Space is not a blackness pricked. All the hidden places I know are matched dark purple. Purple flows under the keel and out to the coma. The stars shine for me like amethysts. I look from the ditches to the tower, across the sulphurous accumulations, and purple washes over all of it, sheen on the rock, film on metal, powder on the slope, a miasma above, all of it Tyrian purple, or purple of copper beech leaves. Was the filter fixed, or did I choose it? I find that I am slowed and even stopped in my mind by a streak or mark of purple, whether of a bunch of grapes in a fresco or as when wandering in a wood and you come to a grove and find the tree is purple and the grasses are purple. The halt is a violent thing to me. I am confused and expectant. Purple has become intimate to me, if I had a hand I would run it across the rock just for the pleasure of momentarily dispelling and pooling the purple, and I would find it hard to live a day bathed in another color, just as it would be hard for you to be without the color by which your day is lit. Perhaps it protects me from the dark, or is meant to draw my mind back to contemplation.

I could not understand the first two sentences. As a non-native speaker of English, the novel, especially this paragraph, proved to be quite baffling. The Chinese translation is lazy and unhelpful, and I can't find any useful commentary about the novel itself.

  • 2
    Hrm. The phrase "purple prose" comes to mind for some reason.
    – DavidW
    Apr 11, 2023 at 14:25
  • 2
    I’m voting to close this question because it doesn't seem to be about sci-fi or fantasy. It doesn't read like sci-fi (despite the single mention of "space"). J M Ledgard's novels aren't normally considered sci-fi. We have sites for Literature which might take the question, and 'english.se] might answer questions about the meaning. Apr 11, 2023 at 14:40
  • 2
    FWIW, I suspect that "blackness pricked" is referring to one of the old techniques for representing space, a backlit sheet of of black paper with pinholes for stars.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 11, 2023 at 14:41
  • 3
    @DJClayworth - Vespers appears on isfdb, and the story (from what I can find online) is about "a 28,000-year-old AI who meditates on the nature of loneliness". Firmly on-topic imho
    – fez
    Apr 11, 2023 at 14:45
  • 1
    As a native speaker of English, I find this baffling too. Unless I were being well paid to read this crap, I'd just and find something else to read.
    – user14111
    Apr 12, 2023 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


I suspect that "Space is not a blackness pricked" is a reference to an old method for creating a depiction of space involving a black sheet (often paper) with pinholes "pricked" in it that is backlit, with stars being represented by the light shining through the various holes.

As regards space not being truly black, but purple, I can think of two possible explanations, First, one the relative mysteries of outer space is that, despite trillions of stars, it appears black to us. This is in part due to the incredibly vastness of space and how little of it is actual matter to bounce light off of. Another is that the universe is both continuously expanding and finite, which means that we never quite see to the edge of it, which bears the light from billions of years ago, not yet having reached us. The A.I., able to gather up a bit more information than through paltry human senses, sees that faint light everywhere, thereby creating something that is not quite completely dark, analogous to human twilight.

The other possible explanation is blueshift. As objects move away from the viewer, their color will shift toward red due to the stretching of wavelengths of the bounced light. As objects move closer, they will blueshift due to compression. If the A.I. has been managing constant acceleration, it is beginning to approach objects much more rapidly than we are accustomed to thinking, which would indeed cause them to blueshift, moving them toward the violet end of the visible spectrum.

  • Note that the faint light from everywhere would be very red, not blue.
    – DavidW
    Apr 11, 2023 at 15:20
  • I think that the explanation for 'pricked', as well as the first explanation for 'purple', is quite reasonable. Does matched means 'the same' here? If so, this would contradict the second explanation for 'purple'.
    – polantina2
    Apr 12, 2023 at 12:39
  • "matched" as "the same" would indeed seem correct. I don't think it necessarily means the exact same so much as that everything is a purple hue.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 12, 2023 at 14:20

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