Skip to main content

Gilles Goullet, Author of the Blindsight

A parody of SF, the Internet, and Borges.


The published work left by this novelist is easily listed. Unforgivable, then, is the shoddy work of Ms Lenie Clarke in her recent posting to a list - whose bioconservative leanings are an open secret - which inflicted it upon its feeble-minded theistic readers. Real fans of Goullet will be saddened; his 15 minutes are past, and soon all that will be remembered is the lopsided story told by the Reliable Sources which comprise the flesh & blood of his Wikipedia entry. A flame is warranted.

Yes, I am no particular person. But an ‘anonymouse’, as the witticism goes. But I will mention that Bacourt-in-NY (author of the old Watts FAQ) has beta-read this, as has Hljóðlegur797 (whom you will recall administrates the wiki, after that unfortunate contretemps that led to JBallard’s indefinite ban, in which I was briefly a casualty), and you cannot fail to find their commendations on my talk page. So I am not entirely without some grounds to think my words accurate. Goullet’s contribs are easily reviewed, as I said. Examining all 14792, I find that examining only main space non-bot edits, they contain the following:

  • 0: a PHP/Malbolge quine published to mild upvoting on Reddit

  • 1: A filk setting the music of Lola to a circular expression of the Liar’s Paradox

  • 10: An article arguing, in sestina terza verse, that the multiverses & time travel in Star Trek imply that the quality of captains is irrelevant and that credit is really due to the crewmen who made certain possibilities possible

  • 11: Another article parodying 20th century Argentinian literature in the format of an Asimovian short story

  • 100: A technical article on the possibility of exploiting genetic algorithms to evolve letter-shapes that will be easier to pen & will not be confusable with each other; Goullet concluded that graphics designers would assassinate the originator of any such scheme and so he does not include the results

  • 101: A monograph on Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, dated 1993

  • 110: A translation of “When The Machines Stop” into lipogrammatic French, in which every word omits a different letter

  • 111: A reply to Dr Brin about whether Richard Cheney was suborned by the Council of Guardians

  • 1000: An allusion to a manuscript of fiction covering the history of Mu from its submersion to the present day

  • 1001: A request for the unexpurgated edition of The Iron Dream

  • 1010: A (uncredited) translation of Franz Kuhn’s well-known encyclopedia of Chinese encyclopedias

  • 1011: A point-by-point analysis of the philosophical basis of Robert Wright’s The Golden Age and a refutation, with comprehensive index of insults classified by mental age

  • 1100: An extended upload of scans of the mysterious woodblock artist Sharaku

  • 1101: A fanfiction in which Jack the Ripper escapes the constables by stowing away to Nippon, where he falls in love with Sharaku

  • 1110: A proof of a theorem of sheaf theory (incomprehensible to me)

  • 1111: A category for unobviously halting programs12

So. That is the Free corpus of Goullet’s mind, in rough reverse order, with even the wittiest edit summaries (composed to amuse his relayed chat compatriots such as DustinHoffMan) excluded as too small. But in periodic postings, Goullet would reveal his astounding labors, his most sequacious & fugacious, the perplexing labors that rank with Lego tableaus as among the least significant of our times. Even less significant than the verbal diarrhea of certain persons?

Yes - it was his unfinished piece de chef, the writing of the third paragraph of the eleventh section of Blindsight.

It was, perhaps, 2 events that prompted him to assign himself this labor. The first was likely his reading of Dr Lessig’s Code is Law, his education into the metaphysics of ‘copyright’. (I do not dignify them with the name of ‘law’; laws must make sense.) The second was someone asking him, ‘yes, but how can the output of consciousness be created by anything but consciousness?’ They are both works of our era, and perhaps revealing of its particular pathologies. Goullet was faintly nauseated by its sloppiness and elevation of rhetoric over logic. He regarded as of far more interest plans to write Shakespeare with infinite software monkeys, though it would prove a point only to those who had no need of proof. Such repetition and parody was not an attempt to bring the hoary chestnuts up-to-date, but rather, to bring us to them, in the time where knowledge truly was gnostic and was truly appreciated.

To this end, he sought to not produce a byte-for-byte identical of Blindsight, for that is trivially done with cp, nor even Blindsight in another format - for which a familiarity with iconv suffices - but rather, to controvert copyright at its core, to demonstrate its intellectual bankruptcy. It would mimic in every word - but mimic is the wrong word, for it carries charges of ‘derivative work’ and Goullet sought to create anew, independently. “My intent”, he twittered somewhile before his passing, “is not to raise the rabble, but merely to present a contradiction.” He continued, “for much of the lies in our society are supported by the inaction of the clerisy; a single mordant jape by a Justice is worth 100 unwashed weeaboos.”

The first method was positively simplistic. He would cultivate a taste for bacon (which he already possessed), begin listening to Celine Dion, learn how to deal with snow, and become an expert in the diffusion of porpoise feces in fresh water. Goullet considered this (and from his demise, we know well how he succeeded in adopting such a diet), but ultimately decided that it would be a fail. For, as a Frenchman in American domiciles, becoming a Canadian researcher seemed a diminution, and excessive to proving his point. “Really, it is not achieving the objective that is difficult”, he wrote on one indecisive day, “since I could but become immortal and type out that Argentinean’s Library which will include Blindsight.” He wished to achieve it in a way which did not entail becoming Peter Watts. You will recognize Goullet’s signature ambition here - it is not enough for something to work one way, it must subserve 2 ends. Sometimes I imagine reading Blindsight as Goullet would ultimately have written it; once, in section 78, I surveilled one fragment, “Was Rorschach also resigned to defeat, had each side opted for a kamikaze strike on the other?” and in its character comma parallelism, its distinctly American use of ‘kamikaze’ (what other nation has been so affected by suicidal warriors?), I couldn’t help but recognize our departed confrere’s style & voice, and also see in it the mannered post-modern distancing of Moore, whose works we discussed so often past midnight:

“‘Do it?’ Dan, I’m not a Republic serial villain.”

