Monday, July 25, 2011

Blog note; Tiptree-style

Sorry I haven't been posting or responding to comments--I've been engaged in activities other than being on the computer. Largely obsessive reading, but also things that involve not being inside my house, which is nice. But anyway--I'm not ignoring comments (also, if you've e-mailed me and I haven't responded, well, see above), and, oh, Picador in particular, I want to respond to you, and hopefully will at some point during this lifetime--possibly with a whole new post, who knows.

Something that will probably delay that is that the day after tomorrow the Baronette and I are heading off to a lake in the mountains for some water and mountain activities and, we pray, no internet. What I'm looking forward to most is seeing more than four or five stars at night.

Quick response to Justin and ergo's comments on the last post--just as a warning, The Book of the Damned and The Morning of the Magicians can be incredibly goofy reads--and the former can be a bit tiresome, as the vast majority of it is just a litany of what Fort considers evidence, mostly of weird things falling from the sky--but if you read them not as positivist statements of what is, which neither book remotely wants to be, but instead as lengthy, impassioned rants against the tyranny of Occam's razor, then they can be quite valuable, I think.


Another quick thing I wanted to make note of is that I've just started reading James Tiptree, Jr.'s first short story collection, 10,000 Light Years from Home, and so far it is excellent for reasons I'm seriously considering writing a full-length book about (OK, it's not just about her, but I'm completely honestly on the verge of writing a book-length study of science fiction), but one relatively minor stylistic point I've noticed is that it seems that she frequently wants the reader to misread what she's written. Maybe it's just me?

Take for example this exchange, which occurs towards the end of the first story, "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side," much of which has been an extended discussion of sex with aliens and the implications of this (and, satisfyingly to me but not directly relevant to this post, our imperialist urges biting us in the ass), to the irritation of the differently-minded narrator:
"Man is exogamous--all our history is one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger. Or get impregnated by him; it works for women too. Anything different-colored, different nose, ass, anything, man has to fuck it or die trying. That's a drive, y'know, it's built in. Because it works fine as long as the stranger is human. For millions of years that kept the genes circulating. But now we've met aliens we can't screw, and we're about to die trying. . . . Do you think I can touch my wife?"


"Look. Y'know, if you give a bird a fake egg like its own but bigger and brighter-marked, it'll roll its own egg out of the nest and sit on the fake? That's what we're doing."

"You have a heavy angle on sex." I was trying to conceal my impatience. "Which is great, but the kind of story I'd hoped--"
Now in that last paragraph, is the narrator trying to conceal his impatience or his impotence? He says, Tiptree has him say, impatience, but the context (and subtext) and the shape of the words makes it easy for the reader to switch them.

Then take the third and fourth paragraphs of the next story, "The Snows Are Melted, the Snows Are Gone":
The dog-wolf faded off the ridge, reappeared by the bushes where the human crouched. The figure bowed its head; as the wolf came near. Dawn light flickered on his canines. He snapped sideways, carrying away a dark cap.

A flood of light hair spilled out, flew as the human tossed it back. The wolf dropped the cap, sat down and began to worry at something on its chest.
Tiptree describes a wolf approaching a human, makes us linger on it by the odd use of a semicolon in the middle of the action, after which she gives us a closeup of the wolf's teeth. The wolf snaps, carries something away from the human's head--and then the next paragraph gives us something spilling out from that human's head, and a word that looks almost exactly like, but is not, blood.

For the moment, I have nothing to say about that other than that I am impressed. But my god, you should see the heap of notes I've already built up for that book...

1 comment:

ergo said...

Thanks for the response. I've read a lot of Morning of the Magicians (was reading it out of order for a while, think I read most of it.) But yeah I know what you're saying.