Weekend Reading: Gene Wolfe, Zoom, and Inside Spatial Networks
Wolfe’s work, particularly his Book of the New Sun “tetralogy”, is some of my favorite fiction. He just passed away a couple weeks ago, and this is a great piece on his life leading up to becoming one of the most influential American writers. I recommend it to everyone I know interested in sci-fi. Even reading this made me want to dig up The Shadow of the Torturer and start reading it for a third time:
The language of the book is rich, strange, beautiful, and often literally incomprehensible. New Sun is presented as “posthistory”—a historical document from the future. It’s been translated, from a language that does not yet exist, by a scholar with the initials G.W., who writes a brief appendix at the end of each volume. Because so many of the concepts Severian writes about have no modern equivalents, G.W. says, he’s substituted “their closest twentieth-century equivalents” in English words. The book is thus full of fabulously esoteric and obscure words that few readers will recognize as English—fuligin, peltast, oubliette, chatelaine, cenobite. But these words are only approximations of other far-future words that even G.W. claims not to fully understand. “Metal,” he says, “is usually, but not always, employed to designate a substance of the sort the word suggests to contemporary minds.” Time travel, extreme ambiguity, and a kind of poststructuralist conception of language are thus all implied by the book’s very existence.
Zoom was in the news a lot lately, not only for its IPO, but also the impressive business they’ve put together since founding in 2011. It’s a great example of how you can build an extremely viable and healthy business in a crowded space with a focus on solid product execution and customer satisfaction. This profile of founder Eric Yuan goes into the core culture of the business and the grit that made the success possible.
The folks over at FullStackTalent just published this Q&A with Tony in a series on business leaders of the Tampa Bay area. It gives some good insight into how we work, where we’ve come from, and what we do every day. There’s even a piece about our internal “GeoTrivia”, where my brain full of useless geographical information can actually get used:
Matt: What’s your favorite geography fun fact?
Tony: Our VP of Product, Coleman McCormick, is the longest-reigning champion of GeoTrivia, a competition we do every Friday. We just all give up because he [laughter], you find some obscure thing, like what country has the longest coastline in Africa, and within seconds, he’s got the answer. He’s not cheating, he just knows his stuff! We made a trophy, and we called it the McCormick Cup.
All that time staring at maps is finally useful!