Berenice, Ulalume, and Helen, Three Weird Sister Robots with Poe Inspired Names in Rudy Rucker’s Ware Tetralogy

I am reading The Ware Tetralogy  by Rudy Rucker, and I am in the second of four books, Wetware, and there is a robot named Berenice, which is a name from a story by Edgar Allan Poe. I wonder if that is a reference to the story, which is one of my favorites, especially the beginning four paragraphs, that read like a prose poem; but I don’t have to wait long to find that Berenice is definitely an allusion to the heroine of Poe’s story:

Berenice had learned her English from the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and she had a rhythmic, overwrought way of speaking. On the job, where hardcopy now-do-this instructions were of essence, boppers used zeroes-and-ones machine language supplemented by a high-speed metalanguage of glyphs and macros. But the boppers‟ “personal” exchanges were still handled in the ancient and highly evolved human code system of English. Only human languages enabled them to express the nuanced distinctions between self and other which are so important to sentient beings. Berenice‟s use of Poe‟s language style was not so very odd. It was customary for groupings of petaflop boppers to base their language behavior on a database developed from some one particular human source. Where Berenice and the pink-tank sisters talked like Poe‟s books; Emul and Oozer had adapted their speech patterns from the innovative sprung rhythms of Jack Kerouac‟s eternal mind transcripts: books like Desolation Angels, Book of Dreams, Visions of Cody, and Big Sur.

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So, anyway, there are two other robots that work in the pink-tanks growing human organs, and in a way they are also compared to the weird sisters in Macbeth, the witches. But the names, and their speech patterns, are %100 Edgar Allan Poe. The names of the other female robots are Ulalume and Helen. Helen is a common name in poetry, for instance, Helen of Troy, who is also in Faust by Goethe. Since we are dealing with Poe, his poem, To Helen, is implied. I have excerpts from all three of these references, and links to the complete poem or story. There is also a link to The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker.


Dicebant mihi sodales, si sepulchrum amicae visitarem, curas
meas aliquantulum forelevatas.

—Ebn Zaiat.

(*1) For as Jove, during the winter season, gives twice seven days of warmth, men have called this element and temperate time the nurse of the beautiful Halcyon—Simonides

MISERY is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform. Overreaching the wide horizon as the rainbow, its hues are as various as the hues of that arch—as distinct too, yet as intimately blended. Overreaching the wide horizon as the rainbow! How is it that from beauty I have derived a type of unloveliness?—from the covenant of peace, a simile of sorrow? But as, in ethics, evil is a consequence of good, so, in fact, out of joy is sorrow born. Either the memory of past bliss is the anguish of to-day, or the agonies which are, have their origin in the ecstasies which might have been.

My baptismal name is Egaeus; that of my family I will not mention. Yet there are no towers in the land more time-honored than my gloomy, gray, hereditary halls. Our line has been called a race of visionaries; and in many striking particulars—in the character of the family mansion—in the frescos of the chief saloon—in the tapestries of the dormitories—in the chiselling of some buttresses in the armory—but more especially in the gallery of antique paintings—in the fashion of the library chamber—and, lastly, in the very peculiar nature of the library’s contents—there is more than sufficient evidence to warrant the belief.

The recollections of my earliest years are connected with that chamber, and with its volumes—of which latter I will say no more. Here died my mother. Herein was I born. But it is mere idleness to say that I had not lived before—that the soul has no previous existence. You deny it?—let us not argue the matter. Convinced myself, I seek not to convince. There is, however, a remembrance of aerial forms—of spiritual and meaning eyes—of sounds, musical yet sad—a remembrance which will not be excluded; a memory like a shadow—vague, variable, indefinite, unsteady; and like a shadow, too, in the impossibility of my getting rid of it while the sunlight of my reason shall exist.

In that chamber was I born. Thus awaking from the long night of what seemed, but was not, nonentity, at once into the very regions of fairy land—into a palace of imagination—into the wild dominions of monastic thought and erudition—it is not singular that I gazed around me with a startled and ardent eye—that I loitered away my boyhood in books, and dissipated my youth in reverie; but it is singular that as years rolled away, and the noon of manhood found me still in the mansion of my fathers—it is wonderful what stagnation there fell upon the springs of my life—wonderful how total an inversion took place in the character of my commonest thought. The realities of the world affected me as visions, and as visions only, while the wild ideas of the land of dreams became, in turn, not the material of my every-day existence, but in very deed that existence utterly and solely in itself.

To — — –. Ulalume: A Ballad
By Edgar Allan Poe

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispéd and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll—
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
Our memories were treacherous and sere—
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year—
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber—
(Though once we had journeyed down here)—
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

To Helen
By Edgar Allan Poe

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicéan barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

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