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Sep 2, 2017

Weirdlands

Glisten on Dessimo Beach near Balad.
I've previously blogged about Dessimo Beach, beside the Moaning Ocean, on planet Wyst in Alastor Cluster. That was the place described by Jack Vance as being where the protagonist of Wyst: Alastor 1716 (1978), Jantiff, rescued Glisten from some witch hunters. Jantiff is baffled by Glisten's refusal to speak.

Later, in his book Ecce and Old Earth (1991), Vance made explicit the idea that one way to expand the parapsychic powers of the human brain is to restrict children from using language. When Jantiff Ravensroke first meets Glisten, the young Weirdlands Witch, he observes that she and everyone in her family apparently never speak. Jantiff is not even sure if Glisten understands his own spoken words and he must name her "Glisten". She seems to exist in some parallel reality, one where people such as Glisten are somehow isolated from the types of normal human social behavior that we take for granted.

Glisten, beside the Shard Sea on Zeck, Alastor 503.
Weirdlands
Glisten grew up as a nomadic wanderer, living in the Weirdlands of planet Wyst. According to Anney and Angela Fersoni, Wyst was inhabited by an advanced alien species before the arrival of humans. Anney suspected that those alien were a form of artificial life, composed of hierions and they could easily hide from humans.

Eventually, Jantiff learns that when removed from planet Wyst, Glisten can use spoke language. In the last scene of the novel, Vance allows us to witness Glisten speaking to Jantiff on his home planet, Zeck.

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Before the time period described by Vance in Wyst, the natives of Wyst drove most humans out of the Weirdlands. The so-called "Weirdland Witches" were allowed to remain because they were telepathically in contact with the natives.

According to information gathered by Anney, Glisten functioned as an inter-world agent of the Phari. In some ways, this account of Glisten functioning as a kind of "double agent" reminds me of what I have been told about Flitz and and the creation of  Clonia. Clonia and Glisten may both have been "manufactured" and used as agents (in human form) who could infiltate human society.

A report from the Writers Block.
Original cover art by Harold McCauley
and Howard Brown.
Anney proposed that within Alastor Cluster there was constant competition between Phari endosymbionts and the "regular"endosymbionts that would function to suppress human parapsychic abilities.

Faster-than-light telepathy
I wonder how Vance imagined that telepathy worked. In Araminta Station, Glawen seems to receive a telepathic signal that is coming from several miles away. Assuming that this "signal" is not just his imagination, does it arrive instantaneously? Earlier in the book, it is suggested that Glawen is sensitive to some sort of telepathic signal coming from all of humanity, spread throughout the galaxy.

Time Warps
If there are some things that move faster than the speed of light (such as the spaceships in stories set in Vance's future history) then exactly how fast do they travel?

Google "internet search" results for "Jack Vance"
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While searching for webpages about Jack Vance (and using Google's search feature to restrict my search to pages created in the past week) I came across a 2009 commentary about Star King. Wow... a message in a search engine time warp. In his comments about Star King, Ian raised the issue of there being some very unlikely coincidences that advance the plot in Vance's story about Kirth Gersen hunting down an adversary; Malegate, the first Demon Prince that Kirth can locate. Is Gersen just lucky? Was Vance just sloppy in his writing? Or, did Vance give us an indication that Kirth Gersen had some "parapsychic abilities" that might have guided him towards success?

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At the start of Star King, Kirth and/or his grandfather have been searching for the Demon Princes for about two decades. As famous criminals who the IPCC would be glad to capture, the Demon Princes keep secret their identities and their travels. Malegate the Woe must do quite a bit of traveling. He controls several worlds Beyond and also has a position at a famous university at the core of human galactic civilization.

Hildemar Dasce
When his henchmen hear Teehalt speaking about the wonderful new planet he discovered, how do they contact Malegate and receive his orders for Teehalt: that he should meet Maligate at Smade's planet? Presumably Smade's planet is roughly halfway between Maligate's location and Teehalt's. The communications between Maligate and Dasce must travel quite fast.

Strangely, Vance never provided an account of interstellar communications for those future times when humans had spread among the stars. I suppose that for Vance, he enjoyed imagining a future where travel between the stars was similar to sailing the seas of Earth before the invention of radio.

Is it coincidence that Gersen just happens to learn that Maligate is one of the space pirates he has hunted for years and then at his next port of call, on a planet that is populated by about 20 people, he sees Malagate? By this time point in his career, Gersen has already established a working relationship with the IPCC.  What if Gersen is being used by the IPCC to get at Malegate? What if all the apparent "coincidences" in Star King are actually the result of Gersen being secretly guided towards his goal, which might actually be the goal of the IPCC, or the IPX? If an unseen force is making use of Gersen, some sort of technology-assisted telepathy might be guiding him towards "lucky" encounters such as his first contact with Malegate on Smade's planet.

Next: investigating a tryp'At agent and her activities on Earth
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Good work Google!
I don't usually use Chrome. I recently used it and found that Google is no longer going to make an effort to support my computer with updates for their web browser. Yet, at the same time, their browser software wants me to do an update.

More fun with Google
I often use Google's image search in order to hunt for the origin of an image. Today, when I went to use the image search utility, I got a popup message inviting me to participate a crowd sourcing project (Image Labeler). I followed the link and was asked to select a category of images from a list of categories:

I selected "sky" and was told immediately that there were no images available in that category. Persisting, I clicked that category again and got the image shown to the right, which obviously includes some sky seen through the trees. I suppose they have to first test their "crowd" members to see if they will get a reasonably answer.

I really wonder what they hope to accomplish. Maybe they are training a computer program to label images and they want to use results from human visual processing to train their "AI" system.

My fear is that the poor image search results from Google already reflect their use of the information that they obtain from a "crowd" of volunteer image analysts.

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