All posts tagged senses

Credit Filipe-Simões

Credit Filipe-Simões

Synesthesia of the Day – Elgin’s Synesthesia

Elgin, like the other inhabitants of Green Comet, is a synesthete. I refer to that fact a few times during the novel, and in the sequel, Parasite Puppeteers. I don’t go into a lot of detail about the types of synesthesia the individual characters have, although I do imply that they each have at least two types. Given the rudimentary stage synesthesia research is at now, and even more so when I was writing it, I didn’t think it was wise to nail it down too precisely in the story. And given that the characters have multiple strong synesthesias, I doubt that the interactions and synergies among them would lend themselves to the tentative, simplistic classifications we’re developing now. However, given all that, I think I should offer my idea, the thing I’m thinking of when I imagine Elgin’s synesthetic perceptions.

Elgin’s most obvious synesthetic trait is the way he feels in his body when he sees an example of good engineering or construction. For instance, when Minder takes him out and he sees the new corridors and how well they’re made, he has the sensation of all his bones being properly aligned in his body. A very comforting sense of rightness. I haven’t found one type of synesthesia that fits this perfectly, but it is somewhere in the vision to touch, proprioception and kinetics area. He feels what he sees on many levels: simple touch, deeper orientation and subtle movement.

This goes beyond a simple integration of physical sensations. When he looks at an engineering paper and immediately knows if it’s right, the role of vision is taken by concepts and ideas. Inner visions. But the principle is the same. What he “sees” is experienced as “feeling.” The same applies to more general situations. As long as he has enough data, enough information, he can tell if something is right. Not in any moralistic sense of right or wrong, just whether it’s right. For instance, when Frances and Buzzard explain to him how Green Comet is in danger from the Visitor, he instantly knows that they’re right, because it feels right.

So, for lack of anything better, let’s call Elgin’s synesthesia Seeing-Feeling Synesthesia. This web page doesn’t address it perfectly, but it provides some good food for thought. And here’s a pretty good site for exploring the types of synesthesia.


Credit Michael Maggs - CC-BY-SA

Credit Michael Maggs – CC-BY-SA

Synesthesia of the Day – Orgasm – Color

Since synesthesia (my first post on synesthesia) is a major element in the Green Comet series of novels, I thought it would be a good idea to write a series of posts about synesthesia. What better way to start than with orgasm – color synesthesia? Color because it is the best known and probably most common synesthetic effect, and orgasm because, well, orgasm.

Where to start was actually a problem, and not because there is a lack of choice. When I went looking for a definitive list of the types of synesthesia, I couldn’t find one. I found references with a few examples, and others with graphs and tables, but none with a straightforward, well organized list. Another problem was the lack of standardized naming. For instance, the first example of synesthesia that most people learn about is where the letters of the alphabet have their own distinctive colors. So, that would be letter – color synesthesia, right? Well, it turns out that numbers have their own colors, too. So now it’s grapheme – color. And combinations of letters or numbers have theirs. And words. And parts of words. And the sounds of parts of words. Once we begin finding them, we don’t seem to be able to stop. It reminds me of the fundamental particle problem, where every time theory predicted one, it was only a matter of time before experiment confirmed it. That was a burgeoning mess until the quark model simplified it by making all the particles just combinations of a few quarks. Synesthesia is at that point now. Every time we think of a new possible form of it, someone finds it. Synesthesia needs its quark model, to tame this mad proliferation. I won’t be presenting that theory. I’m not that smart. So for this series of blogs I’ll be picking from the large, and growing, list of types of synesthesia that I have been able to compile. Beginning with orgasm – color.

The descriptions of the colors experienced leading up to and during orgasm seem like a cliche. Like the scenes of bursting fireworks that the family-oriented movie will cut to at the crucial moment. It turns out that the euphemism probably has a basis in fact. “… colours of increasing intensity.” Walls bursting with, “ring-like structures … in bluish-violet tones.” So it seems that a lot of what we assumed were just metaphors for an indescribable experience are, in some cases at least, descriptions of real sensations.

More women than men experience synesthesia. The ratio persists for experiencing orgasm – color synesthesia.