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The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story - Chpt 4

 
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:22 pm    Post subject: The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story - Chpt 4 Reply with quote

The Real Story, Chapter 4

Discounting the two synopsis chapters, there is one real chapter behind us as this chapter opens. And by now there's a couple of things you can notice about the way Donaldson is writing this story.

First, that Donaldson makes no attempt to paint any pictures for us. There are no descriptions of Com-Mine station, or Mallorys; Angus's ship is sketched in the most marginal way; all the actions of the characters utilize generic and undescribed objects. Our senses are starving.

I think that this is intentional, and that this works. The first time I read this, I think I was put off for a bit. But now I see that the author uses this strategy to drive us into the character's heads. This story is all about what the characters are thinking, what their motives are, how they make decisions. Colors and smells and sounds and other matters of environment are distractions.

Second, that Donaldson's style in this story is very, very different from his other works. Consider how this chapter opens.

Quote:
Moments later, he came back to himself. Just in time: Bright Beauty was plunging toward the kind of collision that would crumple her like an empty can.

Crumple her like an empty can. That's not your father's Donaldson. It's not the extravagant, wordy style we have come to expect. It's not Plunging toward ruin and extirpation like a mad spectre unable to prevent its own dissolution, towards a pied asteroid like an adamantine bulwark screaming to pulverize the ships friable bones. Nope. Just crumple like a tin can, that's it, thank you.

It's matter of fact. It's conversational. It's a story teller telling you a story between sips of beer with his feet up on the table. It's pared down to the important parts, no words to spare. It's not that the words aren't chosen carefully, but that they are chosen so carefully that there are less words getting the work done. A more erudite vocabulary gets in the way, because it takes too long to get where it needs to go. It's about concision.

So: the Real Story is short because it's stripped naked and compressed to an essence.

Everything is essential.

Angus recovers from his collision, turns around, and there's the UMCP ship Starmaster, bearing down. There's no time to do anything except to ponder how unfair life is. And then

Quote:
His cameras gave him a perfect view as Starmaster altered course, turned in the direction of the asteroid - and broke in half.

Broke in half.

Can't you just imagine the story teller leaning forward, and dropping those words like stones to an amazed audience? "Broke. In. Half."

This is deux ex machina. This is unadulterated hand of God action. Angus is one moment away from being a photon bouncing off a cop's sunglasses. But, through no action of his own, fate completely reverses its course.

That's okay. It's that kind of story. We're having too much fun watching what happens inside Angus's head.

Now all the cards are in Angus's hands. Starmaster is a crippled wreck. The answer to Angus's supply situation has literally fallen from the sky into his lap.

There's one interesting bit where Angus scans for life sign readings, sees four survivors. I love it when they scan for life sign readings. It's so Star Trek. And it's so completely without any scientific basis whatsoever. It's so a part of our culture now that we accept this without even thinking about plausibility.

But we know what kind of man Angus is now. And he is desperate for supplies. So it's no surprise that he enters the disabled ship and snuffs those life signs without any conscience or even reservations. Pow, Captain Hyland is dead. Pow, another. Soon, there's only one life sign left.

Let's stop right here.

Angus is about to meet Morn.

This is where the fabric of the universe rips a little bit.

Angus is a killer so cold that the words "serial killer" don't even do him justice. He hates what he fears, and he hates everything because he fears everything. He's desperate. He has just faced his own death. And then he beat the cops against all odds. Commandeer my ship? My SHIP? If you weren't in his way right now, he'd kill you anyway, just because he's in that kind of mood.

Quote:
Hurrying now because he knew where his prey was and didn't need caution, he went to finish off the last of Starmaster's crew.

He broke into the auxiliary bridge fast with his rifle ready, intending to shoot first and think later.

rrriiiippp....

Quote:
Morn Hyland stopped him without lifting a finger; without threatening Bright Beauty; without so much as reacting to his entrance. Instead, she stared through him with stark, blank horror on her face, as if she could see something so ghastly that it blinded her, making him invisible to her.

In the first few minutes, he didn't even notice his own surprise at finding a woman when he was expecting a man.

Is this deus ex machina again? Or is there something about Morn, something about Angus, that prevents him from shooting her the instant he sees her? Against all odds, against everything that's happened to him, against everything that he ever was... he doesn't shoot first and think later.

Quote:
Although he knew there was no one else alive on the ship, her fixed stare had the power to turn him around in an effort to see what had appalled her.

It's something about Morn.

Quote:
Nothing. Of course. She was the only one here. There weren't even any bodies.

It's something about the way Morn is appalled. Something about her shock. Her terror.

Quote:
Something like a worm of suspicion crawled through Angus Thermopyle's belly. He tightened his grip on his rifle as he confronted her again.

Instincts tell Angus, it's something about the way Starmaster died, leaving Morn in the auxilliary bridge appalled by a personal horror.

Angus suspected it before she ever told him.

Quote:
"What did you do to them?"

Trying to coerce the truth from Morn, he threatens her, excoriates her anguish by telling her he just killed her father. This reaches her.

Quote:
"He survived? He was alive?"

Angus nodded. "Until I blew him apart."

Morn loses whatever she had left. She goes ape-shit all over Angus.

And he still doesn't kill her.

Quote:
At that moment, for no clear or even conscious reason, he took his first step away from himself, his first step along the course which led to his real doom.

He doesn't kill her. Because he suspects what happened. Because he saw something in who she was. Because she was a beautiful woman and he was a desperate man. Because of some combination of these things. (What is my best answer? I would say, he desired her, but what he desired most was what he saw in her face, abject despair and horrified self-recrimination; he desired her because he desired to see her so appalled, and to be the reason for it.) He doesn't kill her. He keeps her. And is doomed.

Doomed for taking something he wanted but should never have had. Something which he had no idea what it would cost him to take.

