quotes of the night

“…Having made this distinction, I want to describe what seems to me to be a new, emergent “genre,” which has not yet become a “category.” This genre is not “category” SF; it is not even “genre” SF. Instead, it is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality.

It is a fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a “sense of wonder” or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction. Instead, this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. We could call this kind of fiction Novels of Postmodern Sensibility, but that looks pretty bad on a category rack, and requires an acronym besides; so for the sake of convenience and argument, we will call these books “slipstream.””

–Bruce Sterling

From December’s The Writer, an interview by Joel McNally with Lorrie Moore:

I read an introduction in which you said your teaching career consists of passing on a few simple-minded writing tricks you’ve learned over the years. What are the most important things you teach beginning writers?

Here’s one. You should write something you would never show your parents. It’s still profound advice for students. I find students today are really close to their parents. They really do show them things. I worry that this is not a proper artistic condition and that these kids haven’t broken free.

You have to venture into something that’s kind of threatening and kind of forbidden and taps into family energies and secrets and things. You have to be braver.

So I encourage that. That is what fiction provides. A great cover. You’re in fiction land. You can try out anything here. Don’t be safe. The safety is the fiction. You can do whatever you want within that.

What are the biggest mistakes you see over and over?

There’s often a reliance on social types rather than true, interesting observations. If say, people are writing about the rich, spoiled girl. It’s just people writing shorthand. They’re not really individualizing their characters. They’re just working with types.

Social types are very available in our culture in television and films. That is the primary narrative exposure students have. Even the well-read students have watched far more television and seen more movies than they’ve read books. So you have to get them to think past that kind of typing.

The mistake I see most often in gifted students is the retreat into abstraction. There is often a retreat into abstraction and lyricism that is too private to be interesting and a little too dead on the page.


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