Friday, July 24, 2015

Agenda 21: As You Know, Steve...

Agenda 21, pp. 40-42

Chapter Five opens with a conversation between an intake officer and Emmeline's Chaperone:

"No folder?" he asked the chaperone.


"Not many no-folder kids left, are there?" He picked up an empty folder on his desk.

Yes, they still have paper in this society. We do get something of an explanation: The Authority confiscated everything made of paper, so I guess they have a big vault full of it. It's passable, and it's not worth dwelling on anyway.

The following two pages are truly a textbook example of bad exposition, the sort of classic awful writing that would kill a lesser manuscript's chances of publication. I'm tempted to risk carpal tunnel and just type out the whole thing, but no...I must restrain myself.

The chaperone and the intake officer are talking to each other about the infertility crisis:

"It's just that there don't seem to be many reproductive females. So they push, you know, push for testing. But what do I know? I'm just a chaperone."

"And I'm just an intake officer."

As an internet critic and frustrated writer, I am terribly disappointed that Simon & Schuster would publish a book with this kind of "As you are aware" dialogue in it.

"Well, one of the reasons for all of this - the whole relocation, everything - was that there were supposedly too many people for the Earth. But now they're pushing for more babies. There aren't enough."

This sort of writing - in which the author conspicuously makes note of inconsistencies or cliches - is often referred to as "lampshading." In this case, though, I prefer a term once used by a personality I follow - "plot spackle."

"Because," he said, "it's all about unintended consequences. They think they can mandate things. Create this much energy every day. Have this many babies every year. But it just doesn't work like that. The more new laws and rules and regulations they issue, the worse results are."

Here's a little behind-the-scenes: When I checked out Agenda 21, I got a bunch of other stuff as well. Among the other items is a nasty little tome written by some tech-entrepreneur-turned-bitter-crank about how the internet is going to destroy our culture. I thought it might be good for a laugh, especially since it's just old enough to see that none of the author's doomsday predictions came to pass. He warns of a future in which the digital barbarian hordes destroy existing institutions, leaving no gatekeepers to sort the filthy peasants from the enlightened master class. The implication being that those gatekeepers constitute some guarantor of quality.

I want you to look at the above passage. This appeared in a book that was published, not through KDP or CreateSpace or some other self-publishing platform, but through the Threshold imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2012. Really study this blog comment, this libertarian log line masquerading as dialogue. Consider that this exchange is taking place between two strangers in a story in which, up until now, people were afraid to say anything negative about the Authority even in private. And then tell me that this was the best thing written that year. Tell me that every other manuscript pitched in 2012 was worse than this.

The problem with the assumption that gatekeepers guarantee quality is that connections and fame make for a hell of a set of lockpicks.

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