The text reproduced below was written by the count Florian von Banier, probably in 1795 also, or 1658. This surprising little text has a very modernistic tone, which further confuses the dating of von Banier's works (see footnote to my Florian von Banier node). "The Commissioner of Concepts" has been called "the first work of science fiction". It was never published by von Banier himself, nor in his lifetime, only published posthumously as part of the Collected Papers found on him at the time of his death. The attribution of this collection is somewhat circumspect, the reader may wish to know. The text is reproduced in its entirety below and the translation from the original German is mine.
The Commissioner of Concepts
When the Ruler of Organisms appointed Monsieur Destiny to the position of the Commissioner of Concepts, all the organisms under his rule became very afraid. You see, Monsieur Destiny received this appointment only because he had managed to win the loving heart of the Ruler of Organism’s eldest and most beautiful daughter, Lebussia. What the Ruler of Organisms did not know was that besides Lebussia Monsieur Destiny was also married to the daughters of four other important dignitaries. These dignitaries were appointees from the industries of Bread, Fasteners, Oxygen, and Retardation, listed here in order respective of their daughters’ marriage to the new Commisioner. Monsieur Destiny kept all four of his previous marriages a secret by locking his wives in a box in the basement of his cellar where the only persons allowed entry were himself and his handsome servant, Thomas the Loyal. Not even Lebussia was allowed entrance to the basement of the cellar though she certainly had access to the cellar as well as the cellar’s secret vault, which was of course not as secret as the cellar’s basement which was hidden behind a pile of bread, fasteners, oxygen, and stunted tomato vines. Nobody knew about these four previous marriages. Even the fathers of the beautiful brides had forgotten about their daughters, even though they had participated with great elation in the engagement and wedding ceremonies.
Still, everyone cast glances of suspicion at Monsieur Destiny. In his former appointment as the Vessel of Truth he had told a great number of lies and had fooled practically nobody, though he had successfully altered the law on a few occasions without anyone suspecting misaligned intentions.
Now, as the Commissioner of Concepts, this man could surely do great harm to anyone he despised but had hitherto been unable to disrepute. The organisms all across the Land became very afraid. (Except of course for the Giraffes, the Elephants, and the Cicadas for these organisms were exempt from the laws of the Land and had declared themselves sovereign societies politically dictated by entities not under the jurisdiction of the Ruler of Organisms. This declaration was contested neither by the Ruler of Organisms nor by his armies, for nobody wanted to argue with the Giraffes or the Elephants, skillful arguers as they are. And the Cicadas, being such good friends with the Elephants, were also feared by all others.)
In the first years of the appointment, the Commissioner appeared to carry out his job according to everyone’s highest expectations. The Commissioner exercised a fair hand in considering all Applications for New Concepts as well as Applications for New Representations of Old Concepts. All the publishers across the Land were growing hopeful that, under the influence of the new Commissioner, their industry would soon return to its former glory as it had experienced in previous centuries. All of this fairness was, however, only a ruse on the part of the Commissioner. Both the Commissioner and Thomas the Loyal knew this, though everyone else had by now almost completely abandoned their suspicions. More and more power was granted to the appointment of the Commissioner and his re-elections were, in the most recent years, unanimous affirmations of his fairness and skill as a Commissioner of Concepts. Finally, the day came when it was decided that the appointment of the Commissioner was also to hold jurisdiction over the Office of the Archives. Nearly everyone was in favor of this idea. The only dissenting party was the League of Women Writers. They recognized the danger inherent in transferring the Office of the Archives away from their control and towards that of what was an essentially phallocentric office of the Commisioner. (It was around this time that the League of Women Writers began to hold the now-often-discussed secret meetings every week at Rue de Montaigne number 61, in the famous salon of Ivana Trotsky.) Unfortunately, nobody listened to the League of Women Writers and control of the Office of the Archives was soon given over to the Commissioner’s armies of editors, copyists, printers, distributors, siloists, and soldiers.
