Log in

No account? Create an account


::: The Dechronization of Sam Magruder

What fun this was!! The author, George Gaylord Simpson, was a noted paleontologist, and his tale of Dr Magruder (whose degrees include AChA3*, whatever that means) who falls from his research lab in 2162AD through the gap between time quanta (tiny discrete packets of time) into the late Cretaceous period, is a terrific read. My only complaint: too short! The frame, if you will, is the discovery of seven or eight stone tablets, reliably dated to 80 million years prior to the story's setting, containing Magruder's description of what happened to him and how he survived amongst T. Rex (vicious but stupid and not very agile) and other nasties of that era.

First off, I love time travel stories; the paradoxes and questions that they raise make my brain feel funny, like stretching a muscle you don't use very often. Spouse and I regularly get into an argument every time we watch "The Prisoner of Azkaban," over how Harry could survive the Dementors in order to get to the point in time where he could go back and rescue himself from the Dementors. That's the kind of thing that makes time travel a fun topic. In the second chapter the Universal Historian outlines the two universes that we all live in: the present, which has motion but not duration or growth, and the past, which has growth and duration but no motion. He compares it to the tip of a live plant: all the growth and change and movement goes on at the tip (the present), while behind it is left a static and ever-increasing "deposit" of experience, memory, etc (the past). There is no future, just as there is nothing for the plant beyond the tip of its branch.

The manuscript, which was found in Simpson's papers after his death in 1984, was probably written about 1970 but has a kind of H.G. Wells-ian flavor to it, maybe because Simpson was born in 1902 so grew up in an era more sympathetic to that style of writing. (He surely grew up reading that kind of writing!) The book starts with a question, posed by the Universal Historian, "What would you do if you knew you were going to be utterly alone for the rest of your life?" and (fittingly enough) ends with the answer to it. And no, we're not talking about the trite "If you were marooned on a desert island" question, since that presupposes a society to be marooned from and therefore the hope that someday you might be rescued; we're talking about the complete and utter nonexistence of any chance of another human being ever. What would you do? How much of what we do is based on the existence of other people? When you take away every aspect of our lives that assumes, relies on, or is meant to capitalize on, the existence of others, what's left?

I won't spoil it by giving it away, but it's an answer I like, since it fits with my own belief. And it's surely a question worth thinking about. As Tom Bombadil says, "Tell me, who are you? Alone, yourself, and nameless?"



Latest Month

January 2018


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow