The New Weird 4: Own Wired (Download new_weird_4.doc)
TTalkback: Harrison, M John: The New Weird 4: Own Wired
By MJH on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 10:38 am:
Long, excitable posts, and plenty of them, have made the thread browser-unfriendly again, so please continue here.
By Duo-syllabic Man on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 10:59 am:
By Paul McAuley on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 05:00 pm:
MJP wrote >> "We are tourists of the familiar anyway." Wonderful phrase. Makes me think of Wim Wenders's oblique glimpse of the weirdness-that- is-America in *Paris, Texas* and *The End of Violence*. There's nothing there that we haven't seen before, but he finds the angles that make it look both fresh and strange. Making the familiar unfamiliar and making the unfamiliar seem *as if* it's familiar (to the narrator), are surely two sides of the same coin. From various posts by Kathryn, MJH, JeffV and Cory Doctrow (I've emailed you, Cory), there seems to be a cognitive dissonance on either side of the Atlantic between how categories break out or arise. Over in the States, there seems to be an anxiety about taxonomy and ancestry that I think we're mostly trying to avoid over here, contrary badge-refusing Brits that we are. What's clear to me is that, because we are a smaller system over here, we need less thermal input to fluidise our boundaries and create all kinds of the exciting eddies.
By Kathryn Cramer on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 07:08 pm:
> contrary badge-refusing Brits Nah. I've seen this before on this side of the Atlantic. There's a reason why MIRROR SHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY has cyberpunk only as a subtitle. Bruce Sterling wanted to leave the label off entirely. His compromise position was to call it the Mirror Shades movement or some such. David patiently insisted that if they were going to do an anthology they had to be able to call it by the name cyberpunk. (Furthermore, initially there were only 4 writers in the book. David told Bruce that he needed to have at least as many disciples as Jesus.) If you are correct, Paul, I think, having been through the whole cyberpunk thing here, we are more desensitized to what you perceive as the dangers of labelling. I just don't see it as that big a deal. I'm willing to contemplate the idea of the New Weird as being a label like feminist where you don't need to have a set of works in order to discuss the principles. However, if you decline to make a list and all attempts are refuted, I anticipate that 98% of the dicussion of the New Weird (outside of the circle who are already in this discussion) is going to be about China and no one else. >anxiety about taxonomy and ancestry Perhaps so, but I do feel the lack of not having gone to the right conventions lately. If I had been at Eastercon and Wiscon, I would probably know all this already and not be asking questions about taxonomy and ancestry. (Norwescon and Balticon are not of much help in this department.) I did try to raise this subject, before having ever heard of the New Weird label, with Gardner Dozois in a general discussion of short fiction in 2002. I said that thre seemed to me to be some interesting new ways that sf and fantasy were intertwining (or something along those lines). He didn't see it. He said that Gene Wolfe had already made a career of this, so it was really nothing new. One reason for raising the ancestry issue is that one can sound like an idiot making claims of newness for techniques that have been around for a long time, so it is necessary to acknowledge writers on somewhat the same track. (Example, Gene Wolfe as discussed above.) Another reason for pointing to ancestors is to use them to obtain respecibility. (I groan every time someone cites the Epic as Gilgamesh as one of SF's great ancestors.) A third reason is to point to a spark that helped light the fire. Partly, I've been trying to sort out whether what you are talking about is the same thing I think I'm seeing. It seems to me that part of the reason that the boundaries between SF and fantasy are weakening in the way that I'm seeing is that technology itself has become more fantastic; and so the old rationalist/dreamy dichotomy is breaking down. Regarding the discussion of the travel narrative in the New Weird, what may be partly at issue is an emphasis of setting over character. (Not long ago in the NYT a critic claimed sf would never be literature with a capital "L" because it was not character-driven.) A literary willingness to let the story be setting-driven may be at work. (A loud chorus of NO!s would be an acceptable response. This is a trial baloon.)
By John Coulthart on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 07:38 pm:
I think what's being discussed here is a somewhat maverick sensibility so not all apparent precursors are going to make sense in this light. So Peake is a maverick but Gene Wolfe isn't. People always say new approaches have been tried before. Didn't John Brunner say that his own work in the 60s had "done" everything that cyberpunk was trying to do? Another point about precursors: as well as showing a possible lineage and thus creating a shorthand to explain to people what's going on, new definitions can often *define* new sets of precursors, linking people or things that had no apparent connection before. Borges makes this point in his 'Kafka and His Precursors' essay where he shows that it was only when Kafka created a new way of looking at the world that a whole disparate chain of other writers could be seen to have been precursors of this point of view (curiously, one of his examples is Lord Dunsany). A similar thing happened with the Surrealists picking out Jarry and Lautreamont (prime mavericks!) as their precursors. So what are the precursors here? I'd nominate Jack Vance's Dying Earth, for one: half fantasy, half SF and weird through and through. John
By MJH on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 08:20 pm:
I like John's ideas of (a) frame-readjustment enabling new sets of ancestors to be recognised and (b) old people always saying that anything new has already been done. The latter's a form of reductivism (x is "only" what y has been doing for years); but worse, a way of Saturn eating his children, the old assimilating the young and stealing their magic, which is *so fucking sad*. The children have to be fast and voracious and eat him--& everybody else--first. One way movements are good is they represent a generation less selecting than eating its own ancestors. One of the reasons I'm not pinning any badges on at the moment, or making any lists of suspects, is that I am a bit old to be as young as I feel: I don't want to be accused later of being Saturn. I sense good new stuff. I sense wide new opportunities (for contention if nothing else). I know that I'm having fun. I'm more than prepared to do my bit for the cause if only because of that, and especially where my core ideas are served. But I don't want to second-guess the people whose cause this is going to be. Across the next twelve months or so, the definitions will make themselves, if only because discussions like this have forced the pace. >>What's clear to me is that, because we are a smaller system over here, we need less thermal input to fluidise our boundaries and create all kinds of exciting eddies. Go, Paul. Let's excite that medium.
By Paul McAuley on Sunday, June 08, 2003 - 11:01 pm:
(PJM) >>What's clear to me is that, because we are a smaller system over here, we need less thermal input to fluidise our boundaries and create all kinds of exciting eddies. MJH >> Go, Paul. Let's excite that medium. Burn, baby, burn. More later. I'm just getting over the nuking of the Mojave in 24, sad git that I am.
By Cheryl Morgan on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 01:11 am:
Kathryn: "It seems to me that part of the reason that the boundaries between SF and fantasy are weakening in the way that I'm seeing is that technology itself has become more fantastic; and so the old rationalist/dreamy dichotomy is breaking down." Or: "Science at the moment is bursting with stuff that is so bizarre, so fantastic, that the only thing that SF can do is go completely fantastical." - Gwyneth Jones at the first ICA panel (yet another event that I'm afraid you missed, Kathryn).
By Kathryn Cramer on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 01:18 am:
I used to be the one who got to go to all the great cons, so I suppose I can't complain too much. (I've made it clear to David that next year, we're going to Wiscon.) I really love this kind of discussion. But things are looking up: Readercon and Armadillocon are next. But yes, Gwyneth is saying the same thing, only better.
