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In Hedrigall's description of

the destruction of Armada

He makes two seemingly conflicting statements, he first says "Below That? Then the void." suggesting that the world is in fact flat and the scar cuts right through it. Then a page or so later he says "Past all the inner layers of the world." suggesting, to me at least, that it is actually a sphere. Earlier in the novel Uther Doul refers to the scar being "...near the edge of the world." when discussing the arrival of the Ghosthead with Bellis. I wondered then whether that referred to a flat world or a frontier of exploration.

So my question is do we have any canon, or any acknowledgement from the author, that definitively settles the shape of the world of Bas-Lag?

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  • reddit.com/r/AskScienceFiction/comments/39qi0q/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 6:56
  • A pancake is both flat and round. A desktop is flat and rectangular. A sphere is not flat but is round. So the difference to be discussed is between flat worlds with two dimensional surfaces and globular worlds that are spherical. I wish that people would stop writing about flat worlds and round worlds and start writing about flat worlds and spherical worlds. Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 18:45

1 Answer 1

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So far as I am aware, Mieville does not make a clear statement of whether Bas-Lag is flat or round, but he has left various somewhat contradictory clues scattered through "The Scar". The first comes in chapter 14, when the seasons in Bas-Lag are described:

The seasons were only points of view - matters of perspective. When it was winter in New Crobuzon, it was summer in Bered Kai Nev (the large continent to the east: CDS) though they shared the days and nights that grew long and short in antiphase. Dawn was dawn all across the world. In the eastern continent, summer days were short.

On a flat world, like Pratchett's Discworld for example, it would seem difficult to arrange seasons (although admittedly Pratchett managed it). Maybe it could be achieved by having the world tilted with respect to the orbital plane of the sun, but it would seem more natural for seasons to be a feature of a round world.

Later in chapter 30, Doul recounts how the Ghosthead came to Bas-Lag (quoted in the reddit thread that Valorum posted in comments):

The Ghosthead came here from the universe’s eastern rim. They passed the rock globes that circulate in the sky — another, more evanescent kind of world than ours on the infinite plateau - and came here, to a land so mild it must have seemed like balm: an endless, gentle midmorning.

This seems unambiguous. The Ghosthead passed "rock globes" (like the planets we know in our universe), which are stated to be different and "more evanescent" than Bas-Lag, which lies on an infinite plateau. Consequently it does seem that Bas-Lag is flat.

A final piece of evidence, albeit hearsay, comes from a question-and-answer session Mieville gave. From Steven Shapiro's blog:

When I saw Mieville give a reading from The Scar, during his book tour in support of that novel, somebody asked him about how the eponymous scar could be the edge of the world, since a globe doesn’t have an edge. Mieville replied something on the order of, I never said that the world of Bas Lag was round….

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  • Thanks, I'd missed the significance of that bit in chapter 14, that's what I get for reading too fast and too close to being asleep.
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 4:27
  • That last would appear to fall under acknowledgement from the author.
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 5:32
  • @Ash It's not completely definite though, I could imagine Mieville saying later "But I never said it was flat either" Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 8:23
  • So can I but it's a useful indication.
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 1:17

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