Saved by Demons

The short story “any major dude” by Paul Di Filippo plays with the term “Maxwell’s Demons” and connotations associated with the words.  The story plays on both scientific and religious references similar to demon-creator, James Clerk Maxwell, and it institutes the antagonist, Holt, as God ruling over supernatural-acting, scientific “demons” in the symbolic afterlife of Maxwell’s Land.

Di Filippo’s “any major dude” addresses both the religious and scientific aspects of Maxwell’s Demons following the original James Maxwell’s lead.  According to author Matthew Stanley, the scientist Maxwell, creator of Maxwell’s Demon, describes the soul’s action and the Maxwell’s Demon’s concept like “when a pointsman shunts a train it is the rails that bear the thrust” (468).  In Maxwell’s mind, the soul and Maxwell’s Demon (interestingly, words associated with afterlife) operate alike.  Science and religion further unite within the name Maxwell’s Demon.  The term is scientific, but it exploits a religious word.  Similarly, the short story takes Holt’s demons in Maxwell’s Land and plays with both scientific and religious meanings.  The piece establishes Holt as God over the demons and makes Maxwell’s Land like Heaven having only an entrance with no escape.  These demons practically run the country, and many people rush to transfer their citizenship, symbolic of people anxious to get to Heaven.

Religion is further exemplified through the supernaturally powerful demons, which appear eternal.  Guns and combustion engines fail within a certain distance of demon presence (Di Filippo 138).  Holt mentions that when the field enters Europe, “‘they’ll have no choice but to use my demons,’” a thought that alludes to the religious belief of demon-possession (138).  Moreover, demons are typically associated with chaos.  According to Troy Shinbrot and Fernando J. Muzzio of the Department of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering at Rutgers University, the actual Maxwell’s Demon challenges the second law of thermodynamics by implying that “heat could conceivably be transferred from one chamber to its neighbour without the expenditure of energy” (252).  This idea opposes a scientific law, which adheres to order.  Anti-entropy, the factor by which Holt’s demons operate, is the opposite of order; yet, the demons’ organizing creates the order (Di Filippo 138).  This oxymoronic situation seems, to sound cliché, demonic.  Furthermore, the story hints that these “demons” are eternal: “Powered by demons, [the car] needed no refueling” (134).  Technology normally wears out and breaks, though not the demons.  These “demons” self-replicate, thus, having eternal qualities (131).

Further religious references are made when Di Filippo’s “any major dude” describes Holt as both Savior and a prophet.  The citizens of Maxwell’s Land worship him, as Taylor’s tour guide, Azzedine, says, “‘Someday the whole world will acknowledge him as its savior, as we here do now’” (135).  Azzedine’s religious roots are displayed when he further says “‘there is no God but Allah, Holt is his prophet’” (135).  On the way to see Holt, Azzedine and Taylor stay at house whose owner “‘claims that wherever Holt has rested becomes a haram, a holy place’” (136).  Holt not only has followers like any other savior, but his omnipotence presents itself in that he retains his demons in Maxwell’s Land.  He refuses to invade countries but expands where invited (122).  Holt’s embrace of his power and godlike identity is further exemplified when he calls the demons “‘my demons’” (138, emphasis added).  He stands as the leader of a blissful technological afterlife.

The theme of the afterlife is irrevocably attached to the idea of religion and corresponds to “Maxwell’s Land” in the story.  Only a one-way pass is permitted to Maxwell’s Land; round trips are forbidden.  Eternal residence is permanent; once people enter the afterlife, they cannot abscond.  Likewise, Taylor cannot leave Maxwell’s Land.  At the port, Taylor’s passport is confiscated, and he “permanently [renounces his] citizenship in the land wherein [he is] currently enfranchised” (127).  Additionally reminiscent of the afterlife, money is not needed in Maxwell’s Land.  People “give freely of their products and labor if asked, knowing they may take freely in return” (132).  For example, Azzedine gives Taylor tea taken from a street vendor.  The narrator describes Maxwell’s Land as a blissful place, evoking thoughts of a heavenly afterlife.

Paul Di Filippo’s “any major dude” offers many religious parallels.  The story plays with scientific facts in a religious fashion much like the actual James Maxwell used a train metaphor for both religious and scientific situations.  Holt represents God, the demons display supernatural qualities, and Maxwell’s Land illustrates Heaven.  While science and religion often oppose one another, Di Filippo’s story merges them.



Works Cited

Di Filippo, Paul.  “any major dude.”  babylon sisters and other posthumans.  Canton, OH: Prime   Books, Inc.  2002.  117-139.  Print.

Shinbrot, Troy, and Fernando J. Muzzio.  “Noise to Order.”  Nature 410.6825 (8 Mar. 2001):        251-58.  ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source; ProQuest Research Library.  Web.  6 Dec. 2011.

Stanley, Matthew.  “The Pointsman: Maxwell’s Demon, Victorian Free Will, and the Boundaries of Science.”  Journal of the History of Ideas 69.3 (Jul 2008): 467-91.  ProQuest Research Library.  Web.  6 Dec. 2011.


About Allison L. Goodman

I am a stay-at-home wife and mother. I fill my days making taking care of my daughter, encouraging others, cooking meals for my family, managing my resources through DIY projects, and writing.
This entry was posted in Criticism, Literature, Short Story and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Saved by Demons

  1. Great write up. I’ll be reposting this on my blog cctv security camera systems, with credits to you of course. Even though it’s about cctv security camera systems, I think my readers will find it interesting.


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