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FLATTERLAND

LIKE FLATLAND, ONLY MORE SO

Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book and Basic Books was aware of a trademark claim, the designations have been printed in initial capital letters.

Copyright © 2001 by Joat Enterprises

Previously published by Perseus Publishing

Published by Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America.

A CIP record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN-13 978-0-7382-0675-2

ISBN-10 0-7382-0675-X

eBook ISBN: 9780786723287

Find us on the World Wide Web at http://www.basicbooks.com

Books published by Basic Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions, and other organizations.

For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, or call (617)252-5298, or e-mail [email protected]

First paperback printing, March 2002

11 12 13 14 15

FROM FLATLAND TO FLATTERLAND

Sometimes writers get a bee in their bonnet - an idea that buzzes around for years Euntil one day it suddenly crystallizes. Yes, it’s easy to crystallize a bee: you just have to get the right mix of metaphors. Flatterland is a crystallized bee. Let me tell you how it came about, and why.

In 1884, in Victorian England, a headmaster and Shakespearean scholar named Edwin Abbott Abbott - that’s right, two Abbotts -wrote a classic of scientific popularization called Flatland. Written under the pseudonym ‘A.

Square’, it tells of a world of two dimensions, a flat Euclidean plane that came straight out of the geometry texts of that period. Abbott would have used them in his school. The inhabitants of Flatland are geometric figures -

lines, triangles, squares, pentagons ... The rather narrow Victorian attitudes of A. Square are shattered by rumours of the Third Dimension, confirmed by a visitor from that extra-dimensional realm who is named The Sphere.

Flatland reprinted within a month and has never been out of print since.

Its appeal has survived all intervening scientific and social upheavals. It exists in numerous editions, and several writers have published sequels or derivative works, such as Dionys Burger’s Sphereland and Kee Dewdney’s The Planiverse.

Flatterland is another.

The scientific purpose of Flatland was serious and substantial. Abbott’s sights were focused not on the Third Dimension - familiar enough to his readers - but on the Fourth Dimension. Could a space of more than three dimensions exist? Where would you put it? Abbott softened up his readers’

resistance to such an outlandish notion by making them imagine how a Flatlander would respond to the outrageous suggestion that a Third Dimension could exist.

He had a second purpose, a very different one: to satirize the rigid social structure of Victorian England, with its hierarchies of status and privilege -

especially the lowly status accorded to women. To this purpose he made the females of Flatland mere one-dimensional lines, inferior even to the slimmest of isosceles triangles, and vastly inferior to the circular Priesthood. Flatland was - and still is - a very subversive book. Some supporters of female emancipation misunderstood Abbott’s satire, and in the preface to the second edition he was forced to explain that A. Square has himself modified his own personal views, both as regards Women and as regards the Isosceles or Lower Classes ... But, writing as a Historian, he has identified himself (perhaps too closely) with the views generally adopted by Flatland, and (as he has been informed) even by Spaceland Historians; in whose pages (until very recent times) the destinies of Women and of the masses of mankind have seldom been deemed worthy of mention and never of careful consideration.

So there! Abbott was, in fact, a social reformer who believed in equal educational opportunity for all social classes and genders; Flatland’s narrow-minded social system is his cry of frustration.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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