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Re: [mythsoc] Mieville et al

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    ... her response certainly doesn t seem cold to me. She was not asked _whose_ fiction she enjoyed reading, she was asked _what kind_ of fiction she enjoyed. It
    Message 1 of 11 , Oct 4, 2002
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      On Friday, October 4, 2002, at 09:19 PM, SusanPal@... wrote:

      > She was being given an opportunity to acknowledge
      > intellectual and creative debts -- to place herself in a community.
      > And she
      > claimed a community of one. Now, maybe if I'd heard the tone of her
      > voice
      > instead of merely reading the printed response, I'd have recognized it
      > as a
      > joke and laughed; impossible to say. But it came across very coldly
      > on the
      > printed page.

      If your reportage of what Le Guin was asked is accurate:

      >> I recently read an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin where she
      >> was asked what kind of science fiction she enjoyed reading and she
      >> said,
      >> "Mine."

      her response certainly doesn't seem cold to me. She was not asked
      _whose_ fiction she enjoyed reading, she was asked _what kind_ of
      fiction she enjoyed. It is hardly arrogant to point to her own work as
      exemplary of the _kind_ of fiction she likes.
    • jamcconney@aol.com
      In a message dated 10/4/2002 8:21:20 PM Central Daylight Time, ... Yes, I agree. I guess I m just trying to cut us all some slack.... Anne [Non-text portions
      Message 2 of 11 , Oct 4, 2002
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        In a message dated 10/4/2002 8:21:20 PM Central Daylight Time,
        SusanPal@... writes:


        > But it came across very coldly on the
        > printed page.
        >

        Yes, I agree. I guess I'm just trying to cut us all some slack....
        Anne


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • David S. Bratman
        ... Of course you do, of course you have. You re an author yourself, and well experienced in this. What I meant, and said, was: don t lecture me with excuses
        Message 3 of 11 , Oct 4, 2002
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          At 06:14 PM 10/4/2002 , Susan wrote:

          >I apologize if I offended you, or anyone else here. But I've met a good
          >number of professional authors too -- in a wide variety of contexts,
          >including social friendships that have spanned years -- and I also know what
          >I'm talking about.

          Of course you do, of course you have. You're an author yourself, and well
          experienced in this. What I meant, and said, was: don't lecture me with
          excuses for authorial misbehavior.

          >Yes, the Bad Boy stance is tiresome, I agree. But I've seen other authors
          >erect theories about their work; I can enjoy their work without buying into
          >the theories.

          Never said anything about not enjoying the work. I read a few pages of
          _Perdido Street Station_: it looked pretty good. I think R-----k is a
          pretty good author too: he's justified in being proud of his work. This is
          completely orthogonal to the fact that he's a jerk about it: other authors
          are proud of their work without being jerks about it.

          >Have you seen Mieville at conventions? He might be as
          >perfectly charming in a public-performance context as Willis or any of the
          >others.

          I was very careful to say what my contact with Mieville's personality
          was. And I've heard reports that he's charming in person. But I expect he
          was charming to those fawning on him. And in his interview, he was a
          reigning bastard. Of course I don't intend to walk up to him and say
          so. For one thing, he's a hulking bruiser with a shaved head. But if he
          trash-talks Tolkien the way he did in this interview, I'll walk out.

          >Well, it sounded to me as if Le Guin was saying she's found the one true way
          >to write SF,

          You get that from her response to what she said she _enjoyed reading_????!?

          >But she didn't name *any* other writers she reads;

          If that indeed is all she said, it sounds to me like a very polite and
          circumspect way of saying "I don't enjoy most current SF, thank you." She
          must have been in a Delphic mood that day; she discusses authors she reads
          and admires very frequently. Perhaps you know an essay of hers, titled
          "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie": that essay has probably led more people to
          Kenneth Morris than any other single source.

          >Mieville, in the interviews I've read, has gone on at great and enthusiastic
          >length about the people who've influenced him, which is a form of gratitude
          >which Le Guin foreswore in that particular interview. If Mieville's annoying
          >on the subject of writers he *doesn't* like, at least he can also name the
          >writers he *does.* Nobody springs from a vacuum.

          The problem is, he uses the authors he admires as a stick to beat the ones
          he doesn't. It can be really ugly.

          >I agree with you that manifestos are a problem. The people who write
          >manifestos might be better off, and have a happier public, if they put that
          >energy into their fiction.

          It's not that he _has_ a manifesto. It's what it says, or more precisely
          the way that it says it. What I wrote of Mieville is that he "erect[s]
          theories about why his work, and that of his coterie (he has one) are the
          superior form of literature, and anything contradictory to it in style is
          worthless trash." That's a very different thing from merely explaining why
          you write the way you do. There are people who do not care for Tolkien who
          are very polite about it. He isn't one of them.

          >But it's only fair to *judge* fiction writers by their fiction,
          >not by their political manifestos or by their social graces.

          Oh, come now. I have kept my opinion of the man strictly separate from
          comments about his work. I agree that one should not judge the _work_ of
          fiction writers by their manifestos or social behavior. But I reserve the
          right to judge the _person_ of fiction writers that way.

