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Feed (Words I don’t like #3)

Here’s another word I don’t like: ‘Feed’, used in the internet sense, as in ‘there are a lot of angry people in my Twitter feed today.’   It always jars when I come across it.  But the odd part in this case is that it’s actually quite an expressive word to use.  What grates with me, now I think about it, is its use in an unironic/uncritical way.

In fact I’d go as far as to say that, if nobody used it in this unironic way, I might choose it myself.  It has a suitably industrial and impersonal feel.  It makes me think of a machine that dispenses food pellets at timed intervals to animals in a battery farm.  If had not already been stripped of those connotations, it would do the job pretty well.

See also Problematic (#1), Heft, Grin (#2)

Words I don’t like #2

There are some words that I think of as typical creative writing words and have never liked. Words that, to me, say, ‘Hey look at me, I’m writing!’ I’ve never liked the word ‘heft’, for instance, as in ‘he felt the heft of it in his hand.’  It means ‘weight’ doesn’t it?  Why not just say ‘weight’?  No one says ‘heft’ in ordinary speech.

Another one, very unfairly, is ‘grin’, used as a more interesting alternative to ‘smile’.  A perfectly ordinary word, I know, and I do choose it occasionally if I find I’ve used ‘smile’ too often, but I really don’t like it and put ‘smile’ wherever possible.  ‘Grin’ feels to me, for some reason, like one of those words you fall back on in desperation when you’re trying to bring alive a character on the page who doesn’t even feel alive in your head.

The fire from the skies

When I was a kid at school in the 70s a lot of the music we listened to was blues-based stuff and prog rock.  I don’t listen to much of that now -the music from then that stands the test of time for me is from quite different genres- but here is a little prog rock classic that still works for me: the extended piece by Genesis called Supper’s Ready.  I specially love the section that breaks out at about 15:30 in a burst of sheer exultant energy, with imagery straight from the Book of Revelations:

With the guards of Magog, swarming around
The Pied Piper takes his children underground
Dragon’s coming out of the sea
Shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me
He brings down the fire from the skies
You can tell he’s doing well by the look in human eyes
Better not compromise, it won’t be easy

666 is no longer alone
He’s getting out the marrow in your backbone
And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll
Gonna blow right down inside your soul
Pythagoras with the looking glass reflects the full moon
In blood, he’s writing the lyrics of a brand-new tune

Why is it that the destruction of everything we know can be such an exhilarating idea?  Is too fanciful of me to say that being human is only one thin layer of what we are, and that (as the Jeff folk put it in Eden) before anything else, we are simply the world looking out at itself?  From that perspective, after all, nothing can ever be finally destroyed, only thrown in the fire to be cast anew.

What SF is good for

There is a lovely review of Mother of Eden here.   The reviewer, Kevin Elliot, writes ‘”Mother of Eden” is a prime example of how science fiction can handle issues which might pose problems for other genres.’

Well, I’m not the one to say whether Mother of Eden is a prime example of that or not, but I completely agree with him that science fiction is the ideal medium for exploring certain kinds of issue.  As I have said elsewhere, science fiction differs from conventional realist fiction in that, while the latter holds the world constant but makes up characters and situations, science fiction makes up the world as well.  This means that, while realist fiction is rich in potential for thought experiments about human psychology and human relationships, science fiction offers additional options for thought experiments about society, social structures and social change.  The Eden books, for better or worse, are one such experiment.

The realist author takes the existing world (present or past) as given, in other words, but engages in the game of ‘what if’ with characters and their interactions, while  SF writers can also engage in ‘what if’ games in relation to the world as a whole.  In the case of Eden, I asked myself, ‘what if society evolved all over again from two individuals.’

I’m talking about potential here.  Not all science fiction carries out such experiments – the SF pack of playing cards can be used for many different games – and, of course, when it does, it doesn’t necessarily do it  well.  But this is true also of the realist pack of cards.

Heil Trump!

We have had neo-Nazi marches before, in Europe and America.  But here is one where marchers are chanting the name of the US President as if he were their leader.   That, surely, is unprecedented.