||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Last month I mentioned a work of classical music, based on Clark Ashton Smith's "City of the Singing Flame". I've since taken up the "Gateway" interactive-fiction games, the second one currently. I am led to think that, in some cases, the derivative art can be the fulfillment of the original's promise.
I hasten to emphasise "fulfillment" and "can be". The derivatives might fail at it. I still haven't heard Peter Scartabello's symphony so I cannot judge that. And the Gateway games are flawed, especially the second one. I'm here discussing how the original author's ideas are suited for genre A, but the author's abilities were limited to genre B. In the cases of Smith and Pohl, these two were writers of speculative prose.
The City (later named Ydmos, in a subpar sequel) alludes to a brown-note, a "King In Yellow", a song mortals shouldn't be listening to, and maybe can't listen to under Pythagorean rules. This story, then, is structurally the libretto for an Unfinished Symphony - to finish it would be death, of course. Scartabello has attempted to write this symphony.
In the case of Pohl's Gateway and the story before it, "Merchants of Venus", I have registered my problems with the original works. The Gateway games point to one fundamental flaw in the originals: the Heechee universe is a setting of exploration, and reading the original is like watching someone else play the game. "Merchants" could work as a sandbox game, although this game hasn't yet been made. Legend's Gateway - the first one, anyway - gets across the feeling of travelling between separate adventure-worlds and solving puzzles in each. Like King's Quest VI. Like the "Hitchhiker's Guide" game.
Pohl's Gateway is perhaps best treated as a fanfic of the Heechee universe, a universe later implemented mostly-properly in the first Legend Entertainment game.
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