mataglap -- an Indonesian word meaning "dark eye" or, probably, "dilated eye." It is an indication that someone is about to go berserk and start killing people at random. Used in Walter Jon Williams' novel Aristoi as the name of a berserk form of nanotechnology that devoured the planet.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010
"Utriusque Cosmi", by Robert Charles Wilson
(The New Space Opera 2, Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, eds.)
Locus 2009 recommended list Dozois Year's Best Strahan Year's Best
The Latin title, from what I can tell, means "both worlds", a reference to a treatise by English philsopher and cosmologist Robert Fludd, or more specifically an illustration in that work depicting man positioned between the earth and the heavens. This image is referenced by the narrator of the story, Carlotta, who alternates between first person narrator and a viewpoint character viewing her younger self. If that sounds complicated, it is, but there's a lot to take in with this story, so bear with me. Carlotta exists in a bodiless sentient energy state after being "raptured" along with half of humanity by a swarm of space travelling consciousness known as the Fleet. The Fleet have rescued humanity just moments before its ignominious destruction at the hands of an unknowable force known as the Invisible Enemy, which does this sort of thing throughout the cosmos.
As Carlotta, who is only a teenager when Earth is destroyed, adapts to her new existence with the help of an avatar named Erasmus, she and some others decide to experience life on a larger scale by only waking up from statis periodically, something apparently known as a saccade, a term also used in the Peter Watts story, "The Island" in this same anthology. She tells about her experience and also how the Invisible Enemy is gradually destroying the Fleet. At some point at the end of the universe she has been allowed to go back and appear to her younger self before all this occurred to offer advice, because she remembers that happening the first time. But instead Carlotta witnesses what really happened to her parents while she slept that final night, and either her memories are incorrect or she has altered the past, although the end result is the same.
Wilson juggles a lot of elements in this story to great effect, he's got the whiz-bang cosmology that he's been known to employ, but at the same time telling a disturbing backstory of a young girl's family self-destructing. The complexity of telling two parallel stories in different tenses around the same person actually seems to make sense in this context, and there are ruminations not only on post-singularity humanity but what happens when there are other species with us in the singularity, with all it's religious connotations, and then he turns that upside down by posing an even greater gestalt consciousness that outlives the universe itself. Hardly space opera, although it takes place mostly in space, but this is some mind-blowing stuff by an author who with every new story never stops expanding his reach and surprising his readers.
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