”He had been living at the men’s co-op (Serpent’s House) six months now. This one had been working out well. So, at four o’clock, as he strolled from the hegemony lobby onto the crowded Plaza of Light (thirty-seventh day of the fifteenth paramonth of the second yearN, announced the lights around the Plaza – on Earth and Mars both they’d be calling it some day or other in Spring, 2112, as would a good number of official documents even out here, whatever the political nonsense said or read), he decided to walk home.”
– Samuel R Delany, Triton
Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia (1976) by Samuel R Delany is partly, as the subtitle suggests, a response to Ursula Le Guin‘s The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974), and can best be seen as in dialogue with Le Guin’s novel.
”Utopias afford consolation: although they have no real locality there is nevertheless a fantastic, untroubled region in which they are able to unfold: they open up cities with vast avenues, superbly planted gardens, countries where life is easy, even though the road to them is chimerical. Heterotopias are disturbing, probably because they shatter or tangle common names, because they destroy “syntax” in advance, and not only that less apparent syntax which causes words and things (next to and also opposite one another) to “hold together.” This is why utopias permit fables and discourses: they run with the very grain of language and are part of the fundamental fabula: heterotopias desiccate speech, stop words in their tracks, contest the very possibility of grammar at its source: they dissolve our myths and sterilize the lyricism of our sentences.”
– Michel Foucault, The Order of Things
So what is a Heterotopia?
”There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.”
– Michel Foucault, ”Of Other Spaces” (“Des Espace Autres”)
Some Informal Remarks toward the Modular Calculus
Modular calculus is also referenced in Delany’s Sword and Sorcery series Return to Nevèrÿon, a series of short stories originally issued in the four volumes Tales of Nevèrÿon, Neveryóna, or: The Tale of Signs and Cities, Flight from Nevèrÿon and Return to Nevèrÿon.
Broderick, Damien (1995) Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction
Delany, Samuel R (1975) Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia
Delany, Samuel R (1977) The Jewel Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction
Delany, Samuel R ”On Triton and Other Matters: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany” in Science Fiction Studies #52, Volume17, Part 3, November 1990
Felete, John (1979) ”The Dispossessed and Triton: Act and System in Utopia Science Fiction” in Science Fiction Studies in#18, Volume 6, Part 2, July 1979
Foucault, Michel (1966) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
Foucault, Michel (1967) ”Of Other Spaces” (“Des Espace Autres”) in Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984 (Translated by Jay Miskowiec)
Le Guin, Ursula (1974) The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia