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.
MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION has the green light, baby! Your Amygdala told you about this then-prospective tv series back in August of 2005, when it was announced as "Masters of Sci-Fi."
Now the excellent news that the series is go, and even better, that execrable neologism won't be used (although I won't believe that until I see it):
ABC has given a green light to the SF anthology TV series Masters of Science Fiction, which will present works of well-known authors such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, Variety reported.
ABC has ordered four episodes, but IDT and Industry plan to go ahead and produce at least six episodes and as many as 13.
Writer Michael Tolkin (The Rapture) is already on board to adapt and direct an episode, while the producers are also in talks to produce works such as Harlan Ellison's "The Discarded" and Asimov's "The Last Question." IDT and Industry also hope to sign Bradbury to adapt his "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed."
Morris Berger, Steve Brown and John Hyde will executive-produce for IDT, as will Industry's Keith Addis, Brad Mendelsohn and Andrew Deane.
IDT and Industry hope to start production on Masters of Science Fiction in Vancouver this May. The producers said they can start delivering the series to ABC by the middle of June, making a summer launch a possibility. The project is targeted to air in the 2006-07 TV season.
I can but hope that my hopes aren't too high.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5; might want to check out the considerably greater detail in my August post, though, including the long endorsement from Harlan.
Incidentally, the sequels to Superman Returns and Batman Begins are also apparently on. As is the tv Aquaman pilot. (Remember, the "CW" network is what's going to be left when UPN and the WB get through merging; it ain't the Cowboy/Western network.) I'm a little dubious that Aquaman is a strong enough character/concept to hold a tv series, but naturally it's the execution that will matter. I could certainly stand a weekly dose of Ving Rhames (as a primary supporting character, not as Aquaman, you dope).
2/24/2006 06:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
I'm not among the cognoscenti on this: what's so bad about "sci-fi"? I use the phrase, and feel nothing but good will while doing so.
Nothing, except it's one of those things that highlights the tribalism inherant to any group. They have words and descriptions that they think they own and consider to be Right and Correct, and only those who are not "of the body" or of the True Faith use the degraded and vulgar terms of the Outsiders. It's all quite silly in the end, but that's humanity for you. I say "sci-fi" as well, usually out of general usage, but when the mood strikes me, out of spite as well.
I'm looking forward to this series. I can read Bradbury and Asimov until Ragnorok, but Ellison's an overated jackass unfit to drink Asimov's bath water. When you take in the whole of Science Fiction, from the Golden Age to the Present, it's obvious that Ellison's popularity is due more to time and circumstance than actual literary talent. He managed the oh-so-difficult trick of writing something different at a time when sci-fi was mostly aliens menacing large-breasted American women in metallic skirts. Since his writing intersected with the "Fuck the Establishment" mentality of the late 60's/early 70's, his work seemed to appear better than what it was, simply because it managed the mere task of being better than the crap that surrounded it. But a well-formed turd is still a turd.
When you compare his works with Bradbury and Asimov, they simply don't hold up. While Bradbury and Asimov remain eminently readable, entertaining and thought-provoking, Ellison's pulp is quite dated and overwrought. If he had arrived ten years before, he'd be pumping Poul Anderson's gas; ten years later and he'd be co-authoring books with Kevin J. Anderson. He's a Reputation; a walking caricature -- that's it. I'm confident that once the Boomers are finally extinct, he will be regarded as a minor figure in the sci-fi pantheon.
That said, I'd like to see some of PK Dick's stuff filmed as well, or maybe Greg Bear's Eon. Perhaps, one day, my dream of a Forever War movie will be realized, but I'm not holding my breath.
"I use the phrase, and feel nothing but good will while doing so."
Oh, of course; so do 99.99% of people who use.
Mostly it's just a thing that at this point is somewhat old-fashioned. In my formative years -- and since about 1926, science fiction was "sf."
Then Forry Ackerman, who has always had a taste for horrible neologisms and puns, invited "sci-fi" because he thought it was cute. 99% of sf fandom and prodom thought it was horribly cutesy and infantile, instead.
