Uncanny Valley Digest: Rachel Pollack’s Burning Sky

Our Burning Sky discussion left no question answered! This is my favorite story of the summer so far. It grapples with potent, ambiguous questions about the inevitability of violence and grievance as a justification for force. It’s also a superhero/sexual awakening story. Find your kink, for goodness sake; there’s all sorts. In fact there are two parallel story lines in this short story: 1) a recent divorcee with a nubile narcissistic lover, and 2) a journalist who stumbles upon a vigilante hideout and is taken to task for her intrusion.

In many respects the story is style over content, and there’s a literary, modernist echo to this prose. Dave didn’t like it because it needed so much deciphering. For some reason it wasn’t okay for the author to just tell us what was going on. Lots of detective work on the reader’s part, and frankly there is no tidy finish. Dave predicted that the mood of ambiguity and uncertainty were going to largely remain unresolved, and he was right. It creates a mood and leaves it there. Personally, not Dave’s style preference.

But Pollack is also a poet, comic book writer, and industry-recognized tarot specialist, so in context her approach packs ample content into the style, and deciphering the substance from the images is part of the process.

By some standards, it isn’t even science fiction. No fictional technology at all, just sheer, sensuous Free Skin body suits. It’s value lies deeper than that, more literary I think, and the superhero vigilante element lets it posture into the sci-fi frame.

The story’s real power to me, is the questions it raises about boundaries, force, and the abuse of power across the sexes. Lots of weird things about Louise’s need to get Maggie off, to preserve an undefeated record, and a genuine wish to get Maggie in touch with her self, the pleasure center, the deep orgasmic grounding. At the same time Julia is contenting with being abducted and subjugated by the Free Skins after violating their privacy and photographing their hideout. The idea that it is an initiation is almost secondary.

P. 965 “In the ritual hall Julia spends days hanging from copper, then brass, then silver manacles…”
The abusive/bondage/power play/rape initiation into the Free Skin, but as a form of consequence for her stalking them, for getting too close.

P. 966 The “rapist prick” scene, when Louise takes Maggie out on a rowboat and says “I’m not taking this boat back to shore until you come and I can feel it all over my fingers.”

Suhail: Yeah, to hell with that. On one hand Louise only wants you to get off, to activate your potential. On the other hand, Louise only wants it for narcissistic reasons. “Louise” must make you come, so it becomes rape.

Then the discovery in the Maggie/Louise timeline that Maggie is turned on by latex and skin suits, when she sees the skin diver in the lake and gets flush. Her kink finally discovered, she is delighted to get off at last. Good I’m glad she gets to come.

Interesting thematic note that the central image of the Julia/Free Skin story line is the skin suits, and that is the central image in Maggie’s story line, the image that gets her off, frees her to her self, activates her potential.

Sunset dances, from Christiana Gaudet
Good sex at last!

After the journalist Julia is initiated into the Free Skins against her will she is released to be a vigilante like them, a superhero slave gimp.
P.967 “With no one to command her she forgets to eat and one day passes out while photographing a police parade in the South Bronx.”
She’s a trauma survivor, but also a Free Skin? In remembering the initiation, “She wonders how she could have submitted to such strange and wretched slavery.”
Julia is summoned to don her Free Skin uniform and take out a corrupt judge. She panics, refuses, and hides the suit. The suit disappears and is replaced with a suicide knife. Julia stews in the guilt of denying the Free Skins.

In Maggie’s quest away from “the City of Civilized Sex,” she discusses a lot of the people in the kink community and what brought them there. Again the themes return of the porous nature of the boundaries between people’s psyches, and the way in which a stronger more aggressive psyche can alter the contours of a less powerful or aggressive psyche. And she dissects what brought people to these communities.

P. 967 “After a while they all began to strike me as rather odd, not just for their missionary zeal, but for their hunger for community.” In taking this deeper, in her next paragraph, the character Maggie narrates: “…or if each new arrival, thrilled at finding a town where she’d expected only a swamp, confused gratitude with eroticism…”

There’s the rub. They want community more than orgasms.

“confused gratitude for eroticism.”
Dave: It takes a psychological problem and makes it a sexual one.

Julia and Maggie sort of switch places. Maggie is freed for discovering the skin suit gets her off. Julia loses her Free Skin and the old hideout becomes a button factory.

We talked about the modernist style ambiguities and stylistic obfuscations in the language. The fact the the story does force you to do some figuring and inferring. Almost like a murder mystery, but not invested in wrapping it up. The Free Skin is also “wretched slavery,” so what is the question?

Dave: But it’s pretty bleak though. It thrives on your uncertainty. At least with a murder mystery you know there’s an answer. In this you can tell right away there will be no answer. But in this genre it I suppose communicates things that you can’t get at in a simple murder mystery.

And there’s the rub: a hunger for community, confusing gratitude for eroticism. This moment in the story backs up Dave’s Freudian observation that these characters are sexualizing a psychological problem. Maggie’s frozen clitoris is her need for fulfillment, actualization. Sometimes sex is part of the process of addressing a psychological problem.

Dave: It avoids the simplicity of men-are-bad, women-are-good social solutions. Power itself is the problem, not who’s wielding it.

David: It’s the the Id and Superego at cross purposes. “You wanna be free?” “Then you gotta be a slave.”

A slave to what? Well, at the end of the story, Julia gets her Free Skin back, but only after she attempts suicide. It gets very Abrahamic. She actually has to heft the dagger and commence the self-sacrifice before the salvation is delievered in the guise of the Free Skin suit grrls taking her back into their fold. They “dress her in the Free Skin she abandoned for an illusion of freedom.” Implying that choosing to avoid your duty is not freedom.

From The Raziel Tarot by Robert M. Place and Rachel PollackP.968 “Sex exists to lay traps for fantasies.”
Suhail: This is the thesis of the entire story, what the story is all about. It’s a good story. It is my favorite this summer so far.

David: But that also speaks to the quality of our list as a whole. Chris dropped out because the list didn’t have any oomph, this story no more than the previous. It style was too complex, intentionally ornamental in a way. It’s like the guy who buys a Harley after someone makes fun of the size of his dick.

Suhail: Like the shock value first sentence about her clitoris being a magnet, or a compass.

