A focus on surreal landscapes that will go anywhere is part of Lit Reactor, and I think it's a beautiful thing when those great fiction writers who can't be content with the ground more or less fly right off of it all the while somehow never once leaving it. It's a bit of a paradox to be able to climb into the cloudy realm that just like no one can hand you a bag of love can leave no solid impression. what's recognizable and comprehnesible.
The "somehow never once leaving the ground" of character/sitcheration I feel, from a bit of experience airing it out, is the caveat for even passable fiction. Because it seems once you go ahead and flatter yourself by choosing a complex premise, then you better forget all about that and write its ground from the heart or that particular fiction is done. These ambitious things usually don't have much middle ground between great and awful; but fiction's bound to be awful if it's up there, where only the damned mists rumored to connect us are.
Sometimes its happened I'm sure in the history of letters, that huge, overenthusiastic mistakes are made way up there in out there land. Visit too long, and then it seems what ought to have been good novels or efficiently written letters to esteemed editors-agents-publishers and other good friends may very well ascend into airy land; and in either the art form or the business letter, this sort of groudless work is likely to become a very poor and desultory and perhaps even subjectively twisted treatise on human nature. Whenever this has happened to me in the past, I generally cheer myself up by thinking as Carl the groundskeeper in Caddyshack with his pitchfork stuck up under a caddy's neck, "So at least I've got that going for me, which is nice."
Seems the job I got and the thing I will if necessary torture myself into learning how to do, is and will be a continuing study of what that art of "somehow never once leaving the ground" consists of. And good luck to me. Anyhow, been out a while, working like a lit up dog, so just a returning babble. Rx, Flyby
I'd rather have a relatively simple plot (because let's face it, most have been done) inhabited with complex characters, and let their point of view on the situation be what makes it unique. I don't read a ton of surreal fiction, but Steve Erickson is one of my favorite authors, and he creates his worlds with such authority that you accept their premises right away. If you've got setting, character, and plot as elements, I probably need two of those three to be grounded in the familiar for my enjoyment. Take that first Thor movie: all the alternate-dimensional other-planet crap bored the hell out of me, and it wasn't until he got to Earth that I cared about it.
Is that, um, what we're talking about?
Well, dropping that boring stuff that separates from the story you mentioned above, but remaining comitted to an ambitious premise or plot plan and pulling it off without the dispensing of such sleeping pills is what I'm talking about. I really do admire and believe in and love is that sort of fiction which doesn't even seem to be conscious while choosing its details that complexities and thematic/metaphoric flight are at its heart. But they are, and come alive alive in terms of the things the characters are doing and saying in a suspenseful way that no matter how wild things get, keeps on seeming like what real life is. Films regarded as completely whacky like Barton Fink, Being John Malkovitch, Memento and especially my personal favorite Donnie Darko (that put me right back in high school, with a real and frighteningly familiar sexual drama at its center to boot) are ones that are I think pretty astonishing, and that I'd attempt to write term papers on if I had more time.
But there is that danger I think in things that want to time travel and not always necessarily in order, and that want to fly all over the astral place and into psychological and spiritual, and the insides of things which have thart unfortunate invisibility, they run the risk of becoming subjectively self indulgent or just plain boring. For instance, in the deep past as hard as it is to believe, I have bored others with much worse than informational Asgardian (sp?) crap
Because when stress gets on the ideas its like fictional ether I thing, so first the writer and then the reader forget where they're going or why they even came in the first place, Or something like that. Anyway, thanks for the reply.
I prefer experimental plots with semi-surreal landscapes. How someone referred to supernatural fiction is a good way to describe the plot, I suppose. Though it's not my favorite, as I'm so used to associated super natural with goofy ghost movies.
I prefer forest mazes one dissapears in never to be seen again. That sort of complete hopelessness, where you can really apply "disciplary action" to a non living entity as we know it to be.
What I mean is I prefer the not quite abstract or solid, but rather the semi-solid uncannyness of subtler takes on magic within the world we live in. A super-computer that is haunted by the grim reaper. Magical aspects that simply make the future we live in bite holy mushrooms.
I prefer to have fantasy rooted in reality. I think it makes the leap a bit less extreme. If I have something fantastic happen, I try to make the setting and language as familiar as possible as a way of increasing the effect of the fanstastic elements.
To me Star Wars is one of those stories that the world is so unfamiliar that (no pun intended), has a tendency of alienating me as a watcher and a reader.
I know fantasy was mentioned, but sometimes SF can be one of the worst.
Star Wars is an example of something I'm okay with, because it's just the world that's foreign to me. The plots (though mediocre) are rooted in your typical afternoon-serial adventures, and the lead characters are classic archetypes (swashbucklers and princesses and mentors and such). I do glaze over when they start talking about midi-chlorians and shit like that, which fortunately there's not a lot of. And were I reading it in book form, I don't think I'd care for the creature characters (though on screen, they're one of the more exciting elements). That, and the political machinations of the prequels are quite dull. Star Wars would be considered fantasy more than sci-fi, no?
