22 December 2005

"Bone Women" by Eliot Fintushel

The response in the peanut gallery to Eliot Fintushel's masterful "Bone Women" is not surprising, though it is sad. With any luck, the compulsive carpers do not represent the majority of Strange Horizons readers, but rather a little cabal of jerks with knees. Their anger when presented with stylistically and intellectually complicated writing is frustrating enough to make me want to solder their tin ears together.

What is it that compels people to speak out against a story? It's not just that they didn't like it -- unless they think the world revolves around them, I doubt such people are strolling up and down every message board to issue their complaints against all they read. Were I to post about every story I gave up on, I'd have to write about hundreds. Most such things, we read, abandon, and forget. Not my thing, we think. No big deal. It takes something more to get us to express our opinion in public, some grudge or frustration, some little nit aching to be picked.

"Bone Women" annoyed people. Its honey attracted swarming know-nothings: "I suspect it's Literature," they buzz. "Mental masturbation...like poor art, meaningless to everyone except the author," they bray. "Like my boss said to me long ago: Intro, Middle, End. Thus structure and plot. Where were they?" Might as well say: I like my fiction the way I like my food: packaged, processed, predictable.

It makes me want to get all Benford and bemoan the fate of civilization. (I might say: "So you want safe, formulaic writing that abides by the structures you've internalized and feeds you what you know you like. Good for you. We all get our kicks differently. But to raise your personal preferences to the level of law and use them to batter all that you don't understand, that's not opinion, that's not criticism -- that's a totalitarian impulse. You hate our freedoms. Climb back into your hole. Go watch a sitcom. Go stare at a wall. Bark on cue." But I won't say that. I'll try to be nice and understanding and tolerant and loving of my fellow creatures.)

Fintushel jumped into the mud pit to try to explain what he was up to: "In a word, BONE WOMEN is about facticity--about the tension between what we human beings ARE and what human beings want or need to THINK of ourselves as being." Etc. A good try, but it won't mollify the moaners. They like their skulls numb. They like to accuse the author rather than themselves, they like to say the writer is only pleasing himself, because that way they don't have to feel alone, don't have to admit they don't get it, don't have to separate from the crowd.

I suppose I wouldn't be so frustrated if this were an isolated case of people mauling a story that doesn't deserve it. De gustibus and all that jazz, yknow. But there's something about fiction that is linguistically and structurally adventurous that causes anger in certain types of readers, an anger that leads to a spewing of vitriol, and while to a certain extent I find that an interesting phenomenon, it's also disturbing.

Speculative fiction especially should be the realm of the new and strange, the oddball, the gonzo, but instead the geezers keep asserting themselves, trying to pin this beautiful butterfly of possibilities to a rancid wax tray of nostalgia. They want cant and dust, disposable one-time reads, junk.

The bleat that this must be Literature is entirely correct -- it is. This is a story that can hold its own with the best of the fiction being published today, the most interesting and innovative, the most skilled and visionary. That's what Literature is, kiddo -- it's the stuff that's so passionate and singular it inspires awe. We each carry our own personal lists of Literature with us, and eventually enough such lists converge and get packed into a Canon and shot into Classrooms and Libraries to be picked up or dropped by Posterity on one of its random walk-throughs. That's the process, but not the fun. The fun is stumbling upon such stuff, discovering it on your own, encountering unique and hilarious and perfect paragraphs such as the opening of "Bone Women":
Hildy loved me bad. Pudding of a woman, the moons behind her cheaters waxed for the love of me. She bleated after me, udders wagging, tongue lolling, buttocks dimpling, attended by flies. She was all armpit hair and thigh flesh. The cheaters, thick as hog's hooves, slid, slid down her nose, till arrested by the bump. She nudged them with a fat finger, then grinned. She wrote me love notes. I let her visit me up at the A-frame where I lived with Matt and Al. Matt: laconic, tight-muscled, trim as a bull's pizzle. Al: electric, slight, sizzle skip on the hot griddle of his libido, all eye and brow. They hated her being there. Her mouth foamed with abashment--she spoke, she didn't speak: ecstasies of impossible love. Don't ever let that person come here again, they'd tell me. She haunted the window seat and the fridge nook. She left the imprint of her navel in the screen door. Bowl-like, it was, like the sag in a cake fallen in. She mumbled half to herself, half to me, barely daring to exist, much less to love, much less to love me.
Look at those rhythms! Listen to the vowels! Grab the images and run with them! There's a whole story there, alone, in and of itself! The first time I read that paragraph, I hadn't any idea what it was about, because I was too busy listening to it, too busy feeling it. Meaning comes later. Good writing isn't an oyster with a pearl of Meaning waiting to be extracted and put in a necklace to show off at cocktail parties. Good writing does stuff to you. How something means, that's what matters. How it crashes up against your preconceptions and rewires your dreams, that's what makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes it's good to be thrown for a loop. Go with it or don't, but why get angry? Why lash out? Did somebody take your favorite toy away?