David: But that doesn’t follow through. It’s a clever, shocking first sentence more than anything else. It doesn’t end up being a metaphor or actually being the case. No development.

Suhail: It would be nice to read novels again. This short format (5,000 words and under) has it’s limits. We don’t get to see what the author can really do.

David: It’s not really even sci-fi. It’s the literary answer to sci-fi. What is it, 1989, right? This prose is very motivated by the indictment that sci-fi was just pulp writing and not substantial literature. This style heavy heady modernist approach.

Suhail: Yeah, modernist. It’s cultural criticism fiction. Slap a superhero/kink patrol body suit into it and viola, sci-fi! HA! It’s funny how we’re really managed to zero in on the grad school fiction this summer. HA! But this story is still my favorite so far. I feel it brings up things that Tiptree, Jr. addressed, murky questions about exploitation, boundaries, psychological manipulation, power. These are complex, fluid, and uncomfortable notions. Frankly, men seem to write less about conflicted states of empowerment and sex identity, and they’re potent subjects.

We waxed poetic about fun, engaging, stories, like Reiko’s Universe Box, it’s accessibility and airiness, and solid delivery. Tune in next time for our update of “Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System” by Geoffry Maloney.

Thank you for reading. Reading rules!


The Deepest Cut

Come October With Us
Come October With Us

Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, on sale NOW! Get your copy of the book Ben Loory called “Watership Down for whales.” Come meet author Suhail Rafidi at the book launch celebration on Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6PM, at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, 94117)

Last week, Suhail Rafidi fielded questions about the editorial process for Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey. Here, the discussion turns to the specific matter of editorial cuts. We got a story from Suhail that we did not expect…

So you rewrote Cetus Finalis ten times. Does your editor Ryan see every draft?
No, I’m not that pampered. But out of personal interest, he reads about 3 or 4 of the drafts, mostly at the later stages.

Does your editor make a lot of cuts?
It depends on the project. He is true to the art, and cuts deeper than I ever would. He wants to see the vision of the book brought forth as vividly as possible. A good editor makes a great book possible.

cutskiThat’s a half-assed answer…
Yes, I’ve known him to make a lot of cuts. And when it’s time for that, my feelings don’t matter, the art does. My feelings can matter after the edits. The very first time we worked together, he was reading an early draft of TJ & Tosc. The first thing he did was throw away the beginning 15 pages, and say “This part is boring. Start here. Drop us right into the action.” I was stunned, but impressed. He was right and I never would have seen it.

I will tell you the deepest cut he ever made, and it may elucidate one of the reasons Cetus Finalis has been years in the making. Once, I think it was the 6th draft or so, I handed my editor a 170 page manuscript of Cetus Finalis. He gave me back 52 pages, saying, “This is the best part. Start over.”

Why did he cut that much?
He said, “This 50 pages is literature. The whole book has to be like this.”

Cut Chair, by Peter Bristol
Cut Chair, by Peter Bristol

Wow. What was in those 118 cut pages?
It doesn’t matter, ultimately. But since you asked: Cetus Finalis originated as a parallel story, an American Revolution historical fiction style book. Originally, two parallel storylines followed a pod of whales and a village of fisherfolk whose lives intersected at two critical junctures, at the beginning and end of the book. My editor cut out all of the human storyline. He said that he was experiencing his humanity more vividly through the whales than through the human characters, so get rid of the humans. Make it a whale story, a real whale story. Make the humans just one encounter with another species, just like all the other ones in the whale narrative. He was right. It made for a much more beautiful and otherworldly finished novel. But it also gave me a lot more work to do.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an editor cutting that much…
tantrumI was pissed, I’ll admit, but he was right. For a couple of days, I could barely talk to him. And he was staying at my house, so it was a little awkward. [Laughs.] In my mind, I was thinking, How could you cut so much? Did you even read it?! He was patient with my artistic moodiness.  He even let me throw a little tantrum a couple of days later. “Oh, that’s what’s bothering you?” The tantrum ended when I said, “I can ignore the changes you make any time I want to, but I trust your judgement.” He came to San Francisco to read the book. It would have been foolish of me to ask for his help then not accept it. Despite everything, the cuts improved the book. He takes personal interest in my work, and reads it thoroughly or not at all, with a keen eye for the story’s vision. Thank you, Ryan Hurtgen! I know you’re out there.

Learn a great deal more about whales, and Cetus Finalis, at the author’s website, suhailrafidi.com.

Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, on sale NOW! Get your copy of the book Ben Loory called “Watership Down for whales.” Please join Suhail Rafidi for the book launch celebration on Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6PM, at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, 94117)

The Editorial Skein

Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey. New book by Suhail Rafidi. September 2016.Last week, Suhail Rafidi discussed the significant amount of rewriting entailed in completing Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey. Another essential factor of writing a novel for consumption by a paying audience is a good editor. There comes a time in every large writing project when the writer is in too deep, and needs the wayfinding insight of a good editor. In this week’s installment of Cetus Finalis propaganda, Suhail Rafidi answers more detailed questions about his editorial process, and his editor.

What does an editor do?
An editor pares away the junk of a book so the author’s vision can shine through. The author knows what they want the reader to see, but there so much extra junk in the author’s mind that invariably makes its way onto the page. The editor steers it ever back to the clearest vision of the story.

Why is an editor so important?

One Of The Ways It Works
One Of The Ways It Works
There comes a time in the process of writing a book when the author becomes too close to the work, too embroiled in the minutiae, and can lose perspective of the wholeness of the book, the totality of the story arc. A good editor will look at the work as a discerning outsider, with no sympathy for the invisible desires and motivations that can convolute the manuscript. A good editor can tell you honestly what needs to be cut (usually a lot), or about a character “I need to know what she’s thinking right now,” or about a scene, “This is weak storytelling.” Writers don’t typically like to listen to truths like that, but I feel it makes all the difference.