By gabe on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:09 am:
Color me confused. Perhaps this is my own shortcoming, but I seem to have reached a stumbling block regarding the New Weird. Maybe I have one of those minds that needs to rope off and partition things (though I don't think so, seeing as how I tend to be rather discursive even in my own mind!), but I'm not quite *getting it*. This discussion is fascinating, but there seems to be two separate threads happening at once, with each talking about the New Weird in a different context. Not inherently a bad thing. But confusing to my poor Middle American brain. The sad thing is, neither thread seems to get to the heart of the matter. Let me see if I can clarify, so I may be debunked. With salad forks. On the one hand, it seems as if we're viewing New Weird as a New and Different Subgenre beneath the SFF Umbrella. In short, a marketing slogan, a product label; "Explore the New Weird! Like China Miéville, only Different!". This approach seems a natural one, and certainly an American approach, as we tend to pigeonhole just about everything we can name. While fascinating, this approach seems to be ultimately pointless. It's talking to the same genre readers that we're always talking to, and in many ways, it's merely a way of promoting various 'literary' sff writers against various 'commercial genre' writers. Jeff V. vs. Bob Jordan. *yawn* On the other hand, there seems to be the view that the New Weird is Yet Another Assault On The Mainstream, which I find terribly depressing. Perhaps I'm the only one, and perhaps I am a hopeless idealist, but personally I think the assault on the mainstream was won a long time ago. The mainstream (however you wish to define it) has already sat up and taken notice -- or at least as much notice as they ever will. The average reader has been trained in the protocols since childhood (via comics, TV, games, etc.), and now they find what they need to fulfill their SFFnal tendencies right in the mainstream lit section. So they read Julian Barnes and Glen David Gold instead of SM Stirling and David Drake. Wouldn't YOU? So who is it for? Who does the New Weird benefit? Is it for the readers? The writers? The editors? The fanboys and -girls? The packagers? The marketeers? I'm with Mike when he says "I sense good new stuff. I sense wide new opportunities (for contention if nothing else). I know that I'm having fun. I'm more than prepared to do my bit for the cause if only because of that, and especially where my core ideas are served.", because I find this debate (as the kids say) 'hella fun'. I certainly sense good new stuff, and have sensed it for a couple of years now. (coughmodestycough!) And that, I think, sums up the ENTIRE coda of New Weird. It's fucking *fun*. So I don't think it matters who 'gets' the New Weird, and I don't think it matters who 'is' the New Weird, as long as it keeps getting published. BUUUUUTTTTTTTTTT...... there's still a good half of me that sees the need to *define* New Weird, oddly enough. Because these are the people I like, and the people that I've been pushing at other people for a couple of years, and I MOST CERTAINLY want to see them all make good livings off of what they're doing. I want to see their names up in proverbial lights, and I want them to have the freedom to write whatever the fuck they want. So there's yet another facet of the New Weird. And that one is equally important. And then I just sit here and ask myself "Is Graham Joyce New Weird? Is Jonathan Carroll New Weird?" Then I go nuts. --gabe chouinard hyper machine interfaces
By gabe on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 07:26 am:
Hurrm. After re-reading my post, I realize that the only thing that actually made sense was asking if Graham Joyce or Jonathan Carroll are New Weird.... --gabe (feeling inadequate)
By MJP on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 09:14 am:
Gabe is right in that there are quite different strands to this discussion. That doesn't have to be a bad thing if you identify which one you want to pick up. One of the reasons the discussion interests me is that, as a culture, the paradigms that we live under have ceased or are ceasing to describe the basic features of our forms of life. A strangeness is visible in what once seemed to be unambiguous experiences, clear, knowable things. Those fine old workhorses, the categories, are breaking down. To take one trivial case, it used to be argued, and generally accepted, that what is subjective is subjective, and what is objective is objective. Thus you had people who sought to agree with this paradigm in their attitudes to art. Art is subjective. Now it is obvious that for all sorts of reasons the pragmatism of mind that cleaves to this distinction is neither useful nor descriptive. The idea of the New Weird perfectly fits into this situation, in so far as it rides roughshod over the cleanly ideas of: there is mainstream, there is sf, there is genre, there is literature, etc. The old paradigms persist. People still talk about the subjectivity of art as if that somehow explained what it is. (Overlooking the fact that it doesn't explain anything.) The possibility for change from these deadening ideas of certainty has arisen and should be grabbed with both hands. (Thanks for the kind words earlier Mike. I will try to confuse, that is to clarify, no, that is, to ... no. That is, I hope I have made what I said clear, and the uh ambiguity of the ambiguous is uh unambiguous.)
By Liz Williams on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:03 am:
>Or: "Science at the moment is bursting with stuff that is so bizarre, so fantastic, that the only thing that SF can do is go completely fantastical." Bursting through the door, clutching my bottle of cheap plonk, I am late to the party as usual.... This is a digression, but I actually disagree with the above statement from a philosophy of science point of view. The fantastic nature of science is surely context dependent - there was a time when you couldn't have got more bizarre than the notion that the Earth orbited the sun. I see a lot of instances of fluidity - and I try to accomplish it in my own work - but I'm not sure whether it's really increasing in the genre, wherever that is, or whether this is just a question of perspective. But I have the (still-thankfully-living) spectre of Jack Vance in the back of my head, telling me that influencing young and impressionable writers is the kinda thing they ought to have put him in jail for... If someone shoves me up against a wall and shakes me enough to get a commitment out of me, I mumble a bit and tell them I write science fantasy. But I am convinced that self-referentiality makes you go blind...I just don't feel a need to label what I do - as I've said elsewhere, that's for publishers to have migraines over, and critics to have fun with, preferably in about 2 hundred years' time, when all our remaining works will be mouldering in a box with a 'Post Elizabethan Phenomenological-Ersaztians' sticker on it in some dusty corner of a Martian library....
By MJH on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:03 am:
>>The possibility for change from these deadening ideas of certainty I'm up for that, MJP. Relief, I'd say: relief from these deadening ideas of certainty. I think that's how I'd answer Gabe, too. We're here because of a general fluidising of culture, and our role is to fluidise it further. We're the product of an autocatalytic set, the evidence of change everywhere, not just inside or outside f/sf. I think there's a third internal thread to the discussion, & that's to do with cultural change & how it's reflected in the aims & methodology of the fiction. We were saying earlier that even a slight shift of frame enables a group to reinterpret the writers who came before--thus picking their own ancestors. Both the New Wave and Cyberpunk were essentially responses to change in the cultural environment. Agree with Gabe that everyone has bits of the broken & distributed languages of f/sf nowadays, & that's part of it. Our DNA is in the soup. But I think that means we *all* change, Gabe, not just the execrable Barnes. We learn to swim in our food (and *their* food); and let the food swim in us; and have a great time. "Take your freedom deep inside/ Let it advantage you."
By iotar on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:19 am:
>>We learn to swim in our food (and *their* food); and let the food swim in us; and have a great time. "Take your freedom deep inside/ Let it advantage you." MJH: Or in Vedic terms: "I am food, I am the eater of food." >>But I have the (still-thankfully-living) spectre of Jack Vance in the back of my head Liz: Funny how he seems to be floating around in a lot of the soup around here, eh? And of course, from Vance we have a bridge straight back to Clark Ashton Smith and the Old Weird.
By Liz Williams on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:28 am:
With Vance it's partly a style thing, I think - he's so mannered, as though the cultures he describes have cycled and re-cycled through all manner of eldritch Victorian permutations... His cultures have a similar sense of distance to them, which you get with Wolfe - this is an immensely subjective thing, but I don't find that in much fantasy writing today (whether it's the New Weird or whatever), because worlds that are not at least nominally Earth or in the same universe exist, perforce, in historical limbo. So you don't get the same sense of perspective. Again if cornered, this is why I will always come down on the side of SF rather than fantasy, no matter what labels are slapped on it. This has only just occurred to me (duh!) and may not be very coherent. I need to go away and think about this for a bit.
By Justina on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:40 am:
The Light Ages. (skip this message if you haven't read it/dont' care) I post this after 3 days away. I do think this book is worth discussing some more but maybe not here. Cheryl and I are having a private fistfight about it via email. Biff, smack, thonk, aagh. For the record, my only point of disagreement with her is that I think it's both New Weird and worthwhile, and she hates its stinking guts. For anyone who wants to weigh in (Faren?) please go to my board.
By MJH on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:20 pm:
Liz, hi. Agree with you on the philosophy of science point--was going to post on it myself, but you said it better. The bizarreness of contemporary scientific discovery is only apparent. Sf writers should keep up and keep their heads, not panic & flee for the safety of fantasy. (That is, if they want to keep calling themselves science fiction writers.) Al Reynolds is a brilliant example of that. But it's perfectly honourable to write science fantasy anyhow, and I'd cite that once-vilified, now-dignified subgenre as one of the (many) ancestors of the New Weird. But I mean, let's be proto-RNA. Let's do unacceptable combinations, live in what a reviewer of Light called the "polyverse", accelerate away from Planet Orthodox.
By Paul McAuley on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:20 pm:
Kathryn, you raised some nicely contentious points and I hope you will bear with my somewhat rambling reply. By the nature of the beast, they are probably not much near the core of NW thinking, but I hope they may be of some interest re the general Problem of Genre. >>contrary badge-refusing Brits >Nah. I've seen this before on this side of the Atlantic. There's a reason why MIRROR SHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY has cyberpunk only as a subtitle. Bruce Sterling wanted to leave the label off entirely. I take your point about the presence of contrarians on both sides of the Atlantic, but I think your point about *Mirrorshades* shows why refusing badges is necessary: the editorial requirement for cyberpunk to have as many disciples as Jesus, while being a rational demand in terms of publishing dynamics, forced the Movement into a shape it didn't actually want to assume. In the beginning, cyberpunk was a confluence of traffic in ideas located around the few active in its creation. By going public, by broadening itself, it lost its focus and dispersed its momentum; after going public, it became public property. Bruce was right, ideologically, to want to leave off the label; David was right, commercially, to want to apply it. Maybe that kind of thing is an inevitable trajectory, but it strikes me as one that should be resisted as long as possible. Of course, I'm willing to admit that you could be right in pointing out that by refusing to make lists or draw venn diagrams we may well end up talking only about China. And of course mere talk about *anything* is useful only up to a point. But talk is also heat under the flat pan of literary fluid; it stirs all kinds of things up. A long way back in this thread, MJH mentioned a point I raised at the ICA event, which was that as a nascent (lower-case) movement, the NW lacked a focus or obvious public platform. His riposte was that as a post-Seattle phenomonen, it didn't need one. It generates its own momentum wherever it can in an unstructured, horizontal non-heirarchical fashion - which is, when you think about it, the ideal kind of SF movement for those of us who don't like SF that reinforces the status quo. Its usefulness, I think, lies in the unsettling power of something which isn't yet pinned down in any way, like a pawn about to make the move to line 8 on the board, and transform into whatever's most useful for the game at that moment. >>anxiety about taxonomy and ancestry >Perhaps so, but I do feel the lack of not having gone to the right conventions lately. If I had been at Eastercon and Wiscon, I would probably know all this already and not be asking questions about taxonomy and ancestry. (Norwescon and Balticon are not of much help in this department.) I was at Eastercon, and the ICA event that China, MJH and JC-G organised, and can't remember much talk about ancestry at all. Thing is, scratch any particular writer who feels an affinity, however slight, to the NW, you'll probably find a different set of influences. And while it's perfectly possible to work out all kinds of ancestral trees of pre-NW writers who were writing NW-like stuff (Jack Vance - of *course*), I think John Coulthart made an important point about NW's presently maverick sensibility making it difficult to construct ancestral trees: the movement should define its ancestors, not the other way around. >Regarding the discussion of the travel narrative in the New Weird, what may be partly at issue is an emphasis of setting over character. (Not long ago in the NYT a critic claimed sf would never be literature with a capital "L" because it was not character-driven.) A literary willingness to let the story be setting-driven may be at work. (A loud chorus of NO!s would be an acceptable response. This is a trial baloon.) James Woods, a British High Church modernist critic, wrote once that science fiction, like historical fiction, is properly despised because of its emphasis on plumbing. It's a common point made by those who would have it that Literature with a capital L has everything to do with character, and any form of fiction which doesn't foreground character before everything else isn?t Literature. There's little point in arguing against this (by, for instance, pointing out exampoles of acute characterisation in genre fiction) because it's a chimera, the argument of an elite drawing a circle in the sand against a rising tide of otherness - not just against SF or fantasy or crime fiction, but non-Western fictions which do not always foreground character (is One Hundred Years Of Solitude driven by character or setting? Is War and Peace? Animal Farm?). One of the useful things the core of the NW is doing is engaging the mainstream media, arguing that there are genre works of genuine merit that deserve and can withstand a public hearing. It will also, I believe, set the bar higher within genre if only by its continual internal challenge. So, no, I don't think this is anything to do with character- versus story- or setting-driven narratives. It is not (only) about a new Movement within the genre. It is not even about readjusting boundaries; it *is* about impatience with boundaries, and therefore, with taxonomy.
By Kathryn Cramer on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:22 pm:
>a New and Different Subgenre beneath the SFF Umbrella From one perpective, I think we'll sort of agreed that the New Weird is partly under the umbella and parly standing in the rain. I think we're also sort of maybe agreed that it can be found at the center of genres at not just at the edges. Another perpective, which I think is key, comes up in China's manifesto: the interpretive level, whether the New Weird is metaphorical fiction. If one instists that the fantastic in the New Weird be read in the literal way it is in fantasy and science fiction, rather than as just metaphor, then the New Weird is, from that standpoint "a New and Different Subgenre beneath the SFF Umbrella." One could try to argue that is is a mode rather than a genre (an argument that works well with horror which crops up dsisconnected from any marketing of genre connections) except that those of us who are discussing have strong genre connections.
By Kathryn Cramer on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:31 pm:
Question: What is a post-Seattle phenomenon? Having lived in Seattle from 1964 to 1985, I suppose I am. But as a literary terms, the only things I can think of is the Seattle WFC, or maybe something having to do with Megan Lindholm.
By Justina on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:42 pm:
Kathryn - I think the post-Seattle they all refer to is the demonstrations against global trade which took place there - smashing up Starbucks etc. At least, that's what I always assumed.
By Kathryn Cramer on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:51 pm:
Replyng to Paul: >the ideal kind of SF movement for those of us who don't like SF that reinforces the status quo Jack Zipes ought to be recruited to participate in this discussion. This is his kind of fantastic literature, and he could give a much better deep historical perspective on this aspect of the fantastic than any combination of the rest of us. Mike's discussion of Saturn's family relations is terrific reading, however are real sense of the subversive power of the fantastic would provide tools which would not need to be reinvented, so let's not be to quick to eat the old folks. >engaging the mainstream media Engaging the mainstream media is a job continually in need of doing and a job usually done by publishers. However, it is potentially a much more corrupting process than either adopting a label or being part of a genre. Here, China's invocation of Malcom X becomes relevant, and the discussion of poor Margaret Atwood (declining the label and then outed by Sven Bikerts in an NYT review).
By Liz Williams on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:58 pm:
Mike - there's a part of me that would love to live on Planet Orthodox but they booted me off at an early age... The polyverse, by all means. Whatever envelope one finds oneself temporarily inhabiting, it behoves one to stretch it. I can't remember which ancient Greek personage it was (not Socrates) who, when asked if he minded dying, replied that the only thing he minded was that he would miss all the exciting new developments in astronomy. There is the obvious point - and I think it's this that causes people to lose their heads and have a bit of a panic on occasion - that science is such a vast and diverse field these days, that writers tend to come over all unecessary and allow themselves to become enslaved to their own inferiority complexes. We are none of us noble amateur Victorians who are confident of Knowing All. But I do believe that overviews can be had, trends selected (Justina's latest is an excellent case in point) and if all else fails, then sneaking in through science's back door with a balaclava over one's head and nicking little bits of stray ideas is often worthwhile, even if one doesn't always entirely understand them at the time. Scientifically, I am Magpie Girl.
By MJH on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 01:10 pm:
>>If one insists that the fantastic in the New Weird be read in the literal way it is in fantasy and science fiction, rather than as just metaphor I think I want my cake and eat it on that, Kathryn. No reason why a clever writer shouldn't do both at once. What surprises me--& yet doesn't surprise me at all--is the *level* of internal (generic) resistance to this possibility. In "The Tain" China himself does both--I can see "mainstream" readers drooling over what they suppose to be a metaphor; while generic readers are content to accept the events as literal. So many of us are pushing this boundary now. Someone is going to get really good at it soon, and then all bets will be off. Paul: excellent post for taking up and restating some of the major implications of the thread, especially the political one. You would expect a post-Seattle phenomenon to have distributed presence and resist corporatisation--to keep itself a sort of open conspiracy--for as long as possible.
By Liz Williams on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 01:36 pm:
>>>If one insists that the fantastic in the New Weird be read in the literal way it is in fantasy >and science fiction, rather than as just metaphor A stray thought...if there is eventually sufficient bleed-over that weirdness really does become part of the mainstream in some sense, then what if the literal starts to be read in a fantastic sense? You could go back over whole swathes of fiction - several pages about someone doing the ironing could be re-interpreted as a metaphor for - I know! - the heat death of the universe. Oh, no wait... Or is that just too impossibly continental? Derrida'd be spinning in his grave. If he happened to be dead, that is. I'm rambling, High time I shut up.
By MJH on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 01:55 pm:
On post-Seattle politics: I mean, it seems obvious, but have people read Naomi Klein ? If not, she's the one who summed it up, in No Logo. Someone else to read is George Monbiot; and "Anti Capitalism" edited by Emma Bircham & John Charlton is a good place to go after you've got the basics from Klein. Kathryn: "a real sense of the subversive power of the fantastic would provide tools which would not need to be reinvented" We have *such* a different view of things. I think that unreinvented tools are exactly what is wrong with f/sf. Every worthwhile writer is in a condition of reinvention. The reason for genre's incredible tiredness, the reason it has become the habitation of lazy writers and readers, the reason its intellectual, artistic and--yes--spiritual reputation has sunk so low, is that it teaches the use of unreinvented tools. F/sf is a tribe that turns its most beautiful and ephemeral acts of bricolage into rigid sytems of taboo. The only thing f/sf has going for it is that every so often someone comes along with an open mind and looks for a genuinely personal solution to a creative problem. An explosion of defamiliarisation ensues. Since fantasy is *about* defamiliarisation and very little else, it *must* not get itself a toolbox and a set of professional qualifications. Recombinative sports like the New Weird are good precisely because recombination is a way of grubbing up the ancestors, stealing their valuables, using them for *all the wrong purposes*, then throwing them away because in that process you have learned to make the thing you really wanted to see. I've had a million ancestors. I've ate the lot. They were good, but I'm on to the next thing now. In fact the ancestor metaphor, like the geographical bounding metaphor, is in itself a limitation. It may be fine for academics, but writers can't be doing with it.
