Science Fiction As Its Own Journey, Part 2

Before I start my absurd commute from Shaw to Fairfax (note to self: check internet for hovercar rideshares), I want to take a moment to talk about “The Comet” and “Who Goes There” as short stories and Neuromancer as a novel.

I worry about form a lot. My emphasis is in creative writing, and I write a lot of poetry, so I spend a lot of time asking myself the same question Mike did- why is this what it is? Why didn’t they write it as something else? I do know that there’s the flavor of the times- short stories are quicker to digest, so they can reach a wider audience, and in the early 1900s publishing small poems and short stories was considered a great way for people to get their literary injection for the day. When I really think about it, I can see some parallels to modern social media. I used to blog when I was a wee lad, but I stopped when I went into the Army, and I’ve shied away from most social media ever since. Now I’m starting to see the similarities between the old publishing of short stories and Twitter and FaceBook updates. Freaky. I mean, I understand the value of social media, but now it’s easier to accept, somehow. While I do feel that both “The Comet” and “Who Goes There” could probably be expanded into a full novel, I don’t think it could have without losing focus on the themes that were trying to highlight. It would have been more entertaining, perhaps, by giving us more twists and bends and character development and setting- but then it wouldn’t be as contained and poignant a snapshot of the themes it’s trying to portray. In ENG 305 we’re being taught to ask why someone would want to write a particular story; considering the racial themes and ideas of the authors we’ve discussed in class, I don’t see any reason why they would have made this a novel. The short story makes their points just fine. (As a note: my post about Frankenstein explored Shelley’s work moving into the future. I think it’s interesting to think of the biblical and primal symbolism in “The Comet”, then think of all the tribes that talk about visitors from the sky or the ocean in their legends, and also the way science fiction in the earlier 1900s adapted old art and mythos to create what was contemporary science fiction. But we already discussed that in class.)

Neuromancer, on the other hand, almost begs to be a novel. A lot of people have posted about how the opening chapters have left them scrambling for purchase, and I think that’s a perfectly valid observation. I’d agree. But I think that might be one of the novel’s strengths. If I were able to tell exactly what everything looked like, it might help me focus on the characters and themes going on in the book. But because I don’t have that stable footing, it puts me off my guard and makes me feel the same sort of funky, gritty world where nothing really feels safe, secure, or- sometimes- real. By expanding this story into a full novel, Gibson is really inviting me to get lost in the setting, because so much of Neuromancer, I am starting to think, is about the world it takes place in. That’s a big part of what makes the point, whereas the short stories make their point in more concentrated bursts that worked best as short stories- the setting just helped communicate a mood.

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