Learn more at ryanhurtgen.comTell me something about your editor. Who is he? How did you find him?
My editor is Ryan Hurtgen. He is a composer living in Los Angeles, and one of my personal heroes. We met as strangers in Nashville in 2009 and formed our very own two man writing group. We could tell right off that we had compatible aesthetic sensibilities, and that was the magic formula for editing each other’s work. We could look at the work as disinterested and critical audience members, instead of the creator who still has a crush on his work. That was a big deal, and goes a long way to creating a finished product fit for mass consumption.

asleepingreenAt the time Ryan was composing Rene Breton’s debut album, Asleep In Green, which was released with a companion book of short stories. We agreed to exchange labor. He edited TJ & Tosc, and I edited Asleep In Green. When we began working together, we did not know each other, and we only got together to work on writing. After that, a friendship grew, helped considerably by our compatible aesthetic sensibilities. I mention the bit about not choosing a pre-existing friend as an editor because I think it is important to select an editor who does not know you as a person, because they’ll pay more attention to the writing then to you. They are more likely to be honest about the book’s audience and less likely to pull punches about how to improve your work.

Tune in next week when Suhail reveals a flabbergasting story about the deepest cut his editor ever made, and how he dealt with it. Learn a great deal more about whales, and Cetus Finalis, at the author’s website, suhailrafidi.com.

The Art Of Rewriting (Or, The Ten Drafts Of Cetus Finalis)

Lots of this...Many readers are writers themselves, and take interest in the creative process of other writers. There is a substantiated rumor that Suhail Rafidi’s upcoming novel, Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, was written and rewritten ten times. Or in Carl Sagan speak: A one with one zero after it. Ten times sounds like an exaggeration for effect, so we went to the source. We asked Suhail Rafidi if he actually rewrote the same book 10 times:

Yes, I actually wrote Cetus Finalis 10 times; though I don’t think it’s all that surprising. Any writing instructor will tell you that the bulk of writing is rewriting.

draftHow do you know when one draft is over and another begins?
Because I start at the beginning each time. What I consider a “draft” of a novel comes in two layers, or coats. The first draft is just that, a kind of soup stock. Once it’s written, I number it 1 and print it. Once printed, I begin reading the manuscript for rewriting.

What happens next?
For the first coat, I put the manuscript on my workstation with a blank notebook next to it. Then I read the manuscript with a colored pen, one word at a time, and mark it up, change things, delete things, rewrite things, add things. If the edits fit in the margins, I write them there. If I make a larger addendum – a paragraph or some pages – I inscribe a number with a circle around it on the manuscript. Then I write the same number in the adjacent notebook and compose the passage there.

Open notebook with a ballpoint pen in the centerYou still hand write your drafts? Why?
For the first coat, yes. I feel that I maintain considerably more focus when using a pen and paper. Though the power of desktop computing can’t be understated, holding a stylus and marking the page is an ancient human physical practice. I think it will take longer than a century or two to displace the efficacy of that writing process. Dante had no word processor.

writingSo, who types it up?
I do. Once the manuscript is read and marked up, and the notebook filled with new writing, I take the marked up manuscript and the notebook to my computer. I open the original file of the draft and enter in all the changes, now laying the second coat of the same draft. During the second coat, I do not read every word of the manuscript, I just enter the changes. Sometimes while entering the changes, I make a few more. So, the second coat does allow for that.

So every one of your drafts is TWO drafts?!
I don’t see it that way, but I understand what you mean. I don’t consider a draft done until it is ready to be printed out of the computer again. After I finish entering all the hand written changes, I save the file as the next draft, number it 2. Then print and repeat; on to the next draft.

And you got all the way to draft 10 doing it that way?

How much of a change is there between drafts?
Sometimes it is rather drastic; others less. I can’t keep a lot of what I write. The stuff I can’t keep often needs to be rewritten. To give the changes a sense of proportion: the 6th draft of Cetus Finalis contained 42 new numbered passages in the notebook, in addition to the markups I made on the pages. The 7th draft contained 37 addenda. The 8th draft contained 11.

Drafts of Galatea, by Rachel Swirsky
Drafts of Galatea, by Rachel Swirsky

Tune in next time when Suhail Rafidi goes into more detail for aspiring writers about editing Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, including discarding rewrites, the role of his editor, and the editorial process which refines a novel’s relentless rewriting.

Learn a great deal more about whales, and Cetus Finalis, at the author’s website, suhailrafidi.com.

Uncanny Valley Digest: The Left Hand Of Darkness

lefthanddarknessLast night’s The Left Hand Of Darkness discussion turned the genre on its head! A bevy of enthusiastic readers pitched in to rock some pizza and admire the handiwork of this deep and multifaceted novel.

In precisely the way Bacigalupi does not, Le Guin actually goes through a lot of trouble to imagine other ways of being. She has crafted a world that does not [yet] know war, coupled with a powerful vision of a world where genders are removed from gender roles.

An interplanetary human Envoy has landed on the planet Gethen, with invitation from the stars to join the interstellar planetary community, the Ekumen. The natives of Gethen are a snow dwelling ambisexual species of humanoid which – though their radios work – have not invented flying, or war. Will complex political intrigue threaten the success of the Envoy’s mission, or rescue it?

Ursula K. Le Guin takes us deep into the pliable notional mysteries of human relationships and meditates on our inclusion in the tapestry of life. Now for the notes!

David: From Le Guin’s introduction. How sci-fi is not limited to extrapolation. Sci fi is thought experiments! Le Guin wrote in the intro, “Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic.”

Meg: Le Guin uses elements of the travel narrative and anthropological soft science fiction to justify her rich and verbose info dumps. She sets the tone for this as a collection of field notes, more than a novel. Erik, who has read “more anthropological field notes than I have read science fiction books,” said that much of this novel read very naturally as if it were field notes and did not smack of a novel. Interesting to note that Le Guin is the child of two heavyweight anthropologists, not just scholarly types, but real celebrity status anthropologists in the Bay Area. (Alfred L. and Theodora Kroeber. In addition to many other things, the Kroebers are the scholars who cared for and documented the life of Ishi.)

Screen shot 2016-07-11 at 7.47.19 PM

Which genres is she blending? Fantasy and Sci-fi, of course, but many more. The travel narrative, hard sci-fi, political intrigue, romance novel. It’s so fantasy in some regards that readers crave a glossary and maps, the way lots of fantasy books give. But she leaves it to the reader to deduce the world around Genly Ai. Readers are along for the same ride as Genly Ai, to figure out how this world operates, and where its variations are.