It was not more than one week after the Office of the Archives was under the Commissioner’s control that certain groups became suspicious. The first act that encouraged a watchful eye was a book-burning. The Commisioner decreed that all archives categorized under “History” and published by writers of “Minor Literature” between the years “n and n+32” were to be burned. The books were burned amidst a minor protest, but as the protest mostly issued from the minority group of Minor Literarians nobody paid much attention. Little coverage of the protest was given on the Evening Radio Report and the book-burning was widely applauded as a Success. The Ruler of Organisms himself was quoted on the Evening Radio Report as saying: “Today’s book-burning was exemplary of efficiency under my rule and the Commissioner’s Arsonists displayed great skill. As organisms all across the Land can observe for themselves, not a single ash escaped from the burning silos and our air is no less the purer for this occurrence of combustion. In addition, the Governor of the Office of the Archives has reported to me that he concurs fully with the Commissioner’s decision to burn these books and that, in addition, to freeing the Archive from cluttering Concepts, the Archive Silos are now at an optimum state of capacity.” What the Ruler of Organisms did not know, and neither did anyone else at that time, was that the Governor of the Office of the Archives was the same person as the Commissioner of Concepts. In other words, all of the power required to pronounce a book-burning (and many other events) was invested solely in the person of the Commissioner.
The League of Women Writers knew this fact and were unanimously concerned. They wrote secret pamphlets, printed by secret presses that were unlisted in the Official Catalog of the Office of the Archives, and distributed these pamphlets to various underground and revolution groups including the Chinese Socialist Party, the Department for Demonomological Discourse, the Free Love Reptiles, the Organization of Anarchist Insects, and the Canine and Feline Philokryphal Social. The Commissioner’s anti-underground spies did not discover these pamphlets, but his anti-anti-anti-underground spies gained knowledge of their existence, though they were unable to locate any copies or discover their source or any owners. The Commissioner’s inability to discern this information was due to the hard work and diligence of all the underground groups involved as well as to the ingenious cryptographical technology developed by the anti-anti-anti-anti-underground league. In fact, this technology was so powerful, that the League of Women Writers (working in concert with the anti-anti-anti-anti-underground scientists) was later able to circulate the pamphlets in secretly-encoded articles printed in various newspapers sanctioned by the Commissioner of Concepts himself.
Eventually everyone’s worst fears came to fruition: the Commissioner stopped practicing fairness in his consideration of the Applications for New Concepts. Whereas formerly he would grant New Concepts to any applicant that was rightfully worthy, he now began rejecting all applicants except for his close friends and family, and eventually the rejection rate of his applications grew to over 99%. In fact, the only applications that were approved were those submitted by the Commissioner himself. All the greatest thinkers in the Land came to the Commissioner with Applications for New Concepts. Not just the greatest artists, writers, dancers, and filmmakers, but also the greatest and most skillful philosophers, reifyers, liars, and paradoxicalists came armed with well-written and convincing Applications. Unfortunately, the Commissioner rejected each and every one of them. In his Official Statements of Rejection he often cited “unoriginality” as the reason for rejection.
It was soon discovered that the Commissioner was himself re-submitting these Applications under his own name and approving them so that all New Concepts were under his attribution and ownership. The greatest thinkers were outraged! How could this be? Their own Concepts, so carefully developed and articulated, were commissioned not to them but to the Commissioner of Concepts. The Office of the Archives contained volumes and volumes of works signed by the Commissioner, but authored, of course, by the greatest thinkers of the Land. And there was nothing that they could do, because the law itself was intrinsically bound to the Office of the Archives like a Siamese-twin-sister. Not only did they law always and constantly refer to the apocryphal volumes contained in the Office of the Archives, and not only were the lawbooks themselves verified by and stored in the Office of the Archives’ topmost silos, but it was soon discovered that the law itself deemed that Indubitable Truth could be found only in the Archive silos governed by the Office of the Archives. (The League of Women Voters, we should note, had refused to endorse this amendment to the law which was originally presented before the Tribunal by none other than the former Vessel of Truth himself, i.e. the current Commissioner of Concepts, Governor of the Office of Archives, President of the Printers’ Association, 38th Boardmember of the Tribunal, Great Dignitary of the Publishing, Paper, Foresting, Ink, Typography, Imprint, Hypertext, Computing, Digital Information, Categoriztion, etc. Industires, and five-wived man whose birthname is, as we know, “Monsieur Destiny”.) All litigants against the Commisioner’s Official Statements of Rejection of an Application for a New Concept were compelled to drop their cases and even if they did not drop their cases, there was nothing anybody could do because the claim of the law was that potential evidence could be actuated and admitted to the Tribunal only if it had passed through the Office of the Archives (because something was evidence only if it were deemed Indubitably True). In other words, the Commissioner had found a way to invest all the power contained in the law under his office. There were, of course, practical mechanisms for divesting him of this power and gaining the Approval of a New Concept. Still, these cases were rare. The Tribunal was useless and there was only one person other than the Commissioner who could grant a New Concept and this woman herself was growing old and apathetic. Her position was a loophole in the law and when she died there would be no replacement.