Star Wars is a good example. I think there always has to be an achor of some sort for me. Han Solo is that anchor in 4-5-6. Leia, as well, to a certain extent. They are realistic characters. I know people like them. I don't mean that I know princesses and smugglers, but personality-wise. So does Luke in 4. I can relate to being the kid who wants to get out of his go nowhere town. They ground the fantasy that revolves around them. 1-2-3 lack that anchor, so the fantasy floats away and becomes impersonal. I call it the Han Solo Effect.
So if one wanted to do a completely alien world, they would need a character (functionally speaking, not personality type) like Han Solo? Considering I tend to have carrnivourous grass, and world inside a demons belly. (Mostly in my older short fiction.)
I don't know if need is the right word, but for me it helps. The character becomes a sort of audience surrogate, someone that they experience the story through. For example, in the Garrett P.I. books that I am reading right now. It's a fantasy world and most of the characters are fantasy creatures. Garrett is a human hardboiled detective. It' familiar character within an unfamililar setting.
For good ol' storytelling, some familiarity (or relatability) is probably required, but I can enjoy the almost purely strange. Analogy in painting: Dali's 'Last Supper' is familiar-yet-different, whereas Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' is almost totally weird. (To a non-Westerner, I suppose they might both be equally unfamiliar.) A single image (or big picture with lots of smaller images, whichever way you wish to view it) is different from a story, but I think the principle is similar, or can be for some readers.
I wish I didn't bail on this discussion once I got it going; and I found all of the things written above valauable. I'm kind of a devout social dropout, working on writing this novel that has an ambitious premise, but that I would like to be the most perfect hovercraft between abstract and solid; that's about readability. So I wants to nail its ground so no reader needs to scratch there heads, in terms of the chronology, which takes place in several different time zones, or about the things that are happening moment to moment whether hallucinatory or real. So there's that kind of synergy between the halluciantion and the ground, where no matter how unfamiliar, it's familiar emotional ground for just about anyone, excluding sociopaths and their bretheren and etectera.
So I loved this from Sarah J. "What I mean is I prefer the not quite abstract or solid, but rather the semi-solid uncannyness of subtler takes on magic within the world we live in. A super-computer that is haunted by the grim reaper. Magical aspects that simply make the future we live in bite holy mushrooms."
That struck me as the balance I'm at least always striving for. So, it seems that balance between the real and unreal pointed out so well above is a consensus value; but then also to realize primary driveof fiction is its suspensful ground. And that in the ideal I clearly have not reached, yet, has real seeming characters interacting and going to suspensful places like all the great fiction from perfectly accessible to surrealistically warped beyond belief depend on. So if you can make warped work, what can be said of that; I think that's the magic, the highest you can at least go after.
So to get there to an ambitious I think I gotta get ready to make lot's of cuts, that make sure that every moment is compreshensible to most readers. No stretches, which occurr to me on good days for overboard. So sometimes, hallucingenics OD me, inspire beautiful stuff flying around with no mini-arcs ot larger arcs or sequencing or gyroscopes in sight. And I'll wake up one day and think, nice tangent. Or something like that. So, anyway, in closing determined as I can be to do it my own Frank Freaking Sinatra way, and no turning I think this good idea I got and characters all forming, into a bad pea soup where the ideas have taken over story. I try at least as much as I can in constructing this formal draft, to think in terms of the ground only, and that even the most gone to another wortld moments add to what' happening there.
So, i gotta be patient there. There's been a bit of practice with my head stuck up in the ether, or my ass on the lookout for a heart, or both, to unlearn. Incomprehensibility, seems to lurk here and there, and then we can imagine a monster with too many heads speeding one idea into the damned next one but not linking them up at all well, so who cares. Maybe if God really does decipher, all sorts of tongues and hyroglyphics to boot, then there's one reader to be counted on.
Anyway, Tanks again for the answers/comments
I think where the mediocre and "meh" and flat-out terrible sci-fi- space opera, if we're being accurate- and fantasy pieces go wrong is in their lack of grounding. You can be SO out there that it's too much to wrap your mind around, and too little with which to do it. You have to start with something familiar either character-wise (like Luke the angsty teenager or Han the cocky outlaw), environment-wise (they still live in aparments or houses, right?), or technology-wise (space ships aren't THAT different from today's aircraft carriers, are they?), THEN introduce the differentness of the world you're creating piece by piece, while being able to distinguish it, yet compare it, (without stating outloud!) to the world we all know. That's how world-building works, isn't it?
Otherwise, we're just swimming in the internet of the early 90s before search engines came around.