Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Agenda 21: Conspiracy Theory

Agenda 21, pp. 74-76

I'd like to open this update by acknowledging a milestone: We have officially begun the tenth consecutive chapter in a flashback. The good news is that we're almost out of it and we can get on to the...uh..."action," I guess.

To be fair, something big actually does happen in Chapter Eleven - we kill off the menfolk:

"There's been an accident...Your partner and father were traveling back to the Central Authority from an outpost, going down a hill. They were going too fast, couldn't control the bus-box, and it overcame them. Both died instantly, we regret to inform you."

Well, that was unceremonious.

For the record, I'm pretty sure that this was meant to be a legitimate accident and not some covert attempt by the evil future government to kill off two dissenters. The Gatekeeper only delivers supplies for one in the morning which could be a hint, except that I'm not surprised that the Enforcers who relayed the message were slower than the almost supernaturally efficient Gatekeepers. There are few other little nudges but this never becomes a major plot point.

In situations like this, I try to extend some good faith and go whichever explanation is more fair to the author. Let's see...the evil future government has had no qualms about dragging people off in broad daylight, and there's no explanation as to why this situation would be any different. But if it was an accident, then it was the most egregious plot convenience I've ever seen. Spoiler: The novel ends with Emmeline trying to run off. Killing off the men delays that long enough to get this thing to publishable length, which is a very cheap trick.

You know you've gone awry somewhere when your reader is trying to figure out what explanation for your plot is the least idiotic.

The other purpose of this scene is to establish how cold and heartless the evil future government is:

"A statement will be read at the next Social Update Meeting recognizing their service to the Republic. That is the protocol."

That's pretty cold. But then again, so is this observation, which happened in between the above quotes:

A bird flew overhead, then another and another.

Actually, this kind of thing has been happening regularly throughout the novel. I feel like Harriet Parke read a how-to book on writing that mentioned breaking up long passages of dialogue with scene-building. Of course, usually this entails having a character interact with her surroundings in some way, not splicing random cutaways into the middle of conversations - and especially not doing so in a scene where the protagonist's mother is weeping openly next to her.

I could be generous and argue that this sort of obsessive observation is sometimes a genuine reaction to grief. I'm running mighty short on generosity, though, and there's a lot more to go.

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