Meanwhile, Larry at OfBlog has a quote from Richard Morgan with which I agree very wholeheartedly, although I’d add that despite their subject matter many “mainstream” novelists, from Nemirovksy to Eggers, have less a bleak view of life than a subtle one, which tends to take in its ups & downs. A knack that many “mainstream” readers have also cultivated, using ordinary life as a model. Good luck to Richard with his arguments for a realistically human view of humanity. I’ve been making them for many years & no one in f/sf has paid the slightest attention.It's this last part that Morgan responds to first (as would I, if I had something to say there at almost 2 AM other than "thanks for linking to my post that copy/pastes Morgan's excellent points!". Maybe later...):
Kind of you, Mike – thanks.
I think you underestimate the impact of the arguments you spent so much time making, though. Attention was duly paid, and ploughed in – and the fruits of it are there hanging low for all to see in the orchards of Farmers Banks, Mieville, Robson, Hand et al. I have in fact grown the odd row of strawberries from it myself – the Altered Carbon harvest would have been a good deal thinner on the ground without fertiliser out of sacks marked The Centauri Device, Viriconium and The Ice Monkey…..
And that (as well as MJH's following comment which links into another post of his), is what made me stop and think for a little bit (dangerous when again I've been awake for 19 hours and will have to be awake in a little over 5 hours) about the value of being an agent provocateur. Generally, such people are not viewed with extreme kindness by many, in part because in a legal sense, they don't play fair with the ethical side of the law. But when it comes to long-held assumptions about certain things, whether it be how a story ought to function or how the authors and readers mix, mingle, and produce bastard interpretations willy-nilly of the resulting textual interpretations, aren't these agents provocateurs valuable because they make us stop and question if what we are doing is kosher, or if instead there might be another way to look at matters and that we damn well better at least consider it before our brains start to rot from a lack of mental exertion to question the whys of the universe around us?
Much has been made in certain circles this week about China Miéville's latest comments on Tolkien, where he praises five specific things about Tolkien's works. Some people are hyping the praise that Miéville gives to the dead old white guy that he once called "the wen on the arse of fantasy," but when I read it, I found it to be fulfilling another part of being that provocateur - the challenging of assumptions and getting others to react in such a way as to draw out their "true" feelings. Just as his 2000 article (since pulled, I believe) that contained the "wen on the arse of fantasy" quote antagonized and led many devout pro-Tolkien people to pour out all sorts of invectives against Miéville in support of "their guy," if this latest comment isn't an about-face (entirely possible, I'll admit, but I doubt it), then what does it say about those who suddenly want to use Miéville's comments to support their assertions in regards to Tolkien and those who model their writings on his Middle Earth setting?
Every so often, an author or blogger (even someone as obscure as myself) will say something that will spark a reaction. Usually, it leads to a vociferous rejection of that author/blogger's point of view, but isn't that very reaction just the sort of thing that is needed to generate some sort of dialogue in a literary mode that some fear might be too complacent and dependent upon formulae? The usual fate of a prophet or a voice crying in the wilderness is a short life and violent death. But don't their followers tend to take strength from the violent reactions and build toward something worthwhile to consider, at least on occasion?
Gotta love these agents that do what their name means - driving the action forward and making for some lively fun.
P.S. If any of this is fuzzy or unclear in wording, blame the sleep and I'll edit in the evening if possible.