- This is my new favorite quote of the week:
Being able to write is a remarkable gift. There’s none better, if you can also think.
–Edward M. Bernstein
- Paul Witcover reviews The Secret History of Science Fiction, and has some interesting observations about the difference between SF as practiced by genre writers and SF in mainstream literary writing.
Speculative fiction writers are apt to treat the subjects of their speculations as if they were real, no matter how outlandish and unlikely; thus, speculative fiction of the highest quality often has a unique reality to it.Â It employs the tools of mimetic fiction to ground and particularize its flights of fancy, whether they be technological or magical.Â It takes them literally.Â It concretizes metaphors.Â But when mainstream writers venture into speculative fiction, it’s all too often either a day at the playground, during which they feel free to cast aside the mimetic conventions they normally hold to in regard to plot, character, setting, etc., or a trip to the Olde Curiosity Shoppe, where they can pick and choose among exotic settings, objects, atmospheres, etc. to use as symbols and such in their own stories, which remain highly mimetic in a traditional sense.Â I don’t mean to suggest that this distinction holds for every story published by a mainstream or speculative fiction writer, only that it expresses something true and important about the unique quality of speculative fiction.
(I don’t think the latter approach is wrong or inferior, but I’m glad it’s not the only approach to speculative fiction.)
Wow, Joss Whedon fans are delicate. (I especially like the guy who compares a show getting cancelled to someone’s best friend dying: “Show some respect for the recently departed, or at least show some respect for the recently departed’s grieving friends.”)
I’ve never totally understood why a joker living in a watchtower in an apocalyptic fantasy world should be so put out by this:
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.
Certainly, I can see why the joker might be upset that his wine stocks were depleted by businessmen, especially since, what with the wildcats and the howling winds and everything, it’s not all that easy for him to pop out to the liquor store—although I suppose there’s an outside chance that the two approaching riders are traveling wine merchants.
It’s the plowmen that bother me. Aren’t they supposed to be digging his earth? If they don’t plow, they can’t raise crops. If they don’t raise crops, they can’t pay rent on the joker’s fields. If the joker doesn’t get the rent money, how is he supposed to buy any more wine?
The only way the joker’s complaint makes sense is if the plowmen have failed to practice sustainable agriculture, thus reducing the long-term value of the joker’s land. Maybe they’re not rotating the crops. More likely, they’ve allowed the topsoil to erode. That would explain why it’s significant when the wind begins to howl. It’s blowing away all the topsoil, turning Watchtowerland into a giant apocalyptic fantasy dust bowl. Soon a Model T full of Okies will ride out from the watchtower, searching for new lives in the orchards of Mordor.
“Wherever there’s a fight so some guys can toss jewelry in a big hole, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s an orc beating up a hobbit, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way dwarves yell when they’re mad and I’ll be in the way elves laugh when the dwarves are mad and the elves think it’s all funny because they’re goddamn elves. And when the hobbits are smoking the stuff they raise and living in the houses they dig, I’ll be there too.”
According to my server logs, somebody has on two occasions come to this page after searching on the phrase “billy joel she gets weary.”
Man, if your girlfriend is that tired of your Billy Joel records, *stop playing them.*
David Bowie, “Starman”
Everyone remembers the day the starship came to Earth.
The ship had but a single pilot, and he was ancient. The product of billions of years of evolution, first natural and then self-directed, he had been driven to cross the vast gulf between the stars by an *idea*—a revelation that he knew he must communicate to any species that would listen.
In the years between the stars he had grown cold and lonely, but he knew he could not land. The mere presence of a creature so alien might overwhelm minds as limited as ours. Instead he took control of the airwaves. All over Earth, from our radios and our televisions, we heard his transmissions. Was it a hoax? Observatories worldwide released pictures of the vast, unimaginable ship to the media. Disbelief turned to hope. *We were not alone.*
What wisdom had this “Starman” brought for Earth? What urgent message had brought him across tens of thousands of light years to a world where he could not even stop to rest? A world held its breath, tuned in to Channel Two, and heard:
>Let the children use it
>Let the children lose it
>Let all the children boogie.
Later, an international team of astronauts kicked the Starman to death and stole his spaceship. Everyone agreed he had it coming.
####1. “Spooky,” The Classics IV
Apparently the singer’s girlfriend is “spooky.” He goes on about it for an entire song, but what unsettles him so is left vague. Eventually he gets to the point:
>First you say no
>You’ve got some plans for the night
>And then you stop, and say,
So he finds her so weird and creepy because she’s indecisive. This is a very nervous man. He must break out in a cold sweat in the cereal aisle when he passes the Count Chocula boxes.
####2. “Piano Man,” Billy Joel
The singer is playing piano in a bar, where the patrons
>…Sit at the bar
>And put bread in my jar
>And say, “Man, what are you doing here?
Forget, for a moment, the weird faux-beatnik use of the word “bread.” What do those bar guys think he’s doing there? Obviously, the management hired him to come in and play the piano. Or are they asking, “What are you, famous pop star Billy Joel, doing playing piano for tips in a crummy bar?” In which case, hey, good question.
####3. “Try a Little Tenderness,” Jimmy Campbell, Reginald Connelly, & Harry Woods (composers)
This song advises that when “she gets weary” of “wearing that same old worn out dress,” you should “try a little tenderness.” I’m sorry, but I don’t see the connection. If she can’t afford to buy enough clothes, it seems like an economic issue rather than a relationship problem. Instead of increasing your tenderness quotient, why not unionize her workplace and strike for higher wages?
####4. “O Superman,” Laurie Anderson
Why is Superman hassling Laurie Anderson with prank calls about plane schedules? Isn’t Lex Luthor keeping him busy enough? I think it’s time for the other Superfriends to stage an intervention.