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Priming the 4-cycle canonical engine of The Becoming: a primer for the perplexed

Dear Internet,

The Becoming became .... released it to the hounds this week. A few peeps already have asked what's up with the numbering scheme so figured maybe we should explain .. so if you'd rather discover for yourself, skip ahead ....

We talked some before about the relevance of the number 4 as it relates to The Becoming ... the feral beings use a base-4 numbering system. Why 4? Why not .... it's just as arbitrary as a base-10 numbering system, which us civilized humans contrived because it so happens we have 10 fingers .. though there are in fact a few languages that use a quaternary counting system, such as the Chumashan language used by the natives of what is now the southern Californian coast. Both dogs & humans have 4 limbs, so 4 seemed more appropriate. And 4 occurs a lot in nature—4 seasons, 4 cardinal directions, etc.—so only seemed natural.

The caveat is that the number 4 is never explicitly stated in The Becoming ... that's because they, this mixed liter of mongrels, start counting with 0. So here's how we'd count in such a base-4 system:

0 : 0
1 : 1
2 : 2
3 : 3
4 : 10
5 : 11
6 : 12
7 : 13
8 : 20
9 : 21
10 : 22
11 : 23
12 : 30
13 : 31
14 : 32
15 : 33
16 : 100
17 : 101
18 : 102

... & so on, up to 3333 which for all intents & purposes is infinity to them (or 255 in our base-10 numbering system). This quaternary (or quandary) scheme may seem familiar to anyone that's dealt with binary bits & bytes .. which makes sense since the beings in The Becoming also have a certain cyber quality to them (or so we've been told).

As Ryan Ridge surmised, the structure is indeed fractal-ian ... holographic in that this 4-cycled canon reiterates itself at the
             section &
level. Here's the evolving spreadsheet we used to organize our thoughts in writing The Becoming ... & for the 3 more books to come.

Book 1: Raft Manifest
Book 2: Book 3:
0: how come us from vacuum to ink corpus lumen
1: secunded coming of furst where muster us to klap muck to ajax tongue root
2: fleshing out a self-aware manifest to forage & capsure four survivel sake
3: high tide we come clean over bed-burnt leggacy
familial relation
psychological states
unconscious incompetence
conscious incompetence
conscious competence
unconscious competence
earth, solid
water, liquid
air, sky
fire, plasma
weather/ precipitation
sea to evaporation
evaporation to clouds
clouds to rain
rain to river (to sea)
I Ching
Campbell hero cycle/ monomyth
home, leaving
departure, the journey
reach destination
the return
Jesus myth
Maxwell's equations (defining light & electromagnetic waves)
IV: integral of a magnetic field around a loop = (current thru loop)/Eo + the change in flux of the electric field through the loop
I: the flux of an electric field through a closed surface = (charge inside)/Eo
III: the line integral of an electric field around a loop = the negative change in flux of the corresponding magnetic field through the loop
II: the flux of a magnetic field through a closed surface = 0
Carnot 4-stroke engine
INTAKE stroke: or induction stroke, the piston descends from the top of the cylinder to the bottom, reducing the pressure inside
COMPRESSION stroke: with both intake and exhaust valves closed, the piston returns to the top of the cylinder compressing the air, or fuel-air mixture into the combustion chamber
POWER stroke: the start of the 2nd revolution of the engine. When the piston is close to the top/dead center, the compressed air-fuel mixture in the gasoline engine is ignited
EXHAUST stroke: during the exhaust stroke, the piston once again returns to top dead center while the exhaust valve is open
states of Buddhism
one who enters the stream, i.e. the 8-fold Path, opening the eye of the Dharma
the once-returner will at most return to the human world one more time
the non-returner, having overcome sensuality, does not return to human world, or any unfortunate world lower than that after death
fully enlightened being who has abandoned all ten fetters and who, upon death will never be reborn in any plane or world, having wholly escaped samsara
moth metamorphosis
caterpillar (feeding)
pupa (transition)
adult moth (reproduction)

