Scroll down for Amygdala archives! You know you want to. [Temporarily rather borked, along with rest of template.]
Amygdala's endorsements are below my favorite quotations! Keep scrolling!
Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
Commenting Rules: Only comments that are courteous and respectful of other commenters will be allowed. Period.
You must either open a Google/Blogger.com/Gmail Account, or sign into comments at the bottom of any post with OpenID, LiveJournal, Typepad, Wordpress, AIM account, or whatever ID/handle available to use. Hey, I don't design Blogger's software: sorry!
Posting a spam-type URL will be grounds for deletion.
Comments on posts over 21 days old are now moderated, and it may take me a long while to notice and allow them.
I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
All right, now I have to jump in and set the record straight. EW is a fine rag, but they do take things out of context. Obviously when I said I had 'closure', what I meant was "I hate Serenity, I hated Firefly, I think my fans are stupid and Nathan Fillion smells like turnips." But EW's always got to put some weird negative spin on it. But so we're clear once and for all: If you read a quote saying "I'd love to do more in this 'verse with these actors in any medium" all I'm saying is that Nathan has a turnipy odor. It's not his fault, he doesn't eat a lot of them but everyone else in the cast noticed it and tht's not really something I'm prepared to deal with any more. And Jewel said outright she wouldn't do scenes with him except stuff like the SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER [nope, not here -- gf] SPOILER wind. So if I do manage to find another incarnation for my beloved creation, it will have been totally against my will.
I hope that clears everything up. Oh, and when I say I want to do a Spike movie, it means I have a bunion on my toe.
-joss (by which I mean Tim)
(no, actually me.)
joss | December 21, 02:12 CET
See upwards in that thread for more detail on the tsuris the EWwrite-up caused for the Joss, if you care, or see /.. On less serious and respectable fronts, Ursula says what she usually says:
Le Guin, who also writes realist fiction, poetry, essays and books for young children, says: "I'm impatient with genre as a label of quality. But if we could stop critics being ignorant, genre would be interesting."
Her credit to JK Rowling for giving the "whole fantasy field a boost" is tinged with regret. "I didn't feel she ripped me off, as some people did," she says quietly, "though she could have been more gracious about her predecessors. My incredulity was at the critics who found the first book wonderfully original. She has many virtues, but originality isn't one of them. That hurt."
Which is certainly reasonable.
[...] For Margaret Atwood, Le Guin is a "quintessentially American writer", of undoubted literary quality, "for whom the quest for the Peaceable Kingdom is ongoing". Her worlds, Le Guin says, are not so much invented as discovered. "I stare and see something, maybe a person in a landscape, and have to find out what it is." But whether charting inner lands or outer space, her eye remains on the here and now. At 76, Le Guin counts among her affiliations the peace and women's movements ("I take a perverse pleasure in calling myself a feminist"), and Taoism ("profoundly subversive").
76. Ain't none of us kids, any more, but it's still one of the harder parts to get used to in having time traveled here to the 21st Century.
"Writing fantasy isn't writing for children, but it erases the distinctions; it's inherently a crossover genre," she says. Much of fantasy writing, she adds, is "about power - just look at Tolkien. It's a means to examine what it does to the person who has it, and to others." A believer, with Shelley, that "the great instrument of moral good is the imagination", she says: "If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there's no way you can act morally or responsibly. Little kids can't do it; babies are morally monsters - completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy." No easy task. As she once wrote in exasperation, "Sure, it's simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up."
Gifts, like some of her earlier books, is about a slave-owning society obsessed with purity of lineage. "There are so many cultures that do that - especially when they think something special runs in the blood," she says. "Some reviewers say, 'slavery's dead'. What planet are they living on?"
The one where when someone says "fantasy books," lots of people respond with "oh, yeah, Harry Potter," or "oh, yes, Piers Anthony."
It's a wonder Ursula hasn't gone the Alice Sheldon route, but she's never been the type. It's not the Way.
