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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Close Reading of " 'The Author of the Acacia Seeds' and Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics" by Ursula K. Le Guin

First appeared in Terry Carr's Fellowship of the Stars. Reprinted in Silverberg and Greenberg's The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction Masterpieces, and in Hartwell and Cramer's The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF.

Like "Schrödinger's Cat", "The Author of the Acacia Seeds" examines what we actually know from scientific research.  The first extract examines the language of ants written on acacia seeds, but it is necessarily full of uncertainties due to the gulf of differences in how we understand language.  This is followed by the penguin language which is complicated by its being a bird in the sea.  Its author is even less certain what to glean from it.  The editor also extrapolates further difficulties--out to plants and even rocks.

Because of the story's scholarly tone, the story may be taken at face value--what do we truly know of science--or its final point indicates it may also be read as an idea taken out to its absurd conclusion.  However, as "Schrödinger's Cat" indicates, scientific absurdities may be true as well--if not stranger than we currently imagine.

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