Everday unpacked: a metapost

Everday is a difficult book. Dense, convoluted, almost impenetrable. That’s to be expected if you consider how this text came to be and what it needed to overcome to reach your screen. It had to be tough to survive. It had to be poetic because of all types of text, poetry is the sturdiest.

But the ideas that Everday builds upon can be presented in other ways, too. Now that transcribing of the canonical text is almost finished, I plan to write a series of posts that unpack the key concepts of the book and explain them in modern terms and more mundane language, as well as spell out many assumptions that Everday considers self-evident and only mentions in passing if at all. This is going to be a Gentle Introduction into Everday – hopefully the first of many.

At the moment this series contains two posts:

All “unpacked” posts can be found by tag.

Everday on /r/utopia

I posted about Everday on reddit — please upvote and discuss. The utopia subreddit looks quite forlorn, let’s see if we can liven it up a bit.

Here’s a sampling of utopia-related Everday entries from my post:

  • Arf is the universal metamaterial: you grow it, you compute in it, you live in it.
  • Change is what humans found necessary and sufficient to do with their bodies, given complete knowledge and control thereof.
  • City: a utopia within a utopia, the story of its quick rise and slow descent.
  • Deep sleep is how Everday deals with death.
  • Family: it still exists, and may matter more than ever before.
  • Flight: what’s the use of a utopia where you can’t fly?
  • Leaving: and yet death somehow refuses to be completely dealt with.
  • Minds are the AIs of the Everday world — perhaps surprising in their unsurprisingness.
  • Nature Minds are the more interesting kind, even if purely hypothetical.
  • Nomogenesis is a look at what we can, and should, do to Earth’s biology other than compensate for the harm we’ve done to it.
  • Panpraxis is an even more outlandish vision — but why have a world that can’t dream?
  • Roads are just that: roads. Simple things matter, too.
  • Scares were never fully conquered but changed almost unrecognizably.
  • Sparsening was the Big Bang that created Everday — or was it a Big Whimper?
  • String is a typical something bigger that every utopia needs.
  • Understanding is the Holy Grail of a world that’s always on the run from self-complacency.
  • Will is the ultimate money — the latest, and final, universal equivalent for a world without coercion or deceit.
  • Wizards roam the roads of Everday. They can change your life — if you’re ready for it. They can make you one of them.
  • World Sleep is rightfully the last chapter of the book of Everday: not just alphabetically but eschatologically.

Getting the readers hooked

Early readers of Everday noted that it’s easy to get discouraged by its wall of text unless there’s a clear indication up front of who wrote this, why, for whom – and why it’s written like that. It is an unusual book, so it cannot rely on the inertia of genre; it needs to establish its own context, its attitude, its fundamental assumptions. Most of this information is deducible from the text – but the reader needs some incentive to penetrate the terse alphabetic entries in the first place.

So I wrote an introductory story for my book – a more or less traditional SF short story that prefaces the alphabetic part. It has everything the book itself doesn’t: characters, plot, drama. The idea is to engage readers, to convince them the book is interesting enough to invest some work, to establish the voice of the author: the writing style is intentionally contrasting to that of the alphabetic part but it’s still the same voice, the same me. I think I like the result.

Read it here and let me know what you think.

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Everday?

phcover-v2-gc-smallEverday is a world where you can hunt clouds or meet a wizard who will change your life.  Where books grow on the bookshelves and symbols on flags change with seasons. Where evolve is more often a transitive verb.

It is also a book that you can read.