By John Coulthart on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 02:24 pm:
>I can see "mainstream" readers drooling over what they suppose to be a metaphor; while generic readers are content to accept the events as literal. I'm reminded of something Clive Barker said in relation to his early horror stories, that he couldn't write one until he knew what it was about. Trouble is, no one seemed to notice since he was stuck at the time in the most despised genre of all while the rest of the world was stampeding to repeat Stephen King's "reinforce the status quo" model. This seems to me to be one of the key things about how genre stuff works as literature--does it have anything else in there beyond the plot and the surface decoration? It's not just about character, (although that helps), there's the quality of the imagination that comes through (is it coming from your own unconscious or is it ripped from a book you read when you were 15) and whatever authorial statement might be behind the work as a whole. Doesn't mean to say all this stuff has to be planned from the beginning, art often seems to work at the praxis level of "you find out why you're doing it by doing it." The thing that interests me about this discussion is the feeling that the ante can be upped *on all levels* taking things from anywhere (especially non-fiction), Mike's "Go deep". I used to think this about Barker's stories--what if the horror component (usually framed in some domestic narrative) *were the whole story.* This is what (still) makes Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith so vital, every sentence is imbued with the stuff they're writing about, the "atmosphere" that Lovecraft always said was of primary importance. And I don't see this as applying to any one genre area either (since much of the discussion keeps sidetracking into SF). I'm off out the door. Hope this makes sense. John
By Cheryl Morgan on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 04:44 pm:
Having dropped Gwyneth in this I guess I should apply some context. The point she was trying to make (and others who were there please correct me if I'm wrong) was that science was developing too fast for traditional SF to catch up. By traditional SF I mean the "take current scientific ideas and extrapolate logically to new and wonderful thing". Gwyneth's point seems to be that she no longer felt comfortable extrapolating logically because anything she extrapolated to was liable to turn up in New Scientist the next week. So she has to go beyond extrapolation into what I think is science fantasy but she was describing as just fantasy. Of course there are a few people who are sufficiently far out on the bleeding edge to still do the extrapolation thing. Al Reynolds is one, and Wil McCarthy is another. I love those guys. But they can probably only do it because they work in the field. There may well have been other periods in the history of science when this was true. Liz can tell us. But this being pre-Gernsback the argument doesn't really apply. Now to try and digest the rest of this over breakfast in the hope that food will wake my brain up.
By Al Reynolds on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 05:21 pm:
Cheryl: I can't speak for Wil, whose work I admire, but my being "in the field" has next to nothing to do with my writing. I get most of my ideas from the same sources as anyone else - pop science mags, newspaper features, even Horizon style documentaries on telly. I might filter all this through the skeptical mindset of a working scientist, but that's about as far as it goes. I'm very wary of the kind of extrapolative, bleeding-edge SF you mean, because I think so little of it is read by anyone other than fans of extrapolative, bleeding-edge SF. What I'm getting at is that anyone can do this stuff - you just have to be interested in science, that's all, and have a bit of common sense. What I do in the day job has sod-all to do with what goes through my brain when I'm writing in the evenings. My imagination is far more likely to be sparked by a Penguin paperback than a Nature paper. Al R
By MJP on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 05:44 pm:
This discussion is mutating so quickly. Is it possible to concentrate on a single theme for a while? Kathryn Kramer made two excellent points, that I think are key: "whether the New Weird is metaphorical fiction" ie - I suppose - not literalist sf or fantasy. (Still, what would that mean? I think I know but I am not sure.) That possibly the New Weird "is a mode rather than a genre" Makes alot of sense to me. A *mode* would be fiction not about a specific part or area of life, themed in a certain way, but about life in general but using a means of approaching it that pictures reality in its own terms. Thus the nouveau roman: the new mode of fiction. Robbe-Grillet's The Erasers, &c.
By Kathryn Cramer on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 05:55 pm:
First a correction: "however are real sense of the subversive power of the fantastic" should read "however a real sense of the subversive power of the fantastic." (Mike picked up what I meant to say.) Regarding Seattle: You've pushed a button. I have a rather diiferent view of the Seattle WTO thing, having grown up in and escaped from Seattle. The politics of the Seattle left have been like that for a very long time (maybe a hundred years), and the significance of the WTO thing was that Seattle leftish politics were suddenly magnified on a huge scale by the power of the Internet. This aspect of Seattle was not a secret. The WTO had been sold the chamber of commerce view of the city, the Microsoft, Boeing, Port of Seattle vision. But talking to my father at the time (a sixty-something physics professor at the University of Washington) it was perfectly obvious to him what was going to happen. The left that I guess is now known as post-Seattle had eaten me alive by 1984. (I won't go into the details because it would sound like I was trying to establish credentials.) The LA Worldcon was like a thunderbolt revelation, and I escaped from that framework into science fiction in 1985. For me, the "post-Seattle" export of Seattle politics is of a piece with exporting grunge, Starbucks, Nordstroms, etc. Starbucks, when I was growing up, was not a place you could sit down to have coffee. Rather, they sold coffee beans and fancy coffee parephenalia. What they exported was the coffee house model represented by The Last Exit (which still exists, but in a different location), the Allegro, (both in the University district), and other similar establishments. Having misspent much of my youth in the Last Exit and the Allegro, I don't much mind the Starbucks versoin, since it is not (at least in our area) driving out authentic institutions and replacing them with the chain version. Regarding politics, I am suspicious of an export that burned me back in its native habititat. I have scupulously avoided the post-WTO-Seattle political thing because I have no desire to revisit that headspace. Even Joanna Russ eventually tired of it's impossible ideals and conflicting demands. (We talked about this once when I asked why she'd stopped going to Radical Women meetings.) That having been said, I'm willing to read Klein and Monbiot, etc. to see what you're on about. (Though not for the joy of politics as such. Rejoining the Seattle mind-set strikes me as about as pleasurable as channelling Barry Malzberg.) Further to reinventing tools: Reinventing the wheel on purpose is fine. Reinventing the wheel because you were unaware of its previous existence is something else again. I'm all for conscious reinvention.
By Charlie Stross on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 05:59 pm:
Cheryl: I'm backing Al up on this one. As a partial explanation for the state of hard SF today (by which I do not mean The New Space Opera, even though I've perpetrated it: Space Opera and hard SF are almost by definition disjoint sets) ... I think one of the most pernicious ideas of the 1990's is Vernor Vinge's concept of the singularity. Not because it isn't a very good idea indeed (as scientific speculation), but because it puts a roadblock squarely in the path of rigorous medium-term extrapolation. And to the extent that the business of fiction is the exploration of the human condition (and changes thereto), the Singularity (which, among other things, posits that most of the constants of the human condition will at some point become variables) appears to defy rational extrapolation, and thus exploration of what it means to be human in the medium term. Most human beings (a set to which all SF writers currently belong) have a natural inclination; when confronted with a sign saying STOP in big red letters they tend to stop and try another route rather than exploring territory that conventional wisdom labels as the breeding ground of dragons. I stress that this is not intellectual laziness on the part of the writers: most sane people would have second thoughts before publicly speculating in a field where you are liable to be proven ridiculously wrong within your own lifetime. And writing about the singularity today is a bit like writing about the first moon landings back in the 1930's or 1940's. But this singularity-aversion applies a selection pressure to the sort of SF that we can write today, such that we see a huge gap between near-term stuff ("The Secret of Life" or "Whole Wide Web", to unfairly pick on Paul for my examples) and distant fantastical realms (The Book of Confluence) lying on the mirage-like far side of the singularity. (I'd also like to add that this is fine by me, you guys can keep on ignoring the medium term for a bit longer, see if I care, don't you worry your little heads about that horrible medium-term stuff, and by the way, I've nearly finished the Asimov's serial and the fix-up novel is already taking shape ... ) I'm not in manifesto-issuing mode. I'd just like to observe that (a) the medium-term future in SF is not as hard to extrapolate into as most people seem to think (it's just a lot more variable than it used to be) and (b) as Al said, it is possible to keep a handle on what's going on in the sciences by reading broadly on an ongoing basis. (As a parenthetical postscript: I'd be wary about writing anything about large-scale cosmology right now -- cosmology and physics seem to be right back where they were in 1898 or thereabouts, with one or two tiny threads threatening to unravel everything again -- but that leaves a lot to play with. And there are whole sciences that have barely been touched by SF, from algorithmics to economics, with areas such as sparse network theory, queueing theory, and economic models that assume less-than-perfect rationality, which provide tasty sources of ideas. Oh, and did I mention that quantum undecidability seems to be on the way out ...? )
By Charlie Stross on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:03 pm:
Whoops! Let me just add, I wrote that before I reloaded the page and saw Mike's plea to stay on-topic ...
