1975 - Shatterday

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

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Barney Dannelke
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Postby Barney Dannelke » Wed Jan 26, 2005 11:47 am

That's the old greek conundrum of identity. Keep replacing the boards of an old ship with new boards until none of the original material remains. Is it still "that" boat or a new one? If "new", when did identity transfer to the new object? Ah, 4,000 year old questions are the best.

- Barney

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Postby Steven Prete » Wed Jan 26, 2005 7:45 pm

lonegungirl said,
“This is the thing I never get about reincarnation. If you do come back, but don't remember anything about what happened before, how are you in anyway the same person? What's the good of that?”
Well, not that I believe in reincarnation, but this strikes at a sort of duality of human nature. We define ourselves by our memories. A large part of who we are is based on what has happened to us and how we perceive those things over time. But for other people, they define you based on more abstract things, like how generous you are, how accommodating and understanding you are, or maybe how mean and spiteful you are. So if you could somehow separate those things, and only reproduce the basic attitudes and emotions of a person, without the memories, they would not know that they had come back, but yet, some part of them could have come back, a part of them that was perhaps shaped by their experiences and memories, which are now lost, like a figurine taken out of the mold. And then a new mold cast from that figurine, which over time changes based on experience and memory, and then a new figurine, a new mold, ad nauseum. Just an idea on how reincarnation might work. And thus, in this example, figurines would over time become prettier or uglier, based on the slight changes caused by time and experience. And we can translate that to reflect a belief that “souls” become more evil or good over long periods of time, within the context of reincarnation.
But Barney’s comment about the ship being replaced one piece at a time is a good one. It is a conundrum, and a good example considering that it pretty much describes the human body, cells constantly dying and regenerating, and most people would consider their own body to be a definite part of who they are. Yet something like every 3 or 6 months on average, you have a whole new set of cells in your body. Did this change your memory, your personality? So many factors make up who you are, that a partial copy might be able to translate a good deal of who you once were, even if it did not perfectly reproduce you.
And to tie this in so it isn’t too out of place here, we could arguably say that the new Novins is still in many ways the old Novins. But maybe cast from the better aspects of Novins’ personality and motivations (and memories, considering that when Novins asked about the Jungian archetypes, and wondered if he was becoming the shadow, Jay responded by saying, “No, you’re becoming a memory. A bad memory.” (pg. 331 of the Houghton Mifflin hardcover Shatterday)). So maybe we could even consider the new Novins as a kind of premature reincarnation (okay, this one is a little bit out of left field).
"Do not shine. Do not seek to shine. Burn!" -- Richard Mitchell (1929-2002)

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Chuck Messer
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Postby Chuck Messer » Sat Jan 29, 2005 12:00 am

One more observation....

When I read and re-read the story, one thing that kept coming to mind was Stephen King's The Dark Half. In particular the concept of the twin that absorbed and consumed its sibling in utero, with only a few individual bits of tissue being left of the smaller weaker sibling being carried around within its murderer.

And then one day, emerging.

Of course, I realize the King tome was written years after Shatterday.

In this case, I'd say Jay emerged as the stronger brother, Peter emerging as being weak in certain areas, especially his cowardice when it came to personal relationships, whether it was "romance" or putting his mother away in a home.

He didn't just disappear, but was subsumed by the now stronger part of himself, the one who could build a real life.

I don't know if Harlan had that in mind, but that's what I thought of.

By the way, when I read the story, the Novins in the apartment always had a deeper voice that the one outside. I don't know why.


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Postby KristinRuhle » Sat Jan 29, 2005 12:24 am

What struck me (as I read the story in the copy of DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH I recently bought from Susan; it incudes the whole Shatterday collection) was that the story was initally from Peter's viewpoint, but the reader's sympathies tend to shift to Jay, Peter being the one with the more "negative" character attributes.


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Postby Jan » Sat Jan 29, 2005 7:31 am

Kristin wrote:but the reader's sympathies tend to shift to Jay

And that starts when Peter becomes inexcusably aggressive.
Chuck wrote:By the way, when I read the story, the Novins in the apartment always had a deeper voice that the one outside. I don't know why.

