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The Mad Hatter's Tea Party of Literary Discussion

I woke up from a dream that Peter was attending a writers workshop with a bunch of people I knew. I was very worried that he couldn't actually literally write, but Kathy Goonan assured me that his stories were good so they'd find a way around the writing part. He'd brought to the workshop an enormous beautiful blue beetle, which escaped, but after a long confusing dream sequence in which Peter's rabbit also escaped, the bug was caught and I could go. So I left and walked around town while he was at the workshop, and found myself at the counter of a line of cosmetics designed by M. John Harrison. The saleswoman was very eager to apply samples to me, and I was resisting. When I looked at the clock, it was just before 6, so here I am.

I think I'm done discussing the New Weird for now. I've feel like I've been the Mad Hatter's Tea Party of Literary Discussion.

I as I said yesterday, I was willing to entertain M. John Harrison and China Miéville's whole post-Seattle No Logos stance for the purpose of discussion, but what the whole exercise proved to me was that you can't really discuss literature in those terms unless you are talking only about a single author. I think I've learned my lesson and won't be drawn into a literary discussion on those terms again.

For the uninitiated, post-Seattle refers to the Seattle WTO thing as a pivotal event and No Logos apparently refers to Naomi Klein, who has codified post-Seattle politics or some such. It is the globalization of anti-globalization.

I have other problems with what I understand to be post-Seattle politics, but as a literary impulse, I think post-Seattlism is DOA. It energized the discussion by creating suspense but prevented most of the actual discussion from taking place.

In the interests of rejecting potential commercial globalization of their movement (or its symbolic exploitation or some such), they were very coy about who was in it or what works they were discussing, wanting instead to discuss matters of principle and say what their movement wasn't.

You just plain have to be able to say what you are talking about to have a meaningful discussion of literature. I think the noses out of joint are largely a result of the failure of this experiment.

Now that we've celebrated the unbirthday, I think I'd like my cup of tea, please (or coffee, actually).

MEANWHILE, Greg van Eekhout's readers discuss the Harrison interview in Strange Horizons in which he says,

I think it's undignified to read for the purposes of escape.

(Via Patrick Nielsen Hayden by e-mail.)

Well, enough lit-crit escapism and screaming literary class anxiety! Let's regain our dignity and see what's been going on in the world while I've had my head buried in people's fantasies about fantasy.

Tecnhonrati's breaking news appears to be broken at the moment, which is unfortunate, since that is my favorite way to read news.

ON HUMAN ORIGINS, there have been a couple if interesting news stories in the past few days.

This morning in the Financial Times, I see

The oldest known fossils of modern humans have been discovered in Ethopia. An international team led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found the skulls of two adults and a child dating from 160,000 years ago - 40,000 years earlier than the previous oldest remains of Homo sapiens.

The discovery, described on Thursday in the journal Nature, fills a big gap in the human fossil record: the absence of accurately dated hominid remains in Africa between 120,000 and 300,000 years ago.

(I should have read my e-mail from Nature more closely, otherwise I would have known this already!) Here's Nature's summary:

Evidence for the 'Out of Africa' hypothesis for the origin of Homo sapiens has been questioned because of the lack of African hominid fossils from a critical period, between 100,000 and 300,000 years ago. New finds from the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia have filled that gap. A near-complete adult skull and a partial child's skull have been dated to about 160,000 years old, making them the oldest remains that can be firmly assigned to modern Homo sapiens. In addition this shows that morphologically modern humans had emerged long before 'classic' Neanderthals vanished from Eurasia. The series of illustrations on the cover, by J. Matternes, are reconstructions based on the fossilized adult male cranium from the Herto locality.

Also, and more significant in a science-fictional way, is the suggestion that we are all descended from a human population of about 2,000 which lived about 100,000 years ago and that there was a point when our species nearly went extinct. This is based on lack of genetic diversity among humans as compared to our closest relative, chimpanzees.

There's a novel in that. (Paging Rob Sawyer!) I can't find the version of the story I was reading yesterday, but here's the ABCNews version.

ONE FURTHER NEW WEIRD REMARK: I just encountered an interesting Naomi Klein quote about the post-Seattlism: This is a movement that has declared it has "no followers, only leaders." This was exactly what was wrong with the New Weird discussion; an attempt to follow that model when discussing literature stood this inclusive discourse on its head.

THE LIGHTER SIDE OF SPACE OPERA RESEARCH: Found as a reply to what must have been a bit of porn spam inserted into the Yahoo Space Opera Discussion Group:

Look, if we wanted great sex lives, we wouldn't be reading space opera, so go find a more appropriate group to post in!

I'm still wipping the tears out of my eyes.

And check out this reader testimonial in praise of reading for escape:

One of my greatest loves in SF is the Space Opera. You can't beat it for sheer mindless entertainment, and sometimes, you just don't want to have to think about the hero's motivation. Or the alien's. You just want to blast things. Space Opera is perfectly suited for that.

For sheer space operatic fun, I don't personally think that anyone beats Edmond Hamilton. You can't get any more operatic than the works of someone nicknamed "The World Wrecker."