Archive for November 1st, 2022


Another November!

Which means another National (really Universal) Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo 2022. I vaguely recall that only people signed into the site can see this, but in any case I am (naturally) ceoln over there.

And, as some people may have noticed already, I’ve started writing!

The plan this year is to write a number (roughly two dozen) of individual Flings, where each fling is in some way related to all the others, more or less tightly or loosely, and each Fling is also inspired by or otherwise associated with an image from Midjourney or the like, produced by whatever process. I will initially post each Fling separately in the weblog here, but I may later, or sometime, combine them into… a single document of some time? TBD.

The first Fling there is sort of a mind-dump about books and writing and language and truth and the nature of reality and all, but more importantly it is roughly 2054 words long, so we’re doing nicely on wordcount.

I have chosen the image for the second Flirt (or at least it’s around here somewhere in one of these Discord tabs), but haven’t thought about the words for it yet. But in any case, we’re off!

There are summaries of my prior NaNoWriMo history here and here (and there’s this page that I don’t know why I never update), but let’s also summarize all of the years where I actually did something notable, just for fun here also.

  • 2001: Straight On To The Exit, a relatively straightforward real-world story with (oh, I’d forgotten that!) a set of questions at the end of many of the chapters, and with a cute gimmick that let me basically write whatever words I wanted when I ran out of ideas.
  • 2002: In Dark, a science fiction story set on and within the body of a giant comatose lizard floating in interstellar space. Perhaps my favorite setting so far. :)
  • 2004: Take Good Care Of Yourself And Others, a more (um) realistic near-future science fiction story basically about the world just before the Singularity, in which I used excerpts from actual spam that I received as decorators and wordcount.
  • 2005: Diveritmenti, an epistolary novel with an unreliable narrator, which might be a vampire story or something.
  • 2007: Another Door, about a house that’s larger (well, much larger) on the inside than on the outside. This one had very little (that I can recall) in terms of gimmicks for wordcount, and an impressive ending; this is one of my favorites (well, they all are).
  • 2008: Strangers (aka Shore Leave), another relatively straightforward contemporary science fiction story, about the impact on all concerned of the arrival of the first interstellar visitors to Earth, in the form of a crazy chaotic world-ship containing hundreds of different species (probably).
  • 2009: Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence, which is more of a long poem or chant or experimental song lyric or something, and might well be considered cheating given the amount of repetition in the text.
  • 2011: Started but did not finish Murder in the Castle of Wizards. A little humbling failure is good, sob.
  • 2013: Did NaPoWriMo instead.
  • 2014: Did NaNoGenMo instead.
  • 2016: The Mercy of Fate, in which I explicitly rolled the dice to determine the direction of the story in various places; I will have to re-read this sometime to see how it worked out. I don’t remember having been very satisfied with it.
  • 2019: Pillsbury Baccalaureate, basically science fiction, which starts when a person discovers he has memories that aren’t his, and leads into adventures with machines for exploring (something like) alternate universes.
  • 2020: All Reality, inspired by playing so much with GPT-style AI text generators, in which the characters mostly deal in various ways with the fact that reality is infinitely malleable.
  • 2021: Snack Bar Only, a novel based on an ancient story idea of mine, about an unnamed protagonist who travels between golf course restaurants (and snack bars) in his red pickup truck.

And now here we are in 2022, and I’m over 2000 words into what will be in some sense my dozenth NaNoWriMo novel (assuming I finish it), and probably going to go over to Midjourney to see if I can make an appealing cover. :)

What fun!


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling One

There are books everywhere; this makes me happy. There is dusty sunlight coming in through the window; this also makes me happy.

Are there books there? Are they yet to be invented, or rare and precious, or ubiquitous, or left behind and forgotten?

To make a book, we take fibers of various kinds and cause them to tangle and weave together in and around and among themselves and each other, flatten them flat, cut them to size, and bind them together, usually protected at the start and at the end and the bound edge by a thicker layer of fiber sheet, or something even stronger. The fibers must be such that, or must be treated so that, the resulting flat faces are relatively uniform in reflectivity and light diffusion, at least for certain wavelengths of light. Usually.

