In Which Our Heroine Contemplates the Series

10 February 2004

Note to myself of 24 hours ago: yes, you can finish Wizard's Holiday over lunch, and enjoy it, and pine for the next book in the series. And yes, it'd be a good idea to stick another book in your purse to read in line at the post office, grocery store, etc. Aren't you clever. But making that other book Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory...not the most fabulous idea you've ever had, self. Cognitive dissonance. My land. To go from Siegfried Sassoon poems to loading the conveyer belt with peppers and cheese and then back, just weird.

Other than that, I spent a lot of time running errands yesterday, but it was generally a happy experience. "You meet just the nicest people in Eagan!" Seriously, very helpful folks around here. Ready to lift heavy burdens, etc.

One of the things I like about Diane Duane's Young Wizards series is that she thought through an explanation for why young kids aren't just leaving the world-saving stuff to the grown-ups, without having a Ring Of Destiny or a Birthright or whatever. There's a logical explanation for it. Which is good. Also, I think Mary Gentle did something to my brain, because it didn't bother me in the slightest that this Duane book did not have an ending. I'm eager for the next book in the series, certainly, but I wasn't annoyed with Duane about it -- and it did have an ending, just not a full one.

Anyway. It's anachronistic, but I keep thinking of that Dylan Thomas poem as I read the Paul Fussell book. I think it's appropriate that the first war to bring history into my book consciousness was WWI. First modern war and all, "After the first death, there is no other." It runs through my head. I had it on the wall in the bathroom in college, so that I could think about the round Zion of the water bead and figure it out some more. I also put katakana and hiragana up. My current bathroom walls are not very good for that sort of thing, which is too bad, because I liked having stuff to learn and ponder in the morning in case I didn't have any in mind already. Not usually a problem, but still.

I'm going to refrain from erranding today: I need to stay home and write. And write, and also possibly write. And do laundry. And write. It's snowing, so that's one reason to save the rest of my extensive errand list for later in the week. Another is that my brain is hell-bent on story. I occasionally have moods where I feel I could open up the file of any unfinished work I have and work on it steadily until some physical need made itself known as a reason to stop. In fact, I've just written a thousand words of "Carter Hall Recovers the Puck," and I'm feeling impatient to get back to it.

A few more things, though: on episodic fiction, for one thing. REM points out to me that in any episodic television, we all know the main character isn't going to get killed, will probably solve the problem at hand, etc. (I would extend the point to other episodic fictions, although we're generally informed in advance if a TV show has been canceled, whereas a short story writer could just stop sending the stories to whichever magazine has been publishing them.) It's true that Newford isn't likely to get nuked, James T. Kirk will not be the one offed by the hostile aliens, and (the example that brought this all up) Adrian Monk is not going to be reinstated as a police officer. But I think a successful piece of episodic fiction usually requires some change for somebody, and it requires that change to take up most of the episode.

Going back to "Monk" as the example: most of the episodes spend most of their time on Monk catching the criminal. For the victim, the criminal, and their associates, the end state of the episode is quite different from the beginning state. Further, Monk's relationship with Sharona, with the cops, with his shrink, and with himself may progress over the course of the episode. Which is part of why I watch this show and not some others: being a good detective, solving a case, is important to Monk and Sharona for a variety of personal reasons -- not just a job well done, but all sorts of implications of being able to do that job well. "Monk" has embraced its genre thoroughly; it takes the tropes of a detective series straight to heart. I love that about it. Anyway, this most recent episode spent a good deal of time on an opportunity we knew would be failed, in a way that was not so much funny as pathetic to me. The redeeming factor is that the Captain seems to be growing in his ability to deal with Monk and Monks' disability in a compassionate way. Otherwise I would have hated that aspect of the episode entirely.

"Monk" is one of those series that tries to find a middle ground between series like most sitcoms and the first "Star Trek," in which there is no overarching goal the characters are working towards or plot arc they're sliding along, and "Farscape," in which it's difficult to watch an episode in isolation because the overarching plot is so important. At least, that was my impression of the show; it's why I didn't watch "Farscape" when it was on (I can't commit to watching a show every week), but is not a flaw per se. It's just a different way to do a series. But once you've chosen amongst the extremes and the middle ground, you still have to balance the movement of the story through the episode. And you still have to make sure that there's a reason for the viewer to watch the rest of the episode, the reader to read the end of the story, etc.

Well...some networks don't think there needs to be that kind of reason. (But I think they're wrong.) Fox had a commercial on the radio imploring listeners to watch their Monday night offerings "so you'll know your life doesn't suck nearly this much!" Ummmm. That's a little blatant for my tastes. Sure, they're showing hideous situations to make people feel better about their own minor discomforts, but do they have to make it that obvious?

Okay, I can't wait any more. Back to Michael Banks and Carter Hall and Finland Finland Finland. But not all in the same story.

Back to Novel Gazing.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.