|What Gillian Polack wants for the New Year
||[Jan. 3rd, 2015|11:05 pm]
What gillpolack wants - but she wants it in a locked post, so I won't link, and hope she will forgive this degree of paraphrase (I don't think this bit is why it was locked) - is for people to talk about her fiction. I had been been intending at some point to write about Langue [dot] doc 1305, and what I want - one of the things I want - for the New Year is for more of the things I'm intending to do at some point actually to get done. So this post is for both of us.
That's the statutory disclaimer, by the way: Gillian and I are friends, on LJ and in real life, to the extent that you can be when you live a world apart. We have actually met, and more than once, which is an achievement in itself. For the purposes of talking about Langue [dot] doc 1305 the LJ friendship may be more relevant, though, because there is a pleasure in seeing how the preoccupations of the blog find their place in the novel: when Artemisia withdraws to her room to work on zombies I grinned, because her colleagues don't know what she is talking about, but I have heard Gillian on this subject, and I do.
Langue [dot] doc 1305 is several different kinds of books, cunningly twisted into one. The framework is pure science fiction: a time machine allows a group of people to travel into the past. But the novel is a very sideways kind of science fiction, and the Timebot a very special kind of time machine, one which transports its passengers to a specific location at a specific time, chosen to suit the interests of the author, not the priorities of the machine's inventor. How does it work? Oh, by mathematics. And I have no problem with any of this, because by sending her scientists (and her lone medievalist) to the Languedoc in 1305, Gillian Polack gets to talk about how we think about history, what we know and what we don't know (and of course, most dangerously, what we don't know we don't know). I may be misreading this, but I think there is a sly hint that without realising it, the time travellers do change history, that as a result of their presence and what they do, one of the characters decides to act in a way that he otherwise might not have done - and the result is not that history as we know it is changed, but that history as we know it is brought about. But if this is one of the paradoxes traditional in time travel SF, it is a very subtly one.
The narrative that is hung on this SF scaffolding is half historical novel, half - well, if I use the term 'soap opera', don't take it as pejorative, it's the best description I can think of for a story whose interest lies in the interactions of a group of people going about their daily lives, brought together by where they live or work. Only in this case there are two groups, the time travellers and the inhabitants of St Guilhem le Desert. The life of the village is beautifully described, full of real things and believable people with all their connections and conflicts and interdependencies: I could happily have read a whole novel of this. The scientific community are less sympathetically treated, and are sometimes required to act with wilful obtuseness, to illustrate a point. (This can be very funny).
This complex mix of elements may not be to everyone's taste, but it is very much to mine. For once, it isn't a case of 'if this is the sort of thing you like, you will like...' because how are you to know whether it's the sort of thing you like? It is it's own 'sort of thing' and no other. But if it sounds appealing, it's probably worth a try.
ETA publication details: Langue [dot] doc 1305 by Gillian Polack, ISBN: 978-0-9925580-0-0 (Paperback) / 978-0-9925580-1-7 (eBook), published 5th October 2014 by Satalyte Publishing.