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Re: [mythsoc] Mieville et al

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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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