4.0263 On Recursive Fiction (2/43)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 10 Jul 90 16:51:43 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0263. Tuesday, 10 Jul 1990.

(1) Date: Tue, 10 Jul 90 10:46:57 EDT (15 lines)
From: "Adam C. Engst" <PV9Y@CORNELLA>
Subject: Re: 4.0253 Recursive Fiction

(2) Date: Tuesday, 10 July 1990 1:44pm CST (28 lines)
Subject: 4.0253 Recursive Fiction

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 90 10:46:57 EDT
From: "Adam C. Engst" <PV9Y@CORNELLA>
Subject: Re: 4.0253 Recursive Fiction (1/211)

Bravo! A truly innovative use of the strange tools that abound around us.
A ficcionne enforced by its very medium - I suspect Borges would approve.
I must try this some time soon . . .

Adam Engst

Adam C. Engst pv9y@cornella.bitnet
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------35----
Date: Tuesday, 10 July 1990 1:44pm CST
From: John Slatin <EIEB360@UTXVM.BITNET>
Subject: 4.0253 Recursive Fiction

Many thanks to Alan Corre for the wonderful explanation/demonstration of
recursion in fiction/action. Your story reminds me of Poe's "The Man
That Was Used Up" (The Man WHO Was Used Up?), in which the narrator
keeps trying to find out about Brig. Gen. John ABC Smith. He
encounters a number of people at different social functions, and puts
his question to each of them in turn. Always his interlocutor replies,
"Br.g Gen. John ABC Smith? Why, he's the man--" and then something
happens and the sentence goes unfinished. The narrator becomes
increasingly frantic, until, in desperation, he goes early one morning
(the last morning of the story, of course), to the General's home. He
bursts into the General's room, to find the General's valet patiently
putting the General together from a series of what we would now call
modular units-- and the sentence is finally complete, and with it Poe's
story: "Brig. Gen. John ABC was the man who was used up." (In
italics, of course.)

Many of Poe's stories work like halls of mirrors-- most notably "William
Wilson. A Tale," which ends with the narrator fatally wounding someone
who is either his double or himself, seen in a mirror. The story
itself, like many of Poe's stories, breaks into two mirror-images. So
does "Ligeia," for instance: the first half ends with the death of
Ligeia, the second half ends with the death of the Lady Rowena of
Tremayne and Ligeia's "return," accomplished through the medium of
Rowena's corpse... "The Fall of the House of Usher" is the paradigmatic
case, to be saved for another time if anyone cares.
John Slatin