And for the next several decades, only Forry and a handful of other people used it. But Forry talked to the press a lot, so newspaper writers who knew nothing about sf started occasionally calling sf "sci-fi," instead.
Meanwhile, since "sci-fi" was always being applied by movie reviewers to all the endlessly horrible "science fiction" movies of the Fifties and Sixties -- and because Forry started "Famous Monsters of Filmland," a magazine about -- big surprise -- monster movies -- the neolgism "sci-fi" became the universal usage in the world of sf for "awful crap so-called science fiction movie."
Stuff like, say, "Robot Monster" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
So you had "sf" for science fiction, whether text or good movie (or "Twilight Zone," pretty much the only decent sf on tv, along with an occasional "Outer Limits," though a lot of those were crap sci-fi), and "sci-fi" meaning "horribly bad stuff."
So for the next couple of decades, the only people who said "sci-fi" were people who knew nothing whatever about science fiction and people who read sf, who used it to refer to the crap.
The non-sf readers generally they used "sci-fi" in an attempt to sound like they knew something about sf, although they didn't. So anyone who used "sci-fi" to refer to science fiction was instantly identifying themselves as someone unfamiliar with the field -- not just because they got the word wrong, but because factually, they didn't know anything about sf, save for having seen some awful movies, and maybe read a literal handful of stories.
So it was the mark of an ignoramus, and an annoying, pretentious, assholish, ignoramus, to use "sci-fi" if it wasn't just in reference to a monster movie.
And that went on for a few decades (circa about 1958-1988, vaguely speaking, give or take).
However, with the vast explosion of popularity of sf in the 70s-80s, the usage "sci-fi" suddenly did really, albeit slowly, catch on with The Larger World.
And eventually, plenty of plain old science fiction readers who were new to the field figured that that's just what everyone called science fiction. So now it's used in a perfectly neutral way by plenty of people who have come to the field in the last twenty years or so (though it's still not so usual to find anyone really active in the field, be it as writer, editor, artist, book-seller, convention runner, etc., other than plain old readers, who uses the phrase in other than an ironic or mocking way).
But it's pretty hard to get over being engrained with decades of imprinting, since earliest childhood, that either a) someone using the word doesn't know from sf -- even though that isn't very true any more -- and b) that it's being used to refer to something that's awful. Habits die hard when they're engrained since you were 8 years old and were engrained for decades.
I don't seriously rag on anyone for using "sci-fi"; that would be utterly unfair and pointless and wrong, nowadays; but inside, I can't help but wince, and on my own blog, there's no reason I shouldn't express my feeling about it, is there? :-)
But on someone else's turf, unless it happens to come up in a relaxed and friendly and appropriate manner, I'll keep my mouth shut, since it's no longer twenty-plus years ago.
Paul: "I can read Bradbury and Asimov until Ragnorok, but Ellison's an overated jackass unfit to drink Asimov's bath water. When you take in the whole of Science Fiction, from the Golden Age to the Present, it's obvious that Ellison's popularity is due more to time and circumstance than actual literary talent."
Naturally, you're perfectly entitled to your preferences and opinion, but you'd find that the majority of writers, editors, and critics, of the field won't agree with you, me included, about Harlan's "actual literary talent."
And comparing his writing with Isaac's -- and they were great friends and had nothing but tremendous respect for each other -- I was around them together on a number of occasions -- is fairly silly; they were trying to do pretty much entirely different things. Isaac's fiction is about ideas and puzzles and plots, and his prose is completely flat -- which is not a bad thing, but that's what it is -- and he rarely tried to do anything more ambitious with it, which is good, because he really wasn't up to doing anything more than that.
Harlan, on the other hand, is, in his writing, about control of style, and about emotion (which Isaac ran away from like mad, for the most part), and about the things that make us human. Comparing them is a classic "apples and oranges" kind of thing; there's just not much ground for doing so, other than that they both worked in the fantastic, and wrote in English, and occasionally used tropes such as aliens and computers. That's about all they have in common; it ain't much.
