Thursday, 3 August 2017

Flashbacks

Two similar fictional devices are the change of scene and the flashback. Flashbacks are more frequent on screen but SM Stirling makes creative use of them to fill in the backstory in The Tears Of The Sun. Tiphaine begins to recount an earlier experience to another character, then, on the following page, we begin to read a third person account of that earlier experience, knowing that the next narrative section after that will revert to the interrupted conversation. At least, the conversation has been interrupted for the benefit of the reader although the characters are not aware of any interruption. In real life, we momentarily remember an earlier experience whereas, in a flashback, the entirety of that earlier experience is replayed, the narrative point of view shifting back to the previous occasion. The author has a god's eye view of the entire fictional timeline and can dip in and out of it although too many changes of point of view would confuse the reader. It is good to read about later events, then to be told what had happened before, like how did a previously avowed secularist come to be wearing an owl amulet?

12 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I think I first became aware of the idea of flashbacks and changes of scene as literary methods from reading Richard C. West's essay "The Interlace Structure Of THE LORD OF THE RINGS" (to be found in A TOLKIEN COMPASS). Altho West focused on how Tolkien used the Medieval versions of those methods.

    Sean

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    1. Sean,
      Medieval versions?
      Paul.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      To quote West, from page 78 of my copy of A TOLKIEN COMPASS (Open Court,1975): "Tolkien used a structural technique similar to that of medieval interlace. This was a narrative mode of such complexity and sophistication that, until recently, modern critics could not detect a coherent design to most medieval romances." Further, on pages 78-79: "Interlace, by contrast, seeks to mirror the perception of the flux of events in the world around us, where everything is happening at once. Its narrative line is digressive and cluttered, dividing our attention among an indefinite number of events, characters, and themes, any one of which may dominate at any given time, and it is often indifferent to cause and effect relationships."

      I think you can see how this applies to how Anderson and Stirling uses flashbacks and changes of scene.

      Sean

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  2. Kaor, Paul!

    I forgot to add to my first comment that Tiphaine d'Ath was SHAKEN out of her hardened secularism by personal contact with the supernatural. In fact, by contact with beings who were DEMONIC.

    Sean

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  3. Flashbacks are useful, but tricky -- you can disrupt the narrative structure with them if you're not careful.

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    1. Mr Stirling,
      ...which you manage not to do.
      Paul.

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    2. Dear Mr. Stirlng,

      And I say you have not "disrupted" your books like that.

      Sean

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  4. As Sandra Arminger says at one point, she was an atheist... but not a flat-earth atheist. Disbelief wasn't her religion, it was just what she thought was the most credible explanation for the available evidence. If the evidence suggests an alternative explanation, she shifts her position.

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  5. Dear Mr. Stirling,

    And it was during the investigation of Odard Liu mother's connections with the diabolist CUT that we see Sandra Arminger's coming to rethink her views about the supernatural and God.

    And I have seen "flat earth" atheists online! That is, self avowed atheists so passionately hostile to Christians and any belief in God that I had to conclude that kind of atheism WAS their religion. They had a passionate and zealous FAITH in the non-existence of God.

    Sean

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  6. Sean: yeah, that sort make me embarrassed to be an atheist myself. (And as for the unspeakable Dawkins...8-).

    Whenever I run into one, I ask them if they really think they're smarter than Thomas Aquinas.

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    1. Hi,
      In James Blish's DOCTOR MIRABILIS, Roger Bacon invents/discovers scientific method whereas Aquinas is a conformist, not thinking anything that is not orthodox.
      Paul.

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    2. Dear Mr. Stirling and Paul,

      Mr. Stirling, and many of these flat earth atheists also strikes me as sheerly bigoted and irrational. They like to accuse Christians of every possible crime, atrocity, and monstrosity while totally ignoring every and any mitigating factor and the crimes of atheists. They also tend to have a huge blind spot about Islam and ignore atrocities perpetrated by fanatics in the name of Islam (with ample justifications cited from Muslim scripture and law).

      Paul, and Chesterton took the opposite view of St. Thomas Aquinas! I recall him arguing in his book about St. Thomas that he would have been as great a scientist as he was a philosopher and theologian if the tools needed for science to work had been available to him. And I believe St. Thomas' work in developing purely rational thought was to help lead to science. Which is what Poul Anderson thought, btw, judging from what he said about the Scholastics in IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS?

      Sean

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