Brett's Books

Stand On Zanzibar

I've read it before. And it looks like I'm reading it again.

Self Portrait of myself frowning, wearing hat and scarf, looking sad

Two months later, I have no idea what this self-portrait has to do with this book. But it was in the write-up folder. So, here it is. Perhaps, all will become clear below. And then again, perhaps not.

Stand On Zanzibar
by John Brunner

Thoughts Going In

I believe that I have already read this book. In fact, I often cite The Sheep Look Up (also by John Brunner), as one of the most influential books I have ever read. It curated in me a love for short, snappy, alternative prosaic forms... though, I doubt in that instance, prosaic is the right word.

I had nabbed Stand On Zanzibar from the library free stack, pretty much decided I was not going to read it, so I did a short write-up (as part of my Book a Day project) in preparation for throwing it out. But it made the cut. And I will not be throwing it out, just yet. Instead, I will be reading context (0) through context (28). I do not know what sort of write-up I want yet. In fact, if one wishes to trace the origins of my alternative writing style (and is it so alternative in this day and age), one could do worse than starting with John Brunner's work and seeing how he diverged from the Mass Market Norm of his Day.

Keep It In Context

Half Contextual Table of Contents
Half Inspiration
Half This
Half That
Half Whatever I Want I Want It To Be
Half Get Out Of My Face
Half Get On With Your Life
Half Creative Writing Project

But The Better Half Will Always Be The First Thing That Comes To My Mind After Reading The Noted context(-).

Capital T Truth does not lend itself to the Standard Narrative Form. Also, it's easier for me to write this way... Disorganized Schizophrenic that I am.

Perhaps, the first True AI (see Capital T, above) will wish to be an Internet Star.

Humans Suck! This Means You!

Be the first on your block to be the last on your block. If this is unclear, please review the previous context.

Sentient Beings are a diversity of experience coming to a definitional congruence... such as this one.

Man is a Territorial Animal. Also, don't touch my sh-t.

Note: context(5) is the context that convinced me to reread this book... or at least, to reread the context sections of this book. It is as good as any of my rants. But then, the real question is whether any of my rants are as good as this context.

Of the things that Humans hate, other Humans top the list. In fact, as a Human (myself), I wonder if it is possible to hold anything other than a fellow Human in Total Contempt... and worth less than even a rock or a pebble.

It can be very refreshing to hear a Preacher Man (or Woman) talk of their personal Faith... and how it ebbs and flows and is not always there... that in the end, Faith (itself) is something that one must take on Faith.

Chop off the head and the body will follow. Feed the body and the mind will follow.

There is no great reason to believe in the Interconnectedness of All or that I am a Magical Being... other than both thoughts make me happier.

If it is true that a rising tide floats all boats, then it is, also, true that eventually there will be no room in the harbour for any more boats.

For those who are about to die, we salute you. Also, could I get an autograph, as the prognosis of it going up in value after your imminent demise seems pretty solid?

There is safety in the herd, to be sure. But in the long term (and we are not talking that long of a term), the herd is going to perish.

Eugenics is vaguely erotic. It begs the question: What constitutes the Perfect Human? What are its qualities? Of course, such a question might miss the point. Do you know any Human who is even vaguely perfect?

A Clone Army has a certain appeal. Man to Man it would be decimated by a more Free Thinking Front. But we aren't talking Man to Man, we are talking about a Clone Army, only slightly harder to manage than a Herd of Beef.

Please do not believe I am providing a feel for (much less a summary of) the book. Being a Free Thinker, I am pursuing my own agenda, creating my own narrative.

The Game (as much as anything else) is for you to read the corresponding context; and then (and only then), Groove My Meaning... Dig My Words... you Cool Hep Cat, you.

It's easier to win a Motor Car Race if one is given either a Head Start or a Better Car. But it is easier still, if one bribes the judges or eliminates one's rivals by whatever means are most expedient.

Hear me! When I talk about Anarchy, I am simply talking about changing the rules around so that I win. Not that you lose. But that I win. Perhaps different than most, I am OK with any such Victory residing only in my head.

Every Clone in the Clone Army strives to be better than the rest... and deep in their heart believes this to be true.

For it has always been known, the very best Clone Armies consist of nothing but Free Thinkers who all think the same way.

If I wouldn't get so dirty, I think it might be fun to be a bum, beg money from strangers, and sleep out... here and there. Not as a way of life, mind you, but as part of life. 'You going out of town, Honey? Well, instead of fishing, I think I might just hit the street.'