But Harlan has written plenty of acknowledged classics; you don't have to like them, and that's fine; there are plenty of different cups of tea on the science fiction menu. And you're entitled to call his work "turds" and "crap," and whatever else you like. But insofar as there's any implication that your opinions are more than your purely subjective opinions, and insofar as there's any worth to the general opinion of the majority of people in the field, you're simply wrong. Harlan isn't being being made a SFWA Grand Master because of how nice he is to everyone, and how inoffensive, or because of nostalgia, or for any other reason than the majority opinion that he is one of the greats of the field. Ditto he didn't win eight and a half Hugos, three Nebulas, four WGA "Most Outstanding Teleplay" awards (the only person ever to win that many), and a zillion other awards, because of a fad that has lasted for forty-plus years.
It's fine that you don't like what you've read of his stuff; certainly not everyone does. But it might be nice to not pronounce opinions such as "they simply don't hold up," and "he had arrived ten years before, he'd be pumping Poul Anderson's gas" with some acknowledgement that they're just personal opinions.
If you'd said that to Poul's face, he'd have been pretty emphatic in telling you how wrong he thought you were.
"Ellison's an overated jackass unfit to drink Asimov's bath water..." would piss Isaac off at you no end, as well. He loved Harlan's I, Robot screenplay, by the way; have you read it? I suspect not, or you wouldn't say such a thing, though I could be wrong.
I'm also wondering what of Harlan's stuff of the last twenty years you've read.
"Ellison's pulp is quite dated...."
What would you say was "dated" about "Paladin of the Lost Hour" or "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans," or "Croatoan," or "Mefisto in Onyx," or "Jeffty Is Five," "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore," say?
You don't have to like any of them. But what's dated?
"That said, I'd like to see some of PK Dick's stuff filmed as well...."
I'll be curious to see A Scanner Darkly when it's finally released in July, or at least when it comes out on DVD; I'm rather a fan of Linklater.
"...or maybe Greg Bear's Eon...."
Far too long to be a decent movie.
"Perhaps, one day, my dream of a Forever War movie will be realized, but I'm not holding my breath."
Probably wise. Maybe one day. I'm glad that the War Stories collection has come out now, though.
"I'm not among the cognoscenti on this: what's so bad about "sci-fi"?
"I'll keep my mouth shut, since it's no longer twenty-plus years ago."
I should clarify that it's really only in about the last ten-fifteen years or so that "sci-fi" really became a word used by the mass of science fiction readers; that general usage by people who really do know quite a bit about written sf is still really very recent (in the perspective of those of us over 30, anyway).
"Harlan isn't being being made a SFWA Grand Master...."
I should also note that Harlan has done far more than be a mere writer in terms of making massive contributions to the field; he's been utterly critical to bridging the gap between science fiction prose writing and screen-writing; he's helped nurture and create crucial science fiction series on tv, from The New Twilight Zone to Babylon 5; as an editor, Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions were amongst the most important anthologies ever done in the history of the field; and his general agitation and criticism of the field, as well as his nurturing and support of a vast number of younger writers, has been of tremendous importance to the field; not to mention all the workshops he's done, and the endless number of lectures and appearances, and tv appearances, and so on. (Just ask, say, Gardner Dozois, or any of many dozens of acclaimed writers and editors of the past forty years how Harlan has helped or influenced them; and, of course, sometimes he pisses people off no end, sometimes with very good reason; he's hardly a perfect person, as neither he nor I would claim).
"but you'd find that the majority of writers, editors, and critics, of the field won't agree with you, me included, about Harlan's 'actual literary talent.'"
Of course, as I said before, he's a product of time and circumstance and those who are around him are obviously quite taken with him. That's fine, I'm just saying that I don't see it. The man has earned the praise of his contemporaries, but that doesn't really speak to the actual quality of the work. I don't view it in the context that you and those peole do. Here's my perspective:
I was introduced to science fiction via a Science Fiction Literature class in the 9th grade. We read The Martian Chronicles, The Naked Sun, Anthem, Slaughterhouse-Five and a whole truckload of short stories. We also watched a few key Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes. Ellison wasn't in the mix. I didn't know him, nor had I ever heard of him.
