Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gigantism

One of the things I enjoy about Mervyn Peake's Titus stories is the sheer Gothic size of Gormenghast Castle. The seemingly implausible way that the collection of buildings making up the castle becomes essentially an entire world for the people inside.

Another book I loved was Iain Banks's The Bridge, where the main character, while in a coma after a car accident, finds himself among a people who live in a bridge grown to such size that a single span of the bridge is basically a large neighborhood, if not an entire city, and no one knows where (or if) the bridge ends.

Tad Williams's Otherland series sends its characters through dozens of different (virtual) worlds, and I remember especially liking one where the whole world was a house, with different, societies claiming different wings or rooms.

I can think of short stories or novellas that are set in an endless, house-lined road; a house; a hedge; a factory; a web-lined chasm. For some reason these appeal to me greatly. Whether the story as a whole is completely successful or not, they stick with me.

In my own writing, I've found myself drawn to these kinds of extreme settings as well. A several-million-inhabitant city colonizing four implausibly giant trees. A post-apocalyptic playground where the playground equipment is impossibly big. A network of vines big enough to hold dozens of small villages and all the game and hunting space those villagers need. A wall so high no one has seen the land below or remembers what they're guarding or from whom.

The big-ness isn't used to the same effect in all of these stories, and I wouldn't want to create some sort of rigid term for this grouping, but what draws me, it seems, is this sense of the characters being very small in relation to the Big Object(s). (I've left it vague in my stories whether these things really are impossibly big, or whether the characters are actually incredibly small...but really it doesn't matter as long as the story remains within the confines of the imagined society.)

I've come up with a few reasons of why that seems to appeal to me, which I'll explore in some upcoming posts. Before that, if anyone knows of other stories that seem to play with the same size weirdness, let me know about them!

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