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Falling Behind, Leaping Ahead

Yesterday, I was reading John J. Pierce's Odd Genre: A Study in Imagination and Evolution (Greenwood Press; Westport, CT, 1994), when I came across this rather wonderful passage:

Cordwainer Smith's opening passage from "Scanner's Live in Vain" (1950) may be the acid test of a reader's taste for science fiction. A genre reader, coming across this scene for the first time, will think, 'I don't know what a "scanner" is, or how he adjusts his blood away from anger, or why he has to "cranch," but I've got to find out.' A nongenre reader, by contrast, is more likely to think, "This is gibberish — I don't know what's going on here, and I don't even want to know.' Smith's technique of plunging his readers into such a strange situation is not universal in science fiction even today, yet "Scanners Live in Vain" illustrates a principle that is universal to sf: It is a literary juxtaposition, even a synthesis, of the strange and the familiar.

I wrote somewhere around 1,000 words yesterday. I don't have an exact count. I spent the entire day trying to write an afterword to A is for Alien. And then, finally, having finished the first section, and having had Spooky read it back to me, I realized that it was pedantic, and wearisome, and that mostly I was grinding an axe I have with a particular reviewer at Locus, which is not the sort of thing that a) I should be doing in public or b) expect anyone else to want to read or c) should burden the collection with. I'd had in mind an afterword that accomplished a number of objectives — justification of dystopian sf, examination of mankind's innate hatred and fear of the alien in itself (making the idea of "first contact" with an extrasolar civilization absurd), an explanation of why I feel science fiction should not be expected to have predictive value, and, lastly, confess that it does not bother me that I wear my literary influences on my sleeve. But...it would have gone on for at least four thousand words, and, as I said, it was terribly pedantic. I stopped writing and called Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press. We talked about the problem. I suggested I find someone else to write the afterword. He agreed that would be a good idea. A number of authors were discussed, people we might approach, and finally we settled on one we were both pleased with — Elizabeth Bear (matociquala). I asked her last night, and she kindly agreed. So, that's one thing I don't have to do in May.

Actually, I also spoke with the fellow who's publishing Joshi's Machen collection, and my deadline is not until July 30th, and he'll settle for 2,000 words, so that's something else I don't have to do this month. This means that today I can go back to work on The Red Tree (thanks, in large part, to the package of reference material and photos of the Moosup Valley region of western Rhode Island, which Spooky's mother helpfully gathered and sent to me). So, huzzah!

Also, note that subscribers can expect Sirenia Digest #30 a week or so early this month, sometime around the 21st, as I'm going to have to get it out of the way well ahead of the move (we leave Atlanta on the 29th, a mere 20 [!!!] days away, if we do not count today). And if you are not a subscriber, now's as good a time as any to correct that.

A couple of links. I wanted to repost the Green Porno link, Isabella Rossallini's bug porn, as it really is marvelous stuff. I've been making myself watch only one or two a day, so it'll last a few days (so far, my favorite is "Snail"). Also, my thanks (again) to robyn_ma for this link to Evan Dorkin's take on the phenomenon of furcons. Spooky and I laughed until we bled. Truthfully, I had nothing at all in particular against furries until I started Second Life, where they are, quite simply, a plague. Just try helming the bridge of a Federation starship when your captain is an anthropomorphic "funny animal" fox. Just try! Sure, I'm a pervert, and I have more than my fair share of parahuman and paraphilic turn-ons (Isabella Rossellini bug porn, for example), but really people.

My cold is much, much better.

Last night? Byron dropped by with Season Two of Millennium on DVD, so we can watch it as quickly as we want and don't have to wait on Netflix. We watched the first three eps — "The Beginning and the End," "Beware of the Dog," and "Sense and Antisense." As good as Season One was, Season Two is much better. Later, I did maybe an hour, an hour and a half of SL rp, so my thanks to Pontifex and Omega. Then Spooky read to me from House of Leaves until we were too sleepy to think anymore.

Postscript (3:05 pm): I meant to include this in the morning's entry, and forgot. The opening monologue for the first episode of Season Two of Millennium, which gave me shivers (behind the cut):



[Blackness. Fade in slowly, as we listen to Frank Black, to a scene of asteroid debris in space and a solitary, distant sun.]
FRANK: In number, there is one for every life which ever was, or ever will be. And like most lives, they wait for a moment, the moment, when it will be sent on its journey back toward the yellow sun.

[A single asteroid spins, falling away from Saturn's rings.]
FRANK: Approaching the sun brings definitive change.

[An asteroid veers away from the planet, trailing vapor.]
FRANK: It will never again be the same.

[A comet soars over the Earth.]
FRANK: Appearing in our skies, it is believed to be the prophecy of extraordinary events.

[A religious painting depicts a comet in the sky, and below it the Madonna and Child.]
FRANK: The birth of kings.

[The Bayeux tapestry shows an ornate comet.]
FRANK: The death of empires.

[An asteroid moves in space.]
FRANK: After centuries, or millennia, the journey must end.

[An asteroid again, falling towards Saturn's rings.]
FRANK: Perhaps smothered by its own dust, the dark, soulless body continues eternally through space and time.

[The asteroid breaks up in the planet's gravitational field.]
FRANK: It may disintegrate and crumble into inconsequential rubble.

[Another asteroid passes by, moving towards the sun.]
FRANK: Or it may be lost forever, crashing, burning, into the yellow sun.