After that class, I devoured any science-fiction novels I could get my hands on. By the time I finally got to Ellison, I had already read quite a bit of Bradbury, Asimov, Vonnegut, Anderson, Clarke, Niven & Pournelle, and a host of others. Those works served as my context, because I had no real cultural context to place them in. I wasn't around when they were first released, and I wasn't part of some larger group that was into this stuff, so I took these books as they were, on their own.
The first thing I said aloud to myself upon reading Ellison was, "What the fuck is this shit?" You look at the cover of the book, and you see that he's supposed to be pretty good, but it was just painful to read. It looked like it was written by an earnest 15-year-old kid who was trying really hard to sound deep. I laughed at it. I tried reading a few more of his books, in case that one was a fluke, but I had the same reaction to all of them: overwrought crap.
I thought it was funny a few years later when I found out that he really was this big thing in the genre, and I was at a loss as to why. When I read stories about him, I caught the whiff of generational iconography, so I figured his popularity was probably due more to a lucky combination of personality and generational adoration within a relatively small group of people than anything else. I've never really seen anything to convince me otherwise. It's nice that he's active behind the scenes, but I'm just a reader, so I judge primarily by what I see on the page, and compared with the rest, he's really not all that great. I've read better shit on a LiveJournal blog.
"How does one measure 'actual quality' of literary work, absent context of time and circumstance, exactly?"
I don't know, how do you measure the quality of a movie, absent time and circumstance? If you watch a movie produced in the 1940's, you can only see that movie on its own terms. You don't know the context in which it was released, you don't know the hype the went into promoting it. You don't know the rumors of what the stars did on set. You don't know what movies were rleased that same year. You don't know what time of year that movie was released. You don't know what external events happened at the time the movie was released. You can't place that movie within your own experience. All you can do is watch it and determine whether you like it or not.
Sure, people will form a consensus about a movie or other piece of work, and they may even form the majority at any given time, but consensus changes; popular opinion changes. You can't go by something as fickle and maleable as popular opinion, so all you're left with is your own opinion, which is the only one that matters. And in my opinion, Ellison is a fine typist who's certainly more interesting than reading the phone book, but not much else. He's in the same league as Andy Warhol, Easy Rider, or Kurt Cobain: overrated generational icons.
"And how is it that you are outside of such context?"
Uh...because I wasn't alive when most of this stuff was written and I have very little knowledge of any of the authors outside of what's printed on a book cover.
"What 'the book,' by the way?"
I Have No Mouth and Must Scream. I should've known from the cheeseball title what awaited inside. My time would've been better spent reading Thoreau or Milton.
"Well, he's cumulatively sold over a million books. Certainly more than, say, Poul Anderson. So this 'relatively small group of people' is factually quite wrong."
Michael Bay's movies have sold well too, as have Anne Rice's books. Crap is crap, whether it sells one or one million.
"I don't know, how do you measure the quality of a movie, absent time and circumstance?"
Objectively? Pretty much you don't, I'd say. "Actual quality" doesn't strike me as a term that is well supportable. That was my point. When you pronounce on what is and is not "actual literary talent," you aren't standing on supportable ground. At the very least, the only available argument is the appeal to authority, and you don't have much of that, either. If you just stick to asserting personal opinion and taste, on the other hand, you're fine and untouchable.
"Uh...because I wasn't alive when most of this stuff was written and I have very little knowledge of any of the authors outside of what's printed on a book cover."
You weren't alive when most of Isaac's or Poul's, or Ray Bradbury's stuff was written, either.
And you don't measure "actual quality [...] absent context of time and circumstance," in fact. You can't. That's what I was objecting to. As I keep repeating, you can hate every word Harlan's ever written, and who could argue? But you can't claim that you are able to judge "actual quality [...] absent context of time and circumstance," and that you can grasp it and others are merely a product of their "context," but you are not.
Your preferences are precisely as subject to "time and circumstance" as everyone else who has ever lived. It's not something you stand outside of, able to pronounce that your subjective preferences are more correct than that of others who have different opinions. It's not, I'm afraid, a privilege you get to claim, any more than anyone else does.
