“You’re trying to change things,” I said. YlSib repeated in Language. “You want change like the girl who ate what was given her. So you’re like me. Those who aren’t trying to change anything are like the girl who didn’t eat what she wanted but what was given to her: they’re like me. You’re like that girl who ate. You are the girl who ate. You’re like the girl. You are the girl. And so are the others, who aren’t like you.”
After a silence Bren said, “It’s never been something Ambassadors have been exactly keen to make clear.” “Make it clear,” I said. “Ambassadors don’t get to be the only real people anymore.”
“Make them say it,” I said. “That what I’m doing is speaking.” Spanish Dancer said it. The human in blue is speaking. The others listened. They struggled, but one by one managed to repeat it. “They believe it,” I said. This was where it began to change.
“What happened?” YlSib stuttered. “Something’s happened to them.” Yes. Something in the new language. New thinking. They were signifying now— there, elision, slippage between word and referent, with which they could play. They had room to think new conceptions."
"With the boisterous astonishment of revelation they pressed the similes by which I’d named them on until they were lies, telling a truth they’d never been able to before. They spoke metaphors.""If language, thought and word were separated, as they just had been, there was no succulence, no titillating impossible. No mystery. Where Language had been there was only language: signifying sound, to do things with and to."
"In the beginning was each word of Language, sound isomorphic with some Real: not a thought, not really, only self-expressed worldness, speaking itself through the Ariekei. Language had always been redundant: it had only ever been the world. Now the Ariekei were learning to speak, and to think, and it hurt."
"We speak now or I do, and others do. You’ve never spoken before. You will. You’ll be able to say how the city is a pit and a hill and a standard and an animal that hunts and a vessel on the sea and the sea and how we are fish in it, not like the man who swims weekly with fish but the fish with which he swims, the water, the pool. I love you, you light me, warm me, you are suns. You have never spoken before."
"It would be foolish to pretend we know what’ll happen. We’ll have to see how Embassytown gets shaped. By Embassytown I mean the city. Even the New Ariekei have started to call the city by that name. embassy/town they say, or town/embassy, or embassytown/embassytown."
The Operating System of the AI in Embassytown is called turingware, and runs Avice’s friend, a robot called Ehrsul – who rebukes Avice for asking her if she can joke to herself. The concept of AI in the novel suggests that AI might encapsulate the best of human wit and benevolence… I believe Turing himself said, “Machines take me by surprise with great frequency”...
I like the idea that intelligence and sentience is always contextual, and social, in the sense of not reducible to a monad, so seeking to understand it in the abstract won’t get you very far. That can go both ways. Ehrsul is definitely Avice’s best friend. But there are also points where her behaviour, absolutely clear and sensible from one point of view, distinguishes her from what we might think of as ‘mainstream’ consciousness and sentience the next.
I was thrilled every time she appeared. I think I fell in love with her a little bit.
Thank you. She’s – in a terribly predictable and intentional irony – the most likable and human character, I think, for a lot of it.
Erzulie is the Haitian Goddess of Love whose roots go back to West Africa. She is beauty, sweetness, love and sensuality personified and is renowned for her generosity. The arts, especially dance, are her domain. Rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls are hers and she can cure womb-related problems with her cool waters. The fan that she is holding is from Osogbo, Nigeria and belongs to a priestess of Oshun who is the mediator between the divine or natural world and the world of people, the cross in the circle indicating the meeting of the two worlds.
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