There was a technical difficulty that delayed Part 2 coming out, and then Life happened at me, as it is wont to do, but I finally caught up with Marco and the Red Granny today.
I’m still enjoying this. The aliens are still intriguing and mysterious, and I like how Marco’s own ineptitude in researching his new patrons is allowing us to discover about the intricacies of their society along with him. I imagine it would have been dull to read that House Blue were like this or that as Marco leafed through googled articles (or whatever the equivalent would be). It’s also clear that Mur has created a very rich and different future, which might have been disorienting to have thrown at one all at once.
The downside is that it makes Marco seem clueless to the point where he loses some of my sympathy. He was clearly down and out at the start of the story, hoping his agent would sort things out for him, hoping that he might get a patronage, despite his long dislike of them. The fact that he doesn’t seem to have bothered to find anything out about the aliens that dominate the market place where he makes his living makes it seem like he really has no one to blame but himself.
Which, I hasten to add, is not necessarily to criticise the story. Having started listening to Marco and the Red Granny, I finally decided to chase down Mur’s other work, and downloaded a few episodes of ‘I should be writing‘, her podcast for aspiring writers. Mur is clearly sympathetic to the struggles of other writers, but equally clear is her message that if you want to get something written you need to get up off your arse and actually do it. I have the feeling that Marco’s woes would not be met with much toleration in her ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ feedback segment.
In short: Marco was down and out because he had his head in the sand, and he’s at sea in Mollywood (the moon-based centre of culture and entertainment) because he didn’t bother to find out what it was like there. I wonder if there’s also some theme here exploring the tension in writing at the moment in response to the advent of new technologies – like podcasts and e-zines. There’s something pleasingly symmetric that a story about the resurgence of the patronage system is part paid for by the invitation to donate to the writer if you liked the work. Writers are right now being supported by the kind payments of those who are pleased by their work, and not solely through the old methods of selling print rights.
Yet if Marco’s reluctance to join this world has left him dangling in the unknown, hostage to fortune, the ‘patrons’ are not presented as unambiguously good. That Marco is so dependent on their good favour that he travels to the moon without really knowing what he has been hired to do, or even seeing his contract, is disquieting. That his first encounter with someone else in the patronage system – and of the same house as his patron – is with the Red Granny is similarly disquieting. I like the Red Granny. She’s engaging and friendly. But the most significant thing we know about her is that she kills people for money, and not only do humans love her for it, it is what she has won her patronage to do.
Clearly, all is not well in this world. The central enigma of what exactly Marco is being hired to do is still left open. I’m still curious as to where this is going, and look forward to seeing it resolved.
Part 3 is up, and I shall be downloading it to listen to on the way to work. If you haven’t heard Parts 1 & 2, you should go do so, now! Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. Treat yourself to a bit of free science fiction, and, if you like it, support the arts by becoming a bit of a patron yourself!