To keep politics out, or not?

Should a writer avoid the topical, particularly the political, given that it dates work or that politics and the topical is considered by many to be as dull as dishwater. Take TRUMP. (Please take him and put him away somewhere dark and silent.) Given that he is at the forefront of our world’s conscious, it would seem that any story set now or in our possibly reduced future, and dealing with more than the trivial or very local, could not avoid having his mucky boots walk across context. He is the rumble of impending earthquakes. He must – at least metaphorically – grumble away in the distance. Characters will operate in a world he has sullied, talk of things he has some influence over. They’ll be  hotter than they should be, live places where climate performs aberrant actions. George Orwell said that all issues (and by these he meant, I’d assume, issues that characters worry over) are political. He also said that politics is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia…

Why is Galileo here? Think about it how the politics of his day got in the road of the practise of his science. You cannot write Galileo’s story without giving voice to that fact.

Galileo

Sendak on the artistic process

Interesting take on the artistic process by Maurice Sendak, the author/illustrator of Where the wild things are, among other texts:

Sourced from 'FAN THEORIES'
Maurice Sendak image. Sourced from ‘FAN THEORIES’ at https://www.reddit.com/r/FanTheories/comments/4z6pak/where_the_wild_things_are_max_runs_away_from_home/

“This dual apperception [of self as adult and child] does break down occasionally. That usually happens when my work is going badly. I get a sour feeling about books in general and my own in particular. The next stage is annoyance at my dependence on this dual apperception, and I reject it. Then I become depressed. When excitement about what I’m working on returns, so does the child. We’re on happy terms again…”

Cited in The New Yorker: AMONG THE WILD THINGS By Nat Hentoff, Jan 22, 1966

The zoo speaks

An excerpt from the novel called Kidnapping Douglas Adams – a kind of homage:

Tralfamadore is not so much planet as spectacle. Its whole landscape has become, indeed, the universe’s zoo; where planet begins and zoo entertainment ends cannot be unravelled. The place where Felix had put them down (un-intercepted, much to Douglas’s surprise) was in one part of the planet’s leading metropolis (itself part of the zoo, for Tralfamadorians had become exhibits in their own show); they were on a slight rise. As if in some grave fantasy (the ship being a jokester it would seem) they were nestled on the other side of said rise near some quaint English village of the 1920s, with signs in myriad languages proclaiming that this was indeed England and the village of Badshot Mills, county Sussex, complete with manor house, manor occupants, shops and disgruntled neighbours, some of them mere tenants.
Douglas determined that they hadn’t got it quite right but its verisimilitude was nonetheless remarkable, if not a little stereotyped. One could watch the squire and his wife squabble over kippers and the Sunday Times, see kitchen maids slyly sneak a durry, a young gardener filch a herring and lasciviously drop it into his mouth while smirking at a pretty young kitchen maid, a rather luscious young specimen, so Hendryck announced. The young gardener was indeed one Reggie Parkes, a hologramatic message announced when it noted Adams’s stopping to watch, and then the hologram added, as if it wanted to replicate the early 20th century’s disregard for the female, that the girl was one Eunice Dodt.

Being 16 and 15, once immediate danger had not appeared, both Hendryck and Douglas had come into this part of the zoo. Douglas was lured by its familiarity; Hendryck appeared to merely follow him. Anyone carefully studying his insouciance, however, would have detected ulterior motive – more on this later. Both stopped near a window in a rose garden. And looked into a kitchen. Thence to see most of the activities outlined in the preceding paragraph (they’d already observed the squire and his wife, but had stopped not very long, and with a yawn in Douglas’s case) . After a while Adams looked elsewhere (Foule was still staring at Eunice, who was – having slapped young Reggie’s hand away – now buttering toast). Adams was amazed to see that what appeared to be farmland; a lovely spread of agrarian activity but more in keeping with the west counties than Sussex, so Douglas told Hendryck. ‘Very real, nevertheless.’
‘I told you,’ said Foule. ‘It’s the universe’s most remarkable zoo. Everyone agrees on that.’
‘Just who is everyone, I’ve often wondered,’ Douglas said.
‘Me too. I’m just giving you what they call the Cook’s tour.’
‘Ah ha,’ said Douglas. ‘We haven’t come this way by accident, have we, despite your Shrewingers drive propensity for crazy destinations.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You wanted us to come this way, that’s why the ship brought us here.’
‘Well yes, since you put it that way. But wouldn’t you have missed this lovely recollection of home, if I hadn’t wanted Felix to deposit us here.’
‘I suppose so,’ Douglas conceded. After all, what did he care what Foule was up to. It was supposed to be an adventure. ‘So why did we come this way.’
Hendryck took a hold of Douglas’s shoulder (vertically inclined, given that Adams was nearly a foot taller than him) and stared him full, if angularly, in the face. He said nothing. The moment was marked, so his face was announcing, with great import.
‘What do you know of fornication?’ he asked.
‘What?’
‘You know. Making the beast with two backs. Doing it, rooting, humpty do…’
‘I know what fornication means. What I mean is… What! You’ve brought us here so you can do that.’
‘Yes. And I thought you might join me.’ (He recorded Douglas’s look of disdain, and thought, I’ll change your mind, or hormones will, and ploughed on.) ‘My records tell me that this Badshot Mills is indeed an exact replica of your England Badshot Mills, down to the somewhat larger house at one end of the village. Said house is a tavern and place of gambling (something else I’d like to try,’ Hendryck said with a grin, ‘but it’s most definitely number two on my list’) and also a bordello.’ Foule said the last word with such relish that Adams couldn’t help but grin. ‘There, with just the right password – and a source other than official records reveals what that password is – one can pass through the tavern and gaming room into a quiet little den; just three girls work this, all of them human, even here on Tralfamadore, and I mean with this’ (he dug in his pocket and revealed a gold credit card, which was perhaps the most amazing thing Douglas had seen so far) ‘to dally there and discover the delights of said fornication. Care to join me,’ he asked as they came to a house at the end of the village.
The house at the end of the village was in fact considerably larger than most in the village, almost as large as the manor house (shows you how much profit there is in sin, Douglas thought). It had a sign which read (only in English, this one; nice authentic touch, Adams thought) Nightshade House.
‘If they were going to get me,’ Hendryck said with real drama,’this would be the saddest place for them to do it.’

