The "vacation" was going to begin today, but here it is 1:22 p.m. (CaST), and I've been working all morning, so I guess I'll aim for tomorrow, instead. I'll have worked eleven days without a day off, and will have had only two days off in the last eighteen. I think I've found a new level of exhaustion.
All of yesterday was spent on proofing and formatting #39, and that sort of work is almost as interesting to read about, or, for that matter, write about, as, say, oatmeal. So, instead of prattling over missing commas and smart quotes and the like, here are some thoughts I posted way back on this day in 2006. These thoughts, on readers who put the cart before the horse, and on the necessity of unresolved questions in sf, seem worth restating now that A is for Alien is out there:
On top of this, I've got some screed hammering about inside my crowded skull about readers who want writers to hold their hands through a story, readers who cannot tolerate mystery and wonder, but prefer exposition and "satisfaction." What the hell is all this satisfaction crap, anyway? "I did not find this story satisfying." So the hell what? It's not my job as an author to satisfy anyone but myself. That's why art and masturbation have so much in common. I know this is a sore spot with a lot of readers these days (thank you again, reader-response theory), and a lot of writers trip all over themselves trying to keep readers happy. I just can't do it. Even if I believed it was advisable or Right, I wouldn't know where to begin. Here's a good example:
Consider "Bradbury Weather," which I personally take to be my best sf story thus far. In it, Mars is populated by women and only a very small number of sterile men. The story is told in first person (a voice I've only recently become acquainted with). Now, I see someone complaining that they weren't "satisfied" by the story, and one reason is that the reader never learns precisely why there are no men on Mars. Now, thing is, odd though it may strike you that Mars doesn't need women after all, it's fairly irrelevant to the story. It's history, and not history that directly pertains to the story. Since I've chosen a first-person narrative for "Bradbury Weather," I've also chosen to create an epistolary narrative, sensu lato. I do understand that there are readers and writers who don't quite grasp that this is what all fpn's amount to, and therein, I think, lies part of our problem. A woman named Dorry has chosen, for reasons which we do not know, to write down an account of her search for her lover, who has become part of an alien cult. That there are no men on Mars (except the sterile few in the cult) is not something that pertains to the story she's telling. Therefore, it would be unnatural, intrusive, and entirely artificial for me to force her to cough up this bit of data for the satisfaction of my readers. I believe (and this seems obvious to me) that when one chooses to write a fpn one has chosen to give the whole story over to characterization. "Bradbury Weather" is the monologue of the central character, and to her, the absence of men is a day-to-day reality, as is parthenogenic human reproduction and a thousand other things which no doubt seem damn peculiar to the reader. But she's telling her story, the story about her search for Sailor Li, her story about the Fenrir cult, and the absence of men is not a part of the story. So, I can't tell it, and I can't make her tell it, because she wouldn't frelling do that. I don't do infodumps.
Isn't the general provenance of science fiction to elicit wonder and cause the readers to think and question? Aren't these things more important and desirable than tying up all the loose ends for imagination-challenged readers who have no apparent interest in coming away from a story with a sense of mystery and problems their minds can freely work at for some time to come?
I wish I could discuss these things without getting angry. No, that's a lie. I wish I didn't have to discuss these things at all.
I can't say I feel any differently three years later. If anything, these convictions have only strengthened.
Last night, we watched Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd (2006), which I somehow missed in theaters. I found it quite good. Also, I have some photos from a walk in the snow yesterday, behind the cut:
I was resting in a snow bank, and someone didn't seem to understand that "Don't dare take a picture of me," meant she shouldn't dare take a picture of me. At least my face is hidden.
Hubero (right) and Sméagol (left) on the chaise in the middle parlor. Hubero says he'll sue if I post this, which leaves me little choice but to post it. Hubero has grown fond of sleeping on my wool coat.