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asleep, yet tense (ta da!)

There was considerably more thwarting yesterday than the day before. It started when I went to print an e-mail and discovered the printer was out of ink, necessitating an hour-long expedition to the Staples on Ponce, out through the sun and pollution, which left me distracted and annoyed. I don't know if I even want to get into the details. Suffice to say there are errors in The Dry Salvages that no one caught before yesterday (or if they did, they kindly did not tell me about them), but which are Very Big Errors. I have been taught that I cannot write hard sf the same way that I write dark fantasy without making a mess that has to be fixed later on. I need to work certain things out ahead of time, instead of just making it all up as I go along. Yesterday, I found myself wishing that sf had the sort of peer-review process that scientific papers go through prior to publication. For example, before my mosasaur biostratigraphy paper was published, it was reviewed by two editors at the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and three experts on fossil lizards. Of course, there were still a couple of mistakes in the printed text, but they were tiny mistakes, inconsequential mistakes.

The plan for today is to read through the entire text of The Dry Salvages again (I've lost count), fixing the VBEs as we go. That should require about three hours, the reading, and then it probably needs another hour or so of work afterwards.

And just in case anyone out there who is foolish enough to want to be a writer (ha, ha, ha) is reading this, be it known that I don't get paid for this sort of thing. Every day I devote to purging my own dumb mistakes from this story is money lost. It's not a very artistic outlook, but it's the sort of outlook that one must have if one is to try to be a writer who can pay her bills with the money she makes writing.

Am I slowing down yet? I don't think so. Wasn't I supposed to? Didn't I make some huge resolution to take it easy for a bit? Shut up and makes words, lady.

But, as long as I'm talking about The Dry Salvages, this from scarletboi, regarding my (rare) use of first-person narrative, which I found especially astute:

Dr. Audrey Cather, the narrator, owns up to her faults. She understands the inevitable editing of memory, the failures and shattered bits of broken imagery that we continually reinterpret and call fact. We don’t remember exactly what was said, or every small detail of a room, so when we tell a story, we necessarily make these things up.

Most narrators gloss over these things. Most writers gloss over these things. Dr. Cather brings it to our attention and in so doing, creates another layer of suspense and wonder in the story.

The flaws of first person are something Cait is entirely too aware of, so I think she went into this specifically looking to, if not fix, then at least patch up the holes caused by the viewpoint. The innate unreliability of the narrator is played on, rather than ignored, and the story is better for it.


Thank you, Sissy. Frankly, I can imagine no other way of writing first person. I've done three f-p narratives in the past year or so ("Riding the White Bull," "Houses Under the Sea," and The Dry Salvages) and in each case the fact of the narrators unreliability, as well as the reason for his or her writing, is kept at the forefront of the text. It is my opinion that to do otherwise would create a story that, though purporting to be recollection, ignores the most fundamental aspects of memory. Try to imagine the last (most recent) thing that happened to you that was significant enough you'd actually sit down and write an account of it. Now, try to remember it in a linear fashion, just the rough framework setting out the step-by-step series of events. Now try to fill in the gaps with what was said, with who did this then, with what you were thinking at any given moment. You can't. Not really. This is not the way the human mind works. It's the way we like to pretend the human mind works, and I follow the Modernists in my belief that literature should reflect something closer to the actual way that people think. A f-p narrative, more than a third, is an artefect and as such it needs to be presented in the context of the narrator's intent and weaknesses. And do not mistake the Author for the narrator. If you are to suspend disbelief, you must see Dr. Audrey Cather as the narrator of The Dry Salvages. I am, at best, reduced to a sort of meta-narrator. You are hearing her voice, not mine. It's almost the same as acting.

For me, all this stuff means that an author either a) avoids first-person narrative or b) justifies its use. If b), then the author should also acknowledge the extreme difficulty we have accurately recalling events from our past as detailed, linear narratives.

Why am I going on about this? I felt like it, that's all.

Yesterday, after the long hours of thwarting, which seemed to pass me by in the blink of an eye, Spooky and I went to Fellini's for dinner, then came home and watched "A Clockwork Nebari" (costume research). Then I played Kya: Dark Legacy. I'm so near the end of this game I can taste it (it tastes like kiwi fruit).

Comments

( 4 comments — Have your say! )
brokensymmetry
Aug. 6th, 2004 05:35 pm (UTC)
Suffice to say there are errors in The Dry Salvages that no one caught

This keyboard doesn't have the appropriate characters for the exclamation of shock and dismay I just produced. I'm tempted to ask what the errors were so I can feel like a complete fekkik for missing them, but it would probably be kinder to us both if I didn't.
greygirlbeast
Aug. 6th, 2004 08:10 pm (UTC)
This keyboard doesn't have the appropriate characters for the exclamation of shock and dismay I just produced. I'm tempted to ask what the errors were so I can feel like a complete fekkik for missing them, but it would probably be kinder to us both if I didn't.

This is nothing for you to feel responsible for. You've helped enormously. That doesn't stop me from making big, dumb mistakes.
wishlish
Aug. 6th, 2004 09:36 pm (UTC)
As one of the ARCers who tried (and failed) to find any errors in the novella, I can think of three reasons why we missed the "big, dumb mistakes":

1. The story is told in first-person by an older character admitting that her memory may be suspect. So my "search for errors" radar probably dipped a bit, which of course doesn't help you at all.

2. You're Caitlin, a writer a lot of us respects, and we tend to forget you're human---wait, you're NOT human. Let's just go with fallable, shall we?

3. Errors or not, the damn thing rocked.

By the way, I've FINALLY packed up the two books I promised you a month ago- they'll ship Monday. (These are the original Baker Street books. I bought the iBooks reprint.)
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
Aug. 6th, 2004 07:22 pm (UTC)
Hi, my name's Phaedra,

Hi, Phaedra.

so thanks for the food for thought.

Anytime. That's why I was engineered.
( 4 comments — Have your say! )