"Michael Bay's movies have sold well too, as have Anne Rice's books. Crap is crap, whether it sells one or one million."
You're moving goalposts now, and switching terms. This does not support your assertion that "his popularity was probably due more to a lucky combination of personality and generational adoration within a relatively small group of people than anything else."
It wasn't "a relatively small group of people." You were factually wrong to state that, I'm afraid, and that claim can't be used to back up the correctness of your personal taste. That the number of people who have liked Harlan's work is large doesn't make it Objectively Of High Quality, either. But that's besides the point, since no one here is claiming any such thing.
"Michael Bay's movies have sold well too, as have Anne Rice's books. Crap is crap, whether it sells one or one million."
Although if we do want the argument from authority -- and obviously it's an argument of quite limited usefuless, and of no use at all in matters of personal taste, I'm quite sure that neither Bey nor Rice have won any Writer's Guild's awards. (On the other hand, I've never read any Rice, so I have no opinion of her skills, one way or another; Bey, though: not a winner of much of any award, is he?)
"That was my point. When you pronounce on what is and is not 'actual literary talent,' you aren't standing on supportable ground."
Neither are you when you assert the opposite. All anyone can go by is personal taste. You can appeal to the crowd and say, "look, he's sold a lot of his product!" but the mob's tastes are often transient and shallow. Opinion changes and tastes change. You can appeal to awards, but awards are often based more on popularity, politics, and other social factors than actual talent. Personal taste is all anyone really has to go on.
"You weren't alive when most of Isaac's or Poul's, or Ray Bradbury's stuff was written, either."
That's my point.
"But you can't claim that you are able to judge 'actual quality [...] absent context of time and circumstance,' and that you can grasp it and others are merely a product of their 'context,' but you are not."
But I did, with the movie analogy. When I watch any movie from the 30's, 40's, or 50's, I'm just watching that movie. I have no idea what went on when that movie was released, other than generic historical information. A person who lived through those times, however, watches that movie in a different way, because they can place it within their own memory and within the context of ther lives. It colors their experience of the movie.
And yes, you and others are a product of your context and I am not. I am a product of my own context, as are other people my age and younger. 30 years from now there'll be people telling me that certain things aren't as good as I think they are for the same reasons I'm using right now. I can be influenced by you and your opinion, but that's not the same as actually having lived through your time. I don't have the same baggage you and others bring to it and can more closely judge a work on its own merits than you can. 50-100 years from now, people will be able to judge things as clinically as possible, because they won't have you or me or anyone else who lived through that time, or were influenced by someone living through that time.
In fact, it's easier to argue these things with people who are like me, because they don't bring all of the emotional crap in with it. You can't argue with someone who thinks Easy Rider is some cinematic masterpiece, because they lived through it, man! It obviously had a profound impact on their mind and it's supposed to be relatively popular with the older crowd, so it's about impossible to tell them that it's a piece of shit movie more important for its social impact amongst a sub-group within a sub-group than for its actual artistic merit. However, I can easily tear it apart with someone else who's also detached from all that and argue it on its merits. That other person can highlight some sort of notable technical element or argue in favor of certain points. Nobody talks about how much money it made, or awards it won or how many people liked it, because that stuff doesn't matter. It's just you and someone else arguing about a movie. That's the point I'm trying to make.
I could easily demonstrate this by tossing one of Ellison's books to someone I know and who is unaware of the man, but isn't averse to genere fiction, especially science fiction. Then I could ask them, "What did you think of it?" and we could take it from there and actually discuss the book on its own merits. Then I could toss them Asimov or Bradbury or Whoever and ask what they think of it compared to those. At that point, it would be two people, divorced from whatever cultural maelstrom produced these works, talking about the books themselves.
"It wasn't 'a relatively small group of people.' You were factually wrong to state that, I'm afraid, and that claim can't be used to back up the correctness of your personal taste."
No, it's not factually incorrect. The sci-fi publishing world is relatively small. I would hazard that most of the publishers and big name authors know each other and correspond quite often. In a nation of 300 million people, it is a relatively small group.