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binary translator

I don’t know much about computers, programming, or coding, but I had a little bit of fun with this binary to text translator:

In particular, I used it with the picture of the orb that’s completely made out of binary code on page 640. I know the broader idea that the orb is composed of binary is much more important than analyzing what the specific binary says, but I thought it would be interesting to plug in some of the streams of alternating zeros and ones to see if there’s any meaning to them. It looks like most of the lines are simply a long string of ‘U’s follow by a ‘P,’ so ultimately it’s the word ‘up’ repeating many times. I’m not sure if there’s any significance to that, though–I just found it interesting…


So, there’s this Narcon…

First of all, the Narrative Construct idea fascinates me. While I don’t necessarily think it was the best name for them (for some reason they sound too explanatory for their actions, like naming a character who’s evil “bad guy.”) But, at the same time, I do not have a better name for them myself, so I cannot judge (maybe Architects? Wait…that’s been done before.) Regardless, it is interesting that in a fiction book we are constantly pointed to being reminded we are experiencing a fictional world, which is the exact thing professors tell you not to do in your own writing. I mean, it’s writing 101, “the suspension of disbelief,” was relayed to me over and over again in all of my writing classes. Yet here, MZD has drawn our attention to it time and again, the most powerful of which being set in the Narcon section. The Narcon is something that I think we can all conceptualize with decent aptitude. Their section has no page numbers, so they do not exist within the same realm as the story. They are written weirdly, like a play, taking them out of this genre (whatever this genre is.) They are formatted nothing like any other character, so they (if I’m reading the book correctly) don’t even share a similar universe or don’t occupy the same dimension as the other characters. They define their own rules, however, they date them back before their existence (whatever that means,) point being, regular fiction characters do not ever define their rules in a story. The author defines the rules for fictional characters to follow. It is interesting to keep in mind that, at least for me, the Narcons felt like they had more agency than the characters in the story. They felt like that because of the reasons I just mentioned.

But it’s not true! They have equitable if not less free will than the regular characters in the story. The Narcons must follow rules set by MZD and MZD has to make them follow the rules that they (Mark) has set for them, so their free will is really constricted to a few sentences (by comparison) to other characters. Narcons must be controlled, and if there is anything I know about characters being controlled, they tend to rebel.

I’ll flat out say it, I think the Narcons will turn out to be villains or something similar as the 27 volume series plays out. I would like to be proven wrong about this almost as much as I would like to be proven right. To me, it just seems like the natural order of things. In our class, it was mentioned by a classmate that Xanther is the only character that can hear the Narcons or at least the only character that we know can hear the Narcons. It was also mentioned that when Xanther hears the cat outside, it may be something more than just right-place-at-the-right-time action movie garbage. It could mean a little bit more.

After I heard the classmate (I believe it was you, Chelsea) my mind started to reel into analytic, speculation mode where I wanted to make connection upon connection (so, bear with me.) I think Narcon characters (overly oppressed characters, as mentioned above) want to enter to the fictional world like a reverse The Matrix situation. I think that cat may be Narcon incarnate as mentioned above. There’s also a little something something that cat does to Xanther that feels a little wacky and out of the realm of possibility for any other character in the story (soul stuff.) And, and! We don’t know (unless I missed it) what the cat’s name is. But what we do know is that TF-Narcon 3 has the font “Manticore.” Stay with me, I’m telling you, it’s worth it. Manticore is another name for “Man-Eater.” Trust me, I wish in my research that I had found there was some myth written thousands of years ago where the Manticore ate the kings ugly daughter named “Xanther,” but it didn’t exist, so I needed to speculate a bit more. In figurative terms, the cat may have eaten part of Xanther, it’s hard to say exactly but I’m going with it for the sake of my theory. The last thing we know is that no two characters share the same font in the story…except TF-Narcon 3 and some other thing called “G.C.” which is not, to my knowledge, defined or mentioned in Volume 1 at all. But it’s mentioned in the font? Pourquoi, monsieur?! To me, G.C. could be “good cat,” or “General Cathington,” or maybe it’s another one of Xanther’s misunderstood words.

