Still Betasked

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Braak
Tags: , , ,

Plus, it turns out that people pay money, sometimes, for the short critical writing that I like to do, so I am trying to sell some of it.  We’ll see how that goes!

In the meantime, check out this:

Paul diFillipo interviews Thomas M. Disch

Thomas M. Disch, now the late Thomas M. Disch, was a prolific science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer, in addition to being a poet and, perhaps most interestingly, a rigorous historian in the subject of SF literature.

I’m always suspicious on the subject of history, especially on the history of art.  I am definitely a big believer that we need to be familiar with the unfolding narrative that has led ourselves to where we are, but…

Well, there are a lot of theater historians, for instance, and they bug me.  I am only interested in theater history insofar as it can be put to some practical purpose — and the thing about the history of literature is that it CAN be put to practical purpose.  It yields a wealth of material about popularity tends, about the evolution of aesthetics, about the way people have historically looked at their literature and, presumably, the way that we can extrapolate they may look at literature in the future.

Disch was both a historian and an artist, which I think you need to be in order to make the history part worthwhile.

This is my favorite part, incidentally:

    The thing that cyberpunk did – and the reason that “punk” is attached to the end of it – is that it accommodated the needs of adolescent boys by telling them what clothes to wear, the right sexual attitude to take when courting young women.

Literary movement as the aggregation of social impulses.  “Cyberpunk” is less about blazing new trails in terms of the ideas that the genre addresses, and much more an identity matrix into which individuals, alienated by previous generations of literature (which had become dated) found where they belonged.

For thousands of years, literature existed for the purpose of telling us who we were supposed to be, and the fact is that has never changed.

(This is pursuant to Mark Grief’s The Sociology of the Hipster article, which I also recommend reading.  Long story short:  most of the things that we think as being “ours” due to our intelligence or individual personalities are rigorously in line with our social, economic, religious, and educational heritage.  Meaning that “taste” — even individual taste — is socialized.)

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