Saturday, February 14, 2009

Anathem: Iconographies

Having finished Neal Stephenson's Anathem I feel like making a few notes.

First and foremost, it's a great book.

For the rest of this post I'll try to decipher some of the iconographies from the book.

  • Temnestrian Iconography:
    It depicts us as clowns... But… clowns with a sinister aspect. [...] [Originates from] The Cloud-weaver, a satirical play by the Ethran playwright Temnestra that mocks Thelenes by name and that was used as evidence in his trial.
    This is a reference to The Clouds, a satirical play by the Athenian playwrite Aristophanes that mocked Socrates and contributed to the latter's trial. That Thelenes is Arbre's Socrates is evident from many other references.
  • Doxan Iconography:
    [Originates from] A Praxic Age moving picture serial. An adventure drama about a military spaceship sent to a remote part of the galaxy to prevent hostile aliens from establishing hegemony, and marooned when their hyperdrive is damaged in an ambush. The captain of the ship was passionate, a hothead. His second-in-command was Dox, a theorician, brilliant, but unemotional and cold.
    This must be obvious to the American audience, but took me a while to figure out. The moving picture serial is Star Trek, the ship is USS Enterprise, the passionate captain is Kirk, the unemotional and cold theorician is Spock.
  • Yorran Iconography. This one is from "an illustrated book", but "later they made moving pictures of it":
    Yorr is identified as a theorician, but if you see how he actually spends his time, he’s really more of a praxic. He has turned green from working with chemicals, and he has a tentacle sprouting from the back of his skull. Always wears a white laboratory smock. Criminally insane. Always has a scheme to take over the world.
    Must be another American pop culture reference. I am not sure, but thinking of Lex Luthor, the arch-enemy of Superman.
  • Muncostran Iconography:
    Eccentric, lovable, disheveled theorician, absent-minded, means well
    Saunt Muncoster is Arbre's Einstein, as evidenced by this depiction, as well as the more direct reference in Glossary: "A theor of the late Praxic Age, responsible for crucial advances in what is called, on Earth, general relativity".
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