Delivering a moment

If you haven’t heard of Moss yet, it’s an online journal found here.

Anyways – I went to APRIL, which had a small convention at the Hugo House, letting small indie presses sell their wares, and Moss was one of companies. Apparently, they just made a new first-time-ever print edition, and me having known about them for a while, and being irresistibly excited by print, I bought a copy.

First story – “Family Life and Sexual Health”

After I finished this story, the first thing that comes to mind is a motif about brothers, siblings. You can tell from reading this story that the main character, Elle, really wanted to be something other than an only child. And this is a great feeling to focus on – I feel like a lot of children/people can relate to this feeling.

And for its one positive to focus on – pacing. This author’s style is similar to mine as of late. At least when I’ve been riding the bus, and writing in between bus stops, I find myself favoring the quick, jumping scenes, ducking in and out of the story, and Texeira has successfully accomplished this.

She writes, What do you mean by and stops.

Elle keeps her eyes on the paper, “Sex?”

A few uncomfortable attempts and she finally figured out the angle at which something could go inside. (4)

A lot of scenes are like this, cutting in and out with dialogue or some concrete imagery, with each scene not being more than a moment, maybe a few minutes at most, before continuing on with the story. I think this makes a short story really successful, delivering only the most crucial details. In this case, Dan’s repeated visits to Elle, always eating pie, always asking for a fork, sharing a timeless moment, is something you would see between siblings, quickly getting the motif across. It makes me wonder if Texeira wanted one.

Guy, Connor and Alex Davis-Lawrence. Family Life and Sexual Health. Seattle: Moss Volume 1, 2015. Print.

And from the depths of the sea…the Kraken!

I like calamari. Of course, that has nothing to do with China Miéville’s book, Kraken, except maybe a distant relationship to his brother octopus. But thinking of both of them brings a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach – probably the beginnings of heart burn, or something. Ha.

But seriously, I liked it. Just finished reading it, courtesy of one of my students. He was captivated by the ending. I was captivated by the details and a few other things.(Spoilers!)

+ I loved the critic on religious beliefs. It was entertaining to read about these different religions, whose gods took different forms. Kraken, sea, ferret…It was random. And entertaining. It puts religion in perspective, how silly it is to argue different beliefs because you can never prove one write, and why should you when it’s a belief and not a fact.

+ I liked the introduction. It was this hilarious deceit, showing you through a scene, oh – this is how all the tours go. And then it breaks the continuity, and says, oh – the tour didn’t go like this. It actually went like this. It was this funny contrast between usual and now. And I really enjoyed that comparison.

+ The random extra characters. Miéville has a great imagination, and he didn’t let me down in Kraken. He invented all these extra characters, who don’t really add anything to the novel, except to show more details behind this society. The one guy I liked in particular was this guy who went to a villain meet-up, and they were auctioning the job. Everyone got greedy hearing the prize, but there was one guy – he was allergic to greed. He had to run out of the room (184). How hilarious and random, is that?

There was also one other guy – Jason. Anyone who met him thought they knew him; his knack was familiarity, recognition. Everyone thought they recognized him, and it allowed him the ability to walk in to secure offices, to walk around without a badge, to take information without asking. It was cool until someone with powers recognized him for what he was and until the bad guys found him and killed him. Poor guy.

I don’t like Billy. This is where I feel like Miéville is definitely a plot-oriented author. For most of the book, Billy was in mourning for Leon, being dragged to and from events like a little kid. He didn’t contribute anything to the book until it was time for the conclusion, where he re-wrote the laws of nature with the strength of his belief. Billy was a flat character. At least in my opinion. I got more feeling from Marge.

I am…unsure about the ending. So in the end, they figure out the villain is Grisamentum, who has preserved his life in ink – that was cool. But then after the good guys beat bad guys, Billy’s all, oh no! Port me! Port me now! And all the sudden, it’s like, Nope! Vardy’s the bad guy, and has been all long. He’s the one setting the Earth on fire because he can’t deal with having no belief…I’m sorry. But this to me seems like atheism, and is a legitimate belief… I don’t know. I didn’t like the “twist” ending even though it is explainable with Vardy’s beliefs.