By JeffV on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:11 pm:
MJH: In terms of this discussion, yes, "fantasy" incorporated into the "mainstream"; in general, yes, both ways, as you describe it, and in any infinite number of ways of cross-pollination, mutation, etc. I've thought a lot about it since my last post and I still can't see New Weird as anything but limiting. If you were to "establish" and to use its terminology and its propaganda--because any time you begin to define in this way I think you lose some element of truth and thus you begin to spout propaganda--you would not only lose the nuances of what is actually occurring, you would potentially deaden discussion of supposedly non-New Weird work. Automatically, New Weird is "in" and what is not New Weird within dark fantasy/magic realism/surrealism is somehow not as worthy of discussion. And even if not seen as less worthy, then definitely *harder* for critics to talk about--much easier to just stick a label of New Weird on it, and pretty soon we're where we are now with "magic realism" which can describe anything that happens to have a slightly fantastical element in it. Whereas I think it would be thousands of times more interesting for critics and reviewers to have to encounter each new work on its own terms and without any musty old (and they would get musty and old very quickly) terms rolling around their heads--and to *not* be so quick to label *anything* for some time. We're in the midst of a kind of sea change, I think, and if you were to pin it down now, you'd kind of kill its spontaneity, I think. At this point, I might just be jabbering, of course. I won't be back for awhile--a novel to finish--but I have found this discussion useful because it has clarified for me precisely why I don't want to use "New Weird". JeffV
By China on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:17 pm:
(May I start by humbly thanking everyone for what is a truly outstanding and fascinating discussion? I learn, I learn) Kathryn - I may be misunderstanding your point, and this probably isn't the forum, but for me your point about the 'Seattle' moment being not about the creation of a kind of politics but its export, if you like, it's globalisation, is precisely what's important. No one's pretending that anarchists, socialists, trade unionists, ecology kids, gay rights activists, anti-war protestors etc etc didn't exist before, nor even that they didn't talk or work together before. What Seattle did was explode that to a global moment. You really *did* have trade union strikers in Zimbabwe and in Seoul carrying banners that said 'First Seattle, Now Our Turn'. And the much-criticised contradictory ideals of the movement seems to me a function not of weakness but of youth (existentially) and energy and the clamour of an orchestra tuning up. Sure, they're going to have to tighten up their ideas, but how unbelievably fucking marvellous - how Unbelievably. Fucking. Marvellous. - that there are millions of people from Bangladesh to Kenya to NYC to Milton Keynes who know that hundreds of thousands of pissed-off, excitedly agreeing/disagreeing activists will fight shoulder to shoulder (piercing to piercing) to stand against drug-pricing, and/or export-dumping, and/or filthy water, and/or Dubya, and/or whatever else is going wrong. Mike Said: 'I can see "mainstream" readers drooling over what they suppose to be a metaphor; while generic readers are content to accept the events as literal. So many of us are pushing this boundary now. Someone is going to get really good at it soon, and then all bets will be off.' I wholeheartedly agree with the cake-and-eating-it thing. The metaphor/literal thing has always been stupidly counterposed. The human mind is a machine for processing and creating metaphor - that's what it *does*, with neurotic and relentless glee. The problem with much mainstreamers-go-SF writing (The Handmaid's Tale) is that it is embarrassed of the non-mimetic Literal, so it doggedly and vulgarly stresses the metaphoric, printing in invisible ink" 'It's OK! It's really about Something Important!' on every page. That's why it's so tub-thumping. One of the many problems with this is that it's disingenuous - look at Oryx And Crake - I simply don't believe that Atwood hasn't had a whale of a time with her lamely imagined genetic monstrosities, because that's part of the *fun* of the non-mimetic. Conversely, some of the worst SF affects a philistine disdain for any 'interpretation' - it pretends all there is is the non-mimetic Literal, which leads it to deny i) the philosophical incoherence and ii) the lamentable politics embedded in many of its artefacts (someone once argued back at me vis-a-vis PHantom Menace: 'How can Jar-Jar Binks be a racist cliche? *He's an alien*!') The best Weird Fiction has always walked this line well, precisely because it *knows* that the human mind will process metaphors, and that therefore interpretation and 'meaning' is inevitable, but that the weird itself is also a source of pleasure, and it has therefore *trusted the reader* to get on with the job of Meaning-Mining, and not fucking signposted every authorial concern with a big neon flash, and nor has it shied away from revelling in the simply-bizarre. An early example is Gulliver's Travels, in which Swift is clearly making all manner of satirical points, but always making time to describe a sword-fight with a giant wasp simply because *how cool is that?*
By Cheryl Morgan on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:20 pm:
Oh dear, I've really stuffed up here haven't I. Given that I've been so effectively dumped upon it seems likely that I have thoroughly misrepresented poor Gwyneth, and I've managed to dereail the conversation. Sorry folks.
By China on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:23 pm:
Addendum - related to the metaphor-machine thing, the human mind is a machine for making connections. That's why JeffV's notion of a category-less literary criticism is, I would suggest, a chimera. And I don't agree that a focus on the New Weird precludes discussion or admiration for non-New Weird stuff. That would only happen if categories became automatically hierarchical, which is precisely the sleight-of-mind that the 'highbrow' literary critic tends to insinuate. We however neeed have no truck with that. Our categories can both shift and relate horizontally rather than vertically - but it would be unhelpful and unrealistic to try to dispense with them.
By MJH on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:36 pm:
Hi Kathryn: by now, "post-Seattle" is just a convenient label. Reading back, I think MJP is right. We're beginning to leave the subject for that very specialised discussion space in which one notion just naturally leads by free association to another. "Pub space" I believe is the term topologists use to describe it. Some brave soul needs to sum up, with bullet-points, six weeks of discussion. It isn't going to be me.
By John Coulthart on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 06:44 pm:
It looks like a lot of the heat in this discussion is coming from reaction to the suggestion that a movement or defined group is being advocated. This seems a very 19th century way of approaching the question (things are either/or). Surely all you quantum-dimensional, fractally-aware writers should have different, more chaotic models in mind? Things can be "defined" in the way a weather system is: everyone understands the difference between a sunny day and a thunderstorm but you can't always say where one ends and the other begins. Or what about the Rhizomes of Gilles Deleuze? More abstract but an interesting tool for approaching the non-hierarchical networks that are being advocated here. John
By Kathryn Cramer on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 08:03 pm:
China: >not about the creation of a kind of politics but its export, if you like, it's globalisation Yes, I think you did understand my point. I'm willing to accept post-Seattle as a term for a globalized anti-globalization and leave it at that, without invoking too much of the larger politics that seem to go with it. Returning however to the New Weird, a much happier topic for me: as long as you remain conscious of the necessity of a literal level in fantastic fiction and willing to articulate this point, then there is no problem. Be aware, however, that well-meaning non-genre literary critics will discard this level of interpretation as if it were an orange peel, even seemingly knowledgeable friendly enthusiastic helpful literary critics. For many of them, the moment a fantastic element appears on stage, if we are in the realm of Literature, then the fantastic is a metaphor for the human condition, and not in any way mimetic (or what China rightly calls the non-mimetic literal). >The best Weird Fiction has always walked this line well, precisely because it *knows* that the human mind will process metaphors, and that therefore interpretation and 'meaning' is inevitable, but that the weird itself is also a source of pleasure, and it has therefore *trusted the reader* to get on with the job of Meaning-Mining... I like this statement. The attempt to have it both ways is characteristic of what I think of as the better writers in fantasy and science fiction. If one wants to include them all in the enterprise called the New Weird, that's fine, though it does seem to me to be a little over inclusive (provided one needs to define a set). One could however leave it as a kind of inspirational statement, not so much intended as to define as inspire, which seems to me the general sense of what this conversation is really about. One sad thing about subgenre specificity is that most of the best writers of fantasy have ceded the genre's core tropes to the most commercially defined market-driven writers, because if you write about elves or mermaids you seemingly define yourself as a commercial hack rather than a writer of fantastic fiction. It would be nice if the New Weird would reclaim some of the ceded literary territory. (Somehow can already see Mike opening his mouth to say No, kathryn, you've got it all wrong.) Where does Robert Aickman fit in? He's been dead a while, so he can't really be a member of this movement, even if someone were issuing cards. Does he occupy somewhat the same space as Gene Wolfe, not really part of this because of lack of transgressive politics? Or does he have a different role? I guess I'm directing this to Jeff V, since he seems the one most likely to have an opinion on Aickman.
By Cheryl Morgan on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 08:22 pm:
Kathryn: have you looked at Tad Williams' "The War of the Flowers"? It uses a whole heap of standard fairy story cliches, but uses them to tell a very political story.
By China on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 10:22 pm:
Kathryn said: "Where does Robert Aickman fit in? He's been dead a while, so he can't really be a member of this movement, even if someone were issuing cards. Does he occupy somewhat the same space as Gene Wolfe, not really part of this because of lack of transgressive politics?" I have no problem with posthumous recruitment - all artistic mo(ve)ments have done that. And Wolfe may not be, but I think his work is radical/transgressive/*critical* as hell.
By Steph on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:38 pm:
Agreed. Wolfe a major influence but it's taking recruiting a step too far.
By MJH on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:40 pm:
Aickman had the technical moves, in spades. He could familiarise things that don't happen, and defamiliarise things that do, in one fluent gesture. So he's more than cool with me.
