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Does Danielewski draw, write, or both at the same time to bend our minds?

“Signiconic = sign + icon. Rather than engage those textual faculties of the mind remediating the pictorial or those visual faculties remediating language, the signiconic simultaneously engages both in order to lessen the significance of both, and therefore achieve a third perception no longer dependent on sign and image for remediating a world in which the mind plays no part.”

In my reading of this definition, the instance in which “rain” is spattered five thousand times across the page, is Mark Z. Danielewski inserting the Sigiconic into his narrative style.

Both language and image are being sublimated—an aesthetic effect is achieved by giving prominence to neither word nor picture, but equal disregard to both. The result is a zen-like suspension between grasping and grasping at straws.

As a comic book reader, this technique does not seem new, and it makes me wonder how far ergodic technique can go before its treading graphic novel waters.


Little solace comes

to those who grieve

when thoughts keep drifting

as walls keep shifting

and this great blue

world of our

seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind.

(What… TF… is.. this.) Signiconic {?}

This is a leviathan discourse of the signiconic. I don’t know if any of this supports all of your readings, but I would suggest that if I’m close to some element of truth, that your comments can help us create our “global village.”

Danielewski defines signiconic as follows:

“Signiconic = sign + icon. Rather than engage those textual faculties of the mind remediating the pictorial or those visual faculties remediating language, the signiconic simultaneously engages both in order to lessen the significance of both, and therefore achieve a third perception no longer dependent on sign and image for remediating a world in which the mind plays no part.”

In the post All the Colors, I briefly comment on the relationship between the sign and the icon. My claim is that Narcon^9 is the frame through which the reader understands the identity of each of the characters in the novel, and it follows that because Narcon^9 is the frame, the reader does not necessarily understand or know each character’s immediate sensory experiences, since the Narcon describes characters and their experiences in the way that Narcon understands both of which . As a result, the reader notices that there are breaks in the text that do not actual break the text into parts, but they actually blur the separation between the sign and the icon. One may argue that there are many occurrences of this phenomena throughout the text, but, for now, I will use pg. 639 as the stepping-stone.

This section embodies my argument because of its allusion.  There is a question of “how many days and hours… it [had] taken just to hear “message” instead of ” The heart quickens at such a massage”?” This is a reference to Marshall McLuhan’s, The Medium is the Massage, which causes the reader to reconstruct/deconstruct/re-fragmentate The Familiar as a testimonial to McLuhan’s work, and furthermore a metafictional exploration of the ramifications that both their modes of writing call into [re]action.

McLuhan’s “massage” mentions the idea of “Acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, in the dark of the mind, in the world of emotion, by primordial intuition, by terror.” (pg.48)  This “acoustic space” is a prominent concept that figures into the [in/re/con]ception of Danielewski’s work HOL , in which the term is described in relation to the ineluctable and inexorable infinity (mobius strip?) that the house represents . I mention this concept here because there is a way that TF’s references to Danielewski’s other works serves to traverse time,form, and linearity to serve other more inclusive purposes. McLuhan also states that our sense of hearing is more in tune with the “environment” than vision, beacusing hearing allows us to experience life enveloped in “acoustic space;” this relationship is established because sound is heard at the locus of the ear, but is received from every direction at once.

McLuhan states that in our media’s current state, “electric circuitry is recreating in us the multi-dimensional space orientation of the “primitive”, “ (pg. 56) and that “electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global image.” (pg. 67)

So, how does this relate to the signiconic?

At first, the definition of the signiconic seemed exceedingly profound to me. I could not grasp the concept because I did not understand what the end of remediation is, nor did I comprehend what it means to “remediate a world in which the mind plays no part.” After reading McLuhan’s work, I realize that the use of multiple different types of languages, narrative and page formats/structures are the signiconic’s means of constructing a world that inherently calls into question mere representation in itself, which causes the reader  to remediate their own sensory experience of the text.  For example, if the reader uses the internet to translate the singlish found in jingjing’s sections for all of jingjing’s sections, the reader is exposed to a font-type and a voice that resounds aurally, visually, empathetically, and in their mind’s eye, as naturally as if the tale was in english; this feeling is experienced if and only if the reader uses some mode of media (or an “apparatus,” like a person who speaks the language) to understand this foreign idea. Jingjing is obviously not the only character that requires additional information and self-projection, and because all of these characters require a certain level of both, it follows that we find a sense of ourselves in each one of the stories by end of this volume. I’d like to note this is a specific scenario, but the extent of this dialogue can be carried to enhance the analysis of narrative arcs that include individual characters being connected by some object or some higher calling, or even the images that begin each chapter; the ends all means all is that they are connected through difference and similarity, because they are signs and icons of one another (or not). If not, then the reader chooses to trust the Narcon and understand that “Most of the iconic goes unsigned,” which may adhere to the set-up for Narcon^9, but may not necessarily be the case in future volumes with other Narcons (or even Xanther, if she, as the character who seems like McLuhan’s poster child, develops a sense of going beyond her self to be immersed in the environment as a completely understanding being———— this applies only if one thinks she is alive; my own reading of the end of the novel made me feel — because of the way the words are structured in the page in a signiconically significant way– as if the was an incubus trying to take the last bit of her breath it couldn’t pull from her earlier ((((((((( I guess that’s why the mind is involved in the signiconic

