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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"The Word Sweep" by George Zebrowski

First appeared in F&SFOnline. Reprinted by James E. Gunn in a major genre retrospective.


What would happen in words materialized?  They'd clutter homes and businesses.  You'd need a policeman to stop their overuse, Felix.

Felix botches his relationship with his wife, June, whom he believes is being too extravagant with words.  He finds Bruno who has discovered a place where the words don't manifest.  They believe they've found the machine that's caused all the trouble....


...but they're mistaken.  Their attempt to destroy it only makes things worse.  Words no longer even communicate.

This also works as a metaphor for relationships--the need to risk extravagance to communicate (or the desire to play word games mucks up everything)--or for trash--the need to come up with an ingenious uses and reuses--but also for the need to be brief.  Words can help but also mess life up.

Interestingly, June suggests Bruno and Felix's relationship is part of the problem.  What is that relationship?  The two men do work together towards a project that not only makes the world stranger, but also they can no longer understand each other afterwards.

I failed to uncover the possible anagram in Bruno's garbled talk (second).  Let me know if you uncover what it might be.  Of course, it may not be an anagram but a puzzle or nothing at all.

A common Zebrowski motif is that wish or desire can become literally manifest, as seen in "Once We Were Dragons" or "Solidarity".  One might say it's implied in others.

Felix and Bruno appeared in another story, "Sticky" and in "Gödel’s Doom", albeit probably in a different universe.

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