Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291
The literary technique for which Gregory Benford is both most widely praised and criticized is an outcome of his desire to portray alien and machine intelligences — beings that do not think, and hence are unlikely to communicate — in ways which are similar to the practice of human beings....
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The literary technique for which Gregory Benford is both most widely praised and criticized is an outcome of his desire to portray alien and machine intelligences — beings that do not think, and hence are unlikely to communicate — in ways which are similar to the practice of human beings. In order to convey a sense of alien language, Benford resorts to a variety of typographical tricks, using boldface, Italics, indentation, underlining, and unconventional punctuation. Occasionally he arranges his language on the page in a manner more suggestive of poetry than of traditional prose. Each nonhuman intelligence has its own unique typography. For example, when the Mantis, an AI sent in pursuit of the Family Bishop, communicates with the higher intelligences which govern its mechanical civilization, speaking through the manipulation of magnetic field lines, Benford renders the dialog in the following manner:
I/You have explored a huge array of vaults and spaces, I >A< I. Yet you find nothing!
I have discovered a wealth of primate culture!
That was not your task, I >A< I.
How well I know. Our own ancient data imply that there are special, message-bearing primates. I have sought them. But they are difficult to separate from the hordes of primates here.
There are so many? Hiding from us?
Similarly, when Toby and Quath tease each other, the dialog looks like this:
"Must've caught them from your rotten carcass. What's that about a mountain?"
"Some mountain. More like a stink-hole, I'd say. And you're the one who looks like a giant maggot."
Benford utilizes still other typographical tricks to render the interior language of the various personalities that Toby and other members of the Family Bishop carry implanted in their minds.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 190
Benford's literary precedents for the discussion of artificial intelligence and the possibility of a conflict between humanity and its creations are described in the entry for Great Sky River. A number of other science-fiction writers have attempted to portray what it would be like to interact with a black hole or other similar stellar object, among the best known being Larry Niven's "Neutron Star" (1966), Poul Anderson's "Kyrie" (1968), Frederik Pohl's Gateway (1977) and Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (1980), and Roger MacBride Allen's The Ring of Charon (1991). A comparably spectacular description of interstellar events, in this case the eventual collapse of the entire universe, can be found in Poul Anderson's Tau Zero (1970). An extremely crude and frankly allegorical presentation of travel into a black hole can be seen in the Walt Disney motion picture The Black Hole (1979).
A number of writers have also attempted to describe what life would be like in an environment like the esty, where the physical laws are radically different from those of our universe. Perhaps the most successful such have been John Stith's Redshift Rendezvous (1990), Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson's The Singers of Time (1991), and Stephen Baxter's Raft (1991).