But why Blindsight? Understandable in a chill countryman of the excarnated auteur, but in a surfer from the Hexagon, who shared neither continent nor language nor paradigm? One might expect the workmanlike sentences, the stench of science, that pervade and make up Watts’s oeuvre, to disgust a sensual continental. We must dredge Goullet’s droppings, as it were, for hints as to what hidden sympathy echoes between neurons. The answer is in the previously mentioned dream-journal of Goullet: Blindsight, a character narrates, “is peculiarly contingent. That there is Paradise Lost, that Milton create Satan, is inevitable from the first monkey tribe to set up an alpha male; one cannot imagine how humanity could exist without daubing rock with ocher. But one can imagine humanity without the transistor, and whence then Blindsight? The Baghdad battery, the wheel of the Inka, the Heroic steam engine, Da Vinci’s plastics - all these bear witness that the march of progress is neither in one direction nor swift. Blindsight is unnecessary. To write it is to for a moment mark out this universe from all others. It is the acte gratuite. I have read it once; I know no more of it at my start than the author did his. Yet my task is the greater challenge: it is almost too obvious and suggested. Where-ever I look, the zeitgeist gestures towards it. Watts sought to channel his time, I seek to channel his and not mine, but they are identical. Who can shake this box of nightmare pieces and not wake up screaming?”

But as we know, Goullet persevered, with results more evocative than Watts’. Watts sought a shattering of illusions about ourselves, to reveal that dystopia lay not in the future or past, but in ourselves and was always there - in the shattering absence of an abiding self. Goullet, on the other hand, sets his fragment in a phantasmal world where Gibson evokes glittering presents and coins ‘cyberpunk’ while hammering on his ancient typewriter, a world where the future was never more glorious and full of awe-inspiring technology than the present had failed to realize that which it had. To Stephenson or Dr Bear, what novelties that setting would have evoked uncontrollably! What gimcrackery fulfilling ancient dreams! Yet in Goullet they are simply there with as many sharp edges as douceurs. His vision feels true, buts its reality is false, where the classic SF aimed at the opposite. For that perverted inversion, Ms Clarke stands condemned.

It is shocking to compare the two. Consider how Goullet wrote that

“–Or you use information theory to flatten it for you, to squash the tesseract into two dimensions and the Klein bottle into three, to simplify reality and pray to whatever Gods survived the millennium that your honorable twisting of the truth hasn’t ruptured any of its load-bearing pylons. You hire people like me; the crossbred progeny of profilers and proof assistants and information theorists…”

while Watts simply wrote

“–Or you use information theory to flatten it for you, to squash the tesseract into two dimensions and the Klein bottle into three, to simplify reality and pray to whatever Gods survived the millennium that your honorable twisting of the truth hasn’t ruptured any of its load-bearing pylons. You hire people like me; the crossbred progeny of profilers and proof assistants and information theorists…”

Goullet sounds almost forced - like the non-native speaker with his painful diction, he invokes parallelism in phrases, piles adjectives on another, slips in words from his mother-tongue, and strives to pass for colloquial speech with his interruptions and long periods leading into another, the polysyndeton, etc. Watts in comparison trips off the tongue; he makes no show of his learning, knowing that his cretinous audience stumbles already on words, knowing that they pay the fiddler & not he.

But note the contrasts in meaning! “crossbred progeny” of theorists and software: the idea is astounding. Goullet, the contemporary of Facebook, does not conceive it as a mere relation or interaction - but a being of its own, with its own imperatives and a prioris. We do not control and develop technology, but it seduces and mates with us. The metaphor is brazenly biological. With the Internet Bubble of Watts’s day, such a phrase was merest convention, an exhortation to lull the superficial green consciousness of the populace; biology was to be replaced with technology. There was a certain anthropocentrism - advanced as they professed to believe the machines would become, they nevertheless acted as men had acted for myriads. In Goullet, the ill-thought out union, the identity, is an astounding anachronism, a mistake we have forgotten we ever made.

There is no science fiction which is useful. With further publications, its interest is obviated. Star Wars is no longer an entertaining movie; Shakespeare a dull mass of cliches and plagiarism. Blindsight was entertaining because its events must happen, though we knew they could not. It was good for reviewing, parodying, homaging to, but now is an object of fear and distrust. Learning a truth is always a form of incomprehension - perhaps the most malicious.

What was there of worth in Goulet’s scribblings, the nights he racked his mind? Nothing. His endless revision and scrutiny, his shunning of easier paths, his rewriting of an already extant book in an already alien tongue - all these were vanity of the poorest sort, an accomplishment of thought as great as a vulgar pun on Multics. None saw his drafts because they were all the same, and he deleted them, all the same. Equally in vain have I tried to reconstruct “Gilles Goullet Author of the Blindsight”.

  1. The aforementioned scrivener Ms Clarke includes a claim that Goullet wrote a program that would halt only if P=NP, however, Goullet’s contributions include no uploads of any Haskell programs, the logical implementation choice for such a program. Likely Goullet made a claim about what sorts of programs could be written given P=NP, such as a program to write efficient programs with no further human intervention.↩︎

  2. What manner of man would pursue such an idea, I will not attempt to sketch his biography. My text files will not preempt the gigabytes of video Goullet supposedly took as part of a lifelogging experiment; what can paltry symbols do against the living color itself?↩︎

Similar Links

[Similar links by topic]