Wednesday, August 02, 2006

JED's Wilderness

Link to the Original Story: Wilderness - JED

I have to say that I think JP hit the nail on the head with his commentary here. I like this story; I think it's fun. But I also think it's divided - it doesn't know whether it wants to be a sci-fi epic of altered biology, complete with intricate world-building details, or a spec fic allegory, where the external world is the mirror of one person's mind. The thing is, I want it to be both, and I'm not sure it can't be.

First off, I think constraining ourselves to preset genre boundaries is a generally poor idea. The story should go where the story goes, and so be it. On the other hand, genres exist because stories that contain a certain conglomeration of elements are more likely to be palatable than others. There's a kind of natural selection going on. Certain mixes just work better than others - no one wants lettuce in their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and similarly no one wants a child murder in a light comedy (not that lettuce equates to child murder, that would be more like brussel sprouts).

There are several authors of introspective metaphorical alt-realty fiction, who spend a great deal of time with world building and glam-detail. China Mieville for one. Of course, I'm not as good, or as well-honed as he is. But I think it can be done. I'd love to revisit this story someday soon and make a few discrete modifications/additions. Turn up the character of the narrator and make manifest his internal state - clarifying some of the mirroring of psyche to biome. Deal more with the world outside the narrator, giving it a little bit more presence, and more interaction with the events of the story. Give the jungle a little more "dark and hungry" undercurrent, and tone down a bit of the science-geekery (though in my defense, I am a science geek, and therefore that kind of bio-mumbo-jumbo is crazy entertaining to me). All this and a little salt and I think this story could turn into something quite palatable.

I think this is a great idea, though I have to admit to some reservation: I think this story wants to be either a stellar speculative fiction piece or the background/world building phase of a stellar science fiction piece, but it drops right between the two. I like the voice, I like the writing, the descriptions, as always, are marvelous, but I felt like it didn’t have enough plot to be a real SF piece and, if it ever had the intent to go into that weird twilight realm that is SpecFic (which it easily could have—just think of the jungle as a metaphor for life in the city, his problems with job and relationship, the beauty of hope, etc… dig it), it gets sidetracked by JED’s love of detail and explanation. So those are my thoughts. I would love to see JED take it either way; heck, I’d love to see him take it both.

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