This section contains 3,422 words
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Cosmicomics Summary & Study Guide Description
Cosmicomics Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Qfwfqappears in The Distance of the Moon, At Daybreak, A Sign in Space, All
Qfwfq is an eternal and abstract character who lives throughout all the ages of the universe and exists in many different places at many different times. Sometimes he is an animal, sometimes a person or sometimes an abstract entity. Qfwfq is constantly falling in love and pursuing love. He is self-consciously fearful of the judgment of others, and he is competitive against his rivals in both love and play. He is also consistently a harbinger of change in the universe as it evolves.
In "The Distance of the Moon," "All at One Point," "Without Colors," "The Aquatic Uncle," "The Dinosaurs," and "The Spiral," Qfwfq is in love with an unattainable woman. The changes in the universe wrench him from his loves. Mrs. Vhd Vhd is taken from him by the retreating moon. His love in "All at One Point" begins the expansion of the universe, disappearing into its stuff through her generosity as she releases Qfwfq from being contained in a single point. In "Without Colors" and "The Aquatic Uncle," the world is changing, and Qfwfq is anxious for change, while his loves long for a past time and lose themselves in search of it, as does his sister in "At Daybreak." In "The Dinosaurs," too, Qfwfq's love wrestles with her ideas of past and is not able to let go to simply move into the future.
In "The Form of Space," Qfwfq is presumably the unnamed narrator. He is eternally separated from his love by traveling in parallel lines, but he takes advantage of the shape of space to meet her and attack his equally inaccessible rival. Qfwfq is well able to understand the nature of space and time. He is intelligent enough to imagine and make the first sign, to create images out of which sight will develop, and to outsmart his playmate in "Games Without End." He outsmarts another rival by being able to bet on the formation of planets and other astronomical events in "How Much Shall We Bet?" What he can't always understand is the human element, which seems to foil him again and again throughout his adventures.
Captain Vhd Vhdappears in The Distance of the Moon
Captain Vhd Vhd is in charge of the expeditions to get moon-milk from the moon when it comes close enough to the surface of the Earth to climb up. Captain Vhd Vhd wants to be rid of his wife, so he encourages her to climb up to the moon on their last expedition.
Mrs. Vhd Vhdappears in The Distance of the Moon
Mrs. Vhd Vhd is Captain Vhd Vhd's wife. She is in love with the Deaf One and jealous of his love of the moon. She goes up to the moon with the others, when the moon is about to start moving away from the Earth. Mrs. Vhd Vhd's plan to spend time with the Deaf One goes astray, and she becomes trapped on the moon for a month with Qfwfq. Mrs. Vhd Vhd becomes one with the moon in her quest to compete for the Deaf One's affection, and stays on the moon as it finally drifts away from the Earth.
The Deaf Oneappears in The Distance of the Moon
Qfwfq's deaf cousin, known as the Deaf One, loves the moon. He goes off into the moon's unexplored spaces on his own, and he is able to intuit the best places to find moon-milk. He is incredibly agile at climbing up to the moon and back down to Earth, and he is the one who is able to get Qfwfq off of the moon's surface before it drifts too far off into space. Mrs. Vhd Vhd is in love with the Deaf One, but the Deaf One only loves the moon.
Xlthlxappears in The Distance of the Moon
Twelve-year-old Xlthlx is light enough to be caught in the air between the gravity of the Earth and the gravity of the moon. The sea creatures who float around her are attracted to her, covering her and making her heavy enough to finally fall to the Earth.
G'd(w)^nappears in At Daybreak
Qfwfq's sister is reclusive and enjoys the darkness. She constantly looks inward to her own mind and imagination. When matter begins to condense, she makes a kind of castle in the mud, calling it "an outside with an inside in it." When the sunlight first breaks in the solar system, G'd(w)^n flees from the change in her world. Among all the family, she has been most comfortable in the darkness and solitude. She swims down into the newly-condensing Earth, finding her way either into its center or out the other side. G'd(w)^n is resistant to changes and flees inward when she is confronted with the strangeness of an emerging sun.
Granny Bb'bappears in At Daybreak
Granny Bb'b remembers the early days of the universe, when a diffuse light filled the universe. She believes that matter will disperse again and that the early light and heat that radiated throughout space will return. She persists in this belief to the point that she throws garbage into space, believing that it will simply break up and go away. Qfwfq finds Granny Bb'b's attitude embarrassing.