Me, I've got a new favorite toy, and it's this story, a story that jangled my nerves and made me laugh and made me confused and made me sad -- yes, while I read it, this story made me, and like any good mark, I was a sucker for it.

27 comments:

  1. I find it interesting that you seem to assume the complainers are "geezers", the nostalgic elderly seeking only the simplistic fiction of their youth.

    Why are they not as likely the callow and unsophisticated young, not yet weaned from the simplistic fiction of childhood?

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  2. I wasn't actually thinking of geezerdom as corresponding to any particular age, but rather to attitude, a calcification of thought. There are people over 80 who certainly aren't geezers, and people under 20 who are. I was almost unconsciously stealing the term from the playwright Mac Wellman, who has defined "geezer theatre" as "theatre of the already known". I'll have to create a manifesto...

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  3. Matt,
    I don't see why you seem them as "compulsive" (implying they criticize all the stories on SH) or "jerks with knees." Can't a reader not like a story without it being a "kneejerk" reaction?

    Also, you seem to think that forums are only meant for praise. If a magazine creates a public forum then it's open to anything.
    Ellen Datlow

    "...the compulsive carpers do not represent the majority of Strange Horizons readers, but rather a little cabal of jerks with knees."

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  4. I didn't like the story myself; I actually think the voice hit several sour notes early on, and there seemed to be little motivation for the narrator to actually narrate.

    However, I agree that there actually is a compulsive element to the SH forum; it really has to be compulsive, as readers who actively dislike the stories SH presents wouldn't keep coming back, unless they experience some joy (if only a relief from the anxiety inspired by the possibility that somewhere the world passed them by) at denouncing the outlander.

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  5. Yes, I was thinking of what Nick pointed to with the SH forums -- it's an entirely subjective perception that might be disproved by a statistical analysis, but the feeling I get from places like the Asimov's boards or Analog boards or SciFiction boards is, in general, a support for the goals of the publication, with occasional reservations, particular stories that are controversial, etc. SH has been from its earliest days a place that publishes a huge variety of stories, and often stories that push the borders of genre and style. Yet the boards seem again and again to attract people who want exactly the opposite, sort of like the local crazy who goes into car dealerships and complains that they won't fix his refrigerator. Stories everywhere appeal to some people and not others, but there's an agenda being pushed by these complainers that is ridiculous within this particular venue.

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  6. If the other mags published more stylistic modernism, you’d probably see more bitching in their message boards.

    On the plus side, the SH boards aren’t full of sycophants hoping that fulsome praise of the publication will make Jed & Karen & Susan more likely to buy their stories.

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  7. Look at those rhythms! Listen to the vowels!

    P.S. Matt, I think you’re going to have to come to terms some day with the fact that not everyone is big a Beckett fan as you are. :)

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  8. Ahhh, yes, you're so right, David. (HAMM: Is it not time for my pain-killer?! CLOV: Yes. HAMM: At last! Give it to me quick! CLOV: There's no more pain-killer.)

    And indeed, I was thinking too that were someone to accuse me of being compulsive in that I actually finished reading the story and then thought, "Oh, I can just imagine what they're saying in the forums about this!" and then went and had my prejudices confirmed -- if someone were to accuse me of some sort of compulsive behavior because of that, I suppose I would have to plead guilty. It wasn't like this was my first time...

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  10. Thanks for writing about your reading of the story, Matt. We're going to publish the stories we love no matter what, but it sure feels good to hear from readers who are finding something to love in those stories as well.

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  11. This is experimentation for it's own sake. Period. I know- I used to write such stuff constantly in my more juvenile phrase of my writing (pick up some of the Journals of Experimental Fiction sometime- I'm in quite a few them). Not that there is anything wrong with it- but you can't call it literary genius. It's just writing in the style of a knee-jerk reaction to classical literature- without point or purpose.