When the Ruler of Organisms was approached by a secret agent from the League of Women Writers, he refused to believe her as soon as the Commissioner appeared in his office with the beautiful Lebussia flanking her husband with the full glory of her beautiful naked body. The Ruler of Organisms was pleased at the flowering splendor of his daughter’s nakedness and concluded that any husband that encouraged the retention of such beauty in his wife was of course a fair man and any person bringing a charge against him was of course either unfair or confused. The secret agent was not punished, but only sent away from the Ruler of Organism’s office. Luckily (for the League of Women Writers), the Commissioner’s spies were not able to trail the secret agent back to Rue de Montaigne number 61. This was because the secret agent took all sorts of precautions against this including a haircut, a skin-tone surgery, a gender-change operation, an organism-morphing, a genetic defect, a suicide, a subsequent resurrection and of course a religious rebirth in a foreign Land. When the secret agent returned to Ivana Trotsky’s famous salon five months later, everyone in the League of Women Writers was disappointed to learn of her failure and the Ruler of Organism’s lack of sympathy towards their cause. It was decided immediately that they must convene and invent a plan that would divest the Commisioner of Concepts from his power. Luckily, they were already convened, and so they only needed to follow through on the second of their two decisions: to invent a plan that would divest the Commissioner of Concepts from his power.
Unfortunately nobody had any ideas.
And this continued for months. In the meantime, the organisms were growing weary, and the Land was starving for fairness. Great thinkers were invited to the convention of the League of Women Writers to present their ideas for the divestiture of power. Unfortunately, the League could always find some inconsistency in the plans presented and it was always unanimously agreed in the end that the plan would not work. They considered methods of democracy, anarchistic revolution, technological innovation, digital hacking, scandal, love, lust, violence or murder, Tribunal appeal, textual reproduction, political reproduction, organic cloning, genetic alteration, historical recreation, and even abandonment of the Concept of the Archive. All methods were rejected in the end because nobody could remain convinced of their utility. The League of Women Writers was growing jaded. Then one day, a young boy in the back raised his hand and asked if he may be allowed to present his thoughts concerning the divestiture of the power of the Commissioner of Concepts. This was highly unorthodox. You see, the boy was not a Woman nor was he an invited great thinker from some other organization or independent faction. The boy was, in fact, present at the meeting only because he was the son of the highly recognized President of the League of Women Writers whose name was Archive Practice. Archive Practice’s son, whose name was Generic Practice, was smallish in stature. He was also rather effeminate in nature due to the untimely death of his father, whose name had been Sexual Praxis, and his subsequent upbringing in a household of lesbian women (including his mother who was now sleeping with the famous artist Gertrude Stein). In fact he was raised as if he himself were a lesbian woman, for that is the future his mother wished for him, but when he broke off from these practices at the age of twelve, everyone including his mother Archive Practice admitted that it was right for him to choose his own future. Still, the boy had always retained a bit of the Woman in him and you would not know that he was a 23-year-old boy instead of a girl if it were not for his exaggeratedly deep voice and his massive adam’s apple.
After much debate it was decided that Generic Practice should present his plan to the League of Women Writers (and the day’s guest great thinkers who included the brilliant copyist Rudolf Jörowitsch, the brilliant typographist Garamond Monotype, the brilliant giraffe printer Tořmund, and the brilliant cryptographer scientist ant Gaáålofy Gluía). The presentation was agreed to begin after the taking of tea and heroin. Which it did. And Generic Practice’s plan was absolutely brilliant. It was quite simple in fact and everyone laughed at themselves for not having thought of it earlier. He was succinct in his presentation and we are lucky that the current Historical Archive has imprinted a representation of it. Here is Generic Practice’s presentation in its entirety:
Generic Practice: “What is the Commissioner insofar as he is powerful to divest other organisms of power? The Commissioner is an apocryphist.”
Singysyllabicalla Squid: “What is that?”
