alt.fan.pratchett : The Best Of AFP

Deconstruction of an A.F.P Post


Date: 12 Aug 2001
From: Sockii
Title:
Deconstruction of an A.F.P Post, On the Fly
Summary:
Allusions and deeper meanings are found and discussed in a afp post containing the opinions of Eric Jarvis and Stephanie, regardless of the authors' intent.
Word count:
1900 (including quotes)

Eric Jarvis wrote:
Stephanie wrote:

Here 'wrote' is a pun on 'rote', whereby the participant does not have to engage in original thinking. Both Eric Jarvis (aka eric ) and Stephanie (aka Stephanie ) are convivial members of the Usenet newsgroup dedicated to one of this century's (and also the latter part of the previous century) early satirists and commentators of the conflict between Western and Eastern and Middle-Eastern cultures (i.e. the civilized world) as each tries to assert dominance and moral superiority on the known world, and to control the planet's resources (which somehow excludes maintaining a viable ecology in order that future human generations can access fresh water, fresh fish, fresh trees, and fresh air uncontaminated by manufactured features of the industrial age). The satirist which the dialogue participants both avidly read is the famed yet little known Terry Pratchett, who is widely rumoured to be "guilty of literature" [a]. As such, the Usenet newsgroup wherein eric and Stephanie discuss the topic of "[I]Writing " is generally known as Alt.Fan.Pratchett (hereafter abbreviated as afp).

In order to understand the scope of eric and Stephanie's writings, it is necessary to delve into afp's golden past (as, indeed, it is the past which has been polished, for the present is buried by slurried slush, and the future has not yet been written). In early 1999, afp engaged in a philosophical discussion regarding "[I] The nature of laughter" [b]. The outcome of which are perceptive quotes such as:

Most jokes rely on the upsetting of expectations, or at least a sudden change of viewpoint. - Peter Ellis
...the key seems to be that it threatens, in some way, however vaguely, the laugher's safety. - Richard Bos

Some afpers agreed, some disagreed. The afpers gave specific examples in response to the above observations.:

If you're familiar with T S Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats', for instance - there's plenty of good laughs in there (for me, at least) that depend on rhythm and momentum of language, not on any sudden 'punchline' effect. - Miq
This kind of laughter (laughing at a funeral) can very easily turn into painful tears though, really serious tears. - Ailbhe

But genius of afp lies in this response:

[ Re: the death of Kenny, of South Park, in every episode ]

Just think, every week a new kid in a orange anorak turns up. If they don't kill off the old one, then you have the glod situation.

...have you THOUGHT about what having dozens of additional children would do to his parents?!!

No, sometimes when there are too many of a particular species, you have to cull them off, so that others might live. - Rand

The afper subtlely uses humour to refute the argument that laughter must be correlated in some way with the laugher's safety, and to affirm that jokes rely on upsetting expectations.

It is in this spirit of subtlety that eric (and by default, Stephanie) slyly pokes fun at popular and mainstream culture, which is commonly believed conform to uniformity.

It's not like culture (or kulchur) travels through a sort of Humanities Sewer System to dump into the Great Sewage Treatment Plant at the other end, then gets recirculated into drinking water for future generations.

It's....

....wait a minute. It IS exactly like that. Exactly. - CK (12 Jan 01)

It is in this spirit that "wrote" has been used as a pun on "rote".

Stephanie plays with the alphabet and the dictionary to communicate with afp at large. She juxtaposes the concepts of the naturally flowing, and therefore predictable, alphabet with that of the meaning of the words themselves.

Sudden thought:

In the 26 letter English alphabet 'S' is immediately followed by 'T', much as in the renown nursery song "ABC". The choice of the word "sudden" is followed by a word beginning with the 'T'. As the letter 'T' naturally follows on from the letter 'S', the unwritten subtext contradicts the meaning of Stephanie's blatantly chosen word, "sudden".

The message found in Stephanie's "Sudden thought" is that not everything is what it seems, that the remainder of the words below have more than one meaning. On the surface, the communique is banal, a simple inquiry. Yet once her words are analysed, the inherent wry humour and wit shines for all to see.

eric intentionally does not remove those two words in his reply to Stephanie, so it is safe to assume that the sub subtext applies to his words too.

Are allusions and quote deeper meanings unquote, on the whole, actually shoved in by writers

The witty intelligence casually positions the truth as a question, thus inviting followups in a humourous vein, or as a dry presentation of facts, as the responder wishes. Stephanie resolves to not influence the replies in any way, shape or form. Self-deprecation is evident by the choice of word "writers", as if Stephanie does not align herself with those who write. Yet it is well known that Stephanie is a staple of afp, itself a seething hotbed of aspiring authors and all who write.