    I think experimental writing like that is just juvenile word play. Sure it's cute and it expands things- but is it really worth reading? It's not like he's trying to tell a story in a different way- hell, he's not even trying to tell a story. This is not interesting. It's just tongue wagging pretty words assembled into sentences.

    I've written markhov chain algorithms that has produced sentences that made less structural sense with more metaphoric meaning than this. I love Beckett- but this is no Beckett. Beckett had purpose in his no purpose. This has nothing even in nothing. It pushes no real boundaries. It contains no revolutions of the word. We've moved beyond Dadaism now for quite some time- I see no reason to return to an archaic experimental structure for the sake of intellectual masturbation. It's not revolution to return to an edge of an age from before- it's backsliding. Muckfucking.

    Only someone without a real sense of classical training in the older generation of experimentalists and modernists could see this as anything interesting at all.

    But, then again I've never had quite a taste for experimentation for it's own sake (even if the writer and some readers claim reason beyond the pretty sounds- claiming an artifact exists does not give a work literary credit), I've always preferred something that actually read well in more than one sense of the word. I guess, my point is in the literary scales of the universe this is nothing new, and it's just returning to a point in time that we've already moved on from.

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  12. Your argument isn't consistent or sensical. "Experimentation for its own sake" means what? How can an experiment not have a goal, by definition: it's seeking to figure out if something works or doesn't, is true or isn't, etc. If it is, as you say, writing as a "reaction to classical literature" then it has a point and purpose: to be in reaction to that literature. (I don't think that's what it's doing, though.)

    "Juvenile word play"? What is adult word play? "Not trying to tell a story"? How do you know? What is the evidence? If it seems to me to tell a story, am I then deluded and my reading of the story invalid? Or have you, perhaps, missed something? (Not that I think everything has to tell a story. I like stories, but I like other things, too.)

    You constantly deny purpose to the story, but that seems to me to come from a willful blindness on your part, not anything inherent in Fintushel's words. It's hardly Dada. "Tongue wagging pretty words assembled into sentences" could describe most writing of any value, but the disdain that oozes from your tone is exactly the sort of thing I was writing against -- that deep, anxious hatred of something that has not engaged you because its content and style are alienating to your sense of what is and isn't allowed.

    For you, the techniques of modernist writing are historically bound, something the "classical" techniques move beyond, yet this is an ahistorical and ridiculous point of view, one destroyed by all sorts of writing since narrative fiction began. Even if your point of view were accurate, why should we be bound by tradition? Everything changes. You yourself say "we've already moved on", but to what? From what? Literary history is recursive, not linear. You disdain any "experimentation" because it's somehow old hat, you say this "isn't new", but nothing you're calling for is new.

    "Bone Women" is certainly over-the-top, almost logorrheic, but it needs to be -- the situation and emotions it expresses are embodied in the language and structure. Its meaning is communicated through its form and style as well as through its content. This makes it a difficult, rich, challenging text; satisfying for some readers, less so for others. But to go to such extremes, calling it masturbatory etc. says less about the story and more about the reader hurling the epithets.

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  13. Nick Mamatas12/23/2005 1:17 AM

    Formally, the story is a rather straightforward first-person narrative. Not only isn't it experimentation for its own sake, it isn't experimental in the slightest.

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  14. I've written markhov chain algorithms that has produced sentences that made less structural sense with more metaphoric meaning than this.

    That's actually false. What Mr. Mamatas said: Fintushel's word play is more than an unlinked, random stream of consciousness. It's the story -- an honest-to-goodness story -- of a man's entire life, seen through the lens of his continuous string of non-functional sexual relationships.

    I admit that the phrase "verbal masturbation" occurred to me as well several times in the first few paragraphs of the story -- starting with some of the phrases Mr. Cheney highlighted -- but to Fintushel's credit, he does at least put this extravagant wordiness to use illustrating the protagonist's manic view of his infatuations in the interludes between reality's inevitable disappointments.

    But Mr. Cheney: you say that this story is "Literature ... the stuff that's so passionate and singular it inspires awe."

    There's a logical fallacy here, a missing qualifier which should be included in your statement. Furthermore, it's the exact same fallacy that the peanuts in the gallery have been indulging.

