1. This is a reference to Luke Skywalker having one hand sliced off toward the end of Empire Strikes Back. I’m too lazy to look it up, but presumably it was his right hand. It was replaced with a “robotic” appendage.

  2. Ah, at first I thought he had to use The Force to make the computer work, though I didn’t see how that was funny.

    A better character to have used, though harder to illustrate or write a headline for in order to make easily understandable, would be Ash (played by Ian Holm) in the first Alien. It would be a giveaway [SPOILER ALERT] of his true status if, in front of various colleagues like John Hurt and Sigourney Weaver, he was unable to make the computer/website work.

  3. MAD’s Mort Drucker could have done an Alien cartoon – link is to the first of four panels (you can click on) from their ALIAS spoof, though even he seems to have found Ian Holm hard to draw recognisably.

    But that long pre-dated captchas etc.

  4. A better character to have used, though harder to illustrate or write a headline for in order to make easily understandable, would be Ash (played by Ian Holm) in the first Alien

    I was sure, sure, that you meant Ash from the Evil Dead movies, who did have one hand replaced by a prosthetic like Luke (though not as futuristic).

  5. I think what tripped me up is that he’s in his desert gear from the first movie, but he didn’t get the cybernetic hand until the end of the second movie.

  6. I’m with Carl Fink, I was thinking Evil Dead as well, since he would TOTALLY fit the gag.

    I think a an even more clever character to use for the gag would be Harrison Ford’s character from Blade Runner; since, depending on whom you’re speaking to, is ambiguously a robot (the sequel notwithstanding).

  7. So I was going to comment that this joke requires knowing the details of Star Wars to be such common knowledge that connection between “robot” and Luke’s hand would be apparent, and I was going to comment such cemented synapses just isn’t reasonable.

    Then I read Powers comment:

    I think what tripped me up is that he’s in his desert gear from the first movie, but he didn’t get the cybernetic hand until the end of the second movie.

    who apparently has the synapses very well cemented.

  8. I was in college when the original series started, and saw those several times. The comic was immediately understandable to me with the “robot hand” explanation.

  9. ” The comic was immediately understandable to me with the “robot hand” explanation.”

    But was it understandable without the robot hand explanation?

  10. Since nobody else cared to mention it, I’ll point out that this uses cartoon logic; ‘I am not a robot’ tests your reading comprehension, not the composition of your finger.

  11. But was it understandable without the robot hand explanation?

    I don’t understand the question. In case I didn’t state it well, I meant that it was understandable to me and the explanation that I came up with was the robot hand. I wouldn’t understand it another way as readily.

  12. It wasn’t clear if you meant that it made sense after you read the robot hand explanation or whether you assumed the joke was the robot hand explanation.

    I figured it out as the robot hand as well, but like the Ewoks swearing in court “so help you chewbacca” I had to wonder just how common and recognizable as folklore is Luke’s robotic hand. Seemed a stretch and not that natural to me.

    But I do have a tendency to underestimate the obiquity of Star Wars and Harry Potter.

  13. Am I right to think that reversing the syllables in “Ewok” is basically “Wookie?” I realize it’s a slight stretch, but it’s common(ish) knowledge that the original concept of the Ewoks was what became the Wookie (or the reverse, depending on how you look at it) so I have a hunch that was the intent.

    For that matter, Mr. Lucas seems to have named his main protagonist after himself, which is . . . weird?

  14. In one of Max Shulman’s books (I think THE ZEBRA DERBY) he has a footnote that it’s a convention that authors not write characters who have the same first name as the author, and since he didn’t like that convention he claimed to have something like six or eight characters in the book named “Max.” (I think he exagerrated, but it’s over fifty years since I read it.)

  15. JG Ballard’s hero in Empire of the Sun is Jamie “Jim” Graham, with JG being James Graham in JG Ballard. But then it was a semi-autobiographical novel, so that’s fair enough.

  16. Apparently not just named Sarah Pinsker. It sounds interesting, but the library doesn’t have it.

  17. And then there’s “Valis” by Philip K. Dick. The protagonist is Horselover Fat, and if you know a little Greek and a little German you’ll get it.

  18. Brian in STL: The internet has it: https://uncannymagazine.com/article/and-then-there-were-n-one/

    It’s a novella, I don’t think it appears in a single book form for the library to have.

    I haven’t read it yet. I did enjoy “A Song for a New Day,” by the same author. It’s about a dystopian future in which due to pandemics and terrorism, most public events are illegal, and human contact is severely limited. She wrote it in 2019, and it was interesting to read it in 2020 and see how much she got right.

  19. Actually the library has many shorter works in the e-book selection. The Hoopla service even has short stories. But I will check that out, thanks.

  20. Brian in STL: Ah, I never check out e-books. I would have surely read “And Then There Were (N-One)” by now if I could get it in paper form. I don’t like reading stories on the computer.

    I realize that that makes me sound like an, old, old man, complaining about those new-fangled motorized vehicles.

