Eschaton in Bullet Points
So: Eschaton! Hells yeah! But wait — what exactly happened in that chapter anyway? Since “all the apparatus of the game” of Eschaton can easily get lost in all the apparatus of Wallace’s writing, what I’m going to do here is provide a bare-bones outlines of the sequence of events within the game itself that leads to the famous apocalyptic meltdown. I’m not trying to summarize the whole chapter, just the course of the game. Just writing this out helped me make some sense of the episode, so hopefully others might find it helpful too.
Please note there’s a lot of talk about fiction/reality below, which IMHO is one of the key take-aways of the whole episode. When I say “fiction,” I’m referring to the world of the Eschaton game, and when I say “reality” I’m referring to the world of the people playing the game, ie the characters in the novel Infinite Jest. I’m all-too-aware that IJ is itself a work of fiction, which adds a whole ‘nother layer of mind-buggery to this that I don’t even want to start thinking about.
For some muddle-headed analysis of what all this might actually mean, please refer to All the Apparatus of the Game, my muddle-headed Eschaton analysis post.
- Things start off smoothly: “11/8’s game proceeds with much probity and cold deliberation, with even more pauses and hushed, chin-stroking conferences today than tend to be the norm” (328).
- SOVWAR, “absorbing serious collateral SUFDDIR,” requests negotiations with AMNAT (330). AMNAT, after some back-and-forth, agrees to “a temporary cessation of SPASEX” (332). God (Otis Lord) puts on the white beanie. All other combatants are free to keep bombarding.
- REDCHI bombs INDPAK and claims a direct hit on Karachi. INDPAK claims it’s only indirect. They appeal to God but God, busy calculating peace terms between AMNAT and SOVWAR, isn’t paying attention (333). This marks the first encroachment of reality upon the fiction of the game, since in truth there’s no “actual wienie roast in the actual Karachi” to decide the question.
- JJ Penn of INDPAK, looking to minimize his SUFFDIR, introduces the second reality-encroachment when he attempts to argue that the real-world snow affects the fictional blast radius within the fictional game (333). Pemulis goes apeshit and commences his “map-vs.-territory” (read: “reality-vs.-fiction”) tirade.
- General map-v.-territory pissing-and-moaning ensues. God gets distracted by a boogery nose and a floppy umbrella (334).
- Evan Ingersoll, of IRLIBSYR, realizes that “IRLIBSYR’s highest possible strategic utility lies in AMNAT and SOVWAR failing to come to terms” (335). Recall that the heads of AMNAT and SOVWAR are still negotiating terms in Sierra Leone (332).
- Ingersoll comes up with the outside-the-box solution of launching a tennis ball/warhead at the real-world people representing the fictional AMNAT/SOVWAR (335). Note that now, fictional strategic interests from within the fictional confines of the game are erupting outward to cause real-world pain in a real-world human being (Kittenplan) (336). In the Karachi incident and the proposed snow-effect on the blast radius, the opposite dynamic was occurring.
- God/Lord, rather than invalidating the “map-not-territory equivocationary horseshit” consults the rulebook and finds no entry for this scenario (338). God, basically, throws up his hands. Pemulis goes beserk.
- Kittenplan, taking Ingersoll’s reasoning one step further, decides to inflict real-world pain back on Ingersoll in the spirit of real-world revenge. At this point, all pretenses to complying with the internal logic of the fictional game are dropped (339).
- The other players descend to commit real-world cruelties. All armageddon breaks loose (340).