Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Narrative technique and the world...
 Relativity and the universe of...
 Probability and the principle of...
 Time and the structure of...
 A wholistic theory of the science-fiction...
 Biographical sketch

Title: Science and fiction in the science-fiction novel
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098351/00001
 Material Information
Title: Science and fiction in the science-fiction novel
Physical Description: vii, 198 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Sadler, Frank
Publication Date: 1974
Copyright Date: 1974
Subject: Science fiction -- History and criticism   ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 192-197.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098351
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000582571
oclc - 14136182
notis - ADB0948


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title page
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    Table of Contents
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    Narrative technique and the world view
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    Relativity and the universe of fiction
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    Probability and the principle of uncertainty
        Page 85
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    Time and the structure of reality
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    A wholistic theory of the science-fiction novel
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    Biographical sketch
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III 1111111 II1111 1111111111 III IIIIIII
3 1262 08552 8510

Copyright by

Frank Orin Sadler




I wish to thank the following people for their

counsel, patience, and many valuable suggestions in the

making of this study: Professors Vincent McGuire and

William Robinson, who taught me much about education and

English; Professor Michael Parkinson, whose understanding

of physics was of immense help and encouragement; Professor

Motley Deakin, whose many hours of help and criticism

tempered my enthusiasm with guidance and direction; and,

especially, Professor Ward Hellstrom, chairman of my


Also, these other people need to be mentioned. Their

influence and judgment is, perhaps, not obvious but, never-

theless, considerable: Professor Robert Bowers; my father,

Dr. S. G. Sadler for his thoughtful reading and role as

"devil's advocate"; a friend and poet, Warren D. Patterson;

Dr. William Ruff; and, my wife, Katharine, to whom this

dissertation is dedicated.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . .. .iv

ABSTRACT .......... . . ... . .vi

INTRODUCTION ................ .1




UNCERTAINTY . . . . . . . .85


NOVEL . . . . .. . .168

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . .... .192

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . .... . .198

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to
the Graduate Council of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Frank Orin Sadler

August, 1974

Chairman: Ward Hellstrom
Major Department: English

It is suggested that each revolution in the sciences

produces a corresponding reinterpretation in the literary

arts and that this reinterpretation in the modern science-

fiction novel has brought about a change in the form and

structure of the novel. Three novels--Samuel R. Delany's

The Einstein Intersection, Brian W. Aldiss's Report on

Probability A, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-

Five--are examined as indicative of the changes which have

taken place in the novel with respect to the indirect in-

fluence of modern science on their structure. It is argued

that the theory of relativity, the Principle of Uncertainty,

probability theory, and other recent developments in mathe-

matical physics have brought about a fundamental change in

not only the way in which man sees himself but also in the

way in which he sees the universe. It is also argued that

these theories have brought about a change in the form

and structure of the science-fiction novel. A wholistic

theory of the science-fiction novel is proposed in its

broad outline to account for the changes which have

occurred in the art and craft of the novel.



The subject of this dissertation is science fiction

and the effects of modern science on the form and structure

of the science-fiction novel. I am concerned primarily

with the narrative art of the science-fiction novel and not

with its ideas per se. Yet the nature of science fiction

demands that its ideas be explored fully, for it is a cen-

tral premise of this dissertation that the ideas and prin-

ciples of modern science and especially those of modern

mathematical physics have brought about profound changes

in the way in which man sees himself in his universe and in

his literature.

In recent years science fiction has become a form of

popular literature read by an increasingly wide and diverse

audience. However, the critical examination of science

fiction as a legitimate and serious literature warranting

scholarly attention has been late in coming. Only within

the past ten or twenty years has any serious attention, other

than an occasional essay, been devoted to the subject. Thomas

D. Clareson in his "Introduction: The Critical Reception

of Science Fiction" in SF: The Other Side of Realism (Bowling

Green: Bowling Green Popular Press, 1971), p. ix, points

out that "Within the past decade or so science fiction has

gained a narrow critical and academic respectability

because of its concerns with utopian-dystopian themes."

There are, of course, a great many reasons why science

fiction has not received a wider critical and academic

respectability. As Clareson suggests, one reason is that

"'modern' science fiction has never completely overcome

its popular origins in dime pulps featuring such titles

as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding, Startling, or

Super-Science Stories. Because it [science fiction] has

been confined to such magazines and their successors, there

has grown up that short-sig ted perspective which speaks of

the genre only in terms of hat has been published originally

in these pulps" (p. ix). P rhaps a more important reason

for the lack of critical at mention paid to science fiction

is that the writing of most science fiction has been dis-

mally incompetent. Neverthe ess, anyone who is seriously

interested in the academic s udy of science fiction should

read one of the recent histories of the genre by such authors

as Sam Moskowitz (Explorers of the Infinite or Seekers of

Tomorrow), Brian W. Aldiss (Billion Year Spree), or W. H. G.

Armytage (Yesterday's Tomorrows), or turn to one of the

recent critical volumes of essays which present a sample

of scholarly activity such as Clareson's book mentioned

above or Reginald Bretnor's Science Fiction: Today and

Tomorrow. Also of great importance is Extrapolation, the

Journal of the MLA Seminar on Science Fiction; Riverside

Quarterly, published by Leland Sapiro; and a new scholarly

Science-Fiction Studies, published by the Department of

English, Indiana State University. The future promises a

continued acceleration in the critical examination of science

fiction. Yet it should be pointed out that science fiction,

because of its particular nature, raises serious questions

about traditional critical theories of literature. These

questions raise doubts about the established methods of

critical inquiry used in the examination of the novel and

literature, and about such basic ideas as the nature of

reality. In brief, it may be argued that science fiction

calls into doubt all those areas of traditional critical

concern in which tentative solutions have been found to

specific problems. Science fiction questions what is meant

by "science" and "fiction" and mirrors, to some degree, the

two-culture phenomenon--the class between science and the

humanities or arts. Yet there exists a growing body of

science fiction which exhibits an integrative tendency

between these two areas, suggesting that, perhaps,a new

literature is in the process of emerging, a literature as

radically different, in certain ways, from nineteenth-

century literature as Romantic literature was from the litera-

ture of the eighteenth century.

The intent of this dissertation is to study the craft

of recent science fiction. Because I believe that science

fiction must account for its science, I have attempted to

explore the various ramifications of modern mathematical

physics as they are exemplified in the structure of the

science-fiction novel. This has not been an easy task

for one who has received his training primarily within

the confines of English literature, for it has demanded

that I learn something about the nature of the revolution

that has occurred within the sciences in this century. I

make no claim to be expert in the areas of modern mathe-

matical physics I have had to explore and I have found

myself relying on the authoritative comments of others who

are recognized as experts in their particular areas. How-

ever, this should not prohibit me from making certain ob-

servations about the nature of the principles involved and

their applicability to the study of the science-fiction

novel. For there can be no doubt, as will be shown, that

an understanding of science and scientific principles is

necessary in order to fully understand the novels examined

here. Without some understanding of the principles discussed

in these novels, I doubt seriously whether they can be

properly evaluated.

Each chapter in my study represents an examination of

a set of principles taken from modern mathematical physics

as they evidence themselves in the novels I have chosen to

study. These principles illustrate various aspects of a

way of looking at man and his universe which differs funda-

mentally from that of the last century. Consequently, in


Chapter I the relationship between narrative technique

and the world view is examined. In Chapter II my focus

is on the theory of relativity and fiction; in Chapter

III I look at the Principle of Uncertainty and probability

theory as they affect the structure of the novel; Chapter

IV examines the nature of time and reality; and, finally,

in Chapter V I propose a wholistic theory of the science-

fiction novel. Each of the novels selected as examples

was chosen because it represents what I consider to be the

best in the field with respect to narrative art and the

ideas and concepts involved in its presentation. Though

I concentrate on one particular aspect of each novel, that

novel could also be examined at some length in terms of

all the scientific principles I have discussed in this




The problems of modern art, so frequently and
passionately discussed in our time, force us
to examine those foundations which form the
presuppositions for every development of art,
foundations which at other times are taken as


It is clear that each scientific reinterpretation of

the physical universe has produced a corresponding rein-

terpretation in the literary arts. For instance, Marjorie

Hope Nicolson's The Breaking of the Circle convincingly

demonstrates the effects of the "new science" of Copernicus,

Galileo, Newton, and Kepler on the artistic and philosophical

ideas of the seventeenth century.1 Arnold Hauser's "The Concep-

tions of Time in Modern Art and Science" traces the differing

conceptions of time in relation to man's world view and

shows how these various conceptions of time "reflect perhaps

most conspicuously the points of contact between art and

science, and allow us to describe the present situation in

the closest connection with the past."2 Likewise, Lois

and Stephen Rose's The Shattered Ring analyzes the impact

of modern science on man's quest for meaning through a study

of contemporary science fiction.3 Other studies, such as

Alfred North Whitehead's Science and the Modern World, outline


the effects of modern science on the philosophical thinking

of our own day.4 That modern science has produced a change

in the way in which man understands and orients himself

in the universe, no one would seriously question. Yet it

is equally clear that little if any attention has been given

to the various ways in which narrative technique has been

influenced by modern science. The aim of this first chapter,

then, is to study the indirect relation that exists between

narrative technique and the world view of modern mathematical

physics and to suggest that this relation may serve as the

basis for creating a means by which changes in the art of the

science-fiction novel may be evaluated.

There is no evidence or reason to believe that nar-

rative technique has influenced the world view either

directly or indirectly whereas there are a great many reasons

for believing that the effects of modern science on literary

art have been pervasive. Studies such as Wayne C. Booth's

The Rhetoric of Fiction examine the possibilities and limita-

tions of narrative technique in light of individual examples

drawn from the universe of fiction.5 Booth's study, though

comprehensive, makes no attempt to understand the fictional

devices of the novel with respect to how these devices have

been shaped and influenced in their use in the novel by

modern science. Booth simply presents a discussion of

fictional devices as they have been used in the novel without,

for the most part, attempting to show how these devices have

changed as a result of shifts in our world view. Further,

Booth is concerned primarily with discussing how various

authors have handled narrative devices in the novel. In

his chapter dealing with the "Types of Narration," Booth


Narration is an art, not a science, but this
does not mean that we are necessarily doomed
to fail when we attempt to formulate principles
about it. There are systematic elements in every
art, and criticism of fiction can never avoid the
responsibility of trying to explain technical
successes and failures by reference to general
principles. But we must always ask where the
general principles are to be found. (p. 164)

Booth's "principles," however, are not principles so

much as they are observations of the various ways in which

narrative devices have been used in the novel. They cer-

tainly are not principles in the same sense as principles

exist in the sciences. Booth observes the usage of dif-

ferent fictional devices in the novel, discusses their usage,

and attempts to classify them by the kinds of variations

which exist between them. Booth's study is valuable because

it establishes, in a sense, the raw data of observation upon

which a set of principles may then be created while, at the

same time it attempts to establish a critical vocabulary for

formulating principles. And Booth admits that his "principles"

are only observations and that their definition is limited

because of the complexity of the number of ways in which they

have been used. He proceeds from a neutral position; that is,

Booth simply observes what has taken place rather than ar-

guing from a specific "philosophic" position in his dis-

cussion and examination of the ways in which fictional devices

have been used.

Jean Paul Sartre, on the other hand, in "Francois

Mauriac and Freedom," approaches the problem of the use

of fictional devices in the narrative from an entirely

different point of view. Sartre, in writing of Mauriac,

argues that

Like most of our writers, he [Mauriac] has tried
to ignore the fact that the theory of relativity
applies in full to the universe of fiction, that
there is no more place for a privileged observer
in a real novel than in the world of Einstein,
and that it is no more possible to conduct an
experiment in a fictional system in order to de-
termine whether the system is in motion or at
rest than there is in a physical system. (p. 23)

In a very basic sense this passage from Sartre is a

major source for the idea of this dissertation and, therefore,

may be worthwhile exploring in some depth. The assumption

Sartre makes--and it is an important assumption--is that a

fundamental change has occurred in the way in which man

understands and perceives the physical universe and that

this change has resulted in a change in the way in which we

must understand the use and function of various narrative

devices (techniques) in any "fictional system." Further,

Sartre assumes that it is possible validly to compare

literary creations to the principles which govern reality;

that is, we may compare imaginative creations to the way in

which science perceives the physical universe. A less obvious

result of this assumption, and a more important one, is

that narrative technique must be appropriate to the world

view, both implicit and explicit, as it exists in the novel.

In commenting on Mauriac's fiction, Sartre is suggesting,

albeit indirectly, that omniscient narration is inappropriate

to the modern novel since the modern novel must take into

account the theory of relativity if it is to be considered

modern. In other words, Sartre is suggesting that the world

view created by modern science establishes the parameters

or limits of the possibilities within which fiction may

function. From Sartre's point of view, Mauriac's art is

out-of-date and not in keeping with more modern or recent

theories of the novel. The use of a privileged observer, in

Sartre's theory of the novel, is inappropriate to the way in

which he sees the world and practices his art in it. Sartre,

however, would probably not reject the idea of the limited

use of a privileged observer under certain circumstances,

since to do so would be to misunderstand the theory of relativity;

that is, the theory of relativity does not reject or discard

the older notion of a continuous and mechanistic universe

but simply states that it is a somewhat limited and special

case within the theory of relativity. Put another way, what

I am suggesting is that omniscient narration is appropriate

to classical philosophy whereas, for instance, first person

narration is better suited to the world of Einstein.

The point to be made here, though, is that neither

Booth nor Sartre treat the central problem I have outlined

at the beginning of this chapter, though Sartre's point

of view provides us with a valuable and convenient way of

introducing my subject. Where Booth approaches the study of

fictional devices from what seems to be a neutral position,

Sartre assumes, for various reasons, that the world view

created by modern science does determine the appropriateness

or inappropriateness of certain narrative devices, such as,

point of view and narrative time sequence, and their use in

fiction. Booth observes and Sartre theorizes. The dif-

ference between these two critics lies in their starting

points and, consequently, results in a different type of

information about the nature of literary art.