    Ignoring true personal preferences, not everyone possesses the same set of literary "keys" to that you do. Lacking those keys, this story may not yield up its stylistic/metaphorical treasures on the first reading... or the second... or the third... in which case the story may very well read as nothing more than a string of pretty, nonsensical phrases. Sure, it's possible to explain the missing links to the frustrated reader, but at that point "awe" may be lost forever. "Awe" is an emotion which may only happen to the lucky individual who "gets" the story on the first or second go; even then, it's probably contingent on aesthetic preference.

    Isn't it nice that this entire discussion hinges on each of us as readers being utterly unable to see past the strength of our own visceral reactions to the story? We are each of us indulging in the vanity that our own feelings are so important that we need to project them onto everyone within wireless range. I hope Mr. Fintushel is enjoying the irony.

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  15. Your argument isn't consistent or sensical.

    Neither was the short story. My comment was art and all of the comments after it are a knee jerk reaction.

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  16. Happy Holidays everybody! - Evil Monkey

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  17. Well said, Jackie. Though I think being unable to tell the difference between “I don’t like it” and “It sucks!” is a whole lot worse (whether we’re talking motives, means, or ends) than not being able to tell the difference between “I like it” and “It’s great!”

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  18. I actually agree with you almost entirely, Jackie, and tried -- perhaps unsuccessfully -- to negotiate that logical fallacy with what follows the sentence you quoted. I may have only muddled things, but I was aware of the dangerous territory. Really, there is no such thing as "it sucks", because that assumes there is something inherent within a piece of writing. There's no such thing; there are only the ways we create to value something -- another culture encountering ours, for instance, might consider our telephone books to be the highest form of art, create all sorts of critical apparatus around them, and use this to prove why Shakespeare is such a hilariously bad writer. Any piece of writing is valued or denigrated based on the conversations that rise up around it (and works similar to it) and the arguments that stick. The majority way of writing asserts a power as well: when things work in the same way, it becomes easier to assume that is the way everything should work, and if the assumptions such writing creates aren't challenged constantly, the majority style gets seen not as a style but as "normal" and "clear" because it's what everybody's used to. There are lots and lots of things written in the majority style that I love -- I've just been praising Jay Lake's novel Rocket Science as one of the most entertaining things I've read this year, and it's right smack in the center of the normed style -- but the assumption that such a style is the way everything should be is one that I scream fiercely against.

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  19. I guess it's just a matter of where you come from- but I don't see this style as anything new or interesting. I guess that's what I was rambling about above (although incherently due to the fact it was 3 in the morning), and I really do disagree about it's stake as literature.

    The word play is interesting, but it's not interesting enough (to me) to invoke awe. And even though it may be with a purpose (although I doubt it), that purpose doesn't (in my mind) seem to warrent the necassity of the style.

    In other words:
    It just doesn't impress me. It feels juvinile and overblown. Maybe that was the purpose- maybe the narrator was supposed to give me that feeling- but I don't think so.


    That's actually false. What Mr. Mamatas said: Fintushel's word play is more than an unlinked, random stream of consciousness. It's the story -- an honest-to-goodness story -- of a man's entire life, seen through the lens of his continuous string of non-functional sexual relationships.


    And I've written Markohv Chain Algy's to the same effect. Not to that specific one- but it could easily be done. One story I wrote (Clockwerk- it was in the Journals of Exerpimental Fiction Away With iT! collection) contained such a program's source code as part of the short story, and then used that source code and the story itself to build the second half of the story.

    Using a simple Story Generation AI (with a simple genetic algy for determining the way that everything fit) and then a markhov chain to generate sentaces that read well, but were constructed of high falutin gibberish created an effect almost identical to the one before.


    "Experimentation for its own sake" means what? How can an experiment not have a goal, by definition: it's seeking to figure out if something works or doesn't, is true or isn't, etc.


    Ah- but good experimentation has a goal. It seeks to create a more wholistic sense of a work by trying something new. When it doesn't contain this goal (or the goal of the experiment doesn't quite really enhance the story- which I think is the case in point here) it is experiment for it's own sake. Without purpose.


    If it is, as you say, writing as a "reaction to classical literature" then it has a point and purpose: to be in reaction to that literature.


    I'm saying the original modernists who used such techniques used experimentation as a reaction to traditional literature. I'm also saying that we've moved on since then. That experimentation is no longer necassary in published works. Esp gross experimentation of this sort.