[...] "White is not the norm for me, or equivalent to being human, as in so much of the fantasy I read," she says. "I made a conscious choice to make most of my characters people of colour." In the Earthsea books, Ged is a dark copper-red, and his friend Vetch is black. "I've had endless battles with cover departments. Gradually the people on the books are darkening - it's taken that long." The early Earthsea books were loosely adapted as a TV miniseries for the US sci-fi channel last year, but it was "roundly booed and deserves to die a quiet death", she says. "Everybody was white except for one black man. It was a travesty." Her own earlier screenplay has languished ("they said it was the wrong moment for fantasy in Hollywood").
From JRR Tolkien, "I learned the trick of hinting at a whole background with a few names, so you'd feel situated in a real world, not a fantasy bubble." But, "raised as irreligious as a jackrabbit", she found much of CS Lewis "simply Christian apologia, full of hatred and contempt for people who didn't agree. The division into good and evil was different from Tolkien, where evil beings are only a metaphor for the evil in our lives; he never casts people into the outer darkness as Lewis enjoyed doing." Though fantasy is often miscast as escapist, for Le Guin, it is the natural language of the "spiritual journey and the struggles of good and evil in the soul". It begins to resemble dream, she says, "and the symbols seem to be near universal and accessible to all. They're the same through the ages: we read the Epic of Gilgamesh and get it. The symbolic language is basic but not primitive or childish; it's a deep grammar of understanding." Jung was a useful stepping stone ("unlike Freud, he understood what artists do").
She traces a fantasy lineage, from Frankenstein to Philip K Dick, embracing Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Jose Saramago and Gabriel García Márquez. But she also aspired to other traditions, from Dickens and Tolstoy, to Hardy and Woolf: "You have to shoot as high as you can shoot." She had abandoned "hardware and soldiers" sci-fi in her teens. "It all had conservative assumptions: white men go forth and conquer the universe," she says. "As an anthropologist's daughter, you look more from the point of view of the conquered." But in the 60s she became part of a generation "not interested in space conquest or wiring, but using the form as a wonderful box of fixed metaphors you can play with endlessly, like a musician with a sonata."
Her alternative planets, from which emissaries report back like space-age anthropologists, are "thought experiments" to probe the present, not prediction or extrapolation into the future. The novels sift the essential in human nature from the mutable. Change is the "key word: you're opening the door to imagination, and the possibility of things being other than they are". She has an abiding interest in "peculiar arrangements" of gender and sexuality. "It's a tremendous playground, and it doesn't do any harm to have people's ideas shook up," she says. "I do my thinking narratively."
The germ of The Left Hand of Darkness was a society that had never known war. But the inhabitants are androgynous ("the king was pregnant"). "I eliminated gender to find out what was left," she later wrote. Some feminists carped at her use of the pronoun "he" of her androgyns. But the writer Sarah LeFanu sees the questioning of masculinity and femininity as prescient: "She was asking how we live now, and how we might live. She writes wonderfully about what it means to be human."
Girls were barred from the Earthsea school for wizards. "While in science fiction I was destroying gender, my imagination in fantasy was more traditional." She found herself "reborn slowly, over 15 years; I evolved with second-stage feminism". In Tehanu, a darker novel that challenges the earlier books, she returned to Earthsea after a 17-year gap, writing from the view of a mature woman and an abused girl. In the latest of her Ekumen novels, The Telling (2000), an emissary from a post-funda-mentalist Earth arrives on Aka, where the written word is banned. Christian and Islamic fundamentalism fed into the novel, but the impetus was Mao's suppression of Taoism. "He wiped out an ancient religious practice in a generation," she says. "Culture and knowledge are so vulnerable; that shocked me."
Le Guin, whose fantasies are partly about the artist as magician, learning to temper power with responsibility and talent with humility, says she wrestles with the temptation to moralise. "Sometimes one's very angry and preaches, but I know that to clinch a point is to close it," she says. "To leave the reader free to decide what your work means, that's the real art; it makes the work inexhaustible."
No, really, fantasy is what Piers Anthony writes. Us folk who know the fantasy tradition just don't get it right.
Also on the litr'y side of the Graun, Chris Priest remembers Bob Sheckley:
His work was a delight: crisply written, intelligently told, brimming with ideas and threaded with a sense of paranoia that did not take itself too seriously.
