Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
I found this useful to ponder as I work on my next Forces of Geek column and my next Apex blog; the former is entitled "Fiction and Friction" and discusses the inherent value and problems of participatory versus directed narratives, inspired in part by some of Paul Jessup's recent posts on his blog. The latter piece doesn't have a title yet but is an attempt to tackle the varieties of realism that seem to be popping up (often horribly mutated or cliched) in recent fantasy.
2) I was quite saddened to hear that MadCon will be Harlan Ellison's last convention, and that he is apparently in very poor health. I would love to be able to go and just thank him for a lifetime of inspiration and instigation. His work has influenced me as a writer and critical thinker (yes, warts and all!) over the years, and few short stories mean so much to me as "Repent, Harlequin, said the Ticktockman."
3) Via Patrick Rothfuss, a website showcasing (and selling, by the look of it) antique maps. Lovely little cultural artifacts, aren't they? I often wonder what kind of mind it took to produce these kinds of geographically-imaginative schema.
4) io9 does the hard work and comes up with a list of "The Chosen Research Areas of Mad Scientists, 1810-2010." A good basis for a submission to the Annals of Improbable Research, perhaps?
5) I have finally gone back to finish Lud-in-the-Mist after leaving it sadly unloved
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Given the flexibility of postmodernism, and the difficulty of defining it, I think I did a good job. We'll see if the two authors whose ideas I discussed feel the same (or if they even give a crap). While I agreed with VanderMeer that Sanderson's essay was problematic, I thought that the misconception that suffused Sanderson's use of the terms was partly a result of trying to simplify ideas that are all about resisting simplification. But I found Sanderson's contention that the new generation of fantasy authors are trying to retask essential tropes and conventions to make more interesting stories to be a valuable idea worth more consideration, and thus I could not dismiss his essay out of hand, which some commenters (including VanderMeer himself) seemed to do.
What bothered me about both initially was how they naturalized and immediately decoupled postmodernism as a literary mode from the larger history and insights of postmodernism (as the discrete movement to historicize the problems of modernism). It looks like "postmodern literature" itself has done this by being codified into a combination of meta-genre and subdiscipline of critical writing. Both defined it implicitly as integrated into the wider literary landscape, which is the case to some extent, but which still misses the point. Just because a term has been appropriated or modulated in literary discourse does not mean it has lost all connection to its past, or its more incisive potential to influence the present.
Having said all this, I have to say that I am a tentative postmodernist myself; it's the anarchist in me I'm sure. It and deconstruction are so open to abuse and misinterpretation that I embrace some of its ideas while not using all of its methods. Regardless, more precise use of these terms, and more reflective understandings of what they signify and question, are necessary to having better conversations on how literature works, and how writers and readers can improve their interaction with the texts that compel our attention and invigorate our imagination.
Jeff: It was absolutely not my intention to take your words out of context, or to give offense with this essay. The point was to discuss what I believe is left out of conversations on postmodernism in fantastic literature, in a very germinal formulation. My response to your piece, in retrospect, was less well-developed than to Sanderson’s, and also hyperbolic in its characterization. I was not trying to misrepresent what you said, because there was resonance there with what I was heading towards in my piece, but I was making the point, perhaps in too limited and unreflective a fashion, that the focus on technique missed some aspects of a postmodern standpoint that I think need more consideration.
My objective was not to denigrate what you were saying, but to proceed farther with it. I did miss the important distinction you highlight regarding your comment on elitism, which I am happy to correct in the piece. I think some rather excessive language and not enough attention to your post as a whole weakened what I was trying to in that section of the piece. So yes, I think we are pretty much on the same page, I just needed to make that clearer and use more positivist discourse than deconstruction. :-)
As for the observation that I did not take comments into account, that is quite true. I did not get into comments from either post because I wanted to focus on the two essays themselves, and talk about the interplay between them. It is obvious from the erudite avalanche of comments on your site that a very rich conversation is taking place, which is precisely what I was talking about at the start of my piece. The engagement that you started, and that I was working to extend, has flourished into a muscular exchange of ideas. Thanks for getting that going, and for inspiring this essay.