Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Writing / Fiction / The Model / Notes /
@ K. c. 1996
The Model: The First Week: Background
The Paul Knatz who first conceived The Model had been formed by a literalist Christian Americanism both sides of which were then traumatized by a liberal arts education. The first lines of dialogue came into my head as an undergraduate on hearing an instructor wonder what “the critics” would have said had they been present at Creation. I’d recently heard that classicist Moses Hades had asked a student at an evening class to close the blinds against “that vulgar display”: the sun setting behind the Palisades. I knew at least some of the ways that some of the critics would have been hostile.
I was just beginning to be aware of the degree to which our fore-cultures loved and hated nature by turns, seldom bothering to announce the change of modes. I was not yet aware of how pervasively Humanism (originally, the study of Greek, with its embarrassing discovery of a Bible the Church had prefered to forget about and took all measures to suppress) permeated the austerity and reserve of our Puritan heritage. Hadas knew exactly where his reserve came from.
I believed that God was all-powerful. I paid little attention to the implications of the question: “can God then make a stone so heavy he can’t lift it?” My intention for the story had been to expose the lack of faith of those who had seethed at the discovery of dinosaur fossils. My story planned on His adding them, giving a patina [note] to his Creation in a second or third week of work. Likewise satirizing our discombobulation at the Copernican solar system (which followed naturally). Why couldn’t God have made the Earth flat and then remade it spherical? He could have put the Earth in the center and then moved it into orbit, changing the sun to the center.
My point wasn’t that He had but that He could have. I wasn’t aware that I was gradually giving up the fundamentalism I had been taught. The young eat, but seldom attempt to digest, the fruitcake given them in either religious or secular education.
[2000 05 17 A few new comments have been added on this subject to the companion Afterward.]
In those days mid-December would find me still trying to catch up on September assignments. I had my reading, my music, my trips to the museum. I had my love life. Assignments came last, if at all. With papers overdue, any ideas of my own that I couldn’t do justice to in thirty minutes and a half a page remained unwritten.
The mise en scene for my dialogue became vivid when, goofing around after college, I visited a friend at the University of Pennsylvania architecture school soon after his first charrette. One student had labored the entire week of the assignment to get a Lucite cylinder to stay glued erect enough to represent a column in his spare Bauhaus office. By Judgment Day little else had been added to it. The faculty critic had said “That doesn’t belong,” and ripped it from the cardboard. Then the to-me-immortal Mrs. Nevitsky stoked him with her matronly hand: “I know,” she said. “It feels as though I’ve torn your arm off.”
I’m in my anal stage of architecture design: every week I hand my shit to Mrs. Nevitsky.
Alan Ravage (first semester)
Over the years of army and grad school a few tatters of notes got scribbled. Somehow, I got married. Then there were three, and I began teaching. I had yet to finish my thesis.
The story might never have actually been written had not that Paul Knatz been electrified by meeting R. Buckminster Fuller‘s embodiment of rigorous analysis and invention. (That’s a story in itself and it’s grown to need a section of its own.) [link coming]
When someone told George Bernard Shaw that the sun was ninety-three million miles away, he replied: “Nonsense: look at it.” Most of us, whatever answers we give in science class, feel a flat earth beneath our feet. We feel the sun rise and set. As detailed in the linked file, Fuller had talked about training himself to feel the earth turn. I followed suit. Not only did I stand gazing at the dusk trying to be aware of where everything was and what it was doing; I also tried to feel it the old way, but to feel it as a system. I tried to feel a flat earth, but critically, judging its efficiency. What is the sun doing over night? Unless there’s a flat China on the underside, it’s unemployed. My image of our inherited cosmologies, including that of my beloved Genesis began to tarnish.
By the next time my old dialogue began to bubble my precious relationship to God had grown more complex than I could then analyze. But this time I papered up the typewriter and took dictation.
Typically my inspirations came in the midst of sleep, just when I was least prepared and without ambition. This time it was 3 AM, two hours after I’d crawled into bed, probably full of New York martinis. By 7 AM I was beginning to make more of it up than I was stenographing, so I quit. But the next 3 AM called again and by that second 7 AM it was done.
Over the next couple of days I hammered it till I was satisfied, copied it more neatly, and sent it to Fuller’s home in Maine. I copied it again and mailed it to Playboy. (They paid the most.)
More coming. Meantime, see Reality: Media Stud.
1997 10 17 It wasn’t until the 1970s that I learned that there were people by the mid-19th Century to whom it did occur that God could have added all the fossils he wanted. Others took exception. They took it to mean that God was a forger, that his creation was dishonest. They were outraged.
My reaction until this moment was simply to think: nonsense — it’s not a forgery unless it’s being deliberately passed off as something it’s not: that is, a planet on which life has been evolving for billions of years. If I paint in the style of Vermeer and age the painting, it’s not a forgery. It’s only a forgery if I try to palm it off as truly a Vermeer. (The student-god of my story might have a hard time convincing his teacher/critic-god that he’d actually done the week’s assignment four billions years early. He certainly doesn’t owe any honesty to his creature, the Man.)