Werner Heisenberg in "The Representation of Nature in

Contemporary Physics" suggests that

Indeed, the question has been raised whether the
relation of modern man toward nature differs so
fundamentally from that of former times that this
difference alone is responsible for a completely
different point of departure for the fine arts in
contemporary culture. 7

The question Heisenberg raises in this passage is

central to several assumptions made in this chapter,

assumptions which are, perhaps, self-evident but, never-

theless, need to be stated. Obviously Sartre believes with

Heisenberg that "the relation of modern man toward nature

differs . fundamentally from that of former times" and

"that this difference . is responsible for a completely

different point of departure for the fine arts in contem-

porary culture." But to understand the various ways in

which the contemporary world view of modern mathematical

physics has shaped and influenced narrative technique in

the science-fiction novel we must first restate the above

opinion or belief as a conclusion: the relation of modern

man toward nature has fundamentally altered and this alter-

ation or change has resulted in a different way in which

modern man sees himself and his place in the universe.

After all, the advent of the nuclear age--of men on the

moon not once but several times--even to the most unsophis-

ticated observer, must indicate the revolutionary changes

modern science has wrought in man's understanding of the

physical world. As J. Bronowski points out in The Common

Sense of Science, "Science today is plainly more powerful
than, let us say, in the time of Isaac Newton."8 The

power of science, however, does not lie in its translation

into technology but rather in "fact and thought giving

strength to one another" (Bronowski, p. 99). In other words,

modern science has effected a fundamental revolution,

conceptually and ideationally, in the way it sees the

universe. This revolution is responsible for a change in

the way in which man sees and orients himself in the universe.

After all, the fact of the matter is that the theories of

modern science have resulted in momentous changes. Yet

whether or not these changes in the way in which modern

science sees the universe are, as Heisenberg questions, solely

"responsible for a completely different point of departure

for the fine arts in contemporary culture" will depend, in

the final analysis, on whether or not we perceive them.

Heisenberg's answer to this problem of seeing is qualified.

. we may believe that changes in the foundations
of modern science are indicative of profound trans-
formations in the fundamentals of our existence,
which on their part certainly have their effects in
all areas of human experience. From this point of
view it may be valuable for the artist to consider
what changes have occurred during the last decade
in the scientific view of nature. (pp. 122-23)

Since the appearance of Jules Verne in the last century,

this consideration of the changes that have taken place in

science's view of nature has been the preoccupation of the

writer of science fiction; it has been, perhaps, the major

source for his ideas and beliefs about the nature of the

world. However, this examination by writers such as Wells,

Gernsback, Campbell, Clarke, Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov,

has taken place primarily on the level of theme and idea

in the novel and for the most part has not been reflected

(until recently) in the art and craft of the science-fiction

novel, that is, in its use of various narrative techniques.

The reasons for this lie in part in the history of the devel-

opment and evolution of science fiction as a distinct sub-

genre of the novel and with the major concerns of the

writers themselves. Gary K. Wolfe in "The Limits of Science

Fiction" points out that it has been claimed that science

fiction is the "only true literature of ideas, or the only

'relevant' literature . apart from non-fiction that is

of any use at all."9 Obviously, this is an extreme position

and one which Wolfe himself claims is "common among 'defenders

of the faith,' as it were, and . [is] perhaps a necessary

feature of any literature that has long been ignored or even

oppressed by the literary establishment. Once such a

literature begins to win acceptance, however, such attitudes

begin to sound rather shrill and hysterical" (p. 30). In

addition, a major reason for the apparent lack of concern

for the art of science fiction is due to the fact that a

great many of the writers of science fiction have had no

training in literary art. They have received their experience

in the grist mill of pulp-publication which has not been

tolerant of experimentation. However, a more fundamental

and serious reason for the relative lack of sophistication

in the narrative art of the science-fiction novel lies at

that very point where such writers as Isaac Asimov make

their claim for science fiction as the literature of ideas.

What I mean to imply is that these writers have not become

fully aware (for various reasons) of what is inherent in

the very ideas they claim to treat in their fiction. That

is, they apparently conceive of the novel as simply a

vehicle for working out the implications of certain ideas

taken from the sciences and for studying their hypothetical

applications to man and his society without realizing that

the vehicle itself may be an inadequate one for expressing

these ideas.

Obviously some writers are more aware than others of

the changes that have taken place in man's understanding

of the physical universe. Judith Merril in her essay "What

Do You Mean: Science? Fiction?" declares

"Man is the proper study of any artist--man and"
.etc. Call it the Bretnor-Merril Uncertainty
Principle: you cannot define or describe a man
except in terms of the universe of which he is
aware; you cannot define or describe the universe
except in terms of man's orientation within it.10

Merril's statement is conditioned, in part, on the

idea of awareness--man's awareness of the universe and his

place or orientation in it. Properly speaking, Merril is

enunciating a point of view and a set of ideas which express

a philosophy of understanding about the nature of man and

the universe which is held currently by contemporary physics.

She is doing so, however, from the point of view of that

philosophy's relevance to the artist in his-study of man.

It would appear, then, that Sartre, for instance, is more

aware of the changes which have taken place and of their

implications for literary art than is, let us say, Mauriac.

Science fiction, then, because it purports to explore the

effects of modern science on man's existence, should reveal

the degree and depth to which these effects have wrought

changes in the art of the science fiction novel. Further,

as Merril points out

The literature of the mid-20th century can be
meaningful only in so far as it perceives,
and relates itself to, the central reality of
our culture: the revolution in scientific
thought which has replaced mechanics with
dynamics, classification with relativity,
certainties with statistical probabilities,
dualism with parity. (p. 54)

Because science fiction purports to deal with the

"central reality of our culture" by describing, as H. Bruce

Franklin suggests in Future Perfect, the "present reality in

terms of a credible hypothetical invention--past, present,

or, most usually future--extrapolated from that reality,

S. ." it would seem to become the logical place to find

experiments, for instance, with the narrative time sequence

of the novel and its relation to the various types of

fictional devices and their function in the science-fiction
novel.11 But in fact most science fiction and most criticism
novel. But in fact most science fiction and most criticism

of science fiction has been concerned primarily with an

exploration of its ideational content and has paid little

or no'attention to science fiction as an art. In Chapter

IV of this dissertation I will discuss Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s

Slaughterhouse-Five as one of the major exceptions to the

absence of experimentation with the narrative time sequence

of the novel. Further, as Wolfe suggests in his essay

In the term "science fiction," "fiction"
itself becomes a merely decorative framework
for rational speculation, controlled by the
key term "science." Carried to its logical
extent, such an attitude produces works
such as Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+, impressive
in terms of scientific extrapolation, but
dismally incompetent in terms of even the
most elementary fictional techniques--and
practically unread today. (p. 32)

Unfortunately, Wolfe is correct, which complicates

the problem. In brief, it may be stated that the history

of the development of the science-fiction novel has paral-

leled the development of the novel. However, this develop-

ment in some ways has been compressed in time to less than

one hundred years.2 In other words, the development of the

science-fiction novel has simply recapitulated the development

of the novel, stopping that development somewhere toward the

end of the nineteenth century. It is only in the last two

decades (roughly) that the science-fiction novel has begun to

emerge as a truly experimental form for such writers as Samuel

R. Delany, Brian Aldiss, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. One work from

each of these writers is treated in Chapters II, III, and IV,


In discussing the problem of the relation of the world

view to that of narrative technique it is essential that

we understand one of the major philosophical points that

arises from Einstein's work. Jacob Bronowski points out

that "Relativity derives essentially from the philosophic

analysis which insists that there is not a fact and an

observer, but a joining of the two in an observation. This

is the fundamental unit of physics: the actual observation"

(p. 78). The consequence of this philosophic analysis is

what seems to be at the heart of Sartre's position on

Mauriac and forms the necessary foundation or presupposition

for recent developments in the art of the science-fiction

novel. Presumably, the fiction of the eighteenth and nine-

teenth centuries was marked in its broad outline by various

forms of omniscient narration, of which Mauriac's "privileged

observer" is a variant, the use of first person narra-

tion and, as Alain Robbe-Grillet suggests in For A New

Novel, the "systematic use of the past tense and the

third person, unconditional adoption of chronological

development, linear plots, regular trajectory of the pas-

sions, impulse of each episode toward a conclusion."13

In this earlier fiction "Everything," according to

Robbe-Grillet, "tended to impose the image of a stable,

coherent, continuous, unequivocal, entirely decipherable

universe" (p. 30). This characterization of narrative technique

is in a sense the logical outcome of a mechanistic theory

of the universe, of a world view which is, at its heart,

Newtonian. Underlying this outline of the characteristics

of the nineteenth-century novel is an objective concept

of time. Arnold Hauser in his essay (mentioned briefly at

the beginning of this chapter) points out that

In the age of classical cosmology, that is,
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
the prevailing conception of time is essentially
mathematical and mechanistic. Time is an ob-
jective, independent and indifferent, continuous
and homogeneous medium, a kind of reservoir
which receives and holds all occurrences without
influencing them and without being influenced,
colored, quickened, or slowed down by them.
Time is in the mechanistic theories of the
universe an index, a mere accident of matter;
material reality remains essentially unchanged
by the passing of time--it merely locates an
event in relation to other events; and time as
a whole is but the configuration of instantaneous
occurrences or the sum total of single moments;
in a word, a line formed by the juxtaposition of
points. (p. 322)

As Hauser points out time was conceived of as a

linear progression from moment to moment. Ronald W. Clark

notes in Einstein: The Life and Times that "In the first

pages of his [Newton's] Philosophiae Naturalis Principia

Mathematica, . Newton used two words whose definition

formed the basis not only of his whole system but of every-

thing which had been constructed as a by-product of it--

two words which between them formed the bottom layer of

the house which science had been building for two and a

half centuries. One of them was 'time,' the other was

'space.' 'Absolute, true, and mathematical time,' as Newton

put it, 'of itself and from its own nature, flows equably,

without relation to anything external, and by another name

is called duration.'"4 Further, according to Clark, "Space

could be 'absolute space, in its own nature, without relation

to anything external,' which 'remains always similar and

immovable': or relative space, which 'some movable

dimension or measure of the absolute spaces'" (p. 75). Newton's

formulation of the absolute nature of time and space resulted

in the "searching conception of the universe as a machine: not

a pattern but a clockwork" (Bronowski, p. 31). Newton's con-

ception of time and space became the dominant idea which formed

the base of the world view of the eighteenth and nineteenth

centuries. This Newtonian conception of time became, in the

novel, the major structuring device that gave order to the "events"

which were reported there. This is what Robbe-Grillet means

when he speaks of the "systematic use of past tense and the

third person, unconditional adoption of chronological development,

linear plots," etc. Unlike Einstein, Newton's analysis insisted

on a philosophic separation between "a fact and an observer."

This explains to some degree the absence of experiments, for

instance, in the narrative time sequence of the science-fiction

novel and it does so since, for the most part, the writers of

science fiction have simply adopted the form of the nineteenth-

century novel. It is no accident, then, that the novel which began

"I was born . ." as Robbe-Grillet tells us, marked the apogee

of its development in the nineteenth century (p. 130). Further,

it should be pointed out that since the predominant world view

was mechanistic (not organic) and Newton had believed that

"space represented the divine omnipresence of God in nature,"

then omniscient narration should be prominent during this

period (Barnett, p. 40). For this world view permitted,

analogically as a logical consequence of its postulation,

omniscient narration in fiction. In addition to this

Robbe-Grillet comments that the "composition of the novel

of the nineteenth-century type which was life itself a

hundred years ago, is no longer anything but an empty

formula, serving only as the basis for tiresome parodies"

(p. 135). Whether or not the formula is empty is of little

consequence. What is important is the formula itself, for

the formula was the product of a world view which came into

being during the seventeenth century and had its climax at

the end of the nineteenth. What happened in science fiction

with the advent of a new world view, as created by modern

science, was almost without exception a continuation of the

form of the novel of the nineteenth-century type while the

writer used this form as a vehicle to discuss the new ideas

of science and their significance for man. The science-

fiction novel of the first half of the twentieth century

shows little or no modification or development from its

ancestry. The form of the novel remained essentially un-

changed while the ideas it presented and treated underwent

a radical and revolutionary change.

Newtonian physics posited a continuous and mechanistic

view of the universe in which time was conceived of as a

series of separate points having duration. The novel of the

nineteenth century recreated within itself this view of

the universe and time. Consequently, in the nineteenth

century narrative technique was appropriate to the predominant

world view since it was intimately bound up with a specific

concept of time which would permit no other formulation

of time without the rejection of a mechanistic universe.

Closely related to Newton's concepts of absolute time and

absolute space was the "shape" he gave to the idea of

cause. J. Bronowski tells us that "Our conception of

cause and effect," as formulated by Newton, is "that

given a definite configuration of wholly material things,

there will always follow upon it the same observable event.

If we repeat the configuration, we shall always get the

same event following it" (p. 41). In the novel, consequently,

character was moved "forward from moment to moment in a

precise chronological sequence" and functioned according

to the Newtonian concept of cause and effect.5 This is

not to say that movement backwards in time was impossible.

