Plots in ambient video

I am in Seattle for Decibel Festival, an “international festival of electronic music performance, visual art and new media.” No surprise that I love electronic music as it seems to go hand in hand with science fiction.

Brock Van WeyLast night we went to an ambient, experimental electronica showcase. The musicians were paired with video artists, who projected in the background while the music unfolded.

I’ve not seen that much ambient video, but what really struck me last night was how strong the human urge (or at least my urge!) is to make sense of images, to create a narrative. I’d have been completely content to nurse my drink and let the music wash over me, but the ambient video was distracting. Who is that woman? Why is she writhing around on the floor? Wait, is that her now, but all red and pixelated? Is that her giant hand? Is she okay?

The next video artist featured spacey cloud images that made me feel like I was flying towards something…always moving forward…never arriving. When will the sun rise? When will we get to the space station? Where was my video climax? I didn’t get one and left frustrated.

I’ve been working on Six Book One, and the ambient videos served as an important warning to me: if I don’t provide a good, solid plot and a compelling story, the readers are going to use the sentences I give them to create one of their own. And, chances are, their story won’t have the same ending as mine. Not to be overly trite, but as an author I want to be sure we are all, literally, on the same page. If I don’t keep a tight hold on the plot and the reader’s expectations, we will all leave frustrated.

The Paul Auster interview

More than a few people left the September 19th Paul Auster/Daniel Handler “conversation” disappointed. I wasn’t one of them, but I sympathized.

I’ve been to other “conversation” lectures and felt lucky to be a fly on the wall of an extremely brightly-lit and very large living room where I was able to overhear two  intelligent people have a chat on whatever crossed their minds.

This conversation was actually an interview–Daniel Handler had questions prepared and often referred to a twisted piece of paper he held. This was all well and good, as Paul Auster was smart, frank, down to earth and completely captivating, but before the lights dimmed, nearly all the actual conversation in the audience around me was centered on Daniel Handler. How they loved his stuff. How amazing he was. How terrible one or the other person felt that they’d never read a Paul Auster book.

Mr. Auster held center stage, but Mr. Handler’s few comments were so spot on, so funny, such a momentary relief from the gravity of literature, I wished the two of them had been able to converse as friends and forget we were all there.

Paul Auster In Conversation with Daniel Handler

In San Francisco tomorrow night? Join me at what looks like a great lecture!

Poet, translator, editor, author, screenwriter and director, Paul Auster is the author of sixteen novels, five screenplays and numerous other works that range from a volume of poetry to a translation of Sartre. Considered one of the most intellectual writers of our time, Auster has pursued a literary career of uncommon seriousness, abundance, and originality.Psychological depth and intertwined stories have long characterized Auster’s fiction, from The New York Trilogy to Moon Palace to Oracle Night. In his newest book, Winter Journal, Auster brings his readers an intimate memoir about the life of a writer. Auster also wrote the screenplay for Smoke and has been the recipient of many literary awards including the Prix Medicis, the Comandur d l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and The Brooklyn Book Festival Best of Brooklyn Literary Award.

Under the pen name Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler is the author of the macabre collection of children’s novels, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Under his given name, the native San Franciscan is the author of three novels: The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, and Adverbs. His forthcoming series is due out this fall and is titled All the Wrong Questions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 7:30 pm
Venue: Herbst Theatre