Thursday, July 7, 2011

Do Androids Dream of Comic Book Sheep?


I just shipped off a review of the Pegana Press hardcover of Paris, a Poem by Hope Mirrlees,  an essay about Murray Leinster: the Life and Works by  Billee J. Stallings and Jo-An J. Evans, and three "Brief Lives" -- very short essays about Judith Merrill, Will F. Jenkins, and the all-too-mortal Edward Mott Woolley.  So I think I'm going to give non-fiction a rest for a while.  I've got a lot of unfinished short fiction to wrap up before I can get to work on my novels.

Therefore I won't be writing anything substantive -- as I half-planned to do -- about the just-completed experience of reading the Boom! Studios graphic version of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Which is a very thing indeed, every word of the original novel in a densely illustrated graphic novel version.  It took 24 issues to cover the novel.

I honestly don't think anybody has done the like before.

In a just world, there would be long, long essays about this project-of-love everywhere and, because in a just world somebody would throw enormous amounts of money at me to write it, one of those essays would be mine.

But, as I say, there's just not enough time.  So, very quickly, here's what I learned:

1.  The experience of reading the novel in installments, one a month, really breaks up the reading experience to the detriment of continuity.  I suspect I missed picking up an issue or two but, since I'd read the book before, there aren't any logical gaps in my understanding to indicate so. 

2.  Reading the text a sentence or two per panel slows reading time waaaay down.

3.  This in turn forces you to read more carefully and to think over what you're reading more thoroughly than the relatively frictionless experience of reading unillustrated prose does.

4.  Mostly this works to Dick's advantage.  Every line he wrote is meaningful.  Reading it slowly forces you to recognize this.

5.  It also brings up the inherent oddness of Dick's understanding of human relationships.  Rick Deckard, the protagonist, is a good family man.  He's also ready to run off with the first chrome femme fatale who comes along.  PKD didn't seem to think that needed explaining.

6.  Not being able to easily gauge, as one does with a (physical) book, when the end is coming, the conclusion of the novel comes as a sudden surprise.  The life you've been following could have gone on and on beyond the point where the book ends . . .  Which is a good reminder of exactly how arbitrary a form the novel is.

7.  This is a splendid way of making reading more expensive.  I probably paid twenty-five cents for my paperback copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in a used book store.  At four bucks a pop, plus tax, this reading cost me a C-note.

Above:  The graphics are of good quality, I should note, and there's an essay in each book by various celebrities and notables.  This is, as I said, a labor of love.



HANNAH'S DAD said...

> 4. Mostly this works to Dick's advantage. Every line he wrote is meaningful. Reading it slowly forces you to recognize this.

I didn't get more than sporadic enjoyment from Vikram Seth's _Golden Gate_, but it was an interesting experience reading a novel in verse. I'm a terrible skim reader and the verse forced me for once to read every single word, so I owe it thanks for that.

Michael Swanwick said...

It's astonishing how many people will go to the tremendous amount of work a novel in verse must be to write, given how few readers are willing to consider reading it.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

The work must indeed be backbreaking.

I think I would have enjoyed Golden Gate if it wasn't so strongly based around - damn, I used to know the word for this - having a sentence or phrase cross linebreaks, so that an end of line rhyme occurs in the middle of the sentence.

I hope that was comprehensible - I know there is a proper technical term for that. Anyway, whatever it is, I'm allergic to it.