Monday, February 16, 2015

The Alien Worms of Truth

I am, as always, on the road -- and by the time I get home, 300+ miles from now, I will be exhausted.  So no pictures, no bells, and no whistles today.

But I want to answer a question I was asked on a panel Saturday.  Somebody asked about what I intended with my story "Passage of Earth," and I replied thatI had wanted to create an alien extemely unlike human beings and see what could be deduced about its thought processes simply by disecting it.

This was true as far as it goes.  But I'd been on four program items in a row by then and was feeling a little wasted.  So I only spoke about what I'd intended to do, and not what the story became during the  years-long process of writing it.

Now I must spoil some of the story for those who have not read it yet.  So serious readers will first go to Clarkesworld, where the story first appeared, and read it.  Here.

Eliding a great deal of plot, the protagonist comes to realize he has been eaten by an alien worm and has been on continual replay for hundreds or thousands of years as the alien tries to understand him.  This section gave me a great deal of trouble before I could find a resolution for it.  But afterward it was clear to me that the protagonist's dilemma was a metaphor or perhaps thought experiment was an apter term for the his realization of himself as an alien and his resultant failure to comprehend himself.

I could, with a great deal of work, make that clearer, or with a little less work go into much greater detail about it.  But I set out to answer a question I had not done justice to and now my task is done and I may go to bed.



Adam claxton said...

It's brilliant.

rastronomicals said...

Just read this a couple weeks back or so, and it reminded me of Philip K Dick in the way that it dropped the dime in a split second then turned on it. You thought it was one thing then all of a sudden it wasn't.
Yet do I reveal myself as a chucklehead if I say that the last half seemed opaquely dense, and when I was done I was nearly certain I didn't understand?

Michael Swanwick said...

That's the risk a writer runs when trying to say something new. If you go back and look at Murray Leinster's "Sidewise in Time," you'll see that he spends a couple of pages explaining the concept of alternate universes -- because they first appeared in that story!

William Lange said...

I'm in the same boat. I enjoyed the story but not sure I understood it.

Michael Swanwick said...

Then I apologize. I did my best to make it clear.