Main Negative Continuity Discussion

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05:53:20 PM Dec 24th 2011
Concerning Robert Rankin, although he has always been incredibly lax with continuity, he is on record as saying that he regretted the extremely negative ending of the third book in the increasingly misnamed Brentford Trilogy (though that ending implies that he never meant it to go beyond 3 books). He has said in interviews that he would have liked to rewrite that ending for subsequent editions, and indeed, I've seen it mentioned that editions of the book after a certain date do not have that downbeat ending. However, I've not seen an edition of the book in which the ending is changed, even though last time I read it, the edition was fairly recent. Which may mean that we have here an example of Negative Continuity which fans have retconned into oblivion by inventing a revised edition of the offending book which doesn't exist, but which the author said should exist. Or if it does in fact exist after all, then we have two equally valid tellings of the same tale. It's all rather confusing, really.

World-changing events in Robert Rankin books which are subsequently forgotten by the characters mostly apply to the London suburb of Brentford, which is frequently reduced at least partially to rubble, but gets better between books. It should be noted that in real life, the fictional pub The Flying Swan was actually The Bricklayer's Arms. Over the many years since he first started writing about it, this became a worse and worse pub until, in the wake of new UK laws such as the anti-smoking legislation which killed a lot of pubs, it disappeared altogether and is now somebody's front room. Robert Rankin himself now claims that The Flying Swan was always The Magpie And Crown, another Brentford pub which still exists, and did not at any point degenerate into a seedy dive. Is this a unique example of fictional Negative Continuity spilling over into reality because the author says so?

The Goon Show is of course the ultimate example of Negative Continuity, yet at the same time, not quite. Bluebottle, the character who usually ()but not always) dies in every episode, is well aware of his probable impending doom, and constantly breaks the fourth wall in numerous ways, including commenting on his probable impending demise, reading his stage directions aloud, and of course complaining bitterly about being "deaded" after the event. He also frequently refers to the episode as a "game", and when he either rightly or wrongly believes that he will not be "deaded" this week, gleefully announces: "I like this game!"

The rest of the cast are also quite frequently killed at the end of the episode (and often complain about it after they're dead). However, there are constant reminders that the characters know at least some of the time that they're in a fictional situation, which renders all the sometimes quite nasty violence harmless. It also takes the sting out of a show in which the bad guys nearly always win.
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