Where is the romance novel? Which two main characters begin by disliking and distrusting one another, but discover by the end a deep loving intimacy, but because of their social circumstances are prevented from acting on their newly discovered love…? C’mon, it’ll come to you…. Exactly! A romance novel.

Le Guin’s using high-falootin’ Big Idea sci fi here, like Asimov in the Foundation works. Big political and social spectrum considerations. Getting the reader to think about social structure in the abstract, yet so strongly grounded in these everyday characters.

Erik remarked on the contemporary anti-war climate of the writing at that time (This book was published in 1969.) She is laying out a very strong thought experiment to imagine a world without war. Killing and crime, sure, but not war. (Or as she does in The Dispossessed a thought experiment of an anarchist world and how it might actually operate.)

Screen shot 2016-07-11 at 7.47.23 PM

Powerful theme of questions and answers. The value of not asking unanswerable questions. P.70 “the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.” P.151 “To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”

Tangent about Cordwainer Smith as a very important author of the New Wave, and a discussion about reading some of his short stories this Autumn.

Erik: Tangent about Micheal Saler’s book, As If, which discusses the growth of fandom in literature. “Enchanged disenchantment.” Playing with the idea of literary characters being partially factualized and tracked, like with Sherlock Holmes, and later with Lord Of The Rings stuff.

The Foretellers’ ceremony: WOW! It’s about the question, the journey. The answer doesn’t matter. A good question is more valuable than its answers. Just knowing that the planet will join the Ekumen does not tell enough. Nothing about Estraven and Genly’s character changes. Even knowing the Foreteller’s answer does not shorten the road.

She’s advocating a great model of the anthropological approach to everything, being changed by the other and them being changed by you.

p.135, The Ekumen “is an attempt to reunify the mystical with the political,”
We talked about the implication so that short statement for sometime. When were they ever united in the first place? Perhaps in pre-literate oral cultures, where all documents were spoken and remembered only?

Erik: Regarding the Ekumen, Erik mentioned “a sensibility that encourages an incounter with the Other. That interaction has a mystical and spiritual dimension.” Also, A “Human quality of being open to otherness, but with care. To be open to the other, you have to in a sense be broken open to the other. Be at ease with the tension and uncertainty (including the erotic tension) that comes with the charge of difference.

Suhail: Le Guin is even dispensing with the assumption that we have to resolve or somehow flatten or homogonize that charge of otherworldly difference before we can begin meaningful interactions and exchanges. The uncertainy is permanent. Dualities are experienced simultaneously instead of with mutual exclusivity.

See you next time!

Struck off on a tangent of other sci fi writers culminating in the most humorous comment of the night, from David Gill: “If you’re into Dick, you can’t go deeper into Moorcock.”

Commentary about the modern syndrome of needing security, security fetishization, security theater (in Naomi Klien’s words), and how creepy it is.

Meg: By being ambisexual androgenes, the Gethenians are an embodiment of the contradictions. Making peace with permanent uncertainty.

Meg: When this book 1st came out it was derided as a radical feminist screed. Le Guin actually had to write an apology article to the male sci fi scene. Male sci-fi writers attacked her for being a feminist. But she did not describe herself as feminist, as much as they introduced the label into the discourse for the purpose of sullying it and her. She was criticized for the sexuality and kemmering stuff, and the foretelling. But they did not note her very powerful vision. Or maybe their attack is how they did note her powerful vision. As Le Guin says in chapter 11: “To oppose something is to maintain it.”

Le Guin’s incredible versatility. She writes all sorts of stuff: Poetry, children’s books, YA, essays, etc.

Meg: “She brings optimism, but she is not sentimental, and that’s why it’s so great. She deftly illustrates the sophistication of all these mixed emotions and THAT is the greatness of literature.”

Erik: “She’s super smart, super aggressive, but not sentimental.”

This novel actually tries to imagine “other ways of being,” a phrase Le Guin uses in her National Book Award Acceptance speech. We ended our session by watching this elegant 6 minute speech. Now here’s a link for you to watch it:

Screenshot 2016-07-12 at 12.04.17 PM

Thank you for reading! Reading rules!

Uncanny Valley Digest: The Windup Girl

windupgirlLast night’s The Windup Girl discussion was a real deal literary salon! Distinct opinions arose. The scope and technical skill of Windup Girl were undeniable; complex, impeccable world-building, a vast swath of ultimately interconnected characters, none seeming more important than the others. Of the half dozen people who attended the meeting last night, 3 of the 6 did not finish reading the book. Two of the 6, one who finished and one who had not, did not recommend the book. Four of us thought it was excellent, even masterful.

David said, “If a student asks, ‘What is the state of science ficiton today?’ then it is this book.” What did he mean by that? Well, we asked: This book, in contrast to Metropolis, is entirely mimetic. It has limited itself to completely believable descriptions of a material world and the mundane movements of people within it. Using that vehicle, it delivers an extraordinary vision that must be largely deduced by the reader.

“He never lets you peek behind the curtain,” said Suhail.

“Nary an infodump. Not a single one,” noted Meg. Every piece of information regarding the very masterful and complex world building is embedded in the prose and actions of the characters. Show-don’t-tell is followed to the letter, with incredible discipline. So much discipline that the reader is wondering, David observed, “Am I seeing this right? Is this what’s happening?” We must rely entirely on the slow and gradual reveal of contextual details. Chris says that this “puts the reader in the same position as every character in the book!” And there was a murmur of assent that this was a good thing. Suhail replied that “there are different philosophies about how a reader should be treated.”

Suhail was one of the people who did not finish the book, and did not recommend it to others. Nowell finished it, but also did not recommend it to others.

Screen shot 2016-06-27 at 6.57.16 PMNowell: This guy needed an editor. The book is at least 100 pages too long for what it does.

Suhail: This is technically masterful, socially innocuous, status quo-reinforcing fiction in the same ilk as Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. It is written so well that it doesn’t suck, so you can get to the end, but so what? I don’t care about any of the characters, no matter how well rendered, and I’m not surprised by any of the plot developments. Some sci fi does a good job at making the present feel like the future. But this makes the future feel like the present. The calorie man is the oil baron. The kink springs are steam industry. White men in corporations are going to fuck everything over in the process of taking it for themselves, and the brown people will run off into the woods again. Too bad, folks, get used to it. The megodonts are Jurassic Park. I just couldn’t stay interested, no matter how MFA the writing was.