Sometimes, when reading this book, I feel like I’m wearing a tinfoil hat. Anyway, thanks for following me down my rabbit hole. I really hope to see why that font is shared and, who knows? Maybe I am right.

Dylan Davis

(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 Orb is the “answer”….

In the end of the book, Anwar is left with a question of how to make a program that predicts the movements of his game’s prey while the prey is making the decision. Basically how to predict the near future/present. He then mentions how Mefisto would know how to code for that in his sleep.

We also see in the Orb section the mention of a Sorcerer that knows Anwar and Xanther. In class some of us hypothesized that the reason the Sorcerer knew Anwar and Xanther was because he was Mefisto. I took that hypothesis one step further in my head.

I think that Mefisto knows so much about coding because he built the Orb and the Orb is some kind of device that can allow someone to see the past, present, and future. Anwar needs a code that can predict the present and/or the near future in his game for the predator to be able to catch his prey. Mefisto has the ability to do this because of the Orb.

The reason we have to met Mefisto is because he is on the run from VEM. Which in itself is a predator and prey sort of game. Just like the “answer” is escaping Anwar, Mefisto is escaping VEM. They cannot predict where he is going or when he will appear, much like Anwar’s gaming problem.

I think someone posted on here about how the entire novel is a cat and mouse game so to speak. That there is an overall theme of predator and prey. I started thinking more on this and began to realize that it was. That post helped me come up with the hypothesis on what the Orb is and the power it could hold. VEM does not want anyone to know everything but them, so that is why they are hunting the Orb holders. The Orb’s coding is the answer to Anwar’s dilemma, but as of now he does not know about the Orb or at least we do not know if he does. The Orb is the only power over VEM that the characters of this story have. VEM controls them but with the Orb they would have the same power that VEM does.

It all comes back to the Orb. It is the key to power, and my theory is that Xanther has some special connection to it all because she is special and as the series unfolds we will figure out just how special she really is.

Orb Clips

As we can see on page 630-634 and page 655, the orb’s offerings consist of 6 ‘clips’ or ‘visions’.

The first two shown are important historical landmarks in the real world:

(1) The landing of Viking 1 on Mars on July 20, 1976.

(2) Seminary Ridge and Cemetary Ridge at the time just around the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.


(3) The story referenced earlier in the text with the two cave-children who die.

(4) Clip #I: A girl named Audra Toland drowns (Cas searches for and finds the body later)

(5) A baby named Alvin Alex Anderson lies in his crib in Wichita, Kansas.

(6) Clip #6: Xanther running (possibly to rescue the cat, but probably not, because in the orb, she is smiling.)

As Cas mentions on pg. 636 The first orb visions were “historically cross-referenced”, which suggests to me that the orb orders appear in the book the same order that they appear to the characters. So why name the girl’s drowning Clip I? Because it was the first vision they could definitively prove?

The Visualization of the Orb

I see the illustration of the Orb found on page 640 as being a series of IOIOIO repeating rather than 101010. To clarify, I mean that I recognize the characters as both the Greek letters I (iota) and O (omicron) and and their corresponding relatives in the modern alphabet.

Here are some thoughts about this interpretation (with information pulled directly from Wikipedia):

  • I/O as input/output – “the communication between an information processing system (such as a computer) and the outside world, possibly a human or another information processing system.”
  • The letter iota represents:
    • “the index generator function in APL (in the form ⍳)”
      • APL “is a programming language developed in the 1960s by Kenneth E. Iverson. Its central datatype is the multidimensional array. It uses a large range of special graphic symbols to represent most operators, giving very concise code. It has been an important influence on the development of concept modeling, spreadsheets, functional programming, and computer math packages.”
    • “the orbital inclination with respect to the line of sight, used when describing gravitational wave sources.”
  • The letter omicron is not used in math/science/engineering because it too closely resembles the letter O.
  • “In mathematics, big O notation describes the limiting behavior of a function when the argument tends towards a particular value or infinity, usually in terms of simpler functions.”
  • You could also look at Io one of Zeus’ lovers, Zeus as the nephew of Oceanus, Oceanus as the father of Xanthe, and make up some crazy theory about Xanther being “related” to the orb, but I don’t see that going very far.