  21. I just read “And Then There Were (N-One)”, and wanted to drop a comment or two, mostly about what seems to me to be the one big hole in the plot, but now I see no one here actually read it…

    I remembered the thread here was about Luke and Star Wars and robot hands, so I was distracted reading the story when one of the Sarahs has a prosthetic hand (as a totally trivial detail, and in no way a spoiler), and then I was also waiting in vain for the R0D0, R1D0 naming designation to pay off Star Warsily…

  22. Haven’t read it yet. I downloaded and converted it to epub, and will get it on my iPad soon.

  23. I feel like I should read the story now, even if it is on a computer, before we start getting spoilers here. Either that, or just stop following this thread.

  24. A website I visited yesterday (to pay a parking ticket 😦 ) had a captcha that said “I am human”, rather than “I am not a robot”. It did have the familiar general layout of nine cells and instruction to mark any cell containing some kind of image. On closer look, it was branded hCaptcha with its own site for privacy statement and terms of use, linking in turn to another name, botSpot.com with advertising and blurbs praising them in competition to Google and their reCaptcha.

  25. I finished the story, so now spoilers are okay. I kid. It was an interesting take on the subject. A few things I thought were kind of unrealistic, even under the circumstances. I don’t order the same adult beverage every time I have a drink, for instance.

  26. Well, there were two types of adult beverages in high demand, so, there is that. And then, even though you might have a higher catalog of possible drinks you might order, probably circumstances dictate which you choose when (eggnog only around xmas, gin and tonic only after 5, tequila only when you’ve been dumped, etc.), so for most of them, the circumstances being more or less the same, they would go for their circumstance related goto drink. And those who don’t drink self eliminate themselves from the running…
    But yeah, considering how widely they varied in some aspects, that they didn’t vary much here is kind of inconsistent. And how wide is the variance anyway, and what constraints were used in picking? It seems like there should be infinite numbers of invitees available, in infinite degrees of variation — why was there such a very finite number, with some basically identical, and others very widely divergent?

  27. Yes, one beer, one hard. For me, I mix things up. I drink ale, Hefeweizen, lager, etc. In an open bar situation, I’ll usually have a few different things, like Tom Collins, Gin Fizz, Daiquiri, etc.

  28. [Very minor spoiler alert]
    larK: I just read the novella (pretty good!), and in it the organizer says she tried to invite Sarahs with some variety, to learn from each other, but also keep Sarahs still recognizable as “us.” So the degree of variation was manually controlled.

  29. WW: [possible spoiler alert!]







    Yeah, I know she said that, but if you think about it, it is basically an impossible task, especially as the range runs from infinite basically identical copies who diverged only very minorly from the one who discovered the multiverse, and others who diverged so much they were very different people… but while contemplating the nature of infinite variations, the major plot hole was made apparent to me, to wit: if she really wanted to switch with the DJ-waste Sarah, all she had to do was search and find a reality where a variation of that Sarah went hiking in the woods, say, and fell in a ravine and was never found; no need to for the whole complex and unwieldy convention (I know, I know, the whole point is the fun idea of playing around with the idea of a convention of yourself) — there’s a whole infinite variety of ways where the Sarah she wants to be could disappear in her own reality where she could step in — she could chose any one of those.

  30. lark: [spoiler alert]







    If you accept that there’s a hithero unknown field of quantology that allows her to open up and access parallel universes, then I don’t see any reason to assume it’s an impossible task to manually control the degree of variation. You just the the divergerometer detector to between 0.03 and 0.15 milliPinskers, apply a Fast Furrier Transform [1] to the multiverse resonance to pick out the dominant tachyon modes, and voila!

    The Sarah Pinsker who set up the conference had to get government/sponsor approval for her conference, and part of the reason it was set up on an island was to keep the cross-universe travel controllable. So perhaps that Sarah Pinsker didn’t have sole control of the portal, and no plausible way to get approval for “let me open up a portal to this particular Pinsker-less dimension and step through.”

    Of course, you can ask why a sponsor that’s so concerned about controlling cross-universe traffic lets a bunch of largely identical-looking Sarah Pinskers mingle without physical oversight or a good way of telling them apart, but for me that falls into willing suspension of belief, rather than major plot hole.

    [1] Not a typo. In their universe, FFT was discovered by a furrier.

  31. I am reminded of that Simpsons Halloween special where Homer has a time traveling toaster and he keeps changing reality — specifically that Ned Big Brother universe where everyone is lobotomized to be like Ned.

    So Physicist Sarah just needs to find the world where she is Supreme Leader, have that world sponsor her portal needs, allowing her to find a nice dead-end Sarah who dies all alone to take her place 😉

  32. Haven’t read the Pinsker, but another sf novel which briefly involves what is effectively a convention of multiple versions of the main character is David Gerrold’s THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF.

    Haven’t seen that Simpsons episode either, but there a lot of “character’s decision keeps changing reality over and over, usually for the worse” sf stories; Le Guin’s THE LATHE OF HEAVEN and Dick’s EYE IN THE SKY coming to my mind first (at least at novel length).