Granny Bb'b has a cushion that is made from material from the early galaxy, the only material object anyone seems to possess. However, she has lost it in the darkness and believes Qfwfq has taken it. Qfwfq finds that his twin brothers have the cushion, and when he pulls his brothers out of the newly-formed matter, the cushion is destroyed.
Granny Bb'b persists in believing that the changes to the solar system are a return to the old days, not the dawn of a new period of time. She resists change by refusing to believe change is really happening. Granny's cushion is a remnant of the past that she clings to, and its destruction represents the passage into a new time.
Fatherappears in At Daybreak
Father is the first one to notice that matter in the solar system is becoming solid.
Motherappears in At Daybreak
When the planetary matter starts to condense, Mother has trouble sleeping because of the lumps and bumps.
Rwzfsappears in At Daybreak
Rwzfs is one of Qfwfq's twin brothers, a toddler. He finds one of the first "things" created by the formation of matter in the solar system and plays with it.
Mr. Hnwappears in At Daybreak
Mr. Hnw is staying with Qfwfq and his family when matter begins to form in the solar system. He keeps sinking into the mud and getting stuff in his mouth. Qfwfq comments that Mr. Hnw will later become a horse.
Aunt and Unclesappears in At Daybreak
Qfwfq's aunt and two uncles are visiting when the matter in the solar system starts to solidify. They leave in the midst of the transformation, and Qfwfq hears them making their way through new and unknown things, getting separated from each other as they go.
Kgwgkappears in A Sign in Space
Kgwgk is the nemesis of Qfwfq. He erases Qfwfq's sign in space and creates his own crude imitations. Qfwfq never meets Kgwgk but deduces his existence.
Mrs. Ph(i)NK_0appears in All at One Point
A bosomy woman wearing an orange dressing gown, Mrs. Ph(i)NK_0 is a generous woman loved by everyone in the single point of matter at the beginning of the universe. She has a lover, De XuaeuauX, but since everyone is confined to a single point in space, everyone is part of her affair as well.
Mrs. Ph(i)NK_0 avoids all the pettiness that invades her home at the beginning of the universe and inspires love but not jealousy. In a moment of generosity, Mrs. Ph(i)NK_0 wishes she had space to make noodles for everyone, and everyone imagines her in a universe, kneading dough to make noodles. Through that image, the point begins to expand, with Mrs. Ph(i)NK_0 at the core of the expansion. No one ever sees her again, and she becomes part of the universe.
De XuaeauXappears in All at One Point
De XuaeauX is Mrs. Ph(i)NK_0's lover. Since everyone is condensed into a single point, everyone shares their bed.
Mr. Pber^t Pber^dappears in All at One Point
A loud man with suspenders and a silver tooth, Mr. Pber^t Pber^d is one of the occupants of the point at the beginning of the universe. He is an obnoxious and petty man, and he is prejudiced against the Z'zu family.
The Z'zu Familyappears in All at One Point
The Z'zu family is known as an immigrant family in the point at the beginning of the universe, even though there is no time and no where to immigrate from. Petty people gossip about and criticize the Z'zu family.
The Cleaning Womanappears in All at One Point
One cleaning woman, the "maintenance staff," is employed to clean the point at the beginning of the universe, but since it is only one point, there is nothing to clean.
Aylappears in Without Colors
In "Without Colors," Qfwfq falls in love with Ayl as soon as he sees her on the colorless world. Ayl and Qfwfq are alike, made of similar stuff, but they are also different. Ayl is attracted to their similarity, since she values sameness. Qfwfq, however, is attracted to their differences. While Qfwfq constantly looks for things that are different or unusual, Ayl is comforted by the sameness of the gray world that surrounds her and craves its security.
When an atmosphere and color come to the Earth, Ayl is frightened by the changes instead of being attracted to them. She runs away, into the Earth, leaving behind her all the sunlight that she's known. Instead of embracing a new kind of light, she chooses to lose all light. Ayl loves the world that she starts out in, with its grayness. She is resistant to and afraid of all change. Her love of the world is part of her resistance. Ayl sees the world as perfect, and she fits with its calming grayness. Any change is a ruination of this perfect world.
Nothing can stop the destruction of Ayl's perfect world and the onset of a colored world, however. Ayl has two choices. She can let go of the world of calming gray that she used to know and try to live in the new world of colors, or she can retreat into total darkness, losing both her perfect world and anything new that the world of colors has to offer. Ayl chooses retreat. If she cannot have her perfect grayness, she will have nothing.