I guess I also asked: what happened to the idea of God and his actions being good by definition? If we kill, it’s murder; if God kills, it’s good. He’s not bound by His morality for humans.
In these days I’m impressed by the argument that reduce a god that’s good by definition to absurdity, in those days I didn’t know them. Arguments, usually referring to Plato’s Euthyphro, that “prove” that morality cannot be divinely based are also not uncommon.
But it was only within this hour that a whole new horizon opened to me. Once upon a time we made glib references to Eternity, I more than most. Time was taken as an absolute. Twentieth-century cosmologists have mostly followed the physicists in believing that time doesn’t exist apart from this universe, that time and space are inseparable. (Prigogine just converted me to his view that time predates all universes and all creations.) Now, if god could have created this universe (obviously not the God who couldn’t even find Adam when he was hiding and who allowed His scribes to have a wrong value for π) then space/time might well continue to be plastic for Hsiouo (He/She/It/Other/Ur-Other). We are helpless in time (and not too puissant in space), but what’s to prevent such a god from creating in which ever direction of time pleased him? Why couldn’t he create the universe on Fri, Oct 17, 1997 and then work backwards simultaneously to forwards? We have memories and records that say we’ve been here all along? None we can prove aren’t eidetic. (Or divinely aged.)
Now that last part is a familiar, however perhaps sophomoric, question. But the idea of the past being plastic to a transcendant (or even perhaps immanent) being (or program) did not occur to me in connection with ideas of Creation until now.
Even so my idea may not be clear enough. Before, I was imagining god creating the universe in a present and then altering the appearance of its past. In the present. Now I am imagining god creating the universe in a present and then recreating it in its past!
The changes would be as “real” as anything else. (They’d be old too.) Now a new question comes to me. Did Marty McFly’s traveling into and changing his family’s past do it in the present? It’s in the “present” that we see him do it in the movie. Or are our terms so many Medieval-Scholastic self-bindings?
My science fiction reading has never fully regained its currency since submitting myself to attending college. Fortunately, my son fills me in now and then. I am grateful to him for pointing out something to me that the author of The Model should be ashamed not to have thought of on his own: to move around in a dimension, you need a meta-dimension. Nothing, not god, can move in four dimensions without a fifth dimension permitting it.
1997 10 19 Reading my note my son comments:
To measure any motion in N dimensions requires N+1 dimensions.
Also, as I [bk speaking] discussed with Clinton yesterday, trying to make sure I remembered my own thinking on my Nd+1 argument (do you like that for a short-hand?), it’s critical to understand that “motion” means unidirectional change in one dimension (the N+1st dimension). For us 3d creatures, we have unidirectional change in Time. For a time-traveler (a 3d creature whose change in the 4th dimension is no longer unidirectional), there must be a 5th dimension, MetaTime. Time is no longer unidirectional, so MetaTime MUST be.
What does it mean to say that MetaTime is unidirectional? Well, I made a time machine and the first thing I did with it was travel back to the day of my birth. Then, having seen my young parents (my father younger then than I am now), I decided to travel back to the days of their births, respectively. First I traveled to my own birth in 1967, then to my mother’s in 1941 and finally I visited my father’s birth in 1938.
What does it mean to say that my “first” visit to 1967 took place “before” my second visit to 1941 — when my mother was clearly born “before” I was? Well, she was born before I was along a unidirectional 4th dimension, but now my subjectivity exists along a unidirectional 5th dimension, allowing me to move freely in both directions on the 4th dimension (although I still only perceive 3 physical dimensions plus one unidirectional dimension). Her 4th dimension existence precedes mine, but my 5th dimensional visit to my own birth preceded my visit to hers.
The closest I’ve seen SF writers come to dealing with this is the idea of the “subjective time” of the traveler being orthogonal to the “objective time” he’s traveling through. SF’s “subjective time” is like my MetaTime, except that MetaTime is actually objective, meaning that two time travelers share the unidirectional experience of MetaTime.
It turns out that you, my father, also invented a time machine at the age of 30. This was in 1968. Now did you invent your time machine before I did or not? Perhaps you invented your time machine in 19681 and your knowledge inspired me to reinvent a time machine in 19971. Or perhaps you never invented a time machine in 19681, but you met a 30-year-old man in 19672 who made you believe it was possible, so a year later, in 19682 you invented your own machine.
I’m using the bracketed numbers because I can’t do superscript in email. Consider the bracketed numbers coordinates along the MetaTemporal axis.
In the first scenario, you invented time travel first. In the second scenario, I invented it first. Even though the (4d) dates are the same in both scenarios.
I consider this the only coherent way to make sense of time-travel fiction. Unfortunately, most time-travel fiction is incoherent. … PS: I once vaguely conceived a short story about a Time traveler encountering a MetaTime traveler. Clearly, a MetaTime traveler can move freely in the 5th dimension, but must move unidirectionally in a 6th. Etc.
Great stuff, bk.
|The Model (a triptych of stories)||The First Week
The Second Week
The Third Week