• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Kinetic’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

The Familiar Made Strange

The picture he was cleaning showed an armoured figure standing in a desolate landscape. It had no weapon, but held a staff bearing a strange, stiff banner. The visor of this figure’s helmet was entirely of gold, without eye slits or ventilation; in its polished surface the deathly desert could be seen in reflection, and nothing more.” – The Shadow Of The Torturer, Gene Wolfe

The above quote is an illustration of a technique used in science fiction, which is, as far as I know, almost unique in the genre. The viewpoint character is interpreting something that to us is entirely familiar – in this case, a photograph of the Moon landing – but due to his different background and knowledge, he sees it as something entirely different. His reaction to the picture indicates that he lives in a quasi-medieval era, so far in the future that the technology it describes is forgotten. The Moon itself is now cultivated.
Clearly this is a trick which can be used to tell us what kind of world we are dealing with. It’s an economical trick, which if performed well (as it is here) is an excellent replacement for the “as you know, Bill, there are two moons on Mars, which makes my werewolf cycle very complicated” type of exposition in dialog.
I’m more concerned with it’s more profound effects. Once one has read a passage like the above, seeing the Moon photograph will be a different experience. One will simultaneously see the astronaut planting the American flag, and an armoured warrior conquering a desert. Learning to see things in this way is a mind-altering drug. Its effects are permanent. When Marcel Duchamp submitted a urinal to an art exhibition as a sculpture entitled “Fountain”, he was endeavouring to produce a similar change in perception. His frivolity is now regarded as a turning point in art. Perhaps we should have similar respect for those pulp paperbacks which did the same trick over and over.

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