You can use time travel, psychic powers and ghosts not just as plot devices, but as tools to explore human life, the nature of ritual and dreams. In fact you can use them to look at the functioning of the human mind, and the development of story.

Robert Holdstock
Interviewed by Stan Nichols 1993 for: Wordsmiths of Wonder: Fifty interviews with Writers of the Fantastic

confronting pain

March 29, 2020

Well, I myself have always found that if I examine something, it’s less scary. You know, I grew up in the West, and we always had this theory that if you saw – if you kept the snake in your eye line, the snake wasn’t going to bite you. And that’s kind of the way I feel about confronting pain. I want to know where it is.

Joan Didion
Radio interview with Terry Gross, 2nd November 2011

experience becoming

March 29, 2020

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

rubber ball gag

March 29, 2020

No two ways about it. The taste and feel of a rubber ball gag in your mouth is strange the first time it happens. But you get used to it. Mostly It’s about the vulnerability it provides when you’re wearing it. Your speech is being taken away. It’s the humiliation of having drool pool round your chin before dripping on the floor. Wearing a ball gag can be fun, part of a fun scene that brings both you and your partner pleasure. Some people can’t do gags, and that’s OK; others love the helplessness and the trust that it implies. But remember, boys & girls, always play safely.

demands pronunciation

March 27, 2020

Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.

Jorge Luis Borges
The Divine Comedy
Trans. Eliot Weinberger


March 26, 2020

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Book

Good question

March 25, 2020

one for the completists

March 25, 2020

Samuel R Delaney has Dhalgren, Vladimir Nabokov had Ada, or Ardor, and James Joyce had Finnegan’s Wake, or simply “the Wake,” as the true fans prefer. (Their funeral). Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin is another dense, late-career doorstop of a book considered in equal parts the summit of a life’s work and “one for the completists.” At 525 pages, including field notes, stories, maps, charts, poems, plays, histories, romances, interviews, and interpolated texts, all of which are housed in the front of the book, as well as a “Back of the Book” section, to house the sheet music, recipes, studies of flora and fauna, “generative metaphors,” the glossary, and a made-up alphabet with a guide to pronunciation, it’s easy to see Le Guin’s study of the Kesh people from the Valley of the Na, once the Napa Valley, as a folly, the work in which she gave into the temptation of all science fiction and fantasy writers — that of pedantic world-building, a sort of “map = territory” madness. Like many a masterwork that came before, the book is a storehouse of the author’s themes. But the one thing you couldn’t accuse it of is that classic combination of authorial self-indulgence and apathy towards the reader. (For one, Le Guin pointed out you don’t have to read her book front to back; approach it however you like.) Always Coming Home isn’t one of those masterworks that heaves through our culture like the spaceship Rama, to be explored but never understood by the puny humans who crawl across its unfeeling surface. With Le Guin, the door home is open, if you know the way.

Mazin Saleem
I never did like smart-ass utopians — on Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin


March 24, 2020

He who controls the spice controls the universe.

Frank Herbert

giant brain

March 23, 2020

People are not quite aware yet that when they get in a plane they are flying in a giant brain. That brain might believe the plane is stalling – though every last passenger and the pilot can look out of the window and see the plane is not stalling. We are in the process of handing over responsibility for safety, but also for ethical decisions, to machines.

Ian McEwan
Interview with Tim Adams
The Guardian, 14th April 2019