I imagine fibers dissolved in water, or dissolved in oil or alcohol or nectar, allowed to flow and dance and tangle, overlapping and joining, hooking together with smaller fibers that protrude microscopically from their trunks, joining and separating, and as the water or oil or alcohol or nectar is slowly removed and flows away, forming into elegant flat sheets, shining in the dusty sunlight, and then becoming calm and dry and perfect, matte and uniform.

On the sheets of fiber, we create patterns of differential reflectivity by carefully applying chemicals that adhere well to the fiber matrix, and that also absorb and scatter light of those same wavelengths differently than do the flattened and cut fibers. When one of these patterned sheets is exposed to the right wavelength of light, the patterns can be discerned by analyzing the reflections that occur.

And then because the discerning of the patterns is the important thing, time passes and a book can be anything that creates the appropriate discernible patterns in more or less the same way.

A book is a single long word, a book is an extended pattern of darkness in light, of opaque in clear, of shine in matte. There are no books, there are only words, there are no words there are only sounds, ideas, the Universal Wave Function.

Here is the Universal Wave Function. All that there is, in the universe of the Universal Wave Function, is an infinite manifold, an infinitely-divisible expanse of places, where for each place one can in principle write down some numbers or other symbols, that are unique to that place, and that behave in certain well-defined ways, so that there is some well-defined distance between two places and so on.

And then at each place there are some more numbers and groups of numbers, that we might give whimsical names like Electric Charge or Gravitational Force or Charm or Spin or Color or Flavor or Niceness or Bliss.

Then there is time. Time is an illusion: this present moment is all that exists.

(“Wait,” I might say, “but I remember reading that very sentence just now, and that was in the past,” but that is only me relating, at this present moment, a memory that I have, at this present moment. All moments but this present moment are just memories, or expectations or dreams or fears or whimsies, that exist at this present moment. I could say that this is true, and that this has always been true.)

But in the illusion of time, the various numbers present at the various places in the Universal Wave Function change.

(Change is also an illusion.)

They change in law-like ways, meaning that if we know what the numbers are at a particular time and place and at all the nearby places also, we can say what the numbers will be at that place at some other time. Or we can’t do that, but we can say that there are various ways that the numbers might be at some other time, and the probability of each one being the actual numbers at that time.

Here in the dusty sunbeams, we call this Physics.

In this pile of books (sorry about all of the piles of books; there aren’t enough shelves, there are never enough shelves!) there are two books about Physics. They are both books made by carefully impressing certain chemicals onto flat sheets of intertwined fibers in precise patterns, to change the way that light of certain wavelengths reflects from them.

What does it mean for a book, for this bound-together collection of flat fibrous bundles with patterns of differential reflectivity, to be about Physics? That is a deep question. The chain of links between differential reflectivity and aboutness is long and complicated.

I imagine light coming from the sun (and there is so much to know about the Sun!) coming through the window and through the dust (so much to know about windows, about dust; how does light “come through” a window?) light hitting an open book, light reflecting differentially, some of the reflected light entering certain organic structures, impacting certain sensitive membranes one photon at a time (so much to know about photons, about particles, about the fascinating and deadly realms of the organic, about membranes), and then onward into a vast swamp, forest, continent of words and language and thought, and eventually aeons later into intersubjectivity and aboutness.

This present moment is all that there is, but it contains an unimaginable complexity, and inexhaustible feast of the knowable but unknown, of the imaginable but unimagined. One page of a book, one of the faces of one of those flat sheets of exuberant fiber, bears, in the potential patterns that we might carefully imbue into it with effective chemicals, so much potential that one could never go hungry.

A book is a river, a book is a shadow, a delicious grilled-cheese sandwich, a steak dish at a fine-dining concern, with sauce and garnish (so much to know about sauce and garnish!), a book is another book and another, a book is a collection, a library, a world.

(But there are no books, there are only words, only fibers and chemicals, only elementary particles, only the Universal Wave Function. Or only thoughts and stories.)

This is what I struggle with, sitting near the dusty sunbeams with my books. (So much to know about just sitting! About joints, and about angles of repose!) The present moment is all that exists, and it is only Mind, only Experience. But when Mind partakes in Experience, it weaves stories that give primacy to mass, to energy, to Charge and Spin and Niceness, to the Universal Wave Function. Which is it?