Obviously, such novels as those by Defoe or Richardson are

memories, reminiscences, or reflections. Narrators in

novels by Defoe or Richardson present an account of remembered

experiences. The principle of memory may be psychological

but it implicitly involves a linear concept of time in which

the order of events have been reversed and then represented

in accordance with a strict chronology as, for instance, in

Moll Flanders. The point to make, though, is that in novels

such as these, the act of memory is ordered in a strict

chronological (historical) sequence which presupposed a

casual formulation for time; that is, one thing followed

another in the novel because time was conceived of as a

series of separate points, one following another, from

beginning to an end bounded at its extreme limits by the

births and deaths of the novel's characters. The psycho-

logical state of the narrator with respect to time, whether

first person or omniscient, could be explained, and was

explained, in terms of this causal formulation. Though

human nature might be inextricable from itself, the ways

in which that nature could be presented were predictable

and they were predictable because the concept of time im-

plicit in the narrator's act of telling his story limited

the possibilities of his presentation. In later fiction

this is not necessarily the case since our world view has

changed and with that change has come an entirely different

way of looking at and understanding causality, time, and

the universe. It is true that in one sense the very nature

of literary art will always presuppose a chronological pre-

sentation but this presentation is not necessarily inherent

in the structure of the novel and is related to the

nature of our language and the way it is structured. However,

what is important is the way in which narrative technique is

handled that makes the distinctions drawn here crucial. In

modern fiction, and specifically in the contemporary science-

fiction novel, we may still have first person narration but

the way in which it is handled, presented, and understood

has radically altered and that alteration is a result of a

shift in how man conceives of and understands the physical

universe. The very phrase first person narration hints at

what is being suggested. It inherently posits a chronological


development, a linear formulation. In later chapters when

discussing recent developments in narrative technique I

will use in place of first person narration the phrase

"fictive I" or "eye" (or both). To recapitulate, the

phrase itself--first person narration--implicitly names a

certain type of narrative device which is bound and limited

to a specific concept of time, which may be formulated in

a rather mechanical way. In other words, the mechanics of

time in the nineteenth-century novel seem to be the mechanics

of Newton's physics. And, while the eighteenth and

nineteenth-century novelists may have employed the narrative

technique of memory or reminiscence, this technique was

used in a chronological manner as a structural device for

recapitulating the events which were psychologically (or

otherwise) meaningful to the narrator. Obviously, as Jerome

Buckley points out in The Triumph of Time, there existed

other concepts of time--biological and psychological concepts

of time--but these concepts of time related to the way in

which the Victorians saw history, progress, and decadence

while the scientist "still dealt in an objective linear time

to be measured quantitatively."16 The point to be made here

is that the narrative technique of a novel should be appro-

priate to its implicit world view. If the narrative technique

of a novel is inappropriate to the novel's world view, then,

in our view, the novel's narrative technique violates that

world view or its (the novel's ideas) and is flawed. After

all, the art of the novel lies directly in proportion to

its seductiveness, that is, in its credibility, and this

in turn is a function, as Coleridge would put it, of the

reader's "willing suspension of disbelief." Whether or

not the novel treats "reality" is of little concern. What

is of concern is that the novel be believable in its own

terms. In this sense, the novel must have internal con-

sistency. In the novel of the nineteenth-century type,

the novel which Sartre and Robbe-Grillet criticize, con-

sistency becomes a major factor of a conception of the

universe as orderly where all parts function according to

plan. In brief, as someone once observed, fiction is the

"art of lying agreeably."

What has been suggested to this point, perhaps, needs

no justification. It would seem obvious, for instance, that

the world view of Newton did have its effect on the narrative

technique of the novel. What is less obvious, perhaps, is

that character when presented in the nineteenth-century

novel must always function in terms of a causal universe.

This is what Sartre is driving at when he accuses Mauriac

of ignoring the principle of relativity. But Sartre himself

commits a minor error in his argument. The error is that if

Mauriac chooses to write novels which are in keeping with a

different conception of the universe, then, he may, although

it dates him to do so. This in itself may be an arguable

point to make since it assumes that the value of the novelist's

art lies directly in his keeping abreast of the newer theories

of reality. And, perhaps, there are other values of art, and

other theories in which this type of argument would be

foreign. Nevertheless, it would seem safe to assume, for

the moment, that one standard or criterion that may be

used to judge the credibility of any fictional system is

the degree to which its narrative devices (techniques) are

appropriate or inappropriate to the world view, both implicit

and explicit, which exists in the novel.

At the beginning of this chapter Heisenberg was

quoted on the need to "examine the foundations which form

the presuppositions for every development of art, foundations

which at other times are taken as self-evident." In his

essay Heisenberg correctly argues that "it may be valuable

for the artist to consider what changes have occurred

during the last decade in the scientific view of nature."

Further, Heisenberg's essay provides a convenient way of

summing up in its broad outlines the major world views of the

last three hundred years and their relevance to literary art.

Consequently, like Heisenberg, I wish to examine the changes

which have occurred in the scientific view of nature, for

at the heart of this dissertation stands the idea that the

change in the way in which science views nature has resulted

in a radical shift in the art of the science-fiction novel.

Further, the "arguments" of the three central chapters of

my essay not only make use of this new view of nature but

presuppose a basic knowledge and understanding of this view

of nature and its relation to narrative technique.

And, like Sartre, I will posit the idea that the narrative

devices of fiction must be appropriate to the implicit

world view that exists in the narrative and that, in part,

our conception of fictional devices is shaped by this view

and may be understood only be realizing its literary and

philosophical implications.

Heisenberg begins his essay--"The Representation of

Nature in Contemporary Physics"--by tracing the "historical

roots of recent science" to the seventeenth century and


When this science was being established in the
seventeenth century by Kepler, Galileo, and
Newton, the medieval image was at first still
unbroken: man saw in nature God's creation.
Nature was thought of as the work of God. It
would have seemed senseless to people of that
time to ask about the material world apart from
God. (p. 123)

In the decades which followed Kepler, however, it was

seen that man's relation toward nature altered fundamentally.

This alteration, in at least one sense, would become respon-

sible in part for modern literary criticism since it was

this change in man's relation toward nature which gave

science its impetus. Edgar Stanley Hyman in The Armed Vision

suggests that the power of modern literary criticism derives

essentially from the fact that it is an "organized use of non-

literary techniques and bodies of knowledge to obtain insights

into literature" and that these bodies of knowledge are those

of science.7 And as Heisenberg points out, science followed

"Galileo's example" and began "to separate out individual

processes of nature from their environment, describe them

mathematically, and thus 'explain'them" (p. 123). This

process of separation broke the medieval image of nature,

for it clearly presented science with the task of endless

description. Heisenberg tells us that "Newton could no

longer see the world as the work of God, comprehensible

only as a whole. His position toward nature is most clearly

circumscribed by his well-known statement that he felt like

a child playing at the seashore, happy whenever he found a

smoother pebble or a more beautiful sea shell than usual,

while the great ocean of truth lay unexplored before him"

(p. 123). It may be argued that in a limited sense the

history of science has shown that science has been, since

Newton's time, an attempt to regain the medieval view of

nature comprehensible only as a whole. In other words,

Newtonian thought led to a fragmentation of human knowledge.

Integration of the way in which man saw the physical world

would not be achieved again until Einstein. Nevertheless,

this separation of God from nature and the growing tendency

to describe the processes of nature mathematically,

as Heisenberg suggests, "may perhaps be better understood

when we consider that, to some Christian thought of the period,

God in heaven seemed so far removed from earth that it became

meaningful to view the earth apart from God. Thus there may even

be justification in speaking of a specifically Christian form of

godlessness in connection with modern science" (p. 123). One of

the consequences of this tendency of science to separate nature

from God and man found its final expression in the philosophy

of Descartes, a separation which science has only overcome

in this century. And as Heisenberg points out

It is certainly no coincidence that precisely
in that period [Newton's], nature becomes the
object of representation in the arts independent
of religious themes. The same tendency comes
to expression in science when nature is considered
not only independent of God, but also independent
of man, so that there is formed the ideal of an
'objective' description or explanation of nature.
Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that for
Newton the sea shell is significant only because
it comes from the great ocean of truth. Observing
it is not yet an end in itself; rather, its
study receives meaning through its relation to
the whole. (p. 124)

The important thing which Heisenberg points out in

this passage is the idea of observation. Observation has

"-not yet [become] an end in itself." This development will

wait until the physics of the twentieth century to find its

expression. As a result, then, of the widening influence

of Newton's mechanics, technology became the key for obtaining

information about those "remote regions of nature" which were

unattainable otherwise (p. 124). "Thus," as Heisenberg

suggests, "the meaning of the word 'nature' as an object of

scientific research slowly changed; it became a collective

concept for all those areas of experience into which man can

penetrate through science and technology, whether or not

they are given to him 'naturally' in direct experience"

(p. 124). Further, the "term description of nature also

progressively lost its original significance as a representa-

tion intended to convey the most alive and imaginable picture

possible of nature; instead, in increasing measure a

mathematical description of nature was implied--that is,

a collection of data concerning interrelations according

to law in nature, precise and brief yet also as compre-

hensive as possible" (pp. 124 25). By the nineteenth

century, however, "nature appeared as a lawful process in

space and time, in whose description it was possible to

ignore as far as axioms were concerned, even if not in

practice, both man and his interference in nature"

(Heisenberg, p. 125). The consequences of this point of

view of nature as a "lawful process" resulted in a world

view which saw the physical universe as both orderly and

continuous. Its significance, however, not only for science

but for philosophy, was to give rise to the "familiar

classification of the world into subject and object, inner

and outer world, body and soul" (Heisenberg, p. 131).

Nature in the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth

centuries, then,became increasingly lawful and gave rise

to materialism. According to Heisenberg, materialism derives

essentially from "the atomistic hypothesis taken over from

antiquity" in which atoms became the "truly real" and "un-

changeable building stones of matter" (p. 125). And, as

Heisenberg points out

. in the philosophy of Democritus, sensual
qualities of matter were taken as appearance;
smell and color, temperature and toughness were
not intrinsic properties of matter, but origi-
nated as interactions between matter and our
senses and thus had to be explained through the
arrangement and motion of the atoms and the ef-
fects of this arrangement on our senses. In
this way the all-too-simple world view of nine-

teenth-century materialism was formed: the
atoms, as intrinsically unchangeable beings,
move in space and time and, through their
mutual arrangement and motion, call forth the
colorful phenomena of our sense world. (p. 125)

The first "inroad into this simple world picture

. occurred in the second half of the last century

through the development of electrical theory in which not

matter but rather the force field had to be taken as intrin-

sically real" (p. 125). It is, perhaps, unnecessary to trace

the other inroads that appeared in the Newtonian world view

or to become involved with their inner arguments. Rather,

it is sufficient to say that inroads began but did not

seriously alter "the coherent world view of the nineteenth

and early twentieth centuries" (p. 126). Yet it is at

this point--with the appearance of the force field and the

recognition that protons, neutrons, and electrons replaced

the atom as the smallest building blocks of matter--that

"profound changes in the foundations of atomic physics

occurred in our century which . .[led] away from the

reality concept of classical atomism" (Heisenberg, p. 126).

Heisenberg declares that "It has turned out that the hoped-

for objective reality of the elementary particles [protons,

neutrons, and electrons] represents too rough a simplifica-

tion of the true state of affairs and must yield to much

more abstract conceptions" (p. 126). He continues:

When we wish to picture to ourselves the nature
of the existence of the elementary particles,
we may no longer ignore the physical process
by which we obtain information about them. When
we are observing objects of our daily experience,

the physical process transmitting the observation
of course plays only a secondary role. However,
for the smallest building blocks of matter every
process of observation causes a major disturbance;
it turns out that we can no longer talk of the
behavior of the particle apart from the process of
observation. In consequence, we are finally led
to believe that the laws of nature which we
formulate mathematically in quantum theory deal no
longer with the particles themselves but with our
knowledge of the elementary particles. (pp. 126- 27)

With this fundamental recognition and understanding of

the role that observation plays in our perception of

elementary particles comes a different world view. Where

Newtonian mechanics separated nature from man and God and

rendered itself to "objectification," modern science re-

integrates man with nature through a recognition of the

significance of observation, but it does so in a way radically

different from that of previous ages. The essential dis-

tinctions between the world view of Newton and that of our

current situation are nicely stated by Heisenberg who points

out that "When we speak of a picture of nature provided by

contemporary exact science, we do not actually mean any

longer a picture of nature, but rather a picture of our

relation to nature" (p. 134). Further, the "old compart-

mentalization of the world into an objective process in

space and time, on the one hand, and the soul in which this

process is mirrored," as Heisengerg notes, "on the other--

that is, the Cartesian differentiation of res cogitans and

res extensa--is no longer suitable as the starting point for

the understanding of modern science" (p. 134). Heisenberg

suggests that

In the field of view of this science [modern
science] there appears above all the network
of relations between man and nature of the
connections through which we as physical beings
are dependent parts of nature and at the same
time, as human beings, make them the object of
our thought and actions. Science no longer is
in the position of observer of nature, but re-
cognizes itself as part of the interplay between
man and nature. The scientific method of separa-
ting, explaining, and arranging becomes conscious
of its limits, set by the fact that the employ-
ment of this procedure can no longer keep its
distance from the object. The world view of
natural science thus ceases to be a view of
"natural" science in its proper sense. (p. 134)

Where the novel of the eighteenth and nineteenth

century presented a picture of nature, that is, its metaphors

were drawn from nature and presented a picture of nature,

the modern novel, the novel of the twentieth century,

presents us with a series of mataphors which "picture . .

our relation to nature." The distinction between these two

ways of "structuring" the novel is crucial, because each,

after its own fashion, creates an implicit world view in the

novel and, in turn, is created by that world view. In con-

temporary science-fiction novels such as The Einstein Intersection,

Report on Probability A, and Slaughterhouse-Five, the basis

of their structure results not from a series of metaphors

taken directly from nature but is derived essentially from

modern mathematical physics. In other words, something

stands intermediary as a model (rather than as a set of

metaphors) between nature and its representation in the

novel. In the case of The Einstein Intersection, this some-

thing is the theory of relativity, the principles of which

are reflected in the structure of the novel and are worked

out in terms of their implications for the narrative technique

of the novel. The implicit world view of Report on Probability

A is based specifically on probability theory and the

Principle of Uncertainty. Slaughterhouse-Five, though

somewhat of a more traditional title than The Einstein

Intersection or Report on Probability A, reflects the

Einstenian concept of space-time. What is being suggested,

then, is that the foundations of the novel, like those of

science itself, have undergone a shift in their structure

and that this shift in their structure in turn brings about

a change in their form and the way in which we understand the

nature of form. For these novels present a picture of man's

relation to nature, rather than a picture of nature from

which man is absent. Representation per se, then becomes

a moot question and, as Booth points out,

A dialectical history of-modern criticism
could be written in terms of the warfare
between those who think of fiction as some-
thing that must above all be real . and
those who ask that it be pure--even if the
search for artistic purity should lead to
unreality and a "dehumanization of art." (p. 38)

Booth's formulation here of this conflict between what

must be "real" and what is "pure," however, is dependent on

how we perceive and conceive of nature. In the view of

modern science, and the incorporation of that view into the

structure of the modern novel, this problem becomes entirely

academic and, depending upon one's point of view, may disappear

entirely. Science fiction, and specifically the three novels

to be treated here, do not lend themselves to a representational

theory of art. The reason for this is, in part, simple

enough. Science fiction makes the claim to treat a non-

existent reality, an imaginative reality which may have

its origins in our own reality but which because it usually

extrapolates a future not yet existent cannot represent our

reality but only its own. In other words, to borrow a

phrase from Robbe-Grillet, the novel "constitutes reality"

and what "it explores is itself" (pp. 160 --61). Yet in the

novel's exploration of itself what we shall discover is

that the principles which give rise to the novel and which

exist within it are based on "a description of the world or,

better, a language for describing the world" and that this

language is science and its principles (Bronowski, p. 48).

