Sunday, November 8, 2009

Still reading (with gaping lapses between stints) Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar. It's truly excellent.

Because I have an independent study on Russian literature to oversee, I read Gogol's "The Overcoat" tonight. (Next up, "The Portrait." The translation is by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.) I didn't care much for the supernatural ending tacked on. The story could have easily done without it. However, Gogol keeps such a distance from his protagonist (or at least insists he's keeping his distance), that the tone remains one of a fairy tale even as it broaches realism. More than once, Gogol's narrator declines to speculate what the poor clerk might be thinking because, in so many words, "who can know a man's soul." The narrator even strikes a pose that might be viewed as modern or post-modern (though other early authors did the same; every old is new again) when he says he's not interested in certain information, baldly digresses into areas not strictly aligned with the plot, and even confesses to forgetting facts, names and geography. A delightful story, funny in the way Dickens is funny in how he describes people being drowned by bureacracies, though refusing to demonstrate the sympathy that would accompany a story aiming at realism. Gogol is, in this way, perhaps more real: he tells us straight up that no one remembers the clerk and that his passing leaves no mark (until the supernatural coda, that is).

Did a little writing on a story I've been kicking around for a few months. It needed to be told more . . . interestingly. It presents challenges as I reshape every scene; it's still got an omniscient narrator, but the narrator is being somewhat pushed out of the way.

My story "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down" will definitely be in the March 2010 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, hitting newsstands in late January.

I received a positive response to a query about another story, but I won't hear for certain until sometime in December.

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