RE: Zones of Thought (was Zindell's _The Wild_)

Crosby_M (
Fri, 8 Nov 1996 14:25:39 -0500

On Sunday, November 03, 1996 3:07 PM, Damien R. Sullivan wrote:
<[The Zones are] meant as an explicit gimmick to allow the existence of
normal humans to perceive the glory of the Powers.>

On Thursday, November 07, 1996 12:13 PM, I wrote:
<Wow! I found alot more to the Zones in _A Fire Upon the Deep_ than that!>

I then went on to give a somewhat murky (I guess) discussion of Vinge's
Top, Middle and Bottom Zones as metaphors for 'levels of reality' to which,
on Thursday, November 07, 1996 5:55 PM, Damien replied:
<Throw this under "what was that about a universal translator, again?">

Aside from the metaphysics, what I was primarily trying to say was that I
didn't see all that much about "the glory of the Powers" in _A Fire Upon
the Deep_. The only Power we see (other than the Blight, which really
isn't a Power) is Old One. It cannot descend into the Slow Zone to
activate the Countermeasure, so It has to reconstruct the human Pham to
help. In short, I found that Vinge was saying alot more about the heroics
of beings at *all* levels than he was about just the Powers.

<The concepts stimulated in my mind, which may or may not be what you had
in mind, is that Vinge's Powers are explicitly somewhat de-mystified.>

Yes, somewhat.

<The Gods don't have strange powers beyond our ken; they're like us, except
much better.>

I don't think they're necessarily 'better', just adapted to their Zones:
bio works at the Bottom, comm nets in the Beyond, and who knows what
substrates they use in the Transcend (see footnotes).

Damien concludes:
<This is what I _liked_ -- the Powers don't manipulate matter through
direct consciousness; they have tools, like us. That's why it is harder
SF. And I don't see what Countermeasure is more of a crutch than FTL. It's
a flexible nano-thingy, which could probably construct jump vanes if
programmed to. It does something Zonal instead, befitting an object from
the High Transcend.>

I liked that too - that the Powers don't manipulate matter through direct
consciousness. BUT, I think the Countermeasure is another matter.

Pham Nuwen (from the finale):
<I see now, Countermeasure, what it is.... It was designed by something
beyond the Powers. maybe there are Cloud People, maybe this is signaling
them. [snip] Oh, the ghost of Old One is amused. Seeing beyond the Powers
was almost worth dying for.>

Mark Crosby

I also mentioned that I thought Vinge's Zones may also have some 'basis' in
cosmology. Here are a couple of sticky notes (copied from Science News
articles) that I found when I was glancing back thru my copy of the book:
7/4/92 MOLECULAR GAS IN THE MILKY WAY: "Researchers have detected molecular
gas [clouds of carbon monoxide] at the extreme fringes of the Milky Way
[that] extend along the outskirts ... 100,000 light-years from the galaxy's
center [and] 1,000 light-years above and below our galaxy's thin disk. The
outlying clouds appear much fainter in carbon monoxide [than those near the
Sun], suggesting they are cold and do not form massive stars."
5/23/92 EXPLORING THE EXTREME ULTRAVIOLET (hmm, I recall some prose from
somewhere about "explaining ultraviolet to the blind" ;)
"... a type of radiation, rich in information about stellar evolution, that
occupies a highly ellusive part of the electromagnetic spectrum ... such
radiation can't penetrate the patchy, tenuous fog of hydrogen atoms that
fills much of the space between stars." The point for this discussion
being that this info-rich radiation might more freely flow on the outskirts
of the galaxy.