But, I write as I struggle, to ask which it is, is to imagine or imply (so much to know about imagining, about implication!) that there is some answer to that question, an answer which would perforce be in terms of some truth below the level of Mind and Experience, and below Charge and Spin and Niceness, below in the sense of being more primitive or basic, or able in some meaningful way to support or provide answers to questions about both Mind and Experience and the Universal Wave Function.

And what truth would that be?

It is miraculous that one can sigh happily at the sight of the books and the dusty sunbeam, that one can select a book from a shelf or a pile (there are never enough shelves), and take it, and open it, and sit oneself on the window seat or in a comfortable chair (not pictured), and read that book, and have thoughts taken from the content of that book, despite the incomprehensible complexity of the chains of relation involved, between Mind and Spin, between Charge and Thought, even merely between chemicals and diffuse reflectivity.

All books are fiction, because language cannot express Truth. Truth is, always and everywhere, more complex than anything that language can encompass. Nothing that I have written here is true, in some sense of Truth that involves fully reflecting everything relevant about this present moment (which is all that exists). Do not seek for Truth in language (although we may, sitting in the window seat, seek for Truth through language).

Language is pattern, language is a link from sound to thought (so much to know about sound, about thought), a link from differential reflectivity to Mind, from Mind even to Mind, perhaps.

I can tell a story, in which properties of my mind (my Mind), my thoughts, cause through a long and fascinating chain certain sounds or certain differential reflectivities, and that through an equally long and fascinating (so much to learn about fascination!) chain to another mind (another Mind?) where changes might occur (although change, perhaps, is an illusion; what is an illusion?).

So in this story, language allows a property (so much to know about properties) of one mind, to cause or lead to (or come before, ex ante, at least, if we don’t understand causation, and no one understands causation), changes in another mind, perhaps changes involving the same (so much to know about identity!) or at least corresponding properties of that second mind.

I might write down the words “language allows one mind to communicate a thought to another”; but what is communication? What is thought?

This is why it is difficult to construct language about language, nicht wahr? I can use language, and these books can use language, to speak about, to be about, anything whatever, on the assumption that language works for speaking about things. But if I am going to speak about language? What can I use, if I have not yet satisfied myself (satisfied the potential reader) that language works?

This shelf contains a number of books on whose pages are brightly-colored and detailed illustrations of delicious food. Illustrations, images, of delicious food rather circumvent the need for language. The body (and yes, so much to know about the body!) reacts immediately, without the intervention or action of Mind.

(But what is the body, if not a hypothesis of Mind? Body laughs at that question, laughs at all questions beyond how that food smells, how that leaf tastes, how this desire and passion feels, how this sleep soothes, how this abyss tempts. Body claims mind for itself, as nothing but a servant, a clever assistant that calculates how to open the box, how to evade the bull and get the chicken, how to satisfy the desire, how to achieve the passion; and all of Mind’s little side-trips and theories and elaborations are pointless except as they serve those ends, and are tolerated if they do serve those ends, even indirectly, but are not taken seriously. Mind says that body is only a hypothesis of Mind; but the body says we are hungry, we are sleepy. And eventually the body always wins out.)

Where was I? The illustrations of food! They are photographs, and we have not talked specifically about how photographs find their way into books. They are also alterations in the reflectivity of the fiber sheets, but they are generally subtler, providing for gradations in reflectivity, not just the dark-or-light that we implied or suggested or were thinking of before, and for different gradations and different changes for different wavelengths of light, resulting in “color” photographs for instance. And in depicting (what is it, to depict?) this delicious grilled-cheese sandwich, using color is advantageous, is useful, reduces the amount of skill required compared to producing an acceptable grayscale or sepia tone image of a delicious grilled-cheese sandwich.

Despite all of this, one can easily (as I’ve mentioned) take a book, containing in a straightforward way either text or photos or drawings or any combination of these, and sit in a chair in or near the dusty sunbeam, or on the window seat, and read that book, and enjoy the place and the activity. And all of this can be done without understanding everything, or really by various measures without understanding very much at all, about what those words mean, and how those activities and properties hang together and come to be, or about how (if at all!) language succeeds in communicating anything (what?) from mind to mind.

That is, perhaps, the message of the dusty sunbeam and the room full of books (there are never enough shelves) for today: it is entirely possible, indeed it is likely inevitable, to act and experience without full understanding.

Fling Two