Reading through my first Pynchon work thus far has been a unique experience to say the least. Many of the references and examples he draws upon walk the fine line between historical fact and fiction. One particular passage about the company Darklinear and their dark fiber market struck me as one of these pseudofiction references.
Who in their right mind, you wonder, would go into fiber these days, given the huge decline in new installation since last year? Well, back during the tech bubble, it seems so much cabling was put in that now miles of existing fiber are just sitting there what they call “dark,” and the result is that outfits like Darklinear have come swooping down on the carcass of the business, scouting out overinstalled, unused fiber in otherwise “lit” buildings, mapping it, helping clients put together customized private networks.
-Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon, pg. 145
However bizarre it may seem, Pynchon’s reference to dark fiber networks is indeed factual. A quick Google search yields immediate results for companies that today peddle these dark fiber networks as private and secure ways to transfer data. While they are exclusively affordable to only the wealthiest of society, they do offer an attractive option for those who wish to keep their communication from prying eyes. This specific example hits upon Pynchon’s uncanny ability to make references that are partly anachronistic while still living within the narrative he has created. The concept of dark fiber can almost live simultaneously in between decades; it has roots in the late 90s but continues to be a purchasable resource in 2015. While seeming nearly too advanced for its time in the text, I was reluctant to believe that it was still relevant today.
Although Darklinear Solutions was passed by rather quickly in Chapter 14, it remains a telling example of the decentralization of networks that is discussed by Galloway. Fiber was originally laid, as Maxine points out, during the tech boom of the late 90s. No doubt, this would have been as part of a “decentralized” network, connecting multiple central hubs in communication across a city or two. Now, as private owners begin to purchase dark fiber from Darklinear, a new “distributed” network evolves, in the sense that the dark fibers become lit with autonomous users, no longer interested in reporting back to any central hub(s).
I bring up this lengthy interpretation to highlight all of the behind the scenes type of references that Pynchon integrates into a seemingly innocuous part of the narrative. His way of writing itself hints to a DeepArcher and a deep web which is only accessed by those who are guided to it explicitly. Without further research, it is easy to gloss over by a name or location that Pynchon drops midsentence. But, more often than not, he purposefully uses the word or phrase as well as its latent qualities (release date, theme, infamy, etc.) to mesh with the situation at hand: expanding it either factually or emotionally. Constructing a metaphor out of Bleeding Edge, one could say that the text itself acts as the Internet as most know it. Pynchon functions as DeepArcher, sending readers down rabbit holes at every turn, permitting them access to whatever information lies “below”. In this extended metaphor, Pynchon’s allusions and tongue-in-cheek quips act like a deep web in relation to the text.
While this may or may not be the last reference to Darklinear, I do not foresee an end to the brilliant ways in which Pynchon routinely understates his point and hands responsibility over to the reader. There are moments in which it seems like a sort of test, assaying whether or not the reader is truly following Pynchon’s nearly manic train of thought.