Pfwfpappears in Games Without End
Pfwfp is Qfwfq's friend and rival in a game something like marbles but played with hydrogen atoms that generate in pockets in space. Pfwfp begins to cheat at the game by stealing the new hydrogen atoms before Qfwfq can discover them. Pfwfp is driven by rivalry. He cheats in order to win, and then when he begins to lose, Pfwfp wants to call off the game.
In the next game, creating galaxies, Qfwfq also comes out ahead, since Qfwfq has caught on to Pfwfp's cheating and has outwitted him by substituting fake atoms for the new atoms. Pfwfp is angry at Qfwfq for beating him. Driven by the rivalry, Pfwfp creates his own galaxy, and the two boys shoot off into space, in an eternal circular race. Pfwfp is always chasing Qfwfq, and Qfwfq is always chasing Pfwfp. Their rivalry can never be resolved. They are locked in competition where no one can be the winner.
N'ba N'gaappears in The Aquatic Uncle
N'ba N'ga resists change. He is the last fish in Qfwfq's family, and he refuses to leave the water, even though his family constantly begs him to join them on land. N'ba N'ga sees the land as a changeable place that will require constant adaptation and kill off anyone who does not adapt. Meanwhile, the environment of the water remains stable, providing constancy and security for years to come.
Qfwfq finds N'ba N'ga hopelessly out of date and rude. However, N'ba N'ga remains the patriarch of his family, making decisions that affect all of his relatives on the land while he lives only in the water. N'ba N'ga is not completely out of touch with what life is like on the land, even though he maintains a narrow point of view from his position in the pond. Although Qfwfq dismisses N'ba N'ga, the old fish is intelligent and argues his points well. N'ba N'ga sees no reason to change when the water environment will continue to suit his needs and sustain him.
Lllappears in The Aquatic Uncle
Lll is among the first generation to be born on land. Because her family has been on the land longer than Qfwfq's, Lll is more agile on the land than he is and better adapted to the land environment. When Lll meets Qfwfq's uncle, though, she is entranced by his arguments for how much better the water is than the land. Lll craves the stability that N'ba N'ga talks about. Ultimately, as in Qfwfq's affair with Ayl, Qfwfq loses this love to a regression into the past. Lll goes into the water to live in the world of the past instead of progressing into the more uncertain future.
Dean (k)yKappears in How Much Shall We Bet?
Dean (k)yK bets with Qfwfq throughout the formation of the universe on upcoming events. Qfwfq begins winning more and more bets as he follows, logically, the physics of events to their natural conclusions. Dean (k)yK is conservative, betting against Qfwfq, typically saying that certain events will not happen. As the universe develops, Dean (k)yK, who does not see its patterns, loses more and more bets. He is a bad loser, often trying to deny the events as they occur.
However, Qfwfq's power of prediction only extends to a certain point in the development of the universe. Once humanity appears on Earth, Dean (k)yK and Qfwfq become researchers for the Electronic Predictions Center. They continue their bets on everything that happens around them. Qfwfq, however, finds that his physics-based predictions are defied by human behavior, and Dean (k)yK begins winning more and more bets. Dean (k)yK is as poor a winner as a loser, gloating over his victories.
Fern-flowerappears in The Dinosaurs
Fern-flower is the object of Qfwfq's affection. She is one of the New Ones, part of a generation that does not remember the dinosaurs but mythologizes them. Fern-flower reflects her society's ideas about the dinosaurs. At first, the society uses dinosaurs for cautionary tales and titillating horror, and Fern-flower dreams of being carried off by a dinosaur intent on eating her, to whom she is strangely attracted. Then, the society begins to think of the dinosaurs as an idyllic past society, and Fern-flower dreams of a regal dinosaur who will not even look at her. Fern-flower cannot imagine what dinosaurs are really like, and she does not recognize the dinosaur who is right in front of her.
The society begins to think of the dinosaurs as laughable, comic creatures, and Fern-flower dreams of protecting a dinosaur being teased by all the others. Her feelings have changed to pity, and Qfwfq cannot stand being pitied. Later, the villagers find a dinosaur skeleton in the ice, and Fern-flower has a dream of a dying dinosaur. She is pleased to see him die, reflecting the society's underlying fear of dinosaurs and rejoicing at the scene of one's death. In a wild rebellion at her attitude, Qfwfq sleeps with another woman.
