At the Edge of Comprehension

Today’s offering from Every Day Fiction, Bill Ward’s “Cloudcutter,” helped to break me out of a dull mood. The world and characters Ward describes are incredibly strange, and so I found the setting and story just at the edge of what I can accept. A story this weird is a bit dangerous, I think — sometimes, if I get too lost, I get annoyed and give up on a story. This story struck just the balance I needed. It was strange enough to give me a feeling of liftoff, but it maintained some basic things to which I could relate.

On the strange side: It’s hard to tell exactly how genetics are operating. The character opens by talking about the day he got his fifth brain. I gather that each brain adds functionality, but it’s uncertain what these creatures are. The character has fur, but I’m not sure why. As with many stories, I have the sense that this is some future earth, but I can’t be sure.

The thing is that as I made that list, I realized that isn’t so bad. I understand what I need to understand. The character is young and still maturing, and the world seems terribly polluted and constrained, when that doesn’t seem to have been the case before.

On the side of liftoff: The character dreams of flying, and the impact is strong:

That night I flew above the ceiling. I was sucked up through the gash cut by the high current, and soared in a bright world of toplight blue. I did not move as I normally do, as Charlie does, but hung in the fibers of the air with broad arms and pushed forward mightily with my feet. I cannot remember a more beautiful thing.

“Your fifth brain can dream, Charlie; you are a man now.” Dandrys smiled and patted my head. I then asked why our bodies differed but Dandrys said it did not matter, and told me to come with him to work.

Ward does a good job of establishing the sense of a low ceiling of dirty clouds, and of making the idea of getting beyond them appealing and meaningful. The relationship between Charlie and Dandrys is strange, but intriguing. Their interaction as mentor and student is classic, but emphasis, as above, on the difference between their bodies left me wondering. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as a difference caused by age difference, or species difference, or some sort of sexual difference.

In any case, today I was in the mood to be confused this way, and the dream of flying gave the story a basic premise that I could connect with easily.

On a side note, my feed reader also brought Every Day Fiction’s interview with Nicholas Ozment. I was pleased to see that his story, “The Only Difference Between Men and Boys,” had gotten good traffic last month. I didn’t post about it, but it is definitely worth reading.

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4 responses to “At the Edge of Comprehension

  1. Hey Erican, glad you liked ‘Cloudcutter,’ you’ve said exactly what I’d hoped to hear about it — that you thought it struck the right balance between the vague and the compelling.

    A story like this is always a bit of a worry, but I’ve been really pleased with the response so far. Thanks for linking to it.

    And, by the way, don’t think ‘genetics,’ think ‘cybernetics.’ 😉

    I was a big fan of Nicholas Ozment’s story as well, he’s always got something different and worthwhile going on.

  2. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the hint! I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

  3. Hi Erica – Liked your post about Bill Ward’s story. I love his writing and this story is no different. I find that I struggled a little more with this one than I usually like. For me, the confusion was enough to slightly tarnish the overall impact of the story. Not much, but some.

    Keep up the great posts, by the way.

  4. Thanks for the comment. It’s great to see you sticking with the site. I am strange about confusion — sometimes I like it, and sometimes I don’t. I wondered if, on a different day, there would have been too much for me. I definitely think the story was right on the line. But it struck me, the day I read it, as just on the good side of the line.

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