Generic Practice: ”The Commissioner is a producer of falsely-attributed texts. The falsity of this attribution does not, of course, reside in the law, but in our own closely-held beliefs regarding the practices of authorship, writing, and attribution. Insofar as the law is concerned, the Commissioner is closer to prophet than he is to gramokryphist, signokryphist, or whatever you wish to call what it is that he does. It is us that must rewrite the law in order to demonstrate the irremonstrability of our own beliefs, which are beliefs, I believe and we believe, shared also by members of the Tribunal. In a sense, we must play the Commissioner at his own game of chess. We must write apocryphal texts only so that other apocrypha can be recognized as that. We must produce a text that allows a certain interpretation of other texts. That is the only way that we can regain the Concepts we have authored. This hits at the Commissioner’s very weakness. He is weak in his philoapocryphism or his apocryphomania, because his texts are not only apocryphal but they are autoapocryphal. That is, his texts are not only always falsely attributed, but they are also always falsely attributed to the Commissioner himself. Here is his weakness. We can, I believe, invade this egoapocryphalism and produce within it a certain form of textual schizophrenia. That is, we can produce within the texts attributed to the Commissioner a schizophrenic self-referentiality. How is this to be done? Quite simply. If the Commissioner attributes to himself certain New Concepts including Signatory Instability, Retrofactual Historicality, and most especially the Concept I am presenting here under the name of Autoapocryphy, we can bring these New Concepts before the Tribunal (according to the law) in a case that will demonstrate exactly the way in which the Commissioner has invested himself with the power to sign his own name to the New Concepts of others. We will finally recover the powers of speech and metaphor that our vital to all organisms in the Land.”
Archive Practice: “And my son, how does Autoapocryphy demonstrate that the Commissioner’s texts are apocrypha?”
Generic Practice: “Mother, you taught me the answer to this question when I was only a small child. If a person can always already sign their own name beneath any text, then if they have done this only once, they have done this forever. If a person only once falsely signs their own name and does this with the power to always already have done it, then they have always already falsely signed their own name. Within the Concept of the Signature is an agreement between Signer and Reader that the Signature is authentic and a guarantee of exactly that which the Signer has signed themselves to. Any ordinary person can break this agreement and not risk the authenticity of their other signature-events. However, if a person breaks this agreement and does so because they have always had the power to do this in secret, this power originating from a certain ability to sign a name without that name indicating or pointing towards any of the normal rules of authorship that we normally believe in, then they have always done this in secret. They have then always signed in secret. They have always signed under an authoritarian rule, an ultimate tyranny in which the signature is answerable to nobody but the Signer. Of course, a Signature is always answerable to at least two persons: the Signer and the Reader. The very fact that the Commissioner has invested himself with the power to sign his name beneath any texts and all texts means that any text to which he has signed his name is not his. If we can bring this concept of Autoapocryphy before the Tribunal they will not only see that the Commissioner does not truly own any of our New Concepts, but he will also be publicly discredited and surely divested of his power by a vote of 381 to 1. The dissenting vote will be, of course, the Commissioner’s own vote, if he is so brave as to cast a vote rather than leave our Land in permanent exile.”
Archive Practice: “But how shall we ever encourage the Commissioner to submit an Application for the Concept of Apocryphy? He will surely see through your plan. We can present to him a brilliant Application for a New Concept, but surely he will issue a Rejection and not re-submit this text under his own name.”
Generic Practice: “Of course he would recognize the danger in such a concept. He is an intelligent man. That is why we are fortunate to have in our presence today the esteemed typographer Garamond Monotype, the brilliant copyist Rudolf Jörowitsch, and the esteemed scientist ant Gaáålofy Gluía. Mr. Jörowtisch, Mr. Monotype and Gaáålofy Gluía, can you not work together to develop a dynamic typeface that will, even after copied and re-copied by the Commissioner’s numerous scribe-machines, morph itself to a different shape. Can we not simply fool the Commissioner by developing a dynamic typeface that contains within it a cryptography? Namely, can we not write one text, but conceal those graphs with another text that appears to say something completely different? Then, at the essential moment, a switch will be flipped, and the original graphs will reveal themselves in the place of the old graphs, and the Commissioner will have found that he has signed his own name to the New Concept of Autoapocryphy. He will have signed his own name to the unsigning of his name. He will have signed the impossibility of his own signing. In other words, we will have, through his own chess game of apocryphy, demonstrated his essential inability to write. As you all know, if one cannot write, then one is nothing. Without a name, without a place in discourse, we are empty shells, sounding out hollow sounds before a void.”
Mr. Jörowtisch, Mr. Monotype, and Gaáålofy Gluía: “We can develop this technology and in fact our corporations are already working on such a project. We have received a report this morning that the technology will have already been developed by earlier this afternoon.”
