> unsure what the ninth would be

unsure what the ninth would be

2007-11-05 - jjackunrau

I just finished the Samuel R. Delany book I’ve been reading, and in the end I loved the hell out of it. I hated the main character so much, but just for his/her (there are nine different genders in the book [most of those include orientations] and Bron switches from male-bisexual-female-preference to female-bisexual-male-preference about 80% through so please forgive the pronoun slashing) weakness. So it was much more of the feeling sorry for him/her and seeing yourself in everything he/she does wrong.

Then after the book is over there are appendices including a bit of the author’s ruminations on the nature of science fiction and that just floored me. I suppose I’m still subconsciously in the traditionally minded camp that tends to dismiss SF as less serious than Literature. In the last six months I’ve been reading more of the really great SF writers, the ones who’ve been doing things artistic and significant with the form instead of solely telling a good story. There’ve been a few I just hated (JG Ballard’s Unlimited Dream Company was the main culprit here - there are only so many descriptions of the protagonist’s “semen-stained thighs” or the constantly remarked upon obliviousness to his nudity), but the Delany stuff has been great, as have the Philip K Dick stories and the rest of the Ballard.

Anyway, these ruminations at the end of Triton were talking about how the metatext of SF allows sentences that would have no meaning outside the genre to mean things. One example used was the Heinlein bit “The door dilated.” In regular fiction that can only be metaphorical and even then it would be hard to justify, but in genre that works because it describes doors that don’t work the way our doors do. And then you can push that further and further. The line between metaphor and actual denotation is blurred in SF because the subject matter is the stuff that does not exist. Really this is fiction in its most fictional form.

Which brings me back to a book on writing I read this weekend. It was an Anne Lamott book and while I’ve read some of her stuff China and been a bit annoyed by it, I hoped to get through it all right. The book was a present after all. Anne Lamott’s writing voice is something like a hangnail in my mind. I pick at it and it bleeds its “Look at me I’m so pathetic and funny about it that it makes it all right for you to love me and my sanctimony! Please love me! I suck so much! Just like you!” attitude all through my anger centres. But she’s all about writing from her life. Which is fine. I’ve got no problem with that. But I don’t want to do that. I want to make stuff up, to discover things as I write them. And I know that’s the same thing that she’s doing but her bullshit just puts me off and I have to spend that much more time making sure I’m not skipping over anything interesting/useful. But her writing style is so different from how mine works it’s good for me to grab bits out of, because they’re so far from my creative ruts.

And that’s probably enough for now.

anne lamott gender jg ballard milan kundera philip k dick samuel r delany sf writers