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A weird framework is not itself a compelling mystery

Many of the best works of fiction, like Groundhog Day, use a weird framework to tell compelling stories.

These stories can use the weirdness to tell stories of themes that are difficult to get at otherwise, like infinity or effervescence, or how different choices or different behavior in a situation can cause different outcomes, or the weirdness can be a metaphor for something else, or it can be just a backdrop for introducing interrelated sub-stories of compelling characters.

All those usages of weirdness are different from each other but can all be great. Pretty much all my favorite fiction is on the “weird” shelf. Love it. The human experience made hyper-clear by going beyond the real.

Sometimes, though, fiction tries to make “what are the rules?” a mystery in its own right. “Why is there a smoke monster and a polar bear in the jungle? What are the exact workings of this time-traveling subway train? Why is there suddenly a mysterious golden key in your violin case? Tune in next week on the same channel to find out the answer to this exciting cliffhanger!” and the answer is always the same. Whatever meaningless dream logic the writing team feels like pulling straight out of their own hats.

Do not care it is not real.

When writing weird fiction, don’t have questions about how the weirdness works be the tension. Have a real story.

A Los Angeles Times review by Robert Lloyd applauded the season by stating, “It’s helpful to regard the series, especially in the whipsaw transitions of its beautiful last movements, as musical or poetic.”

I read a lot of poetry and listen to a lot of music. It’s awesome. The only possible reaction to the futility of human language. Poetry and music doesn’t use their weirdness as if it itself were a potboiler.

“All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths… wow, they seem to actually be outgrabing!? Tune in next week to get some more clues about the mome raths!”

Aniara is a poem (with an SF premise) that works as a novella, because the tension is in how the characters are going to react and what they are going to do. The tension isn’t how mome the raths are.

I’m not arguing against weird and beautiful and trippy stuff or against dream logic. I’m all for it. I love it. That’s why I feel like works that try to make the exploration of the dream logic be a main tension driver are cheapening weird fiction.