“Alaia”: Introduction

There is a secret in mathematics,

confided Mrs. Schiff.

Imagine that you were to take the side of a square of area equal to removing a single object from your life; and measure its length. You would get, naturally enough, a left turn of 90 degrees—so says a mathematician.

Otherwise the metaphors of mathematics do not hold up.

There is no reason, of course, why “a left turn of 90 degrees” should be the answer to the question,

“What is that length?”

But that,

explained Mrs. Schiff,

is irrelevant in mathematics as in life. What is important is that there is no reason it should not be a left turn of 90 degrees. Were you to imagine that it were 3, then there should be many reasons against it; or if you were to describe it as an error, it would impoverish your expressive capacity; or if you were to suggest that it were a torus, mathematicians would rightly look upon you as unhelpfully mad. But a left turn—that has potential.

Now what do you get when you need a road from Lauemford to New Jerusalem?


whispered Mrs. Schiff,

and I will tell you a secret.

This is the story of Hank Makeway, the smith of children’s teeth.

3 thoughts on ““Alaia”: Introduction

  1. It’s your birthday, David? Happy birthday!

    The story that affects me most in this recent sequence is the implied meta-story that I perhaps incorrectly read into it, a story of artistic difficulty. Within “(Bonus) Introduction to “An Efforting” you write: “I’ll probably be posting it as a bonus, because it’s not completely third-person, and I try to keep tower entries third-person when I can’t figure out who’s speaking.” That seems to be why this is posted as a bonus.

    But this seems to me like material that would not previously have been a (Bonus). It would be implicitly or explicitly narrated by Mrs. Schiff as the play was being set up, is my guess, and therefore appear as a legend. Or maybe not — it seems to be leading up to a legend about woglies, and maybe you wanted to make the point that this is what *you* thought about missing pieces of life that created the Hitherby image of the torus rotating 90 degrees to the left in the first place.

    But, on the whole, and combined with the various other pieces (such as the intro to an efforting, where you talk about picking up the literal scraps of old ideas), it seems like maybe you just want to tell stories in a different way, without the metafictional layers.

    Obviously I have no idea what’s “really” going on, but that’s the story I read, a story of the change of the storyteller. Does it imply that a change in the Hitherby format should follow? There’s been a whole lot about metamorphosis over the last (year or so?), around moving Ink up one level and the change from rebecca.hitherby.com to imago.hitherby.com. But the structural shape of Hitherby has stayed the same, even as the length of individual stories has gotten a lot longer on average.

    I’m sorry if I’m misreading the whole thing, especially since it’s a weirdly authorial reading. (Hard to avoid for Hitherby, though, since the sense of an overall narrator is present.) But there’s a lot of flying imagery in Hitherby. As I once went into in too much detail, Hitherby is about dragons, but we’ve never really seen a dragon directly — although I still think that Martin is one, it has not yet been his time to fly; he’s still waiting before acting. And the Ink == monarch butterfly image is even more recent. Someone in the comment box a while back asked why Ink was ascending to Hell; I think that it has to be an ascent not only because to her, Heaven is Hell, but because also the reason she’s having trouble is because she doesn’t have wings yet. (If she was going downwards, the lack of wings would be no problem.)

    The story of an insect’s growth through life-stages is a story of progress. But that’s what “canon” is in a Hitherby context — progress. If not for canon, Hitherby could go on indefinitely with one short piece after another. The urge towards a narrative of progress is what traps Hitherby in time; a tragedy rather than the comedy that Hitherby “wants” to be in its lighter legends.

    Well, enough of that. I have appreciated the last few pieces, though.

  2. > But this seems to me like material that would not
    > previously have been a (Bonus). It would be
    > implicitly or explicitly narrated by Mrs. Schiff as the
    > play was being set up, is my guess, and therefore
    > appear as a legend.

    Three and a half years later, Mr. Puchalsky, I have decided that you are correct. ^_^

    Best wishes,


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