Shimmer Issue 22 Final Exam Questions for Professor DeLancey: an Interview
Tell us how “Cantor’s Dragon” came to be. (1 point)
Cantor’s accomplishment is very strange—perhaps we should say, awesome. He’s the person who taught us that we could reason about infinity. He proved many strange results about infinity, such as that there are different sized infinities. This stuff is mind-boggling, and yet we can understand it and work with it. And that is very beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to tell stories about that? He was an interesting person, also. Complex and sensitive.
I cannot recall where the idea of the dragon came from. Then again, maybe the dragon gave the idea to me.
“Cantor’s Dragon” is a companion piece to “Godel Apparition Fugue,” from issue 14. Please tell us about the connection between the two stories! (1 point)
Stretching over centuries, there is a community of people who ask shared questions. When you begin to study their work, you feel like they are side by side, sitting in the same room together, talking to each other. I was obsessed for a while with trying to tell stories about the logician Kurt Godel. (Godel is most famous for the Incompleteness Theorem: it shows that for logical or mathematical systems of sufficient strength, such as arithmetic, the system is either incomplete or inconsistent.) I wrote a one-act play about Godel, a full-length play about him, and finally “Godel Apparition Fugue.” But Godel’s work depends on Cantor’s work. And Cantor’s work asks questions that Godel answers. They’re having a dialogue that few people hear. One wants to capture some of the mystery and beauty of it, in another form. Hopefully there’s a kind of dialogue between the stories, if only implicitly.
I’d like to write more like this. Perhaps Hypatia is next.
So, fiction writing, play writing, and philosophy! How did all this start? (2 points)
I have the great fortune of having known what I wanted to do since I was young. After an intense desire to be an astronaut and astrophysicist (circa age 0-15), I found that I needed to be a philosopher and fiction writer. Playwright seems a natural extension to those goals. Not to mention that the theatre is sacred, so one must pay obeisance.
What’s the weirdest and/or the most wonderful thing that has happened in connection with the staged readings of your plays? (3 points)
Me not passing out from fear. Writing fiction is a cocooned process. Fiction writers think their writing group critiques are hard. They have no idea. Playwriting gets you direct and very inescapable feedback. If people in the audience don’t like it, first they’re going to fidget in their seats, and then they’re going to be really mad because you made them sit there, trapped in the dark, for a long time. That said, audiences have been very nice to me; but they still scare me.
In all seriousness, I find all the theatre wonderful. There’s something about a dark theatre that is like nothing else: a space of hushed and numinous possibility. Let’s all go out and support our local theaters now. We need them to thrive.
Instructions for problem 5: Posit an infinite list of additional self-written problems. (5 points)
Instructions for the answer to question 5: please rewrite question 5 and these instructions for the answer to question 5. Then follow the instructions.