BethCutter wrote:Maybe it's just me, but I always feel that genre novels involve a sort of contract with the readers. Certain things they have a 'right' to expect to be included or exclude. And if you are not even aware of those unwritten conventions, how can you possibly fulfill your end of it?
I totally agree!
But that's one of the nice things about NiaD. If you don't know them, that's not your fault or your problem. Most of the conventions you talk about are book-wide contracts not chapter or paragraph-to-paragraph contracts, so it's on me to make sure that the chapter briefs include the necessary world features and plot markers that a reader would demand.
Seems right to me, too, Beth. And this is really interesting to think about in relation to NiaD. Maybe we could roughly split these expectations into two kinds: expectations about a) the nature of the fictional world and what happens there and expectations about b) the sensibility of the narrative and so, in part, the manner in which things happen.A) The World and the What
Some of these expectations about the world and what happens are broadly framed out by Rog, but the chapter authors certainly also have a hand in this also from closer-in. But it seems to me that the NiaDs thus far have been rather carefully crafted so as to have a firm foot in reality -- even the superheroes don't actually have superpowers.* (* 3 Ghosts is an exception and a cautious foray outside that basic boundary.) So, I feel like I do know a great deal about what are the expectations of this sort when working. Gremlins are out. Nice suits are in.B) The Sensibility and the Manner
There are most definitely (unintended) shifts of style, and styling of details and character, between chapters. But far from being a deficit, I actually think this is one of the most interesting and entertaining things about reading these NiaD books -- style shifting from gritty to glass-and-steel; the main character shifting from action to contemplative, from smooth to taciturn. One day the main character is a scruffy loner in a down and out flat, and tomorrow is a landed urbanite with actual friends.
But there certainly are other shifts of manner that are not so happy. In my own experience as a reader of NiaD books, the jags in sensibility/manner that stand out for me as negatives are jaggy not because they are genre-breakages, but because they offend my own sensibilities. It seems some authors will relentlessly f-bomb their chapter no matter what it is about. And one could be excused sometimes for suspecting that some authors write because they feel they don't get enough opportunity in real life for cussing and bawling and leering. I won't even mention the still-unforgiven spreadsheet masturbation scene. But I am pretty sure a genre tag would not kerb any of that. And so I guess I have (for good or ill) just chalked it up to the nature of the beast, because there are all kinds of people writing in all kinds of ways. So this sort of expectation is one I just expect will be flouted.
One of the interesting effects of the growth of NiaD is that there are now almost always multiple versions of chapters and so, as in my own web version of the books
, I can by navigation put together a version of the book that tends this way or that in style, and, I might add, can choose to navigate around that egregious outlier chapter I don't think my delicate sensibilities can tolerate.In ConclusionNiaD is the Portsmouth Sinfonia of literature
! It works not because the voices magically blend so well that you get the greatest symphony performance ever. It works because it doesn't really fit together like that but everyone is working so hard at it that it becomes something else, something you haven't heard before -- and you have to keep listening.
And just like the Sinfonia it really only works if the participants are earnestly trying to do the thing -- to really play their part in the symphony. So, paradoxically, though we need to earnestly try to blindly collaborate, what makes the result "work" is not that everything did in fact fit together.
[[Disclosure: Having said all that, I feel I must confess one of my all-time favorite chapters in a NiaD is a complete, self-conscious genre buster. It was that rare exception that you can't bring yourself to mentally reprimand though you know you should -- because it was just so well done, so dead funny in the context, so unexpected and taken farther and just far enough that the lid came off.]]
gr wrote:In fact, my wife and I had some good sport before NiaD trying to reverse-engineer the genre module of your brain and made bets against each other about which way you would jump with NiaD 2017.
What did you come up with?
Ha! Well, I can't tell you
that, because of course the bet is already on again for 2018!