Friday, 14 April 2023

Why not seeing something coming is not necessarily a good thing

Contains spoilers.

Okay, so I'm about four months behind the curve - but isn't speculative fiction about the future meant to comment on the present, so why can't my blog post in the present comment on speculative fiction about the future from the past? - but I have a couple of things to say about the ending of the BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

I did read the books, oh, the best part of twenty years ago.  To be honest, so little of the latter half of the narrative has stuck with me, other than the faintly farcical image of animals on wheels, that I had no idea what was coming.  And little more of what just happened when it did.  Apparently, it was a fairly faithful telling.  I may go back and re-read them to see if I can make sense of them now.

The series tied many storylines up around Christmas and apparently left many fans distraught.  I think I fall more in the mildly irritated camp.  Not that the two young lovers weren't allowed to get together, but the manner of the insurmountable barriers in their way.

My issue revolves around foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is not merely one of the basic tools of the writer, setting things up to be explained later in an emotionally or intellectually satisfying or elegant way, but also a kind of writers' law of thermodynamics.  Every action leads to an equal and opposite... you get the idea.

There's a bit of the former in my gripe, that not every storyline arced.  I would love to have seen what happened to James Cosmo, Anne-Marie Duff and the other Gyptians.  But maybe it's right that their lives and those of the leads intersected for a moment, and then went their separate ways.  That's life.  There's no breach of a fundamental law there.

But there is in introducing a new rule of the game just before the final whistle.  That we learnt in the final reel only one window between worlds could remain open was fine - we had seen the chaos and carnage caused by dust moving between worlds.  That's foreshadowing.  But the rule that nobody could remain safely in the world into which they were not born, hence Will and Lyra must separate forever... absolutely no ground work was laid for this, no sense of looking back at previously inexplicable symptoms or behaviour that could now be understood.  Just a witch's pronouncement and a lame, 'oh alright then'.  Which makes it nothing more than a thinking person's deus ex machina.  Sorry.  Not good enough.

Of course, given this was scripted by Jack Thorne who has a strong and deserved reputation for knowing what he's doing, it's entirely possible I missed all the clues and I've just made an arse of myself by writing this blog post.  But, looking back on the narrative, in this case, I think not.

I sympathise with those wanting Will and Lyra to have ended up together.  I think they are asking for some kind of cosmic benevolence.  I'm looking for something a tad more fundamental: cosmic order.


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2084 - The Meschera Bandwidth

2084. The world remains at war.

In the Eurasian desert, twenty-year old Adnan emerges from a coma with memories of a strictly ordered city of steel and glass, and a woman he loved.

The city is the Dome, and the woman... is Adnan's secret to keep.

Adnan learns what the Dome is, and what his role really was within it. He learns why everybody fears the Sickness more than the troopers. And he learns why he is the only one who can stop the war.

Persuaded to re-enter the Dome to implant a virus that will bring the war machine to its knees, the resistance think that Adnan is returning to free the many - but really he wants to free the one.

24 0s & a 2

Twenty-four slipstream stories.  Frequently absurd, often minimifidian, occasionally heroic.

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