By John Coulthart on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:26 am:
Some of Aickman's stuff seems to me to be the missing link between MJH and Arthur Machen, in his more outre moments. What category does 'The White People' fit? >One sad thing about subgenre specificity is that most of the best writers of fantasy have ceded the genre's core tropes to the most commercially defined market-driven writers, because if you write about elves or mermaids you seemingly define yourself as a commercial hack rather than a writer of fantastic fiction. If anyone wants to see how unheimlich Fairyland can be they should look at Hope Mirrlees' Lud-In-The Mist. Or Machen again. Fairies Richard Dadd-style that no one's going to put on birthday cards. John
By Jonathan Strahan on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 03:19 am:
Hi all First of all, gah! With all of the activity here, this discussion is about to top the 100,000 word mark. Someone should publish a book! Or write a thesis. Or something. Anyhow, it seems to me that one of the most perceptive comments I’ve seen lately is Mike’s from 8 June, when he writes: “a liquefaction of the writing space is taking place”. This seems to me to hit the nail on the head. What is happening is much bigger, and much more subtle, than simply the evolution of a new genre or subgenre of science fiction/fantasy/horror/whatever. There is a change at the deeper levels of, for want of a better term “writing space” or “story space” where things are melding and changing. One of the expressions of that is what you see in the New Weird, another is in the New Space Opera. I suspect, though, if we were to look closely at the continuing evolution of fiction generally, that such changes are showing up all over the place. It’s only that we are more likely to notice them in our own backyard. I’d also add that what seems valuable to me about this conversation, running across six weeks, three continents, a range of topics, and including a diverse range of writers, critics and just plain interested folk is that it is the step BEFORE the recognition of a Movement or a sub-genre or whatever. It predates the manifesto, the list of writers and the selection of core texts. Rather, it’s the discussion that allows thoughts to be gathered, ideas to be tested, etc. I can’t imagine how it would have happened before the net – it certainly would have been much slower, if it was possible at all – and I think it’s particularly valuable given what seems to be the possibility of a real divergence in the traditions of US/UK genre fiction (by which I mean, I increasingly see the likelihood that major texts will only be published on one side of the Atlantic and not the other, leading to the possibility of a truly divergent genre traditions). Jonathan
By Al on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 09:58 am:
>> “a liquefaction of the writing space is taking place” Absolutely - and, referring way back over several days / many board years to Kathryn's earlier comments about sub-genre (Jun 7) >> One cannot go out with every idiosychratic book and say this is like nothing you've ever read. Instead, one must make comparisons. this is perhaps why so many strongly individuated sub genres are popping up. The more individual a writer is, the more liquefied their writing is, the more difficult they are to pin down within existing genres ('well, it's kind of horror-fantasy, but not quite, because...') and the more likely they are to be defined in terms of a few other similar writers / their own particular genre. So there's the marketing driven explanation - but also the one that, as people become more comfortable crossing borders / realise that they don't really exist, the harder it is to describe their work who's familiar with the area but not to their individual writer. Take your point about wanting to be sold as M John Harrison, MJH, not as MJH the fantasist / space opera-ist (or perhaps space operator? Now that's what I'd like to be...!) / whatever - however, what that doesn't deal with is the problem of reference points. If someone doesn't know what MJH writing is, saying it's MJH writing won't help enlighten them. (tho' the logical response to that is, go and pick up one of the books and check it out, but that doesn't help you when you're enthusing about someone down at the pub and need to describe what they're doing!) Btb Kathryn - fascinated by your description of the bloom and failure of Harlequin / Silhouette - v. heartened to know that there's inbuilt readerly resistance to that kind of activity! Tho' I suspect that what future goose battering happens will probably take that kind of form. >> It predates the manifesto, the list of writers and the selection of core texts. I'd say on many levels it IS the manifesto, the list of writers, and the description of core texts - just one for a more discursive, fluid, interactive age...
By Al on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 10:06 am:
>> the harder it is to describe their work who's familiar with the area but not to their individual writer. Oops - grammar explosion. Should of course read: >> the harder it is to describe their work to someone who's familiar with the area (maybe not even that, come to think of it) but not with the individual writer.
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 10:35 am:
Jonathan, that last paragraph has some very interesting ideas indeed! I'm especially fascinated by the idea of a divergent tradition, with acknowledgement of major differences in core values, content, tropes and forms of self-awareness. Also, it would appear from some of Kathryn's posts, different publishing traditions-- Like it or not, China's work has been welcomed in the mainstream here: he may not have been selected for Granta's top twenty Under Forties, but he was close enough to have been (as it were) publicly nominated. Like it or not, many of us over here, including China, myself and John Courtenay Grimwood, have a quite different relationship with literary journalism. We number lit eds and journos among our friends, and we aren't willing (neither is it neccessary for us), when it comes to interfacing with the press, to take the accepted "oh, publishers are responsible for that stuff" route. We're as likely as any "mainstream" writer in London to do work for a literary editor; and to take one out to lunch on occasion--a meal at which perhaps the first thing to be discussed is the excitingly liquefied content of contemporary books, and the last thing the rather unexciting content of the publishing industry. Along with everything else, this positions us squarely in the excitable medium of what I might start calling the nonstream, with a growing awareness of how the developments in f/sf--what used to be called "inside" --are intimately related to developments in what used to be called "outside". I think there are probably many other cultural divisions, expressed in posts by Jeff, Karen and Gabe. John Coulthart you said: "Surely all you quantum-dimensional, fractally-aware writers should have different, more chaotic models in mind?" Those models are precisely the ones I've been trying to push, John. See "excitable medium" & other complexity jargon above. The meat of your Monday, June 09, 2003 - 02:24 pm post seems to be central to this whole thing. For me, driving force of any fiction is what it has to say. If you don't start with that, you end up with manipulated generic tropes, an emptiness moral, political and aesthetic, into which rushes the uninterrogated default politics of your day. Unless you have something urgent and personal to say, you end up saying what everyone else is saying. That's why I resisted recent attempts to defuse the intensity of New Weird on the grounds that "we're all only trying to entertain and make a buck". Not so. I would walk in an instant if I thought that was even fractionally true; and I know China would, too. I like your argument that Aickman can be seen as a pivot between Machen & Harrison. Historically, it makes a lot of sense. In terms of my own development, however, it doesn't quite work: I read Machen obsessively when I was a teenager, but I didn't read Aickman until Ramsey Campbell and John Clute drew my attention to him in, I think, the early 80s; by then, I'd already begun to do what I do--precisely by allowing "mainstream" concerns, methods and content to adulterate modes I had learned from Machen, Lovecraft, Hope Hodgson and (particularly) Charles Williams; and vice versa . I think that from a *literary* point of view, the argument can still be made, because it could be described in terms of the cultural shifts across 80 years of British writing, with Machen, Aickman and myself considered as significant--and likely--results of phase shifts or switches of attractor basin in the cultural medium. But personally, I arrived at what I am through pick'n'mix, and I'm happy with that.
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 11:20 am:
If people would like, we can move discussion of hard sf and space opera to my weblog at http://www.kathryncramer.com/wbolg. Email me (email@example.com). I'll start a topic there this morning. However, is seems to me that there is a larger renegotiation of the nature of genre going on that is under discussion here using the special case of the New Weird but in which space opera and hard sf keep cropping up. I don't want to take the air out of the larger discussion. I would love to have further discussion of both space opera and hard sf. I should say that David and I have recently done a hard sf anthology and are working on a similar volume on space opera. MJH: How should we handle this? (By the way, David is reading all this with great interest but is staying out of the New Weird discussion because of the remark early on about needing to get this discussed before Moorcock or Hartwell come along and define it.)
By Al on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 11:30 am:
Surely - http://www.kathryncramer.com/wblog ?
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 11:43 am:
Cheryl: No, I haven't seen Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers. Do I gather that the pub date was May? I think DAW no longer sends us the full complimetn of review copies. (Or else it's already been carried off to be sent out for review.) I gather that it's somewhat in the direction of Emma Bull's War for the Oaks. Since I haven't read it, understand I'm not reacting to the book in specific, but I do make a distinction between between the tropes of fantasy and the cliches of fantasy. There is something inherently post-modern which (I at least would claim) is at odds w/ the aethetic of the New Weird about the kind of fantasy which invokes and consciously plays with the cliches of fantasy. The tropes of fantasy -- the deeper source material -- remains. Which leads me to a question: To what extent is the New Weird anti-post-modernist?
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 11:47 am:
Um, yes, http://www.kathryncramer.com/wblog Sorry about the typo. I'll go start the topic now.
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 11:59 am:
Hi Kathryn. I don't think it needs handling, really. If you start up a space opera thread elsewhere, people who want to take their discussion in that direction will slip down the gravitation alley towards you, & the next thing you see will be the cold flare of their retro rockets, etc etc. Meanwhile, those of us lost in the weird tides and chaotic orbital resonances of this local attractor can continue to send messages to one another going, "I'm lost. Is it Tuesday ?" etc etc.
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 12:24 pm:
OK: Here's what I suggest: Really *long* posts on the nature of space opera etc. that seem to the participants outside the social bounds of this discussion can be made over there, but general discussion stays here. I do like the flow of this and I think these are definitely intertwining topics. However, there is a continual digressive urge in that direction. I like the diversity of approaches represented in this discussion, but I also want to hear the rest of what Charlie and Al and Cory etc. might want to say on those topics without this nicely focused discussion degenerating into free association. Is that OK? One big cultural divide I encountered when looking at back posts: Justina, in the first section, says: "I think that Literature is going to come to SF and try and take the entire thing over by main force in the next 5 years." Wow. That is so not what's happening on this side of the Atlantic. While elements of sf and fantasy increasingly appear in books published outside the field, Literature as such shows no inclination at all to take over SF. Justina, was that hyperbole, or is there a real groundswell of Literary interest in SF and fantasy there? Or does it just relate to specific writers? It's a real show stopper of a statement. >Like it or not, China's work has been welcomed in the mainstream here: he may not have been selected for Granta's top twenty Under Forties, but he was close enough to have been (as it were) publicly nominated. Like it or not, many of us over here, including China, myself and John Courtenay Grimwood, have a quite different relationship with literary journalism. Certainly, some genre writers have literary friends -- hence Conjuctions 39 (Bradford Morrow inviting Peter Straub to edit) and Michael Chabon's McSweeny's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. But these are special cases. Relating this back to the New Weird, since we are not preparing for annexation by Literature here, are our attitudes toward genre different?
