kaigou: If I were my real size, your cow here would die of fright. (2 if I were my real size)
[personal profile] kaigou
Let's set aside the fact that I really want to kill my team-at-work right now, and think about more cheerful things! ...which means setting aside the fact that killing my team would make me VERY cheerful. OMG it's only the second day of the year and already I'm pondering bloodshed.

Well. Anyway.

I remember reading Hunt for Red October back in college or whenever, and what seemed like so many intricate details. I do recall that this added to the veracity or the realism of the story, but I don't recall if the details really ever became pertinent. I mean, some of them did, like how radar worked (and why the Red October could slip past), and how nuclear subs worked (thus helping to explain why the sub could/would be evacuated). Not sure about the rest, or maybe those other details were meant as red herrings: talk about keeping the resolution a surprise. If you're drowning in red herrings, how the hell do you know which is gonna matter?

As relates to me, specifically, I've been reading all kinds of awesome stuff over the past few months. Much of it would never show up in a story, or at least no more than in passing: who really cares about the monetary systems and coin debasement and other economic missteps, let alone what/how centralized banking works and why it's so important in the development of modern capitalism -- but omg this stuff is just so fascinating.

In case you missed the tumblr reblog, yes, I'm a dork.

This is just mostly the craft question, where when I come across in-depth details about something (regardless of the story or genre) I find myself stepping back. Not in a bad way, but in a "I need to back up to see the whole picture here" way, and I mean that in a craft sense, not a reader-can't-cope sense. I like looking at how someone else tackled that all-important issue of the infodump, especially when I know (or can trust) that this info is still very, very important.

I really feel like that's an art, in its own right.

Date: 3 Jan 2014 01:15 am (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
Red October is an interesting example, and also something of a special case. A lot of the details never do become pertinent in the ways that the conventional storytelling rules of our present moment demand that details be pertinent -- that is, they're there for their own sake, not do be a Chekovian gun on the mantlepiece.

But they're not extraneous, either. They're doing heavy worldbuilding work, in that (like sf and fantasy narratives) they take place in a world that the average reader will find unfamiliar, but that the reader needs to understand at least sufficiently for the action to feel like it makes sense. Beyond that, though, there's a level on which Red October was really all about the worldbuilding: the plot was there in service of the author's desire to tell us all about the technology, and a lot of the pleasure of the book came out of the gee-whiz fascination Clancy managed to communicate for it.

I suspect that a lot of the more general question comes down to what any story is really about, in the author's heart of hearts. If it's about how the presence of dragons affected the history of banking and commerce in AU post-Roman Europe, both you and your readers are going to want as much stuff about monetary policy and theory as you can cram in. If it's about your characters' adventures at the courts of AU Florence and London, and the dragons are decoration, odds are good you don't want anything more than an oblique line of dialogue or two in the text itself, because as long as it feels plausible in-world to have the dragons there, who cares?

The remarkable thing, to me at least, is that there's an audience for the first kind of story at all. But sometimes there is, and sometimes its size surprises you.

Date: 3 Jan 2014 03:22 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
I agree it's quite an art form. There's the whole pacing issue with how you place the infodumps and how big a roadblock they may be. Infodumps slow things down and make people think about other things besides the driving pace in an action-oriented central plot. It can be like lovely charming meanders or maddening. As with cover art for books, you have technical demands on how much world-building detail you can get away with including. There's two axes of difficulty there, too. There's how much space you eat up with explanations (Clancy's hugely lengthy for a Twitter age) but also how difficult is it? For example, at what level of scientific knowledge do you pitch your explanations? You can be extremely concise if you use more technical language, and sometimes that works better to blind 'em with science. In some of the fantasy stuff you evoke the same effect because you're just handwaving with fancy phrases. "Okay, I'm convinced, I'll take your word for it, this part is bafflegab for the geeks, I don't need to worry about it." Some of the writers I really like are fabulous at inventing language that ought to be the correct terminology, that evoke odd combinations or funny ones. The really good ones build on some key terminology, where you get a hint from the name of something, and later there's some plot surprise built into that name. That could be pretty concise, but it's much more likely to suggest a tone of frivols and leisurely nonsense--it can be a bit like breaking the fourth wall if you get tooo cutesy.

on tech exposition

Date: 3 Jan 2014 12:20 pm (UTC)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
From: [personal profile] brainwane
Sort of relatedly, on Michael Crichton and tech writing. And what do you think of Jo Walton's thoughts on incluing?

Right now one of the books I am reading is Catalogs And Counters about the history of Sears, Roebuck. You'd like it.

Date: 18 Jan 2014 04:04 am (UTC)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
From: [personal profile] brainwane
I met a science communicator who works for a particular lab-type facility, SLAC maybe, in their press office. I sort of fell in love with the idea of science communication because of the science writer character in Asimov's story "The Dead Past" and how Asimov points out how powerful and scarce he is! (in retrospect: authorial self-insertion?)

Jo Walton on incluing. You might also be interested in some of her "on writing" stuff.

Date: 18 Jan 2014 05:14 am (UTC)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
From: [personal profile] brainwane

I have her email address and would be happy to email her about your conlang generator - what address should I give?

Date: 13 Feb 2014 01:28 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
What is your tumblr? I will definitely subscribe!


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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