Screen shot 2016-06-27 at 6.57.05 PMAu contrer, say Meg and Chris: This book asks for more patience than the average one-off sci fi book. “It is a slow burn,” said Meg. [To which, Suhail responds, a slow burn leading to a meager guttering puff of expiration.] This slow burn concept came up a few times. It takes a while for all the seemingly unrelated characters to get laid out, but then when their lives start intersecting, you see how masterful and mesmerizing it is.

David was ambivalent, but still interested, as he had not finished the book yet, but wanted to see it all pulled together. Meg assured him the payoff was gratifying. Suhail was resistant, “I hypothesize that you will feel exactly the same way about it after you finish the book.” Suhail also added, to mild disapprobation, “I did not finish reading this book, and may even tell others not to read it.” “Now that’s a little harsh,” replied Chris.

Meg also admired the significantly researched hard science in this science fiction novel. Every technology Pacigalupi described was backed up by present scientific knowledge, so detailed in fact that it is a little opaque to the reader. This lead to a tangential discussion of Kim Stanley Robinson, and perhaps reading him next year.

Meg also said she could not teach this novel, because she’d have to spend so much time explaining and rationalizing to the students the literary purpose of the very “triggering” scenes and images strewn about the book. (Like the way Emiko, the Windup Girl, is treated, as well as other vivid, normalized depictions of racism and oppression; but mimetic, like David said, purely descriptive, not judgement-laden.) Suhail connected this need for filtration with the implicit status-quo whiteness of the book’s backdrop. “For people (like multicultural university students) who are less sympathetic to white privilege, I imagine this book has a lot less luster.”

Suhail admitted toward the end something about his prejudice. “Regarding David’s accurate observation that this book is entirely mimetic, it gives no symbolic trapdoor for interpretation, it is so antithetical to the storytelling style of Metropolis (which I enjoyed so much) – I think that fact motivates my prejudice against this book; because ever since I began reading books, I’ve gravitated more toward the symbolic, representational, iconographic flavor of storytelling. Also, thank you for trying to convince me to read The Windup Girl. I promise in the future I will not abuse this indulgence of skipping the reading.”

Screen shot 2016-06-27 at 6.52.21 PM
Pizza Party!! I love this group!

Wrap up: 3 of 6 finished reading The Windup Girl. 4 of 6 recommend reading The Windup Girl. We’re taking off July 4th, but be reading LeGuin!!!

See you July 11th for Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. [Geek trivia: One of David Gill’s cats is named Ursula.]

Thank you for reading! Reading rules!

Science Fiction Summer Reading Group

lefthanddarknessNext Meet: July 11, 2016 (Monday, 6:30-8:30 PM, Pacific)
Have Read: The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
Where: Google Hangout Online and San Francisco

Greetings science fiction aficionados! It’s your favorite time of year. Descend again with us into the Uncanny Valley! The Science Fiction Summer Reading Group is back with a new and improved lineup! Look forward to Monday nights this June and July. The series will again be moderated by editor of Pravic magazine, David Gill (the web’s illustrious Total Dick-Head!) and author Suhail Rafidi.

Members of the group who are in the San Francisco Bay Area on any given Monday are encouraged to attend live at the sci fi lab and enrich the discussion! Contact David or Suhail personally for details.

We’ve incorporated the comments of readers and participants from last year. This summer’s lineup is shorter, contains one movie, and has 2-week reading windows for the longer books. Be ready for discussion by the dates listed below. Without further ado…

Science Fiction Summer Reading Group 2016 Schedule
June 6: The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972) – Gene Wolfe (San Francisco)
June 13: Martian Time-Slip (1964) – Philip K. Dick (Oakland)
June 20: MOVIE Metropolis (1927) – Fritz Lang (San Francisco)
Be reading Bacigalupi for next week!!!
June 27: Wind Up Girl (2009) – Paolo Bacigalupi (Oakland)
July 4: No Meeting. Be reading Le Guin for next week!!!
July 11: The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969) – Ursula K. Le Guin (San Francisco)

As usual, the group will also convene online, from 6:30 – 8:30 PM, Pacific Time
Click the link below to enter the Google Hangout:

Thank you for reading! Reading rules!

Uncanny Valley Digest: Shadow Of The Torturer

don-maitz_the-shadow-of-the-torturer_ny-pocket-books-1981_82825-8Last night’s Shadow Of The Torturer discussion jingled and jangled! The book itself has lofty goals, and the prose style conveys them allusively. The tone of this book is equal in formality to Canticle For Leibowitz. High praise coming from this group. The women are much more real than in any science book we’ve read this year. As the plot thickens, so does the reader’s interest.


I’ll admit, it took me a while to get warmed up, about 50 or 60 pages. But then once I let go, sank in, and let the prose be what it was, I didn’t want to do anything but read this excellent book.
An orphan raised to Journeyman by the Guild of Torturers (Seekers for Truth and Penitence, some call it), is exiled upon showing mercy to a prisoner.

It’s part of Wolfe’s Solar Cycle: Three four-book series, each set in the New Sun universe. Which reminds me of Dark Sun, and – by the way – this book is a D & D nerd’s dreamscape! Such a powerful, dark, refined, rendering of a role playing vibe from the Gygax halcyon days. A real D & D world, and written with depth and beauty. So nerdy, so many cloaks, swords, lances, pikes, and thieves, giants, exotic mounts, ruffians, guards, warriors, gypsies and magistrates, shopkeepers, innkeepers, pilgrims, and dark arcana.

The Wolfe Man Cometh...
The Wolfe Man Cometh…

Literature? By Wolfe’s definition…
Wolfe said, in a letter to Neil Gaiman: “My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.”

Very similar verbose, eloquent (and stilted), allusive prose as Miller, Jr. in Canticle. But less of a handle on humor.

Interesting note: Both authors are Catholics and I think they show it in each novel. The order of torturers, the guilds in general, the almost liturgical arcane-flavored style of prose, the tight are treated as churches or monastic orders. The same style of rules.
p.111 dressed as a holy man in a world without religion.