Half a century later, the mordant humour and lightly satirical tone of these stories afford a wonderful glancing view of consumerist, status-seeking America, the world of the Saturday Evening Post, Senator Joe McCarthy and the social critic Vance Packard. This was an era when the US emerged from isolationism into an expansive modern state, simultaneously innocent and corrupt.
In a just world, Sheckley would be recognised as one of the most important American short story writers of the 20th century but, as anyone who has read him knows, while justice might in theory be available, it is not for everyone - and then only with a catch. His heroes, innocents abroad, were also ingenious, resourceful, capable of action and always able to utter plain common sense in a galaxy full of conmen, unscrupulous advertisers and inscrutable aliens.
One evening we caught part of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide on the radio. This was before it was famous. Sheck listened in silence, without a smile. I asked him what he thought of it, and he replied: "He writes good jokes." He didn't add what seemed obvious to me, that most had originally been his.
While I rummage through my file of One Zillion skiffy stories I've not gotten around to, let's go to this recent interview with Terry Pratchett, long-time fan, by my old pal, fan and novelist, Jim Young:
And then in the course of time you discovered fandom.
Pratchett: That came later. The big thing was that, in 1957, Brook Bond Tea produced the "Out Into Space" cards. My family all went a sort of orange color from drinking tea so that I could collect these things. They were like baseball cards. It took me a while to realize this—and that only in the last year or two: I discovered astronomy first. We had pretty good skies where we were. And you collected 50 of these tea cards—and, basically, give or take a few changes in what we know—if you knew everything on those cards, you'd know more astronomy than probably 99.99 percent of the population. And I collected them avidly and watched the sky.
They went the way of all things. You know, after you've left home, your mother finds this alternate ending to Star Wars that this nice Mr. Lucas gave you and she throws it away.
Recently I contacted this card collector over the magic of the Internet and bought the set again. I could actually just about afford it now. There was a 60-pound version and a 300-pound version. The difference was in the small print on some of the cards. So I thought I'd have the 60-pound version.
It was like that bloke Proust. He eats a biscuit and he goes back in time. I just look at Jupiter—it's a black and purple color on that card—and I'm 9 years old again.
My parents got me a telescope. I think it was special kind of telescope—produced by the Kind of Telescope Your Parents Get You Without Reading the Book About Telescopes Telescope Company. So everything you could see had a halo round it. You could just about see the moons of Jupiter, and that's that. But you got to stay outside. ... I got to be really expert on the moon. And then a few years ago I bought myself a Meade LX2000, and then we had an observatory built—a purpose-built one. Because our house is a thousand years old there's all kinds of planning things involved in that. In fact, we nearly had a thatched observatory at one point!
Curiously enough, the science fiction came from astronomy. I wasn't really an astronomer, because astronomers have to take it seriously and do mathematics. I just thought it was really cool 'cause you could stay up all night.
I've got a kind of tourist's mentality. I take an interest in things. I learn a lot about them, but I'm never going to get that hooked. So I was into short-wave radio. I built myself a receiver and listened in, and that was fun, and then moved onto something else.
Then I invented the integrated circuit.
You can read the story via the link; mustn't swipe all the good parts. What Terry describes is, of course, the classic typical sf fan mentality.
[...] Pratchett: All this SF brought me the same kick I was getting from all this stuff. That, and the fact that via the book The Wind in the Willows [by Kenneth Grahame], I was getting interested in the fantasy side. I was rolling all around that curve of mass that distorts space, but ultimately I was going to go down the hole marked "science fiction."
Those were the days when it was quite possible to have read all the SF that was published in hardcover. Not all the SF published in magazines, perhaps, but you'd go to a convention and everyone else had read what you had read. And the girls were not allowed! But sometimes wives and girlfriends would sort of tag along.
Most people wore sports jackets, as I recall. And they were called Ken. Unless they were called Ted.
I have plenty of pictures. I did once, for many years, have one of the five largest collections in private hands of science fiction fanzines in the world, after all, and used to speak on panels at every sf convention I went to on the history of fandom and such (along with the usual mish-mash of zillions of other subjects one gets asked to do panels about, of course), back just after I started organizing such panels myself, in 1975.