Perhaps because he was a little calmer most of the time, didn't get as aggravated.

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Chuck Messer
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Postby Chuck Messer » Mon Jan 31, 2005 2:38 am

Interesting point, Jan.

Some people are wedded to their ideology the way nuns are wed to God.

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Postby Gary » Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:54 am


I've just scored an LP on eBay of Harlan reading Shatterday. Once it arrives, I might be persuaded to post a word or two about his differentiation of the voices, if any...


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Postby Jan » Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:50 am

Would a simple please be enough? :-) Please post any thoughts you may have about the recording in general, I would be very interested and will wait patiently. It would be nice to know how different he makes Peter and Jay.

We also haven't discussed the tv adaption, but I don't have it yet, so I can't start.

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P.A. Berman
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Postby P.A. Berman » Mon Jan 31, 2005 5:23 pm

I remember the TV adaptation because I saw it when it first came out. Bruce Willis was Novins and did a good job of seeming haggard and desperate as Peter, and calm, cool, and pleasant as Jay. In a way, one sympathized ever so slightly with the fucked up Peter, who screwed up his life and couldn't get things to right, facing the smooth veneer of his better half. I think that's how we all feel when we're battling our dark side-- embittered, petty, mean-spirited and lost, marveling at how much easier our lives would be if we could only change our perspective.


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Postby Gary » Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:37 pm

Can do, Jan. I'm hoping to combine shipping on the LP with another of the seller's auctions, ending very late Feb1, so it will be a bit of time before I get my hot little hands on this Ellison recording. But, all in good time...

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Harlan Ellison
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Postby Harlan Ellison » Mon Jan 31, 2005 11:49 pm

Do not fall into the easy trap (he said avuncularly) that more than several of you have already whoopsily gone into headirst.

Lose the stereotype labels GOOD and EVIL.

They have absolutely no place in a discussion of this story.

Try the words CARELESS and RESPONSIBLE instead.

Because they're what it's all about, kiddies.

Yr. pal, Harlan

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Postby Jan » Fri Feb 04, 2005 7:06 pm

I saw the tv adaption now, it was pretty good, especially towards the end. The way Bruce looked out the window and had this cold voice, barely existing anymore, was quite chilling. I noticed right away that many lines were dubbed, which is always a bit of a problem for me, because I'm conscious of such things. It usually takes away the spontaneity. However, it was done so well in this instance that it soon stopped being very distracting. Bruce was fabulous, but the director was too intent on doing the audience's work by making the nicer Novins easy to differentiate from the irresponsible one. For example, one was smoking, one was not, etc. Too much method acting. It was just obvious, and it became slightly annoying in one or two telephone scenes where Jay was just too quiet and tame, as if they were doing a parody of a responsible man. I mean, in reading the story we only had the words, and it's not like the dialogue wasn't enough to show you what's happening, they didn't have to add this warm/cold thing. It's "clever", but is it necessary? I do think, though, that the scene with both Novins in the hotel room was very nice; suddenly the nice Peter (Jay) was more believable. (He did seem a little cruel - you were sympathizing with the dying Peter, even more than in the story.)

Harlan's commentary made me wonder if Bruce was already trying to establish hoarseness as his acting trademark. ;-) I think the director just didn't think ahead concering Bruce's voice [which had to be looped owing to his self-induced hoarseness]; this is where you can tell if a director comes from the theater or not. I was doing things with my voice once for a small stage part, and immedeately I had people all over me telling me to be careful, and what about the next performance? A novice director doesn't think about such matters. (Bruce should have, though, especially after Harlan talked to him.)

When I read the story, I was wondering how they solved the problems of the opening scene (Bruce calling his own number etc.), and watching the episode you can learn a lot about the problems of adapting stories to an audio-visual medium. I liked how Peter called the grocer's shop and tried to piss them off. Some scenes like in the bar or in the bank were extended a little for believability. I missed the days that were left out, since there were seven of them, and I kind of liked the sound of Moansday etc. I figured I must have missed a few captions, but then I went back and found that I hadn't. The dialogue in the adaption was mostly Ellison's, or appeared to be.