Very deft use of obscure language, most of it as refreshed Latin or ancient Greek. And very efficient use of macabre imagery. Just a few brief atrocities spread wide across the book, but they were all that was needed. The atmosphere of the prose, and the psychedelic descriptions of the world outside the citadel.

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Alienated From Their Origins
This theme has come up a few times this summer. The characters are so far removed from any epoch of time with which we are familiar (through our histories) that they have no idea what we “were” like. A medieval recreation of atmosphere, brutal monarch, walled feudal city, obscure punishments. Then we start to learn this is the far future, Jack Vance Dying Earth stuff. The place these people call the citadel was probably a starship, with all of its thick walls and corridors, all metal, and revealed ever so gradually, and most times downright eloquently, over the course of a three hundred pages of gothic prose.

Women Characters
Thank Wolfe-ness these women had some dimension. Distinct personalities and motivations. A little hetero normative, but excellent depth and texture.
Thecla, Agia, Dorcas – what characters!

Party dog want SNACKS!

Great Jack Vance Dying Earth Stuff
Red sun, FAR future.
Monochamy – formalized one-on-one mortal combat meant to resolve serious disputes. It is described as a social custom designed to eliminate murder.
super psychedelic, in a guilt ridden catholic way, not some poly-amorous Heinlein shit
Super bleak, but also adherent to the concept of duty
Like Leibowitz: A conservative religious approach that humans need very strict instructions and restrictions or everything falls apart. (Or  is it that the human solution to everything falling apart is strict social control?)
Looking for ancient earth, Like some Asimov Foundation stuff, and the predicament of the characters in Canticle For Leibowitz.

The Garden
The long road to the weapon he must pluck. Where each terrarium is a kind of holodeck on steroids. An immersive tour of what magic technology may become. A place where people become lost and the dead are stowed.

One of our visitors had to hop off.
Uh, is he Australian…?

Consensus Reality
Strong and weak minds and the porous boundaries of reality (PKD was hooked on this concept, how a more grounded or aggressive mind could actually alter the contours of the reality of a less grounded or less aggressive mind.) He’s making an important distinction between the signifier and the signified.
P.66 “Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forching that to be real.”
p.127-9 This whole passage (culminating in “…an object will be brought into existence.”) on light and refraction is beyond me. Help…
The octagonal mirror room of optics. It’s like they are creating material objects by perceiving their reflections first. It also reminds me of interstellar wyrmhole ansible kind of stuff. The mechanics of it are described using writing that’s meant to be misunderstood. Complex esoterica bullshit.
p.195 “unseen is as good as unbeen”
p.110 – a child’s sight of other worlds, and hidden parts of the self

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 8.04.29 PMScreen shot 2015-07-08 at 8.04.39 PMHow does Wolfe make a torturer character likable?
By making him more compassionate than his compatriots. The narrator professionalizes their order so they are just doing their jobs. Severain developed an emotional bond with one of the prisoners immediately.

Unless Severain is lying, he’s almost unscrupulously honest, but at the most peculiar times. As soon as he gives Thecla the knife, he goes and turns himself in.

p. 182 On Clemency: One less one is more than nothing.

A note from Wikipedia: Wolfe intentionally uses the unreliable narrator perspective and writes in the first person, as the character Severain. He believes any narrator would be unreliable, fallible. It also makes for more interesting literary problem solving for the reader.

Wrap up: LOVED IT! The only other book we’ve enjoyed more this season was Canticle For Leibowitz.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!
Thanks for reading. See you next week!

Uncanny Valley Digest: A Canticle For Leibowitz

A_Canticle-for _Leibowitz_BookCoverLiterature is like pornography: You know it when you see it. This is the first book we’ve read this summer that is literature. Our A Canticle For Leibowitz discussion ran deep! Notes follow. With so much ground to cover, and a brief visitation by a mystery guest, we had a very satisfying hash of a very stimulating book. We even finished the salami. “It’s definitely a genre smasher.” -Gill


Some Background on Walter M. Miller, Jr.?
A tail gunner in WWII who signed up right after Pearl Harbor. Saw lots of action; 50 missions. Including destroying the Abbey of Monte Cassino, an experience which inspired A Canticle For Leibowitz. He became a Catholic after the war. Unable to shake depression for the rest of his life. He didn’t know how many people he’d killed. Committed suicide in 1996.

It was written at the beginning of the cold war.
So believable, the fear of nuclear war was constantly rising, rising.
Canticle was originally serialized in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine before its hardcover publication in 1960 by Lippencott. Another important book was also recently released by this publisher. That book was Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint (1959). Published by Lippencott in hardcover the year before.

Also in 1959: Russia’s Luna spacecraft is launched. Castro is approaching Havana. Batista is still in charge. Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash.

Hugo Gernsback was a prick!For those of you who believe in Hugo Awards:
Starship Troopers won the Hugo in 1960
A Canticle For Leibowitz won the Hugo in 1961
Stranger In A Strange Land won the Hugo in 1962
Dick won the Hugo in 1963, for Man In The High Castle
Hugo in 1964 goes to Here Gather The Stars by Clifford Semac
Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein 1967
Zelazny wins Lord of Light in 1968
Left Hand Of Darkness by LeGuin in 1970
Wow, quite a sequence.

Dig her site...

“He’s actually underestimating the consequences of nuclear war. A nuclear holocaust would have been a lot worse.” – Gill

Miller’s premises while he explores the human condition:

  1. Human beings destroy other humans not because of something some other human did the actions of others, but because part of the nature of human beings is to destroy other human beings. The violence does not abate, no matter what technological level we get to.
  2. Our entire capacity for goodness and evil is encapsulated in humanity, in the actual living people. Miller often treats humanity as a single organism.
  3. These characters are alienated from their origins. They don’t know why they exist, just that they do. And it tricks the reader! “Oh thank goodness I’m not alienated from my origins as they are, oh wait, I am as alienated, but I’m just more familiar with my own context.” They’re witness to the future, but they’re disembodied from the body of knowledge that brought them there. Alienated from their origins. Everyone in the book. And us. This book is our condition as well.
  4. Human beings need tight control, or shit hits the fan. Discipline is key!
    “When man gets loose, loose gets man.” – Gill

In The Uncanny Valley... Screen shot 2015-06-24 at 8.40.30 PM Screen shot 2015-06-24 at 8.02.04 PM Screen shot 2015-06-24 at 8.01.47 PMTHE THREE PARTS

Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man)
Rediscovering and copying the esoteric knowledge. Building the case for Leibowitz’s sainthood, based on the findings of brave Brother Francis. The manuscripts! The copysits! The Discovery!

