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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 07:31 am:   

(excerpt from cyberpunk zine The Cheap Truth)


One of the regrettable legacies of the modernist movement has been the idea
that perpetual revolution is necessary to "progress" in the arts and in the
school dress code. Progress in the arts? In the dress code? Who, as we
say, is kidding whom? A little reading and a little thought will make clear
to even the slowest of the kids in class that the concept of natural and
inevitable progress, mutated offspring of the Industrial Revolution, Marxist
economic theory and muscular Christian ideas of "self-improvement," is a
chimera. As some froggy wit once said, the more things change, the more crap
you get on television.

Until recently Science Fiction High School, being the sandbox for SLOW
LEARNERS that it has been for most of its history in America, has been
relatively immune to such high-born notions. Sure, we had successive
"revolutions" as Gernsback, Campbell, Gold and Boucher, Moorcock/
Ellison/Knight, brought on his own version of the One True SF. But what did
these vast and earthshaking changes bring forth: the SAME OLD STUFF, redux.

"Bullshit!" I hear from the noisy contingent in the middle rows of the
classroom, the kids who wear leather and those funny sunglasses because they
would like to think it makes them look tough like real punks. The real punks
are guys who fall asleep in the back of the classroom; they can hardly read,
let alone write. They're the ones who get "D's" in shop class. In gym they
punch out these kids with the glasses for being wimps.

"Bullshit!" scream these honor students who run off their little fanzines and
invent clever names for themselves like "Cyberpunks" or "Neuromantics" or,
you should try not to laugh too hard, "the Movement." "Science fiction is
about IDEAS. NEW IDEAS." "Say goodbye to your old stale futures!" "Take
the ideas out of SF and it's not SF." "We are the pure quill, the daring,
clear-sighted cutting edge that's writing about the FUTURE, NOT THE PAST."

Sure, kids. We all want to think we're the first to discover sex and
dissolution and good writing. The truth is that the wonderful new IDEAS that
we're always trumpeting as the justification for SF High School's
revolutionary edge over boring Mainstream Central High are available three
for a quarter in your local pop science magazine; even better, try PARADE,
right after the "Personality Profiles" and before the cartoon about the dog.
What we call a revolutionary idea in SF is usually something like Del Rey's
"Helen O'Loy" or Godwin's "The Cold Equations" or Gibson's "Burning Chrome."
"What a novel idea - instead of having the robot be an emotionless machine,
make it neurotically emotional, like a real woman, only better! Have it be
THE PERFECT WOMAN!!" "What a neat idea - instead of having the stowaway be a
criminal, make it a young girl! And have the spaceship pilot throw her out
the airlock instead of saving her, to prove that THE UNIVERSE IS INDIFFERENT
TO PEOPLE!!!" "Wow! - instead of having the computer expert be a nerd,
make him a glamorous, existential criminal! He acts like Humphrey Bogart and
loses the girl in the end! Not only that, he PLUGS IN INSTEAD OF USING A

Old Mainstream High has nothing to compare with it, right? When in fact the
only innovation these SF stories provide consists precisely in their
adaptation of STYLE and TONE from outside the genre. Del Rey grafts the
bathetic style of women's magazine fiction onto an SF plot and the fans eat
it up because they're used to a diet of E. E. Smith and Harry Bates. They've
never seen it before, it's a STUNNING NEW IDEA. Godwin borrows some
third-rate existentialism (maybe, totally unaware of his derivativeness, he
invents it himself!), spices it with a little "Invictus," writes in the same
bathetic style Del Rey used twenty years earlier, and VOILA, another entry in
the SF HALL OF FAME. Too bad Steven Crane did it better, did it RIGHT, in
"The Open Boat." We haven't read that, and besides, the SF version has a
STUNNING NEW IDEA - it happens in a spaceship!

Gibson borrows a style and milieu from Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain (and
a pretty good style it is, too - at least Gibson has some taste), pushes up
the volume about fifty percent, has the caper involve computer information
instead of cash, makes the break-in occur in "cyberspace" instead of a bank
vault, and generates an entire new movement in science fiction. STUNNING NEW
IDEAS you're going to be reading from the camp followers for the next three

The only thing we have to offer new, kids, is our individual selves. The
most revolutionary act we can perform, as writers, is to cross genres, graft
idioms from other kinds of work onto the SF subject matter. Style IS
content. Gibson gives us something new - a new style. Not because he
invented it, but because he had the wit to see that an old style could be
adapted to our traditional material. More power to him.

Yeah, we can talk about the future. But what we say about the future always,
ALWAYS, says more about the present in which we are writing, about our own
psyches. ...

That's what I think anyways, for the most part.

