Bulshytt: (1) In Fluccish of the late Praxic Age and early Reconstitution, a derogatory term for false speech in general, esp. knowing and deliberate falsehood or obfuscation. (2) In Orth, a more technical and clinical term denoting speech (typically but not necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges to create the impression that something has been said. (3) According to the Knights of Saunt Halikaarn, a radical order of the 2nd Millennium A.R., all speech and writings of the ancient Sphenics; the Mystagogues of the Old Mathic Age; Praxic Age commercial and political institutions; and, since the Reconstitution, anyone they deemed to have been infected by Procian thinking. …
Both looking and reading were occasioned by traveling from Bergen up and round the coast of Norway, to Kirkenes on the Russian Border.
I travelled by Hurtigruten, (or Hurttigrutimurtiturtigrun, obviously) which was great, apart from the fact that me and my mate were the youngest people on the boat by about 30 years. It must be single party babes week on the Hurtigruten this week, not last. Damn. Anyway here is a picture of wot I saw.
Drifting serenely from fjord to fjord while watching the awesome scenery roll past is an excellent way to spend time. It also leaves plenty of time for reading, so it was lucky that I brought a good book. A great book in fact.
Now, I know that Mr S Langridge, not of London Town, believes that Neal Stephenson jumped the shark the moment he finished In The Beginning Was The Command Line (though he may concede Snow Crash if he's in a good mood or drunk) but I disagree. I liked Cryptonomicon. I loved the Baroque Cycle, all three and half thousand bastard, brilliant, long hand scribed pages of it. I had the same feeling I got reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, like someone somewhere knew me and said, 'let's write a book for this bloke.' I guess I'm interested in many of the same things as Stephenson; science, philosophy, history and fucking great spaceships / sword fights, depending on when in history you find yourself. Anyway, his new tome (and it is a Tome) is called Ananthem, (a deliberate cross between Anthem and Anathema, though I found the clever clever linguistic mash-ups the least convincing thing about the book) and its ace. It is by no means flawless, but it creates an utterly convincing and internally consistent world, a task that has proved beyond JK Rowling for example.
Anyway, on the world on which Anantham is set, society has evolved into two camps. First is the saecular world, which isn't a million miles away from the society we live in now. The second part is made up of the Avout. Now, the Avout are like monks and nuns in some ways, they live in monastery type institutions and dress in robes, but rather than being religious in nature they are made up of scientists and philosophers. They live sequestered away in their 'concents', only venturing out into the saecular world once every ten, hundred or thousand years, and they take the long view. In one dazzling passage, the narrator, a young Avout called Erasmas, describes the location of his concent. He tells how it can be found down river from a natural crossing point and that sometimes there is only an inn or a gas station by the crossing, though occasionally that grows into a town or a city and skyscrapers overlook the concent, but such things pass and fall, and forests surround it, only for the process to begin again. These are people who view nuclear winters as the kinds of things that roll round once in a while. I found this juxtaposition of two views of time absolutely spellbinding. It has wonderful consequences in the story too. When an avout leaves the concent, he is uncertain if he (or she) will be picked up in a horse and carriage or in a helicopter. Both technologies (or praxis, as they call it) come and go and go and come.
Couple of other things, then I'll shut up about it for now. First, characters from our intellectual history crop up in this world, but under different names, and working them out is good fun if you're as sad as me. Secondly, a couple of new words really, really work. 'Plane', for example, meaning to destroy someone in an argument ("I got talking to Grant about philosophy and he totally planed me"), and even better, bulshytt:
Procian thinking is his way or describing nominalist philosophy, or more extremely and cruelly, any kind of post-modern mumbo jumbo.
It is a word I intend to make a trusty friend.
Final point here. The concents are beautiful places, where people study and teach and research with no other purpose than tending to the flame of knowledge. They grow their own food and make beer and wine. They date and marry and live full lives. Now, I know this might mark me out as a bit of a weirdo, but I can kind of see the appeal...