The Flame Deluge
Even knowledge was destroyed. Cities were reduced to rubble, the survivors became nomads and villagers. Illiteracy spiked. The mutations caused by the radioactive fallout create an entire outcast grotesque strata of humanity, called Monstrosities, who are avoided and sequestered.

That whole Simplification business, ignorance with pride. Mobs of proud illiterates furious as the smart people who burned the world and mutated their species.  These monks know how to recognize knowledge, but not understand it. They preserve it, against the superstitious simpletons. They make copies of it because they know it matters. He’s recasting the Dark Ages. Leibowitz died protecting knowledge from the simpletons.

1986 Cover Art by Peter ThropeNikita noted the patience of the ascetic life, the non-goal oriented lifestyle of these monks. lives are counted in years, but their actions take lifetimes. Francis spends 7 years as a novice! 15 years on the illuminated blueprint replica!

Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light)
Thon Taddeo. Secular intellectual who joined the order to use his mind for work and avoid hard labor, not for God. The pride that comes with knowledge, and the fall that comes with pride.

Argument between Thon Taddeo the scientific scholar and Dom Paulo, the Abbot in charge of the Abbey of St. Leibowitz, where the memorabila reside. Thon Taddeo’s blasphemous idea, after reading a fragment (of Karl Capek’s R.U.R, perhaps? Suhail deduces) about a created race made inferior to their creators. And the Robot revolt, conjecturing that their present race of humans was created by a prior superior form of man, which died off in the Flame Deluge. This incenses the abbot, who points out that text was verified as merely a fragment of a play, then retorts,

“Why do you take delight in leaping to such a wild conjecture from so fragile a springboard? Why do you wish to discredit the past, even to dehumanizing the last civilization? So that you need not learn from their mistakes? Or can it be that you can’t bear being only a ‘rediscoverer,’ and must feel that you are a ‘creator’ as well?”

Good question! Why don’t some people want to believe that humans alone can do all of this? When I hear people attribute great engineering feats of antiquity to aliens, I also wonder something. The pyramids, Stonehenge – why don’t you want to believe that humans were able to do that? If we can do holocausts, we can do pyramids.

Click for the big picture.

The backdrop of this powerful contention between the Abbot and the Thon is the rising power of a marauding empire sending reaching out to engulf the church itself, a political maneuvering meant to take over the church, insisting under pain of death that only the emperor was allowed to license the clergy, not the church, Pope, or Holy See. Progress is coming, so get your bandages, Taddeo warns.

Fiat Voluntas Tua (Let They Will Be Done)
Mrs. Grales forgiving God for his Justice, in the confessional, as the next nuclear holocaust begins. Remarkable imagry. The two headed Mrs. Grales/Rachel speaking of forgiving God, before He forgives her. It opens up a meditation on what forgiveness entails on the part of the forgiver. A relinquishing of anger. Giving before it is necessitated. Forgiving. A very sophisticated emotional condition.

Or this.

Forgiving God to give up mankind’s bitterness at God for allowing pain and suffering. Because if God hadn’t allowed pain and suffering, courage, bravery, and self-sacrifice would be meaningless.

The Order’s position: Leibowitz loved the wisdom of the world more than the wisdom of God, but when that did not make peace and happiness, he turned towards God, crying. The order is showing us what it values in their own endeavor. Their job is to bind knowledge and ethics, a great integrator. A structured hierarchical authority.

There’s something about Miller’s voice.
The humor is very important. The book would be almost impossibly heavy without it. The characters eclipse the plot, first and foremost, but the plot is so powerful it’s difficult to notice. Very character driven. Makes the info dumps are much more palatable.

For example, Chap 24, opening paragraph, culminating in “a race of impassioned after dinner speech makers.”
“If you’re gonna pretty much nail the human condition, that’s how you’re going to do it.” – Gill

Would you like to know more...?

Is this book pro-religion or not?
The ethical imperative of religion’s role in human experience. With as much incrimination of religion that he sneaks in, he gives it its due, responsible for ethics.
It felt authentic, his descriptions of the church hierarchy weren’t contrived. He did his homework. He pays dear deep respect to the church and religion’s ethical imperative.

Nowell felt “Knowledge-impoverished by not having more bible knowledge. They’re blowing right by me, but I don’t have enough Christian bible knowhow to be able to hold my own in this thing.”

What Does It Need?
“Female characters would be nice.”
“What a movie this would make!”
“You could go Lord Of The Rings and go three three-hour movies of this.” – Gill
“That would be incredible.” – Nikita

This book is just aching for a Foucault reading, and a Latin supplement.
An annotated critical edition, with maybe an introduction by Letham?
Tim powers, from OC, Dick’s friend, Hugo award winner, devout Catholic. What does he think about this book?
How would you teach it?Teaching it
Essay Question:
How are the Rachel head of Mrs. Grales and the disembodied eye of the Poet symbolic of the Church’s function in the narrative?
An observer of progress, a preserver of knowledge that it does not understand.
“And it has to be written in latin.” -Nikita
Regarding nukes, check out a documentary called Trinity and Beyond about how many nukes were test detonated overground in the days leading up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and throughout the cold war. We’ve been nuking ourselves for decades.

Wrap up: It’s a masterpiece.

Uncanny Valley Digest: Flatland

flatlandLast night’s Flatland discussion was on point! Notes are included below. Good turnout, close readings, and some laughs! Thank you to Nowell and Robert for coming to the studio for the live table. We had online attendees from L.A., Chicago, and Mexico. Though the book is short, everyone agreed it was a dense and slow read, that was occasionally pleasant. It’s more of a philosophical treatise, or youth primer on abstract thought, than a story. Thoroughly allegorical, and definitely satirical. But, as David remarked, “Is it art?”


