Journal Entry

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Gauntlet is Thrown

Here are the footnotes to the science-fictional poem which Amal has not yet written:


  1. Textual and other evidence suggests a date of composition after -5686 but well before -5492; see reference I.

  2. An adult member of one of the two fixed genders popular in ancient times, associated, at the time of the poem's composition with vigor and cunning, but also with desperation, loneliness, and inflexibility. See footnote 12.

  3. Salsica nulliphilus, a fast-growing, vacuum-durable weed that formed the structural basis of most habitations in near orbit around Tyche.

  4. A pejorative term for a class or clade of birthed humans principally employed in tending these groves. Although adapted to microgravity environments, they were dependent on paleohuman levels of caloric, water, and oxygen intake, which seems to have been a point of both pride and ridicule. (That the poet seems to have, in fact, been a member of this group, suggests that the term may be employed here ironically).

  5. Possibly a reference to the Systemic Collapse of -5834, during which the population density of the outer solar system decreased by roughly 80%. See references II and IV. At the time of the poem's composition, neither communications nor nutrient flow had been restored to anything like pre-Collapse levels.

  6. The metaphor invokes Tyche's tidal forces, a principal source of energy in that region of the Oort cloud, seen as mighty in comparison with the week and distant sun (see footnote 10).

  7. It is unclear whether the agencies referenced here are mythical, or actual custom-fashioned, disembodied, nonbiological entities. That the inner solar system was at the time dominated by such entities has led scholars to suggest, anachronistically, that the poet imagines something like the Incursion of -4358; a statistical analysis of the entire corpus of surviving texts, however, renders this interpretation overwhelmingly unlikely.

  8. These were commonly exchanged in a ritual denoting a promise of continued affection and respect.

  9. Which is, of course, another kind of theft.

  10. The sun, whose radiation made up a relatively small part of this region of the Oort Cloud's energy diet, even as its gravity shaped the entire system. The poem derives much of its power from the contrast; see footnote 6.

  11. The metaphor of orbit as both (voluntary) dance and (unchosen) destiny, of escaping while remaining bound, recurs here (compare, also, line 4). The poet's association of life on the surface of a planet with entrapment and suffocation is a commonplace of many microgravity cultures.

  12. The other of the two fixed genders popular in ancient times; see footnote 2.

  13. "Water" here may be a traditional metaphor for "bandwidth" (and thus "speech") -- but the literal interpretation is also possible; see footnote 4.

  14. The text we have ends here, and in my view none of the algorithmic reconstructions of the ending satisfy. The conditions under which the corpus was recovered leave open the possibility that the poet intentionally ended with this abrupt caesura; but this, too, I find difficult to credit, as it implies an archness -- even glibness -- at odds with the wry but earnest melancholy which otherwise characterizes the poem's voice.

(I presume the ultimate result will be published somewhere as our collaboration, although Amal clearly, you will agree, has the much harder job!)

Posted by benrosen at April 12, 2011 12:55 PM | Up to blog

This has a bit of the notebooks to it, eh? Same voice of the disembodied editor from the future.

Posted by: Jamey at April 12, 2011 01:04 PM


Posted by: Amal El-Mohtar at April 12, 2011 03:52 PM

Huh... our high school notebooks? Was I doing "disembodied editor from the future" there? I cannot for the life of me remember this. Do you remember which year or color? I can root around in my file drawer... :-)

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at April 12, 2011 06:23 PM
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