Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Official announcement of de-hiatusing

This Friday, Geek Rage is back after its recent hiatus. I apologize for the disturbance. However, instead of the advertised review of The Complete Accomplice, I will be reviewing my first nonfiction work, one that fits with the themes of this blog: Patton Oswalt's Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. I look forward to seeing you all then, and possibly to doing another vlog-type thing.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

News of the Blog

So I'm moving this weekend. Since I have been handling that this week, I sadly do not have a post for you guys. I may Sunday, but check back next week.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Original Fiction: Let's Try Something

This is a story I wrote. Some of you have already read it. Those of you who haven't, this is what I do when I can find the spare time and motivation other than working on this blog. Since I didn't quite have a book planned, I figured I might post some of it up for you guys to look at. 

Let's Try Something

Okay, let's try something. It'll be fun, I promise:

                   So let's say person A goes to sleep in world A. When they finally drift off, they awake to find themselves in world B. Something tells them world B is a little more real than world A, so they spend all eight hours of time stuck in world B. When they wake up, they resume normal behavior and go about their day as if world B never even existed, and even then, most memories of world B vanish automatically upon their waking up again in world A. B is false, and they'll probably never see it again. Probably.

Nah, that's boring. Let's try something:

                 So let's say Person A goes to sleep in world A. When they finally drift off, they awake to find themselves in world B. World B is just as vivid and realistic as world A, and everyone seems to recognize Person A a lot better. In fact, to Person A, world B feels a lot more natural than world A. What's really strange is that the dream ends with Person A going to sleep in world B and waking up in world A. What Person A notices but doesn't remember is that it's exactly the same as when he went to sleep and woke up in world B down to the last detail. After this, world A feels a hell of a lot less real to Person A, but they can't explain why. But they won't ever see world B again. Probably.

Nah, too ambiguous. Let's try something:

              So let's say person A goes to sleep in world A. When they finally drift off, they awake to find themselves in world B. However, when they go to sleep again, they keep waking up in world B. It's not a bad place to be, world B. Kinda seems a little better sometimes. But all along, person A believes they should be back in world A. They're left with a sense that they should be somewhere else, but no idea where that somewhere else is. In the end, person A dies in world B.

Nah, that's depressing. Let's try something:

            So let's say person A goes to sleep in world A. When they finally drift off, they awake to find themselves in world A, but everything is moved one half-inch to the left. Eventually, they find that every time they go to sleep, everything is moved one half-inch to the left, but it was so un- noticeable that once everything is irrevocably changed and they wake up one morning in world B, it's entirely indistinguishable from world A. Person A remains in world B, thinking it's world A, and meanwhile their friends finally go into their room in world A, and it's empty. And someone moved around all the damn furniture.

Nah, that's too silly. Let's try something:

            So let's say person A goes to sleep in world A. There are subtle changes in the world and themselves, sort of like someone moving everything one half-inch to the left. Before they know it, nothing of them or who they were exists any more. They've been replaced by new information. And the worst part is, it will keep happening every time person A goes to sleep and they won't have any idea. It could be happening to you as we speak, and you would have no idea save for some occasional wonderings: was that here before? Where did that book get to? They live all their lives in world B, or world C, or any number of world this or thats, and eventually die far away from home, with people they think are their families and friends, but who aren't the people they used to know.

Nah, that's terrible. Let's try something:

           So let's say person A goes to sleep in world A. When they finally drift off, they awake to find themselves in world B, which is a vivid nightmare. Almost too vivid. Thankfully, time and again, they wake up in world A safe and sound, but the nightmare keeps going night after night. Eventually, they begin to think world B might be the real world. But it can't be. So they keep dreaming it, and eventually try to push the Lovecraftian images and chaotic thoughts from their head. World B isn't real, of course, but to them it is. Even if to everyone else, world B is simply not there. And it probably won't ever be. Probably.

Nah, that's too freaky, and I think it's time for the truth:

          So person A goes to sleep in world A, but they don't like world A. They've been traumatized by world A. They've found world A unsatisfying. So they imagine themselves to be person B in world B, and the imagination is so vivid and they want it so much that suddenly they wake up and they are person B in world B. But soon, being person B in world B is too much for them, so they become person B in world C, or person A in world C. Eventually, after one, or two, or even eleventy billion jumps just like this, a million transits to a million worlds, they figure something out: They wanted to be in world A as person A all along. That's if they even remember they were person A in world A at all. But they don't know how to get back, so all they can continue doing is going to sleep and hoping they can dream their way back to world A. And eventually, they start lining up the possibilities and realize that maybe, just maybe, their world is built on lies and unrealities. But they can't really go backward, can they? They have to keep living in world C, or world Blue, or world Shrimpless, or disappearing further into nested realities, and why? Because they didn't love world A enough, because they had complaints about it. Hell, they probably didn't even realize they were creating it until they woke up somewhere else, and it's not like they'd recognize that they were someone different. They've essentially condemned themselves to a fate worse than death, bouncing from body to body and from world to world, each death and sleep cycle a new destination. And the worst part is? They probably didn't even know they were doing it. That's right. Their own minds betrayed them and sent them spinning across the cosmos. They will never know home, or what it feels like for everything to go their way, and it's indirectly their fault. Someday, they'll wake up in the middle of the night, crying their eyes out until they dry heave, and they'll never know why.