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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 02:12 pm:   

OK, so I'm inspired by Kristin on this thread (as I am wont to be)...but I am a quotation fanatic and enjoy reading people's little jotting about aesthetics, aphorisms, etc. Poets are good at these kinds of things. (It's more their inclination to write little fragments of prose.)So, considering I don't really have a blog equipped to do such things, I thought I'd occasionally post things here. Feel free to jump in, contribute, quip, whatever. Hopefully it won't be too theoretical either.

And just as I say that, I'm about to paste something from Foucault. But wait, it's actually good! He's quoting Borges!

“In one of his essays, Jorge Luis Borges imagines an ancient Chinese encyclopedia that orders animals not by our familiar categories, but by the following classifications: 1) belonging to the emperor; 2) embalmed; 3) tame; 4) suckling pigs; 5) sirens; 6) fabulous; 7) stray dogs; 8) included in the present classification; 9) frenzied; 10) innumerable; 11) drawn with a very fine camel-hair brush; 12) et cetera; 13) having just broken the water pitcher; and 14) that from a long way off look like flies. As Borges’s encyclopedia points out, the way we order the world is partly a function of what we know, or hold to be important. But what we know is also dependent on how we order the world: what we look for, and how we articulate it."

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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2003 - 12:03 pm:   

"Over the last decade I have found myself more bitten by class consciousness, more grudgingly cognizant of the bonds between class and art. Links between family names and schooling and livelihoods are forged of something like titanium. The links between class and calling--as distinct from class and profession--are made of somewhat weaker stuff. Yet one would show little thought not to notice that an impressive percentage of the most honored poets of the generation now in their sixties are male and white and alumnae of the ivy league. One would show little thought to ignore that So-and-So and So-and-So do not require a wage, and that their writing is very different for it. The links between poetic strategies, tactical maneuvers, including gamemanship, and social stratification clank through time, across channels and oceans to be sure. The poetry of the white shirt does not gladly speak to the poetry of the blue. The audience, the consitutency, or if you will, the allegiance, of the cultural elite belongs to the cultural elite. One would show little thought to expect otherwise."

--CD Wright (from the essay "The Wages of Poetry")
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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 02:01 pm:   

"How easy it is to turn away from the difficult and obscure and how natural it is, in order to live. But inside here, in the ordered and still world of words and images it is as equally natural to pause before the opaque and the mysterious and to contemplate the unknown and the unknowable. So, at the end of a long day of gathering whatever, of talking and paying and deciding, of thinking and eating, of laughing and sighing, of exasperation and doubt, of exhilaration and sulking, of exulting and despairing, finally comes the time to set it all aside, to allow thoughts and reveries to surface, the hard decisions and realistic plans and actions to settle and disappear and the book to open and the pen to dream."

--Nick Piombino

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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2003 - 02:52 pm:   

Reading Book of the Long Sun...just some random notes on it. thinking out loud, minor spoilers, etc. (In the middle of Calde now, so there's a lot still to go)

Book of the New Sun ---> endless horizon, history as archaeology.

Book of the Long Sun ---> deliberately playing with the limits of the horizon (generation ship) and landscape. 300 year history as opposed to thousands upon thousands of years of accretion. History for the Whorlers is much more of a, I don't know, Mormon construction of history. More carefully delineated creation myth and pantheology.

In Book of the New Sun, unknowable history becomes knowable (albazo, Severian's rise to the autarch).

In Book of the Long Sun, knowable history (that the "gods" act in certain ways) becomes unknowable (moving beyond the Whorl).

For some reason, Patera Silk is less sympathetic for me than Severian. What does this say about me? :-)
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Alan DeNiro
Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 03:08 pm:   

"Fame is nothing but gossip with money..."

-- Jack Hirschman
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Kristin Livdahl
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2003 - 04:54 pm:   

"... make language stammer, or make it 'wail,' stretch tensors through all of language, even written language, and draw from it cries, shouts, pitches, durations, timbres, accents, intensities."

G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus
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Posted on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 12:09 pm:   

"Humans are meddlesome creatures alright and can't get enough of everyone else's 'private' information, but we are also fickle and easily distracted. So assemblies are short-lived and fragile, tinker-toy cars that don't really roll and break apart under the slightest pressure. The transfer / translation is always just that, in transit, in medias. Assemblies gather and intermix like dust clouds then disperse or settle. True, we need better ways to pull this stuff together but we are better off that it remains ultimately unassimilable and nebulous. We need fewer hard (and hardened) tools and more soft assemblies. The uncanny truth of our age is that we are all at once desperately alone and intimately connected. The din is endless and the silence infinite. Assemblies are perfect forms for this time. They materialize for the given particular needs of the moment then dissolve into pure potential." --Bill Marsh

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