Where did the science fiction convention of using angle brackets to denote psychic communcation come from?
September 22, 2004 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Where did the science fiction convention of using like question marks to convey psychic communication come from? The first time I've seen it was in Animorphs; I'm reading Speaker for the Dead and it also uses it.

Damn broken Mefi HTML processor.

Angle brackets like questions marks, I should say. Apparently it would be sacrelige for me to be able to actually type them ;)
posted by abcde to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
Like quotation marks that is. A combination of technical and mental errors turned this into a holocaust of a post. I'd rather it just be deleted so I could start over ;)
posted by abcde at 11:08 PM on September 22, 2004

You mean that puh-sychic communication looks like < hi, bob!> instead of "Hi, Bob!"?

I don't think that's a convention. If there's a convention, it's just that psychic communication doesn't look like verbal communication -- it might be set off with italics, or by using < 's, or by quoting like this:br>
"Argh," Grignr said lustily as he plunged his barbarian thews into theb loated sac of primordial protoplasm and withdrew his prize, the many-faucetted scarlet emeraud! "Now the mighty gym is MINE!" he shouted to the three winds as he lifted the Eye of Argon over his head!

---But wait, Grignr! Emeralds are green!--- Sfixnornia sent psychically. "Shut yer piehole, wench!" Grignr shouted as he squoze her heaving bosoms.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 PM on September 22, 2004

And the pattern of using some manner of different typography goes back at least to Bester's The Demolished Man or The Stars My Destination, and maybe back as far as Van Vogt's Slan.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 PM on September 22, 2004

Also, double angle brackets - "guillemets" - are commonly used to denote conversation in French printed matter. Certain French authors also use a convention of unquoted conversation, each spoken element denoted by, I believe, an em dash.

I mention this because when I was learning to read French, I continually visualized all the conversations in books employing these conventions as occurring at the psychic level only, presumably from having read a great deal of SF as a young child.

<<you can't tell what I'm thinking, can you?>>
posted by mwhybark at 11:52 PM on September 22, 2004

Aren't angle brackets also used to show someone speaking in another language in comics?
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:37 AM on September 23, 2004

In some comics. Others use italics, or a different color outline on the foreign language.
posted by drezdn at 9:10 AM on September 23, 2004

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