Consequently, it is only by a rather remote and indirect

way may we speak of these novels as being representational.

Robbe-Grillet suggests that "The best possible method is still

to extrapolate, and this is precisely what vital criticism

attempts to do. Taking as its foundation the historical

evolution of forms and of their significations, in the

Western novel, for example, criticism can attempt to imagine

what tomorrow's significations will be, and then to offer

a provisional judgment as to the forms the artist affords

it today" (p. 144). In discussing the relation between nar-

rative technique and the world view in this chapter I have

laid the foundations for a distinction between the historical


forms of the novel, and those which currently exist

in the science-fiction novel. In the chapters which

follow I shall explore the ways in which the world view

of modern mathematical physics influences the narrative

technique of three contemporary science-fiction novels.


Marjorie Hope Nicholson, The Breaking of the Circle
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1962).

Arnold Hauser, "The Conceptions of Time in Modern
Art and Science," Partisan Review, 23 (1965), p. 320.

3Lois and Stephen Rose, The Shattered Ring (Richmond
Virginia: John Knox Press, 1970).

Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World
(New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1925).

Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1961).

Jean Paul Sartre, "Francois Mauriac and Freedom," in
Literary and Philosophical Essays, trans. Annette Michelson
(London, 1955), p. 16.

Werner Heisenberg, "The Representation of Nature in
Contemporary Physics," in The Discontinuous Universe, ed.
Sallie Sears and Georgianna W. Lord (New York: Basic Books,
Inc., 1972), p. 122.
J. Bronowski, The Common Sense of Science (New York:
Random House, Inc., n.d.), p. 9.

Gary K. Wolfe, "The Limits of Science Fiction,"
Extrapolation, 14, No. 1 (December 1972), 30.

10Judith Merril, "What Do You Mean: Science? Fiction?"
in SF: The Other Side of Realism, ed. Thomas D. Clareson
(Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular
Press, 1971), p. 86.

H. Bruce Franklin, Future Perfect: American Science
Fiction of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1966), p. 3.

12Brian W. Aldiss, Billion Year Spree (Garden City,
New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1973).


1Alain Robbe-Grillet, For A New Novel, trans.
Richard Howard, 2nd ed. (1963; rpt. New York: Grove
Press, Inc., 1965), p. 32 .
1Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times
(New York: The World Publishing Company, 1971), p. 75.

1David Daiches, The Novel and the Modern World
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 7.

16Jerome Hamilton Buckley, The Triumph of Time: A
Study of the Victorian Concepts of Time, History, Progress,
and Decadence (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press
of the Harvard University Press, 1966), p. 7.

1Stanley Edger Hyman, The Armed Vision (New York:
Random House, Inc., 1955), p. 3.



And when his friend Janos Plesh commented years
later that there seemed to be some connection
between mathematics and fiction, a field in which
the writer made a world out of invented characters
and situations and then compared it with the
existing world Einstein replied: "There may be
something in what you say. When I examine myself
and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion
that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than
my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

Einstein: The Life and Times

In this chapter I will examine what seems to be a

connection between the invented worlds of mathematical physics

and fiction in terms of Samuel R. Delany's The Einstein

Intersection. It is my belief that there exists a relation-

ship between these two worlds and that The Einstein Intersection

is a literary expression of that relationship. If it seems

that I am making some special claim for science fiction,

I am not. I am only pointing out that science fiction is

a type of literature and, as such, that it must be initially

judged by the standards of that literature. It should be

remembered, then, that there is nothing inherently difficult

in understanding the relationship that exists between mathe-

matical physics and fiction as long as we recognize that

The Einstein Intersection, like any literary work of art,

"is governed by precisely the same literary and dramatic

requirements as any other form of literature."2 The

problem, insofar as it may be a problem, resides in the

form of the novel. Alain Robbe-Grillet points out that

"A new form will always seem more or less an absence of

any form at all, since it is unconsciously judged by re-

ference to the consecrated forms."3 Essentially, the pro-

blems of The Einstein Intersection are related to the

problems of form. Since most of what will be discussed

in this chapter relates directly or indirectly to form,

it would seem wise tentatively to define what is meant

by that term. Yet definition itself seems somehow in-

adequate to deal with the problems of form since, as Charles

W. Misner points out in Gravitation,

. in science, as stressed not least by Henri
Poincare, that view is out of date which used to
say, "Define your terms before you proceed." All
the laws and theories of physics . have this
deep and subtle character, that they both define
the concepts they use . and make statements
about these concepts. Contrariwise, the absence
of some body of theory, law, and principle deprives
one of the means properly to define or even use
concepts. Any forward step in human knowledge is
truly creative in this sense: that theory, concept,
law, and method of measurement--forever inseparable--
are born into the world in union.4

Misner's view of the problem of definition in science

constitutes a functional or operational definition of termin-

ology. What is true for science is, perhaps, even more

appropriate for the study of literature. Our critical

vocabulary is woefully inadequate and our definition of

the rather limited critical terms we do have, such as those

found in Wayne C. Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction and other

works concerned with the long narrative, are often wanting

with respect to precision. Nevertheless, for the purpose

of exigency, I shall use Charles Olson's definition of form,


as a starting point. What is being suggested is that the

forms a novel may take grow out of the ideas and concepts,

both implicit and explicit, which reside in it. Form and

content are not antithetical concepts. Rather, form

expresses an "extension" of certain ideas and concepts which,

because of their particular expression, find themselves

arranged in a particular pattern or relationship. This

pattern or relationship we call a novel.

In brief, Delany has invented quite freely a new form

for the science-fiction novel. The traditional divisions

of the novel into separate and clearly discernable chapters

is gone and in its place the narration is briefly interrupted

by quotations from the author's journal, quotations from

various literary, religious, philosophical, and scientific

sources, and quotations from other fictional works of art.

These quotations serve an important function in the structure

of the novel since they provide a series of points that

force the reader to relate the story to his own time. For

instance, at the beginning of the second section of The

Einstein Intersection, Delany provides us with a rather

lengthy description of his impressions of a week's stay in

Venice and relates this stay to his problems in "trying

to assimilate . Lobey's adventure," though he admits

that he doesn't "quite know how" these problems of assimi-

lation will be worked out yet (pp. 13-14). In other words,

as Delany attempts to relate Lobey's story to his own time,

we too, analogically, must relate Delany's experiences to

our own. Delany in this particular section (and in others

like them from his journal) attempts to establish a sense

of aesthetic distance between the story the novel presents

(it takes place in the distant future when man has left

his planet and gone elsewhere in the universe) and the

historical present. This relationship between the story

the novel presents and the historical present is paralleled

within the novel by the presence of a series of allusions

and images that establish a continuity in time between

the distant historical past when man still inhabited the

earth, the immediate historical past which presents the

narrator's own history and his knowledge of his race's

history, the present, and the future. There is, perhaps,

another and more important function these quotations serve

and this function is intimately related to the form of the

novel; that is, the quotations allow us to observe, in a

limited sense, the author's view of how he understands

the creative process and its relation to Lobey's story and

The Einstein Intersection. For example, in a quotation from

the author's journal at the beginning of section twelve,

Delany informs us that "In a week another birthday, and I

can start the meticulous process of overlaying another

filigree across the novel's palimpsest" (p. 137). What

Delany has presented us with is a description of the way

in which he understands the process of his creation of

the novel to have taken place. Further, the relationship

that exists in the novel between mathematical physics and

fiction is relatively complex since it involves an under-

standing of certain key concepts in contemporary physics.

These concepts are presented within the novel and an under-

standing of their presence is crucial to any discussion of

it. It would seem sensible, therefore, to examine what

Martin Dyck in "Relativity in Physics and in Fiction"

terms "some striking analogies" that exist "between physics

and fiction," since I am dealing with the nature of fiction

and, specifically, its relationship to physics and the world

view implicit in The Einstein Intersection.6 For it is

only through coming to terms with the form of The Einstein

Intersection that we may come to understand the relation-

ship between the invented worlds of mathematics and fiction

in the novel.

James B. Conant tells us that the mathematician or

physicist "no longer pretends that he is dealing with

reality, but accepts instead that he works with interlocking

conceptual schemes--with models--that are productive for a

time but are constantly modified." Further, it may be

argued that "Few, if any writers would now insist that

their fictional worlds reproduce reality. Instead the

writer creates a model, an imitation, a symbolic construct

through which he tries to capture the quality of human

experience."8 Since neither the physicist nor the writer

pretends any longer that he is dealing with reality, the

models he creates in his attempts to render the world

intelligible may seem to be nothing more than a series of

metaphors. These metaphors, however, are not taken from

nature but have their source in the abstract principles

of science.

Martin Dyck in his essay suggests that "In a basic

sense, both fiction and physics are physics" (p. 174).

Dyck's formulation about the analogical similarities be-

tween physics and fiction strike to the center of a par-

ticular twentieth-century problem in epistemology and

ontology. The problem is not simply a matter of defining

what we mean by fiction and physics. It involves what

Thomas S. Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

terms incommensurablee ways of seeing the world and of

practicing science in it." Further, it might be added,

it involves a switch or change in the way in which the

artist sees his function or purpose in his art and, there-

fore, in his world. Kuhn points out that "What a man sees

depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his

previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see.

In the absence of such training there can only be, in

William James' phrase, 'a bloomin' buzzin' confusion'"

(p. 113). The question which Dyck raises is "In what

sense is physics fiction?" and declares "Well, what else

is it? Truth? A physicist would object to such classi-

fication. Reality? Past the mid-twentieth century we are

no longer so naive as to assume that there is such a

thing as a definable reality" (p. 11). The reasons

for this are not simple and involve the theory of relativity.

Lincoln Barnett argues that "the irony of man's quest

for reality is that as nature is stripped of its dis-

guises, as order emerges from chaos and unity from

diversity, as concepts merge and fundamental laws assume

increasingly simpler form, the evolving picture becomes

ever more remote from experience--far stranger indeed and

less recognizable than the bone structure behind a familiar

face."10 Reality in modern physics ceases to be a meaning-

ful concept. Barnett notes that

In trying to distinguish appearance from
reality and lay bare the fundamental structure
of the universe, science has had to transcend
the "rabble of the senses." But its highest
edifices, Einstein has pointed out, have been
"purchased at the price of emptiness of con-
tent." A theoretical concept is emptied of
content to the very degree that it is divorced
from sensory experience. For the only world man
can truly know is the world created for him
by the senses. (pp. 113 -14)

Barnett argues that "in the abstract lexicon of

quantum physics there is no such word as 'really'" (p. 32).

Further, he suggests that "The certainty that science can

explain how things happen began to dim about twenty years

ago. And right now it is a question whether scientific

man is in touch with 'reality' at all-- or can ever hope

to be" (p. 16). According to Barnett, the theory of

relativity does not "contradict classical physics. It

simply regards the old concepts as limiting cases that

apply solely to the familiar experiences of man" (p. 58).

Consequently, as he suggests, "Einstein thus surmounts

the barrier reared by man's impulse to define reality

solely as he perceives it through the screen of his

senses" (p. 58). He further comments that

-- the world of light and color, of blue skies
and green leaves, of sighing wind . the
world designed by the physiology of human sense
organs--is the world in which finite man is in-
carcerated by his essential nature. And what
the scientist and the philosopher call the world
of reality--the colorless, soundless, impalpable
cosmos which lies like an iceberg beneath the
plane of man's perceptions--is a skeleton struc-
ture of symbols.
And the symbols change. (p.114)

In The Einstein Intersection, for instance, Lobey's

perception of his world is essentially stable and coherent.

What he perceives is limited to the world presented by

his senses. His familiar experiences may be unusual and

odd for us but in his world they are normal. In other

words, Lobey is unaware of what the philosopher would call

the world of reality. What he perceives as normal--he

describes himself as "Ugly and grinning most of the time"

and as having "a figure like a bowling pin, thighs, calves,

and feet of a man (gorilla?) twice my size (which is about

five-nine) and hips to match"--is clearly unusual for us

(pp. 5-6). Though Lobey's perception of his world is

"innocent," our perception of his universe differs markedly

from his. By the end of the novel, however, everything

has become different; that is, Lobey no longer perceives

a fixed and stable universe. He has come to understand

what Doric tells him early in section four that "this

is the real world you're living in. It's come from

something; it's going to something; it's changing"

(p. 53). He understands not only the nature of change

but the role it plays in his world and in his perception

of that world, so much so that the only thing that is pre-

dictable is change itself. The novel grows out of the

narrator's way of seeing his world come into conflict with

his actual experience of it. The central conflict or para-

dox thus created grows out of the fact that what a man may

"truly know" is limited by his senses to his familiar

experiences, while, at the same time, his science informs

him that his senses are but imperfect instruments that

lack the power and refinement to perceive the immeasurable

small but significant events in the physical world that

exist outside the range of his senses. While science, as

Barnett points out, tells us "nothing of the true 'nature'

of things, it nevertheless succeeds in defining their rela-

tionships and depicting the events in which they are involved.

'The event,' Alfred North Whitehead declared, 'is the unit

of things real'" (p. 110). Science may tell us "nothing of

the true 'nature' of things," but its "skeleton structure

of symbols," does influence and produce a change in the way

in which man sees the world.

Kuhn notes in Chapter X ("Revolutions as Changes of

World View") that "The assimilation of a previously anomalous

visual field has reacted upon and changed the field itself"

(p. 112). If we substitute the term "visual-conceptual"

for the purely "visual" in Kuhn's sentence, then we come

close to describing the relation that exists between

mathematical physics and fiction in the novel and its

relationship to that of the narrator's way of seeing in

his world. Because, in a sense, the literary significance

of the theory of relativity is that it allows man, in the

final analysis, to see himself, as Barnett states, "merely

[as] an ephemeral conformation of the primordial space-

time field. Man stands 'midway between macrocosm and micro-

cosm'" and "finds barriers on every side and can perhaps

but marvel, as St. Paul did nineteen hundred years ago,

that 'the world was created by the word of God so that

what is seen was made out of things which did not appear'"

(p. 118). The theory of relativity points toward another

significant development in modern physics.