Which is why Pterry and I have so many friends in common, even though he made them fifteen years or so before I did. Any of us who know from fandom of the fifties and sixties, and even early seventies, know the secret handgrip of fandom, know the hum and sway, and we recognize each other by our sensitive fannish faces, even behind clever plastic disguises. And right through my teen years, it was still quite possible to not just read all the science fiction then being published (which I did -- it was basically six-seven magazines a month, plus only a few dozen books; hardly anything, really), but go back and catch up to at least all the good stuff yet published in the prior fifty years (which I largely did).
But it's Terry's interview, not mine:
[...] Pratchett: I was 13 years old. After school I used to go round to an old bomb site in High Wickham, and there was this little kind of garden shed on it called "The Little Bookshop," where this elderly lady sat knitting and making tea all day—and sold eye-watering pornography. But in order to have something to put in the window she seemed to have an unlimited supply of reasonably good quality secondhand British and American SF. I think it must have come from the air force base nearby. I'd go in there about twice a week after school. I was aware that the upper shelves were of a certain pinky nature.
But around the floor, in cardboard boxes, unsorted, there were even copies of Unknown Worlds and things like that. God knows, I think my mum threw those out as well. Anyone knowing what this shop sold must have been a bit puzzled at this 13-year-old kid going in there twice a week and coming out with a very full satchel! I mean, how the hell did he find time to do his homework?
Yes, I made a sale and I found out about fandom, and I went off to my first convention in 1963 or '64, and that was it. I dropped out after three or four years because I got my job—I was a trainee journalist on the local paper, which meant that you were a trainee, and therefore a drag on their resources. And they work you very hard and they pay you practically nothing, but you're the traditional apprentice, and you are actually learning a trade. I was working the evenings, and I was courting, and I was studying for the exams that you have to pass to get your training certificate, and life just became very full.
But I always had a book sort of on the go, and it would take me about five years to write it. After I'd done The Color of Magic , at the same sort of speed, they actually began to sell. And so, nothing if not greedy, I wrote Light Fantastic , and suddenly life shifted. By Mort , which was the fourth book, I was making more than enough to leave my job, which was, as everyone knows, a press officer for some nuclear power station.
Pratchett: When I worked as a local and regional journalist, many years ago, for some reason I used to get the "nut" jobs. I remember one particularly, very believable, elderly couple who had seen this strange craft land in the woods. This was in October or November. They were a thoroughly believable couple. And they said that at such-and-such a point it landed, and they had watched it land just behind this wood, but they were a bit frightened to go and have a look. So I went out on my motorbike that evening at the same time, and there it was—I saw it. It was a sort of orangey-red color, and it actually did glow. Once again, it landed behind the woods, and then, obviously, it went further down, and then indeed—finally darkness fell. You know, that one probably was a no-brainer, really; the sun sets every day.
You meet the occasional people who are perfectly normal, except that for the electrical fluids, the woman sometimes woke up to find herself floating four feet above the bed. "Good," I said, "but how do you know it's four feet, by the way? Could it be three feet, nine inches? I'd like to write this down." And then there was the woman who kept her window open so she could look out for the flying saucers. ...
Let me ask: Are any of you familiar with the word "twaddle," meaning rubbish or nonsense? [The audience generally acknowledges it is.] Oddly enough, I went to an old lemonade factory that had been preserved from the 1930s, and it had the room where they made the twaddle, which was the basic syrup from which you made all soft drinks. You started with 10 gallons of twaddle, and added a hundred gallons of water, and then added the flavorings. And we had a long discussion with the curator as to what had come first—and clearly twaddle meaning nonsense is very, very old. This is the sort of thing I like doing. Because somewhere in there you'll find a really great fact that will fit beautifully in a story. I follow these little leads—how the factory works, how they made the lemonade in these great big glass carboys. I've got something planned for another book from it.
And that is that in 1998 you were granted the Order of the British Empire. Now, if I understand it correctly, didn't you have to go to Buckingham Palace and meet the queen?
Pratchett: It was Prince Charles that day. And he's the one who has been identified to me as a Discworld fan.
And how did the conversation go?
