The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

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  1. Can you explain something you yourself don’t understand? Sure you can [try], but your explanation will be incomplete and flawed.

    I’m not sure it’s a writer’s job to explain the inexplicable (because by definition that’s not possible or else it wouldn’t be inexplicable) as much as it is to draw attention to the inexplicable, to explore it, and hopefully as a result get others thinking about it.

    Not to mention, I don’t believe all things need to be explained.

  2. I don’t think I put much trust in people who try to explain things they don’t understand.

  3. I would suggest that understanding is dependent on perspective; one can only understand so much of anything. An expert, a witness, a participant can only perceive and understand a variable, finite portion of any event in the Universe. Therefore, any explanation derived from that understanding is necessarily incomplete and flawed.

    If we add to that notion the fact that communication between humans is necessarily imperfect, the explanation is further degraded before the audience has a chance to perceive and process the information.

    The boundaries of our trust, therefore, are arbitrary. Any systematic definition of those boundaries … well, here we start the cycle again.

  4. In fiction? I agree. In that I-the-writer can explain a stinky bit of politics or worldbuilding in a character’s voice, without necessarily understanding the details he gives, let alone any more detail.

    Especially so in fantasy. You don’t necessarily need to understand, eg, the biology of your system of magic down to a sub-cellular level in order either to write an irritatingly handsome mage sculpting water or to spout some jargon about it in his voice.

    I mean, I wouldn’t make a habit of yapping about things I don’t understand at least a little, out of fear of looking stupid, but if I have someone stand up and pontificate about Lenser’s Reticule Invective for laughs I don’t feel I have to have written up Lenser’s bibliography and backstory or even decided on Lenser’s sex.

    (I *have* fuzzily defined my magic system down to a sub-cellular level, but I suspect I’m both abnormal and a SF writer in disguise…)

  5. If that were true why is so much that is written inexplicable?

  6. Hee hee hee, (flashing back to earlier threads) it isn’t our job as writers to understand the undefinable, only to use it correctly in a sentence.

  7. I thought your job was merely to make the inexplicable read well.

  8. A sudden attack of epigrammatic-compulsive symmetry disease (help cure ECSD in our lifetimes; give generously) compels me to extend the original:

    It isn’t our job as writers to understand the inexplicable, only to explain it.

    –>

    It isn’t our job as writers to understand the inexplicable, only to explain the unfathomable.

  9. In fantasy I often prefer to fill in the gaps with my own imagination.

  10. corwin

    Miramon::8:: I like that!

  11. Of course you can explain something without understanding it:

    http://www.gamebanshee.com/fallout/perks/smoothtalker.php

  12. A philosopher of my acquaintance once said, “If you are going to eff the ineffable, then eff it and eff it well.” I think that’s the same idea as the original post.

    skzb, since it’s my first post here, I will take the opportunity to gush about my love for your work. When I put down your books, I don’t feel like I read about someone else’s experience; I feel like I *had* an experience. Many authors are good observers of reality, but precious few capture can capture in words what it is to be in reality at a moment. Yours is fiction that tells the truth, to paraphrase Picasso’s line.

    No pressure or anything, but being a lawyer myself, my expectations are sky-high for Iorich. And the thing is, I have absolutely no doubt that you will hit it out of the park, because you always do. Thank you for indulging my shameless fanboy moment, and please carry on as you were.

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