Origin of Wintermute

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eyeb...@interpath.com

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Feb 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/19/96
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For those interested in tracing the origin of such things, I have recently
learned that William Gibson named the AI in łNeuromancer˛ Wintermute after
the following unusual story.

Wintermute was the name of a knight in one of the early Crusades. He was
severely retarded, but came from a wealthy family who were underwriting
that particular Crusade. His knighthood, of course, was hereditary. His
family saw this as an opportunity to rid themselves of an embarassment
while doing Godąs Work. They assigned him twenty squires and servants to
make sure he presented himself correctly on the journey. During the long
march, the other knights and associated personnel became aware that
Wintermute was an idiot savant. He could glance at the stars and
instantly state their latitude with a remarkable degree of accuracy. The
others, awed, assumed he was touched by God -- a sign that proved the
worthiness of their endeavor -- and they trusted him to lead the way
without reservation.

Unfortunately, Wintermute was unable to assess longitude and so led the
group far to the east,. They ultimately arrived at the shores of the
Caspian Sea, which they mistook for the Sea of Galillee. Finding no holy
sites at all, much less any infidels, the confused crusaders settled there
and formed a small community. Every Sunday night, after Mass, they would
ceremonially ask Wintermute to tell them their location, which he would
do. The colony eventually died out and this tragic story was almost lost
to history.

William Gibson ran across this story at the home of a book collector
friend. It was found in a privately printed collection of essays
published in 1928 under the imprimaur of the Order of the Golden Dawn.
The collector told Gibson that he had acquired the volume in Ibiza, in
1971, from an elderly, rather fussy gentleman who said that the author of
that particular essay was known to W.B. Yeats.

Gibson decided to use the name Wintermute for his AI as an ironic
commentary on the dangers of mistaking a mere caculative ability, however
subtle and accomplished, for one of genuine transcendence.

eyebrown

Dorothy J Heydt

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Feb 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/23/96
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In article <eyebrown-190...@asheville-77.interpath.net>,
<eyeb...@interpath.com> wrote:

>[The story] was found in a privately printed collection of essays


>published in 1928 under the imprimaur of the Order of the Golden Dawn.

In other words, it could easily have been written--in the sense
of "made up for the first time"--the previous year. The Golden
Dawn folk *made*things*up* and put them forward as ancient lore.

That doesn't mean it isn't a good story, and a perfectly
reasonable choice for Gibson to have made.

"Si non e vero, e ben trovato." (Comment of an Italian monk on
a rather far-fetched miracle story: "if it isn't true, it's still
a good story.")

Dorothy J. Heydt
djh...@uclink.berkeley.edu
University of California
Berkeley

Chris Jones

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Feb 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/23/96
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> For those interested in tracing the origin of such things, I have recently

> learned that William Gibson named the AI in ³Neuromancer² Wintermute after
> the following unusual story.
[story cut, see origin post]

> Gibson decided to use the name Wintermute for his AI as an ironic
> commentary on the dangers of mistaking a mere caculative ability, however
> subtle and accomplished, for one of genuine transcendence.

Ah so? I was under the impression Wintermute was some sort of Duke of
Hell in post-Milton mythology... look:

"'Boss,' she asked him 'you know Wintermute?'
'A name. Yes. To conjure with perhaps. A lord of hell, surely....'"

-Molly and Ashpool
in _Neuromancer_
top of p.185 (paperback)

Also, there's the conjunction of Ashpool talking about his years in
cold sleep, and then Wintermute's name is mentioned... But your probably
right.

-Chris Jones

Mike Lemons

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Feb 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/24/96
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Chris Jones (cold...@mail.utexas.edu) wrote:
> Ah so? I was under the impression Wintermute was some sort of Duke of
>Hell in post-Milton mythology... look:

> "'Boss,' she asked him 'you know Wintermute?'
> 'A name. Yes. To conjure with perhaps. A lord of hell, surely....'"

> -Molly and Ashpool
> in _Neuromancer_
> top of p.185 (paperback)

> Also, there's the conjunction of Ashpool talking about his years in
>cold sleep, and then Wintermute's name is mentioned... But your probably
>right.

Duke of Hell? As good a description as any, I suppose. I never felt
that he was particularly evil, though. I think that the later books
would have been better if they would have had Wintermute in them.

There is an AI in _A Fire Upon the Deep_ that is incredibly evil.
Unfortunately, after the first few pages the AI is more of a setting than
a character. There is another AI that takes a more active role, helping
the human characters, more like Wintermute.

--
Mike Lemons | "In 20th-century Old Earth, a fast food chain
mi...@crash.cts.com| took dead cow meat, fried it in grease, added
| carcinogens, wrapped it in petroleum-based foam,
| and sold 900,000,000,000 units. Human Beings.
| Go figure." Dan Simmons - Hyperion

Sean Matthews

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Feb 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/25/96
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In article <eyebrown-190...@asheville-77.interpath.net>, eyeb...@interpath.com writes:
> For those interested in tracing the origin of such things, I have recently
> learned that William Gibson named the AI in ³Neuromancer² Wintermute after
> the following unusual story.

Um, are you sure Gibson hadn't been reading rather more unusual stories
himself. That little tidbit sounds like the wrapping of something
Borges would dream up.

Sean

--
Sean Matthews <se...@mpi-sb.mpg.de> <http://www.mpi-sb.mpg.de/~sean/>
Work: Max-Planck-Institut fuer Informatik, phone: +49 681 9325 217
Im Stadtwald, D-66123 Saarbruecken, Germany fax: +49 681 9325 299
Home: Grossherzog-Friedrich Str. 70, Saarbruecken phone: +49 681 64015

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