It’s all way above my head, but Mark Roman has an engaging sense of humour, and writes in an easy manner on matters which make me try to think; and the premise behind his book is fascinating.
Of course we know how easy it is for us authors to get so absorbed in what we are writing that we totally identify with the characters and events we create. I have done it – and my eyes have been opened to hitherto unseen angles and truths as I write – which can be surreal, and very exciting.
The danger of having a mad scientist in your story is that, occasionally, you find yourself half believing their crazy ideas. Sounds crazy, I know, but one of the discoveries that my mad scientist, fluX, makes in my book The Ultimate Inferior Beings, is such a remarkable numerical coincidence that one cant help thinking, “Could it be true?” It’s ridiculous and it’s bonkers, but ‘Could it?’
fluX’s discovery comes to him on an alien planet. It came to me first, obviously. I was in the shower at the time and, to use fluX’s words, in his German accent:
“Zis discovery has stunned me to ze core.”
I didn’t do the ‘Eureka’ thing, running naked down the street, but it did make me wonder. I stayed in the shower for a long time, focusing my mind on checking the arithmetic, hardly able to believe that the numbers had come out so perfectly.
To explain. In the book, fluX is trying to ‘scientifically’ prove the existence of God. He believes he has unearthed two of God’s ‘puns’ and these are telling him the Proof he’s after lies concealed within the English language, inside the very words we speak. His first shot involves searching for a Divine Message in the Periodic Table of Elements (see my guest blog on Mary Fan’s Zigzag Timeline). It is not very successful.
His second attempt stems from one of his old theories:
“Some years ago I inwented the new Science of Quantum Semantics. I derived it by applying ze laws of Quantum Mechanics to ze English language. My ideas vere videly scorned and ridiculed.”
Now, if you’re thinking what follows will only make sense if you have a knowledge of quantum mechanics, you’re wrong. What follows will make sense to no one; it’s a nonsense theory. Forget Googling it, you won’t find it†.
In a nutshell, the theory states that the letters of the alphabet are different ‘energy states’ of the same basic entity: the ‘alphabeton’. Each alphabeton has a characteristic ‘quantum number’: A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. Furthermore, every word has a ‘word number’, which is the sum of its letters’ quantum numbers. So, for APPLE, it is 1 + 16 + 16 + 12 + 5 = 50. (In fact, this sort of thing has been done under many different names for centuries, and if you Google ‘numerology’ you can learn about a whole host of different alphabetical systems that have been used for mystical purposes).
Anyway, in the story, fluX has discovered a beautiful coincidence: the word number for GOD is 26 while that for DEVIL is 52. He considers it hugely significant that both these numbers are multiples of 26 – the number of letters in the alphabet. But that’s not the discovery that stuns him ‘to ze core’.
The aliens encountered by fluX and the other characters have a loopy religion which is a sort of mirror-image of our religions. Whereas human religions generally involve belief in an ultimate superior being, responsible for intentionally creating the Universe, the aliens believe in a race of ‘ultimate inferior beings’ who will, one day, accidentally bring about its End following some act of monumental incompetence. One of the aliens becomes convinced that humans are this inept species and are about to inadvertently destroy the Universe. He believes they must be killed before this happens.
Now, the aliens refer to the inferior beings as ‘The Dogs’. This probably sounds somewhat predictable and obvious to you. Just ‘God’ backwards, right? Too easy. Neither clever nor original.
But wait. This is where numerology comes to the rescue. For, if you work out the word number of THE DOGS – as I did in the shower that day, and as fluX does on the alien planet – then …
“… it comes to 78. Vich is exactly three times ze number of letters in ze alphabet!! So zey are all multiples of twenty-six: 26, 52 and 78. One times, two times, three times.”
“Yes…?” started jixX cautiously.
“So GOD is Number One,” said fluX, counting the numbers on his fingers. “The DEVIL is Number Two and THE DOGS are Number Three. One creates the Universe, Two messes with it, and Three destroys it! See how it all fits?”
Yes. See how it all fits? I still can’t quite believe that the numbers came out so beautifully. A real stroke of luck.
Or maybe, there’s something, just something, in it …?
† In fact, The New Science of Quantum Semantics was published under a pseudonym over thirty years ago in The Journal of Irreproducible Results. Happily, it is now untraceable (although I have a copy of the relevant issue in my attic). Google will merely return a large number of hits to more recent coinings of the term – none of which has anything to do with my (er, fluX’s) theory.