[A view of the bright sun fades and we see Frank Black's face. He is staring up into the night sky.]
FRANK: And as I look into the sky and it looks back on me, I want to know, which am I? I need to know. Is this the beginning of a journey –

[A twin-tailed comet flies in the starry sky. Frank's bloody hand holds a gun. Frank stands, still looking skyward. Blood stains his left shoulder.]
FRANK: – or the end.

Comments

( 14 comments — Have your say! )
stsisyphus
May. 8th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
"A genre reader, coming across this scene for the first time, will think, '...I've got to find out.' A nongenre reader, by contrast, is more likely to think, "....I don't even want to know.'"

As I have been encountering more and more in the last few weeks, this is an illustration of an essential disconnect in values or paradigm between those who are at least genre-friendly vs. those who are non-genre readers. You can't explain the appeal of being a genre-reader any more than you can adequately explain being a exclusively non-genre reader. It's like talking about being a hardcore vegan over the issues of medical research and testing. Some people feel the benefits are more important than the sacrifices. Others disagree. Good quote.

Btb, Tom Waits in Atlanta in July, if you had not heard. Figures.
greygirlbeast
May. 8th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)

Btb, Tom Waits in Atlanta in July, if you had not heard. Figures.

What that just figures, two months after we move to Providence...
robyn_ma
May. 9th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
I hear Katee Sackhoff is performing nude in Atlanta five days after you move.

Well, not really. But it would figure.
greygirlbeast
May. 9th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)

I hear Katee Sackhoff is performing nude in Atlanta five days after you move.

Now that's just mean.
sovay
May. 8th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
I love Cordwainer Smith.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
May. 8th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)

For a moment, there, I thought this was some kind of Kink metaphor, touting the superiority of what you like to furs. But only for a moment.

Well...it is, of course, superior, but no, that was not my intended meaning here. ;-)
vvnothingvv
May. 8th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
Soylent Green is People
I don't know if you've seen it before, but Millennium season 2 only gets better. The Gnostic episode is one of the entire series best and Frank never even appears in it. It's disappointing how bad season 3 was given how season 1 & 2 were some of the best television ever.
greygirlbeast
May. 9th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
Re: Soylent Green is People

I don't know if you've seen it before, but Millennium season 2 only gets better. The Gnostic episode is one of the entire series best and Frank never even appears in it. It's disappointing how bad season 3 was given how season 1 & 2 were some of the best television ever.

I'd only ever seen parts of seasons 2 and 3 (and I was also very disappointed in Season 3, way back when). Most of these eps, I'm seeing for the first time. I'd never seen any of Season 1.
robyn_ma
May. 8th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
'Spooky and I laughed until we bled.'

Um...glad to oblige?
greygirlbeast
May. 9th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)

Um...glad to oblige?

As well you should be.
omegamorningsta
May. 9th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
Always a pleasure, M'dear.

:)
greygirlbeast
May. 9th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)


Always a pleasure, M'dear.

Indeed.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
May. 9th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)


I don't understand genre. Is Borges genre? Kafka? Homer?

Genre is, by and large, an illusion perpetrated and perpetuated by a) marketing and b) academic snobbery. That said, the creation of genre, in turn, spawned genre readers with genre expectations (getting back to the quote at hand). I don't understand it, either, and I deny that it has any objective validity. It is impossible, however, to deny that it now has subjective validity.
spacecoyotevega
May. 10th, 2008 05:13 am (UTC)
Just try helming the bridge of a Federation starship when your captain is an anthropomorphic "funny animal" fox. Just try!

Try? The best captain I ever helmed under was an anthropomorphic tiger who always wore an ostrich-feathered purple turban and had a taste for frock coats and lacy cravats. Of course, at the time I was playing a character named Scuppers the Sailor Dog, and with the amount of dignity that lent me I wasn't really in a place to let someone else's character shape bruise my suspension of disbelief.

He wasn't my character- I took him over from someone who left the game early, because the people in the game were my friends, and also because they really liked Scuppers. And I played the character straight- or rather, earnestly, since I'm not sure how straight you can play a character in a game called "Furry Pirates"- because it's funnier that way. I think one of the traits of a good roleplayer is how well s/he can take a completely ludicrous concept, run with it, and make it real.

Unfortunately, I'm limited that way. I can't roleplay on Second Life. Too much of my play-acting style depends on body language, tone of voice, eye contact. My use of words has always been slow & awkward, so I learned to mitigate it, fill silence with motion. But I'm at a loss trying to communicate through a body controlled by keyboard, limited to a list of pre-recorded gestures mostly programmed by someone else. There's no fluidity to it, too much drag. In-game, the feeling is just- I can't roleplay in this body. No, not even a body. A robot, a remote-control car in the shape of a person. I envy you, that you can express so quickly in words things that I would have to either wave a hand at or pry off the inside of my skull with a crowbar, then write down before I forget how the sentence started. Which makes for a lot of long silent spells and run-on sentences.

As for roleplaying with Captain Starfox... well, if it's just the fact that your captain looks too much like Foxy Loxy for you to continue to take the RP seriously, you can always roll with it. Maybe your character's speciest and finds it impossible to accept a cartoon character as a captain. If you've never wondered what it would take for a Star Fleet officer to get sent to sensitivity training... you have now, I guess, & also you've an opportunity to find out. If the actual guy behind the fox-suit just plays a bad game, I guess the only option is to go out and find yourself a better furry.

(I usually would not have actually posted this, but the temptation to use the Dr. Viennason icon was just too great to resist.)
( 14 comments — Have your say! )