Monday, May 02, 2005

The Problem of Visualizing the Impossible (For Thousands of Chinese Readers)

The Chinese science-fiction magazine SCIENCE FICTION STORY/SCIENCE FICTION PICTORIAL MAGAZINE (.ak.a. "KeHuan") has published my short story "See" in its April 2005 issue.

(I just got a copy of the mag by snail-mail, and will post scanned images.)

"See" is fairly short - about 1500 words - and deals with my favorite subject: perception, how we perceive reality.

The plot is dead simple: the nameless protagonist, only referred to as "she," wakes up and finds that everybody's perception of reality has been profoundly altered. In fact, the change is SO profound, I couldn't draw a picture of it...

Why does this matter? Because as a writer, I put the highest emphasis on visualizing what you write, to "picture" it - or you won't be able to accurately describe it in words.

Even though I couldn't draw the story's weird and scary changes in visual perception, I could imagine them in my mind. And this alone made it possible to write them down with meticulous attention to detail - a mix of realism and surrealism that you might experience in a dream.

That the story was translated to Chinese, proves that its theme is not bound by my language or culture: it deals with imagery, not abstractions or conversations. Chinese, Swedish or New Zealander, you can "understand" what happens in "See", even though its events are impossible and surreal.

I also think that the story works on a metaphorical level: the change in perception mirrors the "flattening" effect of modern media and the Internet, that makes the whole world come "closer".

Another new Chinese magazine, WORLD SF (not to be confused with SF WORLD) is set to publish my short story "Telephone Conversations" in its June 2005 issue. (It was originally posted on my old homepage under the title "Keeping Up With the Cloneses", a pun which couldn't be translated to Chinese.)

This satirical story also deals with perception, but in terms of prejudice and bigotry... namely, how a narrow-minded housewife sees her neighborhood through the distorted "lens" of her preconceived notions and self-delusions. She's also a comic monster and was a fun character for me to write... because you can't trust anything she says.

(I'm planning to re-post both stories on my homepage, later.)

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