Tuesday, 24 January 2006

The Stoning of Adam Roberts, Part 1 [The first installment of the stoning of Adam Roberts comes from frequent commenter Rich Puchalsky.] 1 Dear stone, I’ve been told that talking to you may help in getting me out of here. Of course, I assume that someone else is listening (“commenters”, perhaps?) so it’s not like I’m really communicating with an inanimate object, though sometimes it seems that way. Who am I? Call me Ab, after the first two letters of the English language. There’s an AI implanted in my head, or perhaps a transmitter, that says I’ll be released if I kill off 60 thousand words of Adam Roberts’ novel Stone. It’s really more than that number of words, but who’s counting? At any rate, I can leave the general background of the book still there, as long as I bash enough of my particular targets. SF books will be my rocks to fling. 2 Stone, I thought I’d start by talking to you about the framing device of having me talk to you. It’s a solution to the classic “As you know, Bob” problem in SF, right? The problem is that SF writers have all this background that they have to tell the reader somehow, everything about their world and its history and its pseudoscience, which isn’t a problem for writers of general fiction because readers can be assumed to know all that. Many early SF books would have one character tell another all this material. But this is implausible, because people don’t go around telling each other how an internal combustion engine works and about the basics of WW II. So having a character talk to an inanimate object – a stone -- as a sort of therapy-confession, with the character having the conceit that everything must be explained to the stone, is superficially more plausible. Plausible, perhaps, but there still is the inherent problem of dullness. These infodumps make up a large chunk of Stone. Fortunately, the situation is redeemed by what at first appears to be a flash of authorial self-mockery. There is one scene where the narrative character is describing how her implanted AI keeps talking inside her head, going on about the currents inside a star; the character says that “there was something off-putting in the lecturing tone it was now adopting” and starts amusing herself by saying “Really” and then repeating it with different intonations: “Really. Re-ally. Raly. Ruly. Rrreally.” And it dawns on you (or at least on me); all this infodumping communicates that the person telling everything to the stone is an unsympathetic, sociopathic narrator, a solipsistic mass murderer who probably enjoys being off-putting to her captors. Unsympathetic and uncharismatic narrators are a risky device, unfortunately, at least when they do not also involve the kind of over-the-top comedy of Nabokov's Pale Fire. Look at Michael Moorcock’s Colonel Pyat novels (the first of which is called Byzantium Endures); a brilliant concept, perhaps even brilliant execution, but has anyone ever read all three of them? But here I think...
One Irritatingly Esoteric (One Might Say Parochial) Post; or, Combo, Anyone? With 400 posts under my belt I finally feel a bit like a blogger. But I still despise the word "blog." I want to suggest something more dignified like "combo." "Combo"? Instead of forcing "web" on "log" why not make sweet love to the old notion of the "commonplace book" and call these collections of links and ramblings "combos." But I can't do it on my own. If everyone doesn't dignify their mental excreta with the unnecessarily lofty appellation of "combo" this whole pile will turn to . . . you know. What I really meant to do was note that I've written more than a post per day for a little under a year and have acquired an audience of at least 450 readers . . . and to thank you readers and commenters and lurkers alike for reading. I never thought I'd best 100,000 reads in my first year of comboing. Then again I never thought I'd walk in on two indignant undergraduates going at it in my office. So I didn't think a lot of things. However, given that I've nearly achieved my first anniversary (PAPER!) and am hosting a book event and am doing many other commonplace and bookish activities, I thought I'd share with you some of my most recent reviews. Positive Obsession asks: Ever wondered about the term "Crazy Lit Prof"? This professor from UCI gives you an inside look into the world of books, writing, and crazy student stunts that can cause countless nightmares for a poor professor. The Fastest Milkman In The Midwest thinks: Actually, if you ever want to know what life in a US English department is like, the following blog, recently brought to my attention, gives you a good idea. I find this blog how I find my professional life: interesting, kind of great fun, but irritatingly esoteric (one might say parochial). All of that amusing (and not altogether untrue) commentary aside, The Geeky Mom reads my regularly and thinks me deserving of this Koufax Award. 'Cause I'm a Jew. (Not practicing.) From Brooklyn. (Not really.) And a Mets fan. (For life.) You know Koufax skipped a World Series start to attend High Holy Day services. So they named a blog award after him. Apparently I'm one of the best "Jews" "from Brooklyn" ever. Huzzah! (More stoning on the morrow.)

Become a Fan

Recent Comments