Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Slow Rivers and New Ideas...

I've been reading Science Fiction as long as I can remember being able to read. A lot of my imagination has been sparked, shaped and directed by reading SF, and watching it on TV and, increasingly, by SF cinema. But, having read a reasonable amount, it takes quite a lot for me to be overwhelmed by a book or an idea (or, indeed, a book full of ideas). Over the last two days I've read Nicola Griffith's novel Slow River. The book was recommended to me by Karen, so those of you who know me in the material world, know the book thus had significance before I opened it simply by virtue of my intense interest in she-who-thought-it-worth-reading. And I found myself thinking deeply as I read in a way I hadn't for some time, or, at least, thinking about things I normally wouldn't. Griffith's novel is very dark in places, but what I was really thinking about wasn't even really all that SF related, but rather about bodies, families, ties-which-bind and identities which can (sort of) change. The central motif on the novel is water, and it's told in three narrative strains. For those who haven't read it, I won't describe the plot much, but simply recommend that you read it. However, one passage which doesn't reveal too much of the plot but really appealed to me, I thought I might share:
[At thirteen years old, young Lore gets] a camera and an edit board ... [As her parents, Oster and Katerine grow more distant in the real world, Lore uses her] film as wish-fulfilment, for a while: Katerine and Oster eat romantic dinners together, kiss, hold hands, disappear smiling into the bedroom. Lore, whose body is beginning to wake, wonders how her parents look when they are in bed. She watches some standard pornography scenes from her library, then learns how to morph the faces of her parents of the bodies of the library actors. ... When she goes back to her dorm room, she learns how to splice setting and character, and her films fill with porn actors wearing her parents' faces, fucking doggy-style on the copter pad, hanging upside down from the stone quay, thrashing in the carp pond. They cry out with her parents' voices, get dressed using the same habitual mannerisms. They are her parents. As her parents become more distant toward one another, Lore bring them flesh to flesh, sometimes inserting dialogue. It does not matter to her whether their words to each other are cruel or kind; they communicate. Her dreams become confusing.
Has 'the infinite plasticity of the digital' (to borrow a phrase from William Gibson) become the new Freudian imaginary (or the Lacanian, perhaps more accurately) upon which inner fantasies perform the editor's desires? This, of course, is not a new idea: cinema and psychoanalysis since Laura Mulvey have wrestled with the relationship of desire, fantasy and the screen. But the digital adds a flexibility to the screen that is increasingly open and, well, morphogenic. And how will Oedipus play out when every computer screen is a complex? I wonder ...

And you really should read Slow River. (The Nebula folk think so too since it won the 1996 Nebula Award.) For those interested, more of Nicola Griffith here. Byebye.

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