THE WHITMORE EQUATIONS
bv Rebecca Kurland
If Tom Whitmore should tell me that eating carrots reminds him of the Incredible
String Band or that a story about a Greek philosopher has led him to an epiphany
on the history of slapstick, I am not astonished. For some time now I have relied on
Tom to make unusual associations without discrimination on'the basis of creed,
color, common sense or sensory input.
Mv sister remembers fondly that I once said, "Tom Whitmore has the most
interesting cross-modal transfers." While I don't recall this myself, internal evidence proves that only I could say that, and anyway, if he can hear symbolic logic or
smell plate tectonics, so much the better. I suspect this sort of intersection (more
like a traffic circle really) of perception and association that goes on normally in
Tom's mind is the source of, inter alia, his fascination with all types of people, his
amazingly eclectic tastes, and his ability to extract income with equal facility from
booklore, oil import statistics, and poker hands.
I have known Tom Whitmore, man and boy, subject and object, premise and
conclusion, fish (excuse me, Tom: "ghoti") and fowl, for eleven point something
years now. (Tom will appreciate that "point something" is a precise amount arrived
at using the magical "fudge factor" government agencies use to bend statistics to
their will.) In fact, our early acquaintance is documented in various obscure apas
and fanzines which do not bear on the discussion at hand (but do tie in neatly with
the occasion). In fact, Tom and I go back so far that I remember a late-teen life-crisis
discussion over whether he would become a career bookseller (it was obvious to me
that he would, but Tom lacked my Delphic certainty).
But enough facts. The point is, I have come, after all these vears oi Tom-
watching, to believe that he is best understood as the solution to a series of
equations, like the Schroedinger Wave Equations, but more conclusive (well, somewhat more conclusive: although Tom has been fixed physically in certain locations
at certain times, mentally he is often at one cross-mode or other, and there's no
telling where he'll turn up next).
Consider if you will, then, the case of vour fan guest of honor, a 30' 2-vear-old
Tom is the summation of a Northern California upbringing literally surrounded
bv books (which replace furniture in his parents' house) and mathematics; c\n
adolescence devoted to, apparently, committing most oi genre fiction to memory
(his emergence as a prodigy book collector occurred at this time); and a college
education during which his major field of studv was, at various times, mathematics, chemistry, biology, zoology, paleontology, and library science. (He can still
talk knowledgeablv about those fields ^\}d several others.. . ^o ahead, ask him.)
1. A "cross-modal transfer" is said to occur in the brain when stimuli received In one
sense translate to responses in another sense, or "mode". In an extreme case, it could be
"hearing colors". More commonly, it is what oo f;rs when you hear the shouted command
"Stop!" (aural stimuli) and instantly stop what von are doing (neuro-muscular response)
What Tom does lies somewhere between these two cases. —Ed.
IT'S ABOUT TIME