Flatland

Tagged: Theme

The two-Dimensional realm first depicted by Edwin A Abbott in Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884; rev 1884), initially as by A Square. Flatland has provoked a number of more or less didactic Sequels by Other Hands which build in various ways on Abbott's neat analogy for imagining a hypothetical fourth spatial Dimension in terms of 2D Flatlanders' struggle to comprehend a 3D world. These include Alfred Taylor Schofield's Another World, or The Fourth Dimension (1888) as by ATS, which follows Abbott in also visiting the one-dimensional Lineland; Edwin Lassetter Bynner's "A Cruise in a Soap Bubble" (in The Chase of the Meteor and Other Stories, coll 1891); C H Hinton's An Episode of Flatland (1907), whose Flatlanders "stand on" an endless line which proves to be a circular 2D planet, Astria; Dionys Burger' Bolland (1957; trans as Sphereland 1965), extending the concepts to Cosmology and Perceptions of an expanding universe; A K Dewdney's The Planiverse (1984), which renames Astria as Arde and offers ingeniously imagined solutions to the problems of building 2D houses, Machines, and even Computers; and Ian Stewart's Flatterland (2001), extending the traditional Flatlander tour to modern concepts of Mathematics and Physics.

Less instructively, Marvin Kaye's fantasy The Incredible Umbrella (fixup 1979) includes a melodramatic visit to Flatland and a meeting with Abbott's original "A Square", while the hero of Rudy Rucker's "Message Found in a Copy of Flatland" (in The 57th Franz Kafka, coll 1983) becomes trapped in close proximity to Flatland and survives by eating the inhabitants, "like very moist smoked salmon". The term appears metaphorically in Larry Niven's "Flatlander" (March 1967 If) – where it is a space traveller's scornful epithet for the planet-bound – and in the title of John T Sladek's Flatland (in New Worlds Quarterly 5, anth 1973, ed Michael Moorcock; 1982 chap), a fantasia on the Clichés of newspaper and magazine cartoons. [DRL]

see also: Flat Earth; Forgotten Futures.

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