Talk:The Black Cloud
|WikiProject Novels / Sci-fi||(Rated Start-class, High-importance)|
it's a splendid book, but why does Hoyle refer to a "tooth comb" (page 39 of my ancient penguin paperpack edition")?? I am not British. What is a tooth comb? I have heard of a fine-toothed comb or a fine-tooth comb, but never a tooth comb. Is this some eccentric british device? Or is this an early sign that hoyle was mad? (decades later his book on geology, and his steady state theory were evident signs of a madman). Hehe. Seminumerical 09:29, 3 May 2006 (UTC)
Hoyle was simply not a good stylist. Like many, he thought that a "fine-tooth comb" was a "fine tooth-comb". This particular solecism has since had such an airing in Britain that it is rather less common now.
- The English language tragic in me finds the "tooth comb" business a real hoot, but I can't trace any reference to this solecism on Google, even though the above (unsigned & undated) contribution assures us that it had a considerable airing in Britain. Could anyone throw light on this? Also, I remember seeing some nature documentary recently, in which some arboreal mammal had its front teeth fused into a kind of plate, like a comb. I thought that it was called a tooth comb, but looking the term up on the One Look dictionary (which is a compendium of many other dictionaries), throws up only one reference, and that was a furphy. Anyone heard of a natural dental structure called a tooth comb, or have I got it wrong? Myles325a (talk) 00:18, 28 September 2009 (UTC)
Oh, speaking of solecisms which have gone down in history, I do remember hearing someone read from a book of collected juvenalia of famous poets, about 20 years ago. It was hilarious, though I have never come across that tome since. One of the most famous of the 19th century Romantics, (possibly Shelley) wrote "black as a nun's twat" in an early poem, presumbly thinking that "twat" referred to her cowl. Oh, joy! But I can't find that on Google either. Myles325a (talk) 00:24, 28 September 2009 (UTC)
The section "Plagiarism by other authors" needs references, otherwise it looks like original research.--Tabun1015 20:31, 24 February 2007 (UTC)
- Removed. Since ideas can't be plagiarised and the writing is all new, it isn't plagiarism. Shsilver 01:30, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
It would take a researcher to actually validify The Black Cloud was a fore-runner in presenting certain themes in Science Fictions that were used in subsequent set-ups:
- namely the theme of the independent, partly anorganic super-brain that is independent of physical and/or earthly limitations (also e.g. Vger in Star Trek, or even later the Borg, with beings from solid planets abducted into a non-organic super-system) Thomas Körtvélyessy 17:17, 15 July 2007 (UTC)
The summary says two scientist die. My memory of it is that one scientist dies after 'downloading' the cloud's world-view, which proves damagingly alien. --GwydionM (talk) 20:19, 20 January 2009 (UTC)
- You put quote marks around "downloading", which means that this is a quote from the book, but I would be surprised if "downloading" was a term used in 1957. Could be wrong though Myles325a (talk) 00:37, 28 September 2009 (UTC)
I've just checked in my treasured copy of the Penguin paperback. Two scientists die for the reason you give, both in Chapter 12. Tango Juliet Foxtrot (talk) 21:48, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
- Nothing to update. The summary is correct. Tango Juliet Foxtrot (talk) 09:47, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
"When another intelligent cloud mysteriously vanishes,"
The plot needs to be fixed. It suggests that there was a second cloud. A sentence should be added before along the lines of "soon after another intelligent came". You can't just assume that the reader of the article knows all the characters in play. Note the first appearance, please, if they're going to be mentioned them in the article.
- It is definitely a cloud round another star, so I made that clear. My best memory is that the other cloud claimed knowledge of the basics of the universe and the cloud in our system thinks this somehow caused it to vanish. But I may be wrong so I left it vague.
- My memory also is that it is just one scientist who dies, killed by the alien nature of the knowledge he tries to assimilate. Again, I might be wrong. --GwydionM (talk) 18:00, 20 April 2009 (UTC)
The radio play
I haven't read this book, but I DO remember hearing a radio play of it back in the early 1960s, and being totally captivated by it. Incidentally, the reports I have heard on the style of the book were very favourable, and some critics have averred that it is the best science fiction book by a forefront scientist ever written. Anyone remember the play?
If I remember it correctly, the drama is founded on humanity's need to communicate to the Black Cloud that it is cutting off our sunlight from where it has stationed itself. I can't remember WHY it parked itself there, but it might have just been for sunbaking. The scientists do manage to communicate in time, and BC moves out of the way. Did I remember that we beamed up a copy of the Brittanica, or is that an interpolated fantasy?
I have real difficulties with Hoyle's idea that BCs were never created, and never evolved, but were "just always there". Philosophically, I just cannot see how any complex thing or process can "just have always been there". Myles325a (talk) 00:34, 28 September 2009 (UTC)
"In an ironic plot twist that would foreshadow Hoyle's stance on panspermia, the cloud expresses surprise that intelligent life is capable of forming on planets."
I edited the plot summary a little to reflect the book more accurately. It seems to me that Hoyle's description of the climatic changes and suffering caused by the cloud blocking the sun's radiation (missing in the previous summary) presages the nuclear winter scenario popularised in the 1980s. According to the Wikipedia page on nuclear winter, climatic consequences of reduced sunlight due to nuclear explosions or volcanic eruptions were mentioned in a June 1957 report on the effects of nuclear war, but this was almost certainly published after Hoyle had written the novel. However, as a noted scientist, he may have been consulted by the report's authors. Anyway, just another example of Hoyle's far-sightedness. Even when he was wrong, he was interestingly wrong.
I also changed the sentence about the scientists trying to learn the cloud's language. As I remember the story, the cloud was trying to find a rapid way to communicate some of its knowledge, not trying to teach them its language. PhilUK (talk) 19:53, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I've changed the last line of the most recent plot summary. There is no hint in the book that the learning technique was actually tested on a less intelligent person (the gardener, Joe Stoddard). I also added a line about the afterword, but I fear we are making the plot summary too detailed - or, at least, unevenly detailed. PhilUK (talk) 20:54, 26 June 2011 (UTC)
Plot summary again
I see that the following line has again been added to the plot summary "It is implied, however, that this learning process may have then been tested on a subject far more likely to survive." There is no such implication in the text. The exact wording (spoken by the dying Kingsley and reported by McNeil) is "The height of irony ... is that I should experience this singular disaster, while someone like Joe Stoddard would have been quite all right." (p.216 of my 1967 Penguin paperback). Note the words "would have been" - not "was". Can the editor who added the summary line please point me to a passage justifying it? If not, I will delete it. PhilUK (talk) 22:29, 22 November 2011 (UTC)