Sunday, March 09, 2008

Homage, or pastiche?

A lot of people whose opinions I respect have been talking about Cordwainer Smith recently. So I checked out a collection of his stories and read "The Dead Lady of Clown Town." (It's also available online for free and I'd started reading it once, but I decided I'd rather read it from a book.)

One thing I really liked about the story was the play between what's common knowledge/urban legend for the supposed readers in a time well beyond the events described versus the real story as it happened. It was full of references to the well-known video footage, to the plays and paintings that have commemorated the scenes of the story. According to the notes in this particular collection, Smith was basing the style of the story (by which I think the editor is referring to this aspect, though as I read more of the stories here, it may become clearer what he means exactly) on certain Chinese stories.

So today I was doing a 1-hour-write challenge and started playing around with that as well, telling a story as if it was a well-known but now-mythologized event for the imaginary readers. My fear is that it will feel too much of a copy--apart from this aspect, I don't think anything else will be similar, so in that sense it will be very much my own story. If that aspect is drawn from Chinese stories, I'd love to know more about that, to read some of the originals (in translation, of course). The editor, unfortunately, doesn't give any more info on that. Anyone know more?

And...would this sound too much like a copy or pastiche to you? Or simply homage for what inspired me?

2 comments:

Jeremy said...

Homage, pastiche, a little of both. And there's nothing wrong with either. It sounds very interesting. Writers have always played with the ideas that come before them. It's how we have a continuing dialogue on some matters, I think.

Daniel Ausema said...

True--poetry is probably even more that way, with poems reacting to and commenting on each other all the time. But I guess we do do that in fiction too. Thanks.