Her use of the phrase "on the whole" is a clue as to how the message should be interpreted, i.e holistically. Integratively, the question should be understood to mean that the obvious query is posited to the readers of afp (aka afafpers) rather than the writers of afp.

or is it stuff invented by anyone who teaches any form of English to give anyone studying English a headache?

Stephanie's complaint regarding the schooling system has been carefully concealed in this comment regarding the status of her health. Headaches are a mental pain, usually caused by constriction the the blood vessels. Some remedies can be 1000mg of acetylsalic acid, or of paracetamol, combined with water intake. Since these curatives are readily available in the developed world, it can be surmised that Stephanie's headache is not biological in origin, and has been caused by the circumstances of schooling, but not through overuse of the brain.

But rather, shall we say, by an abuse of the brain. Namely, to cause the English student to repeatedly connect their forehead to the plane of their desks in order to escape all memories of the futile period of time under the supervision of a sadistic teacher of Literature in the English language.

Yet in this dark hour, Stephanie still maintains her sense of humorous perspective. She purposely mis-spells the word "invented" to manufacture a fresh word with pizazz, " inveted". The casual reader, or complusive pedanter, would have pegged the word as a typing mistake. We know better. The word is a tip-off regarding the sub subtext of the sentence. As Pratchett, a writer whom Stephanie enjoys, is allegedly guilty of literature, we would be safe to acknowledge that there are some English literature which does have allusions and deeper meanings. Therefore her last sentence,

Personally, I'd vote for the latter.
Stephanie

is a tongue-in-cheek contradiction of her actual beliefs. Stephanie pens her name at the end of the post. It can be seen as a bold stamp of ownership, or as a cry for help to escape English literature. In view of the current analysis, it is symbolistic of Stephanie herself, her online persona.

eric quotes Stephanie's post in entirety, thus acknowledging her droll wit. In the following, he also appropriates that mindset.

both and neither IMO

This summary of his entire post indicates that there is no need to read any further, as the rest is an expansion of that sentence. Yet since this writer is eric, a respected afper beyond redoubt, it would be beneficial to continue. Doubtless some jewels of wit and wisdom falls yonder.

It is not too difficult to find eric's confession of subtlety and admission of 'deeper meanings in his writings'.

having spent lots of time analysing writing and some time actually doing some I have come to the conclusion that a whole bunch of different processes are operating

Therefore it would be of benefit to be suspicious of the facile guilelessness of his words.

If a polarised piece of glass, such as from sunglasses, were used to freshly view eric's original post on a night of a full moon, the words: "I am the Evil Overlord! I am the King of the World! Cower before me, foolish mortals!" can be read, superimposed. In fact, by rearranging the letters found here:

consciously one can pack a lot into words...some writers write several layers of meaning into everything quite deliberately...it's not always obvious...and really good writers are also working on your subconscious

the same message can be found. As all know, eric was one of the first participants of the everlasting pantomime season on afp. Therefore the appropriate followup is, "Oh no we won't!" similarly cunningly camouflaged in a serious reply to either Stephanie or to eric himself. Thus is the wit and humour perpetuated on afp.

eric continues Stephanie's self-deprecation, by crediting his subconscious as a co-author of his writings.

the subconscious also does some of the writing [1]...some of how you feel seeps through into the words...things that happen this way aren't what the writer "intended"

[ footnote moved up ]

[1] in my case most of it...I wouldn't worry except it has better spelling and grammar

In this way he is able to shift blame for his more outrageous statements and pontifications, and all is forgiven.

but they are well worth discussing and are a genuinely important part of the work

With the above logical reasoning, he is able to craftily appropriate the fame and reputation of a weighty, thoughtful writer, whose ramblings are devoutly to be read.

And eric does want to be read. To this end he has employed clarity of typing, thought, and presentation in regards to his words.

and, of course, we all bring a load of our own baggage to everything we read...

As a wise man, eric understands that what the reader from the author's writings is not what is necessarily intended by the author. He puts his disclaimer in amusing terms:

a lot of criticism seems to be more about the critic than anything else...I find this entertaining

And so we come full circle again, back to Stephanie's query. Altogether, this post is a metaphor on the afp topic recycling. Every so often, a staple topic appears and is analysed to cremation. Yet each time the topic is again discussed, some new information arrives. It is only by sifting through the reiterations that a fresh voice springs to light. However, much like eric and Stephanie's discussion, it is only the experienced and willing who can comprehend the multitude and wealth of meanings "shoved in by the writers".


[a] "A collection of essays on Terry Pratchett and his work, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James, and Farah Mendlesohn, published by the Science Fiction Foundation. " - Lspace.org
More about the essays can be found on http://www.rdg.ac.uk/~lhsjamse/guilty.htm

Bibliography:
Lspace.org
The L-Space Web: Books & Writings
[b] alt.fan.pratchett
[I] The nature of laughter

Sockii


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