By Al Reynolds on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:03 pm:
I think the New Weird/New Space Opera discussion is very interesting because it forces us to take a good hard look at what we're doing, ask why we're doing it and if it's what we want to keep on doing. The problem (*if* it's a problem) with the New Space Opera (or the New Radical Hard SF, or whatever we want to call it) is that, by its nature, it can't ever be as weird as the NW unless it becomes the NW itself. This is because the New Space Opera will always exclude anything it can't rationalise. If I have a ghost walk on in chapter five of my new book, there will be a vast weight of expectation for that ghost to be susceptible to rational explanation within the framework of the story because I have a rap as a hard SF writer. I don't think the New Weird has this problem - the grab-bag is open and it's a given that anything goes. It's like that fantastic bit in (sorry) PSS, where the authorities reluctantly contact Hell to see if it can help them out with the moth problem (which of course sets up the utter awfulness of dealing with the Weaver, my favorite of all China's characters). I think what I'm getting at is that the New Weird can do what the hell it likes, and it'll all be taken on its own terms. But the New Space Opera is intrinsically limited. Dropping a tiny seed of irrationality into a hard SF novel is like dropping a nugget of strange quark matter onto a neutron star. Suddenly you ain't got no neutron star. I'm not saying this makes the New Space Opera any less interesting a form to work in. But I don't think it'll ever hit the heights of weirdness or sheer Head-Doing-In-Ness of the best NW. Al R
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:03 pm:
I think that's fine, Kathryn. Nice of you to give us a license for continued operation.
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:06 pm:
So Al, Light: is it New Weird or Space Opera ?
By Al Reynolds on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:08 pm:
I'll get back to you on that one Mike! Al R
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:16 pm:
>Nice of you to give us a license for continued operation. I confess to having ulterior motives for wanting the space opera discussion to have a complete airing.
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:24 pm:
I mean, I'm confused myself. It's not Hard Space Opera; but I'm not sure enough of its assumptions are sufficiently odd for it to be Hard Weird either...
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 01:31 pm:
Light, that is.
By Justina on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 02:09 pm:
Kathryn: SF Takeover - I was using a bit of hyperbole there, language runs off with me sometimes. However, I stand by the essence of the statement, whilst removing the militaristic tone. It's not the case that I think the Granta Top Twenty are going to suddenly start writing SF, or that fantasy is going to creep into mainstream novels in that literal-mimetic way. I was noticing that books such as The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break are starting to surface more often, as are sensibilities that one might associate commonly with SF or Fantasy - David Mitchell is often cited as someone who uses the *modes* of SF/F, if I might use the very sensible definitions we seem to be coming towards. Margaret Atwood is another kind of thing. She is actually writing hard-SF, but claiming not to. I think there will be more of this. Emergence is a thriller published by Macmillan over here, like many, which is a very-near-future SF novel, as is the recent Peter Hamilton book, Misspent Youth (marketed as mainstream, both). They are using very small doses of apparent hard_SF to create drama which is catalysed by technology. I think there'll be much more of that as writers of the mainstream have to get to grips with living in the age where science research and technological development are running away to the moon with the runcible spoon. So they'll be homing in on what have previously been domains left to SF/F and H. In so doing I don't think most of them will give 2 hoots about current or historical genre writing and thus I perceived a kind of tussle of interests in which somehow mainstream criticism will have to encompass the language of distortion and the possible - it will, as MJP has earlier noted, have to come up with a new theoretical context in order to appreciate the kinds of writing which want to go head to head with the increasingly complicated interior worlds of modern humans. It will have to become truly Modern. Like it or not, eventually some wag will come up with the idea of the literal-mimetic and the metaphorical-jump-kit and all that and they will claim it as bang up new literature (I expect). That thought made me a bit low, as I think that the NW sort of thing is making an honest effort to write fiction which is NOW, and this mainstream change won't happen until NOW is LATER. By then, we'll probably be writing something else, so I guess it won't matter. It's not that this mainstream writing will clash with F/SF so much, I think, as that it will appropriate its contexts, hijack its modes and trash all the furniture. Maybe that's just as well, I don't know, I just felt sad for SF in case it did happen and SF was left with no special interest notion (hey look, writing about science and possibility) to continue languishing under the derisive attitude to genre that has characterised late 20th century literary writing. Hard Weird: don't go there. The cat in the hat and Beatrix Potter will always win.
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 02:29 pm:
In looking over all the occurances of the term "space opera," I see claims that the New Weird and the New Space Opera are different names for the same phenomena or that they area closely related (siblings). Is a claim being made for Ian Banks as New Weird? If so, what is the nature of the claim?
By MJP on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 02:34 pm:
I am going to put in some Robbe-Grillet here. The Towards a New Novel essays are fabulous. (I am re-reading them.) Just a few examples: On the 'bourgeois novel': "The only conception of the novel that is current today is, in fact, that of Balzac." (Old Goriot) "For if the standards of the past are used to measure the present, they are also used to construct it. The writer himself, however much he craves independence, is part of a mental civilisation and a literature which can only be those of the past. It is impossible for him to escape, from one day to the next, this tradition of which he is the issue." His proposition is: "The world is neither meaningful nor absurd. It quite simply *is*." How do you get to that world? He has a fascinating engineer’s eye for how that might be done. If I can quote what I said earlier, “The problem with [any] direct connection between science and the loss of one’s past is that it creates a fiction in apparent servitude to science. In other words, that requires scientific explanation to get beyond the mundane state of one’s personal history, a dependency that ultimately, aesthetically, is self-defeating because it reduces the fiction to series of overtly banal untruths.” Isn’t that why it is so easy to dismiss sf? To say that it is too much about an imaginary plumbing project? There is a continual credibility gap … I realise that’s obscure but it makes sense (I think). Sf makes up what is in essence fact, and since it isn’t fact, it is too obviously pretending what can’t be true. Isn’t there an embarrassment here? It’s just as made up as fairies! Thus Atwood’s horror of being so categorised: she wants to be Balzac, not Stan Lee. This is to put the case at its most extreme. Critically, the overtly banal untruth of sf un-stitches whatever it weaves. Critically, it invents ‘facts’ for whimsical (childish) reasons. The counter to this (I hope I am not repeating myself) is to understand the fiction as real in its own way; that is aesthetically. In a way that can’t be pinned down and therefore that can register only as art. So that the choice between literal and metaphorical can’t be made. For instance, if an important part of the fiction derives from ‘plumbing’ (hyperdrives, genetic manipulation, advances AI, etc), then that impacts on (compromises? weakens?) its metaphorical sense. It has to be ‘literally’ true. Do you then go for “fact in fiction” (Atwood), or what? In contrast, if you get a ‘real person’ in a fiction then the issue of the literal dash metaphorical nature of his or her fictional status is naturally avoided. If the fictional character is ‘alive’ (convincing, compelling, &c); then both elements are included. You have something irreducible; something that you can’t be reductive about. By avoiding the problem of the status of his or her reality thus, you enter the realm of 'literature'. After all, *isn’t* there a problem with saying that this (this x, this fictional work) is *just* metaphor? I think there is. There are shades of distinction here, but 'as such' it's a substitute for something else. Robbe-Grillet. It’s neither metaphor nor literal … What is it? It is impossible to say, because first and foremost he produces an aesthetic object. Something that is neither an actual nor a metaphorical object: the text is irreducible. It appears to have no origin.
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 02:47 pm:
Stupid question: What does MJP stand for?
By John Coulthart on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 03:11 pm:
Robbe-Grillet is an interesting theorist but what I've seen of his nouveau fiction is colossally boring (Topology of a Phantom City is a great title, however). He was better working with Alain Resnais on the wonderful Last Year in Marienbad. I think he should stand as an awful warning to writers against over-theorising the work so much you leave the reader behind. And I can't imagine him touching monsters and spaceships with a ten foot pole. I think Resnais might actually be closer to some of what's being discussed here especially since he made a film with a time machine in it (Je t'aime, Je t'aime). Also--bizarrely--he had something planned with Stan Lee! Providence is an incredibly literate, multi-layered work that nevertheless manages to slip HR Giger paintings into the background of some of the scenes. You've got to hand it to those French, they never agonise about mixing (so-called) high and low culture. John
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 03:11 pm:
MJP, you say: "The counter to this ... is to understand the fiction as real in its own way; that is aesthetically. In a way that can’t be pinned down and therefore that can register only as art. So that the choice between literal and metaphorical can’t be made." I think China is insisting on this when he insists on the aesthetic of the Weird. This mechanism of suspension would be a way of describing how stories can seem to be both literal and metaphorical, thus appealing to both sorts of readers. I'm beginning to follow this now. I feel I owe you considerable thanks, MJP, since this is a powerful way of understanding my short stories (mainstream and otherwise) as well as the NW.
