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.