... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

600: Effulgence and Influence

Reading The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem I just happened across the word 'effulgence'. This immediately reminded my of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode in which Spike's siring is shown in flashback. His wimpy human forerunner writes dreadful poetry, the last word of which is 'effulgent'. For this he is mocked mercilessly: haw-haw-haw 'effulgent!' haw-haw-haw. What on earth is wrong with 'effulgent'. As far as I can see it's a perfectly ebullient word; scintillating and pulchritudinous. Those philistines.

Speaking of The Cyberiad it may be the best book I have ever read. Why it is not more widely known I have no idea. I look for Lem on every shelf, in every bookshop, in every science fiction section I visit, and have only ever found the movie tie-in edition of Solaris, which has an entirely different tone and structure. The Cyberiad is a series of short stories, each featuring the bizarre and unlikely adventures of two cybernetic 'Constructors' called Trurl and Klapaucius. They live in a far future or alternative dimension world in which all creatures are robots (except the occasionally mentioned 'paleface') inhabiting a multitude of planets ruled by kings, knights and dragons.

Utterly bizarre and impossible ideas are completely taken for granted and set out in a sentence or two. It has been hugely liberating for me to read, my fiction writing previously been very concerned with explaining every detail in excruciating length and staying firmly rooted in the possible. The very first sentence in The Cyberiad is a revelation: "One day Trurl the Constructor put together a machine that could create anything beginning with n." No explanation of how this is done or why, just it's done, now here are the ludicrous results, deal with it. On request the machine goes on to create neutrons, noses, needles, noodles. When asked to create nothing it begins deleting things one by one from existence. Again no explanation of how. None needed.

Each short story is self contained, much like the episodes of The Simpsons. There seems to be a huge amount of freedom in this style of writing: anything can go in no matter how ridiculous, any plot, character, joke, tragedy, or word game, and none of it matters because in the next story anything can be reset to the status quo. Inspired by this I have decided to give writing a Web Serial a go. Not searching far afield for inspiration I have created two main protagonists, one of which has a name not dissimilar to one of Lem's Constructors, who are "scientists" of some unspecified pedigree. They are also married, what with my just being married, and the whole marriage thing being on the brain somewhat. Married.

It's called Histories (to make it sound old and important) and the two protagonists are Azygous and Thule. These are both real words, not made up names, that I have wanted to use in something for a while. Here are the definitions:

azygous: (of an organic structure) occurring singularly rather than in pairs.
Thule: a mythical region or island in the far north, from classical European literature and maps.

The plan is to slowly build a universe of my own, moving away from the immediate influences of its inception; fill this universe with characters and events as and when the whim takes me. The first story (tentatively) called 'The Eventual End' is up now. I think it's quite funny, but when I read it out loud it sounded significantly madder than I was expecting. Ah well, these things happen.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll try out The Cyberiad.'May be the best book I have ever read'? Can't get more glowing than that, and you seem to be into your sci-fi.

My own favourites are Jack Vance (if you like words, you can't do better) Iain M Banks, Douglas Adams, Harry Harrison (Stainless Steel Rat), Michael Crichton. Mainly Jack Vance. Seriously, he's the best. Terry Pratchett's Strata is great. Grass by Sherri S Tepper. I did have a big classics phase: Asimov, Phillip K Dick, Heinlein, Ursula K LeGuin.

Nice reading your blog.

Kevin Bradshaw said...

Thanks for the kind words and the recommendations. Generally I'm still in my classics phase, but I think I'll check out Jack Vance soon enough.