In Link Waters

Well, here I am at Montreal airport, waiting for my flight home. Time for some overdue links:

And now it’s time to board the plane, so time for me to sign off.

6 thoughts on “In Link Waters

  1. Hmmm, I’ve just read Adam’s ‘review’ and tried to post on his site but in my late night befuddlement (from working rather than drinking or anything else), I’ve forgotten my password and so I shall post my message to Adam here:

    >Yeesss – but Stephenson’s book is fun and sends itself up in the first place. If nothing else, the ending gives away the point that it is not ‘straight’ (despite Stephenson’s sexual politics which sometimes teeter a bit at the edge of dodginess) – the book is a metatext of a certain type of sf (perhaps of all sf). Actually, it’s very like Banks’s Matter which i suspect you probably weren’t that keen on either – it is simply better by whole systems of measurement than you are registering. Indeed, if I may pick a fault with your otherwise majestic history of sf (well apart from the strange privileging of Alien 3), when you say postmodern sf a la Pynchon died on the vine, you’re wrong and Stephenson is the proof you’re wrong. The Baroque Trilogy in particular is quite brilliant (oh god, I’m going to have write something more substantial at some point to back this up – I shall regret this in the morning). Of course, one other obvious example of the continuation of postmodern sf is you … so maybe there is something funny going on here. It’s too late at night to work it out but I’m on to you …

  2. Nick: there’s a great deal in what you say. It is certainly the case that many people have really enjoyed the book, and that always leaves open the possibility that I have simply massively missed a point. The reaction of the posters on Andrew Ducker’s lj, linked there by Niall, (‘well up his own orifice and smugly pleased with himeself to be so!’) suggests that the review is being taken as a species of that venerable game, your favorite band sucks. Puts people’s backs up, of course, that game (people come fiercely to the defence of their favourite band, of course). That wasn’t my intention in writing the review; and I did enjoy Anathem to a point (certainly more than Baroque). But it is formally and stylistically poorly realised: slackly written, the prose is prolix and grey and flavourless, the dialogue is almost all of it expository tell-don’t-show. People do sometimes talk like that in real life; but not all the time. Not even most of the time, actually.

    It wasn’t the geekiness I didn’t like; it was the lack of finesse. Actually, “Andy, there is an interaction I need to have with you” is a great line of dialogue: it shows (rather than tells) a good deal about the character of the person speaking, and the relationship between that person and Andy. (A weak line of dialogue would be along the lines of: “Andy, speaking as your girlfriend of three years, there is an interaction I need to have with you.”)

    On the other hand … in that lj thread Charlie Stross makes, I think, a very good point: “Judging by his reviews of my books, I have the distinct impression that Adam Roberts doesn’t speak geek.”

    Geek is the English of SF. I’d say I do speak it, but I have to admit that I’m not a native speaker. More, where I’d like to think I’m Conrad, or Nabokov, in terms of my Geek-as-a-second-language thing, there’s always the chance that I’m actually the John Prescott or Borat of Geek. Stephenson, it goes without saying, is a fluent native speaker (as is Stross himself).

    The substantive point of your comment, though, Nick, has to do with postmodernism; and I can’t answer that in brief, because it is a large and gnarly question and central to what I’m about. The short version of my answer would be that there are varieties of postmodernism, and that the sort of postmodernism that I do just isn’t the same thing as sort of postmodernism Stephenson is interested in. Which is to say, S., I suppose, is interested in inter- and metatextuality, for which the word ‘postmodernism’ is sometimes used a shorthand. I am imbrued in a different, Jamesonian kind of pomo: the cultural logic of late capitalism, the waning of the affect, the rubble of high-cultural and pop-cultural registers mixed in together, history, the marginal, an interest in rhizomatic excess, a fascination with the structuring and thematic possibilities of metaphor, all that. The bad news for me is that this, which is what I understand by postmodernism, and which was fairly trendy and avant-garde in the 80s, is now very old-fashioned and passé.

  3. But the criticism that “people do not talk like that in real life” doesn’t really make sense considering the kind of novel Anathem is: Stephenson isn’t interested in using natural language, or having much of a proper plot. This is a didactic novel, where the huge chunks of exposition are the point.

  4. I do take the force of what you say, Martin (‘This is a didactic novel, where the huge chunks of exposition are the point.’) Except that, as far as the huge chunks go, I might wish they’d been arranged with a little more panache. Or finesse. And as for ‘didactic’; yes, didactic in the narrow sense of ‘teaching the reader about S.’s cool world in all its intricacy and with its philosophical underpinning’. Not teaching in the broader sense, the sense that might encompass, oh I don’t know, beauty, perception, subjectivity, language, form.

    Incidentally the real life in “people do not talk like that in real life” doesn’t mean ’21st-century North America.’ There are lots of iterations of real life, not all of them actual (this of course is the Big Clever Insight of SFF). But people sound like people when they talk there; their words have a distinctive rhythm and snap, they articulate themselves on a level of character as well as information-content.

    Long post short: we can agree to disagree.

  5. Adam, thanks for the response: I think the postmodern question can be expanded on at some point in the future – I could say a lot about Jameson etc – I guess the point I was making is that postmodern varieties of sf are still flourishing and may yet win out in the long run … As to geek, I don’t speak geek at all – I just like info dumps if the info is interesting. I could say other obvious stuff about socratic dialogues etc. I liked Anathem but I think in many ways it was just a bagatelle (especially compared to Baraoque which I do really really like) – still one of the effects it had on me was to make me want to reread the Glass Bead Game, so that can’t be bad. When I have the time maybe I’ll write a Roberts-Stephenson thing and try and nail it down a bit more … (I think I have a slot about 2015 – depending on how much the pair of you write in the intervening period).

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