We are often told we have to suspend our disbelief to enjoy various books and films, but this isn’t strictly true. The onus is, or should be, on the creator not the consumer. It is perfectly legitimate to watch Alien vs Predator and think, “well this is a load of bollocks”, because the makers of the film didn’t bother to put the effort in that the makers of, say, Alien, did. (In fact, you watch Alien vs Predator not only thinking, “that would never happen”, but also, “an Alien would never do that”, you become unable to suspend disbelief about something you have already suspended disbelief about. [If ever you needed a definition of postmodernism guys…])
As Coleridge pointed out when he came up with the idea of suspension of disbelief, if the writer can give a fantastic story “human interest and a semblance of truth” then the reader will follow them wherever the story goes. The invention of genre partly circumvented the requirement of the author to do the hard work by dividing readers, broadly, into those willing to automatically suspend disbelief at the first instant of reading and those largely reluctant to do so whatever the circumstance. So when a Dickens or a Vonnegut or an Atwood turns up it is something to be celebrated.
Kirsty Logan has just turned up.
OK, so I know she has been publishing stories for a while, I’m not an idiot, but the wave of publicity around The Gracekeepers, and the sad fact that nobody actually buys short stories (fine, fine, except you) means that this can be seen as an arrival, a debut, a big hello.
Hello Kirsty Logan.
The Gracekeepers is set in a world that is almost entirely sea. Like Waterworld, but massively less shit, and massively more varied in sexuality and gender, with one of fiction’s finest ever bears, and no Dennis Hopper, and no Kevin Costner (though God knows, I do love Kevin Costner. Watch Open Range, thank me later) and a circus. And prose. Oh such lovely prose. You want waves? How about waves that “chuttered and shwacked”? Gorgeous.
And isn’t a circus just perfect? What better illustration of the suspension of disbelief? A place we go to, temporarily, believe the impossible. A better reviewer could tie it all up in a neat bow, the circus, the skill, the audience, the author, the skill, the reader. I’ll humbly confine myself to nodding at the connections and letting you think about them as you read. Because I am seriously recommending you buy a copy of The Gracekeepers. Right now.
Any Cop?: There is a reason why most books have quotes from the author’s mates on the cover and The Gracekeepers has one by Ursula K. Le Guin. This is a seriously good book. You don’t just believe it, you breathe it.