False Depth in Storytelling

False Depth in Storytelling

One thing I often get - most recently regarding the show "Succession" and mostly from people who don't know me that well in my circle of acquaintances - is shock that I don't like [Stephen King | Game of Thrones | Whatever piece of dross that's popular today that involves horrible people being horrible to each other ]

"But you should try it out instead of dismissing it right away / after a few minutes"

The answer I give echoes Alexandru Constantin's - I don't like it, why should I continue to waste time on that?

"But you could miss out on something really great! It's good you like classics man, but you really should see some new stuff" - from a person who in the same conversation thanked me for pointing them to a documentary that came out within the last year.

"That [stupid grey goo show of horrible people being awful to each other] is so deep, with such complex characters!"

No, it isn't. It's a grey mess. When everyone is just some grade of fucked up and spiteful, and especially when there's no real good or evil, then you're painting in grayscale when you could be using color. And if everyone in the show is some form of cluster-B/NPD/Narcissist and/or broken in some way, then of course it will be "complex" - for there will be lots of conflict, and thus the appearance of drama, but no real depth, just a veneer of it. I don't care if there's cleverly worded comments or dialogue.

"You're a snob"

So?

I go through discussions like that all too often, and it's even more irritating with people who didn't believe me the first time I told them. One accused me of not reading Stephen King enough to give him a chance - turned out I'd read more than he had. I won't read anything of his again, he is broken and hates people. Him or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I don't care how many prizes you win, it is still petty, shallow, and crap. Crap related in big words and artsy camera angles, but still crap.

The most confusing part for me is that they don't understand why I don't agree that it's so complex, involved, and deep. I mentioned above that they mistake the constant churn of petty drama generated by broken people screwing with each other as true drama or moral quandary. Motion for work being done instead of running in circles. That operating in a moral landscape of grey is inherently limiting, and that focusing on the utterly mundane as much literary fic does comes at the expense of paying attention to the sublime.

And yes, the mundane is part of the canvas for a good author, but it is not the only thing. Gene Wolfe was amazing at sprinkling small and mundane details as part of the fantastic canvas he painted, but it was far from the only thing. As Brian Neimeier notes, "Mundane science fiction" is an oxymoron.

In the end, I hate grey goo.

Morally grey with no good or evil, mundane, nihilistic, without a sense of wonder, with small petty people and small petty problems blown out of proportion because the characters are broken and stunted.

Avoiding that crap is part of why I'm not only digging back through the New and Long Sun books, but also back into some real classics like Robert Louis Stevenson's books, and Scaramouche, that I last read when I was too young to appreciate them the way I would now.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.