Thursday, October 8, 2015


Brian W. Aldiss on the art of indirection:

"Artistry consists so often in indirection. As life is subtle and wayward, so should art be. The SF that has sprung from pulp sources has many strengths, not least its driving narrative power; but, by the nature of its audience, much indirection and waywardness have been ruled out.... Truth often comes from weak people. SF is full of big tough heroes; and, when they tell you something, it has to be right. But I don't go along with that. So I'll give you an example of indirection from Dark Light Years.... I had a message, as I've explained, to put over in that book. It is given explicitly only once, and then the lines are delivered by one of my weak characters, Mrs. Warhoon, who is ruled out of court immediately by the tough guys and heroes.

"No doubt an objection could be raised to this method: that readers might miss what you really mean. Okay. That's a risk you take. It's a lesser risk than making your book a mere diagram by ramming the message home; and I do believe a novel should attempt to be -- should move towards being -- some sort of a work of art. Anyone can be a commercial success....

"Anthony Burgess does the same thing in Clockwork Orange. It's the priest who says at one point -- too lazy to move to the shelves and quote chapter and verse, but it's something like, "Right, you have a foolproof method of making people good, and Heaven knows we seem to need it at this juncture of history; but are we human any longer if we have no longer the power to choose between good and evil?" I believe that Anthony likes Kubrick's striking version of his novel because Kubrick too has the art that, in this respect, conceals art: the parson says his lines and is then swept away by events....

"One must have something to say. One must also have the art of saying it.

"Another example: H. G. Wells. The 'message' of The Invisible Man is that a scientist works, to some extent at least, for the general good. A tenable thesis when the novel was written. So his invisible man, the irascible scientist, is a villain, using his invention in his own interest, for anti-social purposes. Wells's reviewers complained that Griffin was unsympathetic, thereby showing how they missed the point.

"Maybe truth should dawn slowly, not come as a thunderbolt. But communication is a difficult art."

-- From Speaking Of Science Fiction, edited by Paul Walker. Luna Publications, 1978.

No comments: