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Picturing a World

Time and Lifelode

Having just finished The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, I've gone back to reread the book to try to understand it point by point—that is, to work through my own confusions and queries. One way, of course, is to go slow and ponder. Another is to call in speculative fiction—to read stories that flesh out concepts that are quantified by physics and mathematics. Exhibit 1: Lifelode by Jo Walton.

Lifelode is one of my favorite fantasies. It's not perfect (Walton really should have paid more attention to how much food and sleeping space eight hundred people under siege would require), but I love the way it emphasizes dailiness in the characters' lives. That's not what's of interest in relation to The Order of Time, however.
Rovelli begins with the concept that time moves at different speeds at different altitudes. Although in Lifelode the difference occurs East and West, the novel is useful for thinking what it means for life to be led at different speeds on one planet. Walton's narrative technique, moreover, disrupts chronology as a way to reshape reader's perceptions of of simultaneity, identity, and cultural mores. In an afterword, she refers to it as a "fantasy instantiation of [Vernor] Vinge's Zones of Thought." Okay, I'll add Vinge to my attempt to understand the nature of time.
Meanwhile, what also struck me looking at the book this time was the cover illustration. I had never paid attention to who painted it, but having spent time in the last few years noticing jackets, I checked: Stephan Martiniere. He works largely in the sci-fi end of speculative fiction, rather than fantasy; but his website is an eye-opener for just how many markets there are for selling his kind of art—at least, for now. At what speed does AI move?
As for Alice N. S. Lewis: she is credited on line with designing several s-f books, but I couldn't find out anything about her herself.
Finally, for those interested in illustrated books and page design: The Order of Time has been published in a fancy $90.00 edition by the Folio Society.

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