?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
27 February 2012 @ 04:24 pm
Recent Reads: THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU  

I’m afraid that, like with FRANKENSTEIN, my reaction to THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU is “Thank God I’ve read that now, because now I never have to read it again.”

The two books have more in common than I expected, which is silly, since I know what they’re both about. MOREAU is much more bearable as a read, because the protagonist isn’t nearly as sniveling as Frankenstein is, but the descriptions of pain and vivisection did not make me all that happy.

One aspect I did enjoy about both books (and indeed about A PRINCESS OF MARS, which I liked *far* more than either FRANKENSTEIN or MOREAU) is the utter flat-out no-explanation-required pulp science. The categorical statement of This Is How It is (best done in PRINCESS OF MARS, where John Carter absolutely blithely says, “…and over the next weeks I too developed my telepathic abilities,” which are then taken as writ), particularly with those statements flying rabidly in the face of science as we know it, and probably science as we knew it then, too.

*That* is the aspect of pulp fiction–that and the outrageous descriptions–that most draws me to it. I would love to be able to tell a pulp fiction story just that way, though I wonder if you could even get away with it in the modern era. I’d love to try. I don’t think it would be easy to do. I…well. *Can* it be done in a book written today? What if the book is set in the 1890s/1920s/1940s? Would a modern audience forgive it, in a modern book, or do they demand explanations? This is really a question of some interest to me, even if I’m not certain I’ve got the skill set to make it work anyway.

(x-posted from the essential kit)

 
 
 
Alix (Tersa): Arnold--contemplative (tersa)tersa on February 27th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
I wonder if you could even get away with it in the modern era. I’d love to try. I don’t think it would be easy to do. I…well. *Can* it be done in a book written today? What if the book is set in the 1890s/1920s/1940s? Would a modern audience forgive it, in a modern book, or do they demand explanations?

I think if you were to approach it like that, to write it in the same vein/tone/as an homage to those older science fition books and have it clear that you were following their pattern, that people would simply accept it.

I mean, Christ, we accept that a radioactive spider could bite someone and transmit SUPER SPIDER POWERS to someone intead of just keeling over dead as soon as its exposed. :) How is that any different than someone developing telepathic abilities over the course of several weeks? Wait--it's even MORE sudden!

Mary Annepers1stence on February 27th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
I am willing to forgive a host of flaws and illogicalities in my classic sci fi that dates back to the early days of the genre, but am far less tolerant of it in contemporary work, even if set in a retro period. Earlier authors were experimenting and exploring undefined territory. Nowadays, I expect authors to have at least read and understood both where those things went right and wrong, just as I think it's fine that cartographers in the 1400s might've put "here there be dragons" on large swathes of maps but would be very irritated if a modern mapmaker did the same thing.
deliiriadeliiria on February 27th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
as long as the book is internally consistent, I'm good. if it's a complicated world, a bit of elucidation about HOW the science (or magic) things hang together is sometimes useful, but I find that I get cranky with authors who insist on explaining WHY things work. fiction is, y'know, fiction, which means our real-world laws of physics, yada yada, etc. etc., don't have to apply, and I don't have to understand your science to enjoy the story.


HL Henriksonveilofgrace on February 28th, 2012 04:52 am (UTC)
In our post-Crichton world, I would think that the audience in general would find a lack of explanation exceedingly difficult to accept. Just as in fantasy the magic must have rules, throwing the science out of sci-fi is...painful. I mean, it's not like Star Trek uses real science, but it at least pretends. I second tersa's comment about an homage, however. If the audience is aware you're writing pulp in a modern vein, they might be more than cool with it. They might totally gobble it up! There's definitely an audience that would accept it - Japanese storytellers aren't bound by our believability laws, and anime has broadened the minds of its Western watchers/readers. The film "Steamboy," for example, has at its core a mega-steamball, an object that contains almost infinite steam power. The storytellers offer no explanation, the power simply is. I think that applies to a lot of steampunk in general. It's an alternate world, so I don't need to know how the steam engine is integrated into something, or how the mechanical shenanigans combine to create clockwork roaches; I can simply accept that such things are part of the world I'm being dropped into. Because, you know, I loves them. :)

Also, I think if the story had a crazy-amazing voice, readers might forgive a lack of reason. Like if you made it a noire with all the traditional trappings. Or if your POV character is established as knowing nothing about how "such things" work, or caring. But I suppose that's a reason in itself, yes?

Personally, I'd vote you try it and find out!
LurkerWithout: Book on bedlurkerwithout on February 28th, 2012 05:27 am (UTC)
Yeah, Dr. Moreau was one of the many free classics I grabbed when I got a Kindle. It wasn't bad really, but it did meander on for a good long while after the plot actually stopped...