    "Juvenile word play"? What is adult word play?


    Juvinile word play is the word play of someone still learning the craft. Still trying to get it right. I'm not saying my work isn't (it's been shit for a year now and I know it), but I do feel that this work is.


    "Not trying to tell a story"? How do you know? What is the evidence? If it seems to me to tell a story, am I then deluded and my reading of the story invalid? Or have you, perhaps, missed something?


    On a second read I guess I did miss the fact their was a story buried beneath the mound of pretty words. But, I really didn't care enough to look for it.


    I was writing against -- that deep, anxious hatred of something that has not engaged you because its content and style are alienating to your sense of what is and isn't allowed


    No, my deep hatred is against priasing such work as literature. When I first read the story I thought it was cute, and I also wondered what stuff he'd be doing five years or so from now. It felt promising, but not worthy of praise.

    I'm against praising something just because it was different, and then condemning people that disagree with you.


    . Even if your point of view were accurate, why should we be bound by tradition? Everything changes. You yourself say "we've already moved on", but to what? From what?


    From Modernism to Post-Modernism to - well- whatever is going to come next.


    Literary history is recursive, not linear. You disdain any "experimentation" because it's somehow old hat, you say this "isn't new", but nothing you're calling for is new.


    I'm not calling for anything. If you mean the stuff I've been jabbering about on my blog it's a personal thought- a personal taste. Not something I expect anyone to do but me. It's what I'm currently thinking about writing and reading, and that's all.

    Movements bore me. Revolution tires me. I don't care about such things anymore. I just write what I want and read what I want. What I enjoy.


    "Bone Women" is certainly over-the-top, almost logorrheic, but it needs to be -- the situation and emotions it expresses are embodied in the language and structure


    No. Their are many a work I've read where I've felt this is true- that the structure of the work and the wonderous language (and rythm of said language)enhances the whole of it. But I don't feel that this work calls for it. I don't think that he's really doing anything interesting.

    I could list lots of tasty little underground novels that have wonderful words and structures that would put this work to shame. Make it feel old-hat.

    Of course I could go on about my ideas on negative space and poetic annhiliation of words, but that's neither here nor there either. And old hat as well.

    Maybe I'm coming from a personal space, where this feels old hat to me because I've seen countless other little trifles like this, and seen it done it much better. Whatever.

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  20. It strikes me that plenty of things do suck, and that the conversations around stories and books and whatever aren't arbitrary.

    One way to judge a story is to judge it on its own terms; that way, we don't end up with people simply misusing terms like "experimental" and "Literature" when they simply mean to say "But, but, that's not...USUAL!"

    We judge a story on its own terms by contemplating what the author was attempting, deteremining whether it was worth attempting, and seeing if the attempt was successful. This is a very old way of looking at stories, and has a built-in, canned, refutation that every grad student in the world is no doubt racing to type in to the comment window right now: "Intentionalist fallacy! Intentionalist fallacy!"

    However, that fallacy only stands if people are indeed arbitrary in their actions, and they are not. Human beings can use their intelligence, guided by empathy and experience, to understand the goals and interpret the actions of others with some validity. Indeed, if it were impossible to do so, it would actually be impossible to a) write stories, or b) read them, as well as interpret them, since they're all fanciful contrivances and there is no reason ever to believe anything they have to say about the characters in them. Calling on the intentionalist fallacy in order to keep the author dead actually sinks the entire boat of literature on which we are all passengers.

    So, did Eliot's story succeed on its own terms? Some of them: "facticity", sure, and teachin' the SF nerds a lesson, yup, but formally, no, as there is no particular reason for this particular narrator to sit down and review his life in the manner he actually did. The story undermines itself in this way: "Why is this guy telling me this" becomes "Why am I reading this" and when it was clear to me that the answer to both was "Oh, no reason" I stopped reading. In real life, I just would have tuned the guy out and nodded occasionally.

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  21. Goddamnit people. The story was about a crazy dude and the story was equally crazy. Neurotic, self-indulgent, over-intellectual, difficult, and crazy. Story and narrator, summed up in action and style. It wasn't just experimentation for its own sake. It was experimentation designed to draw you into -- and throw you out of -- the world of a reprehensible, myopic narrator. It was uncomfortable and affecting. Is it the best best evar, god, asimov's due to be pushed off the pedestal tomorrow? No. But it was pretty damn smart and I, for one, geeked out over it hardcore.

