Saturday, 19 February 2011

Science fiction at its 'alternative' best - Fringe, Roger Zelazny

 Carl's Sci Fi Experience (see my side-bar for the link) is a wonderful time to bring some science fiction into my reading life.  My friend Lee in Dallas sent me for Christmas a collection of Roger Zelazny's stories, Frost and Fire.  I did read one of the Amber novels  many years ago, but I haven't read any of his short stories.  She was reminded of his Hugo-Winning short story "24 Views of Mt Fuji, by Hokusai", which is in this collection, from an episode of Fringe.  So, last week, we read "24 Views of Mt Fuji".  It is beautiful. The story opens with Mari, standing at a view of Mt Fuji, discussing a little bit of love, and that she is on a pilgrimmage.  "Having viewed this scene, and thought my thoughts, and felt my feelings, I have begun."  She carries a book that has reproductions of 24 of Hokusai's 48 paintings of Mt Fuji, and the story follows her as she walks around the mountain, finding current scenes that recreate as closely as possible the original illustrations in her book.  At each stop, she releases more of herself, more of her thoughts and feelings, as she is also chased by unknown assailants, and we see different views of Mt Fuji.  It becomes a layering of impressions and reminisences, of the way memory circles and swirls around and around, until we discover that we have been looking at one thing through different landscapes.  It is hauntingly beautiful.  One of my favourite parts caught my eye:  "Twenty-four ways of looking at Mt. Fuji. It struck me that it would be good to take one thing in life and regard it from many viewpoints, as a focus for my being, and perhaps as a penance for alternatives missed."  As I read this, my thoughts flew to Fringe, my favourite tv show for two years now.

Fringe is SF tv at its best.  You have seen me rave in the past about Fringe here, and here, and here.  This season, we have been alternating (ha!) between the alternate world and this world, as Olivia as made her way back and the team has discovered what the alternate Walter wanted from our side.  What is gripping me most about this show right now is how one man's actions have had repercussions in everything.  One world, the alternate, is literally falling to pieces, breaking open to threatened vortexes. Last night we discovered that this world is beginning to show signs of the vortex spreading to here.  We also discovered that Walter has been haunted by what he saw when he was in the Alternate Universe last season, the broken places of the world.

All because he took Peter to save his life, and didn't return him after.  It is stunning storytelling, extremely powerful and moving, and we have no idea what comes next.  So when I read the lines above from "24 Views", I thought that's what the writers of Fringe are doing.  They are meditating on what Walter did.  We are getting 24, 48, even 64 views of the 'Zero Event" (as the Alternate Universe calls it, the day Peter was taken, because everything started from then), of how one action is spreading ripples through that world, our world, and who knows how far beyond.
How many ways can we view what Walter did?  As many ways as there are to explore the mysteries of the human heart. Because what Walter did was out of love and grief, this is a human-oriented science fiction story; no matter how unusual or fascinating the science, the exploration of faith, love, and loss, are at the heart of this show.

Roger Zelazny's story is wonderful, and while I don't describe it in SF terms, that was because I didn't want to give away a key plot point which is very SF.  Fringe is fabulous (in both senses of the word) tv.  Science fiction isn't just about rocket ships and space - though as you all know, I'm a Trekker through and through, I love my space stories! - it's about where humanity meets science and how we experience the world, the galaxy, the universe through the lens of our human heart.  I don't read as much science fiction as I want to, and I'm grateful for Carl's Sci Fi experience for pushing me to read  some science fiction now, and not later, like I always say.  I will be reading the other award-winning story from the Frost and Fire collection, "Permafrost", and I picked up Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century edited by Orson Scott Card, from the library earlier this week.  I might only have one week left in this challenge, but I am reading and enjoying some science fiction!

Are you, my Gentle Reader?  have you discovered - or revisited - a favourite science fiction author or story for this 'experience'? 


Kailana said...

I need to watch Fringe!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I've heard lots of great things about Fringe and want to start watching it.

Cath said...

I can see we have loads of wonderful stuff to come with Fringe. We're loving it so far and I'll be after season two sometime soon.

Yes, my 'new' author that I discovered for the sci fi experience is Karen Traviss. I read book one of her Wess'har series (The City of Pearl) and absolutely loved it. My husband read it and then book two and three and says it gets even better. I love discovering a new author. I really need to read some Roger Zelazny. I thought I had something of his on my tbr mountain but I've checked and I haven't.

Anonymous said...

I keep meaning to return to Fringe as I has blown away by the first season, but it was one of the shows I had to give up when I cut back on watching t.v. One weekend, I will sit myself down and get caught up.

Susan said...

Kailana: Yes, you do! lol Are you able to borrow Season 1 from your library still? I know you said last year you were going to check it out that way.

Kim: too bad I can't get a virtual viewing of Fringe going! lol that would be cool, a book-blogging evening with Fringe!

Cath: I have both seasons and rewatch them often. Isn't season 3 showing yet over there? Oh my, yes, lots of wonderful stuff to come then!!!

I read your post about Karen Traviss when you posted about her, and she's on my growing list of books to check out. You did love City of Pearl, didn't you?

StephanieD: I don't know whether to be happy for you that you cut back on tv viewing, or sad that Fringe was one that went! It was one I chose to keep - I've cut back too, since I want to read more in the evenings. I can't do without my Fringe, though!

Cath said...

Yes, Susan, I liked City of Pearl an awful lot. There's much in it that's thought provoking and I do like a story where an alien and a human become steadily closer and closer for reasons I won't reveal but which are rivetting. I've just started the second book and am only 60 pages in but loving it already. Probably a mistake to start it as we have our grand-daughter here this week and reading time will be at a premium.

Susan said...

Cath: I hope you got some reading in during the visit! It certainly sounds like a book I should check out.