I’m not sure I liked the pace. This is something I have to go back and examine, but for the first half of the book, I’m struggling to read it. It’s interesting, and I want to learn more, but it’s not captivating. Then, a little more than halfway, it’s pulling me along. There’s action; characters are interacting; they finally have a plan. I really do want to look back because to me, the most interesting part to study is why do I feel this way? (My hypothesis is that the first part of the book was just setting up the story of the three character sets: Billy/Dane/Wati, FSRC, Marge.)

Miéville, C. Kraken. New York, NY: Del Rey, 2010. Print.

 

The problem with plot-driven stories

Haven’t posted here for a while, but I feel like it’s time to compile my thoughts on China Miéville, especially since I’ve read one of his popular books (Perdido Street Stations) and am in the process of reading another one (Kracken). He has a tendency to make me think – not a bad thing.

This will contain some spoilers, some heavy opinion, so back toward the door if you want neither of these.

Perdido was good. I liked it. It had this finely tuned plot, that was extremely dependent on details. Miéville never forgot about his characters, kept everyone turning about the clock, picking up stories and dropping them off, always as soon as they were done. What I did not like was the fact that it felt very plot-driven, not character-driven.

For me, the big push to read is the human element. Their voice. Their thoughts. Their opinion. To me, the most interesting writing is the one where people voice their beliefs, where their voices are loud enough to convince me to read. Even if that voice is wrong, stupid, or brilliant. I read because of the strength of their belief, driving a sense of captivation.

Miéville story was not captivating. Don’t get me wrong. I liked his story. I wanted to read. But it was one of those books that I had to drive myself to read, to push myself forward because I wanted to know what happened, even while my unconscious pushed me in the other direction. This was a book I read slowly. And while there is an audience that prefers this type of book, I am not one of them.

This book was definitely plot-driven.

Personality of a plot-driven book:

  • Excess of setting details – I don’t think it’s a bad thing the world was this well constructed, but I do think this is a significant hint to when a book is plot driven
  • Heavy use of metaphors – I don’t think I’m crazy, but there were a lot of direct comparisons in this book. Between the city and Issac and Yagharek. I’d have to look back to find an example, but I remember thinking this multiple times
  • Heavy use of abstract descriptions – At least in Perdido, there were a lot of heavy abstract descriptions that kept me from accurately visualizing a scene. I had to sit there spending energy on comprehension than on reading. I don’t think this is a hugely bad thing, depending on this ratio of time. For me, for some parts, it wasn’t worth it
  • Discordant scenes – This is where Miéville’s planning shines through. His plot is very detail dependent, and there were scenes necessary to introduce later parts within the story. But this made certain scenes stand out, seem random, and otherwise just not fit in with the rest of the story. For example, the mechanic placing a virus on the floor cleaner.
  • Abandoned/heartless characters – Here is where I’m torn. To me, his characters don’t have enough life, but it could be he doesn’t give them enough life. In Perdido, I saw Lin abandoned when we thought she was dead. And I’m torn. I half-liked it because it created the suspicion that she was dead, but I was annoyed to have the big cliche reveal of she’s alive. In Kraken, his characters don’t seem to have enough life/heart. They aren’t driven, so neither am I. It seems more like the plot is pulling the characters along rather than having the characters driving the plot.

I read for the individual. I read for the psychology. Maybe that’s why I like his other book better. Kraken definitely started out with a lot of psychology. It was all about beliefs, particularly cultist beliefs. And boy did my interest with this book jump forward. I don’t find myself as captivated with this one as with other books. I think it still retains some of the personality of plot-driven books, but he’s definitely picking up some characteristics found within character-driven books.

But while I find a lot of negatives with Miéville, I also find a lot of positives. Miéville is one of the more creative, original, inventive authors, and it’s interesting to read online that he has redone steam punk, making it once more un-cliched. I think I would definitely read Miéville again, if only to learn his method of plotting. His does a good job with his inventions. But, he’s not my style. I wouldn’t mimic his methods, at least for my preference.