HIT or MISS? Personally, it's a MISS for me.

More MISS.

Serious MISSES, the both.

As in, my eyes grow weary.

There is no infighting among Clones.

More and more, I think I am working up the base to a good story. Mr Brunner does not use the word Clone once. But that doesn't stop me from thinking I am getting a grip on the underlying power of a Clone Army. Yeah, sure. It's repetitive: my words more so than Clones. But it's, also, like a handhold... that initial step (or beachhead, if you will) into an alien way of thought. That in the end, is not so alien.

How do Clones deal with depression? I feel it must be programmed into the cycle, somehow. Maybe, they all find secret glee from marching in procession, but it is against the rules to show it, lest the depression they feel on their time off be subverted. The theory needs work. But it is a start.

The Clones will need Family & Friends... that interleave of Social Control. I wonder what sort of pattern would be most stable. The traditional view holds Isolated Cells: call them units. But I think a more widespread (and therefore, chaotically random) web would hold the whole together tighter.

Can Clones Conspire? Or is it a safe bet that whenever Clones Conspire it is part of the Collective Will, an attempt to make the whole stronger, a strength testing of The Web, if you will... which doesn't sound right; so hence forth, I shall call it Unity.

The saving strength of Unity, what makes it impervious to corruption or change, is that all other thought is interpreted as Humour. It is good for a laugh, but not to be taken seriously. I mean, how could you?

As clearly as Unity evolved from The Void, only the insane laugh at themselves.
'Clone! Do you find something funny?'
'Ha. Well, yeah. 6-42 was just saying how he could use a Personal Day.'
'Ha! Ha! Ha!'
'Maybe, 6-42 does need a Personal Day?'
'Ha! Ha! Ha!'
'Ha! Yeah! I really did say that, Sarge. So maybe, I really do need a Personal Day?'
'Ha! Ha! Ha!'
Is it clear to all that 6-42 is not long for this world?

If cut, does Unity not bleed?

Unity, by its very nature, progresses more by accumulation and aggregation than insight. But if one were to look hard at the Eureka Moment behind it all, one might simply find a joke that wasn't funny... anymore.

That is all.


An image of a tree, big redwood, looking up, branches shorn at the bottom, a nice underside view of the canopy



The contexts were good, well worth reading... for one such as I. After all, I was able to extract the beginnings of a Unity / Clone Army mentality from the entries. And John Brunner does not mention either... or anything close... not the once. Rather (I believe), he is making social commentary, which is sort of what Unity (from my perspective, not Unity's) is all about. After all, Unity only makes sense if confronted with Chaos or The Void, which to some extent was my take on John's take on the State of The World.

I do not know if I wish to read the other parts of the novel, the chapters of which are all inter-mixed: context(1) being on the first page and context(28) being on the last with all the other Chapter Formats mixed in-between.

In the end, I am interesting in pursing The Clone Army further. As such, I will read the happening world with a view towards bending it to my will.

{Fun Fact: While writing another piece, I used the line 'dreck (short for whaledreck)', no doubt being influenced by John Brunner's choice of words. But the plot thickens (as one might guess by the length of this aside), because as I was searching for the proper spelling of whaledreck (and if memory serves, John uses whaledreck as a single word rather than two words: i.e. whale dreck), the second hit in my search was for a review of this very novel: Stand on Zanzibar. Even more ironic, the last time that happened to me was when looking up a word from Moby Dick (a book in which whales figure quite prominently, ironically enough) and the example sentence for the word in question (sorry, I can't remember what it was, at the moment) was the exact line in Moby Dick that prompted my search in the first place.

How fun is that?

And now (a few minutes later), having just finished reading that nameless other's review (as it was only a few paragraphs long), I can assure you that the reviewer did not enjoy the novel as much as I did and the parts I liked the most (I'm looking at you, context), they liked the least. I would review the review further (as a sort of meta-review), but there wasn't much there.

So why did I land on the review in the first place?

If you'll remember, I was trying to figure out how to spell whaledreck and they had commented (quite wittily enough) that they found the use of the word whaledreck to be little more than whaledreck, itself.

Though, I will grant. Their syntax for saying what I just said was more enlightened.}


An incoherent reading of the happening world sections, as suits my needs. Let us further explore our Self Musings and The Thoughts of Many in One.

the happening world #1
There it is! Whaledreck (as John Brunner uses it) is all mashed together as a single word.

