Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Take us to your teamaster

I've just finished reading a doozy of a novel: Anathem by one of my top-5 favorite writers, Neal Stephenson. You could call it sci-fi, I guess (others apply the term "speculative fiction"). It's a typically ambitious, sprawling text, jam-packed with modern philosophy, science and mathematics. The core of the narrative deals with the parallel universe theories of quantum mechanics. But it's a fun read. Really.

Long summation short: The book follows some monastic scientists on a distant (maybe) planet that winds up being visited by a craft from ... well, somewhere. When the two main characters finally make it to the spaceship to meet the "aliens," what do you think they offer them for their first-contact chat? Of course ...

Fraa Jad answered in a shrewdly noncommittal way by saying, "Then I have come to bid you welcome." ...
"Please," the man said, "we have tea. A purely symbollic offering, since your bodies can do nothing with it, but ..."
"We shall be pleased to drink your tea," Fraa Jad said.

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