Miéville, C. Perdido Street Station. London, Great Britain: Del Rey, 2000. Print.

Miéville, C. Kraken. New York, NY: Del Rey, 2010. Print.

Using the five senses

Right now I’m reading China Miéville, and I’ve heard a lot of good things, but I’m quickly learning that he has this beautiful language that leaves me staring off in the distance, wondering. And yet at the same time, I don’t have the attention for it. His story is stunted within me because, even though I think his language is beautiful and grand, I find it so superfluous at times that I have trouble paying attention.

For example:

The city reeked. But today was market day down in Aspic Hole, and the pungent slick of dung-smell and rot that rolled over New Crobuzon was, in these streets, for these hours, improved with paprika and fresh tomato, hot oil and fish and cinnamon, cured meat, banana and onion. (Miéville 7)

Do you smell it? I do. And the astonishing part was it took no more than listing some foods and some spices. It took nothing more than a list. I really like how when you read this sentence aloud (or in your head) and you can feel the rhythm that carries you along.

Then I read something like this:

It did not help that she was not an aficionado of Bonetown. The cross-bred architecture of that outlandish quarter confused her: a syncresis of industrialism and the gaudy domestic ostentation of the slightly rich, the peeling concrete of forgotten docklands and the stretched skins of shantytown tents. (Miéville 1)

I was not confused, but it felt abstract. I had trouble picturing the area. Single words stuck out with a definite meaning, others were smooshed into abstract definitions as my mind picked apart pieces that I recognized, struggling to comprehend ones I didn’t know. Maybe it’s because my vocabulary is not large enough. Maybe it was too abstract. Maybe the words themselves aren’t the best choice, not creating enough of an image, not detailed enough.

I just know that sometimes while I read, I am astonished. I love the language. And then other times, I struggle to read. Look at something once, twice. My eyes roaming the page because it’s too hard to keep going.

It’s definitely going to be something to push through. I can already tell Miéville puts a lot of effort into his writing, and there are a lot of other techniques that I really like about him. I’ll mentions some more as I go along.

Miéville, C. Perdido Street Station. London, Great Britain: Del Rey, 2000. Print.

 

Jargon of the People

“You’re firemountain-glass, Dama.” He says this very softly. “You’re a gift of the earth-but Father Earth hates us, never forget, and his gifts are neither free nor safe. If we pick you up, hone you to sharpness, treat you with the care and respect you deserve, then you become valuable. But if we just leave you lying about, you’ll cut to the bone the first person who blunders across you. Or worse-you’ll shatter, and hurt many.” (Jemisin 38)

I wanted to start with this quote because how evocative it is.

Firemountain-glass – this may be because I’ve had geology classes, but already I can picture volcanoes spewing lava, where the molten rock cools into the shiny black rock that breaks so neatly, each piece resembling a sharp piece of glass – and cuts like one too. It’s so easy to compare Dama to this, aligning her with this image so quickly.

“Father Earth hates us” – with this piece, we crystallize the religion of the people, and although I’ve never been a fan of religion, I’m a huge supporter of beliefs. If someone has an opinion, I’m interested. Even if I care squat about religion, I care that they care. I love strong opinions.

You’re “valuable” and dangerous – I love how this single quote immortalizes the love/hate relationship people have with Dama’s species. It didn’t take but a single sentence to show me, but it shows how Dama can conjure fear and respect. All it took was opposites to illustrate Jemisin’s point.

These are just a few of the reasons I really love this quote. But, I think the most important piece of the quote is how it summarizes the jargon of the people. This shows me their voice, how they speak. It’s casual; it’s stressful. I can feel the weight this guy places on this little girl’s shoulders.

It’s hard to solidify voice, but by reading enough pieces with it, you can develop an idea.

The questions you should be asking, is how do I know he’s male?

Why does he sound like a judge? A teacher?

Why do I feel like he’s judging me?

Jemisin, N.K. Fifth Season. New York, NY: Orbit, 2015. Print.