J. Bronowski in The Common Sense of Science points out

that Werner Heisenberg's Gedankenexperiments (the term

means literally "thought experiments") showed "that every

description of nature contains some essential and ir-

removable uncertainty. For example, the more accurately we

try to measure the position of a fundamental particle,

of an electron say, the less certain will we be of its speed.

The more accurately we try to estimate its speed, the more

uncertain will we be of its precise position." Further,

as Barnett notes, "the very act of observing its position

[the electron's], its velocity is changed; and, conversely,

the more accurately its velocity is determined, the more

indefinite its position becomes" (p. 34). The significance

of Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty was not missed

by philosophers or artists. Plato had argued that "The

prison house is the world of sight," and, as Barnett and

others have pointed out, "Every seeming avenue of escape

from this prison house that science has surveyed leads

only deeper into a misty realm of symbolism and abstraction"

(p. 116). Barnett further argues that "It may be that the

extreme and insurmountable limit of scientific knowledge

will be reached in the attainment of perfect isomorphic

representation--that is, in a final flawless concurrence

of theory and natural process, so complete that every

observed phenomena is accounted for and nothing is left out

of the picture" (p. 116). The same speculation may be

made for the limits of literary art and theory where the

literary artist continually strives to create a perfect and

final flawless account of human nature. This, of course,

he must accomplish within the limitations imposed upon him

by his senses while at the same time he takes into account

new understandings of the universe revealed to him by his

science. As Robbe-Grillet puts it, "Obviously I am con-

cerned, in any case, only with the world as my point of

view orients it; I shall never know any other. The relative

sense of sight serves me precisely to define my situation

in the world. I simply keep myself from helping to make

this situation a servitude."l2 In a sense, this is exactly

the narrator's position in The Einstein Intersection. The

point to be made here is that reality conceived of as an

"absolute" ceases to be a meaningful concept in modern

science. Dyck declares

More accurately; there is no one definable truth
or reality. And since there is more than one
conception of truth and reality, to any one ob-
server all but his own conception of truth and
reality must be fictitious. And since we cannot
be so subjective as to accept the truth and reality
of any one individual, or one group, or one society,
or one branch of knowledge, or one age as truth and
reality binding on all and always binding (though
we do not deny any individual, or group, or age the
bliss of pursuing his or its own fictions) we are
forced to conclude that all concepts of truth and
reality are fictitious. (p. 174)

The conclusion Dyck reaches seems valid enough and,

in a limited sense, The Einstein Intersection represents

the attempt of one individual (Lo Lobey) to pursue his own

fictions only to discover in the search (quest) that his

concepts of truth and reality, of the nature of his world,

are fictitious. Delany quotes Jean-Paul Sartre at the

beginning of the fifth section of the novel to the effect

that "Experience reveals to him in every object, in every

event, the presence of something else" (p. 55). Earlier

in the novel Doric, the "kage-keeper," tells Lobey "this

is the real world you're living in. It's come from some-

thing; it's going to something; it's changing. But it's

got right and wrong, a way to behave and a way not to. You

never wanted to accept that, even when you were a kid, but

until you do, you won't be very happy" (p. 53). Lobey's

unwillingness to accept the nature of his world is in part

a failure of his willingness to see his world. He staggers

through this "abstracted novel," pursuing, like the author

Delany, his own fictions (p. 118). Delany tells us at the

beginning of section two that "It turned windy as we

floated beneath the black wood arch of the Ponti Academia;

I was trying to assimilate the flowers, the vicious animals,

with Lobey's adventure--each applies, but as yet I don't

quite know how" (p. 13). The information Delany's journal

supplies suggests that he wishes to make a close analogy

between the writer's pursuit of his own fictions and those

fictions pursued by his major character.

Someone may object, however, to what has been suggested

about the nature of physics and argue that "physics" should

be described as physical reality, or a set of theories

of physical reality, or of the physical universe" and,

therefore, should not be compared with literary works of

art (Dyck, p. 174). The apparent reason for this objection

is that literary art is a product of the mind and is con-

cerned with human experience whereas physics is concerned

with the physical world only. The resulting argument holds

that physics and literary art are incommensurate since they

deal with radically divergent phenomena. Obviously nothing

could be further from the truth, as I have already partly

shown. As Dyck points out, if physics should be considered

in terms of one of these propositions, or all, then, each

"of these propositions holds true. And each is circular.

And each is incomplete" (p. 174). In what ways are these

"propositions" circular and incomplete? What is missing?

I have already suggested that contemporary physics no

longer deals with reality but with realities and that

an event cannot be separated from a fact and an observation,

that the two are mutually related and tied together in an

observation and that the very act of observation itself

produces or causes to bring about a change in the thing

observed. Dyck suggests

Each leaves out myriads of qualities and iri-
descences that impinge, physically, on the human
senses and the imagination. If a physicist should
object by saying that what his systems and theories
leave out is due to his science not having caught
up with all phenomena he would confirm hitherto
established physics as fictitious because new
insights will lead to modified fiction and a
clearer realization of the fictitiousness of cur-
rent physics. If he should object by surmising that
man will never entirely grasp nature's mysteries
he would in so surmising proclaim that man's physics
must always remain fiction. And his hunches about
the unexplored might be classified as unpublished
fiction--unless, of course, he is a cosmologist.
But to be a cosmologist is to be a poet. Man can-
not exist in the void. He needs a solid footing
in the universe. And what could be more solid than
fiction? (p. 174)

If physics is a type of fiction and The Einstein Intersection

is an imaginative invention, a fiction, then at what point

or points do the fictions of mathematical physics and fiction

intersect in the novel? In one sense this seems to be the

central concern and question of Delany's novel; isn't it

implicit in the title itself? After all The Einstein

Intersection suggests that something intersects with some-

thing else and that the novel is a representation of that

intersection. In other words, the title of the novel "names"

or delineates something that takes place in the novel--an

event, an occurrence--between the creative act and the

imagination and the way in which the narrator perceives

his world. For the world created in the novel, and

presented by the novel, is going to rest in the final

analysis on the particular understanding the narrator

holds of the nature of his experience and the physical

world. This in turn will be dependent upon how the

narrator reveals his world, that is, the narrative

strategy and technique of the novel. The answer to the

question, "At what point or points do the fictions of

mathematical physics and fiction intersect?" resides

in the form of the novel. For fprm in the sense I am using

that term here, becomes a synonym for model. Yet a model

is a system which not only defines itself but something

else, and that something else is nothing less than the


So far I have discussed the relationship that exists

between mathematical physics and fiction and suggested

their similarities. However, it is clear that fiction,

that is, the novel, may in its own right present a picture

of its world and, therefore, present indirectly a physics.

The concepts Lobey holds shape the way in which he sees

his world while his experience of that world forces him to

reshape his fundamental ideas about its nature. In other

words, the novel considered as a fictional system, or model,

will force us to examine the narrator's own particular con-

ceptions and realizations (creative or otherwise) of his

world. Yet the way in which the narrator sees his world

will take shape and form out of the intersection of physics

with fiction in his own mind. This, after its own fashion,

presents certain problems. Witold Gombrowicz suggests,

"Man is made in such a way that he continually has to define

himself and continually escape his own definitions. Reality

is not about to let itself be completely enclosed in form.

Form for its part does not agree with the essence of life.

Yet all thought that tries to define the inadequacy of form

becomes form in its own turn and thus only confirms our

tendency towards form."l3

Delany tells us that "The central subject of the book

is myth" (p. 78). But the novel is not concerned with

specific myths per se, such as Orpheus, or as Stephen Scobie

speculates, with Norse mythology. Rather, the novel is

concerned with "why we have them," as Delany informs us,

that is, myths, and "what we use them for" (p. 126). The

Einstein Intersection is set in the distant future, long

after the holocaust of nuclear war (post-deluge or after

the flood is its archetypal counterpart) has destroyed most

of the planet. Lobey, the narrator of the story, is in

love with a girl named Friza. They are not human. They

have inherited man's "bodies, their souls--both husks

abandoned here for any wanderer's taking," as Spider informs

us (p. 129). Friza is killed by Kid Death (symbolized in

the novel by Billy the Kid). Lobey (Orpheus?) must set out

on a quest to find Friza and regain her. Early in the novel

Lobey falls into the ruins of an abandoned maze of under-

ground shelters. He faces and kills a futuristic minotaur.

He confronts a machine and as he tells us "It was a

computer from the old time (when you owned this Earth, you

wraiths and memories), a few of which chuckled and chat-

tered throughout the source-cave. I'd had them described

to me, but this was the first I'd seen" (p. 34). The

computer's name is "PHAEDRA." In the conversation that

takes place between Lobey and Phaedra we learn from Phaedra

that she was placed in the underground complex "by people

who never dreamed that you would come. Psychic Harmony

Entanglements and Deranged Response Association, that was

my department. And you've come down here hunting through

my memories for your lost girl" (p. 38). Lobey's quest

for Friza, however, is difficult. He must somehow find

his way out of the maze--the objective correlative to

mankind's "million year old fantasies" (p. 39). Phaedra

tells Lobey "You're basically not equipped for it . .

But I suppose you have to exhaust the old mazes before you

can move into the new ones. It's hard" (p. 39). Lobey

sometime later, after finding his way out of the maze,

joins a dragon drive (cattle drive?) on its way to Branning-

at-sea (Dodge City?). He meets Spider and Green-eye. They

arrive at Branning-at-sea where, with Spider's help, Billy

the Kid is killed, Green-eye (Christ?) is crucified and

hung from a tree, and Lobey meets the Dove. Near the end

of the novel Spider explains to Lobey "As we are able to

retain more and more of our past, it takes us longer and

longer to become old; Lobey, everything changes. The

Labyrinth today does not follow the same path it did at

Knossos fifty thousand years ago. You may be Orpheus;

you may be someone else, who dares death and succeeds.

Green-eye may go to the tree this evening, hang there,

rot, and never come down. The world is not the same.

That's what I've been trying to tell you. It's different"

(p. 131). Delany has informed us earlier in the novel

that "Endings to be useful must be inconclusive" (p. 137).

Lobey's search for Friza becomes a quest for his own identity.

He must leave the earth and go, like man, to the stars.

Lobey explains "In my village tnere was a man who grew

dissatisfied. So he left this world, worked for a while

on the moon, on the outer planets, then on worlds that were

stars away. I might go there" (p. 155). Spider, in

reply to Lobey's statement, declares "I did that once. It

was all waiting for me when I got back" (p. 155). Lobey,

however, wishes to know "What's it going to be like?" and

Spider suggests "It's not going to be what you expect"

(p. 155). Lobey hesitantly questions "It's going to be

. different?" (p. 155). And, of course, the answer to

this question is the conclusion of the novel--and that con-

clusion is inconclusive. The novel ends with Lobey telling

us "As morning branded the sea, darkness fell away at the

far side of the beach. I turned to follow it" (p. 155). In

a sense Lobey's journey has already been taken since he has

told us his story, that is, conceptually, the end of the

novel is its beginning and vice versa.

It was suggested earlier that something intersects

with something else in the novel and that this inter-

section becomes the novel, that is, The Einstein Intersection.

The Einsteinian world of relativity intersects with the

Goedelian to reveal, at that point of intersection, the

limitations and possibilities of human activity. Inter-

section, as used here, is used in its mathematical sense--

as a conjunction of two or more sets of objects whose

elements are mutually shared by both in the same area. In

the novel there exists a set of ideas which are given

expression by Spider to Lobey about the nature of his world.

These ideas are taken from mathematical physics. In

addition to these ideas there exists a set of ideas which

are concerned with the nature of the creative act, the

creative process, and the life of the imagination. These

ideas, that is, the ideas concerned with the nature of

creativity, are often expressed by Delany in quotations from

his journal which are prefixed to the beginning of various

sections of the novel. However, these ideas, like the ones

from mathematical physics, are also expressed by various

characters in the novel and are reflected in the form and

structure of the novel. It is out of the intersection of

these two sets of ideas that the form of the novel grows.

Further, the intersection of these two basic sets of ideas

defines the starting and stopping points of the novel.

Few readers will be without some knowledge of Einstein

and the theory of relativity, part of which I have already

explored in terms of physics, while other readers will know

little about Kurt Goedel. Howard DeLong in discussing

the implications of Goedel's proof in "Unsolved Problems

in Arithmetic" explains that

The central change that the limitative theorems
[of Goedel] required of all previous theories of
the nature of mathematics was the recognition
that there are unanswerable questions in the
subject. Earlier it had been thought that if a
question could be made precise, that question
had an answer. Now it was seen that perhaps
some precise questions do not have precise answers.
By way of analogy, think of an object, say a light
bulb. If you then ask, "Is it made partly of
cork?" the answer will probably be no. If,
however, you ask,"Does it weigh exactly 3.1 ounces?"
the question is probably unanswerable. The reality
toward which the question is directed is indeter-
minate in some ways. Such indeterminateness is
characteristic of products of the imagination,
including artistic creations. (How often did Juliet
sneeze during the year before she met Romeo?") In
these areas it is pointless to ask questions about
things that are not determined by evidence.
Compared with imaginative creations, physical
reality is determinate, and yet, the results of
quantum theory suggest that physical reality is
also indeterminate in certain ways.14

Here we have a type of indirect statement about the inde-

terminate nature of imaginative creations. What is clear,

or should be clear, is that there are essentially a set of

unanswerable questions about the subject of literary art.

For instance, there exists a set of precise questions I

may ask about The Einstein Intersection which are unanswer-

able. I might ask "How old is Lobey?" and there is

nothing in the novel which will allow me to answer this

question precisely. Lobey's age is not given. All I may

answer is that Lobey seems, from the various descriptions

he gives of himself, to be relatively young. What the

limitation theorems "represent," then, "is the discovery

of an abstract structure for which it is impossible for

any human being to make systematically complete and

correct assumptions about" (DeLong, p. 59). It may also

be pointed out that "Our powers of conceptual discrimination

have limits just as our powers of perceptual discrimination

do" (DeLong, p. 59).

