Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
An arts podcast from A Square (Edwin Abbott Abbott)
Math. Geometry. Physics. Violence? Is this the same book I read in school? Yep.
One of the joys of rediscovering old books is that they still have the ability to surprise, even shock.
“If my poor Flatland friend retained the vigour of mind which he enjoyed when he began to compose these Memoirs, I should not now need to represent him in this preface, in which he desires, fully, to return his thanks to his readers and critics in Spaceland … But he is not the Square he once was. Years of imprisonment, and the still heavier burden of general incredulity and mockery, have combined with the thoughts and notions, and much also of the terminology, which he acquired during his short stay in Spaceland. …”
You may remember Flatland as a clever children’s story about squares and triangles and such living a happy life in a sheet of paper, a story about math and geometry and such. No, not so much.
Sure, there’s no Adult Language or Sex. But there’s plenty of violence. I recall recording one scene wherein over 120,000 people were stabbed to death, torn to pieces and eaten by their fellow Flatlanders. Yes. Way.
Assuming you consider Isoceles Triangles people. In Flatland, they are. Mostly.
“Imagine a vast sheet of paper on which straight Lines, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and other figures, instead of remaining fixed in their places, move freely about, on or in the surface, but without the power of rising above or sinking below it, very much like shadows--only hard with luminous edges--and you will then have a pretty correct notion of my country and countrymen. Alas, a few years ago, I should have said 'my universe,' but now my mind has been opened to higher views of things. …”
Flatland is very old Hard Science Fiction, if you look at it right. It’s clever, satirical, funny and sad. It includes well-fleshed-out alien society with similarities to our own, several different alternate universes, genetics, politics, religion, slavery, tyranny, war, rebellion, imprisonment, madness, and death.
And math. And geometry. And some rather clever Puns. “Written by A. Square?” Also known as Edwin Abbott Abbott. Get it?
As if the Brothers Grimm had gotten much, much Grimmer.
“To The Inhabitance of SPACE IN GENERAL, And H.C. IN PARTICULAR, This Work is Dedicated By a Humble Native of Flatland, In the Hope that Even as he was Initiated into the Mysteries Of THREE DIMENSIONS, Having been previously conversant With ONLY TWO, So the Citizens of that Celestial Region May aspire yet higher and higher, To the Secrets of FOUR, FIVE, or EVEN SIX Dimensions, Thereby contributing To the Enlargment of THE IMAGINATION, And the possible Development Of that most and excellent Gift of MODESTY, Among the Superior Races Of SOLID HUMANITY.”
Bring a pencil. And use your imagination. I dare you.
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