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Postby NeonMosfet » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:41 pm

lonegungirl wrote:PAB's post gave me another thought--we know that the two are different parts of the same person because we are told so, and because they both like Yorkshire Pudding, etc., but...if they are so different in priorities, ethics, morals, can they really be considered to be the same person? Is the situation of Jay taking over Novin's life intrinsically different from Rudy shriking Spanning in "Mephisto in Onyx?"

This is the thing I never get about reincarnation. If you do come back, but don't remember anything about what happened before, how are you in anyway the same person? What's the good of that?
Rudy and Spanning are two different persons, plus they are mind surfing one another. Novins A and Novins B are essentially the same person, the latter coming to life after a session of Kurillian Photography. So one is a soulless wonder, and the other is all soul, much the way the sole of a cheap shoe peels away, and goes flop, flop, flop, when walking because it was only glued on. That was the trouble with Novins. His soul was a glue on, that never quite integrated with his ego. When it peeled away, it was saintly and untried, making Novins A a nastier prick than he could ever dream of, himself. He was, himself, only a cheap shoe.

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Postby paul » Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:01 pm

No reason to talk, but talk. I really have been quite lax on reading/keeping up with this thread. You know how it is. I just saw it and something occurred to me.

I have wanted to, but never seen the Willis OL version. I've seen probably all the others, but not that one. Never heard HE read it either. I have however read the story quite a few times and recorded it on a cassette (back in '99 or so, to send to some friends who were having a weekend- story reading/writing that i couldn't attend)and i have a copy and i noticed something about my reading of it.

My take on Jay is- as written- quickly calm and accepting and he remains so. Then my voice in the hotel room turns an emotional sound like a Capo di tutti capi; caring, soft spoken, but deadly serious and inexorable.
Peter is read as surprised and increasingly hysterical with bouts of angry violence and general prickishness, falling into denial and bitter final acceptance. Steps of death, anyone?
The theme being, Peter 's character traits are portrayed as the ones we should be rid of, while Jay's are more of the rational toughlove that will move our lives forward. This is one of the few i tend to read almost the same way, time and again.

Re: Barney's Ship

Douglas Adams wrote in Last Chance To See of being in Kyoto and seeing the Gold Pavilion Temple.
He expressed Western surprise at the news the guides had told him; that the building had been burned to the ground twice in the 20th century, and had said,

"So this isn't the original building?"

"But of course it is," came the reply.

"But it's been burned down?"

"Many times."

"And rebuilt?"

"Of course. It is an important and historical building."

"If it was completely rebuilt with new materials, how can it be the same building?"

"It is always the same building."

He came to realize (i quote directly)

"The idea of a building the intention of it, it's design, are all immutable and are the essence of the building. The intention of the original builders is what survives. The wood of which the design is constructed decays and is replaced when necessary. To be overly concerned with the original materials, which are merely sentimental souvenirs of the past, is to fail to see the living building itself."

All this for the idea that seems to be propagated through much of HE's work: You are what you make of yourself.
No reincarnation, not even hanging onto Jungian archetypes for support, just old-fashioned Go-Out-There-And-Do-It-Yourself no-nonsense life living. It doesn't matter what forces formed your life; yes, they help define your style, however, ultimately, you are responsible for being the best Human you can be. If you find cancerous thoughts- purge them. You recognize a new and better way of viewing the world?- adapt it to your mindset.

I've always suspected there was more than a little of the Objectivist in HE's personal philosophy. He'd have to admit to being a 'joiner' if he proclaimed it publicly, though. No chance. The only reason he uses the stereotype 'elitist' for himself, is that it's not a card-carrying group. But i see the Roarke-esqueness in Harlan's ethical battles.

Two cents, four cents, sixpence, HO!

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