    I am now getting on a plane for five billion hours and then will sucked into the vortex of Christmas, so consider this a hit and run posting that may or may not be a result of impending dysfunctional family terror alert levels HIGH. But I still think the story's great. Merry Holidays Intarweb!

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  22. I didn't make it through the story. I like a lot of Eliot's stuff, but this one didn't hold me -- though perhaps that's just late-year burnout from reading many hundreds of stories this year as part of an awards jury.

    I would like to note that Eliot is a fine theremin player, and you've never met a better mime.

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  23. I'm afraid I didn't make it through either. I've loved other stories of Eliot's, for example "White Man's Trick," which was one of my favorite horror stories published in 2003.
    Ellen Datlow

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  24. Matthew --

    Really, there is no such thing as "it sucks"

    Surely editors who read slush would disagree. I've never read slush, but I have read some of the stuff people post online. It sucks. "Bone Women" didn't suck in a slushy way, but the work/pleasure ratio was way too high, so after the first passage I let it go its way and I went mine.

    Didn't John Gardner say somewhere in The Art of Fictionthat metafiction isn't really fiction at all, but lit crit? I don't know if "Bone Women" would be classed as metafiction, but I had the same reaction. Fintushel is saying something about how fiction is put together, but not in a way that pulled me in to follow. I suppose my tastes in criticism are as square as my tastes in fiction. Your blog is a comparison point. You annoy me. But you annoy me in an interesting way, so that I drop by Mumpsimus regularly. Still have only a tenuous notion of where you are going, and probably not a place I'd want to move to, but the road trip keeps me engaged. "Bone Women" did not.

    Paul --

    Slightly an aside. I don't know the first thing about computer-generated fiction, but are Markhov Chains the technology used to generate that nonsense-text spam that shows up in my mailbox all the time? Usually it segues into incoherence within a phrase or two, but recently I got one that actually seemed to be telling a story.

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  25. Nick Mamatas12/24/2005 8:01 PM

    Didn't John Gardner say somewhere in The Art of Fictionthat metafiction isn't really fiction at all, but lit crit?

    If he did, that's just a datum point toward demonstrating that John Gardner was full of shit.

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  26. Yes, some spam is done with Markhov Chains.

    They're pretty interesting, actually. His idea was that you can create listing of word-pairs, and by combining word-pairs you will get grammatically correct sentances.

    To get word pairs you simply scan a text, making a table of each word next to one another. Then, you start by pulling a random word (like The), and then going into the word-pair table and randombly pulling the next word.

    The real kicker, though, is combining this with other forms of AI. Like Story Telling AI (with Neural Nets for character memory and plot trees, Genetic Algy's for creating psuedo random yet realistic and appealing story structures). When you put the two together you get some pretty interesting random effects.

    Kind of like word-fractals.

    I finally realised exactly what I was trying to say before:

    By moving on, I meant that "pretty word effects" are not that important on their own anymore. It's not enough to just experiment, to try something new, it has to be more than that now. It has to be a smaller part of a larger whole. It needs to be a fraction of what a work is.

    An enhancement to the work that doesn't become the work itself. I think this story is one were the effect overshadowed the actual work itself and made the work less important to the reader in comparison to the special effect. To me this is a base work- it's like watching Star Wars: Episode 1. Sure, the special effects were pretty, but it left the actual work itself wanting.

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  27. I've been trying to come up with a better, sharper, fancier comment and...no dice. So I'm just going to go with my plain ol' self.

    I saw this post before I saw the story, and I clicked through to the SH forum expecting a helluva lot worse. One aggressively displeased comment and a couple of others saying, "I didn't care for this because..." Color me a little disappointed. Where are the kneejerks and compulsives? Where is the flamewar? What inspired this magnificent rant?

    I guess my question is, if you really want to know what compels people, etc., how about asking them? Could be an interesting discussion. Could be a useful one. Why not have it?

    I'm not actually sure that I agree with David here:

    >Though I think being unable to tell the difference between “I don’t like it” and “It sucks!” is a whole lot worse...than not being able to tell the difference between “I like it” and “It’s great!”

    Either one seems to me like a problem when it's used all weapon-like on the folks who disagree.

    - Hannah Wolf Bowen

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