Gaáålofy Gluía’s ant telephone rang at that moment and he was able to confirm the existence of this new technology, developed by the three corporations. The Application for the New Concept of Apocryphy was written by Generic Practice and then it was written over with an excellently drafted Application for the New Concept of Genetic Power Generation Using Distributed Networks written by Mary Longuella, Vice President of the League of Women Writers. The Application was submitted to the Commisioner of Concepts. It was duly rejected and simultaneously re-submitted bearing the Commissioner’s signature. The latter Application was Approved and the Commissioner’s copy-machines made all the requisite copies. The text was submitted to and printed in the appropriate academic journals, newspapers, and was sent to the Archive Silos for the purpose of archiving. The League of Women Writers came out of hiding at Rue de Montaigne number 61 and brought a case before the Tribunal. The Tribunal agreed to hear their case. Archive Practice and her son, Generic Practice, presented the case for the League of Women Writers. They called as evidence the recently-written “Application for the New Concept of Genetic Power Generation Using Distributed Networks”. There was a brief commotion as the Tribunal could not understand how this text could relate to charges so serious as those being presented by the Practices (everyone on the Tribunal had read this text, even those members of the Tribunal that were blind). The text was retrieved from the Archive Silos and at the most opportune moment the flip was switched.
The graphical structures of the text immediately morphed according to the planned technology. The text was now titled the “Application for the New Concept of Apocryphy” and presented, in beautiful tropes and figures, the concept of Apocryphy and its relations to other concepts such as History, the Signature, Time, and Authorship. This was now the text that everyone had read and remembered reading. The graphical structures on the page not only changed, but there also occurred a change in the collective memory of all those who had previously read the graph and signature written under this title. The text was instantly dislocated from the journals on the subjects of distributed networking and genetics and power generation. The text was also dislocated from the desks in the Archive Silos of the workers and machines dealing with those subjects. In fact, the text itself disappeared from the bag of the courier who was delivering it and when she appeared before the Tribunal with an empty bag she was laughed at and sent back to the Archive Silos to retrieve the “Application for the New Concept of Apocryphy”. The text could not be found. The Tribunal laughed at first, but then grew furious. Nobody could remember ever having read a text by that name. Everyone at the Office of the Archives was interviewed and none of them could remember this text either. A survey of the Archive of Archives was taken and it was therein proven that there was no such text nor had there ever been any such text by this title or any other sufficiently similar title. The Practices despaired. Rightly so. The Tribunal sentenced them to exile in a foreign Land. The Land continued to live under the power of the Commissioner and his autoapocrphyal seduction.
Many years later, Generic Practice disguised himself as a hollow sound and returned to his Land. He slipped into the Archive Silos convinced that the text would be found. He searched for years, but found no text. He was now almost dying of old age. He had searched almost all of the Archive Silos. Finally, near the end of his days, he came to the Department of Rejected Applications that weren’t Re-Submitted with the Commissioner’s own Signature (the Unapocryphated Applications Department, as the workers named it). In a pile bearing the number of the year of his own birth added to the number twenty-three, he found a single application. It was titled, “Application for the New Concept of Apocryphy”. Flashing. He felt total terror. Flashing. Not only had the graphical structure of the typography changed, but also any practical relationships these graphical structures bore to any other structures. The Tribunal could not remember the text because they had never read it. What they had read was erased, in much the same way that he had hoped to erase the Commissioner’s signature and his ability to sign at all. In fact, he could not remember ever having read this text at any time other than the time of its authoring. The text did not appear in the scholarly journals. It was not copied by any scribes or distributed to any academics. It was never cataloged by the Office of the Archives. The text simply was not. It had appeared only before the Commissioner’s hand and the Commissioner had duly rejected it.
The Unapocryphated Applications Department was in the lowest floor of the Archive Silos. Generic Practice now heard sounds coming through the walls on the far side of the room. He pushed aside a number of crates of boxes of packages of files of recorded texts. He discovered a small hole in the wall, four feet in diamater. He crawled through the hole. He crawled towards a distant light: a child striving to the birthlight. He crawled for six hours. Finally, he found himself in the Commisioner’s cellar’s basement where the Commissioner’s first four wives had lived their entire adult years. The four wives, today, were no longer locked in their boxes. Two of them were lying dead and headless in a pile of organisms in a shadowy corner. The other two were nearly dying. And they waited patiently at the end of a long line of organisms. At the front of the line, near a series of assorted chopping blocks, stood Thomas the Loyal with a great big axe in his hand. He grinned widely as he chopped off the heads of the various organisms in the line. “So this is what Thomas the Loyal has been doing all these years,” thought Generic Practice as he shuffled slowly towards the end of the line. (Generic Practice and Thomas the Loyal had been best friends and lovers as children.) Generic Practice now stood at the end of the line. He heard the shrills of mice, the squeals of pigs, the barks of dogs, the silence of cockroaches, the roars of lions, the muffled mumbles of muzzled mongooses and mononuclei. Soon Generic was near the middle of the line. He waited in the line: still. He began writing a letter to his dead sister. Before he was finished writing he found himself at the front of the line. He kneeled and bent over.