    As I recall, a character in Zelazny’s AMBER series faked his own death by snatching and killing a version of himself from a parallel world.

  33. For shure THE LATHE OF HEAVEN is a superlative exemplar case of a narrative where you in the end cannot count on the stability of any reality you thought you were sure of. Only DHALGREN comes to mind as being equally radical in that way and also superb writing. (There is also a sort of gimmick reading [for DHALGREN] that lets you make sense of why things are so unanchored : the characters and places are living within a manuscript that keeps on getting redrafted. Yet they have somehow a personal consciousness and continuity, so that it is possible for a narrator to “return” somewhere and think everything has changed from what he remembers.)

    There was also a Le Guin story published in The New Yorker, that I happened to read in the physical magazine when it came out and treasured for a long time until it got lost in a cleanup or something. It had a sort of unstable unreality of a different type, in how the characters inhabited consistent personalities in the storiy’s three sections, but there was a shuffling of their identities and a shift of the milieu and background story. Unfortunately I can’t recall the title or more details. This idea was something I had not seen elsewhere except for, in all unlikely places, a work by John Steinb3ck called BURNING BRIGHT and pigeonholed as a “play for reading”.

  34. Mitch4: I asked about the Le Guin story on one of my other lists, and anthologist Richard Horton suggested “Half Past Four,” which from comments online does indeed sound like the one you’re remembering:



    Ramola D: There’s a lot of experimenting in the newer stories in Unlocking the Air, which are set in realist settings, not fantasy or science fiction. In “Half-Past Four” for instance, characters and their relationships shift around in separate little cameos, and you get a variety of perspectives and visions, through such an experiment. What inspired this story in particular?

    Le Guin: “Half-Past Four,” how nice of you to ask about it! It is one of my best short works, I think, but it does puzzle people; that’s what I meant about not being merciful to the reader if the story wasn’t merciful to me. I was teaching a one-day fiction workshop to some poets, who insisted that they couldn’t write stories; they didn’t know what stories were; they didn’t have any stories to tell. So I gave them four names, two male and two female, and told them briefly the social status of each relative to the others, and said, now, put these four people in a room together and let them talk, and you will have a story. Two of them did so, and sent me the results (it worked). I went home and started obeying my own orders. Only I did it eight times over, resulting in eight different small stories about thirty-two different people (none of the people are the same as the ones with the same name in the other stories—this is what readers stubbornly refuse to believe—but it is true. What’s in a name? Great power, evidently!) Because the status relationships are parallel in every story, the whole thing hangs together, as a kind of miniature story suite, or like a theme and variations.


  35. Thank you, Shrug, “Half Past Four” is surely the one I’m remembering. Of course I must be among those readers who persist in misreading the relationship of characters and names, according to that remark of the author’s in the interview — but she puts it in such a cheery way that I am happy to try pointing out the staple of criticism, that the author is not really the ultimate authority in interpreting a work. For me, the cool idea of that story was that the same people were appearing and re-appearing in different places and relationship configurations, without explanatory connection. The explanation that they are just different people but she was re-using names, strikes me as somehow diminishing the magic.

  36. (A UKLG-related personal anecdote)

    When I was a grad student in Linguistics, the department had a nice tradition of a weekly Departmental Tea on Friday afternoons, where people brought in dishes as a pot luck (and it was a very international group so a great variety of food) and department-sponsored beverages were served, generally beer. I was still a newcomer at one of these, and one of my friend/guides mentioned that Paul Kroeber was back in town and would probably be at the tea; and mentioned that yes, he was the grandson of the famous Kroeber, but was quite tired of new acquaintances asking him about it all the time, so don’t be a jerk about it.

    Which was not hard for me, since I barely knew anything about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._L._Kroeber , an actually quite famous early 20th Century anthropologist (and anthropological linguist). My path into Linguistics was more from Philology, Language & Literatore, and philosophical / mathematical formal language studies. Plus, by accident as it were, some European structuralist linguistics, but the foundational Americanist structural lnguists were just names for me, if even that. (“How can you have read Hjelmslev but not Boas?!”) So the elder Kroeber was not a god for me.

    And then, months later, or maybe a year, I happened to be reading the author bio panel on a book by Ursula K. Le Guin. The “Le Guin” part came from her marriage. The “K.” is in full “Kroeber” and was her original family name. And yes, she was the daughter of famous anthropologist Alfred Kroeber.

    And then it was all I could do to not go rushing over to Paul Kroeber at next occasion of bumping into him, and exclaiming “OMG, so Ursula K. Le Guin is your aunt? Wow, why didn’t you say so! Hey, can you get me an autograph?” and so on. But I remembered the advice not to gush about his grandfather, and saw it would also apply to his even-more-famous (to me) aunt.

  37. anthologist Richard Horton

    Ha. Not only do Rich and I live in the same city, but we were both software engineers at Megacorp (although we never met in person). I gather he still is, although I am now no longer a productive member of society.

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