As for what she found in Scile - I think his passion was intriguing to the self-proclaimed floaker.
And then the novelty wore off and their true incompatible selves emerged, Scile aligning himself with the elite, Avice - with the outsiders.
----------

Derek wrote: "I've said that this is a retelling of the Garden of Eden story. Learning to lie is, to the Ariekei, equivalent to Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and, in that sense, it certainly would constitute "evil" to a believer."

I love this perspective! It's definitely something that did not really cross my mind when I read it (both times) - and that's why I love seeing everyone's impressions of this book!


message 34: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye The way the Hosts spoke and then the fascination with lies always made me think of white men speaking with the forked tongue of a snake. The Garden of Eden analogy holds up in the sense that with knowledge comes experience and a loss of innocence. We learn to lie as we move out of childlike innocence.


message 35: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Nataliya wrote: "And then the novelty wore off and their true incompatible selves emerged..."

Surely this wouldn't happen outside the realms of fantasy?


message 36: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Ian wrote: "Was it a relationship held together only by language, empty language at that? Or was language symbolic of some other bond? I give you my word, my bond. "

Good question, and I think I would have to say, "both".
It may be only language on Scile's part, but I don't think Avice really cared about language until she thought Scile cared about her, and her part in Language. I agree with Nataliya about Avice's attraction to Scile.


Nataliya | 378 comments Derek wrote: "It may be only language on Scile's part, but I don't think Avice really cared about language until she thought Scile cared about her, and her part in Language."

So in the end, Scile (view spoiler)


message 38: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "So in the end, Scile ..."

Oh, yes, I completely agree with that spoiler, whatever was in it :)


message 39: by Allen (last edited Mar 26, 2013 07:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Derek wrote: "Who was it hypothesized that we each have a doppelganger (may well have been Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, for all I remember)?"

You know, I had read an article recently about the theory of a doppleganger Earth. That in an infinite universe, at some point all the matter states would eventually repeat, so there would be others of us having this same conversation. Tried to find it but failed.

However, I did stumble across this gem ... the Twin Earth thought experiment, by philospher Hilary Putnam in the 70s, which made the whole idea of the Ambassadors much more intriguing. In part, it theorizes that given an exact twin earth and twin persons (named Oscar and Twin-Oscar) in exactly identical environments, except one - water is not present on the twin planet but a superficially identical substance is, and both Oscars say "water" but refer to two different chemicals. Putnam says:

"Now the question arises: when an earthling (or Oscar for simplicity sake) and his twin on Twin Earth say 'water' do they mean the same thing? (The twin is also called 'Oscar' on his own planet, of course. Indeed, the inhabitants of that planet call their own planet 'Earth'. For convenience, we refer to this putative planet as 'Twin Earth', and extend this naming convention to the objects and people that inhabit it, in this case referring to Oscar's twin as Twin-Oscar, and twin-earth water as water.) Ex hypothesi, their brains are molecule-for-molecule identical. Yet, at least according to Putnam, when Oscar says 'water', the term refers to H2O, whereas when Twin Oscar says 'water' it refers to XYZ. The result of this is that the contents of a person's brain are not sufficient to determine the reference of terms they use, as one must also examine the causal history that led to this individual acquiring the term. (Oscar, for instance, learned the word 'water' in a world filled with H2O, whereas Twin Oscar learned 'water' in a world filled with XYZ.)"

I like it because it joins language and semiotics with the twin issue ... the "two being one" as Ian mentions. Maybe they are the same issue? We cannot define who we are without defining what we are not.

To me, all our characters, for their wonderfully liberal acceptance of the different, seem to have been put in that position. They must constantly cleave or join.

Like Avice, with shift-parents (I'd like to take the time on a whole discussion of that), differently-gendered relationships, robot friends and an ability to see things and navigate others cannot, is life a struggle to find or leave our twin? I'm probably missing an obvious extension of thought here ... but in the end I just think the idea of the ambassadors having to think identically to communicate is cool.

This also makes me realize CM is very well read, or at least very very in tune with philosophy, which is why I like him. Always, always learning new things.

Ian wrote: "There is a sense in which CM takes a point in time, in the future, and builds a world that is totally convincing. You can imagine that, if you were in this time and place, this is exactly how it would be. It's so authentic, it's almost documentary. That's how much I'm prepared to believe CM."

