Friday, July 10, 2015

Agenda 21: The Dreaded Speech

Agenda 21, pp. 19-21

Where Chapter One of Agenda 21 was an "action" chapter, Chapter Two is pure exposition. It's short, but so many of this book's worldbuilding failures are right here on display. I've become a real afficionado of crap literature, and because I'm a cheap bastard I usually get my fill with the Amazon preview. It was while reading this particular chunk in the preview that I realized that I needed to see the rest.

So we're going to disembark for a few updates. Don't worry, once we get back into what passes for action things will move a lot faster.

I wasn't really hungry but I had to eat. You can't recycle or save your nourishment cubes and you aren't allowed to waste them. I unwrapped the perfectly square, three-by-three-inch cube and ate the wrapper first. This one was fish-flavored soy, rice, and parsley.

It's not exactly gagging on Victory Gin, but it'll do. Oh, and don't get too hung up on where or how they're manufacturing these heavily processed cubes - there are bigger fish-flavored morsels to fry.

After a brief and pointless conversation with Jeremy, we get into the meat of this chapter: An extended flashback with mom. They used to live in "the middle of the nation," until:

"A new law started on the East Coast," she said, "because that's where laws were made. They gave it a fancy-sounding name. Agenda 21."

Now, in reality, "Agenda 21" isn't a law in any meaningful sense of the term, but why let little details like that get in the way of the story?

Most of this section is for what little history we're going to get, but it also contains the Dreaded Speech. You know what I'm talking about - something like this:

"The West Coast people were the first to be moved into the Planned Communities. We found out later that there were a lot more of these communities than anyone expected. No one seems to know the exact number, or where they are all located, but we do know that each of them contains a cluster of Compounds, just like ours...Some really believed all the stuff about this new law being for the good of everyone. Life would be easy because the Authority would take care of all of us. Give us food, houses. Money would not be necessary. There would be no more poverty. They promised paradise."

This is the kind of passage that gives editors and agents headaches. Yes, it's terrible, casting aside any pretense of subtlety or artistry in favor of having a character simply state the author's beliefs. But the real problem is that when you have a passage like this show up in a book that sells a gazillion copies, it gives everyone the impression that this is good writing and the publishing industry wants more like it. The indie crap I subject myself to on a regular basis is lousy with speeches like this.

You have to remember that the reason this book got published is because it had the name of a famous ideologue on the cover. If you happen to have a famous ideologue in your contact list, and you can get him to lend you his connections, then by all means write crap like this. It'll probably get published. But if you're starting from the first rung, this is one of the worst things you can possibly do. The second an agent spots the mammoth quote in the middle of your politically-driven manuscript, her eyes are going to roll back in her head.

Dealing with politics in literature takes a light touch. If you can't manage that, then don't bother.

Next time, we learn more about those Planned Communities and how hilariously nonsensical they are.

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And now, a scheduling update. From now on, updates will go up three times a week, Mon-Wed-Fri, at 9:00 AM Central Time. Thank you.

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