shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass

12.04.2004

transcending holiday shopping

First, Small Beer is running a most excellent holiday sale, in which shipping is $1 and their fantastic* books are available for 8-12 bucks. What are you waiting for?

Second, I've been meaning for months to recommend that you procure issue one of Black Clock, especially for the Samuel R. Delany interview by Steve Erickson (one of my very favorite novelists of wonderfully strange books -- do check him out). A little excerpt:

ERICKSON: So you didn't feel caught up by a dual impulse to transcend the genre on the one hand and embrace it on the other.

DELANY:
For some reason, I've never felt that way. The arts, yes, even the paraliterary arts, value originality. Thus, when you say "transcend," you only mean doing something new in the genre. You decide to write a literary novel and you want it to do something new, something different, something unusual. Transcending the genre? At best it's a conventional -- and somewhat hyperbolic -- way to refer to the writer's unusual contribution to the genre itself. But the SF novelist who wants to do something really good and new is no more trying to transcend the SF genre than the literary novelist who wants to write a really good and new literary novel is trying to transcend literature. In both cases it's a matter of trying to live up to the potential of the genre.

To use such rhetoric -- the rhetoric of transcending the genre -- about the SF novelist is just a way of announcing you don't think most SF is very good, so that any SF that is good must be something more than SF.

Most people who attempt to write literary novels, let's face it, do a pretty piss-poor job. As Sturgeon himself put it, in what came to be known in the SF field as Sturgeon's law, when someone once asked him how he could defend science fiction when ninety percent of it was crap: "Ninety percent of everything is crap." No one uses the myriad failed literary attempts to demean the whole category of literature: "Since ninety percent of most literary novels are finally pretty terrible -- i.e., the hundreds and hundreds published every year -- this must mean that the occasional really good one actually transcends literature." I think you can hear, just from that, that your claim of transcendence for good SF is, at its worst, an equally conventional way of insulting the overall SF genre in a way most of us simply wouldn't consider insulting literature.


*in every sense of the word

3 Comments:

  • At 3:34 PM , Blogger media girl said...

    What a great quote from Delaney! I love his books -- well, most of them. (There are one or three I've seen, not SF, that have been, erm, not what I seek for reading pleasure.) In a way, every time he writes, it's a transcending of his own reportedly severe dyslexia.

    It shows in his writing, which is as much about the beauty of language as it is about the stories he tells. Thanks!

     
  • At 10:09 PM , Blogger M said...

    you seen the second issue yet? it's mostly pieces about made-up albums keynoted to Greil Marcus's (reprinted) 1969 review of the (phony) Masked Marauders album, an alleged supersession between Dylan, Jagger and the Beatles. some great stuff there.

     
  • At 8:31 AM , Blogger myblog said...

    I’ve been looking around on the net for sites talking about the holidays and to see if I can find any posts about what others are doing about sending holiday cards, to get some good ideas. The season will be here before we know it and there are so many choices. While I really do hate the time it takes to do holiday cards, I do enjoy receiving them with updates on my friends and extended family. So…I guess it’s worth it. My keyword search led me to this post. While your blog isn’t exactly what I was looking for, I’m glad I came across it. Very interesting read! Happy Holidays!

     

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