Finally, the society starts to forget what dinosaurs are, and Fern-flower has a dream of an unnamed survivor, the last of a species, hiding in a cave. Although she can't name him, she somehow knows him. The dinosaurs have passed into memory, but they remain a force in the subconscious. Fern-flower reflects all these changes in processing the meaning of dinosaurs to the society. She never recognizes Qfwfq and cannot consciously understand her own drives.
Zahnappears in The Dinosaurs
Zahn is Fern-flower's brother, who disapproves of Qfwfq and challenges him. Zahn only comes to accept Qfwfq after Qfwfq defeats him in a fight.
The Half-Breedappears in The Dinosaurs
One of the travelers that come to visit Fern-flower's village is a half-breed. Qfwfq recognizes that she has dinosaur blood in her, and he has a one-night stand with her, leaving her with a dinosaur child.
Narratorappears in The Form of Space
The narrator of "The Form of Space" is presumably Qfwfq, the named narrator of most of the stories in Calvino's collection. In this story, he is falling eternally through space on a parallel track with other people. As with other incarnations of the eternal being of Qfwfq, the narrator is absorbed by love for an unattainable object. Ursula H'x is eternally separated from the narrator by a parallel fall, and the narrator's mind is filled with fantasies about her. These fantasies eclipse any reality of her personality. The narrator only sees the external beauty of Ursula, and so the physical separation of their parallel falls represents the lack of communication or communion between them as people.
As in other incarnations of Qfwfq, the narrator is stuck in a rivalry with another man, Lieutenant Fenimore, who is also falling along a parallel track with the narrator and Ursula. Fenimore makes signals and gives Ursula looks, so the narrator knows that Fenimore also lusts after Ursula. The rivalry explodes in violence when the narrator finds a way to exploit the twists and turns of the fabric of space in order to cross over to Fenimore's parallel tracks. As with Ursula, the narrator only sees the superficial elements of Lieutenant Fenimore, including his looks at Ursula and his military attire.
The narrator is intuitive about the nature of space, another thing he has in common with Qfwfq's other incarnations. He is constantly theorizing about the nature of their fall, and he intuits the bumps and pockets in the fabric of space through which he is falling. Although the narrator is able to manipulate space, he seems unable to resolve human difficulties and remains locked in an eternal love triangle.
Ursula H'xappears in The Form of Space
Ursula H'x is the beautiful and preening object of the narrator's affection in "The Form of Space." She never speaks, but she moves her body tantalizingly as she falls through space in a parallel line to both the narrator and the lecherous Lieutenant Fenimore.
Lieutenant Fenimoreappears in The Form of Space
Lieutenant Fenimore is the narrator's rival in "The Form of Space." He shows his attraction to Ursula H'x through hand gestures and lecherous looks. The narrator finds his way through the coiling intricacies of space to attack Fenimore, although their parallel trajectories keep them separated. Fenimore and the narrator are engaged in an eternal fight along their parallel lines.
Narratorappears in The Light-Years
The narrator of "The Light-Years" is presumably Qfwfq in yet another incarnation of the eternal being. Although the narrator seems to be a human living on the planet, he also has existed for hundreds of millions of years, long enough to send messages back and forth from distant stars. Much as Qfwfq in "A Sign in Space," the narrator is concerned with how other people might perceive and judge him, and he also engages in using signs to try to influence others' opinions of him.
In "A Sign in Space," the narrator's sign is an abstract symbol left without description, but in "The Light-Years," the narrator uses a literal sign. At first, he writes messages such as, "What of it?" Later, he gets large signs of fingers pointing either toward or away from him that he uses to try to influence opinions. The narrator's signs are constantly misinterpreted. The more the narrator tries to communicate, the more his meaning gets lost in translation from one person to another.
Although the narrator is able to live through millions of years and communicate with other galaxies, mastering both time and space, as with other incarnations of Qfwfq, the narrator is unable to master simple human relationships. He is constantly insecure and concerned with what others may think of him. He tries to send out signals, but he cannot overcome the vast barriers to communication. He perceives his own actions and behaviors in one way, but the people he tries to communicate with perceive them in a completely different and unexpected way. The narrator's quest to truly communicate his nature and character to other people in the universe is doomed to failure.
The Female Molluskappears in The Spiral
Although Qfwfq is a mollusk with no real senses to detect the outside world, he senses others, and among them a female mollusk with whom he immediately falls in love and whose eggs he fertilizes. The unseen and barely-sensed female mollusk becomes a symbol of love and beauty, found in images of all women.
This section contains 3,422 words
(approx. 9 pages at 400 words per page)