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The Familiar, Godly?



In the interlude of The Familiar it mentions: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

In many posts that I have  read discusses the existence of mentioning people such as Luther being a symbol of Jesus.  Jesus walked on water; as so Luther. Jesus was hung on a cross with wounds; Luther was wounded. Coincidence?

“Now holding up his hands.  Like praying. Praying to Luther.” (p.605)

I find it strange to have this included in this book about God.  I think that the book is talking about a “higher power” of some sort in a type of fabrication, rather, it is not about God in particular.  As we discussed in class, the characters are possibly “powered” by the Narcons, the Narcons “powered” by VEM, VEM “powered” by Danielewski, and “surprisingly” we are powered by Danielewski’s extravagant work of art.

So, isn’t it funny that the interlude suggests to “invent him”? Could VEM be the invention? The power?


This may be a bit out there…

As a discussion in class about VEM, I google searched and this is quoted on a technological website.  The explanation is much like the theory that we had in class. VEM: codes, identity, future, and power.

Therefore, the characters are powered by VEM?

innovative, future and customer oriented
VEM is an innovative, flexible, cosmopolitan, internationally-active and reliable manufacturer of technically sophisticated system and drive solutions, custom drives and single components. The output capacity ranges from 0.06 kilowatts to 42 megawatts. Continuity and reliability, including in the future, this is what the production and service at VEM stands for. The engineering and quality of the products with the VEM logo are trendsetters within the market.

Response to “Unmarked and Marked Literature–A Clemson Class Discussion” by tlbenne


I actually took a picture of the whiteboard after class. I found our discussion very interesting. We started off by discussing unmarked and marked text. Unmarked text is traditional. There is a uniform font and text size. Unmarked text is less likely to be taken out of context. Marked text, however, leaves room for much interpretation. When an author plays around with typographic styles, the reader is given an opportunity to think out of the box. Danielewski gives us, as readers, a role in the novel. However, what is our role?

In class, Professor Thomas drew a circle with all of the characters names inside. Since the Narcons seem to have control over the characters, we put them outside the circle. We put VEM outside both the Narcons and the characters because we agreed that VEM has control over the Narcons and the characters. We are left wondering where we fit in the circle. Do we have any power at all? Are we being controlled by the Narcons? by VEM? or by Danielewski? We are left with so many “what ifs.”

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 Lies in the Code

Finally, a solid form is presented that unifies all the collective stories of The Familiar. TF-Narcon^9 enters the story with a casual introduction. The reader can only take TF-Narcon^9’s word on what it is.

TF-Narcon^9 is a program designed to database the existence of all the main characters from the book into 9 subsets. This program also drops a few hints that it was built with human influence. First, all of the languages it uses, whether translated or not, are human and origin. TF-Narcon^9 states that the machine language used in its construction is Binary, or “Zeros and ones.” (565). It would be a lot to presume that an alien life form would use the same Arabic based numerals to control the signals in its computing devices. It also references “the spinning rainbow wheel of ________.”(566). The word missing is “death.” This references the loading icon that appears on Macintosh devices. However, even if the Narcon software is based on computer made by man, that does not mean it has to be from the current time frame. This program states that it uses the “VEM rules of access and compression.” (566). I assume the VEM that dictated those rules are the same as the beings from the “VEM5 Alpha System” that speak on pages 14-17. Those individuals that live at the edge of time. This program they designed has a peculiar quark that makes it a little different then our preconceptions of computers. This program lies.

TF-Narcon^9 makes a few lies about its Parameters by stating that there is a “Last one” before Parameter 4. Then it states that was wrong and there was an additional 5th parameter. This is a seemingly innocent lie, however it brings into question the validity of its statements. The Narcon’s reliability is put to the test with its own parameters. Parameter 2 and 3 explicitly state that Narcons are not allowed to interact with Narcons and Non-Narcons “And Vice-Versa. No Matter What.” This seems to be a logical fallacy when TF-Narcon^9s actions are taken into account. The program specifically states that it is outputting. Input and output are the 2 forms of interaction a program is capable of through whatever interface. It also states that it will take on animal forms. To what purpose would a program take on an animal form if not to have some form of interaction. This interaction may be minute, but it clearly does not agree with the “No Matter What” of Parameter 3.

This program is also struggling with other algorithms that dictate the amount of awareness it may achieve. When TF-Narcon^9 begins to equate its existence as a subset to “servitude”, the train of thought is removed. This is replaced with an emptiness in the program that leaves it “breathless”, if a program could feel such a way. The supersets, TF-Narcon^3 or TF-Narcon^27, have censored TF-Narcon^9 before it achieved a higher level of awareness. This further goes to show that 9 can not be trusted to stay within its parameters. Other protocols must be used to keep it in check.

TF-Narcon^9 does not elaborate a great deal on its purpose for compiling all this data on these 9 individuals. However, this untrustworthy database is the most revealing connection for all the characters.  Hopefully their purpose will be reveled before the end.

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?