We know that the Orb is a man-made computer(-like device), so I think all of this information could be helpful in interpreting the Orb (at least as much as is possible at this point).

Personally, I think it’s helpful to view the orb as an input/output device, as it allows the user (Catherine, in the narrative) to communicate with the world/universe in a unique way. Similarly, I like the potential correlation with APL, as it uses special characters to represent things, as the author does throughout the text.

Because the pages of the book are not very high quality, I include below an enhanced version of illustration alongside a more artistic interpretation in which I overlaid the image of the Orb over the moon Io. (I don’t think it has anything to do with the moon besides the name, but it looks nice.)



“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!

Chart for 609-end

Chapter 24


The Fourth Crate Isandòrno Shipping port, El Tajín, MX

May 10, 2014


Epigraph: Victim #9, possibly from the horror-survival video game “I AM Alive” (see victims)


Venice, Italy

May 11, 2014


Chapter 25


Tiny Storms The Wizard Paisano Hotel etc., Marfa, TX

May 10, 2014


Epigraph: Pink Floyd (from song “Shine on you crazy diamond”)
Chapter 26


“Mom, it’s a –” Astair Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014


Epigraph: G.W.F. Hegel (from “Preface to the Philosophy of Right”)

(referencing Minerva’s owl)

Chapter 27


auntie! jingjing Singapore

May 11, 2014


Epigraph: Arthur Yap (from his poem “Man Snake Apple”)
Chapter 28


, dead Anwar Los Angeles, CA

May 10, 2014


Epigraph: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Chapter 29


St. Hopi Luther Los Angeles, CA


Epigraph: Juan Felipe Herrera (from “Crescent Moon on a Cat’s Collar
Chapter 30


If Anything… Xanther Los Angeles, CA


Epigraph: Anne Carson (from her book Nox)

The Physical Experience of The Familiar

I have heard that Danielewski will not publish this as an ebook, making sure that all readers have the same experience with page turning, etc.  I assume we all have the same pink publisher copy – I am wondering if anyone has any insight into what the physical copy of the book will look like (cover design, hard cover, same size pages?)?  I wonder if that will change significantly or if it will have any effect on the reader.

I ask this because there is a defined physical experience when reading this book.  I can think of several instances where the layout makes the reader interact with the book itself.  For example, between pages 461-513, I found the cadence with which I was turning pages seemed very intentional.  Additionally, the orb chapters always have a unique experience when the orb appears within the text, never letting you forget its presence.

What other sections have others found that turns reading into a more physical experience?

comfort within uncomfortable endings

Although I am frustrated by how many questions and threads are left (un)”answerable” at the end of the book Xanther’s narrative did end up feeling “manageable.” For all of The Familiar’s experimentation, I believe I fully understand Xanther’s narrative and the convention(ality) of it. Does the kitten live? I adamantly believe so. Hopi dies, the cat will survive– so says convention. And even though many parts of the story are left teetering, there’s a balance to Xanther’s story. She, the girl who is always being cared for now is the caregiver and she takes great joy in it. The service dog, on the other hand, would have been another caregiver for her.  It’s a beautifully simple plot. Of course it connects with the theme of ‘prey'(different than patient or needing care, but similar) which we see in other parts of the book: Anwar’s game is about prey and predator and Bobby and Cas are being hunted down. Additionally, looking ahead to the preview for Volume 2 that there is a section told from the point of view of a predator: a bird of prey.