Tuesday, January 07, 2003
posted 12:12 PM
Someone posts to complain of the wealth of grammatical errors in my fiction… I would have to say that some are errata, some are nonstandard grammatical choices on the part of a character (and these can be part of the text, as interior monologue or an aspect of “POV”) and the rest are, for the most part, conscious and deliberate stylistic choices involving nonstandard usage.
I suppose the idea that a writer would deliberately choose to “break the rules” would puzzle some people, and annoy others, though it’s a bit of a stretch for me to imagine what it would feel like to be in that particular relationship to prose fiction.
There may well be people who abandon Neuromancer on the grounds that it’s riddled with sentence-fragments, but, in a sense, the sentence-fragments are there to scare off readers who aren’t ready for that, and to encourage those who want to see the envelope of language pushed even further, the pedal taken even closer to the metal… I do know how to write formal standard English without making a great many mistakes. But a character like Rydell doesn’t think in formal standard English, so when I’m interfacing with the narrative through the lens of that character, you don’t get formal standard English. Though that shouldn’t lead you to assume that the more general narrative voice of a given book is “me”. If I’m doing my job, it never is.
But this brings up a much more important point, re those advance reading copies (ARCs) of Pattern Recognition that have been popping up on eBay for the last little while.
Those are “uncorrected proof copies”, which means that they are (1) absolutely riddled with errata, and (2) in the case of this book, to some extent a variant text. There is, in particular, a completely annoying failure on the typesetter’s part to keep the email sections in the font allotted to email. This has (I hope) been thoroughly corrected in the actual book, though too late to impress any of the reviewers who had to struggle through the ARC. Why does this happen? Well, novels, these days, have to be scheduled long in advance, as to production and date of initial sale, and you could say that it all springs from that. Publishing today encourages a certain lamentable “hurry up and wait” factor. The ARC’s were gotten out before I would have wanted them to, before I’d had sufficient time to “sit with” the manuscript, and then I was able to make another pass (actually two more) taking whatever time I needed. I won’t go into the changes, else I enter spoiler territory, but you can take my word for it that the ARC is not at all the finished text.
Actually I had hoped to have the final corrected galley sheets independently proofread by my friend John Berry, but, to my disappointment, scheduling did not allow. One day I will manage to do that, and then there will be no errata, and no non-deliberate grammatical errors whatever, but he won’t mess with my sentence fragments at all.
Monday, January 06, 2003
posted 11:21 AM
The thread about the bridge in Virtual Light had me remembering where that all came from: a random glance out a window in The Clift, where I was staying during the tour for the previous book. Up early, on one of the upper floors, I happened to look out into thick, classic San Francisco fog and see, magically, just the top of that first cable-tower, suspended/isolated there in a field of gray. I suppose it became for me, at that point, a place.
But if you wanted it to be a place where you could be, where you could sleep, you’d need a floor and walls and a roof… Tree-houses, the forts that children build, secret places of childhood… Somehow, before I’d turned away from that window, I had the floor: it was made of two-by-fours, set on edge, making the deck a comfortingly solid four inches thick.
So, really, the world below, the bridge and its culture, all grew down from that, called into literary being to support what would become Skinner’s room, Chevette’s home, and the core of three novels.
My friend John Clute, the only critical historian of science fiction I pay any attention to, thought that the bridge was the ultimate elaboration of the Cornell boxes in Count Zero. I started understanding that he saw these environments throughout my work, and that he regarded them as claustrophobic, or rather agoraphobic. I didn’t like that, but gradually, at some deeper level, I guess I started to agree with him. Which is ultimately why I wound up torching the bridge in All Tomorrow’s Parties, and perhaps why Laney dies alone in his cardboard box at the end of that book.
In Pattern Recognition, the only physical environments I can think of that evoke Cornell boxes are the basement arcade off Portobello Road, where Cayce sees the book’s first Michelin Man, and Boone’s ex-girlfriend’s rather too perfect apartment in Hongo, and, possibly, Baranov’s fetid caravan. None of these are felt as sympatico environments for Cayce.
But there may be another sort of Cornell box there, in the form of F:F:F, the website where Cayce and her friends have been discussing the footage, in the months before the book begins. I think that’s an improvement, though, as a website can become a Cornell box full of friends. Having seen that happen elsewhere, and been a part of it myself, my best hope for this site would be that, for some of you at least, that will happen for you here. (If it does, it won’t have much to do with me, and everything to do with you.)
So welcome, and special thanks to those of you who arrived early and started colonizing the place before it was even completed. That really cheered me up, a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have to feel I’m moving into an empty (and dishearteningly brand-new) structure. There is already some human space here, the start of that sense of duration and habitation, and soon there’ll be, I hope, more.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) my reputation as a reclusive quasi-Pynchonian luddite shunning the net (or word-processors, depending on what you Google) I hope to be here on a more or less daily basis.