Sunday, February 23, 2003
I really do have to stop peeking in at Usenet. This, which I found yesterday evening, written by one Eloise Mason (née Beltz-Decker), in response to a thread discussing books which end abruptly:
I'd like to nominate Caitlín Kiernan's Silk in this category. It was lovely, creepy, atmospheric, with all these neat people ... and then, towards the end, not only did she avoid easy, obvious resolution - if this were a car, she swerved violently around several POSSIBLE points or endings she could have hit, and then just stopped the car, got out, and let it run there with the keys in until snow began drifting over it, leaving it for future generations of archaeologists to wonder about.
As I finished reading this passage aloud to Jennifer, I was ecstatic. Here was someone who really did understand the ending of Silk. To be blunt, she got it, the effect I was trying to achieve, the reason I threw out the first ending I wrote and wrote another instead. It was truly one of the most flattering paragraphs of amateur criticism relating to Silk I've read (and there have been volumes). I was actually smiling. But then I read on. How the ending made her want to fling the book against a wall, how that's a shame because she'd really loved the book up until the end, how any resolution, including one involving space aliens, would have been preferable to no resolution at all. I sighed and sat back and shrugged my shoulders. It didn't really diminish my joy at the first paragraph of the post. She still saw what I was trying to do. She just needed a little bow tied neatly on the top of everything.
There's a very close connection, I suspect, between our instinctual fear of death and the disdain many people have for stories that choose to avoid resolution. In both cases, things just stop, more or less. You never see how it all ends, because it doesn't really ever end, except for our part in it. "What? That's all?! No, no, no! I want to see what comes next!" The fictional lives of the characters in Silk didn't end at the end of the novel, just the part I chose to reveal at the time. And when we die, whether our consciousness continues or not, the rest of the world goes merrily on without us, and we never know. I suspect it's all harder these days, so weaned are we all on instant gratification.
Anyway, Eloise Mason understood, I think, she just didn't like what she understood. I suppose that's fair enough.
For my part, the paragraph quoted above is a fine description of one of the countless lessons that writers need to learn.
And, for what it's worth, the novel I'm working on now is a continuation of Silk, which is to say, the story didn't end at the end of that novel. It will be continued, though back in January 1996 I thought I'd ended it and was happy with that unresolved ending. There's great beauty in unanswered questions, often far more than in the facts we pry from the world.
Oh, and I think, maybe, that new book has a title now. It came to me yesterday, while I was signing the signature sheets for the chapbook that will include "Andromeda Among the Stones." I think the title will be The Queen of Shadows. I thought about The Queen of Light and Shadows, which is closer to the truth, but may have too many syllables to make my editor happy and, besides, Jennifer and Spooky both said it sounded more like a fantasy novel. I didn't point out that it is a fantasy novel. I knew what they meant. Elves and fairies and unicorns, oh my. That sort of a fantasy novel, the faux Tolkein meets AD&D brand of fantasy, which it certainly isn't. Though there might be a dragon or two, before it's done.
Last night we went out for Thai, which was nice. The weather has kept me too close to home, of late. I was determined to take advantage of the warmth. Then Spooky and I watched the restoration of Fritz Lang's Metropolis on DVD. This morning, I'm feeling a little icky again, like maybe the cold's not quite done with me after all. I was being grumpy about it until I got an e-mail from Neil and learned of his recent bout with the flu. Spooky's organizing a mountain of comic books on my office floor. I'll go work now.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Cat Dentures.