Redshirts, y’all. REDSHIRTS. Oh, lord.
There are two sets of videos for today’s final post on Redshirts. (I apologize for taking a couple days to get here; it’s not easy to find both time and privacy whilst on tour to record videos!) Both Coda II and Coda III have videos for them, which I’ll put at the start of each section. Let’s do this!
Coda I: First Person
- I feel like these codas are here to further make my brain hurt. Just like this book. This book makes my brain hurt. In all seriousness, this is how Scalzi personalizes this narrative. I said before that I worried that the gimmick behind Redshirts would overpower the story, but that’s simply not the case. Reading “First Person” is one of a few examples of how Scalzi was able to show us the effects of this fictional world on other people. Which… okay, I was talking about this book to some people in San Antonio on tour, and the only way I could describe what it does is that it’s like “Blink,” that infamous episode of Doctor Who. HOLD ON, I WILL EXPLAIN. So, without spoiling the episode’s contents, there’s that moment at the very, very end of “Blink” where Moffat has to go and be an asshole and remind us that every statue ever is actually a Weeping Angel. That’s Redshirts. So when I typed “able to show us the effects of this fictional world,” all I could think was OH MY GOD IS EVERY BOOK EVER SPAWNING A PARALLEL UNIVERSE and then my brain hurts when I try to factor in fan fiction to that equation, and I am broken.
- And this is what Nick struggles with in “First Person”!!!! Who is he now that he knows what he’s created? How can he even write if whatever he writes comes true in some alternate timeline? How can he specifically write a science fiction show so that it’ll keep its ratings without killing people? Again, there’s a very crucial criticism of the lazy writing that goes into science fiction within Redshirts, but “First Person” expands that to comment on what writers do to save time, to save money, and to appeal to the masses.
- Nick’s struggle, first and foremost, is a meta-dramatic journey of self-examination. It’s meta because holy cow it’s all on the Internet, and it’s something you’d see on Reddit or Tumblr. I love that Scalzi is able to capture just how hilarious and toxic the Internet can be. Granted, Nick’s posts are… well, would you believe them if you read someone blogging about that online? No, probably not.
- I had forgotten that I had once seen Last Action Hero. Damn it, Scalzi, you raised that memory out of its grave! Damn you.
- Denise Hogan, I love you. Her introduction and use in this coda is brilliant because it highlights Nick’s problem. Even if he can’t cope with the knowledge he has of what his fiction does, Denise rightly calls him out on what his other problem is: He is terrified to do something different with his characters. Not just that, but she brings up a crucial point that’s the basis of Redshirts: We have to start understanding that characters in fiction need agency. It’s not good fiction to read characters who are mouthpieces for ideology. (Take note, Ayn Rand.) It’s also not satisfying to experience fictional worlds with characters who don’t seem real! I think that’s especially true when it comes to television, a visual medium that can, unfortunately, pull us right out of that immersive environment if you don’t pay attention to these things.
- You see a lot of this in Nick’s “script” with Finn. (Oh my god, I have written so many meta-plays in Mark Reads history, so it’s kind of weird to see something similar pop up here. Are our brains linked, Scalzi?) I loved the line where Finn said that Nick, as a writer, was a general, not the Grim Reaper. It wasn’t that he was killing off characters; it was that he was doing it badly.
- Even though I know Nick was telling the truth, the true brilliance of Coda I is the fact that you can read this as nothing more than a hoax or a meta-experiment. It really reads that way!
Coda II: Second Person
- God, it’s so great that we get to explore how this story affected these people’s lives! “Second Person” focuses on the bizarre implications of Matt Paulson’s recovery, especially from his standpoint. It’s about logistics, and how those logistics come to change Matt’s life. We see how he begins to question how he healed so quickly and so completely, why certain details don’t add up, and why everyone in his life is so desperate to ignore these anomalies. It’s like Scalzi is taking his own book’s advice! Give these characters agency, understand that they are whole people, and write from that understanding. Scalzi could have ended this book at chapter 24, but we’re instead getting this chance in “our” world to examine the ramifications of the novel.
- So, a great deal of “Second Person” features Matt basically going WHAT THE FUCK at every moment of his life after he wakes up from his coma. And it’s understandable! His memory loss doesn’t make sense; there’s a bizarre mix-up of his medical information; his own behavior is nonsensical; and everyone on the set of The Chronicles of the Intrepid treats him weird. Like, REALLY weird. Like, why are Marc Corey and Brian Abnett staring at him so much?
- This leads to one hell of a surreal moment where Matt discovers that Hester – the fictional version of himself in the other timeline/world – left him a message. But this is not just about explaining what happened to him. Like “First Person,” there’s a reason this coda exists. Matt needed to know that his parents cared for him, but that his lack of motivation or direction was… well, it was kind of infuriating. Matthew was drifting, a particularly apt description given the space-themed direction of this novel. As Hester described it, Matt just did one thing after another until he was bored. The truth is that if it weren’t for the Intrepid crew, Matt would have wasted his time while alive.
- I can’t ignore that this is, ultimately, about agency. However, instead of a writer learning to respect agency, this section was about a person realizing they have it. Bravo.
Coda III: Third Person
- TOO MANY EMOTIONS. TOO MANY EMOTIONS.
- Again, I seriously adore that Scalzi wraps up the threads dangling with each of these characters. I think Samantha’s section might be my favorite of the bunch.
- The actions that the Intrepid characters took had ramifications for those in our world, and perhaps none of them had a more introspective and emotional reaction quite like Samantha Martinez. She takes this journey that examines what it means for the existence of Margaret. How does this affect her life?
- Obviously, she’s a bit messed up by watching herself interact with Jenkins, and she struggles with the fact that there’s pretty much no way she can explain this experience to anyone. I got the sense that she felt that the files Jenkins had sent her were way too personal for her to share with just anyone. That’s how I read the scene where she burned up the copies she made. It wasn’t that she felt no one else should have them. It was more like she respected what Jenkins had done for her, and she wanted to preserve that.
- And it comes down to that in the end: Jenkins had shown her another life, one rooted in her own, and he’d done so because he loved his wife. He enjoyed the time he had with her, and instead of giving up his life because she was gone, giving Samantha his files was a way of moving on.
- Samantha has this experience at a time in her life when she feels restless. (Which is what all three characters in the Codas have in common: They don’t know what to do with their lives.) Her blind dates show us that she isn’t sure she has a future with someone at all. It’s not until she meets a widow, Bryan, that she gets insight into why Jenkins sent her that communication in the first place.
- I don’t find the ending of this book to be Lifetime-movie-cheesy at all. I think it’s a very sweet way to give us closure to this story, to show us that these people matter, and to prove that coincidence is only half of the deal. Sure, weird, unexplainable occurrences exist in our world. But these three characters had to act upon those coincidences and absurdities in order to change their lives. They exercised their agency, and they found a way to live on.
Goddamn, what a great book. Thanks for the experience, y’all.