June 4th to June 9th entries HERE
Thanks to the lovely and talented Robin at Blogger Support for resurrecting my blog. I wish there were a prettier way to merge the pre- and post-epocalypse blog, but hey, this is the best I can do. Cheers, y'all.D. PS: I'm not sure why I should save this, but Shatter2 (the sequel that flopped) contains the last six days' of posts in their natural environment. Aside from posting a little note on Shatter2 to explain its existence, I won't be adding to it after today. Yeah, I really can't think why I should save Shatter2, but I'm loathe to hit that delete button again any time soon. By the way, if you feel the need to comment on this post, you'll have to scroll way, way down, to just below the Oops! entry.
Hiccups (June 8, 2005)
Hi Doug, Thanks for writing in. We're sorry to hear about the frustration that you've been experiencing with the deletion of the incorrect blog. Please send me the URL of your old, accidently deleted blog, as well as the username and email address associated with this account, and I'll see what I can do about restoring it for you. Sincerely, Robin Blogger SupportAnd if that fails, Amanda has shown me how to find my cached files on Google. I wonder how long I should give Robin?
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
An antediluvian tale
Dear Gardner: An rtf file of "The Word That Sings the Scythe" is attached, as requested. I note that you've had my story for over an hour and you haven't bought it yet. GET OFF THE POT, DOZOIS! Cordially, Michael
That evening he wrote back:
Dear Michael, I like "The Word That Sings the Scythe," and I'll take it. Sorry for the delay, but I had to have dinner first. --Gardner
For my non-SF audience, Swanwick is writing to Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's Science Fiction (one of the primo bitchin' markets) since 1985.
Okay. So we've established that Michael Swanwick either (A) has an ego the size of Uzbekistan, or (B) has a sadistic sense of humor. I'm leaning towards (B), given some of the other content on his unca mike column.
I bet you're thinking this is going to be a negative review. Not entirely.
Actually, it depresses the hell out of me that Stations of the Tide is out of print. It won a Nebula Award, for cryin' out loud. What do you have to do in this business to stay in print? Here I am thinking, "If only I can manage to get my book published, I'll have a steady flow of income to tide me over into my old age," and then I find out that even if you win a Nebula you STILL don't have it made.
Yes, that's my retirement plan. Write a bestseller and live off the residuals. I play Super Lotto, too.
On to the review.
The polar caps of the planet Miranda are about to melt, inundating nearly all land. (We never find out why this happens, or with what periodicity, since Swanwick is a show-don't-tell-if-it-kills-me kind of guy. But that's okay; I read SF, so I can take a lot on faith.) While Miranda's flora and fauna have evolved to cope with this regular deluge, the planet's human inhabitants must be evacuated. Self-styled magician Gregorian has another way out: for a price, he'll transform you into a creature capable of thriving post-deluge.
Our protagonist, the unnamed bureaucrat, comes to Miranda as the representative of a shadowy interplanetary governing body that, through the power of embargo, controls the technology level of individual planets. The bureaucrat's bosses suspect that Gregorian is using stolen, proscribed tech to deliver on his promises. The bureaucrat's job: find Gregorian (before the Jubilee Tides swallow all, naturally) and persuade him to give back the stolen technology.We see numerous metamorphoses throughout the book; some are tricks, some are not. Early on, we're told (shown, actually -- excuse me!) that Gregorian could have such technology -- i.e., it really exists -- but he could easily be pulling a nasty con on these people, too. Dead marks tell no tales. It's a given that in a story such as this, the protagonist is going to change. Otherwise, what's the point? Carping on that would be like bitching that a novel is formulaic because it has a plot, and, oh God, why do these novels always have to have plots? (Yes, yes, I know there are exceptions to that rule, too.) I'd like to mention one interesting counter-example: J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, in which (spoilers!) the protagonist goes through hell and back, yet insists to himself that he has learned nothing at all. So, yes, the bureaucrat is going to change. What matters, what really matters, is that we buy that change every step of the way. Is the transformation believable, and is it inevitable? I have to tread carefully to avoid spoilers. Yes, spoilers count, since I think you ought to read this book, if for no other reason than the sex is that good, and Swanwick's writing is, at times, beautiful. (I love the title, Stations of the Tide, merging as it does the stations of the cross with the idea of a natural cycle; and I love the first line, too: The bureaucrat fell from the sky.) I'm also interested in hearing from other readers on this point. (Hey. Pat. You out there?) But here's my gripe: There comes a time rather late in the story when the bureaucrat must choose between love and duty. His choice will be a clear indication of the changes wrought by the novel's preceding 200 pages. If he chooses one, the story might grind to a halt. If he chooses the other, the plot is advanced. Trouble is, the believable, inevitable choice is the one that stops the plot dead in its tracks -- so, guess what: the bureaucrat does what he needs to do to advance the plot. Some 40 pages later, he's faced with another choice. At this point, his choice swings the other way. It's believable this time, it has the feeling of inevitability, and yet this critical moment is undercut by the fact that I, the reader, am saying, "HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! DIDN'T YOU JUST . . . ?" It's difficult criticizing a book that promises to teach me things that will make my orgasms last longer. But, there you have it: Stations of the Tide falls short of classic status, in my opinion, because it fails the inevitability test. In a book about magic and illusion, I could see the puppeteer's strings. Inevitability is on my mind a lot lately. As I wrap up my novel, I find myself fretting over whether I have frogwalked my characters to the finish line, or whether they've done what they really really truly would have done. D. PS: Have you been checking out Bare Rump's Diary? Give the ol' girl some feedback when you get the chance. She has read a great many romance novels, by the way, so if you need to ask her for advice on love, I'm sure she'll be all legs.