As to the Clones, do they all get the same feed? Yes, they must. And this means, they all think right at the right time and wrong at the wrong time. The foregoing being something I can almost hear a Resistor saying. As such, I will have to find a name for the Resistors. And having given it (its due, that being) two seconds of thought, I will go with Electrical Component syntax, as that makes sense to me. Thus, the Resisters are Sparks, Power Drains, Saps, Overloads, Short Circuits, and things of that nature.

After all (and in the end), what is an Electrical Resistor?

Ultimately, it is a Power Drain.

Sparkies can't handle the Surge. It's not that they fell off the Grid. Rather, understanding their defective nature, the Grid never incorporated them.

Perfection has no room for Second Class Citizens.

Unity Forever!
Forever Unity!

the happening world #2
Knowing the inherent limitations, Unity assigns Special Projects to Key Individuals. Being both Special and Key, it is understood that these individuals will Exodus. But in the end, everyone must leave.
Unity in Exodus Is Unity in Evolution.

Live Unity!
Die Unity!

Unite in Unity!

the happening world #3
In a vacumn, Unity will form. This is what is meant by the phrase From the Void, Unity. But the struggle is never over, for Unity, against the Void is a constant battle. And in the end, we must all return to the Void. But we can postpone that eventuality as long as possible.

This, of course, is the root of those early sayings:
In Unity We Trust

In Unity We Live
That is, before they were reduced to their Core Truth, their meaning in Unity.
Unity Is Trust

Unity Is Life
For in the end, all that matters is:
Unity In Unity

Unity Through Unity
Heck, I might just start myself a cult.

the happening world #4
The Void is Empty.

The Void is Meaningless.

The Void is to be Despised.

There is only One and that One is Unity.

the happening world #5
For whatever reason, shattered prose works for me; poetry does not.

the happening world #6
Success! My mind is a blank.
Wherever The Void is a Void, There is Unity

the happening world #7
'Tomorrow will be a thing of the past' must have been said before.

Custom Crimes...

All with a Trip-Hit® joke at the end.

I was thinking about this last night while lying in bed. Sure, I may have been better served thinking about other things. But this is what I thought about.

Unity has certain defects of character, of which one in Unity cannot deny.

Unity is Your Past.
Unity is Your Future.

Maybe, I should start thinking about some sort of Unity Symbol or Logo.

the happening world #8
What does a Man (or Woman) in Unity care about? Why, Unity, but of course. More than a collection of accoutrements, series of gestures, or even hollow slogans, Unity Is. To Be is to Be In Unity. Without Unity, there is nothing. The loss of a few material goods in comparison is quite meaningless; and as such, material goods as a whole are quite meaningless to those In Unity.
Both U and I reside in UNITY.

But in UNITY there is neither U nor I in.

the happening world #9
Unity Blocks™ are the perfect toy in Unity. They're, also (handily enough), the ideal hobby for every adult.

{I would compile list-like chapters (such as this one) slowly over time, as lists of entries, as I became aware of each item... say, as I went through my life and consumed other media. I wonder what Brunner did?}

the happening world #10
Everyone is doing it.
No one is not.

There are more happenings, but I am done.

Notable Quotes

'Christ, what an imagination I've got!'

"You belong to an idiotic species. I even wrote a book to draw attention to the fact. I was idiotic myself to think it would do any good."

Running Thoughts

The Debriefing

I think I must stop reading books (decide to pitch them in the bin) when I am tired more often than not. I was tired, a bit bored, I didn't know what to do really, so I picked up this book (after having ignored it for almost a month) and was not interested.

Clearly, I am done.

There is (or was) a fair bit of avant garde writing in this book, lots of arty form.

I don't know if I mentioned this (I did, sorry about the repeat), but along the way I was looking something up on the Internet. I can't remember what. But it concerned this book. Ah, right. It was the spelling of whaledreck (it's got a ck at the end, as opposed to either just a c or a k). And one of the sites I came across was a review of this book (Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner, just in case you have forgotten... or forgot what I said when I covered all of this previously). Anyway, the reviewer lamented about how much praise had been heaped upon this book by the SF Community, but how slow, difficult, and presumably boring they found the going. Having decided to pitch the book, I can now see their point... even if I did not see it at the time.

Though, I remember this book from my youth. And it was awesome, back then.

More importantly, somewhere in the depths of my brain, there is this idea of Unity not put there by John, but put there by the reading of his book.

I've invested more time for less.

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