Fantasy through a lens

I really need to get my thoughts on The Time Traveller's Wife down; it's been blocking me for a month, now. For the nonce, I'll just say that there was some stuff I liked, and some I didn't, and the balance between the two is what's been holding me back.

But in any event, I was watching Jeopardy again yesterday, and the champion (Christie Cavada? I tried to make a note of it, but I'm terrible with names, and forgot it again) mentioned a project of taking pictures of science fiction authors. This reminded me of a book I'd bought a number of years ago, probably when I was in the Sci-Fi Book Club, called Faces of Fantasy.

Back when I bought it, I looked through it a bit, read the pages written by favorite authors (each author is mentioned with a picture and a page that they wrote along the lines of 'Why do I write?'). But I think I didn't read it particularly carefully.

In any event, watching Jeopardy again tonight, I was reminded of the book, and pulled it out this time. Obviously, I was wrong about the association, since it's by Patti Perret, but I started reading parts of it again.

And I started paying more attention to the photos. And my recent experience taking pictures informed that attention.

It's a very good book; some of the authors have very deep things to say, particularly about fantasy as a genre/medium. While I've again mostly paid attention to stuff written by authors I already know, there are a couple whose books I'll be seeking out.


CDP's Spouse

I started this post months ago, but I've been having trouble working through my feelings on this book.

I didn't hear about The Time Traveler's Wife until I saw a commercial for the movie earlier this year. I wasn't too sure what to make of it, but the idea sounded pretty interesting. Kind of like Quantum Leap meets an old movie about a 16th century sailor, or some such.

But I didn't think a whole lot more about it until I was looking for something on Amazon a couple of weeks later. I'm not sure whether I just remembered it then, or it showed up as related to something else I was looking at, or what, but I decided to buy it.

It then sat on the shelf for a month or two longer, while I read a couple of other things, but eventually I remembered it was there.

When I started it, I was surprised to find that it didn't work at all the way I expected. I didn't expect it to be a subconscious/uncontrolled ability, and that really changed a lot in the story.

Let's start with what I liked about it, though. I thought it was really cool the way the characters are brought together, where they're kind of working backwards (relative to each other, that is) as they approach meeting. That is, chronologically they first meet when he knows her very well (married for years, actually) but she doesn't know him at all. They continue like this, working in a weird order through his life, but she gets to know him better and better, until they finally meet when he isn't time traveling.

When they get to that point, he doesn't know her at all, but she knows him very well. Complicating matters, he's just broken up with another woman with whom he'd been together for quite a while.

As a story, it's very nice. Their relationship is very well described, and due to the chronological twists and turns it takes, it's very interesting in its own right.

But where it falls on its face is where most stories involving time travel do. That is, in causality. Most everything in the book is driven by events caused by the future. Think of it as the universe as a self-started system. It just doesn't make any sense.

How pervasive is this? Well, their meeting at all is caused by it. The doctor he sees to investigate the phenomenon of his involuntary travels he goes to only because he's seen that doctor in the future. Them having children. The daughter playing violin. Finding the house they bought.

I'm sure there's other instances that I've forgotten about. But the point is that the whole book is driven by events that have no initial cause. And I don't mean that we don't know the cause, I mean that they're self-caused events.

Frankly, that's just bad story-telling. Characters can't learn and grow if they're driven by events with no cause. There's no growth there, just a sequence of events. Kind of like later Heinlein books, really.

The sequence might make for interesting reading, and the character interaction might be good (think Eddings; very weak on plot, but so good at character descriptions that you just don't care), but there's no plot per se.

There's also the issue of him controlling his "power". For the most part, it seems completely random, but when he decides that he wants to win the lottery (and it was a conscious decision that they discussed), he's able to do it on demand. That was also never explained.

All of this leaves me a bit undecided about whether it's actually a good book or not.

Perhaps, like Avatar, it's interesting in spite of being deeply flawed.