I love Baker’s 12. I really, really do.
Case in point:
“I told you so.”
It takes a talented and gutsy author to attempt a section of narrative like that. It takes an even rarer author to make it work. (Did I say gutsy? Maybe I mean arrogant. Gutsy just doesn’t describe t! very well. Neither does daring. If I use the word arrogant, I mean it with all respect, of course. And he has every right to be arrogant. He’s good.)
t! is one of those authors who pushes boundaries, limits, and envelopes. I’m using this particular example of his work because Ceri and I were in the room when he created it, and I loved it. (I’d link him here, but I know his site address is about to change, so why increase my update work? Look for the Teddybear Sawdust Show in the links bar to the right.)
How to describe Baker’s 12?
Well, the first thing I’d tell a potential reader is that it’s an exciting, challenging, experimental narrative. It involves the concepts of time travel, and situational ethics, two of my favourites. It’s character-driven as well as plot-driven, and it assumes that you have intelligence. That means it doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator; I used the word challenging on purpose. It employs elements such as humour, gritty action, historical settings, assumptions, group politics, and red herrings, handling them all with aplomb.
What keeps me reading it? The fact that I can see a pattern emerging. Why did I keep plugging away at it, even though it wasn’t a linear story? The storytelling style, and the characters. I love that I can tell what character is in a particular situation just by the style of dialogue. The older I get, the more impatient I become with description-laden narrative. B12 takes the opposite tack, allowing you, the reader, to co-create the world with the author.
As I hate reading large amounts of text on-line, I recently printed all of B12 out and put it in a binder. I sat up until two in the morning in bed reading by candlelight while my husband slept, because I couldn’t put the damned thing down. What I discovered is that as much fun as reading the weekly installment is, the true patterns don’t emerge until you can read the whole thing in one shot. That’s another part of the author’s genius: accomplishing small entertaining bite-size bits, while simultaneously creating something larger.
So yes. Baker’s 12. Read it. Challenge your preconceived expectations of linear narrative, and discover that you’re actually smarter than you thought you were. And enjoy some darned fine fiction while you’re at it.
Update January 27 2004: t! has now officially moved his site. Click through to read the Teddybear Sawdust Show! and Baker’s 12. What are you waiting for?