Note: I wrote this post a million years ago (well 3 months ago), but never posted it, as I haven’t updated this blog since then.
Hello there! Another triumphant (we hope) blog post begins. It’s been awhile since I’ve written on here about “daily life” type things, since my last post reached into the abysses of eternity as I waxed philosophical about my epic backpacking trip with my brother. I believe, this post is going to be more “normal daily life” in origin.
Specifically, let’s talk books. I’m really not sure the best way to approach this. But it’s getting late on a Thursday night and I have wanted to write about these books for awhile. I had it in mind to write a post about two books I read recently. The first is “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. This book purports to be a guide for would-be fiction writers, and to some extent, being the second half, it is. The first half is probably where the “memoir” part comes in, as it depicting moments in King’s life that helped shape him as a writer: the first story King wrote, the first novel he got published, the first big book deal, etc. This was enjoyable to me because King is a great writer and brings these moments to life in his humorous, home-spun kinda way. It was also enjoyable because I have been a Stephen King fan since I was about thirteen years old, and have read most of the books he’s written.
The other book I just finished is “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. This massive science fiction epic depicts the fictional destruction of the moon by an unnamed object, presumably a comet, that runs into it. This book is all about humanity’s struggle to establish a permanent colony out in space in the face of the destruction of the Earth’s surface due to falling lunar projectiles over the next five thousand years.
I think I wanted to combine writing about these two things because as follows:
Stephen King, like in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (which I wrote about here), tells us that we should write a lot and read a lot. Now, I read a lot. In fact, I have finished seventeen books this year already, which may not be King’s numbers of seventy every year, as he claims in his book, but it’s still quite a lot of reading for someone who isn’t in some kind of college reading program. But I had only read one novel all year, and I presume that when King says to read, he means to read FICTION. After all, that is really what his book is about.
So I read fiction, specifically, this book “Seveneves.”
King talks about description. “Seveneves” is full of description. At times it was difficult to wade through. Fortunately, the story kept my interest, but I admit, it was at times challenging to follow all the complex description of space ship engineering. I feel the book gave me a bonafide education on futuristic space engineering. If the moon ever were destroyed and humans had to move out into space to survive, I think that I would at very the least have some vivid pictures in my head of what we humans could work on (outside of the imagination part, I would probably be useless, as I am not an engineer, a scientist, an astronaut, or know shit about advanced space travel technology).
Since I gave my brother back his copy of “Seveneves” I don’t have it right in front of me to find examples of what I’m talking about.
Suffice it to say that I found it very informative, very interesting most of the time, quite challenging to read at times, but overall, an epic read.
King also talks about dialog. There was very little dialog in this book. Compared to it’s 867 pages, I would venture to say that maybe fifty pages of it (yes, you read that right) was dialog. That is because the rest of it was description, often very dense description as mentioned above (again, description that, albeit challenging, was edifying.)
King also talks about writing what you know. Stephenson certainly did that here. I don’t know that much about him, but I am certain that he is an enormous enthusiast of space exploration, new technology, and all things engineering. You could see that he thought in terms of systems of organization of physical structures. In fact, this book could be repositioned as one big engineering problem: how to create a sustainable, habitat for humans to survive out in the space while the Earth gets pummeled by falling moon rock for thousands of years.
Outside of the awesomeness of his engineering and technology kicks, there are certain “human” layers that can be rather thin. For instance, the political aspects of the world are quite thin. At one point, the author basically concedes that all his characters are engineers (could as easily have said scientists, or tech-geeks), not the “political” type. The political aspects of the story, including the world of the future that is divided into “blue” and “red” sides, is rather simplistic. The real interest is in all the complex descriptions!
Stephenson is therefore writing what he knows. Good for him! You score high on King’s marks!
Also, I gotta say this, the sexual encounters are about as sexy as, say, the idea of two engineers having sex. It’s very “star trekky” in that way, and this is a very brainy book through and through.
Overall, however, I enjoyed the book. And I think on King’s points that “Seveneves” contains elements needed in a successful work of fiction.
- know your audience. This book is written for science fiction and tech geeks like the author. Also, in the tradition of good science fiction, it serves as a middle man between science concepts and the rest of us.
- know your strengths: the book is the biggest engineering problem the human race could ever face… exactly what the author is no doubt interested (in contrast, Stephen King’s version of the end of the world, The Stand, is a gory, horrific doomsday tale of good and evil that only the mind of King could conjure up)
- Tell a good yarn. the very first line of the book is the hook that keeps you there to find out how this is going to go. “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”
- Go big or go home (I’m adding this one). This book doesn’t quibble. It is nearly 900 pages of intense, in-depth science and technology concepts wrapped inside a gripping end-of-the-world scenario. I always love it when artists go big! (think: Beethoven, or even King himself, the author of numerous 1000+ page novels).
Thanks for a few text reminders of the text here: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/05/tavs-mistake.html