In which I am confounded by literature once again…

So, I don’t know if you guys have noticed my widget over there on the right side of the screen. There are several. Below my Twitter feed (@geekinacardigan – feel free to follow me, I still only have like 45 followers) is my list of what books I’m reading/have read? I’m having an ethical crisis about that list, you guys. Total first world problem, right? Absolutely.

See where it says Accelerando by Charles Stross? That there is a big fat lie. I couldn’t finish it. I tried. I couldn’t even get halfway through it. Which is super frustrating. I so rarely put a book down unfinished. It irks and nibbles. And on top of that, now I’m in this conundrum, having a torturous back and forth with myself. Should I delete it off the list? Because I didn’t really read it. That’s false advertising, promoting myself as more well-read than I actually am. On the other hand, I think it could have been incredible. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right space for it. Perhaps someone else will see it on the list and go read it and love it. That’s worth leaving it on there, isn’t it?

Urgh. So torn.

Although I suppose now I’ve posted this I can’t really delete it off the list, can I? Fuck.

Well, problem solved. False advertising or no.

Anyway. I don’t know why I couldn’t make it through the book. Cyberpunk is hard for me, for some reason. I think it’s really interesting, that relationship between people and computers, especially when you get into stuff like microchips in brains and the impending singularity. A few cyberpunk novels that I really loved: The Unincorporated Man (by the Kollin brothers), Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson), The Windup Girl (Paolo Bacigalupi), and Neuromancer (William Gibson). And of course Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and A Scanner Darkly are both classics (by Phillip K. Dick – by the way, that K. stands for “Kindred,” isn’t that awesome?). And I even liked Stross’s book Glasshouse, even though it’s a little less cyber and a little more punk. Good stuff. Really, really good. So why is it so difficult for me?

I don’t know. It kind of feels like when I read super swords-and-dragons-type fantasy. The worldbuilding is fantastic, but I can either love it or just get completely lost and then I can’t follow the story. Which is probably why so many people don’t read science fiction in the first place. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, why more people don’t enjoy scifi or fantasy. It’s an interesting question. All stories are just stories, aren’t they? Whether it’s people or aliens or monsters or animals, every story is somewhat anthropomorphized in our heads kind of by default. Therefore, all stories are just people stories. All stories are just interactions of one kind or another. Relationships. Actions and consequences.

But the trick is being able to get inside them, crawl around in there and live in that world for a minute. There must be something relatable for the reader or it’s all just blah blah blah. If you don’t care about the world, you’re not going to care about the people who inhabit it. Like how people who can’t understand Shakespeare’s language can’t get into the characters in the play. That’s actually probably a really great analogy for a lot of people’s dislike of scifi. And really, it’s not that I don’t follow the language of cyberpunk (even being as semi-computer-literate as I am), it’s more that I can’t get into a lot of the stories because they hide behind the language. That computery vernacular (or any sort of weird dialectical stuff in fiction), when it isn’t understood, tends to make people skip over those bits and then they miss important details. I’ve realized that I also do this with books with a lot of similarly weird names (like in any book by Dostoyevsky, for example) and then I forget which characters are supposed to be doing what. And I’ve heard folks say that they have this problem with Tolkien. Not surprising, but I think it’s really fascinating what will baffle one reader and not another. The way that each of our brains are so differently wired is just endlessly interesting.

And that’s a subject I could talk about for days and days, even if I’m not particularly well-versed in the actual science of it. I was almost a psych major in college, but a really fantastic professor told me that I’d never be able to get through the math. Which is totally true, and I thank her for that advice, but it makes me sad that I can’t talk about the brainy-pokey things I think are cool with a little more aplomb. Like dissecting this really weird cyberpunk book about people with the entire internet in their heads and the uploaded consciousnesses of lobsters that run a major corporation. That would be a lot easier if I understood brains. And computers. Maybe.

Anyway, if you read it, let me know how it is. I might pick it up again one day when I’m in the mood for something a bit difficult and dense. Meanwhile, it’s going to stay on my widget list, haunting me. Damnable conscience.