But that won't happen to you.

None of this will happen to you.


(c) 2010

 Next week: A look at the unsettling world of Steve Aylett's Accomplice, a book that reads like Naked Lunch, but subtly more coherent. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

City of Saints and Madmen

        I don't have a whole ton of respect for Jeff VanDerMeer. I like his books, yes, but it's nowhere near the top of my lists, or people like Gaiman, Powers, and Ende. The writing and the imagery is fantastic, but some of the plots tend to fall flat, and the work isn't as strong as it could be. Still, he's likeable, and better than Jacqueline Carey, so at least there's something there. I suppose my main problem (and indeed my bias) is that I am tired of looking through every one of my favorite genres and finding an anthology edited by him in there. If I look through the "new weird", I find an anthology of his. If I look for steampunk, I find an anthology of his, and a guide to the genre as well. I'm happy he likes the genres, and I'm interested in an author that is that prolific. But this just strikes me , for whatever reason, as trying too hard. 
            City of Saints and Madmen, however, is a fantastic book, apart from how I feel about its author. It's about very human things-- love, art, insanity...but the way it tackles them is especially interesting. The book, you see, is actually about the city more than any plot or characters in it. Ambergris is the character, and a fascinating one at that...the city's waterways are patrolled by "freshwater squid" that communicate through bioluminescence, there are people dwelling in the rather frequent fungus covering the city's walls, and it has all its own festivals, districts, and its own personality. The book takes an interesting approach to the city, starting off with the outsider's approach in Dradin, In Love. Dradin is the story of a missionary from the city who has recently returned from the jungles and falls in love with a secretary...and then things get complicated from there, as a dwarf named Dvorak continues to torment him. 
         From there, it takes the dry tone of a nonfiction piece with a history of the city from when Captain Manzikert landed on the island and promptly named it after "the most secret and valued part of the whale". This is actually the driest section, as it's written in such a way that it's easy to disregard it. After all, you wouldn't want to read the history of places you've actually been to sometimes, so why read this? Granted, it does give the early history and introduce the reader to the "gray caps", little bald fungus-people who are technically the indigenous life in Ambergris, but have since been driven underground to form another society. This is, of course, after they all but slaughter the initial colonists, as well as the night where suddenly everyone in the city vanishes without a trace, leaving it empty. While these are all interesting events and provide valuable setting information, the story loses focus and doesn't really tell us anything we couldn't figure out from the other pieces in the book, or the numerous supplimental information
          Finally, the book returns to narrative with The Strange Case of X and The Transformation of Martin Lake, two books that explore the effects of Ambergris on its own citizens-- in one case, a man claims constantly that he is the author of the book City of Saints and Madmen, and that Ambergris is his creation. Martin Lake follows an artist who is invited to a murder, something that makes him even more celebrated and adds to his artistic prowess. I have a severe problem with authors being the main characters of their work, which means that I find The Strange Case of X to be the weakest story in the initial four. Even if their qualities are downplayed, it's still essentially a god character. You shouldn't do that, or if you should, you shouldn't acknowledge it. Van Der Meer says that it's a pastiche of Borges somewhere. Borges never used himself directly, Jeff.
           Overall, though, the presentation is very good. Ambergris seems like a fully-realized city, the imagery is nice and borders on Bradbury at his most poetic in Martin Lake, and the appendices defintiely flesh out the information that got left to the side or kept in the second section of the book, where it's buried under dry anecdotes. The book concludes with several "hidden" stories, such as the habits of the Freshwater Squid, touching on the reason the festival is so dangerous. The city is a fantastic place, and would that Van Der Meer had written a guidebook or a series of anecdotes, guidebooks, and the like about it instead of trying to stick to narrative structure and short stories.
          Instead, his characters are either naive and bourgeois (Martin), stupid (Dradin), or insane (Himself). They are ridiculously unsympathetic to anyone or anything, and come off more as windowdressing than anyone you would actually want to spend time with. However, this is really the only failing-- that such unsympathetic people are your protagonists-- and the book is fantastic overall. While not worth a buy, it's at least worth checking out, even if the literary references seem a little shameless and the book could stand to do better plotting.

Next Week: Is a surprise! Though it might be The Land of Laughs, The Eternal Champion series, or any number of things.