Saturday, February 23, 2008

This Is This

There’s a lot to argue with in James Wood’s How Fiction Works, including his dismissal of the importance of story (contrary to the dust jacket puff he isn’t at all interested in the ‘machinery of storytelling’, whatever that is), and his rather fussy obsession with hierarchies. But there’s a lot of good things too, notably his sustained meditations on the many ways by which character can be conveyed, and his acute sentence-by-sentence anatomisation of judiciously selected passages of prose. And then there’s this:

. . . A convincing impossibility in mimesis is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility. The burden is instantly placed not on simple verisimilitude or reference . . . but on mimetic persuasion: it is the artist’s task to convince us that this could have happened. Internal consistency and plausibility then become more important than referential rectitude. And this task will of course involve much fictive artifice and not mere reportage.

Which seems to me to cut straight through the heart of the Gordian knot into which science fiction has currently tied itself, in fits of embarrassment, over ‘relevance’ and ‘probability.’

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning

I spent a fair portion of Saturday printing off the edited and rewritten version of The Quiet War. Now it will go off to the copy editor, who’ll scrutinise it for every kind of goof and mark it up, and then I’ll get a final chance to fix the prose before it gets set. This morning, frosty and crystalline, a fine long walk along Regent’s Canal and hooking through Camden to Regent’s Park. Where snowdrops and daffodils are in bloom together, a very odd sight to someone used to gradation of the seasons. When I started this blog, two years ago, I noted in early April that my neighbour’s magnolia tree was just coming into bloom; this year, about six weeks earlier, it’s not that far off. It’s like being caught in one of those scenes in the old movies, where calendar pages flip by to signify passing time, except they’re blowing past all at once, as the whole wide world teeters on its axis . . .
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