          - David Bratman
        • SusanPal@aol.com
          In a message dated 10/4/2002 9:40:29 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... Ah, okay. I *don t* recall your saying that before, and now that you have, I understand
          Message 4 of 11 , Oct 4, 2002
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            In a message dated 10/4/2002 9:40:29 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
            dbratman@... writes:


            > What I meant, and said, was: don't lecture me with
            > excuses for authorial misbehavior.
            >

            Ah, okay. I *don't* recall your saying that before, and now that you have, I
            understand your position a good deal better. And I'm sorry if I sounded as
            if I were lecturing: I didn't mean to (and my original post on the topic
            still doesn't sound that way to me, but tone in cyberspace is notoriously
            problematic).

            I agree with you that misbehavior is misbehavior; I wasn't trying to condone
            or excuse it, only to explain where -- in my experience -- certain forms of
            it come from. I still think that trying to succeed as a writer (or in any
            other creative field) requires a kind of self-faith that can become ugly and
            egotistical quite quickly; one of the problems with this is that when people
            *do* succeed, their friends and followers may be less likely to call them on
            their bad behavior. (It's perhaps similar to the too-famous-to-be-edited
            problem which allowed Stephen King's novels to reach the size of Rhode
            Island.)

            At any rate, I hope Mieville grows out of the Bad Boy stance and works
            through his various Oedipal problems with Tolkien; his trash-talking is
            classic Anxiety of Influence Killing-the-Father stuff. (Why don't these
            self-proclaimed literary revolutionaries ever realize how old hat they are?)
            I've now read the first few chapters of THE SCAR and it seems better written
            to me than PERDIDO STREET STATION, so that bodes well for stylistic growth,
            anyway. And he's, what, thirty? He has plenty of time to mellow out. If he
            doesn't, well, we can lock him in a room with other Bad Boys and have a
            Writers' Wrestling Foundation match. Pay per view. Raise money for Clarion
            scholarships or something.

            But as for being a hulking bruiser with a shaved head (and you didn't even
            mention the multiple earrings!) -- hey, some of the nicest people I know fit
            that description! And it WOULD work well for the WWF! ;-)

            Have a good weekend,
            Susan


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          • David S. Bratman
            ... I don t think that s quite it. Mieville says he s not influenced by Tolkien, and I believe him. He is quite ready to acknowledge a literary parent in
            Message 5 of 11 , Oct 5, 2002
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              At 10:36 PM 10/4/2002 , Susan wrote:

              >At any rate, I hope Mieville grows out of the Bad Boy stance and works
              >through his various Oedipal problems with Tolkien; his trash-talking is
              >classic Anxiety of Influence Killing-the-Father stuff.

              I don't think that's quite it. Mieville says he's not influenced by
              Tolkien, and I believe him. He is quite ready to acknowledge a literary
              parent in Mervyn Peake, and shows no anxiety about it. But he seems to
              believe in some kind of commutative relationship between upholding Peakean
              standards and downgrading Tolkienian ones, which does not in any way follow.

              What Mieville really feels oppressed by is not anything oedipal, but the
              Marching Morons: the procession of bad Tolclones. And he's right: they
              make it harder for other types of fantasies to find room to breathe in the
              marketplace, and they're a generally bad influence that poisons the
              soil. His mistake is in blaming Tolkien for them, and thinking that
              Tolkien is like them. This is the same error that Elizabeth Anne Hull made
              in the Worldcon panel, when she blamed Tolkien for characteristically
              Tolclonian flaws in the Tolclone Jackson film, flaws which do not occur in
              the book, which she's never read. I tend to doubt Mieville has either.

              That he thinks the problem is all Tolkien's fault, and not the fault of the
              clones, is shown by his taking as a compliment the comment that _Perdido
              Street Station_ is like a fantasy from a world where Peake, not Tolkien,
              became the father of the field. It did not occur to him that being called
              a Peake-clone in that world would be as big an insult as being called a
              Tolclone is in this one.

              - David Bratman
            • SusanPal@aol.com
              In a message dated 10/5/2002 3:29:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... I m curious about that. In some interview I read -- I don t remember which -- he criticizes
              Message 6 of 11 , Oct 5, 2002
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                In a message dated 10/5/2002 3:29:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                dbratman@... writes:


                > This is the same error that Elizabeth Anne Hull made
                > in the Worldcon panel, when she blamed Tolkien for characteristically
                > Tolclonian flaws in the Tolclone Jackson film, flaws which do not occur in
                > the book, which she's never read. I tend to doubt Mieville has either.
                >

                I'm curious about that. In some interview I read -- I don't remember which
                -- he criticizes Tolkien's stance on the importance of consolation in
                fantasy, which indicates at least a passing acquaintance with "On
                Fairy-stories." That's a fairly sophisticated critique for someone who's
                never read JRRT, and from Mieville's Marxist perspective, I can see where
                it's coming from: consolation as opiate of the masses, or whatever. I'm not
                at all sure that Mieville understands what Tolkien actually *means* by
                consolation, or understands how inextricably entangled it is with loss and
                sorrow (which are the necessary preconditions for consolation!), but people
                who HAVE read Tolkien have gotten those points wrong too.

                > That he thinks the problem is all Tolkien's fault, and not the fault of the
                > clones, is shown by his taking as a compliment the comment that _Perdido
                > Street Station_ is like a fantasy from a world where Peake, not Tolkien,
                > became the father of the field. It did not occur to him that being called
                > a Peake-clone in that world would be as big an insult as being called a
                > Tolclone is in this one.
                >
                Ha! Well put, David!

                Susan


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