Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Monday, September 06, 2004

novelistic reprise of 'reasonable, probable and necessary'

Last night I got the web connected. No more need for public web computers of dubious security. Anyway, I went a little wild and looked up all kinds of crap for a few hours, then since I have been researching for the novel online.

The aim was to discover the cutting edge of biology and the websites of biologists so I can later chat to them over various aspects of the novel as they progress. The presupposition that I can (or would want to) integrate large chunks of biotechnological know-how into a popular novel arises from the simple fact that the serious themes explored here require adequate justification in the actual work of the two main character scientists.

On another scale completely of course it is a way to explore a side of myself which I would not have otherwise been able to consider; the scientific interests that cannot be fulfilled otherwise can be fully exlicated here. And that's exciting and gratifying for me naturally.

But the deeper question for me is what exactly is the reasonable restraint to be exercised on behalf of the readership? What can I reasonably expect the reader to take on as a challenge? What is the necessary level of technical detail for a novel this scale?

The extremes are useful to consider.

Tolstoy's War and Peace, ( which I find a great source of inspiration for this project, is full of the type of excursion into theory that I dislike in a novel. But since the novel is ABOUT historiography as much as it's about Napoleon, there is at least an excuse.

On the other hand, another of my favorite novel's, Dean Koontz's magnificent and stylish Intensity ( has almost no exposition outside the characterisation.

Because the main characters are scientists, it would be remiss to exclude their work. The key I think is in contextualising it as something the reader sees as "necessary, reasonable and probable." In other words, establish it within a context of integrity so that the reason of the reader is brought to the party.

Necessary: is this piece of science truly necessary for the reader?
Reasonable; can it be reasonably expected that the reader understand this, given what has already been said? What reasonable level of challenge is required, commensurate with the payoff of the plot, for this information to be needful?
Probable: if we can assume the reader knows next to nothing about biology, and that the probable response to excessive technicalities will be putting the book down, what is the requisite information the reader needs to contextualise the complex biological issues addressed midway through the novel?

It is helpful for me to remind myself that this is not War and Peace, nor it is Intensity, nor even is it somewhere in between; the style and structure of the novel is determined by the context itself, not by the lie of the land around it.

Just my thoughts on the matter today. I'll write a little more as I have, well, written a little more of the novel! :-)

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