Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Pattern recognition

People may enjoy reading Andrew Rilston's extended zine (is that what you call it?) Who Sent the Sentinels? (PDF link 60 pages) which is primarily about Watchmen. He seems to address the question of what makes a text generate additional works such as commentary and fanfiction. Because Watchmen is an extremely strong exemplification of a live shape-shifting thing, inside a sarcophagus of different faces. It was made that way on purpose.
(the geek imperative) to read and re-read disposable material and look for connections, secret meanings, and special significances which aren't there. But in Watchmen they are there, because Alan has put them there. The “geek potential” is written into the text. The dense, over-elaborated structure doesn’t merely allow the comic to be used in a fannish way: it demands it.

There are a couple of ways I diverge from Andrew Rilstone (his religious views and his division of the world into hyper-geeks and mundanes). But I like his argument that it's the over-determination and hyper-connectedness of the Watchmen text which promotes unpacking, rather than a quality of emptiness which is what people normally mention. Though it seems to me that both of these attributes provoke humans to engage their pattern-recognition skills - the feeling that 'there's something there, but you aren't quite seeing it' - and both lack and overabundance of signal can provoke that feeling.

So it's helpful to have hyper-saturated signal, which 'seems to be telling us something'. Plus it's helpful if there are gaps in signal, which provoke us to join up the dots. I think there's a third aspect, and this is the hardest to get right. And that's a feeling that 'this is important'. Because if you don't think it's important, you don't pay the signal any attention. For example, I've shown Watchmen to friends outside of SF and they are like 'Eh, so what? Very clever I suppose.' Quentin Tarantino I think is a good example of someone who can take some old nonsense and make it seem extremely important. Or he used to be; he lost me at Kill Bill.
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