Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

9/30/2003

From aerials...

How could any one
so much any way
even fixed breed
enteric: that's my
pallid inner coverlet


(from "Melanin" by JH Prynne)

--to dull actuaries...

The wall between so-called "serious" fiction and speculative fiction is real enough and high enough, but it's not a figment of SF writers' imaginations, and the guard towers on that ugly wall aren't being manned by genre writers.

(interview with Dan Simmons)

It's exhausting keeping interested in a genre whose leading luminaries are complete jackanapes. But that's the truth. One can go blue in the face, trot out one tired encyclopedia-salesman routine, a little leather casebook of myriad examples where the above statement is proven to be mindless, irresponsible falsehood. But the dittoheads (so to speak) aren't interested in buying. They'll trot out the same, faux-wounded lines. And when the party line is kneejerked by someone who has written more than one superb, complex novel, and not some clone-a-hack, you know the genre is d-o-o-m-e-d.

(An aside, D.S. says: " Perhaps I'll believe that this snobby, ugly and unnecessary Berlin Wall between genre fiction and 'serious fiction' has been torn down when I see The New York Times and other heavy-hitter literary makers and shakers of record explaining why Greg Bear's Blood Music is a work of near brilliance..." Right, like the glowing review Alan Cheuse gave of Bear's Darwin's Radio on NPR? Ah, there's that Joseph Cornell-like suitcase again of mine! Can't resist pulling it out. Anyway...)

So, it gets tiring. It gets tiring to (a) continually remind people outside of a given genre of the excellent, necessary work being done that happens to be in a genre, and simultaneously (b) be hammered with charges of elitism, snobbery, whatever one can throw that will stick, for engaging with the first group; these (b) people are not interested in breaking bread, but of protecting their own, needlessly small, astroturfs ("the iconic displacement of substance"--Prynne again.). Which is not to say that this, in the long run, is of cosmic significance. No weblog has much earthly significance, for that matter. But in trying to decide how to tweak the signal-to-noise of my own heart through this little "New post" box, it's sometimes hard to know what constituencies to approach. Which ones nurture and which ones wither. In a year of Ptarmiganing, a year of shuttling badminton-like through different reading communities uneasily on my part. Some people--and I admire them to no end--can do this effortlessly, and with a knotty nuance that I know I lack. Is it good enough to write about only what strikes me? This turns over every 2-3 weeks or so, like a frenetic glacial lake. That's the question--do generalist impulses create enough signal and drown out enough noise to make the effort worth it in the first place? I'd say yes. It's certainly worth writing about. If anyone has any thoughts about this please throw them my way.

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