Acoustic      Space       =        boundless       infinite?     understanding {?} )))))))))

“The Familiar” Podcast!

This post more resembles a discussion “audio blog,” than a podcast. It was recorded by four students from Weber State University. Dylan Davis, Ben Bigelow, Chelsea Maki, and Trevor Byington each bring a topic to discuss with the group. The discussion covers the re-mediation of television, hetero-normatives in “The Familiar,” the “Signiconic,” and the “aesthetic conundrum” the novel has created.

It was recorded on 1/24/2015.

Keep in mind, this was not done in a studio so the audio can be a little spotty. Regardless, we hope you enjoy it!

Narcons: Subitizing Death?

Upon re-reading the part about the hummingbird’s death on page 794, I paid much more attention to the interjections of the Narcons. What they imply about the nature of mediation, death, and the self is really compelling in connection with the “signiconic,” and what I have to say is largely to do with Danielewski’s definition of signiconic that Professor Raley sent out, so here it is:

Signiconic = sign + icon. Rather than engage those textual faculties of the mind remediating the pictorial or those visual faculties remediating language, the signiconic simultaneously engages both in order to lessen the significance of both, and therefore achieve a third perception no longer dependent on sign and image for remediating a world in which the mind plays no part.

This is a very basic human problem: our perceptions of the world are inherently remediated through our minds and therefore biased. Thus it makes sense that we’d search out an unbiased mode of perception, something beyond  image subitizing language (346) or the reverse (the Narcons’ jobs, signing the iconic (572)). Danielewski partially answers this dilemma with his own writing style, but he makes it pretty clear that it’s impossible to escape remediation in the real world (I think he does, at least; correct me if I’m wrong).

Returning to the dying hummingbird–when its eyes change, Xanther wonders what it sees:

the error of windows?, of reflection? :N3: refracting the one self into another self beyond what every reflection still fails to consider… :N3:, Xanther knowing this in the way she also knows how mirrors invert her into a her that’s not really her :N9: which is so wrong as a reflection of Xanther, right? :N9:, can animals know so?, especially a tiny hummingbird?, probably not, right?, like really, it’d just see its own reflection as another competitor?, :N27: as an understanding of its own end :N27: (794)

Considering that Narcon^9 said earlier that every person has a Narcon, could Narcon^3 be implying that living things merge with their Narcons in death (beyond) as they escape the remediation brought about by being confined to a single “self”? If so, Narcon^27‘s addition would certainly have grand philosophical implications.

The fact that Narcon^9 thinks that Xanther being unable to accurately see herself is “wrong” makes me even more inclined to think so, since Narcon^9 also says in the Narcon chapter that “sometimes I swear she can see–without mediation, without processing, without artifice, definitely without me–other people’s Narcons!” (574). Narcon^9 can’t even see itself at all, but in its opinion Xanther can (or should be able to) see herself incredibly clearly. That plus her ability to find and revive the cat probably puts Xanther in a different category altogether. Xanther aside, though, just imagine: what if a humble dying hummingbird could refract into another self and see its reflection as an understanding of its own end? Well, wow.

All that having been said, I have some questions about the “signiconic.” How can we say that image and language are the two most important perceptual faculties? Of what does a truly accurate “third perception” consist? Does language + image = film? And is that why the VEM Corporation is doing all its insane “Imaging & Cultural Resonance Tracking” that the Orbs are somehow picking up?

What is a Narcon?


On page 563 there is a line. On the next page are these words “A good enough place to pause.”  Then the page numbers and the time stamps stop and we get to meet the narrator. He(I assume the narrator is a he and I will continue to refer to him that way to reduce confusion) is an AI called TF-Narcon9 and he has a sense of humor. He also seems to have emotions, though he fervently denies any individuality whatsoever. What completely rocked my world though was the subsets that include almost every major character. Are they Narcons or are they just being studied? If they are being studied, why? What is a Narcon? Who invented them? These are questions that need answers! What do y’all think?

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?