A lovely writer

careynovelcover-hisillegalselfI’m reading Peter Carey’s His illegal self; the back cover blurb put me in mind of Bliss, my favourite of his novels. I have been mightily impressed (again) with his transitions: slick, poetic, expedient. Look at this one, paragraph 3 of chapter one, it follows 2 paragraphs of context and background on the boy (who is one of the novel’s key focalisers): ‘Then, when the boy was almost eight, a woman stepped out of the elevator into the apartment on East Sixty-second Street and he recognized her straightaway…’ The woman is his mother, the boy is Che  (named, we know,  for the revolutionary and icon of 60s protest) and the apartment into which this woman steps is Che’s grandmother’s; the woman who has kept him all these years.

We know, without being told, that this is Che’s mother. In a sentence or two we have a clever juxtaposition of context/background with a child’s here and now. With rescue.

And look at how Carey engineers the ruunign away of mother and son from the grandmother. ‘…out on Lexington Avenue and his grandma was looking for a taxi. The first cab would be theirs, always was [notice how those two final words characterise the grandmother: empowered, privileged; don’t we all want to run away]. Except that now his hand was inside his true  mother’s hand and they were marsupials running down into the subway, laughing.’  No accidental diction here; look at true and marvel at its implications re Che’s perspectives; he is now with his true mother and not with the false one (his grandmother). Marsupials posits a love so close it is pouched, enveloping: the kangaroo with its joey. Coincidentally a metaphor more likely to have been chosen by aa Australian author, which of course Carey is. Lovely prose; still a ways to go with my reading so will need to consider all the other things that go into making books memorable before I add this to Bliss as a book worth re-reading.

 

Trafficville – full draft written; time to let it sit

Finished first full draft of Trafficville- dystopian cyberpunk fiction re gaming, social media and so on; it is 24,600 words, give or take. Probably merde – I’ll follow Mr. Hemingway’s advice and let it sit in my cyber kitchen drawer for a couple of weeks before I have another look.

The final chapter reads:

Chapter Forty-Three

Q and A

 

So here’s a sampling of key Q and A we here at Phantom have dealt with during the beta trial and first three weeks of full release (English version only). Feel free to send us more – remember; this game works best with your interactions built in.

 

Q from Randy in Dallas… If this is meant to be so American I don’t get how come there are no African-Americans in here?

A: I guess you just never played any bits of Trafficville with Benny Goodman, who is Normans’ best friend. He’s just one (the main one) of 17 African American characters written into the mainframe of Trafficville, and he gets a Hispanic girlfriend. Can’t get much more Yankee-doodle than that.

Surely you must have seen at least one darker than average character at some time while you played Trafficville! And no, we didn’t have the police force round them all up, nor shoot them, though that was one reality we did contemplate. Benny does get mobbed by rogue police. We didn’t put that one in – that was outside players messing with the program; we love that Trafficville can take on a life of its own.

Q from Sissy in Duluth Minnesota… How come Adolf Hitler got into the plot; I mean, that was a bit weird?

A: That actually came through one of our beta players and we were as surprised as you to see him walking down Merrie Yngland Drive. But we let it run and it worked out as a game, didn’t it? Had to have good old Norman climb the clock tower, didn’t we, to re-set. Who’d have thought we’d get that lesson in – how easy it is to become a Nazi. We liked what the game taught us with this one.

Q from Wayne in NY… I felt like the game got out of control sometimes; I mean I felt like I was just reacting, not in charge. Was that intentional?

A: Yes, and no. We’ve written so many possible pathways into this (and the lightspeed tech means they’ll run at a natural pace) that we knew the game offered stuff we hadn’t even thought of; it was meant to be like life, after all, unpredictable. We just didn’t know how life-like it could be.

I guess if you’re a real control freak that might get a bit much – but most of our feedback has been that players love that the game doesn’t repeat itself… It is good to just go with the flow…