Exactly!


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Nataliya wrote: "The fail-free recipe for successfully watching that pile of steaming awfullness:

1) Alcohol
2) Rifftrax.com presents their spoof of that awful dreck full of wooden acting and stilted dialogue. How do you think I managed to actually see the pop-culture phenomenon of 'Twilight' movies without my brains spontaneously exploding all over the wall?"


Thanks for the Rifftrax idea ... I would've thought that having at one time been a fan of MST3K I would have already known about it, but no. Very much loving it now! Already looking at the "Inception" one!


message 41: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Allen wrote: "I like it because it joins language and semiotics with the twin issue ... the "two being one" as Ian mentions. Maybe they are the same issue? We cannot define who we are without defining what we are not."

Oh, you're getting way ahead of yourself - to the last couple of chapters! There is "that" and "not that".


message 42: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Allen wrote: "I like it because it joins language and semiotics with the twin issue ... the "two being one" as Ian mentions. Maybe they are the same issue? We cannot define who we are without defining what we are not."

In post 10, I briefly mentioned "differentiation", but I can't remember whether I raised this in a subsequent thread.

What I meant was that historically we tend to create words for particular things in order to differentiate them from something else. Some languages have greater scope for nuances and richness via synonyms (and similes and metaphors).

You can imagine what our conversation and thought processes would be like if we only had 500 words to play with.


message 43: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Ian wrote: "You can imagine what our conversation and thought processes would be like if we only had 500 words to play with. "

Not really. With my limited imagination, the best I can manage is the vocabulary of Basic English.

Purely for historical reasons, having long since discarded religion, I still have a copy of The Bible In Basic English, which manages to provide the entire Bible with only 1000 words. It works surprisingly well.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Allen wrote: "I like it because it joins language and semiotics with the twin issue ... the "two being one" as Ian mentions. Maybe they are the same issue? We cannot define who we are without defining what we are not."

I'd like to comment on that with something that one realizes later on in the novel, but of course that would be spoiler, so I'll wait to see when you reach the later threads. :)


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "I'd like to comment on that with something that one realizes later on in the novel, but of course that would be spoiler, so I'll wait to see when you reach the later threads. :)"

Me too! Can't wait to see Allen get to the end of the book.


message 46: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Derek wrote: "Not really. With my limited imagination, the best I can manage is the vocabulary of Basic English.

Purely for historical reasons, having long since discarded religion, I still have a copy of The Bible In Basic English, which manages to provide the entire Bible with only 1000 words. It works surprisingly well. "


I haven't looked up the link to Basic English yet, but I wonder whether the appeal of the Bible Project is the precision of its expression and does this detract from the scope for nuance and richness?

Occasionally, when I'm trying to source the origin of an expression, I come across alternative versions or translations of the Bible, and it looks as if some of the beauty of the old expressions (even if they have become cliches) has been ripped out.


message 47: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Should we be making greater/better use of the General Discussion folder?


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Ian wrote: "Should we be making greater/better use of the General Discussion folder?"

Well, since that is spoiler-rich, obviously people who like to avoid those, would have to wait to participate in it until they have finished the novel, so I'll personally rather wait for each person to reach a point in the book where the point of discussion isn't a spoiler anymore.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "You can imagine what our conversation and thought processes would be like if we only had 500 words to play with."

I think that with such limited vocabulary we'd be severely limited in imagination, or else would use the limited word supply to create neologisms and as a result expand the vocabulary.

500 words is probably the extent of my Spanish vocabulary, I'm guessing, and that makes me ridiculously limited in what I can discuss/think about in that language. For instance, I can talk at length about vaginal bleeding, but I will be helpless when time comes to discuss weather, for instance.


Nataliya | 378 comments Allen wrote: "Thanks for the Rifftrax idea ... I would've thought that having at one time been a fan of MST3K I would have already known about it, but no. Very much loving it now! Already looking at the "Inception" one!"

You are welcome, Allen! Oh, now I want to buy the one for 'Inception'. That movie had so much riffing potential!

Sometimes when I watch movies I can almost hear the voices of the RiffTrax guys in my head, making fun of them ;)


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