Fun_People Archive
20 Jun
The Mandelbrot Set, defined

Date: Tue, 20 Jun 95 12:54:27 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: The Mandelbrot Set, defined

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: matthew green <>
Forwarded-by: Richard Michael Todd <>

From: (Charlie Stross)
In article <>, (Geoff Miller)

> Although I've dabbled in the genre, I wouldn't really consider myself
> a science fiction fan -- which is probably only because of a relative
> lack of exposure.  I've enjoyed Asimov's writing for years, though,
> so it was a real shocker the first time I saw him on TV and heard
> him speak.  Did you ever hear that guy's voice?  Yeesh!  Talk about
> fingernails on a blackboard.  He spoke with a high-pitched, nasal
> Brooklyn twang that just about made my hair stand on end.  It didn't
> go with his countenance at all.
> ObShamefulIgnorance: What the hell is the Mandelbrot set?

The Mandelbrot set is, uh, hard to explain without a knowledge of SF
fandom, Geoff. You see, chaos theory tells us that at the heart of any
loopy gathering there is a strange attractor, an object that chaotically
warps the trajectories of the particles in flow around it, so that
although their courses are superficially random there is an overall
semblance of order to the whole.

The Mandelbrot set, named after famous French SF fan Benoit Mandelbrot,
is the hypothetical gathering of Secret Masters Of Fandom (that's a SMOF
to you, Geoff) who manipulate the subculture of SF fandom to their own
ends. Their eventual goals are impossible to establish, but their
malignant presence makes itself known on every con committee and at every
pub gathering of SF fans in the western hemisphere. It is rumoured that
Vinton Cerf founded the internet on their behalf in order to facilitate
their plans for world dominance. By attracting huge numbers of computer-
controlled innocents who think that spending time reading usenet news is
harmless, they seek to conceal their true identity. In reality, _you_ do
not read _news_; usenet news reads _you_. When the time comes, they will
issue the activation command, and all the hidden subliminal programming
you have soaked up over the years you have spent in alt.peeves and will surface and turn you into a
remorseless robot killer in thrall to the Mandelbrot Set.

You can identify members of the Mandelbrot Set by their beards, glasses,
computers, and jugs of real ale. Some scholars believe that this is a
uniform, used to enable them to identify each other in public; however,
I think it's far more likely that they were born this way. The same
scholars assert (variously) that the cult is an offshoot of the
Rosicrucians, the Templars, the Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy, the Bohemian
Illiterati, and the Santa Cruz Women's Knitting Circle. I think you would
agree that this lack of coherency illuminates the degree to which their
thinking has been clouded by the ambience of fear, loathing, and ignorance
generated by the Mandelbrot Set. (For example, the latter hypothesis is
supported by their infamous logo, an infinitely branching figure that
resembles a crocheted egg-cosy in the process of being unravelled by a
stoned kitten.)

Anyway, in due course you (number C#4097BD) will be activated and notified
of your assigned suicide mission in support of the final goal of
immanetizing the worldcon. Until then, you don't need to worry your little
head about any of this. Does that answer your question? (fnord)

-- Charlie "ancient and illuminated" Stross

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []