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Re: [delany-list] Re: For Ralph: On a number of things.

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  • Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
    Ralph, ... From one of the subtitles, one might reasonably conclude that Le Guin was among his intended audients. ... Certainly to do so in such a twoedged
    Message 1 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
      Ralph,


      >I never even thought about this question before the last spate of posts on
      >Bron. I haven't the foggiest what sort of audience he had in mind.

      From one of the subtitles, one might reasonably conclude that Le Guin was
      among his intended audients.


      >But
      >suppose he did have "teenaged white middle-class heterosexual males" in
      >mind? That would be pretty wicked, don't you think? In any case, it's
      >pretty bold for Delany to make Bron, whom many people feel so guilty
      >associating themselves with, the protagonist as he does. I think few
      >people would have the insight or imagination to do this, and to get inside
      >this character.

      Certainly to do so in such a twoedged manner. One of the better moments
      in Heinlein was a comment on Rodin's "She Who Was Once the Beautiful
      Heaulmiere": paraphrasing, he says that any damn sculptor can do a beautiful
      young woman; a brilliant sculptor might think to do an ugly old woman, but
      it took a genius to sculpt an ugly old woman and make you see the beautiful
      young woman she used to be. This kind of doubling of vision is precisely
      what
      makes Bron Hellstrom a creation of genius, Delany's ability to make, at
      least,
      a mature reader see Bron both as he sees himself and as others see him;
      Delany presents him in all his ugliness without judging him, and that's the
      masterstroke.

      >But didn't you notice that Bron was a marginal type as well?

      On Triton, yes. He wouldn't be in the contemporary (1970s) US, I
      think. _Triton_ kind of repeats one of the central experiments of
      _Dhalgren_, in creating a society with no "central" social class (at
      least, none that I can determine). Bron, like Mrs. Richards, assumes
      his own centrality and normalcy when they are nonexistent.


      >My memory has faded, but
      >if I'm not mistaken didn't he live in a coop of relatively anti-social
      >people, or people who didn't fit in with other groups?

      H'mmm. He lives, if I recall, in a "non-specific male-only co-op," where
      "non-sepcific" means that the co-op doesn't cater to any specific
      sexual preference. I don't know that I'd call the other residents
      antisocial particularly, but I'd have to give it more thought.


      >Your personal situation is none of my business.

      Probably true. So?


      >The motivation for my
      >question, though, is to learn the background _assumptions_ for one's
      >interpretation of self and others. It is a curious mark of the times,
      >though, how people fall back not on their convictions, but on a defense or
      >self-castigation based on their social origins.

      Well, if you saw any self-castigation in what I wrote, I didn't put it
      there. I am _not_ responsible for the social position into which I was
      born; I am, of course, responsible for what I _do_ in that position. If
      I cared to do any self-castigating it would be about having taken some
      things for rights that were actually matters of privilege, but I chalk that
      up to ignorance and move on.


      >"My position on the world
      >is that I was born a so and so and so and so and so and so, and
      >that either justifies me or I have learned to atone for it by deferring to
      >whomever I feel guilty about."

      This might be a kind of parodic misunderstanding of some of my
      comments, based perhaps on a mistaken assumption that they
      reflected classical liberal guilt. They were not; they were literally
      intended. I do not choose to coopt the experience of those who
      grew up in circumstances radically different from my own. This does
      not mean that I feel guilty about their experiences.


      >But you still know nothing of my background but a very few of its features,
      >but what I've lived, whom I lived it with, what I've seen, and my
      >underlying frame of reference, you don't know.

      Right. As I said. And ditto you mine. "Everybody is a type," but it isn't
      a trivial matter to determine what type another person is.

      I give you this for free about myself:

      I am what you call an "autodidact" - my formal education was
      technological; what I have of literatur and philosophy and sociology
      and suchlike I've had to pick up "on my own."

      But I don't really believe I've taught myself; rather, I've learned at
      the feet of Christ and Nietzsche, Jane Jacobs and Ferdinand de
      Saussure, Plato and Aquinas and Barthes and Delany and Le Guin
      and Tolstoi and Dickens and Wolfe and Wolfe and Ellison and Ellison
      and ... Well, you get the idea. I don't "teach myself," I find
      teachers. Occasionally I even meet a few of them. Lately I'm learning
      from, among other people, Ralph Dumain.


      >How am I responsible for
      >what you choose to assume or extrapolate?

      Not at all. You are responsible for choosing not to correct a factually
      false assumption or extrapolation when you can do so, especially if
      you can do so without being offensive. Perhaps the alternative -
      watching someone make an ass of himself - is more amusing.

      (We all make false assumptions at times. We all make asses of ourselves.)


      >I would hope that a Delany fan would transcend the merely
      >simplex and complex perception of who people are, what made them that way,
      >and how they think.

      It would be nice. None of us are "perfect," whatever that means; we all
      have limits to our perceptions, and we all make assumptions - without
      them communication becomes impossible; with them, errors are inevitable.

      >Ironically curious, don't you think, that so many people who are
      >aficionados of the weird prove to be so conventional in their perceptions
      >of others?

      Perhaps. But perhaps the "weird" is only meaningful in contrast to
      the conventional. Weirdness without the context of the conventional
      can only be perceived as random noise. And it may be that some of
      us are interested in "the weird," i.e., science fiction and fantasy,
      precisely for how they illuminate the "conventional," i.e., the "real,"
      whether construed as objective or socially-constructed.

      >BTW, I did not choose to make myself the center of attention by putting my
      >name in a subject heading.

      Nor did I; I rarely if ever put my own name in a subject heading.
      However, I often choose to call-out a post to the person to
      whom it is primarily addressed, both so that person might know
      he is being addressed, and so others, not interested, can easily
      skip that post.

      It's an attempt at courtesy, or at least politeness.


      >I am interested in ideas, and frankly, I think
      >most of what gets said in this society including the offerings of its
      >so-called intellectuals is yesterday's news, if we're lucky to get even
      >that and just plain silliness.

      Sturgeon's law. Ninety percent of everything is crap. Either it's
      worth it to you to fish through the crap for the good stuff, or
      it isn't. Part of what determines that for an individual is how good
      the good stuff is: which is why I participate in, say, a Delany list,
      but not a Terry Pratchett list; the good stuff to be said about the
      work of Terry Pratchett just isn't that good to me, but the good
      stuff to be said about Delany's is. Others feel differently and they
      participate in Pratchett lists, which is why those lists exist.


      >Last night I met with a friend and told him
      >about that piece discussing the non-whiteness of Jeannie and Samantha, and
      >he fell off his chair laughing. I almost killed the poor man.

      Why? What had he done to you?

      I admit I snorted when I read that post; the idea that either of
      those characters was anything other than a middle-class white
      woman is ... well, snortable.

      ("I Dream of Jeannie" might have been interesting if the bottle
      had actually contained a djinn, as conceived in Arabic legend. On
      the other hand, it would probably have been a very short series.)


      >I think I am finally beginning to delineate how the historical amnesia I'm
      >trying to pin down has been made possible.

      A lot of it, I suspect, has to do with media hypnotism.


      >The differences between what I have got out of Delany and
      >what others tell me just blow my dog.

      Now, _that's_ a disgusting image... (waggle eyebrows and
      chomp cigar)


      >I'm still wondering if I've forgotten something, or if there really is an
      >absence of the various mystical ideologies rampant in real-life
      >countercultures in Delany's work, fictional or nonfictional.

      H'mm. From various nonfictional work I have the impression that
      Delany is rigidly materialistic, in the Marxist sense.

      --Dan'l

      _________________________________________________________________
      Learn how to choose, serve, and enjoy wine at Wine @ MSN.
      http://wine.msn.com/
    • Tim Walters
      ... I just remembered that he appears as the Hanged Man in the New York Tarot deck, dangling from a jungle gym. -- THE DOUBTFUL PALACE Free exquisite music
      Message 2 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
        Eric Solstein wrote:

        > In an interview I did with SRD, I asked him about the use of Tarot in
        > NOVA. It was my sense that he was slightly defensive on the subject,
        > this being in the course of a rather long interview where otherwise he
        > was very open and entirely unapologetic about practically anything. He
        > briefly replied, at the time the Tarot stuff seemed "fun."

        I just remembered that he appears as the Hanged Man in the New York Tarot
        deck, dangling from a jungle gym.

        --
        THE DOUBTFUL PALACE
        Free exquisite music
        http://www.doubtfulpalace.com
      • Nalo Hopkinson
        ... NH: *curious* why not? Being in my forties, I m middle-class and arguably middle-aged woman, and I ve read Triton and at least taken a stab at Hogg. ...
        Message 3 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
          > At 2:43 AM -0500 2/4/04, Steve M. wrote:
          > Actually, I think in one or two interviews he has said that he
          > generally imagines his reader to be a middle-aged middle-class woman
          > when writing. Now, obviously that would not have been his imagined
          > reader for Hogg

          NH: *curious* why not? Being in my forties, I'm middle-class and arguably
          middle-aged woman, and I've read Triton and at least taken a stab at Hogg.

          > middle-class heterosexual males vacillate between identifying with
          > and disliking him. The world around us in high school is telling us
          > to begin to take on that air of assumed privilege in a world that we
          > can already sense is changing.

          NH: Hmm. That strikes a chord with me, but that's without having any of
          the direct experience of being a middle class het male. Curious to hear
          what some of the other middle class het men on the list think.

          > Neither in general nor in Dan'l
          > specific comments do I hear any sense of justification or
          > atonement--merely the recognition that the circumstances of our birth
          > and our youth provides us with a particular set of goggles through
          > which we view the world in those moments before analysis--it orders
          > and limits our perception. This changes over time, and as we age and
          > remain perceptive, we can broaden our vision in some ways, learn to
          > counteract the particular warping fields of our initial set of
          > goggles

          NH: *Nods* that's how it seems to me. And you can acquire new goggles as
          one's position in life changes (or as life changes around you and your
          position relative to your world changes, as seems to be happening to
          Bron). Some people end up with multiple sets of specs, worn
          simultaneously.

          -nalo

          --
          http://www.sff.net/people/nalo/
        • cecilwashington
          Trouble on Triton is one of the best examples of character development that I ve ever read. I ve known quite a few Brons in my day, which was why I had a hard
          Message 4 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
            Trouble on Triton is one of the best examples of character
            development that I've ever read. I've known quite a few Brons in my
            day, which was why I had a hard time finishing the book: the
            character was so annoying and arrogant that I would literally get mad
            when reading the book! Delany, being gay and black, did an excellent
            job of getting inside the head of someone who is not like him.

            I don't think that the majority of middle class white guys will get
            mad when reading the book, just the ones who are like Bron. Of
            course, a Bron may very well read the book and think that he's
            nothing like that character at all (which would be the ultimate in
            irony).

            But in a way, I think a lot of men, regardless of race or class, go
            through a Bron period, where they think they know everything, or are
            overconfident. I've seen some men Bron-up in their fifties, while
            others Bron early, then grow out of it. Perhaps the Bron phenomenon
            is merely a case of arrested development.

            I only recommend the book to the non-Brons that I know. No sense in
            making any enemies :-).
          • Diana Barbour
            ... Bought and devoured both Hogg and Mad Man when they first came out from Black Ice and RIchard Kasak books (Ordered them in hardback, fearing they would
            Message 5 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
              At 01:05 PM 2/4/04, you wrote:

              > > At 2:43 AM -0500 2/4/04, Steve M. wrote:
              > > Actually, I think in one or two interviews he has said that he
              > > generally imagines his reader to be a middle-aged middle-class woman
              > > when writing. Now, obviously that would not have been his imagined
              > > reader for Hogg
              >
              >NH: *curious* why not? Being in my forties, I'm middle-class and arguably
              >middle-aged woman, and I've read Triton and at least taken a stab at Hogg.

              Bought and devoured both Hogg and Mad Man when they first came out from
              Black Ice and RIchard Kasak books (Ordered them in hardback, fearing they
              would never see paperback printing. I was wrong). White, then middle-aged,
              now elderly middle-class female. I think both are extraordinary, and loved
              them both. No offense, no queasyness, just a wonderful view of another
              world, one I don't live in, but probably could.

              Diana


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Nalo Hopkinson
              ... NH: ?? Missed this. Are you referring to an essay by Ashok Mathur? -nalo url: http://www.sff.net/people/nalo/ ng: news://news.sff.net/sff.people.nalo/
              Message 6 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
                At 10:50 AM 2/4/2004 -0800, Dan'l and Ralph wrote:

                > >Last night I met with a friend and told him
                > >about that piece discussing the non-whiteness of Jeannie and Samantha, and
                > >he fell off his chair laughing. I almost killed the poor man.
                >
                >Why? What had he done to you?
                >
                >I admit I snorted when I read that post; the idea that either of
                >those characters was anything other than a middle-class white
                >woman is ... well, snortable.

                NH: ?? Missed this. Are you referring to an essay by Ashok Mathur?

                -nalo


                url: http://www.sff.net/people/nalo/
                ng: news://news.sff.net/sff.people.nalo/
                journal: http://www.sff.net/people/nalo/writing/naloblogger.html
                -Collection SKIN FOLK winner of the Sunburst Award for Canadian fiction of
                the fantastic
                -Novel THE SALT ROADS, Warner Books, November 2003
              • Ralph Dumain
                I m catching up on a whole day s worth of posts at once. I don t see the post that you now quote from, so I don t know what is going on. However, in answer
                Message 7 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
                  I'm catching up on a whole day's worth of posts at once. I don't see the
                  post that you now quote from, so I don't know what is going on. However,
                  in answer to some question about why "I almost killed the poor man", I
                  didn't realize my post was ambiguous. The intended meaning is: The poor
                  man almost died laughing, so I almost killed him by telling him about this
                  article. My actual reaction to his laughter was (1) I lost it myself,
                  laughing my ass off, (2) I felt embarrassed for even taking the essay by
                  Ashok Mathur seriously enough (the part about Jeannie and Samantha) to
                  criticize it with a straight face as if I should even go the the trouble of
                  being indignant. My sense of the ridiculous is second to none, so I felt
                  foolish for not simply reacting as my friend did by collapsing into
                  hysterics in the first place. You should have seen him. He almost choked
                  on his food. It's making me laugh now that I think about it. The good
                  news is that he started up some brainstorming and we plotted some scholarly
                  articles of our own analyzing other sitcoms of the '60s according to the
                  same formula. We came up with some hilarious ideas. Anyway, this just
                  confirms my judgment that literary/culture critics are the bottom feeders
                  of the intellectual world. The only form of academic life I can think of
                  lower than that would be anthropologists and political scientists.

                  At 09:27 PM 2/4/2004 -0600, Nalo Hopkinson wrote:
                  >At 10:50 AM 2/4/2004 -0800, Dan'l and Ralph wrote:
                  >
                  > > >Last night I met with a friend and told him
                  > > >about that piece discussing the non-whiteness of Jeannie and Samantha, and
                  > > >he fell off his chair laughing. I almost killed the poor man.
                  > >
                  > >Why? What had he done to you?
                  > >
                  > >I admit I snorted when I read that post; the idea that either of
                  > >those characters was anything other than a middle-class white
                  > >woman is ... well, snortable.
                  >
                  >NH: ?? Missed this. Are you referring to an essay by Ashok Mathur?
                  >
                  >-nalo
                • Ralph Dumain
                  ... This obsession with situatedness is an ideological mark of our time and bespeaks of its minimalism. But before I continue, I want to emphasize that I am
                  Message 8 of 30 , Feb 4, 2004
                    At 02:11 PM 2/4/2004 -0600, Steve M wrote:
                    >I think you misread this badly. Neither in general nor in Dan'l
                    >specific comments do I hear any sense of justification or
                    >atonement--merely the recognition that the circumstances of our birth
                    >and our youth provides us with a particular set of goggles through
                    >which we view the world in those moments before analysis--it orders
                    >and limits our perception. This changes over time, and as we age and
                    >remain perceptive, we can broaden our vision in some ways, learn to
                    >counteract the particular warping fields of our initial set of
                    >goggles, but on some level, those goggles remain firmly affixed.

                    This obsession with "situatedness" is an ideological mark of our time and
                    bespeaks of its minimalism. But before I continue, I want to emphasize
                    that I am concerned about statements like Daniel's in general, as I won't
                    pretend to second-guess him, his motives, or the lessons he has or should
                    learn from life. I didn't ask for a confession, because what interests me
                    is a person's background assumptions and not just his background. You may
                    argue that the latter follow automatically from the former, but it's just
                    this relationship I want to question. The statement itself, which pops up
                    everywhere, is what troubles me. One might well laud it, especially
                    considering the alternative. But is this all one can learn from the
                    expansion of one's experiential base? To guard against one's own sense of
                    privilege and admit one does not and will not understand anything about
                    anyone else? In general I find statements like this depressing, as this
                    state of mind, from what I've seen, perpetuates naivete. Perhaps things
                    are the same everywhere, but I find this to be typically American: if you
                    get one new idea in life, you run with it all the way and never get a second.

                    Secondly, consider Delany's work itself. Is this really the message to be
                    derived from it? Just considering the content of the SF novels, not
                    autobiographical statements, interviews, or the four minutes total
                    conversation in life I've exchanged with Delany himself, the most
                    outstanding, and rarest, feature I see is the objectivity with which Delany
                    sees how social structures are put together and the contours of human
                    interactions with them, as if he were standing outside it all and
                    describing the whole thing. Would he not, logically speaking, want the
                    reader to have that kind of experience? Would it really do justice to
                    Delany's work to say: gee, I learned a whole lot about people who are
                    different from me, and now there are a few things about human experience I
                    don't take for granted anymore? You might think: hey, that's
                    wonderful!--that's the best case scenario, who could ask for more? But
                    leaving things at that depresses me no end. Can you see why?

                    Do you see the way in which Delany presents a framework which transcends
                    the categorical structure of appearance commonly accepted by this society
                    in all of its social locations? Is this not glaringly obvious?

                    I could try to describe this in a number of ways, but let me just give you
                    the one that is gnawing on my brain right now. There's a documentary
                    series on PBS television that has played for two nights now. I got home
                    late each night so I missed a good deal of it, but I saw parts of both
                    installments and just as importantly, saw some speeches and interviews
                    leading up to it: Skip Gates's documentary on the state and perspectives of
                    Black America. It would take a great deal of detailed description to
                    explain adequately why I was profoundly disturbed by Gates's presentation
                    of himself and his project from the very moment I began to see his
                    preliminary appearances on television. In some sense and in some aspects,
                    his intervention provides a public service. However, the mediator role he
                    plays, the set of unquestioned background assumptions that prevails (the
                    questions and issues addressed notwithstanding), the whole
                    package--everything is contoured with the unquestioned social and cultural
                    parameters of bourgeois society including his framing of the class question
                    and not one word is spoken to disturb that framework.

                    But please note that when I use a phrase like "bourgeois society", I am not
                    simply or ritualistically or bloodlessly espousing a partisan doctrine or
                    abstract political framework with which to complain about the obvious,
                    overt aspects of Gates's politics. There is something on a more subtle
                    level I'm trying to get at, something that is intuitively obvious to me but
                    which takes considerable effort to articulate. And, because I've been
                    thinking about Delany on account of our conversations here, I had a mental
                    flash while mulling this over: what Delany gives us does not exist in the
                    mental universe embedded in the landscape Gates shows us. Why not? Is it
                    some obvious social fact about Delany, perhaps the fact that he is
                    gay? No, because Gates in a speech I saw on local TV (probably not
                    nationally broadcast) at some point made a remark about the need to accept
                    gay people. Is it because he wouldn't recognize Delany as a writer? I
                    don't know that Gates has gone on record about Delany, but that surely
                    wouldn't be a problem. And when I say "Gates" I don't even mean just Gates
                    as an individual, because there are millions who would not see what he does
                    not see, and mostly for the same reasons. What am I getting at,
                    then? Could it be the range of subcultural behavior that goes beyond the
                    parameters of Gates's presentation? Maybe there's a grain of truth here,
                    but I don't think that's really it. It's really something else, how Delany
                    sees through and beyond the categorial framework of bourgeois society and
                    by that I mean the conventional forms of appearance in which it is
                    contoured and on the basis of which people react to what they see.

                    >And what do you mean by "convictions"? Convictions seem to me to be
                    >a sort of post-intellectual product that one applies to one's own
                    >behavior, somewhat along the line of resolutions. Do you mean the
                    >term in some other way? If my definition approximates yours, then of
                    >what use are convictions to one's interpretation of or reaction to a
                    >work of fiction?

                    Part and parcel of the contemporary irrationalist ideology that dominates
                    the academy as well as popular culture and everyday life is that the truth
                    value of knowledge is a property not of knowledge but of the knower, and
                    hence the argument is about who people are and not the content and
                    verifiability of what they say. So by conviction I mean conviction in the
                    value of what one has to say as opposed to the compulsion to worry about
                    whether one has the right to say something, or anything at all (except
                    about where one is, literally, coming from). This is a disease of our
                    time, which as I keep saying, represents the contraction of social vision
                    and (general lowering of expectations) even as the social vocabulary has
                    expanded.

                    Could I be mistaken in being so serious? Perhaps I should put this into a
                    scholarly article on "The Munsters."
                  • vlorbik@aol.com
                    business administration? economics? *theology*, for god sake? (i pass over education schools in near-silence.) /* literary/culture critics are the bottom
                    Message 9 of 30 , Feb 5, 2004
                      business administration? economics?
                      *theology*, for god sake?
                      (i pass over "education" schools in near-silence.)

                      /*
                      literary/culture critics are the bottom feeders
                      of the intellectual world. The only form of academic life I can think of
                      lower than that would be anthropologists and political scientists.
                      */


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Steve M
                      ... In a way, yes and no. A person s background assumptions do not follow automatically from her background in a neat A to B relationship, but one s
                      Message 10 of 30 , Feb 5, 2004
                        At 2:13 AM -0500 2/5/04, Ralph Dumain wrote:
                        >At 02:11 PM 2/4/2004 -0600, Steve M wrote:
                        >>I think you misread this badly. Neither in general nor in Dan'l
                        >>specific comments do I hear any sense of justification or
                        >>atonement--merely the recognition that the circumstances of our birth
                        >>and our youth provides us with a particular set of goggles through
                        >>which we view the world in those moments before analysis--it orders
                        >>and limits our perception. This changes over time, and as we age and
                        >>remain perceptive, we can broaden our vision in some ways, learn to
                        >>counteract the particular warping fields of our initial set of
                        >>goggles, but on some level, those goggles remain firmly affixed.
                        >
                        >This obsession with "situatedness" is an ideological mark of our time and
                        >bespeaks of its minimalism. But before I continue, I want to emphasize
                        >that I am concerned about statements like Daniel's in general, as I won't
                        >pretend to second-guess him, his motives, or the lessons he has or should
                        >learn from life. I didn't ask for a confession, because what interests me
                        >is a person's background assumptions and not just his background. You may
                        >argue that the latter follow automatically from the former, but it's just
                        >this relationship I want to question. The statement itself, which pops up
                        >everywhere, is what troubles me. One might well laud it, especially
                        >considering the alternative. But is this all one can learn from the
                        >expansion of one's experiential base? To guard against one's own sense of
                        >privilege and admit one does not and will not understand anything about
                        >anyone else? In general I find statements like this depressing, as this
                        >state of mind, from what I've seen, perpetuates naivete. Perhaps things
                        >are the same everywhere, but I find this to be typically American: if you
                        >get one new idea in life, you run with it all the way and never get a second.
                        >
                        >Secondly, consider Delany's work itself. Is this really the message to be
                        >derived from it?

                        In a way, yes and no.

                        A person's background assumptions do not "follow automatically from
                        her background" in a neat A to B relationship, but one's background
                        does shape the range of questions one can typically start from.

                        In fact, the one universal in Delany's books is that the characters
                        who succeed are the ones who can shift from one cultural milieu to
                        another, can learn how to be polite and to interact with people
                        different from him. The characters who cannot adapt, who are rigidly
                        locked into one set of behaviors and beliefs and who see them
                        behaviors and beliefs as ordained and expect or demand they be
                        universal (think Bron, the two "straight" characters in Equinox/Tides
                        of Lust, the merchant and the thief in the third Neveryon book, and
                        numerous others), these characters fail in their goals and often are
                        killed.

                        But those characters who can adapt, always adapt FROM someplace, and
                        observant characters around them are always able to point to small
                        signs of their origin. Perhaps the most direct description of all
                        this in Delany's work is when the Vizerine is contemplating Gorgik's
                        view of work--how a middle-class youth would not understand that she
                        is sometimes working when she is staring out the window and would
                        rudely interrupt her, but Gorgik, knowing enough to know that he
                        doesn't know, silently observes her at first and eventually figures
                        out when he can and cannot interrupt her, without necessarily knowing
                        or understanding what is "work" for her.

                        When the baronness in Babel 17 decides to spend time with those
                        playing jacks and declares with delight that she has learned that
                        "It's all in the wrist" and that this is something she has never
                        learned before, Delany is marking her as a good character--one who
                        doesn't assume that her own knowledge or convictions are superior to
                        those of others, who doesn't condescend, who assumes she can learn
                        from anyone and who is willing to adapt. She treats their game of
                        jacks as something worthy of human effort, equally of weight and
                        value as a human endeavor as the political and diplomatic
                        machinations her husband is then engaged in, and more interesting
                        because unfamiliar.

                        >Do you see the way in which Delany presents a framework which transcends
                        >the categorical structure of appearance commonly accepted by this society
                        >in all of its social locations? Is this not glaringly obvious?

                        As a writer, in his auctorial view, Delany as uber-narrator may
                        assume an air of cultural objectivity--even cultural relativism, to
                        use the politically loaded term for the same thing--but his
                        characters do not. Even those who can traverse social boundaries bear
                        the marks of where they came from, perceive other cultures at least
                        partly through the lenses of their origins, know which milieu is
                        home, and know whether or not they can go back for anything more than
                        nostalgia.

                        >Just considering the content of the SF novels, not
                        >autobiographical statements, interviews, or the four minutes total
                        >conversation in life I've exchanged with Delany himself, the most
                        >outstanding, and rarest, feature I see is the objectivity with which Delany
                        >sees how social structures are put together and the contours of human
                        >interactions with them, as if he were standing outside it all and
                        >describing the whole thing. Would he not, logically speaking, want the
                        >reader to have that kind of experience? Would it really do justice to
                        >Delany's work to say: gee, I learned a whole lot about people who are
                        >different from me, and now there are a few things about human experience I
                        >don't take for granted anymore? You might think: hey, that's
                        >wonderful!--that's the best case scenario, who could ask for more? But
                        >leaving things at that depresses me no end. Can you see why?

                        But again, one of the beautiful and challenging things about writing
                        an SF novel is that one can "know" all of one's created cultures like
                        a native. That's an auctorial privilege; not a human one. Just like
                        Delany's character, in the real world, one can learn how to traverse
                        other cultures, learn how to be polite, functional, even influential
                        within them, but one can never learn to be a native of them, one will
                        always view them through the somewhat-distorted lenses of one's
                        origin.


                        >But please note that when I use a phrase like "bourgeois society", I am not
                        >simply or ritualistically or bloodlessly espousing a partisan doctrine or
                        >abstract political framework with which to complain about the obvious,
                        >overt aspects of Gates's politics. There is something on a more subtle
                        >level I'm trying to get at, something that is intuitively obvious to me but
                        >which takes considerable effort to articulate. And, because I've been
                        >thinking about Delany on account of our conversations here, I had a mental
                        >flash while mulling this over: what Delany gives us does not exist in the
                        >mental universe embedded in the landscape Gates shows us. Why not? Is it
                        >some obvious social fact about Delany, perhaps the fact that he is
                        >gay?

                        Yes, it's some obvious social fact about Delany, though not the fact
                        that he was gay. The most exciting thing to me reading about Delany's
                        youth in his memoir was the daily traversing of socail booundaries. I
                        was raised in a town that epitomized sociopolitical monoculture. On
                        the very few occasions that we visited "less fortunate" suburbs
                        (i.e., lower-upper middle class as opposed to middle-upper middle
                        class) my mother was occasioned to remark as we would see some
                        shabbily dressed person, some person struggling with the past ravages
                        of polio or some person of obvious mixed racial descent how nice it
                        was that we didn't have to see people like that in our town. But
                        Delany's memoir describes a youth spent shuttling between a
                        well-to-do home in a poor black neighborhood to a presitigious school
                        containing mostly the children of wealthy white families, interrupted
                        by culturally mixed summer camps that had their own culture and rules
                        (no matter how absurd. He was encountering people who were very
                        different from him--in several directions--from an early age. This
                        gives him a very different mental universe from those of us who
                        (outside of books) didn't encounter people who were radically
                        different from us until after we were 23--no matter what monoculture
                        we start from.


                        >>And what do you mean by "convictions"? Convictions seem to me to be
                        >>a sort of post-intellectual product that one applies to one's own
                        >>behavior, somewhat along the line of resolutions. Do you mean the
                        >>term in some other way? If my definition approximates yours, then of
                        >>what use are convictions to one's interpretation of or reaction to a
                        >>work of fiction?
                        >
                        >Part and parcel of the contemporary irrationalist ideology that dominates
                        >the academy as well as popular culture and everyday life is that the truth
                        >value of knowledge is a property not of knowledge but of the knower, and
                        >hence the argument is about who people are and not the content and
                        >verifiability of what they say. So by conviction I mean conviction in the
                        >value of what one has to say as opposed to the compulsion to worry about
                        >whether one has the right to say something, or anything at all (except
                        >about where one is, literally, coming from). This is a disease of our
                        >time, which as I keep saying, represents the contraction of social vision
                        >and (general lowering of expectations) even as the social vocabulary has
                        >expanded.
                        >
                        >Could I be mistaken in being so serious? Perhaps I should put this into a
                        >scholarly article on "The Munsters."

                        And I see quite the opposite from you.

                        Where one comes from does affect what one knows. The baronness
                        wouldn't know to even frame the question as to whether it is all in
                        the wrist. The things "known" in one cultural milieu may be
                        irrelevant--or even contradicted--in another. This can be seen in the
                        current debate over same-sex marriage. One side views it entirely
                        from the standpoint of civil right. The other entirely from the
                        standpoint of sanctity. Even when a person on one side of the issue
                        tries to answer the other side's objections, she presents reasons
                        derived from a framework that the other side views as invalid.

                        And yet I see no lack of conviction from the people entering this
                        debate, no worry about whether one has the right to say something,
                        and no hesitation to dismiss the other side's framework as invalid
                        with regard to this question.

                        At the same time, I think there's a much broader sense that there ARE
                        people different from you than there has been at any time in the
                        past. No longer is it possible to look at the small social range of
                        people around you and assume that everyone everywhere is like you
                        except for a few minor details of dress and diet. People at least
                        know on some level that as real as the social construct around them
                        feels, it IS a construct, and other people elsewhere view the world
                        in very different ways from very different social constructs. This to
                        me represents a vast BROADENING of social vision which, rather than
                        lowering expectations, raises possibilities.
                      • Ralph Dumain
                        Excellent observations! Just a few remarks . . . ... I think aspiring to become a native, or to remain a native, is a problem. I read something recently
                        Message 11 of 30 , Feb 5, 2004
                          Excellent observations! Just a few remarks . . .

                          At 11:06 AM 2/5/2004 -0600, Steve M wrote:
                          >But again, one of the beautiful and challenging things about writing
                          >an SF novel is that one can "know" all of one's created cultures like
                          >a native. That's an auctorial privilege; not a human one. Just like
                          >Delany's character, in the real world, one can learn how to traverse
                          >other cultures, learn how to be polite, functional, even influential
                          >within them, but one can never learn to be a native of them, one will
                          >always view them through the somewhat-distorted lenses of one's
                          >origin.

                          I think aspiring to become a native, or to remain a native, is a
                          problem. I read something recently which reminded me of this objection I
                          have .... Oh, well. One of the techniques that literature provides is
                          defamiliarization, or the alienation effect, that makes the familiar look
                          unfamiliar so that we can question our tacit assumptions of normality. The
                          "natives" are also in need of this learning experience as well as
                          presumptuous outsiders. One of the most disturbing aspects of the media
                          environment is the ruthlessness with which it enforces certain
                          assumptions. Its "multiculturalism" seems to me just a more sophisticated
                          and perverse way of reinforcing absolutism, with one proviso to be noted below.

                          > . . . . The most exciting thing to me reading about Delany's
                          >youth in his memoir was the daily traversing of socail booundaries. . . .
                          >This
                          >gives him a very different mental universe from those of us who
                          >(outside of books) didn't encounter people who were radically
                          >different from us until after we were 23 . . . .

                          Yes, this is the insight I'm looking for.

                          >At the same time, I think there's a much broader sense that there ARE
                          >people different from you than there has been at any time in the
                          >past. No longer is it possible to look at the small social range of
                          >people around you and assume that everyone everywhere is like you
                          >except for a few minor details of dress and diet. People at least
                          >know on some level that as real as the social construct around them
                          >feels, it IS a construct, and other people elsewhere view the world
                          >in very different ways from very different social constructs. This to
                          >me represents a vast BROADENING of social vision which, rather than
                          >lowering expectations, raises possibilities.

                          Interesting. I agree with the first sentence. I find this to be the case
                          in surprising ways. I also detect a curious paradox here: the relentless
                          stereotyping I see, for all its deleterious effects, has made people in
                          casual social interaction more comfortable with one another's presence, in
                          spite of the general superficiality.

                          Recently I made the mistake of keeping the TV on after watching about the
                          only TV show I can still stand, "The Simpsons". Being too lazy to do
                          anything else, I watched this horrid sitcom "Bernie Mac" with perverse
                          fascination. I saw an episode which capitalized, so I assume, on the
                          "barbershop" movies which I have assiduously avoided. I was really
                          appalled by the spin placed on this episode, whereas I saw entirely
                          opposite lessons to be learned from what was presented. Ideologically,
                          this was the most conservative of presentations referring the most
                          conformist values. On the other hand, it blows my dog (sorry Dan'l: it's a
                          colloquialism that means "blows my mind") that Bernie Mac constantly
                          addresses "America", the viewing audience. I compare this to George Burns
                          doing this in the '50s and I have to say I am stunned. But I also note
                          that the tradition which fictional Bernie is trying to inculcate into his
                          fictional son is completely foreign to the latter. There's a subversive
                          lesson to be learned here that Bernie--or his writers--does his (their)
                          best to squelch. The question is: will the subversive truth be squelched,
                          or will obsolete tradition be examined for what it really is?
                        • briggsay
                          ... rigidly ... Equinox/Tides ... are ... and ... Gorgik s ... she ... knowing ... to ... I just had to single this out as a marvelously trenchant, insightful
                          Message 12 of 30 , Feb 5, 2004
                            --- In delany-list@yahoogroups.com, Steve M <lists@m...> wrote:
                            >
                            > In fact, the one universal in Delany's books is that the characters
                            > who succeed are the ones who can shift from one cultural milieu to
                            > another, can learn how to be polite and to interact with people
                            > different from him. The characters who cannot adapt, who are
                            rigidly
                            > locked into one set of behaviors and beliefs and who see them
                            > behaviors and beliefs as ordained and expect or demand they be
                            > universal (think Bron, the two "straight" characters in
                            Equinox/Tides
                            > of Lust, the merchant and the thief in the third Neveryon book, and
                            > numerous others), these characters fail in their goals and often
                            are
                            > killed.
                            >
                            > But those characters who can adapt, always adapt FROM someplace,
                            and
                            > observant characters around them are always able to point to small
                            > signs of their origin. Perhaps the most direct description of all
                            > this in Delany's work is when the Vizerine is contemplating
                            Gorgik's
                            > view of work--how a middle-class youth would not understand that
                            she
                            > is sometimes working when she is staring out the window and would
                            > rudely interrupt her, but Gorgik, knowing enough to know that he
                            > doesn't know, silently observes her at first and eventually figures
                            > out when he can and cannot interrupt her, without necessarily
                            knowing
                            > or understanding what is "work" for her.
                            >
                            > When the baronness in Babel 17 decides to spend time with those
                            > playing jacks and declares with delight that she has learned that
                            > "It's all in the wrist" and that this is something she has never
                            > learned before, Delany is marking her as a good character--one who
                            > doesn't assume that her own knowledge or convictions are superior
                            to
                            > those of others, who doesn't condescend, who assumes she can learn
                            > from anyone and who is willing to adapt. She treats their game of
                            > jacks as something worthy of human effort, equally of weight and
                            > value as a human endeavor as the political and diplomatic
                            > machinations her husband is then engaged in, and more interesting
                            > because unfamiliar.
                            >


                            I just had to single this out as a marvelously trenchant, insightful
                            reading on Delany's overarching theme. The past few weeks of posts on
                            this board seem to so often descend into some kind of murky,
                            circular, self-satisfied philosophizing that eventually becomes the
                            very academic noodling it takes pains to separate itself from, that
                            when a wonderfully written observation about Delany's philosophy of
                            life (complete with an example!), pops up, it deserves calling out.

                            Interesting to consider Marq Dyeth in light of this reading of
                            Delany. He seems to be able to move within a number of societies, but
                            does he really listen? Does he really learn or adapt? Almost worth
                            reading the book again, with this slant on things...

                            Russell Briggs
                          • vlorbik@aol.com
                            i m in complete agreement with russell briggs about steve m s post on both counts: (1) the statement of d s theme was right on the money -- so good that i
                            Message 13 of 30 , Feb 6, 2004
                              i'm in complete agreement with
                              russell briggs about steve m's post
                              on both counts: (1) the statement of d's
                              theme was right on the money --
                              so good that i somehow feel i'd known
                              about it since i gobbled up nova, tei, babel-17, etc
                              in the space of a few weeks 30 years ago;
                              &amp;&nbsp; (2) there's a sharp contrast when compared to
                              the ignatius-riley-like posturings of certain other posters.&nbsp;

                              &gt;I just had to single this out as a
                              &gt;marvelously trenchant, insightful reading

                              &gt;&gt;. . . the characters who succeed are the ones who
                              &gt;&gt;can shift from one cultural milieu to another . . .



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