Goedel's incompleteness theorem "states (roughly)

that for any known formal systems for arithmetic there

are formal sentences analogous to P, that is, either the

system is incorrect (proves falsehoods) or it is incom-

plete (contains truths not provable in the system). 'P'

stands for the sentence 'This sentence is not provable'"

(DeLong, p. 56). As DeLong explains

The existence of P does not make the system
inconsistent, but it does produce something
disconcerting: P is true if and only if P
is not provable. Hence we conclude that if we
have P,then the cozy relation between truth
and provability that one attempts to achieve
if a formal system,namely that the set of
sentences true under any interpretation that
makes the axioms true be identical with the
set of provable sentences, is destroyed. The
liar has disappeared but his grin, like the
Cheshire cat's, remains behind. (p. 56)

DeLong is referring to the "liar paradox" formulated

by the ancient Greeks which can be stated, as he suggests,

as "the problem of deciding whether or not the following

sentence is true: 'This sentence is not true'" (p. 56).

For obvious reasons it is all but impossible to outline but

briefly here the general idea of Goedel's proof, and, as

Delong points out, all we can hope to convey is the "spirit

of the proof" (p. 56). Philosophically, what is significant

for the student of literature is that Goedel's proof sug-

gests that there may be (from a mathematician's point of

view, indeed, are) limitations to man's abilities. This

may be stated another way by suggesting that any critical

reading of a literary work of art which presupposes to

examine a novel, for instance, only in terms of what is

contained in the novel, will fail. In other words, in

theory the assumption that critical presuppositions about

the nature of literary art may be proved by relying com-

pletely upon internal evidence is impossible without step-

ping outside that system (the literary work of art). Further,

it may be argued that the novel must be open-ended and con-

tain assertions, ideas and concepts which will not be provable

by relying on that which is given in the novel itself. In

summary, where Goedel's proof establishes, for the mathe-

matician, the idea that there are limitations to man's

abilities, so too, in the novel, Spider's explanation of

the nature of the world to Lobdy establishes the limitations

of his world and his position in it.

Delany begins section eleven of The Einstein Intersection

with three quotations, one from The Revelation of John, an

excerpt from a letter from James Agee to Father Flye, and a

short passage from Plotinus' Enneads. Each of these quota-

tions, in its own way, points toward the significance of

this section as the center of the novel--artistically,

philosophically, and conceptually.

But I have this against thee, that thou didst
leave thy first love.
The Revelation of John/Chapter 2, verse 4

My trouble is, such a subject cannot be seriously
looked at without intensifying itself toward a
center which is beyond what I, or anyone else,
is capable of writing of . Trying to write it
in terms of moral problems alone is more than I
can possibly do. My main hope is to state the
central subject and my ignorance from the start.
James Agee/Letter to Father Flye

Where is this country? How does one get there?
If one is a born lover with an innate philosophic
bent, one will get there.
Plotinus/The Intelligence, the Idea and Being
(p. 125)

After wandering about Branning-at-sea for sometime

Lobey finds himself at Spider's house. Ostensibly, Lobey

has gone to Spider's home to collect his pay. Spider asks

Lobey to sit down "I want to talk to you" (p. 125). Lobey

answers "About what? I asked. Our voices echoed. The music

was nearly silent. 'I have to be on my way to get Friza,

to find Kid Death'" (p. 126). Spider tells Lobey "That's

why I suggest you sit down . What do you know about

mythology, Lobey?" (p. 126). Lobey recounts briefly his

meager knowledge of mythology to Spider and Spider once

again questions "Again, what do you know about mythology?--

I'm not asking you what myths we have, nor even where they

come from, but why we have them, what we use them for"

(p. 126). Lobey initially believes that the function of

mythology is to guide him in his search for Friza. He

tells us "I could offer nothing else" (p. 126). Spider

then raises the central question which leads to the center

of this section and the novel "Do you understand difference,

Lobey" (p. 127). Lobey replies "I live in a different

world, where many have it [difference] and many do not.

I just discovered it myself weeks ago. I know the world

moves toward it with every pulse of the great rock and

the great roll. But I don't understand it" (p. 127). We

are briefly told that all we can ever hope to know of

difference "is what it is not" (p. 127). Spider, in

answer to Lobey's "What isn't it?" replies in a rather

lengthy explanation that

It isn't telepathy; it's not telekinesis--
though both are chance phenomena that increase
as difference increases. Lobey, Earth, the
world, fifth planet from the sun--the species
that stands on two legs and roams this thin wet
crust: it's changing, Lobey. It's not the
same. Some people walk under the sun and
accept that change, others close their eyes,
clap their hands to their ears and deny the
world with their tongues. Most snicker, giggle,
jeer and point when they think no one else is
looking--that is how the humans acted through-
out their history. We have taken over their
abandoned world, and something new is happening
to the fragments, something we can't define with
mankind's leftover vocabulary. You must take
its importance exactly as that: it is wonderful,
fearful, deep, ineffable to your explanations,
opaque to your efforts to see through it; yet it
demands you take journeys, defines your stopping
and starting points, can propel you with love
and hate, even to seek death for Kid Death--"
(p. 127)

Lobey finishes Spider's explanation with "--or make

me make music . ." even though he is unaware of the signi-

ficance of what he has just suggested by his own conclusion

(p. 127). Clearly, Lobey has not yet fully understood

Spider. He questions "What are you talking about Spider?"

and Spider replies

If I could tell you, or you could under-
stand from my inferences, Lobey, it would
lose all value. Wars and chaoses and
paradoxes ago, two mathematicians between
them ended an age and began another for our
hosts, our ghosts called Man. One was Einstein,
who with his Theory of Relativity defined
the limits of man's perception by expressing
mathematically just how far the condition of the
observer influences the thing he perceives.
(p. 127 28)

What Spider is trying to explain to Lobey is that

man is a prisoner trapped by his senses in a world which

he can only imperfectly understand. Yet the attempt must

be made to come to an understanding of the essential nature

of the world and man's position in it. As Spider has

already explained, "it demands you take journeys," for

it is only through defining "your stopping and starting

points" that you may become aware of your own identity and

your place in the world (p. 127). Once the nature of the

world is discovered and understood it will open itself to

the possibilities of creativity and change. We have already

discussed at some length the significance of relativity and

the limitations it imposes on the observer and the influence

the observer may have on the thing he perceives. What is

more important, however, is that the explanation Spider

gives Lobey forms the nexus or analogical center and counter-

part conceptually to the novel itself. Another way of

stating this is to suggest that the novel is a fictional

system which contains within itself its own explanation,

this explanation containing, in a sense, the conceptual

model of the novel. It clearly suggests what the function

of the creative act is in Lobey's world. Spider points

out that the other mathematician

. was Goedel, a contemporary of Einstein,
who was the first to bring back a mathematically
precise statement about the vaster realm beyond
the limits Einstein defined: In any closed
mathematical system--you may read 'perceivable,
measurable phenomena'--which though contained in
the original system, can not be deduced from it--
read 'proven with ordinary or extraordinary logic.'
Which is to say, there are more things in heaven
and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy,
Horatio. There are an infinite number of true
things in the world with no way of ascertaining
their truth. Einstein defined the extent of the
rational. Goedel stuck a pin into the irrational
and fixed it to the wall of the universe so that
it held still long enough for people to know it
was there. And the world and humanity began to
change. And from the other side of the universe,
we were drawn slowly here. The visible effects
of Einstein's theory leaped up on a convex curve,
its production huge in the first century after
its discovery, then leveling off. The production
of Goedel's law crept up on a concave curve, micro-
scopic at first, then leaping to equal the Einsteinian
curve, cross it, outstrip it. At the point of
intersection, humanity was able to reach the limits
of the known universe . . (pp. 128 -29)

It should be clear that the title of the novel is

taken from this explanation. Spider's comments about the

meaning and significance of Einstein and Goedel form the

literary and philosophical center for what occurs in The

Einstein Intersection. What we are to understand is that,

as Spider tells Lobey, "There's just as much suspense today

as there was when the first singer woke from his song to

discover the worth of the concomitant sacrifice. You don't

know Lobey. This all may be a false note, at best a passing

dissonance in the harmonies of the great rock and the great

roll" (p. 131). Spider is telling us, albeit indirectly,

that the creative act today still has all the meaning and

significance that it has always had. We are told that

"Things passing in a world of difference have their

surrealistic corollaries in the present. Green-eye creates,

but what he creates is an oblique side effect of something

else. You receive and conceive music; again only an

oblique characteristic of who you are--" (p. 133). But

though Lobey has understood much, he still fails to per-

ceive the nature of his identity. He is, of course, a

musician. This is clear from the first paragraph of the

novel. Yet Lobey himself is unaware of what being a musician

entails, that is, that he must continually commit himself to

the creative act and all that that suggests. After all,

Lobey has been told by Spider that "there are more things

in heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy,

Horatio" (p. 128). It remains for Lobey to discover his

nature and realize the full implications of what it means

to be a creative artist. Once Lobey discovers himself he

will become a writer since he is a narrator agent who pro-

duces a noticeable effect on what he elects to present as

his story.

The novel, then, grows out of two great systems of

thought and justifies the idea that form is, after all,

only an extension of content and nothing more. Yet it is

equally clear that the theory Spider presents creates an

implicit world view or, as I have preferred to call it, a

physics. It is a physics because it explains the phenomena

of Lobey's world and the way in which those phenomena

take their shape and find their significance in relation

to the narrator's own perceptual awareness of his world--

its limitations and possibilities. It is also equally

clear that whatever occurs in the novel is meant to be

understood by making a comparison between the intersection

of Einsteinian thought.with that of Goedelian. Two great

systems of thought intersect in the novel. The Goedelian

triumphs since it reinforces the novel's literary dimensions.

It does so because it admits the limitations of science while

at the same time it gives "absolute" justification to man's

art, his creativity. The concepts of mathematics and

physics form the inner model to the novel as a fictional sys-

tem. This system in turn forces us to realize that what a

man can "truly know" is, in the final analysis, limited to

the "prison house of his senses," to the familiar experiences

of his world. Where physics and mathematics may suggest

that there are limitations to man's abilities, they too,

like fiction, release him into the far vaster realm of

the imagination whose boundaries are determined and limited

only by the creative act, by the power of the imagination.

As Wallace Stevens has said, "We live in the mind."5 Yet

if we live in the mind, the things of the mind present

themselves to us through structured systems, in this case,

language, and the various forms which language may take

are, in their own turn, the result of the imagination

insofar as the imagination presents the possibilities of things.

What I want to suggest is that Delany's novel

represents a shift in the art of the science-fiction

novel and that this shift is understandable only in terms

of the various premises that give rise to it. This shift

in the art of the science-fiction novel is, to borrow an

analogy from Judith Merril, "as though a figurative planet

composed of man's intellect, suddenly acquired so much ad-

ditional mass, or velocity (or both?) that it flew out of

orbit, breaking up and fragmenting under the strain."16 In

other words, this shift in the art of the science-fiction

novel is a result of a different way of looking at man and

the world. The various premises which constitute this new

way of looking at man and the world are of such a different

order that they may be compared to the breaking up of a

figurative planet and its assumption of a new orbit about

the sun.

Ostensibly, the various themes of The Einstein Intersection

are worked out in terms of myth, as I have already suggested.

Delany informs us that "The central subject of the book is

myth" (p. 78). Stephen Scobie in "Different Mazes:

Mythology in Samuel R. Delany's 'The Einstein Intersection'"

suggests that "'Myth,' however, is not a simple or a unified

concept."7 Scobie identifies or discovers "(at least)

three distinct levels of myth" in the novel (pp. 12-13).

First, there is what he terms "'fictional myth,' mainly

Greek, the central references being to Orpheus, Theseus and

the maze, and Pan. This is a mythology to which we do not

give any literal belief, though we do admit that it

carries a kind of 'truth,' in anthropological, social,

or psychological terms" (p. 12). Second, Scobie notes

that there is a "'religious myth.' This is a mythology

that is still alive as a religious faith: while few people

today believe in Apollo, a great many do believe in Jesus

Christ" (p. 12). And finally, there is "'historical myth,'

the main references being Billy the Kid, Jean Harlow, and

Ringo Starr" (p. 13). Further, Scobie suggests that "Beyond

these three levels of mythology, and such minor references

to comic-book and movie serial mythology as 'Spiderman'

and the 'cliffhanger' scene, there is one basic over-riding

level. The characters of the book are not human; they are

another race who have assumed the patterns of the human

body and soul, and--as one of my [Scobie's] students most

concisely put it--they have made myths out of us" (p. 13).

Scobie is correct when he cites his student's remark that

the characters of the novel "have made myths out of us."

All of the character's names in the novel are suggestive

of various fictional, historical, and religious figures.

For instance, Lobey becomes Orpheus while at the same time

his name suggests indirectly, perhaps, Lobo (wolf), though

admittedly this connection is rather tenuous and is made

only to suggest a certain character trait of Lobey's per-

sonality; that is, he is an individual alone in his world.

Lobey's name, in the novel, is also linked to Ringo Starr

and Billy the Kid. The Dove is, in the novel, linked to

Helen of Troy and Jean Harlow. Green-eye becomes Christ

or any great martyr and Spider "every traitor you've

[Lobey] imagined" (Delany, p. 130). The purpose, of

course, of using names as Delany has done in The Einstein

Intersection is to deepen our sense of historical con-

tinuity in order to allow us to move into the future and

see Lobey as a heroic figure. In a sense Lobey is a com-

posite figure who exhibits the traits of great figures of

the past while at the same time emerging as a unique figure.

Although Scobie has understood much about The Einstein

Intersection,in an important sense, however, he has

missed the point of the novel, for he fails to perceive

another and more significant level to myth in the novel.

If The Einstein Intersection treats the interface between

Lobey and his memories (racial or whatever) and if it

treats the interface between Lobey and his world, then it

also treats the "human" problems which arise out of Lobey's

relation to the phenomena and science of his world. What

I am suggesting is that Scobie has overlooked two funda-

mental levels of myth in The Einstein Intersection. First,

and most importantly, science itself becomes amyth in the

novel. After all, Lobey has inherited man's science, or

at least it would seem a safe assumption that he has

inherited his science, since he tells us about it in his

story. The actual science available to Lobey, however,

may be less than that which was known to man, though the

novel in several places suggests that the products of man's

science--his "ships and projection forces"--"are still

available to anyone who wants to use them" (Delany, p. 129).