By iotar on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 03:25 pm:
>>You've got to hand it to those French, they never agonise about mixing (so-called) high and low culture. John: Strangely enough there was something on Radio3 the other day about contemporary French culture where various British pundits were congratulating themselves over the parlous state of the French novel. A French commentator came onto the programme and countered that there are plenty of interesting new novels out there that weren't getting read in the UK *and* that a lot of good stuff was happening in the genres - specifically SF.
By MJP on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 03:55 pm:
Point of information. MJP = Michael John Powell. I am known as John Powell, but I sign cheques etc M John Powell to avoid the pain of confusions. Robbe-Grillet colossally boring? Mais non.
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:00 pm:
On Margaret Atwood: her situation is much more complex than wanting to "be Balzac, not Stan Lee," and is heavily embedded in the context of Canadian literary culture. I interrogated David on the way to the train, since he is knowegable on matters of Canadian SF's literary politics. Here's the gist of it: Under the influence of Judith Merril, Canadian science fiction tends to regard itself as Speculative Literature under the umbrella of Literature. Margaret Atwood was a friend of Judy Merril's (although they sometimes fought). Atwood is also one of the founders of the movement to study Canadian literature as such and to focus on "Canadian content." She regards The Handmaid's Tale as Speculative Literature but not science fiction. She does regard herself as having written science fiction stories. She allowed her story "Freeforall" to appear in the sf anthology Northern Suns (an anthology of Canadian science fiction), ed. David Hartwell & Glen Grant. David says her office was very helpful and cooperative and sent along another four stories Atwood regarded as science fiction. She is also known to appear with science fiction writers at science fiction readings/signings in Canada. Also, her continual denial that her novels are science fiction is apparently largely at the behest of her publishers, i. e. a marketing decision having to do with it's placement in the marketing category of Canadian Literature. (In Canadian publishing, science fiction and Literature are mutually exclusive categories and one simply cannot publish literature with a cover that signals science fiction.) This having been said, one should not think of her as meek and submissive. She is, by reputation, highly contentious and irritated her literary publishers by insisting on writing novels that might be construed as science fiction. It is David's opinion that she might productively be considered New Weird. >Point of information. MJP = Michael John Powell. I am known as John Powell, but I sign cheques etc M John Powell to avoid the pain of confusions. Thanks.
By Liz looking over her shoulder Williams on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:06 pm:
>If anyone wants to see how unheimlich Fairyland can be they should look at Hope Mirrlees' Lud-In-The Mist. Or Machen again. Fairies Richard Dadd-style that no one's going to put on birthday cards. I'd add that if anyone wants to see how unheimlich Fairyland can be they should read some fairy tales or folklore. Fantasy is a thing unto itself, as anyone with a passing acquaintance of Celtic/Breton or English folklore in particular will testify. Very little in there that is nice or good...
By MJH on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:23 pm:
>>It is David's opinion that she might productively be considered New Weird. No sale.
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:36 pm:
>No sale. Fair enough. As I said, he's staying out of this. And I'm with you on that point. For my own edification, I've extracted 2,200 words of Space Opera discussion from this whole, trying to tease out what is being said about Space Opera as asides to discussion of the New Weird. Does anyone else want to see? (MJH: Getting your bulleted summary of the whole may be difficult! There's a lot of meat in the disucssion.)
By John Coulthart on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:42 pm:
>Robbe-Grillet colossally boring? Mais non. I think we'll have to agree to differ on this one! >I'd add that if anyone wants to see how unheimlich Fairyland can be they should read some fairy tales or folklore. Fantasy is a thing unto itself, as anyone with a passing acquaintance of Celtic/Breton or English folklore in particular will testify. Very little in there that is nice or good... Yes! Don't fuck with the fairies. Or the King Under The Hill. John
By Cheryl foot-in-mouth Morgan on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:42 pm:
Oh dear, I've dropped Tad in it now. Cliches? Tropes? I need to go read a lit crit dictionary. I'll sort this out privately with Kathryn and then shut up.
By Justina on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 04:43 pm:
Re: Kathryn's post (if I sound irritated, it isn't directed at you K) Margaret Atwood was once also very helpful to me in an anthology project (slipstream/SF) that I was trying to get off the ground and was, in fact, the only 'literary' author to even reply to my letters, so I'm indebted to her and gave her my thanks. I'm sorry for the state of Canadian publishing, but wanting to be Balzac is the very important thing which kicked off the unfortunate situation where I find myself challenging her on her public-face description of herself and her work. Although this appears a complex matter of category, marketing and literary criticism it does all boil down to the simple matter of who is Balzac and who isn't. It's a literary mugging of SF. I'm prepared to let her be Balzac (big of me, eh?) - she deserves literary acclaim, who can deny that? But My Publisher Made Me Do It is not a good enough excuse, is it? She IRRITATED them? Who the hell are they to tell her what to write anyway? How can she be considered NW because of the very argument she set up about Oryx and Crake: it could be real. It's mimetic, ergo not weird. She said so. Of course, that doesn't make it true...and I haven't read it yet so I can't say.
By gabe on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 07:02 pm:
I think that, slowly but surely, we're fumbling toward an aesthetic here. This is good. Personally, I don't view New Weird as a subgenre or a movement or anything that can be particularly defined. To me, New Weird is more a philosophical starting point or an attitude found in certain writers. How so? Like this. I think New Weird comes from the writer that doesn't want constraints, whether it's genre restraints or scientific restraints or imaginative restraints. On an immediate personal level, I see it like this: if I want to write a scene that takes place in a two-mile tall tower starring a priest, a rabbi and a fourteen-eyed June bug the size of a hamster, I want to *DO IT*. I *DON'T* want to be forced to rationalize it, and I *DON'T* want to have to map out the June bug's organs for the reader. It's a freedom issue. And there are more and more writers that *want* that freedom, and are taking it. In effect, they're evolving literature by doing whatever the hell they want. Does it matter if the reader interprets it as literal or metaphorical? Not really. Does it matter if it *is* literal or metaphorical? Not really. What matters is whether the book/story is well-written and enjoyable. What matters is if it's good or not. Because those are my standards, I can read equally in genre or out. Labels are just convenient starting points for me; giving something a Name is powerful... but at the same time it's powerless, because in the end, it's the text that matters, not the label. Just my somewhat idealistic/naive thoughts. --gabe
By MJP on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 09:33 pm:
MJH: "...this is a powerful way of understanding my short stories (mainstream and otherwise) as well as the NW". I am humbled that you think so. Thankyou. That quite cleared my head of anything to say for several hours. Fortunately or unfortunately not for good. That is interesting information on Margaret Atwood. I have always thought Canadian sf distintinctive. I'm afraid I have a sneaky liking for Spider Robinson. Also the books of Robert Charles Wilson. (Somewhere in a post apocalypse novel he describes his protagonist reading Raymond Chandler and, in the circumstances, finding Chandler's world as strange as a work of science fiction.)
By Kathryn Cramer on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 10:24 pm:
Canadian sf has a number of peculiar dynamics. They have a grant systems with elaborate rules that must be adhrered to (for example, translations from the French paid for by grant must first be issued by a Canadian publisher). US publishers sell directly into their market and compete directly with Canadian publishers. Canadian national identity is constantly under seige from US culture exports. The SF field has two languages to contend with. Also, Canadians are, by nature, more polite than their US counterparts.
By Ellen Datlow on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 04:44 am:
Just an additional fact re: Atwood. Her agent submitted one of her sf stories to me at OMNI, post-The Handmaid's Tale. Ellen >>>She does regard herself as having written science fiction stories. She allowed her story "Freeforall" to appear in the sf anthology Northern Suns (an anthology of Canadian science fiction), ed. David Hartwell & Glen Grant. David says her office was very helpful and cooperative and sent along another four stories Atwood regarded as science fiction.
By Cory Doctorow on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 05:29 am:
>Canadians are, by nature, more polite than their US counterparts. Get bent, yanqui. (Sorry, had to do it)
By gabe on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 05:58 am:
Heya folks. I had a long post to make, so I actually created another thread (New Weird 4.5), since this one is again taking many minutes to load. Sorry. --gabe
By Al Reynolds on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 10:35 am:
MJP: Also the books of Robert Charles Wilson. (Somewhere in a post apocalypse novel he describes his protagonist reading Raymond Chandler and, in the circumstances, finding Chandler's world as strange as a work of science fiction.) I've also had this experience with Chandler and Hammett. If you can learn to read these books without seeing everything in film noir black and white (they were intended to be read in colour, after all) they are indeed glimpses into a weirdly modern world of bakelite and chrome. Al R (I posted this here rather than on Gabe's new thread as it referred to MJP's post)
By Jonathan Oliver on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 10:50 am:
Hi Al I'm reading RED HARVEST by Hammett at the moment and you're right about a weirdly modern world. Especially with this book and the location of Personville (or Poisonville) where industry corrupts the town as much as the gangters and where both are tied to each other as though crime and modernity and industrial progress are all related to one another; which, I guess, in a way they are. Anyway, I'm only 50 pages into the novel so I will have much more to say later. All The Best Jonathan