Pratchett: Well, I put him at his ease. I said, "Well, how long have you been a prince, then? That long?" Well, he asked a few small questions. He did not say, "Hey, I'm one of your greatest fans. Will you sign this book for me?" The royal family do not do that kind of thing.
Let me explain how it all works. You get this letter from the prime minister's office, and the first thing you do is to phone up your agent and say, "This is a joke, isn't it?" And he does a bit of ringing around and calls back to say, "It's not a joke."
It was a great day when it happened. It was a day in May. My latest book had got to number one. Then I walked out in our garden and a wild orchid had come up. And then I opened this letter saying I had got the OBE. So that was sort of like, monarch, readership and God were voting for you in one day.
The letter from the prime minister's office is very strange. It says, "Now, look, if we were to give you an award, and we're not saying we will, would you—if we did, and we might not—say yes?" All that's to save embarrassment. And so I wrote back a letter saying, "If you did—and I understand you might not—I would in all likelihood say yes." And then you have to keep very quiet about it. Which is a bit hard.
Like when I won the Carnegie, which is possibly the highest children's book award. You know about it for about two months beforehand. And it's very difficult for the phrase "I've just won the Carnegie" not to insert itself in every sentence. You have to keep quiet about it.
So my mom came. And you can imagine my mom walking around Buckingham Palace. [He mimes his mother wiping dust away from the tabletop and shaking her head in displeasure.] And my wife and my daughter came along. It was great.
But it was sort of weird. All the OBEs go in, and all the CBEs and the MBEs, and IBEs, HGI, HIVs—all go in at once. And there's no alcohol. Buckingham Palace have been doing this for a very long time. There is no alcohol. And the Chief Goldknobstick in Ordinary comes and chats with you. Great lad. They are good at this. He tells you what's going to happen, and there's Air Vice Marshal So-and-So, "We call him Charlie, you'll go up there and stop when you get level with him." And there's this jolly RAF guy, with gold braid all over him, standing there. They've all got what the British aristocracy are very good at—not exactly the common touch, but they talk to you and you get on with them.
There were also no lavatorial facilities. They have what must be called the Chief Watcher of the Bladder, however, who looks for anyone who is beginning to search, you know. And you realize that there is this area of wall with this very thin door line around it. Sort of like a James Bond door. You push it and you go into this lovely Victorian lavatory.
Then there's the Band of the Royal Horse Artillery—and I think, frankly, that shooting horses is not something the military should be doing. And the band were playing songs from Les Miserables. You know, there's a lot of songs you shouldn't be playing in these circumstances; there's a song about the downtrodden masses, for instance. La-la-la la la-la-la.
By the way, I was in a morning suit and looked bloody stylish.
And you finally go up and have a little chat, along the lines of, "Well done."
And then what you want is a brandy.
It's kind of weird, because the only service I've ever done for literature was to declare on every possible occasion that I don't like it. I'm not quite certain why I got it. It's quite fashionable to turn it down. But it's only worth turning it down if you can tell people that you turned it down; there's no point turning it down and no one knows, eh? And I thought, when people asked me why I accepted it, for the best reason: It made my mum proud.
The other thing is, we've always been going on about SF getting out of its ghetto and that sort of stuff. Well, if they're going to hand you a gong, well, be there when the medals are handed out. Never refuse a medal or a promotion.
It doesn't say, but I'm willing to bet that this interview was done as part of the program at a recent Minicon where Terry was Guest of Honor. There's a lot more in the interview that I didn't run, so go read it if interested.
An autobiographical look back by one of the most famous female fans of the Fifties, novelist Lee Hoffman. I could write a small book on Lee, but I'll just say that she was most kind to me back in the Seventies, when I was one of several people who helped make her the Fan Guest of Honor for the 1977 Worldcon, SunCon, in Miami Beach, and I organized the first independent stream of fan programing at a science fiction convention, ever, as well as, well, bunches of other stuff; she gifted me with a precious set of fragile copies of her extremely rare folk music fanzine Gardyloo!, which in the late Fifties was handed back and forth by her friends in Greenwich Village's folkie circles, such as Dave von Ronk, and some young kid from Hibbing named "Bobby." As well as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and everyone else. Of course. Everyone loved Lee.