The presence of science in Lobey's world is comparable

to what Scobie suggests about the function of fictional

myth, that is, Lobey does not give any literal belief to

what Spider tells him of the theories of Einstein and

Goedel. Spider himself suggests "I want a Goedelian, not

an Einsteinian answer. I don't want to know what's inside

the myths, nor how they clang and set one another ringing,

their glittering focuses, their limits and genesis. I want

their shape, their texture, how they feel when you brush

by them on a dark road, when you see them receding into

the fog, their weight as they leap your shoulder from be-

hind; I want to know how you take to the idea of carrying

three when you already bear two. Who are you, Lobey?"

(Delany, p. 130). Spider's interest in science is not

functional; that is, he is not interested in putting

science to work for him to achieve some type of control

over the physical world, but rather he is interested in

the shape and texture of science as an explanation for

the existence of certain phenomena. Further, Spider's

explanation of the meaning of Einstein and Goedel, though

accurate, gives only the shape and texture to Einstein and

Goedel's theories. I might also point out that Lobey's

science is inherited in the same way in which the Greek

myths of Orpheus, Theseus, and Pan and the myths of Billy

the Kid, Ringo Starr, and Jean Harlow have been inherited.

However, there is one important difference between science

as a myth and the myths of the Greek Orpheus and the

twentieth-century Billy the Kid. That difference is simply

that Lobey's race is on the verge of re-discovering the

power of science. In other words, science may exist as

a myth in Lobey's world, but at the same time it holds

out an explanation of the shape of his future, of the

possibilities inherent in that future. Science, or rather

the explanation of scientific thought which Spider pre-

sents to Lobey, forms the philosophical and conceptual

center of the novel and suggests the possible solution

to Lobey's understanding of the nature of the world and,

since, as we have already seen, The Einstein Intersection

is concerned with the subject of myth, then science itself

becomes a myth and serves a mythic function in the novel.

The Einstein Intersection reconciles art with science

(mathematical physics) and demonstrates that they are not

incompatible interests or incommensurate ways of seeing

the world. The reason for this reconciliation, once

grasped, is quite simple. DeLong suggests "Just as in-

determinateness, previously considered peculiar to

imaginative creations, was found in the physical world with

the discovery of the quantum theory, so indeterminateness

was also found in mathematics with the discovery of the

limitative theorems" (p. 59). The reconciliation between

art and science which takes place in The Einstein Intersection

is made possible by this understanding. This is clearly

the case since the Einsteinian world of relativity places

a premium on perceptual relativity while the world as

Goedel conceived it emphasizes the indeterminate and

irrational--both points of view which would have been

impossible in classical physics. In a sense man's science

has caught up with man's art. Nevertheless, the fact re-

mains that the concepts of mathematical physics which stand

at the center of the novel explain the nature of Lobey's

world of physical (genetic and material) and psychic

abnormality. The reconciliation which takes place in the

novel between art and science and between classical and

contemporary physics, of course, occurs ultimately in the

creative act, in the imagination, and it does so since

Lobey's story is an imaginative presentation of the pos-

sibilities of things. In other words, Lobey selects and

"edits" his presentation from that which is implicit in

his act of telling his own story. Lobey's act of telling

his own story is implicit in the structure of the novel and

its narrative technique and is one of the philosophical

and creative consequences of the fact that what has been

presented only points to what is implicit in what was


The second level of myth in The Einstein Intersection

which Scobie fails to identify is concerned with the nature

of creation and the creative act. In The Einstein Intersection

the creative act is given the status of a myth. Everything

in the novel points toward this central fact--that the

novel is a product of the imagination which presents, after

its own fashion, a study of the creative process as it works

itself out in Lobey's mind. The emphasis throughout the

novel is on the act of doing or making something--music,

and consequently, the novel. What Scobie fails to under-

stand, then, are the implications of what is inherent in

the conclusion he draws about the function of myth in The

Einstein Intersection.

The ending of The Einstein Intersection leaves
everything still open to question. The individual
response still has to be made: by Lobey, and
by the reader. Mythology also is inconclusive:
the pattern of the maze exists, but you must
still create your own as you walk through it.
Myths are not images, not answers. (p. 18)

Myths may not be "images" or "answers" but they do,

as Geoffrey Hartman points out, "allow man to keep on

functioning."l8 What Delany is saying, and has said

several different times in The Einstein Intersection, is

that the traditional myths (Greek or whatever) no longer

serve the same function they once did. Myths live and die

like fashions in the garment industry, though admittedly

their life is longer. The creation of a personal mythology

(Blake is a good example) is a response of the individual

to the death of a more general pervasive mythology. This

is why, in part, Spider wants "a Goedelian" and "not an

Einsteinian answer" to his questions about mythology. This

is why Lobey "may be Orpheus" or he "may be someone else"

(Delany, p. 131). The reason, as Spider informs us, is

that "The world is not the same. That's what I've been

trying to tell you [Lobey]. It's different" (Delany, p. 131).
Myths are models.9 They establish a context which allows

the individual a way of explaining the essentially mysterious

and unfathomable nature of the world and life. They

are pre-scientific explanations, if not pre-rational, and,

as such, they "are productive of social cohesion."20

Delany's response to the problem of mythology is to attempt

to create a new mythology, one which emphasizes the creative

nature of man and life and is not backward looking. This

is why he leads us in The Einstein Intersection through the

traditional myths of western society, from the past to the

present. Billy the Kid, Jean Harlow, and the Beatles be-

come, in The Einstein Intersection, the mythology of the

twentieth century upon which Lobey builds his own responses

to the indeterminateness of his world. If Lobey and his

race "have made myths out of us," then we must conclude

that the traditional myths (Greek, etc.) are wanting in some

vital way. What they lack is, of course, functionality.

Delany tells us, in an excerpt from his journal at the

beginning to section twelve, that "Lobey starts the last

leg of his journey. I cannot follow him there" (p. 136).

The reason why Delany cannot follow Lobey in his journey

is clear--the traditional myths (of Orpheus, Theseus and Pan,

Ringo and Billy the Kid) are outworn and no longer serve

their purpose. They are the responses of a different age

and a different world to its own problems. What Scobie

fails to understand is that artistically it is necessary

first to present the old backward looking myths in order

to allow us to move through them and into a new response

to the world. The creative act demands a new response, a

new exploration. Delany may not be able to follow Lobey,

since Lobey has fictional existence in his own right, but

Delany, in his own way, does create his own response to

the problem, and that response is The Einstein Intersection.

Further, through the use of the quotations from the author's

journal which are prefixed to the beginning of each section

Delany allows us to trace his own journey, its starting

and stopping points.

The "historical" and "religious" myths of the novel,

the ones Scobie identifies, are thematic and structural

devices which are necessary in order to allow us to create

a new and more powerful mythology, and that mythology is

nothing less than science. Science, once seen and under-

stood as this new mythology, is reflected in the very title

of the novel. The intersection of the Einsteinian world of

relativity with the Goedelian world of indeterminateness

emphasizes the irrational and leads us only deeper "into a

misty realm of symbolism and abstraction." Science cannot

take us further than Goedel. Yet in that distance lies a

remarkable achievement. For it suggests that a radical shift

in the art of the science-fiction novel has taken place. It

does so since the concepts of mathematical physics which

Spider presents are used to "support" and justify the na-

ture of the creative act. In other words, the metaphors

(models) which form the framework and structure of the novel

are scientific principles and concepts "with their ideal aim

of corresponding to structures that 'really' exist in the

universe forever unverifiable."21 They are not drawn from

nature but rather portray a relationship between various

events and occurrences which take place in The Einstein

Intersection. What I am suggesting is that our perception

of a change in the art of the science-fiction novel and,

specifically, in The Einstein Intersection, is dependent

upon perceiving a shift in the way in which the narrator,

in this case Lobey, sees his world. You cannot see or

understand the novel through the lens of traditional

criticism, for to do so is only to perceive, in the final

analysis, the tradition.

The narrative strategy of the novel is dependent, then,

upon Lobey's recognition that a shift has occurred in his

visual-conceptual field. Lobey may be a futuristic Orpheus

but, more importantly, he is a fictive "I" or eye, a

consciousness made aware of the meaning of "difference" and

its role in his world. Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of

Fiction points out that "as soon as we encounter an 'I,'"

in fiction "we are conscious of an experiencing mind whose

views of the experience will come between us and the event."22

Lobey is a narrator-agent since he produces "a measurable

effect on the direction of the events he selects to present

as his story."23 The fundamental problem of the novel de-

mands a clear understanding of what is implicit in this

type of narrative technique. That understanding involves the

strategy which the narrator uses to tell his story. Obviously,

Lobey is a musician. The novel begins significantly enough

with a description of Lobey's flute-machete:

There is a hollow, holey cylinder running
from hilt to point in my machete. When I
blow across the mouthpiece in the handle,
I make music with my blade. When all the
holes are covered, the sound is sad, as
rough as rough can be and be called smooth.
When all the holes are open, the sound pipes
about, bringing to the eye flakes of sun on
water, crushed metal. There are twenty
holes. (p. 5)

Lobey's flute-machete has significance in several

important ways. First, Lobey focuses our attention on

his instrument as a physical device which serves a creative

function--to make music. The emphasis in the opening para-

graph is on the creative act--to make something happen,

occur--and the possibilities inherent in that act. Yet

Lobey, himself, is unaware at this point of the full meaning

and significance of this act. The flute-machete may serve

as a device for creativity, but it may also serve as a device

for destruction--the musician's axe. Since our attention is

initially focused on the object used in the creative act, it

is clear that the user is an artist. What is more important,

however, is our realization that this opening paragraph

establishes the narrative point of view of the novel and

informs us that Lobey will tell his own story. Though our

attention may be initially focused on the story of Lobey who,

like Orpheus, sets out on a journey (quest) to regain his

lost love, the fact that the story has already taken place

forces us to conclude that the author of his story, Lobey,

has already discovered certain things about the nature of

himself, his world, and his relation to that world. In other

words, there exist at least two stories in The Einstein

Intersection. The first story, as told by Lobey, con-

cerns an earlier history of himself as the artist (musician)

who sets out on a journey to accomplish a specific end. As

in all traditional quests, the protagonist will face certain

hardships and trials. It is out of these "encounters" with

the phenomena of his world that his experience will come

into conflict with his understanding of that world. Like-

wise, the fact that Lobey is the narrator of his own story

suggests that he has made certain discoveries about the

nature of his world and his way of seeing in that world.

These discoveries force Lobey to a new understanding of

himself and his relation to his world. We never remember

reality but only the memory of that reality, and our memory

of that reality will, of necessity, be different from our

actual experience of it. Lobey's problem, then, is an

artistic one and demands that he make choices.

At the beginning of the sixth section of The Einstein

Intersection Delany quotes John Ciardi's "How Does a Poem

Mean" to the effect that "A Poem is a machine for making

choices" (p. 65). The analogy Delany wishes us to make is

clear. We should consider the novel a machine for making

choices and the choices we make will be determined by our

previous understanding of the creative process and its re-

lation to the imagination. Though Delany's ploy is to call

on authority, at this point in the development of the novel,

to justify the idea of the possibilities inherent in the

act of making a choice, it still remains for the novel to

demonstrate Lobey engaged in the act of making choices. And,

after all, the choices Lobey will make are conditioned

on the supposition that he has a purpose--to find Friza.

Though Lobey may choose one route over another, the choice

he does make will be directed toward what he understands

as his goal. What he will discover, at some point in his

journey, is that the basic nature of his goal has changed,

and with his recognition of that change will come a dif-

ferent perception of himself and his world.

However, what is even more important than the fact

that Lobey is a musician is the fact that he is an author.

There is, then, the inner story of Lobey the musician who

sets forth on a journey of discovery in his attempt to find

Friza. In this respect the novel is quite traditional.

Yet it is out of this quest that Lobey's confrontation

with the phenomena of his world arises. The basic incon-

gruities that arise out of this quest continually impinge

upon his senses. Out of the familiar world the narrator

has always known--the world of his senses--will grow the

strange and unfamiliar, so that, in a sense, by the end of

the novel, Lobey will have undergone a radical shift in his

visual-conceptual field. He will see the world and himself

with a difference. As Scobie notes, "'Difference' and

'different' are the key words of the book; they recur on

almost every page" (p. 14). Further Scobie correctly points

out that not only is "the basic characteristic of their

society [Lobey's] . change; its controlling myth is

metamorphosis. Delany's major image for this is genetic

mutation, but it is apparent also in the language and structure

of the book" (p. 13). Consequently, the first paragraph

of the novel serves several important functions. It

establishes the narrative framework and point of view of

the novel. Lobey is a reflective intellectual consciousness.

It is interesting to note that the distance which separates

Lobey as narrator from Lobey as musician is never great

within the confines of the novel itself. He continually

intrudes upon his story to remind us that he is telling it.

The effect of this intrusion by Lobey into his narrative

is to remind us that the story that is immediately in front

of us is a device for taking us step by step to that point

where we may realize that the real story is the one that

emerges from Lobey's very act of telling his story. We may

begin with relative stability in point of view, with relative

harmony in Lobey's presentation of his world, but by the end

of the novel this has all changed and we are allowed to

see an entirely different world from that with which we


Perhaps the most significant discovery Lobey makes is

made in terms of his recognition that his world continually

is engaged in change. Lobey informs us "the year I was born

a rash of hermaphrodites" were born and "the doctors thought

I might be one" (p. 6). Lobey's very birth suggests that

it is indeterminate. Further, Lobey's quest for Friza be-

comes a journey towards discovery of self and the nature of

identity. However, within the inner story of the novel

Lobey, as musician, will never make this discovery. The

discovery remains to be realized by the reader who comes

to understand that Lobey, as author, is a narrator agent

who has already-arrived at the conclusion that his purpose

and function is inseparable from the nature of his art.

His function as author is to tell his own story; this is

implicit in the narrative strategy of the novel and involves

that which has been already discussed. Once Lobey dis-

covers his identity he does not talk about it but rather

presents it--and that is The Einstein Intersection.

