So . . . Worldcon looks really good, and it also happens to be starting a day or so after the release of one of my books
. But I guess celebrating with a friend or two can just as easily be done at home as there. Cheaper, too.
But the community, the discussions? Ow ow ow ow ow! So in hopes I am not the only one stuck home, I thought I'd try to come up with some discussion topics to fire up during those days when the rest of the genre world is whooping it up.
Wanted to see if anyone else likes these, or should I try to think up better ones?Culture and Cussing
A friend has my copy of Beowulf
or I'd type in a bit of Unferth's flyting. Nowadays, flyting is alive and well on the Net, called slapfights, and sometimes *fail when one group feels that someone else has committed egregious social error. Though many times the error deserves correction, sometimes I sense (and I might be totally alone in this) the sideways checks to see that one's position in the group is secure by the assurance with which some dogpile onto the erring one, making them sometimes seem the group scapegoat.
Then there's the other aspect, which calls to mind the story about Johnson, after a holier-than-thou society woman commended him for excluding indelicate language from his dictionary, whereupon he replied, "So you were looking for them?"
This came to mind at Mythcon a week ago, when someone on a panel commented that it frosted their cake when people wrote F*** or S***. They said something like, "When I see that, I know what the word is. I'm supposed to know what the word is. So the person who wrote it is saying I'm morally superior to you because I don't use bad language, but I put it into your head just the same, ha ha
How much of that is inherited from the eighteenth century habit of writing things like B***** so that the publisher wouldn't get in trouble with censors, and how much is social euphemism at work, that I know and you know but I'm too nice to say it. And you better not either though we're both thinking it
Anyway, inventing cusswords for worlds is not as easy as it would appear. Sometimes it works--I see and hear a lot of people using the 'frakking' of Battlestar Galactica. Mark Twain got around the question of blue language by inventive fumings that are quite funny, but still convey the smoldering ire of cussage. When you are a writer, it's a good idea to look at your culture and determine which words and concepts are taboo, or offensive to that culture, and which words would get a shrug--like a certain German cussword, which still apparently carries fairly strong heft, just sounds funny in English. Call someone a pigdog here, and they just laugh.
What happens to cause a group to embrace an insult? I'm thinking about 'Yankees,' which began as a putdown but became a term of strut for us in the U.S.A.Changing Views of Text
When I was in school, the text was regarded as isolated, if not immutable. There wasn't much said about the contract with the reader. Although the French Structuralists were already talking about narratability and so forth, I didn't discover them until I was much, much older.
Now it seems pretty well understood that the text will be a different text to different readers, or even the same reader. If I think of all my readings of Lord of the Rings
as a complicated cityscape, each reading at different periods of my life has lit up different parts of that cityscape, shedding more light in a complicated spectrum. That first reading was garish light and dark shadow--black and white adventure.
Another aspect for possible exploration: Relations between story and history--literature as story kernals around social and personal upheaval--narrative truth--these are all goodies, but what really interests me is how communities now form around text. Leading me toCommunities and Text
At Mythcon, Diana Pavlac Glyer spoke about how small groups, or communities, form to support one another. This is not big news to many, but the way she described how these small groups not only support, but keep each other sustaining effort even if they are not critiquing or participating in one another's creative endeavor, I found pretty interesting.
The thing I'd hoped to explore at Mythcon, but we really didn't, is how communities engage with text as creative act. Recently a group released the The Hunt for Gollum
, a fan-made movie for under five grand. What's more, they've released a soundtrack, with bits of Shore's themes woven into their own music. The fact that Newline hasn't hurled lawyers at them indicates to me that attitudes toward ownership of text are changing, for bad or good might be worth discussing.
We know about fanfic, both for living authors and dead. Recently there's been a lot of reinventing of Jane Austen's work. Some is probably aimed at raking in the cash, but the cash wouldn't be there to rake if people weren't interested. Zombies--squids--Austen herself, aside from her work, hunting spies and solving mysteries, two activities the actual lady probably would have been bewildered to contemplate in reality. I myself recently proofed one of these, James Fairfax
, which is a reinvention of Austen's Emma
, by Adam Campan, from what we discover deep in the text is an alternate timeline. Vera asked me to proofread this book, as I read a lot of 19th C stuff for fun. I approached the project with deep misgivings, and ended up so absorbed I don't know if I caught all the typos. I especially loved what Campan did with Mr. Elton--the whole thing with Harriett Smith is much funnier with this added overlay. (And I also notice on one of the many Austen sites that I follow, while zombies are okay, gay characters are just too too unspeakable in this sniffily superor dismissal
. . . From the huffy comments it doesn't look like anyone has actually read the text. Is that taste, or prejudice, that zombies are squids are okay, but gay characters aren't? Campan says in his introduction that the book began as a thought experiment, and it seems to me that it's already working.)
Anyway, reinventions of text, movies that extend movies, vid mashups, fan fiction, all these things are ways of taking a story and engaging with it through group as well as individual creativity. All these are possible topics, if anyone is interested besides me.