... & the list goes on. So for example, these two paragraphs (which appeared in an earlier form in elimae .. if you're curious to see the evolution) could in a holistic sense encapsulate the entire book. In this moosum nanitch, we kick bucket & vaporate frum saltchuck to sky .. & tum-touch us klosh in consequents, plenty to fill REMnant void .... to rise all the same cum floatsum snapped to grid, germinetting in sky encore .. to land upsidedouun (relative to 0) .. in direction witch frum wither [sic] rėverend father jacked on cocktails comes unpurnounced .. derived uv deviding by 0, cuz sawed in half. In dependANT of saltchuck, such tum-touch of klosh-cum-klee forever endures not just to fourk cum lamprey or rabbits (before farming halomoosum). Klap fathum that us not the soule germ to die sublime nor even just to take comfurt in ikt. Cuz alt germs cullect drop-vice into [stet] «columbus clouds» .. cum purnounced unto us in américaned rêve (seeped as such in bytes of «eve»), wither that after cullating, assemble us to billow all white & fluffy .... yet by dint of more & more waighted cloud-drops culling away the whys, such a darkening assembly keeps même-drops togæther cloud-wise frum the nucleus .. & frum such a T-cell we gæther momentum in mass .... to sink ground-wise at last cum snass condæmned .. sentenced four life .. to fullfill cum sisyphus such topography of a course linked in fin. In recogniscents, tum-touch us klee in such flux released & sink furthere skookum to (or frum) the motherland bunkerd, wither our hi-jacked father comes shouldering cocktails not to kidnap (such distinctions matter not in a cul-de-sac) .... till snass-drops cullect into streams & then rivers marching gravewise to 0 & our river particullar (stet very stream) arrives in siteways verse chuck rising cooley .. wearby berth-wise beget us to forget ad infinitum frum wither we come cocked & loded, but wrecked on arrivel .. condæmned kaput for sum long haul, caluclated in kind as comet-H felt swoops past us ..

What does this mean in plain english? The collective narrator(s) have a dream (a 'moosum nanitch' or 'sleep vision' in Chinook jargon) in which they die & their souls evaporate from the ocean ('saltchuck' in Chinook). They (unconsciously) feel good, floating free, less lonely. They have no concept of being alone & no sense of direction relative to their father's reference frame .. whether they know it or not they are in the first psychological state of unconscious incompetence. But as more souls collect, they become collectively self-aware, conscious of their incompetence. They transition from sublime vapor to visible clouds .. until the clouds darken & can't sustain their own weight & the drops (solidified or competent souls) all fall self-consciously to the ground, again feeling a sort of release/rush participating in this sympathetic collective behavior. The rained drops collect into streams & rivers which flow to the sea & the cycle repeats ....

In regards to this book 0, though, sorry to say .. it's entirely written from an unconscious incompetent state (think Benjy in The Sound and the Fury) .... you'll have to wait until later books to read a competent or conscious account of what actually happens.

While the metaphor is meteorological, you could also think of this 4-pronged recursion in terms of migration or the occupation of land .. or of being born, first alone, in a vacuum (or dark cellar like Kaspar Hauser) .. until others start to collect, crowd-source to the point of saturation of sustainability. It just occurred to us now that another 4-cycle process we could include in the above table is that of predator-prey ecology (as characterized by the Lotka-Volterra equations). If you graphed a predator-prey system, it would look like this:

predator prey

So for example, let's say the predators are wolves & the prey are deer. If we start towards the right of the circle, there is lot of deer & the population of wolf is on the increase as a consequence .. the deer population maxes out (rightmost point on circle) & they start to decline as the wolves continue to thrive (quadrant I). Then the wolves reach their peak (top of circle) as the number of deer declines & the wolf numbers in turn start to decline (quadrant II) as they go hungry. But as the wolves die off, the deer make a comeback & begin to proliferate anew (quadrant III). But as they proliferate, the wolf then starts to make a comeback & both populations start to increase (quadrant IV). And we start the whole process over again .... a cycle usually driven in part by the 4 seasons, so it only makes sense.

Anyway, we could go on .... a similar cycle could be applied in the market-place (driven by supply & demand), perhaps to the rise & fall of civilizations, etc.

And while we're at it—while we are being revealing—we should take the opportunity here to point out or consolidate the other posts on 5cense where we talk about the process of making The Becoming:

That's all we'll say for now. Hope it helps.

Yesterday we did this interview with Mark Thwaite on ReadySteadyBook. He asked us to write a few sentences on what The Becoming is about, so we divulged a bit more there.

Input-wise, just finished The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera .... the first we've read of Marechera & sure we'll be back for more .... though Marechera didn't get a chance to write much before his life was cut short.

