BLTC Press Titles

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

An episode of flatland

by Charles Howard Hinton



An objection is often made to the very word Flatland, and the term plane being—as if the existence of such a region and so circumstanced a people were impossible All such doubts find a ready solution in the Introduction to this narrative, in which is given a profound analysis of the structure of the people, the physical geography of the region, and a historical sketch of earlier events.

In dealing with the Episode which forms the subject of the story however, a different plan has been taken, a different method pursued.

The attempt has been made to let the physical differences and the extreme limitations of the people fall into the background, so that with the kind of perception which recognises a nature akin to his own, the reader may pass to a comprehension of the situation through the feelings, acts, ideas and struggles of the actors themselves.

It is enough for the reader to remember, that at the time the narrative opens the inhabitants of Astria— these flatlanders, these Unaeans—had arrived at a state of civilization which, though mechanically inferior to ours, yet in respect to the organization of the State, the conduct of business, the unequal distribution of wealth, and the charm of society, was not so very much unlike our own condition.


Placing some coins on the table one day, I amused myself by pushing them about, and it struck me that one might represent a planetary system of a certain sort by their means. This large one in the centre represents the sun, and the others its planets journeying round it.

And in this case considering the planets as inhabited worlds, confined in all their movements round their sun, to a slipping over the surface of the table, I saw that we must think of the beings that inhabit these worlds as standing out from the rims of them, not walking over the flat surface of them. Just as attraction in the case of our earth acts towards the centre, and the centre is inaccessible by reason of the solidity on which we stand, so the inhabitants of my coin worlds would have an attraction proceeding out in every direction along the surface of the table from the centre of the coin, and " up " would be to them out from the centre beyond the rim, while " down " would be towards the centre inwards from the rim.'J'And beings thus situated would be rightly described as standing on the rim.

And I saw that if I supposed the surface of the table to be perfectly smooth, so that there was no impediment to motion along it, then these beings would have no notion at all that there was a surface on which they slipped. Since the surface is always in contact with every moving thing, the notion of it would be absent from their consciousness. There would be no difference in respect to it. And I saw that here I had an image of a two dimensional world, a world in which the creatures of it would think that space itself was two dimensional.

We see that the discs which form these worlds must be supported somehow, but the beings of such a universe would not ask such a question—they would think that all the space there was lay in the extension of the movements they made, and would never think of any movement away from or into the table, being always in contact with it.

But it is very hard to realise how " out " from a disc, such as one of my coins, could be felt as " up " and inward towards the centre of it would be felt as " down." To ease my mind on this point I imagined myself standing on the equator of our earth, looking along it, and then a great steel blade coming down and cutting the earth right through along the equator circle, and then coming down again and cutting a slice parallel to the first. And then I imagined this slice of the earth and myself sticking against the steel blade, like the slice of a pea against a knife blade. In this way I gained the feeling of a being on a disc, with an "up and down," " away from and to " the centre of the disc. 5

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