Anyway, if you want a sense of the charm of the fandom I grew up in, in another time, read this, please, and welcome to the world I came from. (Or you might prefer to read about Lee's folk days.)
I had been thinking of posting some of Harlan's words about his various recent awards, but there are no permalinks, and that's a ways back now, so maybe some other time, but meanwhile you can go explore on your own, if you like. Although I'm tempted to once again say something about Harlan on the internets that David Gerrold can find and helpfully copy out of context to give to Harlan so he can again call me to ask why I said that aren't we pals and then we talk for an hour about life and Stuff.
But that would be wrong.
Okay, that's my name-dropping quota for this post.
I'm surprised to see any discussion about Le Guin being a predecessor of Rowling. I see them as completely unrelated, and think that Rowling owes a much larger debt to the British author Enid Blyton, who's style and subject matter were quite similar, in many ways.
And certainly Le Guin's prose style, any of the modes she's ever used, is rather different than Rowling's (I'm tempted to make some cracks at Rowling's expense, but since I've only read ~ 1/3rd of her first book, that wouldn't be fair, and I'll assume that Rowling's grasp of prose dramatically increased as she went on, since that's certainly perfectly common; plenty of first books are full of awkward, sometimes painfully poor, prose).
But I think that when you've spent years writing a deeply thoughtful, acclaimed, series of books about a young boy who goes off to wizard school, and who then goes on from there, you're entitled to take note, particularly given the influence Le Guin has had on the field, and the depth present in Earthsea.
Which is not to say that anyone who loves Rowling need like Earthsea; I'm quite sure it wouldn't appeal at all to many Potter fans, because they are fairly different approaches, indeed.
Dan, Sturgeon's law applies to modern sf and fantasy, but along with endless crap fantasy trilogies, and plenty of downmarket work published in both the sf and fantasy fields, tons of unbelievably brilliant and enjoyable work has been published in both sf and fantasy over the past twenty years, as well. One merely has to have discernment, and make the effort to seek it out.
I, however, am not the guide to do that, because I'm relatively distant from the field these days, and generally have read relatively little for many years unless I was paid to, for reasons related to my own life, rather than to anything about the field. But seek, find good reviewers and such to guide you, and ye shall find. (Whatever it is you like, there's some of it out there, believe me. Except for going back to being 13 years old; that one's something only you can work on. ;-)) (But better is retaining the sense of wonder of 13, and the sophisticated appreciation of an adult reading to a writer who brings both fields of vision to his or her work, in my own book.)
"Ach, what a load of nonsense having to register on Blogger to post comments."
True. I'm sorry. All I can say is that I spent years saying one billion times "do not post as 'Anonymous,' just use a handle, any handle, or this will not continue," and yet I constantly heard from "anoymous." I'm not interested in hearing from "anoymous," so I am punishing the entire human race, and any other entity that seeks to post comments.
I'm also finally giving serious consideration to giving serious consideration to the notion of, conceivably, possibly, looking into the notion of, maybe, considering the idea of, at some point later in the year, pausing for a minute or two to think about, possibly, examining the possibility of giving some consideration to looking into the options to moving off Blogger.
But no promises. Love means never having to say you're sorry.
I do, however, possess undying love for anyone who would sign onto Blogger just to comment here. So: thanks.
"But no, I have to moan as well..."
Looking back again at what d-p-u said -- and I'll probably return to this yet again to worry it like a bone -- Ursula, of course, pointed only to the critics who praised Rowling's great "originality."
Which is spot-on. Rowling may be -- and obviously is, for innumerable people -- many wonderful things, but she's more or less the most derivative writer to strike the fantasy field in the better part of a century. Which is not her fault, but her repeated, ignorant, unkind remarks about the fantasy field in general before she arrived, are. (Which Le Guin is far too gracious to even mention, but I'm not.)
Not that I want to encourage any sort of absurd "Le Guin vs. Rowling: who is better?" argument, because that would be, as we say, completely stupid. Different writers, different virtues.
On Kong fronts, I could probably actually sorta-kinda afford to splurge to see Kong at the moment, thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers, but truth be told I'd far rather see either Syriana or Munich first. Bigger and uglier monkeys and dinosaurs, if one looks behind their superficial visages.