Angus knocks Morn out, suits her up, drags her to his ship, and ties her down. And then he reprovisions his ship by looting hers. When he is done, he hides his ship in the belt. Then he goes to sleep for a while.

He's so sure he's in control that going to sleep right then demonstrates it.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow! Shocked fabulous wayfriend!

Quote:
It's matter of fact. It's conversational. It's a story teller telling you a story between sips of beer with his feet up on the table. It's pared down to the important parts, no words to spare. It's not that the words aren't chosen carefully, but that they are chosen so carefully that there are less words getting the work done. A more erudite vocabulary gets in the way, because it takes too long to get where it needs to go. It's about concision.

So: the Real Story is short because it's stripped naked and compressed to an essence.

Everything is essential.



yes indeedy. Wink

this is where this story got me. the language. it's what causes me to believe them (the characters.) it's what gives this story its hard-hitting punch.

Quote:
There's one interesting bit where Angus scans for life sign readings, sees four survivors. I love it when they scan for life sign readings. It's so Star Trek. And it's so completely without any scientific basis whatsoever. It's so a part of our culture now that we accept this without even thinking about plausibility.


YES! yes yes!! i love it too! Big Grin

Quote:
he desired her because he desired to see her so appalled, and to be the reason for it


but i think also it's her self-recrimination that he's seeing. a thing so completely alien to himself. self-recrimination. does he desire her? sure, who wouldn't. she'a a beauty. but he is so bereft of self-recrimination, when he sees it on her face he becomes like an alcoholic who craves something he sees in a sober man.
is it his doom?
or is it his salvation?


brilliant take Wayfriend! GOD i love this story!!! Applaud
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This chapter continues what 3 started: a continuous cycling through the dual forces shaping his choices: fear and hate.

Now he’s caught. Starmaster has him. What’s his reaction to being caught? Surrender. Sheer fear of dying. Though he hated them for what they were doing to him, and he wants to go out with lasers blazing, fear is more compelling than hatred. His tendency to choose revenge will only take him so far. It won’t drive him to suicide. In order to survive, he fears more than he hates. (At least, in this particular instance.)

Then Starmaster dies, and the situation changes. This bubble of metal and air, of armor and weapons, is the fundamental unit of human existence, of survival in the physical universe: the ship. No matter what size “ship” you’re on, whether it’s a planet, a space station, or a cruiser, you’re a being in need of a world. An enclosure of habitation and a sphere of action. Both a cage and a means of choice. The ship is the ultimate condensation of our being-in-the-world. When your ship is destroyed, your world is literally torn asunder. These are reality-shifting moments. Births and deaths.

The Starmaster still had survivors. Most of them dying, but one of them transcending her reality. Within that broken metal, there were still pockets of worlds where people could live. That was a threat to Angus. He needed their supplies; they might outlast him. He couldn’t simply wait them out. So he shifts once again from fear to hatred, again whichever enables his survival.

Hate propels him forward to kill the remaining crew. “It was only rage that kept him going.”

But his “instincts” (i.e. fear) come to his rescue as an armed Davies appears in the doorway. He presses himself to the wall as the airlock opens.

Then hate squeezes the trigger at Davies’s threat of commandeering his ship.

Danger to his ship presses him forward toward the remaining survivor in the auxiliary bridge. “Under the circumstances, his concern for his ship was greater than his desire to inflict pain.”

Morn’s entrance into this story is classic Donaldson. Mystifying and transcendental.
Quote:
“Morn Hyland stopped him without lifting a finger; without threatening Bright Beauty; without so much as reacting to his entrance. Instead, she stared through him with stark, blank horror on her face, as if she could see something so ghastly that it blinded her, making him invisible to her.


What the hell could be so ghastly that it makes Angus fucking-Thermopyle invisible? Within herself, she sees something worse. And that’s enough to stop him. That’s something he has never experienced before: someone who hates herself more than she hates him—maybe even more than he hates himself. Angus, too, experiences a transcendental moment in this encounter. A moment where his world changes.

He had no intention of helping her until she asked for just the opposite: “Let me die.” Morn is neither threatening him, nor fearing him, nor hating him. She didn’t even want to be saved from him. She was truly unlike any other person he had ever met.

When she attacked him, wild and mad, “At that moment, for no clear or even conscious reason, he took his first step away from himself, his first step along the course which led to his real doom.” He didn’t pity her. Nor was he ashamed of himself. Why did he “rescue” her? “Maybe he was simply tired of being alone.” In the last chapter, we read: “Angus Thermopyle was always alone, even when he happened to find some stow- or castaway piece of human garbage to crew for him.” This was the source of his hate. This is the point where he starts turns from hate to . . . something else, something resembling love. Not pity or shame. Something intrinsically tied to the necessity of being with others.

. . . OR, “maybe she presented possibilities of revenge which he hadn’t yet had a chance to appreciate.”

Donaldson can’t have him change instantly. It’s a process of being “torn out of” his former self. This birth is violent.

Yet, he doesn’t kill her. When she tries to kill him, rather than defending himself, he “saves” her. Of course, this entails clubbing her to the floor. And that violence is seductive. But he doesn’t give in to that hate. Fear kicks in to save both their lives: he must get out of here before another ship arrives.

Then he performs his most complex, conflicted act of his life: while hating her because it was her fault, and because she could still make him fear, he RESCUES her. The dual forces of his fear and hate now act for her survival, too, and not merely his own. He has taken her into his identity, his umbrella of hate and fear, so that, like his ship, she becomes his world.

And it goes both ways: when he straps her into the capped volcano hell of his ship’s interior, her fears now empower and sustain him, as if they were his own. He turns on the speakers to listen to her fear as he takes off, completely exhausted, looking for a place to hide.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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