reflections on EasterCon 1: mosaic novels and the Rashamon moment

I need to see Rashamon again.  It’s been too long, and I need to watch it without any of the usual distractions I heap upon myself when I watch a movie I’ve seen before.

I just attended a panel session on the mosaic novel here at EasterCon 2017, and it’s gotten me thinking about the construction of story.   As a very loose definition, a mosaic novel is one composed of a collection of stand alone stories, held together by the glue of a unifying narrative.  A lot of the discussion between the panel and the audience turned on aspects of the definition of what precisely is a mosaic novel, and John Clute, one of the panelists, made the comment that the notion of mosaic novel is fractal.

Having spent some time pondering the issues and examples brought up in the discussion, I can only agree on the fractalness of the definition of mosaic novel, but then I have taken the view that most of these it is/it isn’t definitions of the things we do are of necessity fractal, and this necessary fractalness of things is something I’ll explore elsewhere.

And this is where my desire to see Rashamon again comes from.   Different descriptions of the same event from different points of view, held together by the narrative of trying to understand the event from the tales told by the different witnesses, and I don’t remember enough of the detail to know whether Rashamon can be reasonably considered to be an example of a mosaic story, film though and not novel, even though it isn’t science fiction or fantasy.

Beyond this consideration of whether Rashamon is a reasonable mosaic story is the place that the Rashamon moment has on the list of things I’ve learned as a manager, tying together here things that don’t necessarily need to be tied together.

Up to this point in the writing I’ve done, I’ve tried to tell stories but I haven’t thought much about the structure of the story that I want to tell, or even whether the way I’ve decided to tell the story is a reasonable choice of structure for the story I want to tell.  And this is one of those interesting moments when I feel the floor open up beneath me a bit, as there is a vast amount I know that I don’t know about the structure of story.

We humans have been telling each other stories for as long as we’ve been able to speak to one another, and I suspect that the stories we tell each other structure the way we approach the world in which we live and vice versa, so that the approach we take to coming to understand the world we live in then fundamentally shapes the stories we tell.  And this isn’t the standard if and only if equivalence of statements we get in mathematics.  Rather, this is the snake eating its own tail of a positive feedback loop, where each thing drives change in the other.

And I know there is a temptation for me to resist, and resisting is going to be hard.  I need to resist the temptation to stop telling stories until I’ve spent some time reading about story, learning about story, studying story, because I know what will happen.  I’ll read and learn and study, but write even more slowly than I’m writing now.  And that slowly, I don’t want to write.

And so now, in this gap I have in the things I’m doing, let’s write a bit and see what sort of a story we can start to tell.

~ by Jim Anderson on 15 April 2017.

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