House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera

He's one of the better African writers we've read outside of Nigeria (not counting the white Coetzee) .... & one of the few African writers that doesn't write about quaint village life or typical boy-soldier stories, but captures the grit & angst of contemporary (in the 80s anyway) urban Africa ... a sort of Zimbabwean Celíne ... schizophrenic & hallucinogenic. Here's a representative passage:

There I drank heavily but something was wrong and I couldn't get drunk. It was the place: all garish colours and lights and a band of half-naked girls dressed up in leopard skins and gyrating out some coarse smanje-manje. The big man at the microphone was not so much singing as farting out in an unnatural bass voice. The walls were plastered with advertisements for skin-lightening creams, Afro wigs, Vaseline, Benson and Hedges. There was one in particular of a skin-lightened Afro-girl who was nuzzling up to her coal-black boyfriend and recommending the Castle lager. As the music boomed against the advertisements and the arse colours and lights flickered on and off I lost count of time and simply soaked myself with the stuff.

Next best thing to being there .... especially since we don't think we'll be visiting Zimbabwe for ourselves any time soon. The writing is flawed, sure, but that's what makes it seem real. And the cover is ugly as hell (perhaps intentional?).

Yesterday we received the spanking new second edition of Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz. We had our doubts initially, being that the cover we made for the first chapbook edition (featuring the right side of j) was being scrapped for a slicker design (a Flame Alphabet knock-off) ... but in the end, some heart was put into it & it looks pretty sharp.

Gary Lutz Partial List of People to Bleach

Haven't had a chance to read what's been revised or added (at least one of the new pieces in Sleepingfish 12 is in there) ... we got as far as the new foreword by Gordon Lish & almost threw up. Maybe we shouldn't say that, but we're sick of the boy's club of worshippers glammed by every word that comes out of the dude's mouth & no one calling Lish on his bullshit ... & that's what the foreword he wrote is, complete bullshit ... dribble he scribbled that has nothing to do with Lutz but only serves to detract/distract from the art at hand. But if you take an X-acto knife & cut that page out, it's a nice book to have & hold .. it's full of Lutz after all.

As we are about to post this we just received an email from a ... 'colleague/friend' we guess you could say ... someone who just so happens has been known to kneel at the Lish altar & has a like-minded literary journal that most of you have probably heard of (that is certainly more 'popular' than Sleepingfish) ... & no, it's not the incomparable NY Tyrant (though he's been known to publish Lish dribble just because it's Lish ... swapped lit-spit & had a bear burger the other day with G & we're good .. even helped him moved mega amounts of product, in roller-suitcases straight down 9th to the P.O. loading docks near port authority ... tho maybe we're 'kind of a dick' for not liking Díaz .. maybe even The dick .. either that or you got bromantic bunny wool pulled over your eyes, bro). Anyway, this other guy, whose name is better left unsaid, we've sent books or emailed this guy a number of times over the years about various things, literary-wise or just to be friendly .. & have not heard back from him in years. Today he emails us acting all chummy (calling us brother) & says he is applying for some fiction fellowship & is wondering if we will write him up a book contract, to pretend we are publishing a book of his that doesn't even exist, as this is one of the requirements of the fellowship ... to have a book contract. 

Is it just us, or does anyone else find this disturbingly unethical? Not to mention just uncool. Again, maybe we shouldn't say anything here, in this public space, being as we should be supportive of fellow small press publishers ... to help a brother out & not be such a dick. But it's hard for us to swallow how disgusted we feel about all this bullshit. And if you, Internet reader, happen to be an aspiring & well-meaning writer or publisher that is sincerely applying in earnest for a similar fellowship/scholarship/professorship/award, etc, this is the kind of shit you are up against ... it's all a total farce—a circle jerk of writers sucking up for literary favors. This is not the first time people have asked us to pretend we are publishing their books or want us to nominate them for something regardless of whether they have something that merits nomination. It's funny to us, shocking even, that institutions that grant such fellowships or professorships even consider Calamari to be legit. For starters, bro, we don't believe in contracts. And we surely don't believe in publishing or even pretending to publish a book except for one reason & one reason only & that is that the book merits publication ...

  >> NEXT: Reading/Travel Notes to OK; OCR, preservation, wrath & somethings in the hopper

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