The key to all mythologies; or, a look at two epigraphs

Building on the latest post about Jakob von Uexküll, I wonder if anyone wants to venture a reading of the epigraphs on page 374 and page 518. Someone has already posted the (as yet unanswered) question about the Deadmau5 quote, and I’d like to situate it alongside the xkcd comic and invite discussion of the two as possible framing statements for The Familiar. The full xkcd comic is here. What conceptual work are the two epigraphs doing? In what sense do they offer a lens through which to re-consider the issue of the Narcons and the programming of Paradise Open?

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One response to “The key to all mythologies; or, a look at two epigraphs”

  1. trinalazzara says :

    For me those epigraphs both refer to the issue of increasing technological development, and looking at them together lends a dystopian hue to their respective chapters. For starters, the next line in the Deadmau5 song (“The Veldt”) after “Look what they made; they made it for me” is “happy technology!” The third line could be seen as connecting to Paradise Open, referencing lions “feeding on remains,” but what I think is most significant is the second verse:

    Every night they rock us to sleep, digital family!
    Is it real? Or is it a dream? Can you believe in machines?
    Outside, the beating sun, can you hear the screams?
    We’ll never leave, look at us now.
    So in love with the way we are here!

    This becomes even more eerie than it would be otherwise if you recall that the chapter corresponding to this epigraph (Raeden) is the one in which Tian Li tragically loses her abilities and then wakes up with a smile (538). Connecting these lyrics to the Narcons also makes them seem much more sinister; the Narcons could be directly manipulating everyone’s perceptions inside their self-worlds/soap bubbles, “rock[ing] us to sleep” as violence reigns.

    I think that the xkcd comic speaks to the endless possibilities for algorithms in video games; just as the fork-spoon spectrum is infinitely divisible, creators of Paradise Open could theoretically calculate an infinite number of path choices for the prey and for the predator. Similarly, the Narcons can calculate a seemingly infinite number of voices and languages through which to communicate. The woman in the comic says that they’re “toying with powerful forces,” and it may be funny in that context, but in the sense of apparatuses like the Narcons and VEM in which technology imitates/records/becomes? life, that propensity for infinite calculations becomes much more terrifying.

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