Narcons, VEMs

So what exactly is a Narcon? Or, rather, this Narcon –TF-Narcon-to-the-9th-power? (Are there just the three Narcons listed in the book’s end matter or lots of them? Apparently there are Old Narcons.) As a “Narrative Construct,” is it an AI generating this narrative or commenting upon it? Is only one Narcon commenting upon/generating this particular narrative? (See the “I’m not your Google Bitch” comment.) What do we do with “The Parameters” outlined in the Narcon section?

Are the Narcons responsible for the crossing of narratives–eg Hopi on Xanther’s phone–or is this “channeling” unrelated and a play on how other worlds channel into that of consensus reality in this text (and how technology is one vehicle of that channelling, along with ESP and the supernatural)? Narcons see and somewhat feel everything in the narrative but they cannot communicate directly with the characters–is the Narcon the Author [“simply a construct oriented and defined by personalities with finite capabilities and life spans”]?

How is a Narcon related to a VEM? Is a Narcon a Voice Encounter Mod? (again, see the Parameters.) Is every author really just a Voice Encounter Mod (a metafictional thought)? Related questions:  Why is Vem written on the crime-scene window Özgür sees (p. 430) if this is related? Or why does TF-Narcon9 say that “CAS summoning to life within her Orb those early glimmers of VEM” ?

Or will all this be cleared up in the last section of the novel?


About ajelias

Professor of English, University of Tennessee (Knoxville)

8 responses to “Narcons, VEMs”

  1. melindaborchers says :

    Another question that can be asked in the identification of Narcons is: What is Narcon9’s primary function as an ESL (electronic service liaison)?

    Another question: Can the author be considered MetaNarcon outside of the boundaries of our talkative Narcon9’s purview?

    If we take the parameters as truth, how does that restrict their function in the narratives?

    • melindaborchers says :

      The Parameters
      1) MetaNarcons Do Not Exist
      2) Narcons Cannot Interact With Other Narcons
      3) Narcons Cannot Interact With Non-Narcons. And Vice-Versa. No Matter What.
      4) All Narcons Are Bracketed
      5) Form Is Not A Narcon Limit

      • ajelias says :

        They do seem to interact in the text, however, breaking rule #2. See the “It is.” interactions. And if they can’t interact with non-narcons, then who is the Narcon talking to in the Narcon section?

  2. Lauren Craig says :

    Could you remind me when the first time Vem was mentioned is?

  3. praemonitus says :

    Has anyone considered that the Narcons each have a distinct personality that comes through in their comments/annotations?

    For clarity, I’m assigning genders to the Narcons:
    – Narcon 27 is gender neutral (it)
    – Narcon 9 is female (she/her)
    – Narcon 3 is male (he/him)

    Narcon 27 seems to be the most bot-like of the three. (Almost) every instance in which it appears, it is giving fact-based information. It is the first Narcon to “speak” in the novel on pp. 52, at which point it provides the air dates for Battlestar Galactica. In the Narcon chapter, it provides more factual information, while 9 carries on her conversation with the reader. It provides a lot of dates (“May 13, 2014,” pp. 270 and “1973,” pp. 422) or which language is being spoken (“Cantonese,” pp. 283-4) or names (“Realix Tarnen,” pp. 385).

    Narcon 9 has placed herself in every narrative based on her explanations in the Narcon chapter. However, I believe she is most attached to Xanther and her narrative, as she doesn’t contribute much (that I recall) to the other stories. (She translates for jingjing pretty often.)

    Narcon 3 is a little more mysterious, as most of his comments seem inconsequential. In the Narcon chapter, for example, he goes off on a tangent about squirrels after 9 describes something as “squirrelly.”

    The Narcons don’t seem to have exclusive roles, but it does seem to me that they have preferred roles in the narrative. 27 seems to know 9 exists, and 3 definitely knows 9 exists, but 9 feels that 27 is an “intrusion” but feels better after being interrupted by 3 (pp. 576).

    It’s all very strange. Has anyone else noticed this or have any similar ideas?

    • beaum2015 says :

      I noticed it! To me, giving the NarCons different identities based on human characteristics seemed like it was an attempt to make the reader stay on the fence as to what exactly a NarCon is, or what it is trying to simulate/emulate. I keep having this idea enter my mind that a NarCon is a metaphor for an author or storyteller (any author, every author, you, me, Danielewski) and the thought processes that the author goes through when creating. But it’s hard, if not impossible, to make any definitive conclusions about anything in this novel.

      Our class has come to the general consensus that the NarCons are probably(again, not definitely) some type of computerized narration creator thing-a-ma-jig with artificial intelligence, but that was based primarily on the elongated form of the abbreviation for the name, NarCon. However, after our class’s discussion of the word “signiconic”, I have doubts about our theory. I mean, how are we supposed to just assume that the name NarCon was given to literally describe the thing, or meant to invoke a certain affect about the thing which in itself better describes what the thing is than giving it a name that literally describes what it is? After all, what’s in a name?

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