Friday, March 24, 2006

What the name signifies

One of the episodes in Alice in Wonderland is the Queen of Heart's croquet game. Like everything in Wonderland, the game is absurd. The balls are curled-up live hedgehogs, which unroll and walk away when they feel like it. The arches are the Queen's playing-card soldiers, bent over double. They too move about at will. And the mallets are flamingos: the player cradles the flamingo's body with the neck and head hanging down to strike.
The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it would twist itself round and look up in her face, with such a puzzled expression that she could not help bursting out laughing…
Robert Heinlein used this as a metaphor for his narrator's reaction to Nevia, the world where half of the action of his seems-like-heroic-fantasy-but-is-really-SF novel Glory Road is set.
Like Alice trying to cope with the Flamingo, every time I thought I had it licked, it would wiggle loose.
That's how I see the world today: every time I think I have it grasped, it wriggles loose. Something turns out to be wildly different from what I had come to expect. When I encounter such a surprise, I'll blog about it here.


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