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Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Saturday August 30, 2003. It's not strange from the inside.

"Do you see music when you're high?" someone asked in the late 1960s.

"No," I said. "Only when I'm not high."

He drew back a little. Drug-induced synesthesia fit into his world view, and was a good thing. Without drugs was another matter.

"'Synaesthesia may be divided into two general, somewhat overlapping types. The first, which I sometimes call 'synaesthesia proper',....in which stimuli to a sensory input will also trigger sensations in one or more other sensory modes. The second form of synaesthesia, which I call 'cognitive' or 'category synaesthesia', involves synaesthetic additions to culture-bound cognitive categorizational systems. In simpler words, with this kind of synaesthesia, certain sets of things which our individual cultures teach us to put together and categorize in some specific way -- like letters, numbers, or people's names -- also get some kind of sensory addition, such as a smell, color or flavor. The most common forms of cognitive synaesthesia involve such things as colored written letter characters (graphemes), numbers, time units, and musical notes or keys. For example, the synaesthete might see, about a foot or two before her (the majority of synaesthetes are female), different colors for different spoken vowel and consonant sounds, or perceive numbers and letters, whether conceptualized or before her in print, as colored. A friend of mine, Deborah, always perceives the letter 'a' as pink, 'b' as blue, and 'c' as green, no matter what color of ink they are printed with.'" Sean A. Day, http://www.users.muohio.edu/daysa/synesthesia.html (will change soon).

My particular forms: Sound to vision -- more texture than color. Echolocation to touch or pressure. Body sensations to touch and vision.

And seeing conversation written out, though usually I don't much notice it. When I do notice it, the typeface never seems to be the same twice running. It's quite possible that I've invented new typefaces this way.

The rule "write what you know" gets broken and run through a shredder when it comes to writing about synesthesia. Maybe some of the sf writers with synesthetic characters were synesthetes; but there's no evidence of that, and the descriptions don't ring true. Conversely, Vladimir Nabakov was a synesthete but his characters weren't.

I wonder -- what else is there which people who know it from the inside don't write about? And which people who've never or rarely experienced it do write about?

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