Looking Forward: William
Gibson and Bruce Sterling's
The Difference Engine
And yet the execution of the so-called Modus Program demonstrated
that any formal system must be both incomplete and unable to estab-
lish its own consistency. There is no finite mathematical way to express
the property of “truth.” The transfinite nature of the Byron Conjec-
tures were the ruination of the Grand Napoleon; the Modus Program
initiated a series of nested loops, which, though difficult to establish,
were yet more difficult to extinguish. The program ran, yet rendered its
—Ada, The Difference Engine
Whereas the previous three chapters interested themselves in a model of history concerned with the cause in cause and effect, this chapter, which focuses on William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine (1991), takes as its premise a model of history concerned with final causes. Teleological concerns are future oriented and concerned with design or purpose. All alternate histories concern themselves with cause and effect, as I have argued throughout this book. However, the point of a cause-andeffect structure is open to interpretation. Like Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (1962), Difference uses a narrative structure that links together disparate stories. Dick negotiates a web of relationships. Gibson
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Publication information: Book title: The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time. Contributors: Karen Hellekson - Author. Publisher: Kent State University Press. Place of publication: Kent, OH. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 76.
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