Sep 162016

by Kim Pederson……

Reading another SF story the other day (“The Thing on the Shelf” by David Gerrold), I was introduced (or reintroduced perhaps given my usual memory issues) to the concept of “chronosynclastic infundibulum” (CI). Gerrold refers to the CI in his tale, noting that it comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel The Sirens of Titan. A CI, as defined by the website Verbotomy, is “a place, or a moment, where all the different kinds of truths fit together, and where there are many different ways to be absolutely right about everything” or, alternatively, it describes a state of existence in which you are “absolutely right about everything.”

Titan might be the only place the CI exists*

Titan might be the only place the CI exists*

One wonders, or at least I do, how Vonnegut brought these two words together as he did. “Infundibulum” is indeed a “real” word, but it refers to “any of various conical or dilated organs or [body] parts.” Merriam-Webster doesn’t know “chronosynclastic” but the Urban Dictionary does:

The name given to someone who exists for the sole purpose of correcting grammar written by others. This type of person frequents online forums continuously for the sole purpose of intimidating others. The name has been associated with gay teachers who strive for the attention they were refused as a child.

Going further, if you break the word down, “chrono” refers to time of course and “synclastic” (which MW does know) describes something “curved toward the same side in all directions” (as a sphere would be). Put them together and you have…I have no clue.

In Vonnegut’s novel, the main character Malachi Constant enters the CI with the help of a space traveler named Winston Niles Rumfoord. Once inside, Constant can travel freely about the universe, and he does, meeting a Tralfamadorian named Salo who has been trapped in the solar system for 200 millennia because a small part in his ship has broken. Salo had “phoned home” for help way before Malachi met him and this is what happened:

His fellow Tralfamadorians respond by manipulating human history so that primitive humans evolve and create a civilization in order to produce the replacement part.

Farfetched? Maybe. But not much more so than being hatched from a cosmic egg, brought to life by a cow licking a block of ice, emerging from a flaming vagina, falling as holy seeds from a humungous bull’s humungous…well, you know, springing from the armpits of an ice giant, or any other creation myth you might be partial to.

None of this matters much, though, when you really think about it. We’re here, however we got here. We are in desperate need of a place where all of our different kinds of truth fit together, a kind of Earth-specific chronosynclastic infundibulum. Put another way, if we find ourselves somewhere where we are all right all of the time about everything, we’ll have nothing left to fight about. If anyone knows where this might be or, failing that, has the phone number of a friendly Tralfamadorian EMT who might show us the way, let me know. No matter if it’s long distance or even extremely long distance. I’ll gladly accept the charges.

* Book cover for The Sirens of Titan (1959 Dell first edition paperback). Fair Use.

Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.

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 September 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #184, Kim Pederson  Add comments

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