7 thoughts on “In which I am confounded by literature once again…

  1. Nessa, Nessa, Nessa. Where do I begin? First, I have not read that book but based on what you describe I already know I would “get it” and could probably finish it. Second, and this part kind of goes with the first and you talking about folks that don’t read much scifi, I will never read it. I only touch the occasional bliss of scifi or fiction in general. I do not feel that it is due to a lack of understanding or being able to follow the conceptual ideas of the story. For me, personally, I just prefer to gain knowledge with my free time and read science, self-help, or study a side of computing that I have not mastered yet. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying you are not expanding your mind with fiction. Not at all. I don’t think anyone can say, especially for a writer, that there is a poor amount to learn from fiction. You have character concepts, grammar, thought process, and other things that you writers need to learn from each other. Third, I say leave it up because you admitted on here that you are a fucking liar and if we want to hate your fucking face for it, fine. 😉 If you leave it up then someone really might pick it up and discover something they find amazing. Lastly, I actually don’t agree with your professor that said you wouldn’t have been able to get through the math. You might have struggled but you are a smart lady and would have made it through. After you graduated you wouldn’t have to be great at math to succeed in that profession. That would be like saying you MUST be great at math to be a great physicist. Untrue. Take one of our greatest of all time, Michael Faraday. He is very well known for his lack of advanced/overall mathematical skills. He was mostly uneducated, mostly self educated really, and I know you will like the fact that as a teenager he apprenticed for a bookbinder and bookseller. During that tenure of seven years he read and read and read. Again, self educated. However, here is a man that gave us the magnetic field, electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and electrolysis. Everyone knows that famous Farady Constant, Faraday Cage, Faraday Cup, Faraday Paradox, and on, and on, and on. Well, there you have it. Proof that I read your blog and not robbing you from statistics with my, I think you put it, “computery things”.

    1. Ah, Luther. Always so supportive. I try to balance my science fiction addiction with an equal measure of nonfiction, I just don’t talk about it as much. Just started a really cool book called Sweetness and Power about the way the sugar industry has been used to subjugate populations in developing countries. But even folks like you who love to read and learn could use a little junk food for the brain every now and again. I think you’d really dig some of the cyberpunk books I’ve read. So surreal. A little Pink Floydy at times.

      1. Oh, I delve into scifi and cyber fiction. Well, maybe I just lied now too, so now you can hate my fucking face if you like. I don’t know if I have really delved into a cyber related book like I have the likes of movies of Hackers, The Matrix, Clockwork Orange, Total Recall, Scanner Darkly, Equilibrium, Heavy Metal, and it goes on. You get my point. It is absolutely a great release from reality. Of course, it is only somewhat an escape from reality since you are still meddling with characters lives, emotions and their bullshit. After evaluating this further I think I have just realized that I seem to lean toward visual fantasy opposed to reading it, while keeping my reading a learning experience. Interesting. I feel an urge to study that idea. Like, I need to totally do a Science Fair project on that! 🙂

        1. Interesting to read this comment–I’m coming out of the closet as a speculative fiction (hateful phrase, but it’ll do) writer, and to that end I’m devising a “learning” reading list for myself of the Big Stuff in sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve always been one to glean more from fiction than from non-fiction, more willing to slog through an interminable novel than through something factual. I’m also coming to terms with not liking movies all that much–I feel the need to take a break every half hour or so. (I have a sneaking suspicion that I would have loved the story behind “The Grey” had I been able to take my time with it. As a movie, I couldn’t watch it.)

          On a side note, Vanessa, from one cursey feminist to another: How are you liking ‘Preacher’? I definitely have Thoughts on that one–as well as intentions to read the series again.

          1. Oooh, “the Big Stuff” is a pretty tremendous list. I could go on and on. I may just have to do a blog post about that (ok if I quote your comment to use as a starting off point?).

            As for Preacher – I love it. Garth Ennis is so dry and can be really witty. The artist on the first one (whose name escapes me at the moment) definitely knows how to bring the gore, too, which I like. Interestingly, Ennis cited Bill Hicks as his inspiration for that character. I found the first trade book in a used bookstore a while ago, but I want to get the rest of them soon and reread the rest of the series. I think when I read them the first time in high school I was too agro to dig in properly. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Well I only have 11 on twitter so you have 4x more peeps than me! 🙂

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