In The World We Imagine, Mark Schorer suggests

The virtue of the modern novelist--from James and
Conrad down--is not only that he pays so much
attention to his medium, but that, when he pays
most, he discovers through it a new subject
matter, and a greater one. Under the "immense
artistic preoccupations" of James and Conrad and
Joyce, the form of the novel changed, and with
the technical change, analogous changes took place
in substance, in point of view, in the whole con-
ception of fiction. And the final lesson of the
modern novel is that technique is not the secondary
thing that it seemed to Wells, some external
machination, a mechanical affair, but a deep and
primary operation; not only that technique contains
intellectual and moral implications, but that it
discovers them.24

Under the artistic preoccupations of writers such as

Samuel R. Delany, the narrative art of the science-fiction

novel has changed. The final lesson of the novel may well

be, as Schorer suggests, "that technique is not secondary

. . but a deep and primary operation." However, it has

become increasingly clear that technique may not be separated

from the subject matter it gives rise to and expresses in the


The form of The Einstein Intersection grows out of this

deep and primary operation concerned with the nature of

technique. It is a technique which manifests a world view

whose ideas come from the implications of Einstein's theory

of relativity and Goedel's limitative theorems and which

leads us to suggest that a new form of organicism has arisen.

This "new organicism," however, unlike that of the nineteenth

century, is not based on a set of metaphors which present

us with a picture of nature. Rather, this "new organicism"

finds its expression and justification in the abstract

models science creates in its attempt to penetrate to the

underlying structure of the universe. Further, these

"scientific" models, rather than capturing the nature of

reality only present and define an event, thereby producing

the radical shift in the art of the science-fiction novel

which has been discussed in this chapter. Yet the very

term "organic" itself seems limited in its ability to

suggest what has taken place in the nature of the science-

fiction novel since it seems to suggest that it is somehow

in touch with nature. And, as I have shown, modern science

(mathematical physics) never lays bare the underlying reality

of the universe but only leads us forever deeper into the

realm of abstraction and symbolism. But the symbols change.

They may lead us deeper into abstraction, but the creative

act remains the center to which all our efforts are ultimately

directed. What we have seen in this chapter, then, is that

the creative act, like all products of the imagination,

like science itself, is indeterminate. All we can possibly

hope to accomplish is to illuminate the paths which the

imagination takes in the hope that somehow knowledge will

be the result, and that knowledge will be ephemeral and


What was presented in this chapter will be continued

in the next; however, our attention will shift from The

Einstein Intersection to Brian W. Aldiss's Report on

Probability A. With this shift in scrutiny will come an

exploration of a different set of aspects of the theory of

relativity and the limitative theorems. For underlying

both Einstein's and Goedel's theories stands a new way of

looking at the universe (and the novel) in terms of

statistical probabilities. Unlike The Einstein Intersection,

however, Report on Probability A exhibits the principles

of probability theory not in the overt fashion in which

Spider presents the ideas of mathematical physics in The

Einstein Intersection, but rather through the logical pat-

tern of the parts of the novel and their relation to the



Samuel R. Delany, The Einstein Intersection (New
York: Ace Books, 1967).

Reginald Bretnor, "Science Fiction in the Age of
Space," in Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow, ed. Reginald
Bretnor (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1974), p. 151.

Robbe-Grillet, p. 17.

Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, and John A. Wheeler,
Gravitation (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1973),
p. 71.

Charles Olson, "Projective Verse," in Human Universe
and Other Essays, by Charles Olson, ed. Donald Allen (New
York: Grove Press, Inc., 1967), p. 52.

Martin Dyck, "Relativity in Physics and in Fiction,"
in Studies in German Literature of the Nineteenth and
Twentieth Centuries, ed. Siegfried Mews (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1970), p. 174.
Thomas D. Clareson, "The Other Side of Realism," in
SF: The Other Side of Realism, ed. Thomas D. Clareson (Bowling
Green: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1971), p. 22.

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 4.

1Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein (New
York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1973), p. 113.

B1Bronowski, The Common Sense of Science, p. 69.

1Robbe-Grillet, p. 74.

1Witold Gombrowicz, quoted in "Introduction," by
Jacques Ehrmann, Structuralism, ed. Jacques Ehrmann (New
York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970), p. vii.

Howard DeLong, "Unsolved Problems in Arithmetic,"
Scientific American, 224,No. 3 (March 1971), 58-59.

1Wallace Stevens, "Imagination as Value," in The
Necessary Angel (New York: Vintage-Knopf, 1951), p. 140.

1Merril, p. 56.

1Stephen Scobie, "Different Mazes: Mythology in
Samuel R. Delany's 'The Einstein Intersection,'" Riverside
Quarterly, 5, No. 1 (1973), p. 12.
1Geoffrey Hartman, "Structuralism: The Anglo-
American Adventure," in Structuralism, ed. Jacques
Ehrmann (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970),
p. 152.

1Ibid., p. 143.
2Sallie Sears and Georgianna W. Lord, "Introduction,"
in The Discontinuous Universe, ed. Sallie Sears and Georgianna
W. Lord- iew York; Basic Books, Inc., 1972), p. v.

2Booth, pp. 151-52.
Ibid., pp. 153-54.
2Mark Schorer, The World We Imagine (New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968), p. 10.



Intelligibility still continues to be a basic
assumption of the mind confronting the universe,
and the capacity to predict future events still
continues to be the primary criterion for the
formulation of any natural law. But prediction
is now limited to the probability, not the cer-
tainty, of future events. The whole definition
of "intelligibility" has changed. It must pro-
vide for an area of uncertainty, hence of ambi-
guity, in our knowledge of the universe. At the
same time, "structuring"--that is providing
abstract models which bear coherent relation to
the external world--continues to be the basic
activity of the human mind . .

The Discontinuous Universe

Given the theory of relativity and the philosophical

implications of Kurt Goedel's limitative theorems and their

significance within Delany's The Einstein Intersection, I

argued that Lobey was inescapably a part of the world he

wished to explore. Yet the very act of Lobey's exploration,

and our realization of the fundamental significance of this

act, forced us to conclude that if the novel was to fully

realize the various premises that gave rise to it, both

implicit and explicit, then these premises had to be worked

out in terms of the form of the novel. In moving from Delany!'s

The Einstein Intersection to Brian W. Aldiss's Report on

Probability A, the object of our examination has changed but

the ideas and concepts developed in the preceding chapter

still remain, for behind the theory of relativity, behind

Goedel and Heisenberg, stands modern probability theory.

Because of this change in novels, it is now necessary to

shift our focus within the field of modern mathematical

physics, though the field itself remains unchanged. For

Report on Probability A, like The Einstein Intersection,

gives rise to a model which suggests a fundamental change

has occurred in the expression of its form.

Form, as it was tentatively defined at the beginning

of Chapter II, was conceived of as nothing more than an

extension of certain basic ideas and concepts that were

expressed in the novel; that is, I accepted for the moment

Charles Olson's definition of form. I concluded, as a

logical consequence of the implications of this definition,

that the ideas and concepts that existed in The Einstein

Intersection had resulted in a new organicism and that the

very term "organic" seemed somehow to be lacking in its

ability to describe adequately what had taken place in the

art of the science-fiction novel. It is now necessary to

modify our understanding of form if we are to understand the

meaning and significance of probability theory in Aldiss's

Report on Probability A.

Previous concepts of organicism have always presup-

posed a certain continuity of form; that is, organic form

has been traditionally understood to consist of an unbroken

and coherent whole greater than its parts. Yet one of the

implications left unstated in the last chapter about organicism

was that "organic form becomes discontinuous form" when

understood in terms of the implications of the theories

of mathematical physics and their significance in reshaping

our understanding of the workings of nature. Ihab Hassan

in "Beyond a Theory of Literature: Intimations of Apocalypse?"

argues that contemporary literature (not simply science

fiction) is "characterized by 'unstructured and even random

elements,' [and] undermines the idea of organic form on

which formalist criticism in English is based."2 I disagree

with Hassan that contemporary literature is unstructured,

though it may contain "random elements." Contemporary

literature has structure but the nature of that structure

is different from the structure of previous literature. I

would agree, however, that the new structures that have

arisen in the science-fiction novel undermine the idea of

organic form. The reason for this undermining may be under-

stood as the result of a shift which has occurred in the way

in which science views nature. George Brecht in "Change-

Imagery" suggests that "The conjuncture of statistical theory

with mathematical physics, which occurred about 1860, re-

sulted ultimately in a reformulation of our concept of the

workings of nature; the requirements of strict causality,

which classical philosophy had regarded as an a priori

principle underlying the mechanics of the universe, were

replaced by a measure of probability."3 The "predominance

of cause thus gave way to the predominance of chance," as

consequence of this event, as Brecht points out, and

"chance became an underlying principle of our world-

view" (pp. 84, 86). Modern ideas about the nature of

causality have been altered as a result of this event and

must now include probabilistic prediction. It is only

natural, then, to expect the novel to reflect these

changes, although these changes may be felt only in-

directly in their consequence for literature. And, as

Brecht points out, "We only mean that the works of great

artists are products of the same complex, interacting welter

of cause and effect out of which came the results of mathe-

matical physics. If we believe history to show that art of

the past has fit into the cultural matrix of the time in

which it was produced, we have incentive to look for the

trends in contemporary art which are consistent with ana-

logous trends in these other fields" (pp.86-87). The point

to be made, however, is that the forms of the contemporary

science-fiction novel have changed and these changes are

the result of a change in the nature of our concepts about

the workings of nature. The contemporary science-fiction

novel has simply realized the significance of these changes

and given expression to them in the form of the novel. In

the place of the term "organic," consequently, I wish to

substitute the word "wholistic." This substitution, I think,

does not in itself change our understanding of the form of

the novel but it does help us to overcome a tendency to think

of the novel in terms of a set of metaphors which present

a picture of nature rather a model which presents a picture

of our relation to nature. Further, by referring to the

term "whclism" we remove ourselves, to some degree, from

the implicit metaphor that the term "organic" always

seems to suggest, that is, that a work of art is like a

plant. What I am suggesting is that our understanding of

the meaning of metaphor and what it represents has changed

as a consequence of our changed understanding of nature.

In previous literature metaphor has often presented an

immediate comparison of one thing to another. Generally,

the result of this comparison has been to create a picture

of nature in the novel, and, therefore, a picture of the

universe, often as a form of direct experience. The

metaphoric expression of nature in the novel gave rise to

a type of representation. Yet as science's view and under-

standing of nature changed, the ways in which that view

could be expressed demanded that our understanding of

metaphor change. Consequently, I argued in the preceding

chapters that metaphor became a synonym for model. This

distinction, it seems to me, is crucial and in keeping with

the argument presented in Chapter I and referred to above.

Further, in Chapter II I argued that the form of The Einstein

Intersection was synonymous with a model that grew out of

certain ideas and concepts which were implicit in the novel

and that these ideas and concepts were taken from mathe-

matical physics. I suggested that, in the final analysis,

the model presented an event, an occurrence, and that at the

"heart" of this event stood the creative act. I sug-

gested that this act was indeterminate and that indeter-

minancy was characteristic not only of products of the

imagination but that it was also characteristic of modern

mathematics and physics. The idea of discontinuous form

in a wholistic novel becomes central to what will be dis-

cussed in this chapter.

Brian W. Aldiss is England's most prolific and popular

writer of science fiction (some 149 short stories and

novels in the last fifteen years) and, of all his novels

to date, Report on Probability A is, perhaps, his most ex-

perimental. It is experimental in the sense that it dif-

fers markedly from the accepted work of other science-

fiction writers and departs from the mainstream of the

contemporary novel, both American and English. Report on

Probability A, like Delany's The Einstein Intersection,

represents a fundamental shift in its form. The basic

factor which seems to be responsible for this shift in the

form of the novel is the central position which probability

theory occupies in the novel, for the form of Report on

Probability A grows out of the literary implications of

probability theory used as a "structuring" device within

the novel. In other words, probability theory provides the

basis for an abstract model which gives rise to a literary

realization of that model which is its form. Further, since

the novel is limited in its possibilities to probabilities

and not certainties, the form of the novel must take into

account the indirect implications of the Principle of

Uncertainty, for the Principle of Uncertainty is based

on certain concepts the existence of which is a conse-

quence of what is inherent in the development of modern

mathematical reasoning. Finally, in the movement of its

style and technique, Report on Probability A is similar

to that of the French nouveau roman and, specifically,

bears more than a passing relationship to the novels of

Alain Robbe-Grillet, since it demonstrates an affinity

for many of the same concerns Robbe-Grillet discusses in

For a New Novel.4 Three sets of factors, then, seem to

be responsible for Report on Probability A--the literary

implications of probability theory in giving rise to an

abstract model which structures the novel, the indirect

implications of the Principle of Uncertainty, and the

relation that apparently exists between the style of the

novel and many of the problems of style discussed by

Robbe-Grillet in For A New Novel.

Report on Probability A, like Delany's The Einstein

Intersection, ends on the note that everything is expecta-

tation, that there are no certainties--only probable out-

comes, probable courses of action, probable solutions--to

the various possibilities presented in the novel. Further,

as a result of the implications of probability theory, it

is impossible to determine, with any certainty other than

probabilistic, which interpretation of the novel is the

"correct" interpretation or what events are the most

significant events. As Robbe-Grillet suggests, "possibilities

lurk in the corners--possible lives, possible literatures"

and to this I would add, possible worlds (p. 130). The

reason for these "possibilities" is that the very act of

observation is involved in the fact that the novel seems

to be a series of observations made in the form of a report.

In other words, in its fictional dimensions the novel

purports to be an impersonal observation (apparently a

scientific report on an alternate universe labeled

"Probability A"), though, in any final sense it is not,

since the novel itself is the Report on Probability A.

Another way of stating this is to suggest as Robbe-Grillet

points out that

The book makes its own rules for itself, and
for itself alone. Indeed the movement of its
style must often lead to jeopardizing them,
breaking them, even exploding them. Far
from respecting certain immutable forms, each
new book tends to constitute the laws of its
functioning at the same time it produces their
destruction. (p. 12)

Report on Probability A begins with the idea that

alternative universes exist and, as one reviewer of the

novel for The London Times Literary Supplement put it,

these universes differ "from one another minutely or

substantially; here [in the novel] they are 'in phase,'

to the extent that they can observe one another by tele-

pathic or mechanical means, according to their cultural

pattern."5 However, this same reviewer, who remains

anonymous, tells us "Mr. Aldiss's novel is a commentary

on, an analogue of Holman Hunt's picture 'The Hireling

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