In the second part of my review of Redshirts, I learn that this fictional universe does not operate as I expected it to. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Redshirts.
Chapters Nine – Fourteen
This review features a live reading of chapter fourteen, and the YouTube video is at the end!
- So, I needed to know one thing going further in this book: What are the rules? How does this fictional world function? (Well, the fictional world within the fictional world, that is. Oh god, my brain.) I know that’s the case for most fiction that doesn’t take place in the “real world,” but it’s especially true in this book. When you drop a reveal like the one on page 103, I’m going to immediately need to know more about this.
- Actually, I thought of a great example of why this is important in a narrative. I’ve started watching American Horror Story on my own because Connie Britton. Okay, not just that. I’m a big horror fan, so I wanted to give it a shot since I’m having such a good time with it. (I would recommend it with the following commentary: It’s super violent, it’ll trigger most people, and it’s done by Ryan Murphy so you can expect at least a few groans or facepalms because that man is ridiculous. It is also not the show Glee, which THANK THE GODS.) Anyway, I’ve only seen the first five episodes so far, and I CANNOT FIGURE OUT WHAT THE RULES OF THIS UNIVERSE ARE! Which is actually a source of tension and mystery, I should say, and I’m not using this example to criticize the show. It’s actually fun trying to figure out why certain characters are the way they are, how they work in physical space, and how a show about a haunted house chooses to build terror.
- In the case of Redshirts, it’s not long before Jenkins finally spells things out to me, and it makes Redshirts so much more intriguing as an idea: “It’s fictional,” Jenkins said. “You’re real. But a fictional television show intrudes on our reality and warps it.”
- WELL, SIGN ME UP FOR THIS. So it’s not an issue of these characters having zero agency and free will. They do! They exist, they are real people, and what happens around them actually happens. And that’s an important thing to establish, especially so quickly after revealing that you’re all in a TV show. We learn in a later chapter that the Narrative Jenkins spoke of the first time he appeared to Dahl is just that: It’s the narrative of the show. It’s what the writers are making happen. In moments where the writers aren’t creating the show, life in this alternate reality keeps moving on.
- Actually, that isn’t quite right. As far as I understand it, the characters move about due to what the writer’s have written, but this all unfolds as if it is happening live on television. So it seems that the first airing of an episode is what affects life here? Though I suppose that isn’t quite right, either. It’s just that the writers of the show have picked out specific points of time in this future world and written episodes during them. In the “off-days” or “off-hours,” the universe keeps going.
- My head hurts.
- Actually, the literal best part of this book so far?
- “If that’s not the worst thing, what is?” “That as far as I can tell,” Jenkins said, “it’s not actually a very good show.”
- Which means everything I’ve been reading is a purposely-terribly written, melodramatic science fiction show. Oh my god, John Scalzi, HOW ARE YOU SO GOOD AT WRITING TERRIBLE THINGS THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD ONCE YOU THINK ABOUT THEM FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME?
- But this twist rules because the characters still matter. Initially, Dahl is the only person who believes Jenkins, so there’s emotional tension that springs up. These characters still have a story to tell outside of the Narrative, and that’s what is fascinating to me. Even amidst all the chaos, there’s still a reason for me to care. I want to see Dahl find a way to stop this from happening. But how the fuck can you do that?
- So, what does it mean that as these characters begin to figure out more of this world, the world around them appears to “adjust” to send them on missions directly related to what they were just talking about? This is beyond being reclusive and meta! How can the “writers” observe fictional characters in this context? I DON’T GET IT!
- And then we get to Weston, who appears to have figured out as much (or a bulk) of what’s going on, as he’s done the same thing Jenkins has, but on his ship. Jenkins hints that more people have figured out the nature of their universe. So where are they? What happened to them? How come Jenkins has managed to escape the Narrative for so long? I genuinely don’t understand this part. How can mere hiding prevent writers from writing about you?
- I knew Finn was going to die because the text told me, and it fit the trope. And yet I was still shocked by his death. A BIOLOGICAL BOMB IN SOMEONE’S HEAD? REALLY?
- Throughout this, I’m impressed with the fact that Redshirts offers up a commentary on recycled science fiction writing and hack ideas. It really is a criticism of how the genre has problems when it comes to good storytelling. At the same time, it’s also a love letter to sci-fi, isn’t it?
- I am in love with Hester’s constant declaration of hating the conversations they all have to have now.
- And then there’s chapter fourteen, which lays out the possible plan in which these characters might find a way to divorce their universe from the control of the writers.
- They have to FLY INTO A BLACK HOLE WITH A MAIN CHARACTER TO GO BACK TO THE TIME WHEN THE SHOW IS AIRING AND ACTUALLY INTERACT WITH THE WRITERS TO STOP THEM. My brain cannot even deal with the physics that dictate this. HOW? HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Do the two worlds intersect in 2010? How the fuck do you tell a writer to stop writing what they’re doing because YOUR WRITING IS BRINGING PERIL TO AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE?
- Oh, fuck, I cannot wait to read more of this.
Mark Links Stuff
- I am now on tour!!! I have 26 events spread out across the eastern HALF of the U.S. and Canada. They are all free and all-ages. Come see me speak about the Mark Does Stuff Universe and read terrible fanfiction live!
- Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Commissions are still open while I am on tour! There may be a day or two delay to get them done, but I am accepting them graciously to help fund my tour!
- Nominate me for a Hugo award in Fan Writer or Dramatic Presentation – Short Form!