Here are notes and thoughts captured from our discussion of Flatland:

Lines, triangles, squares, polygons, nobility. HA! Class stratification based on your number of sides. Also, inevitable generational social advancement, like evolution.

Chapter 3. There is deep intentional satire here.
Assimilate the leaders of rebellion to prevent revolt. The poor and disadvantaged are turned against each other.

Chapter 4. All females are legally and culturally obliged to shake their asses at all times. We’re not kidding.

Come on over!Chapter 5. Touch recognition and sight recognition.
Theme: Being able to distinguish between classes and genders means A LOT to Flatlanders, and that is part of the satire. It takes a lot of expensive training to aptly discern the differences between classes and genders. A tremendous amount of social, cultural, and cognitive energy is dedicated to being able to distinguish between classes and genders.

[Remember: their only organ of apprehension is both an eye and a mouth.]

Outcast, deficient blue-bloods cause most revolts.Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 8.40.29 PM

Chapter 7. Irregulars and Square’s eugenics tendencies. Even though some Irregulars are culture-bearing geniuses, we should still kill them all. DANG!!!

The Color Revolt. Randy art! Even a circle becomes an artist! Ah, lost Belle Epoque!
Then the political treachery. And now the priests keep color locked up tightly all for themselves.

Chapter 18. The fascism. If we can’t explain it, we’ll incarcerate everyone who witnessed it.

Meticulous world building. After laying out all those rules, he makes them really affect the characters later in the book. He follows the rules of his world.

But is it art?
Is this enlightened tongue in cheek satire or is it pedantic pap too conscious of itself?
David Gill: “He doesn’t know about storytelling, he’s painting by numbers.”
It’s as clunky as golden age sci fi.
A ham fisted social critique.
It’s art*. (*The way that it changes you is very pedestrian.)
Problematic (seriously fucked up) woman question:Chapter 4. Concerning the Women

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.48.14 PMInteresting:
Dan found an online edition of Flatland that where the protagonist was female. an apocryphal modern adaptation by Suzanne Fox Buchele. Additionally, Buchele omits the Color Revolution.

Using the math to cushion the fascist state depictions.
Dan mentions: “Despite the class and gender problems, the math angle on it made it a pleasant story, more palatable.” To lure readers into considering the social critique.
Pantocyclus and the Platonic Nazis:Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 8.35.57 PM
If you are not born into a platonic form, you will be changed into one or destroyed in the process.

Gill: “The rod up this things butt has a rod up its butt.”
Even as a critique of Victorian tightness it’s a little tight.

Contemporary CONTEXT
Who are some other writers, thinkers, and artists active during this period?
John Ruskin(Stones of Venice, etc.)
William Morris (Another writer of social utopias, and a father of arts and crafts movement.)
Utopian writers of the time, idealized social and artistic comments.
Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde, also contemporaries
Lewis Carroll, working on similar stuff
A contemporary (late 19th century) idealization of medieval times.
“Can you imagine how bad things had to be to get nostalgic for medieval times???”
And Charles Darwin.
Abbott’s Darwinian approach toward polygonism. Each generation has one more side than the last, evolution plays out assuredly.
All are challenging Victorian notions of things. He’s part of this historical current.

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.43.29 PM Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.36.59 PM Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.37.01 PMScreen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.24.41 PM

Nikita: “It’s a very hierarchical rationalist positivist medieval style of writing.”
Nikita commented on “the difference between profundity and insanity.”
David asked, “Is that like the difference between clever and stupid?”

Gill says: The allegorical literary pedigree of this writing is like Baum’s Oz books, especially Wizard Of Oz.
With a deep extended metaphor that has meaning beyond its surface

An excellent illustrated digression toward the end of the discussion.
Cool book, Robert!

Pre-TV reading. Pre-radio reading.
Like Moby Dick (which made it to the table tonight in reference), it is a kind of prose that serves many functions that we now ascribe to TV, Internet, and Radio. All of these desires for entertainment were served back then by reading.

...and Dante in the middle.
Somehow, Divine Comedy and Moby Dick got involved.

Chapter 19
Robert: “It’s Dante. He’s doing Dante here.”
When the 3rd dimension sphere takes him on a tour of the third, the square promptly wants to go to marvel at the 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions. And the sphere says, no, you’re crazy. We don’t have them.

Suhail: “This is my favorite part of the whole book, thought it took too long to get there.”

Square quickly infers that dimensions musn’t stop at three. Square says about the next dimensions: “Or if it indeed be so that this other Space is really Thoughtland, take me to that blessed Region where I in Thought shall see the insides of all solid things.”
Nikita called it “The eye seeing itself seen.”

Square returns home to Flatland to tell people what happened.
Robert: “There are stages of illumination and if you’re not illuminated, how can you comprehend?”
Nikita: transcendence of your perspectival position
A reading of Dante (Paradiso, Canto 1, Ciardi translation):

“I have been in that Heaven of His most light,
and what I saw those who descend from there
lack both the knowledge and the power to write.
For as our intellect draws near its goal
it opens to such depths of understanding
as memory cannot plumb within the soul.
Nevertheless, whatever portion time
still leaves me of the treasure of that Kingdom
shall now become the subject of my rhyme.”

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.43.14 PM
Nikita studying a portrait of Edwin A. Abbott

Dig This: Robert had a gorgeous annotated edition of Flatland, from the Mechanics Library in San Francisco. One of the annotations explained: color and brightness are also dimensions! We’ve been living in more than three dimensions for a while.

How is it sci fi?
It explores insurmountable differences between simultaneous realities; a very old narrative.
When Dante returns from Paradise, he says he can not describe the extra dimension he’s been to, but he must try. This is what happens to Square. The Sphere is Square’s Virgil. Abbott is using this stuff. It’s his literary and academic context.

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 8.46.55 PM

“A Canticle For Leibowitz will put this piece of dogshit to shame.” -Gill
“How would you write Flatland?” asked Robert.
This lead to a bit about E.M. Forester’s concepts of Flat and Round characters. Flat characters exist only to advance plot, like evil stepmother. Round characters are their own story. David said he’d write flat characters for the 2D parts, then add emotional depth to the characters in the 3D parts.

Wrap up: Most didn’t like it as a narrative, but all agree, “It got me thinking about things.”